Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why We Didn't Save Our First Kiss For The Wedding Day | Post 21

grace, only grace
can move us to a rhythm that will change our ways
tenth avenue north - grace

If you were to sit down and talk with Caleb and I, we could (and would!) happily share with you our personal convictions.  All of these topics, without proper definitions, explanation, and relationship, could be not just misunderstood, but terribly judged.  When we say any of the following sentences, there are important things we DO mean, and other important things we DO NOT mean.  Someone else could "believe" the same thing we do, and have nearly opposite reasons for why, or a nearly opposite definition for what that conviction is.

We believe in sharing, listening, freedom, conversation and engaging.
We believe that the Spirit works differently in every believer.
We believe Christians should have different beliefs and convictions from each other.
We believe it is dangerous for Christians to believe the exact same thing, on every front.
We are sharing what we believe, not to judge, shame, boast, label or separate.
We are sharing what we believe to say "There are probably parts of this you agree with, and parts you don't.  We think that's good.  And we hope you do, too.  These things are evolving, and we ever learning what they mean and what we mean by them."
We are sharing to say "Don't do what we do, know God and learn from Him, and do what He leads you to do.  This is where He has led us."
We are sharing to say: grace.  

We believe in living debt-free (and we had no idea how to make that happen until we came across this guy).  We believe in paying taxes to the government.  We believe in tithing 10% of our income.  We don't practice birth control and we do 'practice' "Awesome Family Planning" (stolen from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas).  We are feminists.   We believe in complementary gender roles.  We would 'believe in' public, private and home-schooling for our children.   We 'believe in' dating and not "courtship."  We believe in the right to bear arms (legally own guns).  We are pro-life.  We are pro-small-government.  We 'believe in' personal fashion (women can wear pants, men can have long hair, tattoos are rad if you want them, etc).  We 'believe in' art and creativity.  We 'believe in' and listen to all forms of music - classical, current, religious and 'secular.'   We love The Bachelor.   We believe the Bible is God's recorded story and living Word, and sufficient.  We believe baptism is a sign of salvation.  We believe in modern-day gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that they weren't 'closed' with the Canon.  We believe in the virgin birth, that Jesus was fully man and fully God, and that the incarnation was perhaps the most shocking and important part of The Gospel.  ("Once Jesus was born, death was inevitable.")  We believe grace is real and vast, freedom is truly freeing, and that salvation comes only through believing, not working.  We believe love wins, death died and God over all forever reigns.

We didn't 'believe in' saving our first kiss for our wedding day (or a number of physical activities, for that matter.)

"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” —according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdompromoting self-made religion and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.{Colossians 2:20-23}
The Process
For us, it was important to have a natural, gradual, comfortable, building closeness and relationship.  We didn't want to "jump all in too quickly" or unnecessarily "force" ourselves to not do normal, and good things.  There would be (and was) grace for when anything happened "too quick" or when we were being ridiculous and needed to stop over-thinking (like: holding wrists but not holding hands ;).  It was a process.  It brought us closer.  As we tried and talked and considered and cared, we were honest with each other and enjoyed each other.  The trust and love grew with time, conversation, laughter and knowledge.  "There is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing... He has made everything beautiful in it's time."  We wanted to enjoy the timing, and the "thing" in it's time.  And we realized: the Bible doesn't say much (or anything?) about physical-standards-in-dating-and-engaged-relationships.  There are principles - very important and real and plain principles - but not specifics.

The Story
I'm the sort of person who far more enjoys a surprise, spontaneous date to get tacos than a planned, "romantic, "built-up" date to a dressy restaurant.  Actual, almost always, I enjoy surprise anything to planned anything.  So to plan something as sweet and precious as a first kiss "when we get engaged" or "when we get married," for me, lost some of the magic and excitement of it.  I love that when Caleb asked me out, we hugged, and that was all.  And a different time, we held hands for the first time.  And a different time we said 'I love you.'  And a different time we kissed.  And a different time we _________.  And a different time we ____________.  And a different time we got engaged.  And a different time we became husband and wife.  Those memories (and many more) stand alone, as individual events.  Other than the wedding day (and the engagement, for him) none of these events were scheduled or planned.   Just like meeting him and actually liking him wasn't planned.  It was part of the story and part of the surprise!

