I am a 20-year-old Christian, or at least I can say I still want to be, but since December of 2016 I have been dating this 32-year-old man. At first I went out with him because it was fun, and I got a chance to escape from my family issues. However, I was overcome with guilt and depression after the relationship became intimate, because I knew better. A few months later, my pastor announced to me that the Lord had given her and a few other people in the church a vision that I should marry my church sister's brother-in-law, who is a 34-year-old doctor with a baby and a girlfriend. He grew up in the church, but lost his way and is trying to get back. When I heard this I was annoyed, but also intrigued. I tried explaining the situation to my boyfriend, but he didn't understand and was very upset. The doctor and I keep in touch and we talk now and then via WhatsApp, but never anything beyond that. I don't want to backslide, but I do love my boyfriend. It's not as easy to leave the relationship as I thought, but when I consider my Christian beliefs and the potential drama with the church, I wish I'd never met him. On the other hand, the romantic experience that I'm having now is something I wouldn't want to miss. I am depressed, and I want to deal with it. Church is my life and has been since I was 13 years old. It's not that he doesn't want me to be in church, but I don't think he understands how much I can't stand feeling halfway about anything.
I simply can't be having this relationship and be going to church acting like I'm living as I should. It seems that walking away from this relationship would solve all my problems, but it would make me unhappy. We have made plans, and it hurts to think that they won't materialise. I know what to do; I just don't know how to do it. I eagerly await your response.
The challenge faced by many young Christians who are in romantic relationships is how to maintain the precepts of their faith regarding premarital sex. Like you, they become distressed and struggle with guilt, particularly if they are very active in the church.
It is not uncommon for young Christian women to be enticed into a life of fun and excitement by non-Christian men who will take them out to parties and places where young people hang out and enjoy themselves.
Whereas these Christian girls just want to have fun, the guys want to take it to the next level and so they give in to the demands and/or expectations for sex. And therein lies the dilemma — they are caught between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes.
Some actually withdraw from the church, while others like yourself remain but have sleepless nights as they struggle with the guilt of preaching one lifestyle while living another. You must decide what are the priority areas in your life and what would make you feel contented. For many, their spiritual commitment takes priority, and they are prepared to live their lives in accordance with the dictates of their religious beliefs, which includes chastity.
For others, premarital sex is natural and normal, and they have no moral dilemma and no sense of guilt. You, like many young Christians, find it extremely difficult to remain committed and partake of the forbidden fruit. Sometimes it comes down to making a choice between the non-Christian boyfriend and your spiritual growth and development.
You indicate that you don't want to backslide and that you know better, but there is a conflict in your mind as you do love your boyfriend. The problem is that continuing with the relationship will cause you emotional pain rather than pleasure. You must stop and assess your life and do what is in your best interest. Sometimes to achieve peace of mind we must make tough decisions.
As to the pronouncement of your pastor and a few others, be very clear that this is not just their personal will and desire. It is your life, after all. In playing matchmaker, some church elders create more harm than good as they claim divine knowledge. If the doctor has a girlfriend and a child, what would you gain by inserting yourself in that scenario? Why complicate his life and yours? Enough said!
So as you contemplate what decisions to make, consider the following questions: What would make me live a guilt-free life? What are the current priorities in my life? Will my boyfriend help or hinder my Christian walk?
Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Check out his work on www.seekingshalom.org and his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MFTCounselor/.