This weekend my family is headed down to Florida to celebrate the 4th of July. My parents have a place down there, but it’s very small with only one bedroom, so usually I just stay on the sleeper couch and we all fit in just fine. However, the sleeping dynamic has gotten a little tricky now that I’m engaged.
As we’ve made our plans for this trip, we’ve had to figure out where to put my fiancé. I had the bright idea to get an air mattress and stick him on the floor of the living room, but the condo is literally too small for it to fit. Then I had the even *brighter* idea to get one of those blow-up pool flotations and have him sleep on that. My dad immediately shot that down, but not before suggesting that I be the one to sleep on my own terrible idea.
Our solution? My parents are putting us both up in our own, individual hotel rooms right across the street. That seemed to work best for all of us–more room and privacy for everyone involved.
Yet on some level, this elaborate plan feels a bit silly. I mean, we’ll be getting married in just over a month. In only 5 weeks this whole scenario will be a moot point because we’ll be able to share a bed and sleep together. But for now, we have to jump through hoops to stay separate, even pay extra money to do so, all to avoid something that we’ll inevitably be doing anyway in just a short time from now.
As my fiancé and I have entered the home stretch of our engagement, I’ve found myself thinking this way a lot. We are going to get married very soon, but on numerous occasions we’ve had to go out of our way to act single and unmarried–out of our way in instances that have even cost us financially. Sometimes this seems like a lot of work just to stand on principle.
It is in these moments that I can sympathize with a number of my friends who have compromised on their formerly staunch standards as a matter of convenience. I know a number of couples who decided to live together because of financial reasons. Until now, I’d never really understood why, but when you’re with the person that you think you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, your tricky circumstances almost feel providential–it’s as if God is leading you into this next step of the relationship. It feels unnatural to resist it.
With that in mind, I want to share with you the reason why my fiancé and I have not taken this next step forward, why we have in fact bent over backwards to avoid it:
Intimacy should never be something you fall into.To understand what healthy intimacy looks like, we need only look to the cross. In order to restore our relationship with God, Christ chose to lay himself down for us. From this example we learn that intimacy is not only a choice, but it is accompanied by sacrifice as well.
Falling into intimacy as a matter of convenience is the exact opposite of this model.
When we achieve intimacy by convenience, we not only buck the examples of intimacy that God gives us in the Bible, but set ourselves up for greater hardship later down the road. We don’t equip ourselves with the tools to continue growing that intimacy when things get hard. Up until then, intimacy was just a matter of convenience–what happens if it’s not convenient anymore?
But perhaps even more worrying is what this precedent means for marital faithfulness. Say that you and your husband are going through a rough patch, and there’s a woman at work who he gets along with really well and meets some needs that you aren’t providing? If you and your spouse have established a pattern of intimacy through convenience, rather than sacrifice, it will be tough to trust that he’ll be any different now. He didn’t fight for his moral integrity then, so you can’t be sure he will do it now.
We must always remember that the habits we form today will be with us tomorrow. If you are founding a relationship based on convenience, its true mettle will eventually be tested. If it is not based on intentional, sacrificial, and SCRIPTURAL decision-making (You are not being intentional and sacrificial when God’s Word clearly says you’re not!), then you can’t expect your relationship to hold fast to these characteristics later on. We have trouble seeing the consequences of our actions in the present when things are easy, but we have to ask if we are fostering characteristics in ourselves and one another that can stand the test of life’s trials. God isn’t just calling us to holiness–He’s protecting us from what our short-sightedness blinds us from seeing.
Even if you’re not living with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancé, and even if you’re married, this is an issue to which we must all give sober consideration. If you have a habit of sleeping over at your boyfriend’s place because it’s always “too late at night” to go home, then you are experiencing intimacy by convenience. If you share a hotel room with your girlfriend when you go out of town for a wedding because it’s just too expensive to stay apart, then that is intimacy by convenience. And if you are married but you have in-depth, personal conversations with one of your co-workers of the opposite gender just because they sit near you and they’re a good listener, then that is also intimacy by convenience.
While healthy relationships shouldn’t be too hard, all good relationships take work. It is ironic how we will fight and fight and fight to keep a relationship afloat when it is clearly not of God, but we will not put that same energy into fighting for the holiness of our relationships. But that foundation, the foundation of honoring Christ at every turn, that is what my fiancé and I want our marriage to stand on, and the building begins today. We might feel silly at times, but we trust that in going the extra mile to honor God, even when it’s inconvenient, He will honor us. That’s an investment that will forever trump the benefits of short-term convenience.