The Past 
Our pasts, and mostly lack thereof for us "dating-ly" and physically, played a significant part in our comfort and readiness level.  He, who is two years older than me, hadn't held hands with anyone either.  He knew I'd gone over two decades without holding my crush's hand - ever - and I knew the same for him.   That meant something.  That mattered to us.  I wouldn't have minded holding hands with a couple or even many people before I got married!  It wasn't "that" big a deal to me... but that's how brief my past relationships were: we never even got to a place where I was comfortable holding hands.  

We also both came from very extreme personal legalism.  We both in many ways pridefully boasted in our "I've never messed up in relationships" tale.   I was a judgmental, harsh, honored, burden-placing, goody-two-shoes.  Caleb was a yes-man, a fearful obeyer, a timid speaker, a bound soul, a "perfect from the outside" man.  So for him? For him to hold my hand?  This proved much.  For Caleb, of courtship-first-kiss-on-your-wedding-day-emotional-purity-God-will-speak-and-let-me-know-you-are-the-one-guard-your-heart-keep-it-whole-mindset, to hold my hand when he did not know he was going to marry me?  When he did not know if he "loved" me?  When he did not know God had made our lives to come together forever?  When it was simply a gesture of affection, trust (in me and in God), and desire... it meant something different and entirely significant than it would have to held Other Boy's hand.  It didn't make it better or worse, or "more important" or "less important," or something to do sooner or later, it simply was a fact: we BOTH have never done this in our past.  That affected our physical connection. (Duh.)

The Trust
"Love is unconditional, but trust is something that must be earned."  Eight months after we started "talking" and four months after we started dating, we said and meant "I love you."  We were about five hours away from our homes, and we had roadtripped together for a photoshoot I had in a small PA town.  The shoot was scheduled for the morning, so we went up the night before to make a little date weekend out of it.  We had different places arranged for us to stay.  We dropped off his duffle-bag at his room for the night, and then drove half a mile away to the place where I was staying.  The gorgeous lake home we pulled up to was empty.  The owners were away, but had welcomed me to spend the weekend there.  Caleb and I were alone.  We brought my duffle-bag and camera gear inside.  We watched TV and rested for about 30 minutes to regain energy, and then set off for a walk around the lake around 4:00 pm.  The next few hours were some of the most exhilarating and beautiful of my entire life.  We said "I love you" for the first time.  I felt things I'd never felt before.  I was overwhelmed and trembling and so happy.  After a picnic and just plain magic, we ended up back at "my" empty house - so in love, so happy.  On the car ride up, we decided that Caleb was going to leave my house at 10:00 pm that night.  We weren't concerned that "anything" would happen, but we both have a very, very consistent habit of falling asleep anywhere and I had an early shoot the next morning, followed by a wedding back in Maryland later in the afternoon.  Our biggest concern was that we'd stay up so late talking that we'd fall asleep, miss our alarms, and ruin the schedule the next day.  Keep in mind, on the car ride up we hadn't yet said "I love you" or kissed.  BUT THEN.  This crazy, huge, precious once in a lifetime evening happened!  And 10:00 was coming way too quickly.  And we thought "Eh, 11:00 would be fine?"  And, it could have been fine!  But Caleb said "You know, I said 10:00.  You need to sleep.  Today was amazing.  I can't wait to see you in the morning.  But I will be leaving at 10:00."  It took nearly twenty minutes for him to actually get out the door when 10:00 came.  We hugged by the door, and flirted, and said good-night and "I love you!" 'just one more time' (and did all those things young lovers do).  But we didn't kiss.  He left (almost) at 10:00.  And he earned my trust all over again, like he did every time I was with him.  

My dad thought we were nuts to not kiss on such a perfect evening.  He understood, but mostly just laughed at us.  "Aw, you're trying so hard.  That's very sweet.  But I can't believe you didn't kiss him."

