A beloved Christian that God used in my salvation story often says something in the same vein as “being Christian doesn’t mean neglecting to apply practical wisdom that aligns with God’s Word.” In other words, we Christians must fight our tendency to over-spiritualize everything.
In our attempt to be spiritual, we sometimes lose our grounding in reality like the Gnostics did, and I’m no exception. Another quote I heard that illustrates this principle is “I’m a Christian, therefore I can go skydiving without a parachute”.
Fact: God has given us physical desires that can cause tension with our new nature in Christ. I struggled with this ANR dilemma for several years: discuss it with a woman who’s not my wife and risk falling into sexual sin. Don’t discuss it until after marriage and risk facing marital difficulties stemming from inadequate intimacy. Err on the side of caution vs. err on the side of marital satisfaction. Which am I to choose?
I recently spoke with my pastor (Pastor JH) about an unrelated topic that’s also had me confounded for some time. He said part of the struggle of living in this fallen world is that things aren’t always so cut and dry, we can’t simply point anywhere in Scripture and say “here’s the answer”, instead we have to wrestle with certain things for some time, learn from sins and mistakes and apply wisdom.
Most Christians agree on the importance of marrying someone who’s as close to our ideal mate as possible in terms of spirituality, compatibility, personality, character, physical appearance and so on, which makes perfect biblical sense, as this reduces the likelihood of infidelity. By the same token, if I were in a marriage that lacked an ANR, the knowledge that there are tens of thousands of Christian women out there willing to give me something my wife refuses would be a major burden and a huge opportunity for Satan.
So we see that being in a marriage in which my genuine needs aren’t met would also hurt my wife. (Is ANR a “genuine need”? In this post and this one, I write what I hope is a proof of the biblical legitimacy of ANRs).
One of the followers of this blog told me she may have no choice but to give up on her search for an ANR-interested man, since Christians don’t talk about something this intimate, and widely seen as taboo. Her frustration demonstrates something: many Christians have desires that, while legitimate and biblical, are also sensual, erotic and rare. What should we do? Suppress them? I contend that doing so is somewhat like skydiving without a parachute. Essentially setting one’s marriage up for a thundering crash.
I tried to suppress my ANR desire for years but it kept rising to the surface every now and then, so I started researching. During my journey, the lack of quality Christian resources led to having an improper covenant with my eyes but I won’t be throwing the baby away with the bathwater, and I’m glad an ever-increasing number of Christians are realizing the bundle of joy an ANR truly is. My research has uncovered a gold mine. I’m an even bigger fan of ANRs and I also see God’s fingerprints all over them. (Again, I pray you’ll find that the biblical defense of ANRs post corroborates this).
Some Christians have a notion that sex must never be discussed, except by married couples, and only in private. I say that notion is flawed, even dangerous.
Knowing you have some uncommon desires but never informing a potential spouse, not even in carefully worded, non-arousing ways, instead choosing to “keep your fingers crossed” until wedding night is superstitious and shortsighted. It only demonstrates false love and false purity, my sincerest apologies to those who have already made that mistake. It won’t serve my newly wedded wife to surprise her with a decades-old yearning. Marriage is meant to be an irreversible covenant, and since one partner’s satisfaction is inextricably tied to the other’s, I want to take careful, calculated measures to ensure my wife and I are on the same page on almost everything, not least of which is something with the capability to set the tone of a marriage like an ANR. Not mentioning my ANR interests before she walks down the aisle is very much like not discussing children, yet secretly hoping she wants exactly the same number as me. Christianity is not wishful thinking. Faith without works is dead, James 2:14-26.
Many would agree that the fight to stay sexually pure is one of the most difficult things about the Christian life. We’re commanded to be spotlessly pure before marriage, but are given the freedom to have tons of sex afterwards. Once again, this leaves those of us with uncommon, deeply ingrained desires in a quagmire. If ANRs were something guaranteed in marriage like sex, or as easy to discuss or popular as cuddling, this blog won’t exist and there would be one less tension point for me and several thousands of Christians worldwide.
