FOMO pt. 1
Updated: Apr 2
There’s something about the human experience where we tend to want what we do not have. Millennials have coined this phenomenon “FOMO” or fear of missing out. Say what you want about my generation, but I think we’re pretty creative with our acronyms. Though I believe this term applies to every generation across the board. From being left out of a game of lava on the playground (where you at 90s babies?), to being the only one not invited to dinner with your coworkers, or not being informed of your granddaughter’s first birthday party. We can all relate to that feeling, no matter our age.
Distance or separation doesn’t feel good once we’ve added value to what we are being separated from. If we value inclusion, being excluded hurts. And that’s where the cycle of FOMO begins. But have you thought about why you added that value in the first place? Maybe the kids who are excluding you at recess are the school bullies, maybe your coworkers gossip about you, maybe your family neglects you. Despite all that, the exclusion itself is somehow the focal point, rather than what we are being excluded from.
I believe there is a similar trap in Christian dating. Culture has a lot to say about what we can and cannot do as boyfriend and girlfriend. As Christians, many of us have let those standards seep into our understanding and practice of dating...and this is where I begin my spiel about physical intimacy. Yep, we’re gonna go there. Once we’ve added value to physical intimacy in dating, excluding it causes us to feel as if we are missing out on something. But have we thought about how the practice of physical intimacy outside of marriage started? Better yet, do we know where the concept of physical intimacy originates from? I recognize scientific-based evidence is beneficial for the discussion of human development and interaction, but I will specifically aim to review Scripture on the topic for the purpose of this blog.
Okay so Bible study time!
What does the Bible have to say about romantic love? Let’s see how the woman in Song of Songs describes it. “For love is as strong as death, its jealously unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away” (Song of Songs 8:6-7 NIV). Add physical intimacy to the mix and you’ve got an intoxicating fire that cannot easily be extinguished.
Intimacy is not manmade. God purposefully created it (see Genesis 2:22-24 NIV), therefore it is intrinsically valuable to us. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we desire it, especially if we’ve found someone we really like. Jesus acknowledges this desire and the power of romantic love, and He provides us an outlet to express it. He quotes Genesis 2, stating that when a man and woman come together in covenant, “they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6 NIV). Oneness in marriage is essential and physical intimacy is part of that (becoming one flesh). To deprive intimacy is to separate yourself from that oneness. Think back to the description in Song of Songs. Why do you think God created intimacy solely for marriage?
Experimenting outside of God's design can get very messy and cause immense pain.
Paul also recognizes the importance of intimacy in marriage, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (1 Corinthians 7:5 NIV). Physical intimacy is meant to be a regular practice. Once you’ve had a taste of it, it’s difficult not to crave it again and again. I believe intimacy has been designed this way as a connection point for spouses, to keep them as one. Paul even finishes off the 5th verse by encouraging a husband and wife to come together again after a brief time, so that they may not be tempted by Satan, to safeguard the marriage from infidelity.
God’s design has our best in mind.
In John White’s book Eros Defiled, The Christian and Sexual Sin, he elaborates on the benefits of sexual pleasure in marriage. One of those is its ability to end isolation and loneliness. “And loneliness can only end where trust exists—trust that someone has made a commitment to me and I to that person in a sworn covenant until death parts us. Within such a relationship the physical pleasure of sex may blossom and mysteriously deepen to solidify the relationship.” We cannot experience the fullness and freedom of intimacy without mutual trust, a kind of trust in a marriage that is rooted in the faithfulness of God.
We can't claim to trust God but then not trust His design.
The Bible places value on physical intimacy in the context of marriage alone. Outside of marriage, this kind of intimacy is referred to as sexual immorality and the examples in Scripture are numerous. Although God has a clear design for this intimacy, that doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t still tangible when practiced outside of its original context. After all, we have free will. Our sensory neurons aren’t suddenly activated after saying, “I do.” Because pleasure is, well, pleasurable, we’ve unfortunately allowed its value and context to become hazy, just like in the cycle of FOMO. So, we focus on the exclusion of an innate desire burning within, fogging our vision of what that exclusion protects us from.
In reality, you’re not going to be thinking about Scripture while in a passionate moment with your partner. I know this because I’ve been there before. It wasn’t until the guilt set in afterwards that I was reminded of why abstaining from physical intimacy in a relationship is truly for my protection. I realized I had been seeking out something that wasn't mine to have, it wasn't created for me in this way. It is my conviction to exclude physical intimacy in my current relationship (even kissing, cuddling, spooning, and so on - for the purpose of purity), though I know I am not missing out on anything if I wasn't meant to explore such intimacy in a dating context.
Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is costly when you consider the wages of sin (see Galatians 5:19-21 NIV). When practiced in dating, there is no expectation to stay in the relationship, a commitment has not been made before God that has covenental power and protection. Why do you think Satan has deceived so many of us of the purpose of intimacy in dating? He’s afraid of godly marriages and their impact on the Kingdom of God.
The word "godly" in front of marriage is key. Marriage itself isn't the cure to your desire for intimacy while single or dating.
As stated above, true intimacy requires trust. The only One who is completely faithful, to the point of death, is Jesus. Which is why Paul states in Ephesians 5 that a husband’s role is to love his wife like Christ loves the church. The kind of commitment expected in marriage is the kind that Jesus has to the Church, one of unadulterated devotion to the point of death on a cross, complete faithfulness. Just as we can trust Jesus’ love for us because of His incredible act of devotion, so we can too trust our spouse’s love for us when he leads with Jesus’ example in this way, relying on the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit.
Thinking about and understanding the context of intimacy as a Christian is ideal before starting a relationship. You need to know the “why” behind your actions if you are going to live according to Scripture. Or maybe you’re already in a relationship and maybe you have been physically intimate with your partner. Know your convictions. Confession is so important, it is the only way for us to move forward in a God-honoring relationship. David says in Psalm 66, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18 NIV). Unrepentant sin hinders our prayers. But in our confession,"He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV).
If we want to change our actions, our heart needs to be changed first. What have you been cherishing? What needs to change in your relationship? What boundaries are you going to establish and how will you hold each other accountable for those boundaries?
Work Cited: White, John. Eros Defiled, The Christian & Sexual Sin. InterVarsity Press, 1977.