Caleb is really THE most trustworthy person I have EVER met.  He NEVER used privacy, darkness, desires or la-la-la-love to pressure, force, manipulate or test me.  He knew (because he asked and we talked about it) what I was and was not comfortable with all through our relationship.  He truly never "pushed it."  It was incredible.  I know couples who, with a desire and conviction to keep the good biblical principles of wisdom, patience, community, and purity, decided to never be completely alone while they were dating.  Public dates, chaperones, group settings, daylight, always in somebody's eyesight.  And if that was their personal conviction, I think that's cool!  And I respect it so much.

For me, however, I was WOW-ED with Caleb's trustworthiness when we were in private, alone, dark, unwatched places.  No one would have seen if Caleb had decided to stay at the lakehouse later - or all night.  No one was around to raise their eyebrows if Caleb had kissed me and we had wound up in one of the five bedrooms.  No one was waiting at home for Caleb to make sure he did walk in the door that night.  That proved his trustworthiness to me... gosh... like I just can't explain.  It proved to me that if we did get married someday, and he found himself in some compromising or alluring situation, he COMPLETELY has the character to walk out.  It wasn't just that he "avoided bad situations" and hopefully he could avoid "all the bad situations" in marriage, too.  No.  We were on an overnight trip, all by ourselves, very madly in love, and kiss-and-most-other-things-virgins, and he kept his word.   He didn't make me feel unloved, rejected or like a giant stumbling block.  He made me feel dear, valuable, and very very important.

Because he was this sort of guy, we were able to enjoy a LOT while we were dating, without trampling our convictions, standards and principles from the Bible we cared about so much.   And we showed each other that we were worthy of the other's trust, and that we did indeed trust the other.  It was a beautiful unfolding.

The Fun
We discovered that there is a LOT you can do that is just so much plain FUN!  We were almost afraid that, well, you know, once you START, once you KISS, there is just NO stopping what happens next. You'll be accidentally pregnant before you know it!  Or at least steeped in sin...!  And you know what? I believe that is very true, a lot of the time.  Lust and desire to be loved and pressure do crazy things.  And in an unhealthy relationship, I bet you could cross some bridges rather quickly.  I also think people can innocently, in very caring relationships, end up thinking "Wow.  How did we get here?"  It really can all get moving very quickly.  But, again, for us, we realized:  we don't have to cross the bridge, and we don't have to stand here staring at the bridge, we can swim across!  Swimming was slower than walking/running/driving.  But man, it was refreshing!  And fun!  And our "relationship muscles" got stronger as we swam... in every category.   We were learning, together, how to love without fear and without guilt.   We were also learning how to love with wisdom and self-control.  It was great!  We got to play, tan, splash, race, float, noodle fight, tread and improve.  We didn't feel out of control.  We didn't feel unable to stop ourselves.  We mostly felt like "Man, this is fun!"  We also didn't feel shame or guilt.  And if we did?  We talked about it.  We were not perfect.  We overstepped boundaries we set for ourselves at times, and quickly and joyfully remembered grace, mercy, forgiveness and liberty.

My point isn't to say "These are the things appropriate for the early stages of dating, and these things are appropriate for engaged couples, and these things are appropriate only for marriage."  My point is: there is fun, delight, joy and happiness in doing "little" things with someone for the first time, and we, at least, think it's important to savor each bite and not starve or scarf.  That's not healthy.

The Pace
We fell in love fairly quickly, and (because they are very different things...!) we also knew that we wanted to get married fairly quickly (about a year after we met each other - some would say that's quick, others would say that's slow.)  We didn't feel rushed or forced to get married (my parents, especially my dad, actually thought it would be better for us to wait longer.  "God never really seems to be in hurry.  Take your time building a foundation.  If you know this is it, there is especially no rush.")  My dad's psychology professor said that the definition of personal maturity is "not attaining a certain level, but rather when how you view yourself and who you really are are the same."  We talked about that often.  "Is how we think of our relationship really where our relationship is at?"  "Do we think we're supposed to get married, but in reality we're just human, sexual, 20-somethings who want to get'er'done without feeling guilty?  Or who are tired of being alone, so we'll settle for anyone decent?"  "Are there things I'm afraid to share with you or give to you, but because I don't want to break-up or deal with the problems our relationship has?"  "Does everyone else think this is so perfect, and we are just going along with it because it's easier than disappointing 'everyone'?"

