When Russell Wilson, star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, recently announced at the Rock Church in San Diego that he and pop singer Ciara were abstaining from sex until marriage, it was fascinating to watch the world react.
Some in the church community applauded him, many in the sports and entertainment world ridiculed him, and others just dismissed him as old-fashioned and odd.
In our sex-obsessed pop culture, his declaration stood out like a sore thumb. But as I sat in my cubicle at the Inside Edition offices and reported on the story, I was smiling and silently cheering him on. I realize its not for everyone, but I think Russell and Ciara are to be admired for their choice. I would encourage people to give abstinence a second look and this is why.
I think the world was struck by how unselfish and unusual Russell's statement was. Ciara is a knockout; any guy would LOVE to partake in all she can offer. And many stated that they didn't understand why Russell would wait. But Russell was saying "I love and respect you, so I am going to make sure we are meant to be together, and value your body. Let's do it Jesus way."
[sharequote align="center"]Abstinence means putting the other person above yourself[/sharequote]
That is a paradigm shift in thinking for our selfish culture. And I think that's why many people look at Russell in confusion or amusement - in a world of "I want whatever I want, whenver I want it" this kind of selflessness does not make sense. Abstinence means putting the other person above yourself; saying that they are worth the wait and you forgo your own personal or instantaneous desires so you can create an even better and lasting future, and attempt to avoid pain and hurt along the way.
Abstinence - Against the Grain
Let’s face it people: We live in world that is pretty sex-crazed. We are bombarded with sex, drugs, and more sex everywhere we look. It’s in our schools, it’s in our magazines, it’s on our television, computers and phones. We are told there are no rules; you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; be an individual; buck the system and along the way, never give any regard to the consequences or the wake of destruction we might leave in our path.
Self-esteem is based on how many “likes” we got on Instagram or Facebook. People think if you are a virgin or saving yourself for marriage you are old-fashioned and out of touch. Young people are faced with an incredible amount of pressure to jump into a relationship physically, at a very young age.
We live in a world where the value of marriage is looked upon not as a lifetime commitment but a contract that always has an out. We live for ourselves, not each other, and we wonder why there are so many broken homes and broken lives in our culture.
Abstinence is still an option and its a good one for a variety of reasons. Russell thinks so, and so do I.
How I Decided to Prepare for Marriage
Most people are pretty surprised to find out that I made the decision to remain a virgin until I was married. I am reminded everyday in my industry just how unpopular this decision is. (I mean, can you name one current popular TV Show or movie where the characters waited until marriage?!)
But early on in my life, I decided I wanted to approach marriage in the best way I could. Just like when I have a big photo shoot coming up or a big assignment, I prepare in the best way I can. I try and refrain from bad food, workout often and take care of myself. I also study my subject and focus on the end goal.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
It is the same way in marriage. If you value it, you will approach it carefully and respectfully. Marriage is hard enough in this world. I wanted to enter into this sacred sacrament, this priceless covenant, the best way that I knew how. That meant working on myself and being the best me I could be. It meant treating others as I would want to be treated.
A profound moment for me came when I was in high school. I was blessed to have a great group of friends. Through discussions in our group, I began to realize that every guy friend of mine was someone’s future husband. And likewise, their girlfriends were someone’s future wife. That mindset changed my outlook on dating. Instead of simply “having fun” and acting selfishly, only caring about myself and what I want - I was conscious of how I was treating others and behaving, and treating others with respect and kindness.
But is Abstinence Realistic?
Teenagers ask me all the time “was this hard for you? How did you do it?”
I think a few things helped me achieve my goal. First, I stayed busy pursing my career. I served as Student Body President of my college, worked all kinds of radio and television jobs, volunteered, traveled the country, cultivated hobbies and stayed involved in a church. This allowed me to meet all kinds of wonderful, quality and like-minded people. I stayed busy and kept setting goals.
I often tell girls that I was too busy chasing my dreams to get in trouble with boys. And by the time I began seriously dating my husband, I was ready to understand and respect that profound commitment that is marriage.
Second, I found a man who respects me and my decisions. And this lifestyle can still work if you have not waited already. My husband was not a virgin when we got married. He became a believer later in life and made the decision to seek a “second virginity” with me.
We dated for five years and in that time he NEVER pressured me to do anything I did not want to do. Hold out for a good man like this because they make wonderful husbands!
You need both people to be steadfast in this commitment. Of course we are real human beings and have problems like anyone else. We knew we needed to work through any issues we might have entering into marriage together, so we underwent premarital counseling.
