by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Few youngsters enjoy being told they must wait. When a thought enters their heads, they want to act on it right now. If they desire something, it must be in their possession right now. Any delay to a person who has not lived long appears to be impossibly long. Unfortunately, there is little in our society geared towards developing patience. Do you want a meal? Drive into the drive-thru lane of fast food restaurant and have a hot meal within minutes. But have you noticed that when the line is more than three cars long, we are already tapping our toes and drumming our fingers because the fast food service is not fast enough? Do you want to purchase something? Just whip out a credit card. It doesn’t matter if we have enough money at the moment. We’ll worry about the payment later.
Is it surprising that young people are impatient to grow up? The typical teenager gains the ability to have sexual intercourse between the ages of 11 to 13. The average age to marry in the late 1990s was 27. Think about it from the teenager’s point of view. He must wait to live to twice his current age before he can experience sex. Is it any wonder that the majority of our young people are not waiting?
It may seem unfair to a young man or woman that God gives them the desire for sex and the ability to perform sexual intercourse, but then says they cannot have sex at this time. Sexual intercourse is not forbidden by God, it is just limited to married couples (Hebrews 13:4). The restriction is there for very good reasons.
As a child, your mother probably restricted the times when you could eat. You couldn’t eat a snack just before dinner because it would spoil your appetite. You might have whined and moaned. You might have declared you would starve to death if you had to wait another hour to eat. But we all learned to be patient. Looking back we marvel at how silly we acted over such a minor matter.
Our appetite for sex is strong. The desire to try it out is appealing. You might even feel that you might "die" waiting. But God wants us to wait because indulging in sex too soon will spoil our marriages.
As teenagers, we need time to adjust to our new found ability. A toddler, who has just learned to walk, needs practice at walking before he can run. A toddler who attempts to run too soon is likely to take a few spills. A teenager needs time to get comfortable with his new bodily functions. Even though the ability to have sexual intercourse is present, it still takes several years for the entire mechanism to develop. The average woman is able to become pregnant at the age of 11, yet a woman who becomes pregnant before the age of 16 has a 400-times greater risk of dying during childbirth than an older woman. Women who become pregnant before 16 have a far greater probability of miscarrying or giving birth to premature babies. Time is needed to for the reproductive system to complete maturation before sexual intercourse is engaged.
Puberty also brings rapid changes in hormone levels, which trigger the physical changes in our bodies. These hormones affect how we look at the world. In addition, our brains are completing the last major push in developing connections. When we look, as teenagers, back on our thoughts and ideas we see the great strides we had made in recent years. What many teenagers overlook is that these changing views continue to mature as we grow into our early twenties. We need time to come to grips with who we are before we engage in a life-changing course of marriage and raising children.
Even though it seems long, the changes only take about 10 years to complete. The wait is possible. Read the words of Paul in I Corinthians 10:13. Every person who has grown to maturity has faced this time of waiting. Some have used the time profitably, while others squandered the time on selfish desires. It is common for young people to face the temptation to experiment with sex before marriage. Some have overcome this temptation. Some have yielded. Those who have overcome demonstrate that it is possible to wait. God’s laws can be obeyed. It really comes down to a matter of priorities. Do we want to please ourselves or God?
True love for another requires trust and commitment to that individual. Sex without love is not spiritually satisfying. The act can be performed. The body’s cravings can be sated for the moment. But a person is left wondering if there isn’t supposed to be something more to a relationship. When a person consents to sex before marriage, he or she is left wondering if their partner has had sex with someone else. A commitment is supposed to be required before having sex, yet if you are willing to forgo that commitment, how will your partner know you will honor that commitment after marriage? What proof could you offer?
If children are produced as the result of your engaging in sex outside of a marriage covenant, how will they be raised? If you only consent to marry because of an act of sex or a pregnancy, then you will face the nagging thought that you were "forced" into the relationship. Such is a bad start to a life long commitment to another.
Engaged couples face a strong temptation to experiment with sex before the ceremony. The reason that they are in love and that they have made a commitment – they just haven’t taken any formal vows. The problem is that sex during the engagement is still fornication. It is still taking place outside of the bonds of marriage. Many engaged couples have called off their weddings. An engagement is not a guarantee that the wedding will take place.
If the desire for sex is too strong to allow you to wait then consider getting married at a justice of the peace and then have your formal wedding later. While it is awkward and not as rewarding of an experience, it is better than letting Satan win because of your weak self-control (I Corinthians 7:2, 9).