We were brutally honest with each other.  We said things to each other that to this day only we know.  We and God.  Not sweet nothings.  Serious, tearful things.  We laid our relationship flat out: You aren't what I was expecting.  You are quieter and not as funny as I was dreaming.  You don't want to live in my hometown and you yell and refuse to back down in an argument.  You are so stupid sometimes.  You are so mean sometimes.  You are a people pleaser!  You are a bulldozer!  I love you.  I love you, too!  We didn't want to force "us" to work.  We almost wanted to give "us" every reason not to work - and see how we did ;)  And truthfully, we really were just so good together.  With all our idiosyncrasies, messes, weird sense of humors, and aspirations we worked.  Really well.  We had the best-friend, look-up-to-you-respect, sizzling inner fires trifecta.  And it happened fast, in my opinion.  18 months isn't very long.  But.  It was just right for us!  All of that to say: our friendship/relationship pace set the tone for our physical/relationship pace.  EVERYONE WILL BE DIFFERENT.

The Off-Chance We Were Horrible Kissers

Really, I was mortified at the thought of puckering up for the FIRST TIME EVER, in front of grandparents, pastors, children, adults who changed my diapers, my girlfriends (?!?!?!), my new in-laws, my little brother, my MOM.  What if I kissed like hummingbird wings?  What if we were teeth-clunkers or nose-bumpers or puffer-fish-blowers?  I have no real conviction on this, it just made me stomach turn to imagine an audience of lifelong friends with bulging eyes and restrained laughter.  I didn't want that kind of pressure for my first kiss.  Nor did I want that kind of pressure for our engagement, either.  Good thing, because I could not stand up or speak, let alone collapse into a passionate first kiss.  I also know people (personally and from reading) who actually didn't like their first kiss at the altar.  "Weird" and "gross" and "peck" and "nasty" were words I had heard from their mouths.  (Granted, I also know many people who RAVE about their first kiss on their wedding day, and wouldn't have wanted it ANY other way.  That's awesome!) That didn't sound... happy... to me.  I hoped for a very precious memory of my first kiss, and "ew, gross" wasn't exactly what I had in mind.   No no.  I'm so glad our first kiss happened in private, with no one else around.  We have no idea if it was terrible or adorable.  But we loved it.

ALSO.  We didn't want to feel guilty if we did kiss.  Look.  It's normal.  You should want to smooch the guy you love.  Smooching the guy you like might prompt some "love."  It really, in the grand scheme of life and God and eternity, wasn't something worth getting our knickers in a knot about.  We, because of the perfect love we've been gifted from God, wanted so much to love the other person well. And it's scary when you think you might be doing something to harm, hurt or not-love that person.  And going on a few dates, and "dating", and dating-but-we-are-ready-to-get-engaged, and engaged are all such different things.   Caleb and I are such different people than you are.  Than your friends are.  Than you will be.

We love that people all around us have very different single, dating and newlywed advice, regrets, successes.  We love listening and learning from their relationships.  It would have been wrong of us to do exactly what someone else did or counseled just because they said so.  It would be lazy.  It would be based off of fear and not because of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts.  And it would be confusing. Because we heard things literally across the board: 'you're WAY too physical' to 'you're so strict and rigid.'  "You're like the whore of Babylon!" "You're an inexperienced clueless prude!" Touche! ;)

It was the perfect topic for us to start hearing from others, figuring out whose counsel mattered most to us, whose marriages we most wanted to learn from, and to learn how to make decisions for ourselves, in an honest, vulnerable and clear-minded way.  To not just "give the appearance of wisdom" by being "severe with our bodies" but to actual learn how to think, discern and be wise together.  To:

"Let love be genuine. 
hold fast to what is good.  [ps. I think strong chests are very good.  So I obeyed ;)]
Love one another with brotherly affection. 
Outdo one another in showing honor. 
Do not be slothful in zeal, 
be fervent in spirit, 
serve the Lord. 
Rejoice in hope, 
be patient, 
be constant in prayer. 
Live in harmony with one another. "


