how far can I go?

“How far can I go?” Easily the number one question – spoken or not – of Christian dating couples in relation to physical intimacy. “How far is too far?” Or asked another way, “What is the absolute most we can get away with without actually sinning?”

I’ve heard all manner of answers to it, from the ‘click and whistle’ approach (cause you can’t get up to too much if you’re hands are clicking and your lips are whistling!) all the way through to justifying everything outside of vaginal intercourse (which leaves a whole lot of options!).

It reflects the natural bent of the human heart – but particularly the young person as they explore their emerging independence and self-governance – to know where the boundary is so that we can run right up close to it. How close to the fire can we stand without getting burnt? How far can I go?

It’s the wrong question. 

We don’t ask it with some other boundaries.

When standing on the edge of a very tall building we’re more likely to ask ‘how far BACK from the edge do I need to stand to be safe?’ And only the brave (or stupid) would venture too close. Because we know that the consequences of finding out where ‘too far’ is would be dire!

We need a better understanding of sexual intimacy. 

While they may be true, ‘God says’ or ‘the Bible says’ are not adequate boundaries. They’re a good start but ultimately unsustainable without a greater sense of purpose and intent. An understanding of why God wants us to honour our own and one another’s sexuality (including His intended design for us to experience and explore our sexuality in covenanted marriage, the preciousness of our physical person and His desire to keep us from heart-wounding) is needed to carry beyond the legalism to a deeply held desire for God’s best for us and for the other.

Externally imposed rules and boundaries are no match for internally determined desires, goals and intentions. A deeply held understanding of and a conviction around God’s best is needed to make good personal choices and also to process any sense of falling short. 

God desires that we would not be wounded sexually through abuse, rejection, confusion or manipulation. He doesn’t intend for sexual intimacy to be a thing of comparison or competition. God doesn’t want us to carry the heart burden of sexual regret or remorse as well as other potential physical consequences.

God designed us as sexual beings and, as with everything He made, it works best when experienced as He intended for us. God’s love for us compels Him to draw a boundary around our sexual exploration and engagement.

Honour as a boundary. 

Whilst boundaries around the where, what and when of physical intimacy are helpful and accountability to them necessary – the greater value of honour will ultimately fuel the kind of self-control and determination required to succeed. Honour of God’s will and heart for us, honour of our own sexuality and the gift it is intended to be in its created context and honour for one another – a deeply held sense of protection and preservation of the other’s dignity, purity and heart. 

Instead of “how far can I go?” other questions to ask …

What do I hope for in a potential future marriage relationship – how can I protect that now? How do I best honour the other person? Is this in line with God’s design for my sexuality and for sexual intimacy? How can I manage my own lust and desires? How far back from ‘the edge’ should I stay to keep from falling? What decisions do I need to make and practices should I put in place that will set me up to win?


Discerning Drinkers

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a fan of Diet Coke. It’s my beverage of choice. I like the bubbles – that’s the main appeal – and it works for me because I’d rather eat my calories than drink them and when I have the caffeine-free variety, essentially it’s just brown bubble water that I’m drinking – and I’m ok with that! 🙂

Basically I don’t drink any other soft drink. Not Coke, not even Coke Sugar Free – not Pepsi (Pepsi Max, Pepsi Light, Pepsi Next etc), not Sprite or Fanta … just Diet Coke. If I’m on a plane or at a restaurant and they don’t have Diet Coke I’ll just drink water – that’s how loyal I am to Diet Coke! 🙂

The thing is though, if I am SUPER thirsty …I’m somewhere really hot and I’m NEEDING hydration or I’ve been exercising or something … I’ve been known to lower my standards and drink one of the aforementioned beverages! It’s a compromise and it goes against my inner-sensibilities – but there are some times when the desperation of thirst overrides my discernment and my better judgement!

You hear stories of survival in extreme situations – Stuart Diver trapped in the Thredbo landslide, Aron Ralston of “127 hours” fame (a rock climber who got his hand stuck in a rock and famously severed it in order to free himself) etc –  where people have got so desperate for hydration that they drank their own urine! Because ultimately, thirst is a need that MUST be satiated! In the end, the need of our body will override any stigmas or distaste in order to get what is required to sustain the functions of the body.

In John 4:7-26, Jesus uses this basic human need to illustrate the most fundamental of spiritual needs. He meets a woman at a well, where she has come to get ACTUAL water, and speaks to her about the needs of her heart that can only be satisfied by “living water” – that is, relationship with Christ Himself.

This woman has been married multiple times and is living with a guy who isn’t her husband – you can appreciate something of the brokenness she must’ve experienced in her life. She’s drawing water in the middle of the day – possibly to avoid the other women of the town (unfortunately, we can too easily imagine what the attitude and action of people might have been toward her). Some speculate that the reason for her multiple marriages is infertility – there was no greater stigma than being unable to bear children and it would’ve been an acceptable grounds for her husbands to reject her.

As innate as our physical need for water is our soul need for relationship. It’s how we were made – created in the image of a relational God to experience fullness of relationship in Him. Our need for relationship is a powerful driving force in our life, a desire that seeks fulfilment, a need that propels us to do whatever we must in order to satisfy it.

Jesus talks about a kind of relationship that wholly satisfies – found in the love of our Heavenly Father and made possible for us through Jesus Himself – where our deepest needs and hearts desires are met completely.

When the object of our heart is Him, the focus of our devotion, the source of understanding of ourselves, the sense of acceptance, value and belonging is met in Him and through the love He pours out upon us we find our need for relationship satiated. When we are no longer relationally “dehydrated” we are then far more discerning in our relationships with others. We are better positioned to GIVE because our needs aren’t tied up in them; we process praise or criticism more appropriately, we handle disappointment more effectively – in fact we are disappointed LESS OFTEN because our expectations are more realistic, we are less influenced by others’ opinions and pressures.

Imagine the transforming impact on your relationships if you were so fulfilled in relationship with Jesus that you didn’t NEED anything from others – rather, you were just able to enjoy what they DID give you and to give generously to them. THAT is the invitation Jesus offered the woman at the well and offers still to us – “whoever drinks what I give them will never thirst again”.