Recently, I was talking to a longtime friend of mine at a music festival in Texas, and we stumbled into some interesting territory. I first met him when I was in my early 20s, pastoring a small community in Southern California. He was still in high school.
Before then, he had previously shared with me a sorrow he had about viewing porn habitually. He told me porn had not ruined his image of sexuality, but his confession was that he was angry because he felt like porn had corrupted his idea of Love. He said he was most worried because he thought he would never recover.
I was struck by the power of the statement, and I have never forgotten it, even 11 years later. He was one of my only friends to remain a virgin throughout his 20s. He was my secret-champion friend because he stayed pure in a way I didn’t value until it was much too late. He had also been tempted plenty — because of his personality, his charm and his chosen industry, he has had plenty of opportunities. He sort of passed the test and, even when venturing into virginity-threatening waters, he would always stay in a place of control.
I was proud of him. I was so proud of him for taking such a great chance on purity in the midst of such a casual sexual culture. I like to think it kept him childlike and free.
Backstage at the festival, he had something else weighing on his heart. He confessed to me that day, much the same way he confessed of his struggles with pornography as a teenager. “Tommy, I have something to tell you. I don’t want you and Krissi to be mad at me, but I have to tell you.”
“OK,” I tediously ventured.
“I had sex for the first time, man.” I responded with a bit of grief and added, “Okay, man, what do you think? How was it?”
He said the first time was awkward, but the second time was great. I thought for a while and said, Of course it’s awkward. It’s supposed to be awkward the first time, but it’s supposed to be especially awkward.”
He asked what I meant. (This is what I have come to see as the most powerful aspect of that conversation that day.) I replied, “You are supposed to grow out of awkward in to something better together. You are supposed to be awkward together and build and grow and explore and romance one another. You grow in understanding and connection over time. You cannot fake the time it takes to build trust, and you cannot counterfeit trust when you barely know one another. It’s a lie.”
I continued. “The whole world wants you to be a pro at sex and have it all figured out. When you meet the one you want to be with forever, you are, like, experienced. They are missing it,” I told him. “The sexiest thing about covenant is trust. The sexiest part of my sex life is the trust that has taken years to build and the shared experience of Only One Another.”
That’s something this shallow, casual culture cannot comprehend. They will never have what I have because you cannot counterfeit the trust of two powerful people saying yes to only one another. They can’t have trust so they try to fabricate the experience.
But their experience is theft. It takes the element of the committed relationship out of the picture. You can have as much hot sex as you want with empty promises, but you will never counterfeit the trust we have in covenant with our spouses.
“You are gonna miss it if you aren’t careful,” I told him. “That’s why I have been so proud of you. I have lost trust so many times because of my casual sexual history, and I never realized how amazing this journey is supposed to be. I kept trying to establish it another way. Trust is the sexiest thing, man, and that’s what you will never have in that lifestyle. You will never have what I have, and I didn’t know what I was missing until I lost it.” It took Jesus giving me his version of sex for me to realize I can have a true sexual connection. “You be careful listening to people with no grid for Covenant,” I warned him, “because they do not have what I have. That’s what I want for you.”
He thought about it and hit me up two days later. “That trust sh-t is blowing my mind,” he said. “That’s still f-cking me up, and that’s what I want.” I told him I understood. It’s still blowing my mind and it’s been nine years.