  1. Okay, on to my *real* comment.

    Brandon and I went from silence to dating to engaged in less than three months. We were married four months later. It was super-fast to some and not quite fast enough for others. Our backstory is as complicated as possible. Our love story was impossible to believe and nearly impossible to achieve, but by the grace of God, here we are in perpetual honeymoon bliss. :D (and yes, Kristen, I *am* writing the love story. will be blogged. sometime. ;))

    We had personal standards, rules that we did not break and convictions that were important to our hearts. Our relationship was the perfect blend of passion colliding with purity. Our love burned, and continues to burn each day. It was a heady, tiring, overwhelming emotional thing built on the foundation of love. Real love. Real sacrificial, wholehearted, laying-down-everything-for-you love. We were long distance, glued to the phone until I fell asleep every night, and then again in the morning when I woke up. We drove miles every few days to see each other, and when we saw each other, we never stopped holding hands, touching faces, showing genuine affection. Because we loved.

    We chose to kiss for the first time when we were engaged. Or "kiss-kiss," as we called it, to differentiate between lip-kisses and sweet kisses on the cheek. We chose this partially because of not wanting to create rules where the Bible doesn't give them, partially because we felt it was permissible, advisable and important for our relationship, and partially because I am a very private person and I didn't want anyone else to be a part of that first kiss. There was a natural progression of affection before that. To this date, the ONLY thing I regret has nothing to do with when we kissed or how we kissed. The only thing I regret is feeling fear or trepidation about the opinions of people who proved not to be my friends, who only believed the (untrue) absolute worst anyway. Our actions, our relationship and our physical affection was pure before God and with each other. It was right, natural, wholly Biblical. And it is, was and always will be nothing to be ashamed of.

    All that to say, I have seen so many people falling into ditches on both sides of this road. Who focus on the minors (kissing) and then completely bomb on the majors (sexual purity prior to marriage and sexual passion within marriage). Purity is important, so is marrying the right person and learning how to love with real love. And that's pretty much all I got to say. :P

  2. Okay....Sam and I officially need to reconnect with Caleb again and HAVE to meet you!.....end. of. story. Like yesterday.

    Our "courtship" is one ugly and marred with pain, anger and extreme hurt that we have just started dealing with over the last year. Having grown up extremely legalistic in a fundamental home deeply embedded in ATI this post made me absolutely start crying...for several different reasons.
    One day I will be brave and have healed enough to start telling our story in more depth.

    1. @Leslie,

      I feel like I could have written your comment (especially the part about your "courtship"). take time to breathe and be gentle with yourself! It's definitely very difficult and hard to get away from a fundamental and legalistic home. I know exactly what that's like. :-/ be kind to yourself and it is okay if it takes time. <3

    2. Do not blame your problems on ATI! They are not legalists. They are conservative and believe the Bible, you just didn't choose to for yourselves, apparently. People like you rebel and blame their problems on others, when it is just the fact that they do not wanna live God's ways or choose His standards. THey love the world, more than God. So, when they are around the ATI crowd, they get defensive, and blame them. Just call a spade a spade. You are a spade, they are another card. Who cares?! I myself have others around me, automatically assume I am something I am not, because I may have a higher standard. They start acting all weird, and judged, when I could care less about what they are doing differently. Some have higher standards in the Lord, and others like to live for the flesh, and others dont serve or care about God at all.

      Kristen, seriously quit letting others bash ATI, Just because people from ATI don't sit around watching sex romps, and listen to wordly trash, or they just have higher standards....come on!!! Who cares. Just admit your standards are lower and move on.

      R.V.~ Oklahoma

    3. Leslie - I'd love to meet! And hear your story and just hang out :) Let's doooo it!

      RV - Pharisees had higher standards than... everyone! And interestingly enough, Paul even talks about those with "higher standards" as being the ones with "weaker faith." As the ones who don't fully understand their freedom and liberty. I don't know Leslie's story, but I respect her for commenting openly. And I know my husband's experience with ATI, and it wasn't just a difference of "standards." I think there are lovely people and families involved in the organization, and I also think there are some extremely dangerous teachings and mindsets (and people, for that matter). I don't mind someone talking about those things, and sharing their experience.

