In a world where we don't know whether we're dating, courting, hanging out, living together, or just having sex, Jason Illian exposes the naked truth about relationships.
There is magnificent middle ground between "kissing dating good-bye" and "kissing everyone good night," says Jason Illian, who made waves on 2005's The Bachelorette for his outspoken position on sexual integrity. In Undressed, Illian brings a fresh voice and much-needed perspective to the discussion of sex among single adults as he helps readers apply uncompromising moral principles to their dating relationships.
Can single adults embrace their sexuality without sleeping around? Yes, says this national speaker, budding TV personality, and former corporate executive who tackles the controversial issues that make dating so difficult. Undressed helps single adults uncover their hearts and unleash their passions - without compromising their convictions.
Being Whole While Being Torn in Half
"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple."
- Oscar Wilde
Somewhere along the way-probably between thinking that the mullet was sexy and that plaid was the new black-we began to believe that it was impossible to have a godly relationship in the Bachelor-watching, Gap-shopping, MTV-styling world. We began to believe that dating was just a training ground for divorce. We had to have either a satisfying relationship with Christ or a romantic relationship with a significant other. But we couldn't have both. It was an either/or dilemma. Watch either The Oprah Winfrey Show or The 700 Club. Read either Cosmo or the Bible. Conform to either the "kiss-dating and- the-hope-of-a-normal-relationship-good-bye" view or the "satisfy-yourself-and-to-hell-with-everyone-else" view. There was no middle ground.
But that just doesn't seem to make sense. Why would a good, compassionate, and faithful God instill such a strong sense of romantic love in our hearts but not give us an outlet to express it? Many of us feel the need to have an intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior and a romantic relationship with a significant other. Like a banjo in an orchestra, the either/or concept just doesn't sound right.
The reason it doesn't sound right is because it isn't right. It is wrong. And I don't mean kind of wrong. I mean pinkspandex, 140-decibal Marilyn Manson wrong! Our God isn't an either/or God. He is a God of both/and. He desires for you to have an intimate relationship with Him and a romantic relationship with another. Your heart was not designed to love God one way and your partner another. They are not mutually exclusive, but instead, divinely complementary. Romantic love is built on the precepts of God's unconditional love. You can be madly in love with another because you are madly loved by God. You can have both. In fact, Christ exemplified the strength of His both/and power by being all God and all human at the same time.
It's not that all of our relationships up to this point have been wrong; they just haven't necessarily been right. We have a foundation, but it is just a little shaky right now. Sex is not a basic human need like food, water, and shelter-I've seen a person die of malnutrition, but I've never seen a person keel over in the middle of the street because of his lack of sex. Communication is not the most difficult part of a relationship- the most difficult part is learning to forgive and forget when communication breaks down. Dating is not a training ground for divorce-it is an integral and important part of any healthy relationship. Successful couples never stop dating, even fifty years into marriage.
The problem is that in many Christian circles we've made dating one of the seven deadly sins. The Bible doesn't talk about dating, we argue. Well, it doesn't specifically talk about the automobile either, but you don't see people trudging their way to work on foot in the morning. Dating is about relating to other people. When you learn to relate, you learn to love. And when you learn to love others, you put yourself in a position to be loved by others. Dating is the training ground for loving, and when it is based on Christ-centered principles, you develop a fantastic, satisfying, and (dare I say it?) sexually fulfilling relationship that glorifies God.
There are fundamental truths that are evident throughout Scripture that help us navigate the rugged terrain of romance. We just need to know how to read the roadmap. But in order to go forward, you have to be willing to change how you think about relationships. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, yet we continue to date in the same unproductive ways.1 You have to be open and honest in assessing who you are and what you desire if you wish to experience a love that is unconditional. There are many ways to fill a life, but there are relatively few ways to fulfill it.
Feelin' a Little Dissed
It doesn't matter whether you are a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist. We all want to love and be loved. But in a world where we don't know whether we are dating, wooing, courting, hanging out, flirting, sharing, living together, or just having sex, the lines blur awfully quickly. We're like a zipper on an overpacked suitcase-fighting to hold everything together and praying that our hearts don't just burst open.
If you have surfed the covers of Playboy and Cosmo, taken every personality and compatibility test written in English (and some that weren't), and sat in enough smoky bars to be mistaken for furniture, I can relate. Whether you are from New York or Knobnoster, Milwaukee or Miami, Denver or Dallas, I think it is fair to say that we've been "dissed" when it comes to finding love. There has been disappointment and disillusionment. We feel distance and disbelief. We are discouraged and dissatisfied. Our hearts have been utterly dismantled. We have been fooled into playing a game of musical chairs where the music is Jaws and the chairs are already full.
But it doesn't have to be like that. Whether you are liked, loved, or lonely, you can find a passion so soaring, so apparently transcendent that it will whisk you into love's warm embrace. If you are anything like myself-and I fear that many of you are-the love that you have experienced up to this point in your life has been prepackaged, precut, marketed, illuminated, boxed, and sold by the company with the highest budget or made by the company with the lowest bid. Great if you are trying to make a movie, but terrible if you are trying to make a life.
The love that I speak of is a "re" love. It wants you to return to the time when your heart was tender and your thoughts were pure. It wants to restore the dreams of Prince Charmings, sale-priced stilettos, fat-free chocolate bars, daily spa treatments, and engagement rings the size of large foreign fruit. It wants to renew your faith in a love that will last forever ... instead of just through the first date. It wants you to receive all the things you've ever wanted but never had. This kind of love will take you back to the land of milk and honey as opposed to the land of "Remember to pick up the milk, honey!"
But in order to go there, you have to be willing to date and love differently. Our reckless whatever-works-for-me, whatever- I-can-get-out-of-this, whatever-gets-me-a-little-action approach has to stop right now. We have to stop believing that our friends have all the answers and that God has none. If you are not willing to believe that God is love-not that God has love, or gives love, but is love-then don't bother reading on. Just take this book, prop it under the wobbly leg of your bed, and go back to doing business the old way.
Seth chose to do business the old way. I first met Seth about seven years ago in college. At the time, he was caught in the destructive cycle of sleeping with a different girl whenever the urge arose. Handsome and articulate, Seth was a catch by almost any girl's standards. But he was unhappy. Like most of us, he desired intimacy but he was foolishly substituting it with sex. When we talked about God's design for love and romance, he was curious and receptive, but it was obvious that he wasn't about to step out in faith and exercise a little self-discipline. Ironically, I ran into Seth again a couple months ago, and you know what? He is still miserable. He has a great job and a nice home, but what he truly desires-the heart of a godly woman-seems like a distant dream. Even though his dating strategy has failed time and time again, he still wants to do things his way.
Do you really think that God would tell us about a joy that encompasses all sorrows and a prayer that can move mountains, but when it comes to talking about love and romance, He would remain completely silent? Do you think He has just tossed sex into our laps like a hand grenade and said, "Fiddle with it a little while; you'll figure it out"?
If the Creator of the Universe is concerned with every hair on your head-which for some aging singles doesn't give God too much to worry about-I would argue that He is more than concerned with your personal and romantic relationships. We often forget that Christianity isn't just a religion. It isn't just a set of rules or a list of dos and don'ts. It is a deep, intimate, personal relationship with our Lord and Savior. Who better to ask about relationships than the One who not only created them but also cultivates and nurtures them to this day?