It was the summer before I turned 13. The summer before I met Merritt. The summer my world changed from that of a little girl to a teenager. It was the summer I read His Perfect Faithfulness by Eric and Leslie Ludy.
All I knew about dating was what I observed from afar in the church youth group. I didn’t think I wanted any part of it. And I never could picture being on the stereotypical first date with a guy I hardly knew. In the story of Eric and Leslie’s courtship, I saw a better way, a way I wanted for myself. And in the style of that first generation of those who believed in courtship, I paved my path with good intentions and extremes.
In my search for standards that were desperately needed, I embraced legalism. I confused modesty with extreme frumpiness, and my better than thou attitude about my apparel stood between me and many a friendship. I wore my purity like a badge on my arm instead of as a quiet covenant of my heart. I had my life all figured out at thirteen-except I put God in a box and left my future husband’s thoughts out of the picture entirely.
My romantic, almost-thirteen-year-old heart was enraptured by the story of Eric and Leslie saving their first kiss (with each other) for their wedding day. It sounded beautiful, romantic, perfect. I knew right then and there that is what I would do. But I did not just quietly embrace the commitment to a higher standard of purity than what I saw around me; I made sure I told everyone that I was saving my first kiss for my husband. I did more than just draw the line in the sand for myself; I thought everyone else should as well.
It would take many years to learn that there is a difference in saving your first kiss for your husband and saving your first kiss for your wedding day (which I viewed then as one and the same). It would take a lot of conviction on the part of the Holy Spirit to see how I made the issue one of pride, not purity. And it would take even more years before I felt like I could share my story with others without fear of what they would say (even more pride).
But I have a little sister who is thirteen years old. And for my little sister and the countless others like her, I write this. So that you won’t make the same mistakes I did. So that you will embrace a high standard of purity without becoming prideful.
That summer when I read Eric and Leslie Ludy’s book I little guessed I would soon be meeting my future husband. I had no idea the affectionate, godly man he would be. Or how he would shake my every conviction to the core. Not because he was a wild, rebellious boy–but because he was a godly one. Not because he thought my convictions were all bad–but because he wanted to know where they were in the Bible. Not because he led me down the wrong path–but because he challenged me to look at my extra-biblical rules for what they were.
“I have found that a man will usually be as much of a gentleman as a lady requires and probably no more.”
I adhered to the idea that I had to draw the line of purity or else I’d be taken advantage of. And in my interactions with other guys, I was only too thankful to be labeled “untouchable”! But I had yet to learn about submission to the leadership of the man who would be my husband. Or letting the man lead and guide the relationship.
When I finally realized what I was doing, that the only reason I was not letting the man I was going to marry kiss me was because of my pride, that in fact I was not showing him love as I could and should be at that point in our courtship–I let him kiss me. And my only regret was that I had insisted on doing it my way for so long and hadn’t let him do it in his time and way to begin with.
I’ve been to weddings where the couple made such a big deal out of the fact that it was their first kiss and did so much kissing that it was awkward for everyone there. I’ve been to weddings where that first tender kiss, displayed for hundreds of pairs of eyes, is nothing but sweet, tender, and rather embarrassed. Personally, I’m rather glad our first kiss wasn’t in front of all those people. But I wholeheartedly applaud those couples who wait until the preacher says, “You may now kiss the bride.” They probably saved themselves a lot of difficulty during their courtship by drawing that line.
But as Josh Harris has always said, purity is more than just a line in the sand. You can be very impure in thought and attitude without your lips ever touching. Just as you can share kisses without sinning. You have not lost your purity if you’ve kissed someone. But if you save that first pure, innocent kiss to give to the man whom you get to spend the rest of your life kissing, you’ll save a lot of heartache, and give him an incredible gift.
“Kissing is a means of getting two people so close together that they can’t see anything wrong with each other.”
As I tell my little sister, read The Princess and the Kiss, read Eric and Leslie’s story and the other stories like theirs. They will remind you of all the reasons you are saving your kisses for the man you’re going to marry. And if he or you or your parents want you to wait until your wedding day to be sure that it’s your husband you’re kissing, do it. Just as a hands-off courtship makes it much easier to know you are making the right decision, without too much emotion involved, keeping your lips to yourself will make it easier to maintain a heart and standard of purity. I don’t recommend kissing for long courtships or in situations where couples see each other each and every day; it’s asking for trouble! But if he wants to kiss you when you’re engaged, let him!
“I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell this to my children they just about throw up.”
That first date I could never quite imagine finally came not too many months before my wedding day. With a man who was already my very best friend. There was nothing awkward about the way we enjoyed our cream of broccoli soup and gourmet entrées. It was the most delightful first date. And, true to all the stereotypical first date stories, he kissed me afterward as we stood on the porch steps in the sunset.
If you can’t trust the man enough to let him kiss you, then by all means, don’t even kiss him goodbye: run the opposite direction. But if he’s a man worth marrying, he won’t even try to kiss you until he knows you are ready to be kissed, until he’s committed to marrying you. I’ll never forget the way Merritt looked at me one time as he kissed me, and said in a way that spoke volumes, “I would never do anything to hurt my best friend.” I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that was true. Which is why then, and now, I feel incredibly safe in his arms.
And the kiss on our wedding day? It must have been pretty wonderful, too. We’d planned for my cousin to ring the antique bell in the church steeple as we kissed. I asked Merritt later, “Did they remember to ring the bell?” He looked at me and grinned. Apparently, his brand new wife had been so distracted by that kiss she never heard the bell ringing.