      Saying things like "Some have higher standards in the Lord, and others like to live for the flesh..." is dangerous because it makes people/Christians feel like "Unless I live THIS EXACT WAY with these EXACT 'HIGH' STANDARDS, I am 'living for the flesh.'" Again, the Pharisees had THE highest standards, and they actually kept them. They were men who had come from generations of Bible study, rich heritage, and high morality. They wanted to pass on their beloved truths and beliefs to the next generations. They wanted to keep falsehoods away from the Church, and their God. They really cared about what was right and wrong. They were smart, educated and thoughtful. And Jesus continued to tell them - over and over - that they were missing the point.

      Jesus himself was living by a "lower standard" and they quickly corrected Him. They were so concerned about the standards and "the laws" that they fully missed the joy of being with Jesus. They weren't villians - they were 'good' men, who cared deeply. But they, in fact, replaced the true gospel with a "high-standard-flesh" gospel.

      ATI culture, as well intended as it may be, feeds a Pharisee culture. Good, genuine, thoughtful people often become trapped by "the standards" and then miss out on real joy in Jesus. Things like "measuring your love for God" by testing "Do you love being with a friend, or being alone with God more?" or "Do you like doing special things for friends or accomplishing things for Jesus?" is not just unhelpful, but wrong.

      It makes "godliness" and "the rest of life" two different categories. It makes you feel guilty for doing things that aren't just "not wrong" but are actually GOOD things to do. Not everyone falls into this, but the testimony I've heard, and the little I've experienced is that 1) if you're "obeying" ATI high standards, you're doing it right and you are "above/holier/right-er/godlier" other people and 2) if you're "breaking" ATI standards, you're rebelling and living for the world, and giving in to the passions of the flesh.

      It's just simply not that clear cut, and it's Pharisaical and wrong to make it so simple.

  3. "It is good for a man not to touch a woman." 1 Corinthians 7:1 The Bible does talk about touching each other before marriage. You are not each others to touch, till married, according to the Bible. I would be extremely careful in telling young people this. Also, it is very ignorant to say that for some it is okay, some it is not, like God has different standards for different people. God is black and white, not gray, as you categorize Him to be.

    Regarding the Bachelor:"I will set no wicked thing before mine eye, I hate the work of them that turn aside, it shall not cleave to me." Ps. 101:3-8. How is a show, that promotes fornication(read the Bible to see the hate God has for that sin) okay for anyone to watch? With scantily clad women, which defile themselves, and other men. They are whores. Tell us how this is acceptable Kristen?

    I could go on and on. Your post was merely your opinion and very blasphemous. You know nothing about doctrine, you clearly need to "study to shew thyself approved unto GOd, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, RIGHTLY dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15.

    Anyhow, not trying to come down on you. Just sayin' you are off doctrinally. Very off.

    1. I love how you wrote this comment anonymously. :snark: why couldn't you tell Kristen these things using your real name? that's rather cowardly to write such a comment without your name.

    2. I agree Caleigh. And anonymous.... double check your greek before you make assumptions. And please let those of us without sin (No one but ALMIGHTY AMAZING GOD) cast the first stone.

    3. "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Romans 14:13.

      “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

      As Christians, we're called to refrain from conforming to this world. However, that doesn't erase the fact that we still live in this world - we can't separate ourselves from it and live in our little holier-than-thou ivory towers. We're called spread and share the gospel, which requires us to be and live in this world. We're allowed to enjoy things, even if they weren't created by Christians or have an inherently/overarching Christian theme. In fact, living in this world and enjoying the things that come from it gives us the ability to have a common ground with non-believers, in hope of sharing the gospel with them.

      Yes, there is a lot of trashy and terrible things in this world - it comes with living in a fallen world. But we can't avoid it, and if there are people who are able to withstand certain aspects of this world without stumbling, then they are blessed and have a God given strength to resist the pull of a sinful world. There is no point in harassing people over something trivial. If things like the Bachelor cause you and those a round you to stumble, then you're right to avoid it. If others don't struggle with the same thing, then leave them alone.

