JESSIE: Do I have regrets when I look back at my past relationships? I do, when I consider the decisions I made.
If you asked me about purity in my younger days, I would lift an eyebrow and shrug it off. I was a young, lukewarm Christian and I did not have any convictions about purity and relationships. In terms of romance, Hong Kong dramas and friends were my main teachers. Thus, I did not understand why I could not date a guy who, despite being non-Christian, treasures and loves me. Furthermore, physical boundaries were as good as non-existent for me.
SEAN: I, on the other hand, grew up in church. I definitely knew about biblical purity since I heard about it all in church. However, outside of church, I was listening to (and looking at!) very different messages. I had my first experience with pornographic material at the age of 12, when a primary school classmate brought lewd photographs to school. At 14, my secondary school friends would share about their sexual escapades. There was a certain sense of envy because they seemed to have checked off a milestone in their life.
I was 19 when I had my first romantic relationship. The church was clear that pre-marital sex is a sin. What they were not so clear on is everything else that can happen before the point of intercourse. Back then, I found myself venturing into the grey zone, stopping short of that line where it becomes clearly black. It allowed me to satisfy the desires of the flesh, without the technicality of falling into sin. I think that was, and is, a lie that many Christian guys fall prey to.
After the high of each encounter, there was always the grappling with guilt, shame, and falling short of God’s standard. Needless to say, that was a poor foundation for the relationship. Coupled with teenage immaturity, the relationship did not last.
JESSIE: Similar to Sean, I also experienced the guilt and shame that came with each fleeting romantic encounter. On the one hand, I was trying to be a good Christian girl in many ways — I was serving in church and my schoolmates knew my strong stance against vulgarities. On the other hand, I was crossing many physical boundaries in my relationship. I clearly remember how I would weep in church every Sunday, asking for God’s forgiveness for my sins. Then, Monday would come along and I would dive right back into my ‘normal’ lifestyle, one that I knew was not pleasing to God.
My past relationships marked the darkest four years of my walk with the Lord. Slowly, I began to skip Sunday services and I did not even desire to pray. On hindsight, I could see how I was acting just like Adam in the garden of Eden after he sinned against God.
Guilt and shame gnawed at my faith and I responded by hiding from God. As time went by, I found myself wading deeper and deeper into dangerous waters. It was to the point that I cheated on my then-boyfriend with another guy, and even ended up sleeping with him. That shook me and I knew I had to run back to God.
IT ALLOWED ME TO SATISFY THE DESIRES OF THE FLESH, WITHOUT THE TECHNICALITY OF FALLING INTO SIN.
SEAN: When Jessie and I started dating, having come from various relationship experiences, I think there was a desire for this one to be different — for this to be God-honouring.
JESSIE: To be honest, Sean is the first Christian guy I’ve ever dated! My mentor encouraged me to discuss physical boundaries with Sean. It was the first time in my life that someone taught me about this. Beyond the practical boundaries that we had set, she urged us to pray that the Lord would help us to love and protect each other.
SEAN: I know what God’s standards are, but I also know the strength of temptation. Also, as the guy and thus the leader in the relationship, I took it upon myself to maintain these boundaries.
JESSIE: At that time, I experienced what it means that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). Breaking out of my previous habits of showing love and affection was extremely difficult. I recall feeling rejected and unloved when Sean would assert boundaries out of protecting the both of us. The Lord prompted me to submit these lies to Him.
SEAN: On other occasions, revisiting our boundaries became clearly necessary when either of us felt that a boundary had been crossed. Jessie initiated these conversations, and that became an indicator to me that she was also serious about making this a God-honouring relationship.
Practically, we came up with a few rules. For example, we didn’t stay over at each other’s houses and we didn’t travel alone together. Those were golden rules I grew up with as a youth and as a leader.
JESSIE: As someone who had no qualms about someone staying over and going overseas with their partner, I think I have come a long way. The Lord’s redeeming work in my life grew my conviction to fight alongside Him for purity. One thing that we decided upon was to save our first kiss for the wedding! We both agreed that this would help us keep our physical boundaries in check, so we stuck with that decision.
SEAN: Our first kiss at the wedding altar was the last “first kiss” that we will ever have. It was good to be able to stand before many witnesses during the wedding and share that scene with them. Think of it as us being able to buck the trend in relationships in the purity department (the other trend or myth that I busted is that men put on weight after marriage. I have since lost 3 kg!).
JESSIE: Some may feel that they need to have “experience” to make sure that they are physically compatible with their husband or wife. However, my experience suggests otherwise. I feel safe when I am around Sean. Even though we never kissed prior to the wedding day, I had peace that all will go well eventually. And it did!
THE GREATER REWARD THOUGH IS BEING ABLE TO PRESENT YOURSELF TO YOUR MARRIAGE PARTNER, FREE FROM GUILT, SHAME, AND BAGGAGE.
JESSIE: To you girls who are reading this: if you are navigating physical boundaries or are walking through a journey similar to mine, you are not in this journey all by yourself. There is a second chance at choosing purity for all who are made new in Jesus Christ. After all, even a good man is only good by the grace of God!