And it didn’t stop for us once we got married. My husband and I still attend a marriage Sunday school class and check in with a marraige counselor or pastor regularly. Just as you head to the doctor once a year to make sure you are healthy, so your marriage needs a healthy “check-up” once in a while, too. But my husband's side of the story reminds us that abstinence can always be claimed later in life - if you haven't waited, you can still start fresh now.
Don’t Look to Hollywood for Advice on Marriage
I know some of this may sound old-fashioned or super conservative. But it also can be wise and progessive and insightful.
I think millenials are interested in making the best choices for themselves. But we still live in a world where our entertainment does little to encourage the abstinence path. Outside influences are heavy in the opposite direction.
In my industry, I am often disappointed in Hollywood’s portrayal of love. Movies and television make it seem like people should participate in sex as easily and as often as brushing their teeth!
I think today’s society cheapens sex because they have lost the original meaning of what God intended sex to be: An extremely intimate, almost spiritual act that bonds you with someone’s heart, soul, mind and emotions.
(Image Source: The Diamondback)
I want to share that with only my husband. I cringe at how lightly our world treats sex. God created us to be such complex, brilliant and sensitive human beings. We need to value all that we are and take better care of our bodies and souls.
Marriage Needs Good Friends
Surround yourselves with a community of encouragement. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
When my husband and I were getting married and standing up at the altar with our large bridal party, our pastor looked at all our bridesmaids and groomsmen and encouraged them to not just “stand with us” on our wedding day, but for the rest of our life, and to encourage us in our marriage as long as we live.
Can you imagine if every bridesmaid and groomsmen took that seriously? And if when the couple they stood up for was having a problem, they reached out and encouraged them? Maybe we would have a few more lasting marriages.
We are fortunate that many of those folks in our bridal party have stayed very close friends, and we can go to them for encouragement or support in our marriage. We are called to serve each other - just as Jesus did by laying his life down for his friends. You need friends who will encourage you and your partner down this path, and remind you why its worth the wait.
Think of Marriage In Big Picture Terms
Another lie our culture tells us is that marriage will only affect two people, and if it doesn’t work out, everyone will be ok.
Not true. Marriage affects not only you and your spouse, but future children, extended family and friends.
My husband came from a broken home. In a way I think that fact has made our marriage even stronger and is a good example of the fact that we aren’t just living a fairytale marriage. It has forced us in a good way to have some conversations that maybe we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
We have had to dive-in and talk about what it will take for us to make it as a couple and to be intentional about protecting it. He understands first hand even more how important it is to not have an “exit strategy.” Life happens and sometimes families don't stay together, but if you have a heck of a better chance if you do all you can to prepare for what marriage and family means. And abstinence may be just one way you can prepare that solid foundation of your home - and better brace yourself when the storms come.
Advice for the Next Generation
Supermodel Adriana Lima waited until marriage, and stated that guys "have to respect that this is my choice. If there's no respect, that means they don't want me."
If I could give some encouragement to the next generation, it would be this: Be bold! Dare to be different! Be proud of who you are and what you have to offer! Don't rush into anything physical just because your peers are. Think for yourself. Value yourself and all you have to offer. In doing this, it is never too early to starting preparing for your future marriage.
Ladies - value yourselves and treat your bodies like temples. Play hard to get. Cover up your curves and let boys get to know you for your mind and soul first. Treat your body as a temple and take care of it.
Gentlemen - seek out a woman who believes in your dreams and will support you in all areas of your life. Look beyond the physical and seek a woman who will be your best friend and biggest cheerleader. When the going gets tough, you want a woman who will grab your hand and kneel down next to the bed with you
For me, saving myself for marriage is not just about sex. It is a manifestation of a bigger decision to make in your approach to marriage – a decision to place a high value on your own self worth and a commitment to be a great parent and a great spouse. Saving yourself is just one aspect of it. And if you are reading this and you have not waited or didn’t even consider whether you should, there is always a chance for a fresh start.
Ultimately, I think it boils down to just us just loving and treating each other with respect. And not judging each other if we fall short – but encouraging each other to move forward.
We get very little to pick in life – but we do get to pick a teammate, so choose wisely. Choose someone who will watch out for you, walk this road called life with you, and always have your back. Because a partner for life, my friends, is the sweetest gift God can give us. Abstinence does not promise you a perfect life or a happy ending. But it can give you one more leg-up on a lasting marriage and fufilling life. Sometimes good things are really worth the wait.
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