      Harsh, judgmental, and condemning messages like yours anonymous are the reason that so many people are turned off to Christianity. You should think about that before you go off on people in the future.

    4. Anonymous - In the context of 1 Cor 7, we would have to look at I Cor 6 and the verse "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient..." Essentially, I am allowed to do all things, but doing all things wouldn't be practical/best/moral!

      Paul talks about how it IS okay for him to eat meat, but he has brothers who think it is wrong, so for their sake, he doesn't eat meat in front of them. Different standards, different convictions. He doesn't blast the not-meat-eaters. He simply says "we have different convictions, I'll make sure these convictions don't come between us. What we share in the gospel is far more important." It's simply not true that " is very ignorant to say that for some it is okay, some it is not, like God has different standards for different people."

      God works uniquely and differently in each Christian's life... and eventually we will ALL get to perfect holiness! We will have different standards. If I believed it was morally wrong and dishonoring to the Lord to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, I SHOULD NOT DO IT. And if my Christian friend believed that the meat was simply meat, and there was no problem eating it *because she wasn't eating it unto the idol, but was eating it and thanking God for the good steak. And that was that.* then she SHOULD.

      There is not "one right way" to live the Christian life. There IS one way to have access to salvation, God, sanctification and Heaven. Only one way. A narrow road. But once on that road, there will be bicycles and Mini Coopers and four-wheelers, and roller-blades, and jogging sneakers, and pick-up trucks. We're all headed the same way, to the same place, in our own unique-Spirit-led way. It's quite a motley parade, and I think God enjoys the diversity very very much.

      And let's be honest: if I were to avoid "evil before my eyes" then I wouldn't be able to look at PEOPLE. Let alone TV ;) I don't think it's okay to watch "whatever you want"... For example, I don't watch Jersey Shore. And I could tell you why I have a problem with it. But I do watch The Bachelor and TeenMom, and could tell you why I enjoy it. Do I think everyone should do that? No! Would I really care if I never watched any TV again? Not really! But I have a thoughtful, free, engaged perspective when I watch what I watch.

      I think working through my personal convictions, relating to my Father, knowing Him and not resting in my works and performance is important. And my daily joy. It's a process, and one where I don't feel guilty if I realize "Hey, maybe I don't believe _______ anymore." or "I do things differently than so-and-so." I'm in Christ. And like I quoted in my post, there is "indeed an appearance of wisdom, promoting self-made religion and severity to the body, which have no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh." I want my flesh to REALLY be changed. I want my heart to REALLY know God. I want a mind that is REALLY wise. I don't want to "appear" "godly/wise/knowledgeable" by making strict self-made religious rules.

      People will think I'm crazy. Worldly. Rebellious. Lustful. Dangerous. Wrong.

    5. And you know what? I'm okay with that. I may be wrong about many or most of my convictions. You may be right: my doctrine may be off - very off.

      But I want to be full of kindness, grace and love NOT "standards." I lived (and still tend towards) by standards and rules "from the Bible." I was missing the heart of Jesus, even though I knew WELL the laws and commands of Jesus. Instead of building others up, asking questions, and wanting to learn from Christian's with different standards than me, I had to prove my point right and argue. I pushed away those who were different from me, and kept close with those who believed the same (and obviously RIGHT!) things.

      It was dangerous. I'm so glad God spared me from my elder son lifestyle: the lifestyle that was more concerned with the SIN of my prodigal brother - the broken standards, and the mistakes of his life, and how I had (ironically) kept those rules! - than a lifestyle that was instantly, tearfully, fully THRILLED to see the brother I love COME HOME!

      That might not make any sense, and you may still think I'm nuts. It's okay :) You're also free to comment with your real name - and even e-mail me and keep the conversation going!

