Question 5: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Q: In what ways do your faith and sexuality intersect?

A: This question, as originally conceived, was a question that our Hopeful Abstainer did not wish to answer. I wanted to know what she wanted the church to understand about her sexuality, and her peaceful resistance to this form of the question revealed a bias of my own lurking in the subtext. While I imagined most of our Hopeful Abstainers as eager critics of the church’s sexual ethics, I was pleasantly surprised by her refreshing and gentle refusal. Her answer helped me refine this question, and I think we boiled down the meandering conversation to something like this: Her life has been an opportunity to live the countercultural message of the Bible—that our bodies are sacred by virtue of their created-ness. She ultimately decided to have sex with her husband before the wedding and never found herself wrecked with guilt or with a sense that she had dishonored the image of God in each of their respective bodies. She entered into their physical relationship with respect for herself and her lover—with a commitment to their shared love and humanity. When asked if she would be comfortable if her minister knew about their jumping the proverbial gun, she shot me an easily interpreted stare and volunteered that in her premarital counseling, they weren’t even asked about their sex life. So yes, faith and sex are inextricably bound together in her mind, but the ethical specificity of that is altogether of unclear.

With that, we conclude our first interview. I am grateful to my friend for letting me pry into this uncharted conversation. It seems that we didn’t develop 5 key points to remember when making sexual decisions as a single, 30-something Christian. Though I’m no closer to a definitive answer to this question of mine, I am reassured by the community that is formed when we speak without shame and with a sincere commitment to honesty and a sense of humor. This Hopeful Abstainer challenged the reshaping of my interview questions. Maybe she’s challenging us to ask a different meta question….

Yours Truly,

A Hopeful Abstainer

Lattes & Libido: Why I Don’t Date

After a month break, I am thrilled to host my first guest. Remember that you can add your story here. I received this piece that captures the tumult of being a Hopeful Abstainer in a world that often misunderstands and doubts the plausibility of a sexual ethic other than just do it. I’m sure many of us can relate to these thoughtful questions. I, myself, have witnessed one grown man cry when I mentioned my abstinence, another laughed because he thought I was joking, and more seriously, another didn’t know how to navigate our physical relationship and constantly pushed us further than I felt comfortable. This struggle is truly real, embarrassing, anxiety-ridden and can drive a Hopeful Abstainer to feel like a crazy person. My prayer is that sharing these stories rids them of their power to terrorize us and to keep us enslaved to our shame. May vulnerability and honestly unlock the doors to our lonely attics and invite us downstairs to share in the intimacy, friendship and love of belonging in our own homes.

And so, without further ado, please welcome our brave guest.


Once I turned 30…oh, let’s be honest – 25… it became common practice for any woman in my life to regularly inquire about my state of singledom. I’ve long since become immune to it and have plenty of witty retorts standing by for why I’m still single, not dating or not actively trying to be dating (i.e. – internet dating). But on Wednesday I was betrayed by the one thing that was supposed to love & cherish me regardless – Starbucks. The good people behind my beloved Starbucks app have joined the club wanting me to plunge headfirst into the terrifying world of online dating and will even pay for it on my behalf. (Really, Starbs? This is how you pay me back for the $2.67 I give you everyday? Betrayer!!!) Online dating freaks me out for a variety of reasons, but one of the bigger reasons is I have ZERO interest in talking about my sexual history and sexual ethics (totally intertwined for me) with a stranger. I realize I’m a delightful human being with any number of charming characteristics that should make me a catch, but for some reason I feel like sex (or current lack thereof) would come up quicker with some dude from the internet. I just don’t wanna deal with it. I’m blushing just thinking about this imaginary conversation. I realize I’m cutting myself off from a large chunk of the dating pool by not signing up for all these sites (even those Starbucks partners with) but I can’t make the Risk/Reward math work.

So tell me Abstainers – if you’re braver than I and have jumped into online dating, do you announce your Abstaining out & proud? Do you not mention it initially and deal with it in person? On date 2? Moments before you’d stop abstaining? Or have I created an imaginary situation that just doesn’t happen as often as I think it will? Bless you, lovely Abstainer & your bravery!


