Monday, March 22, 2004

Unwelcome advice  

Before I was married, I attended a church in Texas that formed a weekly Bible study for men. It focused on Biblical principles of being a man, husband, and father. The third week's session dealt with sexual purity. At 22, I was the youngest man in the class by at least ten years and the only one not married. This fact seemed to give the other men the idea that the best use of our time was to spend the entire session, as well as the next, telling me that I shouldn't have sex before marriage. Most of the men had made that mistake themselves and regretted it, and they felt it their duty to save me from their miserable fate.

It annoyed me because, as I mentioned before, I was 22 years old—not 12. I had had at least ten years to deal with my feelings of sexuality and tempestuous desires. I had had at least ten years to learn how God intended sex to work. My parents, my Sunday school teachers, and my youth leaders had all done an excellent job of teaching me about moral values, right and wrong, and Godly lifestyles. By the time I reached the age of 22, telling me to remain a virgin was pretty much pointless. If I had previously cultivated no conviction against premarital sex, I would have practiced it long before then. If by that age I had not yet engaged in intercourse, it would have been because of a conscious decision on my part, requiring no further instruction on theirs.

It happens that at the time I had, in fact, never had sex, and that by choice. It happens that I continued not having sex until my wedding night, one month before my 26th birthday. It happens that I already understood the importance of engaging in physical intimacy with one and only one person. I suffered through the blissfully horrid temptations of my hormonal youth and on that point emerged victorious where my admonishers had failed. More than once, I wanted to tell people to just shut up, but another thing that my parents, Sunday school teachers, and youth leaders taught me was respect for my elders.

I left the group shortly thereafter. The other men seemed to have nothing to teach me that I didn't already know and understand better than they. I apparently had little to offer them other than an opportunity to feel superior in their past failures. I felt a great deal of disappointment because I had thought that a group of Christian men could meet and encourage each other, build each other up, and sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. We almost did that one night when one of the men, on the verge of tears, confessed that he never told his wife he loved her. Another man warmly said, "Start tonight," then the leader quickly moved on to the next subject, which probably had something to do with my sex life.

I find now that I have veered off on a tangent and far from my original train of thought, an unfortunate circumstance that another blogger recently praised me for avoiding. I'll try to get that train back on that train tomorrow. Today, though, here's my conclusion: Older men have a God-given responsibility to teach young men to love God's commandments and shun the ways of the world, and also to foster their spiritual growth rather than pummel them with superfluous advice and drive them away from a potential source of valuable support. Again, that wasn't the point I intended to make when I started writing, and it may not even be a point that needs to be made, but there it is.