  4. Kristen. You. are awesome. Amazing. God bless you! Every one of your posts have encouraged me to walk closer with Christ. Your joyous outgoing amazing walk with our God shines through. Keep up these great posts! We can't wait for the next one :)

  5. I appreciate you expressing your beliefs so clearly, and your decision as to when you kiss is wonderfully well thought out. It is clear that there was nothing haphazard about why you and Caleb chose a certain path. It seems to have been deliberate and prayerful. My husband and I were lauded by many as having the ideal courtship, and that saddened and burdened us that there was such a pedestal. We are very happy with the path our courtship took, it worked well for our needs. But watching how others idolized it convinced us that there is no clear-cut commands for the progression of a relationship. (And if those people knew just how crazy in-love the two of us were/are I doubt they would have thought so highly of us. :) I loved reading the progress of your relationship, and praise God for the wonderful way in which He brings each man and woman to a one-flesh relationship.

    Caitlin Mallery
    Kalispell, MT

  6. Hello Kristen! Your post and the comments have helped me tremendously in the past week to really establish what it means to live the Christian life. In the past year and a half or so I've allowed myself to believe in the Pharisaical way of life and it's been such a burden, full of guilt and fear. It also helped tear down several relationships I have, due to my judgmental mindset. I'm still encountering problems, and I know the time to deconstruct my past views, evaluate them in light of the Bible, and then build a firmer, more grace-filled ''worldview'' will take time, but I want to thank you for this. The Pharisaical view is exhausting, frankly, and your writing forced me to confront that.
    So thanks, to both you and Caleb, and God bless <3

    Ruth, Missouri.

  7. So you had sex before you were married and are ok with it?

    1. Nope, actually! Thought that wasn't the point of this post, or any of your business... I can testify that a physical relationship isn't "ALL OR NOTHING! AH! If you start kissing you're gonna end up having intercourse!!!" We sweetly enjoyed so much, while respecting each other and not breaking boundaries that we both care deeply about. It was so bonding!

      (And that's also not to say that a couple who does have sex before they are married doesn't/can't experience grace, love and goodness. But that isn't our story.)

    2. .....I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to offend, no need to jump on me. Thats just how I interpreted this post, its rather confusing. I'm sure I'm not the only one

    3. I'm sorry if it was confusing... I tried to make it clear that our goal was communication, true love, honesty and freedom as we "moved towards marriage." We didn't want to be operating out of fear: "What if we start kissing and then that leads to FAR WORSE THINGS!" We wanted to operate out of love. So, we kissed (and only kissed, etc) out of love, and we waited on other things out of love. Including sex ;)

      Again, we believe there is so much good and grace to be found in all different ways of doing things, but this was how WE did it. And it was important for us as a couple to take the time to form our own convictions and then figure out how to live them out. Every couple should do that! And every couple should be at least a little different :)

  8. I LOVE this. So much. I don't have much to add to the conversation, simply because I (obviously ;)haven't ever been in that place. But it's so good for my heart to read this, ESPECIALLY since I feel like in the past 6 or so months, I've slowly been coming out of a legalistic mindset (a lot that we talked about on that lovely long metro ride :) and have finally been tasting grace in ways I couldn't expect or see, and it's SO incredible. Thanks for writing, Kristen. :)

  9. I think this is one of my favorite posts on this blog. Honestly, I really like the way you major on grace, but keep primary boundaries like no sex in place, because those are important too. I haven't dated, but this post gives me a general idea of a good way to go as far as physical-ness while dating (my other favorite piece of advice came from my dating high school friend who told me "Exchanging spit is not my idea of a good time...") I believe that it's all right to hold hands and kiss before marriage, but not before you're in a serious dating relationship (like, don't do those things with random people of the street). You definitely have to consider both people and how tempted they are by various activities, and what would be a problem for them or not. But I'm happy that you + Caleb got that worked out. :)

    And way to go for hanging on to 1 Corinthians and the "sacrifice or steak?" discussion in the comments. That's such a great passage to explain how we as Christians can hold various standards, and still be saved by the same Lord. I love it.

    germantown md

  10. I think my favourite part is when you talked about trust; It proved to me that if we did get married someday, and he found himself in some compromising or alluring situation, he COMPLETELY has the character to walk out."
    This is something I had been thinking but couldn't exactly put into words.

  11. When did you fart? That's a big step in a relationship.