But I know difficulty doesn’t necessitate absolute avoidance. In Middle Eastern countries, some young women become undercover lesbians because a primal desire is completely restricted by their religion. Regardless of belief system, we readily see that after a prolonged denial, something is bound to give.
Another example of my belief that some difficult things in the Christian life are necessary and some necessary things are difficult is my resume- it often impresses employers and lands me interviews in one or two job fields, sometimes leading to pride. To combat this, I see two options on the table: beg God for humility as I keep impressing employers, rewrite my resume to make my accomplishments, gifts and talents seem average, in order to stay humble. Although there may be cases in which the latter is the more biblical choice, more often than not, an impressive resume belonging to a Christian brings God more glory than a mediocre one. To me, the choice is clear. Likewise, I choose to try securing an ANR with a prospective mate then beg God for purity before tying the knot. Discovering on our wedding night that my wife has no interest in an ANR is a bit like discovering both of your parachutes are malfunctioning immediately after you’ve taken the plunge, except it’s less of an emergency.
“Is it that serious?”, I’ve been asked. “Why do you insist on having an ANR? Aren’t you idolizing it?” As mentioned earlier and elsewhere on this blog, I’ve desired this special bond as far back as I can remember and thought nothing wrong with it, so without it, I’m sure I’d feel something missing in my marriage and I’d experience the deprivation 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 warns against, because an ANR is a physical relationship like no other. It adds a thick layer of intimacy that can’t be replicated. In my opinion, it’s more intimate than sex, and God has given me the freedom to enjoy it in marriage, just like He’s implanted the same desire in some Christian women, so there’s nothing wrong with two Christians who share the same longing getting together and enjoying it only within the bounds of a strong Christian marriage. And God doesn’t torture His saints, so the same God Who instilled these non-sinful desires in us won’t turn around and forbid us from fulfilling them. See a more comprehensive list of reasons for desiring an ANR here. As far as idolizing it goes, yes, I sometimes struggle with this, but I’m willing to enter an ANR-naive marriage if years of efforts to secure a marital ANR prove unsuccessful. There’s more to life than an ANR. I’m a slave to Christ and His glorious gospel. Nothing else.
For much of the time I was suppressing my desire, I attended a moralistic and judgmental church. Partly because I’ve left that church, my eyes are now open to the fact that abandoning a beautiful, biblically legitimate desire because it can easily lead to lust is unreasonable and extreme. That’s not exactly what Christ meant in Matthew 5 when He commanded the severing of body parts that lead to temptation. The desire in itself isn’t sin.
Say there’s a Christian that craves a certain ice cream flavor, then gets in the car and drives to the store to buy it, there’s no inherent sin in their actions. If anything, it brings glory to God. Suppressing the craving due to fear of being a glutton is what’s unwise. Yes, I know ANRs and ice cream are two different things, one of those is intrinsically sexual and can easily lead to sin, but my point is that taking steps to secure something we want isn’t always sinful. On the contrary, it can be a noble thing. Again, faith without works is dead.
Bearing in mind that God’s Word almost certainly encourages ABF as an adultery prevention measure, and that sexual repression breeds sexual sin and severe idolatry, I’m finally at peace with this plan:
1. Only pursue the Christian woman who best fits the ANR profile.
2. Discuss my desire in the most cautious way I can manage, directing her only to the very few Christian ANR resources available.
3. Once we reach an agreement, we fight for purity prior to marriage, dependent not on ourselves but on Christ alone. This fight includes being accountable to multiple Christians and letting our initial conversation be the only time we broach the topic before getting married.
The aforementioned conversation with my pastor was regarding the only battle that’s on par with my ANR desire as the most difficult tightrope walk I’ve ever done since meeting Christ almost a decade ago. I thank God for providing some closure.
If a Christian faces a dilemma that primarily affects only him/her as an individual, I strongly believe it’s better to err on the side of caution. If the dilemma has the power to affect the Christian’s marriage like an ANR can, it might be better to err on the side of caution and marital satisfaction. The mistake I and many Christians make is we think it’s one or the other. When considering marriage, God wants us to pursue both caution and mutual marital satisfaction. Which is why I choose to tell potential girlfriends- cautiously.
I don’t want to take a blind leap of faith into marriage.