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Pastor Encourages a Young Woman to Live Celibate

Eugene Peterson shares a story about a completely unchurched young woman who started attending his church and made a genuine commitment to follow Jesus. In the ensuing months she presented herself for baptism and started growing as a disciple, studying Scripture, and attending worship—"embracing everything readily and gladly." But there was one thing that puzzled Peterson: the young woman continued to live with her boyfriend (as she had done for years), and she was uninterested in marriage.

Then Peterson shared the rest of the story:

She told me all this without apology and not as a confession but quite casually, as we were getting acquainted with one another. I wondered if I should say anything. Surely she knew that the Christian way had some sexual implications for the way you lived. She was in church each Sunday …. I assumed that she would eventually notice. I waited for her to bring up the subject.
One day on impulse I said, "We have been having these conversations for seven months. Astrid, would you do something for me?"
"Sure. What is it?"
"Live celibate for the next six months."
Surprised, she said, "Why would I do that?"
"…. Trust me. I think it's important."
I learned later that her boyfriend moved out before the week was over. A month later when she came to see me, she didn't mention it. But the following month she brought it up: "When you asked me to live celibate for six months, I had no idea what you were up to. You asked me to trust you, and so I did. It's been two months now, and I think I understand what you were doing. I feel so free; I've never felt so 'myself' before, never felt so at home with myself. I thought everybody did what I was doing—all my friends did. I just thought this was the American way. And now I am noticing so many other things about my relations with others—they seem so much more clean and whole. So uncluttered. And do you know what? I have been thinking that I might want to get married someday. Thank you."
The celibacy decision survived the six-month mark and continued for two more years, at which time she and her fiancé exchanged vows, and I blessed their Christian marriage.

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