Why I Choose To Set Boundaries
With February being “Purity Month” at my youth group, where we annually discuss what the Bible has to say about relationships, sex and purity, I wanted to share some thoughts of my own. Quick summary of my life: I grew up in the purity culture, planned super strict boundaries for myself when I was young, became friends with several guys for the first time and became more comfortable around their “species” 😉 , went through a serious relationship, and am now back at home, single and evaluating my thoughts on “purity” and “physical boundaries”. While I have much to figure out still about love and relationships, I have discovered some reasons why physical boundaries are personally important to me. So here are my top 5 reasons that I choose to set boundaries for myself.
1. Living a Lifestyle of Purity is Biblical and Part of My Faith
It feels like an obvious answer, but it’s not a cop-out. It is a real reason for me. I do love and live by my faith. However, when I say that purity is a part of “my faith”, I in NO way mean that my purity has any bearing on my salvation. Whether or not I am a virgin when I get married does not affect the fact that I’m a redeemed child of God. But purity, whether physical, mental or of the heart, is something that God values, and I should strive for it my entire life, now and long after I get married.
There are plenty of Bible verses that talk about “abstaining from sexual immorality”. People can go around and around, debating what constitutes “sexual immorality”; so instead of trying to please everybody, I should listen to what God is telling ME it means so that I can create convictions to please Him. So I prayerfully set my boundaries in order to avoid what I believe to be sexual immorality. Whenever I’m in a relationship, I want to be ready to say no to anything that I feel is wrong, even if the other person believes it’s ok. I want to live above reproach and be able to read Scripture and know that I am doing all I can to live by it.
2. It’s Not Just What I Have To Do, But Who I Want To Be
Though my boundaries have shifted and changed somewhat since I was in high school, I’ve mostly kept the same conservative preferences. And that applies to my physical boundaries between genders. If I shared my specific convictions with people, there may be some who would feel that my boundaries are unrealistic, or even legalistic. And I try very hard to not push my boundaries on others or judge those who are less conservative than I am. But I don’t have these boundaries simply because I feel obligated to, but because they are what I want to have.
Though I don’t believe that my life or my marriage will be perfect just by having strict boundaries before I’m married, I do believe that there is honor, and reward, in adhering to my convictions. I want to experience guilt-free relationships; I want to do it right. While some people feel “freer” when there are no rules and they can do whatever they want, I feel the freest when I abide by the margins that God sets in place; I can have a clear conscience, and know that within those margins I can truly enjoy what God has given me.
3. My Boundaries Remind Me Why I Believe What I Believe
In the heat of the moment, when I’m running on emotion, it’s easy to suddenly take things farther then I wanted them to go. I’ve personally experienced that moment when my flesh just says “pish posh to my rules, I don’t care, I’m doing this because I want it now”. And I don’t want to find myself in that place, where I’m running on so much adrenaline that I am ready to ignore what I believe to be right in order to satisfy a momentary high.
Now as a human, since I know that I still mess up, it’s possible I’ll still make mistakes in this area despite my boundaries. So I want to prayerfully consider what I definitely believe is wrong, and then set up boundaries so that making a first mistake doesn’t bring me to the danger zone. Say that I’m dating someone and that, for example, I don’t think kissing is wrong, but since I’m nervous about where it could lead, I make it something that I don’t do. If we end up having a kiss, I haven’t done something that I feel is “immoral”, but I have crossed a boundary I set up; and THAT gives us a chance to do a double take and reevaluate whether our relationship is amping up to cross any physical danger lines. That may be extreme to some people, but it’s just an example. And ultimately, I want my convictions to point me to God by reminding me: “your relationship should honor God, not your flesh”.
4. I Don’t Want to Be Distracted By the Physical in a Relationship
I think this is true for most girls, but definitely for me: physical contact (particularly with guys) connects with my emotions. A hug from a friend makes me feel secure. Having my back rubbed when I’m sad makes me feel cared for. Being kissed makes me feel desired. While these are not bad things, and the fact that I feel something is actually important in a relationship, I don’t want the physical excitement to ever, ever cloud my vision of who I’m dating. I want to be with them for who they are, not because they give me physical affection. I want to love them for their personality and their character, and not be confused by the emotions stirred up by our physical contact. If I’m just dating a guy because of the physical affection I can get from him, that’s shallow and demeaning to both him and me. It needs to be about so much more.
Yes, you can make the argument that physical contact IS important in a relationship; it can be a way to show love, it can be comforting in hard times, etc. And I agree– to an extent. I used to think anything other than high fives with guys was wrong, and I don’t quite think that anymore. 🙂 But wherever I specifically choose to draw the lines, I want to be preventing the kinds of contact that is actively stirring up sexual desire. I DON’T know who I’m going to be marrying, and I don’t want to give parts of myself that I’m not ready to just because I think I will eventually. It makes it much harder to leave the situation, and it can create guilt and shame. When it comes to hearing God and my own heart, I will do whatever I can to make sure my heart is not clouded by deceiving emotions.
5. I Believe in Redemption
Sometimes we do things that we never thought we would do, and we feel stained. We feel like we’re no longer “pure” because of it. Maybe we thought that we could be one of those people who did things perfectly as we envisioned, like the “good” Christian we strived to be, until suddenly we made a mistake that we never imagined ourselves making. We may think it’s easier to just say, “what’s the point? I’ve already messed up, so why bother trying to do anything different from now on?”
The reason is because it doesn’t end there. God doesn’t leave us in a state of feeling broken and sinful, but He tells us that we are redeemed and that we were already forgiven before we even made any mistakes. He’s not scolding us and saying, “Well, I thought my grace was enough for you, but I didn’t think YOU were going to mess up in THAT area. So you’ll just have to suffer for a little while I figure out what to do with the rest of your life.”
No; God is gracious and loving and He knows how to heal all our hurts and turn our life around, no matter what the circumstances. Yes, there are consequences. Yes, there are still struggles and we still have regrets and we still feel pain. But I know that because of Christ’s redemption, not only for my salvation but for my life, I can start again. I can choose to follow God’s Word to the best of my ability, and His grace will carry me through what I don’t feel I can do on my own. That’s how I can surrender to God: by trusting Him with the rest of my story.