"called to build the kingdom first through the romance and adventure of our home..."


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. "