In my hometown, boys give up their seats in overflowing classrooms, girls wear pastel-colored sundresses to high school football games and some teenagers decide to save their first kiss for marriage.
Here at MU, almost all of my friends are shocked by the concept.
People don't kiss 'til they're married? Why?
But in Collierville, Tenn., most of us are familiar with the idea. When it is mentioned, people will respond with understanding and a gentle nod.
"My aunt and uncle kissed for the first time at their wedding."
"My youth pastor talked about that last month!"
"Oh, yeah, I've thought about saving my first kiss."
I first heard of the decision to save kissing for marriage - the virgin lips movement, my best friend and I called it - in Joshua Harris' book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," a Christian relationship guide that advocates courtship and prayerful and deliberate dating with the expressed aspiration to marry, over conventional dating.
In my Southern conservative town, where churches are even more common than Walgreens stores, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" is practically required reading for teenage girls.
Harris establishes love from a Christian standpoint. Love isn't like in "Titanic" or Nicholas Sparks' books, he claims. Love isn't intense, self-pleasing passion or an uncontrollable feeling.
Love is more than a feeling, Harris says. It is a conscious, sacrificial choice maintained by will and deliberately strengthened by habit and grace.
In Christian relationships, "God wants us to seek guidance from scriptural truth, not feeling," Harris writes. "Smart love looks beyond personal desires and the gratification of the moment. It looks at the big picture: serving others and glorifying God."
How can romance glorify God? Harris suggests that Christians should commit their plans, motives, actions and desires - including dating - to God.
And if kissing detracts from our relationship with God, we should kiss kissing goodbye.
I haven't chosen to save my first kiss for marriage, but a few of my friends have.
Jeff Pudelek, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, decided to save his first kiss for marriage so that he will continually seek his satisfaction in God, he said.
After ending a long-term relationship, "I began to see that a lot of my relationship decisions were centered around finding satisfaction in a person," Pudelek said. "The truth is that true satisfaction, what I was seeking in relationships with girls, can't be found in any person, only in Jesus Christ."
"I want to enjoy the fullness of what God has for me, and I think that includes cultivating intimacy with him above all else," he added.
And Ruth Minor, a sophomore at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., who is saving her first kiss for engagement, said her decision makes it easier to avoid compromising situations.
"It's easier for me to have a set rule to follow than to subjectively judge certain situations and timings," she said.
Many of my MU friends worry about chemistry: What if you marry a bad kisser? What if the sparks just aren't there?
But Pudelek, Minor and University of Tennessee-Knoxville sophomore Adair Porschel, who is contemplating saving her first kiss, trust that chemistry will come.
"I feel like if the Lord directs someone for me to marry, he'll provide in the physical sense too," Porschel said. "But I'd rather marry someone for their heart for the Lord any day over whether they can kiss."
Besides, physical activity such as kissing and intercourse does not sustain relationships, Pudelek said.
"I still want to be madly in love with my wife even if we can't kiss anymore," he added.
The virgin lips movement is not for everyone. But when I think about my friends' decision, I am reminded of the sanctity and value of kissing and other physical activity.
While some college students make out and hook up with every Tom, Dick and Harry, other students save their first kiss for someone much more meaningful.
Kisses are precious and valuable. As people of worth, we should not cheapen kisses by giving them away for free.
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