RECENTLY Time magazine quoted a high school student as saying: ``The media doesn't make it seem like it's really about love. . . . Nowadays sexuality is the way you look, the way you wear your hair. It's all physical, not what's inside you.' '' (May 24, 1993). Have you ever thought about how much difference there is between sexual attraction and actually being in love with someone? Attraction based solely on body and looks often gains center stage, but there is something real, something significant, abou t a relationship that develops on a more spiritual foundation. From the first time you notice the other person, to the moment you say something to each other, share activities, enjoy things you have in common, there is great fun in exploring what it means to relate closely with another.
There is the joy of discovery, of mutual understanding, of caring for one another's feelings. The truly good qualities--honesty, consideration, strength, tenderness, and so on--are spiritually based. When the focus is on these, rather than on matter, spirituality can become the structure for a progressive relationship. And since God has actually created everyone spiritually, this genuine spirituality is something that each of us is learning about the reality of our nature as God's creation.
You have great spiritual worth. Your completeness and self-esteem are a product of your identity as God's dearly loved expression. The qualities that God, divine Love, is expressing in you are, to say the least, beautiful and attractive. They are worth sharing, worth developing.
It's natural and appropriate to show affection. Men and women are attracted to each other-- and it goes without saying that a kiss or a hug is a way to express affection. It's also natural--and important, in order to explore and enjoy your inherent spirituality--to control sexual attraction, and not to let it run away with and destroy what you two are building together.
How do you protect a good relationship? God, divine Love, is also Principle, and to the degree sexual conduct is determined by principled, selfless motives, the relationship is advancing and satisfying. Principle is not expressed in lust or in selfish, live-for-the-moment, self-serving motives. Instead, Principle expresses in each of us spiritual affection, unselfish tenderness, deep consideration, and so on. One aspect of a good relationship is that the people in it are governed by the common sense, dis cipline, and spirituality that prayer affords.
As crazy as it may seem, if material bodies become the focus, we can actually lose contact with the real person we love so much. That's because a focus on physicality leaves out man's spiritual identity--the only true identity of ourselves and our friend (the qualities that really matter). Instead of valuing one another, encouraging one another to grow and improve, caring deeply about one another's well-being, physicality starts to overwhelm genuine closeness, and sexual tension becomes nearly 100 percen t of the relationship. Maybe you've seen this happen, or even have had it happen to you.
If you have, you know that after a while, the physical obsession transforms the relationship into an emotional roller coaster ride that leads nowhere. Sexual passion shouldn't be the definition of any relationship. In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong. The attraction between native qualities will be perpetual only as it is pure and true, bringing sweet seasons of renew al like the returning spring.'' These words are from the chapter called ``Marriage.'' Even if you're not thinking about marriage right now, this chapter is an excellent one to read. It will make you think about things that are important to good relationships, and show you how to ``love one another,'' as Christ Jesus encouraged all people to do.
Truly loving one another is the most important part of a relationship. If you are truly loving, then you want only what is the very best for the one who means so much to you. Sure, human affection is a normal part of that one special relationship, but it's never right to let sexuality be the dominating reason another person wants to be with you. If there is sex before marriage, the one thing that is most important is missing--complete, permanent commitment-- the kind of commitment marriage gives. Marriag e is a moral, healthy setting for intimate relations. It actually helps protect what you know about your precious spiritual identity.
It's sometimes tough to examine life and decide what is appropriate and what isn't. You may feel you've already gone too far in a relationship. But there's no reason you can't look to divine Principle for your standards and stand up for them right at this very moment. What really matters is what you think and do now. In the short term, this may take a lot of determination and courage, but everyone involved will benefit in the long run. And the wonderful thing is that you can succeed in putting spiritual discipline ahead of physical desires because God, Spirit, is what actually governs you. And God will help you do what is good and right.
Being in love is great. And when you're in love with God, divine Love, first--and with your spirituality as God's expression--any other relationship will have a basis on which it can be truly satisfying, productive, and long-lasting. You will be determining what you want, and what is best for you and your friend, from a spiritual basis.