I invite you to share your support and the ways you have navigated our puzzling questions in the comments. How are you living in this body of yours?

Make a Joyful Noise: Sex Noises & Church Camp

I learned about sex noises at church camp. The conversation involved at least three of us. Again, I radically altered names to protect the guilty.

Meet the guilty:

Deb: A slender, leggy, Texas equestrian. At one of her infamous sleepovers, we played strip volleyball in the yard. Then, we marched a couple of miles down the country road to toilet paper a boy’s house in the nude. We were caught by her dad.

Brit: A second, slender, leggy, home grown homecoming queen. She dated a Varsity baseball player as a freshman. As roomies at a small Christian college, we kept dorm life spicy with streaking and pants-ing episodes.

Me: A busty, leggy golfer and adamant rule follower. I was definitely in need of some support when we were running, naked, down that country road and was most certainly the last of us to have any sort of relationship to my sexuality.

The three of us were sitting in a dormitory at the University of Houston on a service trip to paint houses in the inner city. My best recollection comes down to this dicey dialogue.

Deb: (giggling) When I get married, I am going to make really loud sex noises.

Brit: (with a loud guffaw) Yea you will. I bet you will be really feisty and loud. You’ll be like, “Oh yeah, ooo, mmm…”

Me: (blushing dramatically) What are y’all talking about? You don’t really have to make noises when you have sex, do you? I mean, it just seems like there is a lot going on there already.

Deb and Brit: (simultaneous) Seriously? Aw, you are so sweet.

Deb: It’s like you can’t help it. The noises just come out, but you have to practice so that you don’t sound stupid.  Like this. (loudly) Aah. Aah. Oooo. More. Yes. You try it.

Me: (emphatically) No way!

Brit: Come on. Try it.

Deb and Brit: (in unison) Aaaaaah. Mmmmmmm. Ooooo. Yea.

Me: (Deb and Brit’s moans continue) You guys. Cut it out. Seriously. Come on. Ugh. Fine. Mmmmmm. Ah. Um. Oo. Ah. Are you happy?

All laughing. End Scene.

Despite and possibly because of moments like these, I loved church camp. I was a church camp junky who kept a spiral notebook with phone numbers and MySpace screen names. I loved all of it–the service projects, daily Bible study, aimless hours playing cards in the dining hall, the pre-camp fundraising talent show. My childhood bestie and I did a bit where we stuck flashlights up our noses, killed the lights and flickered them to the tune of the Dueling Banjos. The crowd roared, and my parents got the discount for kids who participate in the fundraisers. I loved camp so much that I worked three years at a camp. Did I mention? I LOVE camp. Like, I still love camp.

The cynical New Yorker in me is horrified by images of adults hopping up hormonal teenagers on intense prayer experiences, close living quarters and too much sugar. I watched that documentary, Jesus Camp, and ugly cried. I promise my camps were different. I realize it’s like when Bill Clinton promised he did not have sexual relations with that woman. It may be technically true, but who really believed him? You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one.

What remains of my charmed Texas self believes a more intimate spiritual truth. I learned so much of my sense of service, compassion and how to live in Christian community through camp. I learned about forgiveness, friendship and commitment, and I fell in love with Jesus and the Bible. I retreated to remember that my life was more than the angst of being a loud, bookish girl. I found refuge from the sadness of my parents’ divorce. Even now, I believe that God met me at camp, and I feel the embrace of God in remembering that innocent conversation in the UofH dormitory. I’m often hard on my Christian sex education. I fancy myself worldly and educated–preferring complexity in my life of faith. Yet, in the sex noises memory, I see three innocent teenage girls exploring their sexuality. They are naïve and unburdened. They envision a simple Cinderella story and prepare their sex noises for the mind blowing and sentimental sex they will enjoy with the men they love. It’s uncomplicated. Some days, I pray for something that simple. I’m wondering if you do too.

Yours Truly,

A Hopeful Abstainer