Posted in theology

The sheets lasted longer than the marriage

By Elizabeth Prata

I have a favorite set of sheets. They have a green flowery ivy type pattern on them. I don’t really care about how sheets look. I’m asleep when I lay on them so…I never really see them! What I do care about is how they feel. These are soft and slightly silky. (No they’re not silk). Because they slide a tiny bit, it’s easier to turn over on them.

I just like these sheets a lot. I have other sets, and I put one of them on when I strip the bed and wash these faves of mine, but I can’t wait till the next week when I put these green ivy ones back on the bed again.

I got those sheets in 1979.

I was 18, a freshman in college. I was unsaved. Not a Christian. I’d lived in the dorm for the first semester. It was an off-campus dorm due to overcrowding on campus. Mixed in with us naïve newbies were returning students. Students who had flunked out, been in the Navy, worked a year or two before going to college. So a lot of the students in the dorm with me were older, like by 2 or three years.

I’d met a guy in my dorm and after a while we decided to move in together to an apartment adjacent to campus. That was the new thing to do. The sexual revolution of the 1960s had taken root and one of the dark fruits it bore was that young people didn’t think they needed “a piece of paper” – AKA a marriage certificate. W just moved in and cohabitated. Marriage was so old fashioned, you know!

The guy’s mom was a staunch Catholic and she objected to the move-in. LOUDLY. She actually chased my boyfriend down the hall of their home when we broke the news. With a wooden spoon. She was furious, yelling, “You’re going to live in sin?!?!?

We thought she was hopelessly old fashioned. We were young. We were free. We’re all right. We ignored her.

And…because the boyfriend was her last kid, because he was the only boy, because he was her baby, she caved in and gave us some things for the apartment. The sheets were one of the items.

Now, this was 1979. The sheets were old then, at least 10 or 15 years. So let’s say they were produced in 1965. Now it’s 2023. I still have the sheets. These are the favorite sheets I mentioned. They are a bit threadbare in the middle, but still in good shape for 58 year old sheets.

Every time I make the bed with them I think about that scene about the mother yelling “You’re going to live in sin?!’ I didn’t know what sin was. He was raised Catholic (though he obviously didn’t practice), but I wasn’t raised anything and had never heard the word sin, let alone know what it meant. But one of the things I think about is the fact that God is perfectly justified to punish sinners in the eternal fires of hell. Us living together (and engaging in the usual sexual activity as if we were married) IS a sin. It is called fornication, and the Bible condemns in the strongest terms. Many verses warn that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom. (AKA go to heaven).

1 Corinthians 6:18, Mark 7:21, 1 Corinthians 5:1, Hebrews 13:4, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, Acts 15:29, 1 Thessalonians 4:3…

And that is just a few. And only the New Testament. There are just as many in the Old Testament warning people to remain chaste.

We got married. Deep down I suppressed the niggles of my conscience for living together (in those days, such a new moral convention!) by telling myself it was OK because we intended to get married. The sex before marriage part was covered under the umbrella of pre-marriage. (I’d made up a new moral convention, see how sin works! See how we suppress the truth in unrighteousness?) And we did get married after we graduated from college.

Not only sexual immorality is a sin, but treating marriage as of no account is also a sin. Inevitably when people cohabitate without benefit of having taken the solemn vows of marriage, their casual treatment of marriage can often result in divorce. Unbiblical divorce is also a sin.

We were young. We were free. We weren’t all right. After 4 few years he found someone else, had an affair, and left me flat for this new woman.

In Richard Adams’ novel Watership Down, where anthropomorphized rabbits are the main characters, the rabbits have a proverb, “One cloud feels lonely”. I find this a true proverb, lol. When you see one cloud, soon there are more and the sky becomes overcast.

I often change that fictional proverb in my mind to this: ‘One sin feels lonely’. One sin never really is performed in isolation. If a person is an adulterer, he or she is lusting, being an adulterer, and lying- not to mention being a hypocrite. No one is “sent to hell” to endure a forever stretch of time in punishment because of ‘one little sin.’ All sins are big and there is always more than one. They are an affront to a holy God, who is just and right to punish them.

I look back on my time before salvation and I gasp with incredulity that a holy God put up with so much sinning in me. I’m grateful for my salvation and now have a right mind about marriage even though I’m still single. Marriage is more than ‘just a piece of paper’. Fornication is a sin. I still have the sheets, but not the marriage.

But that is what happens when people distill what is a holy union before God and making a lifetime commitment before Him, to just a piece of paper that can be ignored. Because what we were really doing was ignoring God in that piece of paper. He instituted the convention of marriage and structured it so the man is the head, the woman is the helper and the children obey both.

He said to her, Go, call your husband and come back here.The woman answered and said, “I have no husband. Jesus said to her, You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” (John 4:16-18 LSB)

Ladies, living together isn’t a new immoral situation any more. It rarely causes an eyebrow lift. It certainly doesn’t usually cause mothers to run down the hallway with a wooden spoon to bat some sense into their son. It is seen every day on TV and in movies and all around the world people are doing it. But it’s wrong. Sex before marriage is wrong. It’s called fornication. That sounds like an old-fashioned word but trust me, no, trust the Bible, it’s still a sin. And Chastity is still a virtue.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; (1 Thessalonians 4:3)


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

5 thoughts on “The sheets lasted longer than the marriage

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