Back when I was a single dude living with a few other guys in an apartment, one of my roommates had a medium-sized, twenty-gallon fish tank with three or four fish in it, positioned in his room right next to his desk. And every now and then, I would go into his bedroom to sit in his desk chair and swivel it toward the fish tank to watch the little creatures about the size of a car key swim around their home. I did this a lot in order to help me relax a bit after a long day of work, because watching fish swim can be very therapeutic (that’s why you find fish tanks in doctor’s offices).
Anyway, one day I found myself sitting in my roommate’s chair, staring at one bright orange fish, a.k.a. Albert, as he swam from side-to-side in the tank, nibbling on little black specs of whatever gunk was in there near the tiny pebbles at the bottom that made up his home’s floor. As I watched him swim and nibble, swim and nibble, swim and nibble, a thought came to my brain that made me take pause.
“Why should my roommate’s cute little fish be confined to this cramped little tank? It’s not very big in there, and he has to share it with two or three other fish for every second of his life. That’s not fair! This adorable goldfish should be allowed to experience the freedom of roaming around our entire apartment as much as he wants, without the inhibition of confinement to this measly twenty gallon fish tank!”
So as these thoughts went through my head, I immediately decided what I must do to right this situation and give my roommate’s fish his freedom. I grabbed the little green net-on-a-metal-stick that my roommate kept on the stand next to the fish tank, I dipped the net into the water to hunt for the proper aquatic animal, I scooped the bright orange fish up with the net, pulled him out of the watery prison he lived in, flipped the net upside down over the middle of my roommate’s bedroom floor, and shouted, “You’re free, my little orange friend! Roam unhindered anywhere you’d like because you are no longer a slave to your fish tank!”
When Albert, the little orange goldfish, plopped onto the carpet next to a pair of unwashed socks on my roommate’s floor, I watched him wiggle around for a few moments as he opened and closed his mouth. “Go, Albert!,” I yelled, “You’re free!” But the fish just flopped on the ground in that same spot until it stopped moving many moments later…and died.
Now, before you decide that you hate me because of goldfish murder, let me tell you that this little event never actually happened. Sorry to mislead you.
Yes, from time to time I did go sit in my roommate’s chair and watch his fish swim around in order to sooth my emotions, but never did I stupidly kill one of his cute little swimming friends. So calm down. I told you this story, though, because of what it has the power to illustrate.
True freedom, vibrancy, and life were found for that little goldfish within the context of the water in that fish tank, and anything outside of that environment brought suffocation, and eventually death. Even though I “freed” Albert, the small orange fish from the “prison” of his habitat where he experienced life, into the “bigger, more exciting space of our apartment,” the truth was that what looked like liberation was in fact assassination.
And in a similar way, the world is urging each of us to experience the same kind of sexual “liberation” outside the “prison” or constraint of marriage. “It’s not fair!,” says culture, “You should be allowed the freedom to sexually roam around as you please, without being confined to the boring cage of marriage! Out here is where real life can be found!” But if sex is taken outside the God-given commitment of marriage, it only leads to destruction and brokenness.
See, sex exclusively within a marriage relationship isn’t a prison, it’s freedom! Sex within marriage is life! It is the gracious, God-created plan for the maximum experience two people can have, because they know that they aren’t going anywhere. They know that within their marriage, there isn’t any embarrassment or comparison or insecurity. They know that the other person isn’t going to grab their clothes and leave in the morning. There is no walk of shame for married couples, because they’ve committed their lives to one another in every way; not just sexually. Sex in marriage is where life is found, and sex outside of marriage, though it may look like liberation, is in fact assassination.