I remember the first time I smoked a cigar. I was in the town square of my suburban hometown with two friends. We had all recently turned 18. And we were talking about what smoking would be like. The oldest of us had some Swishers in his truck and he offered us. I took it and my other friend didn’t. We were terrified because we’d been told all of our lives that smoking was bad and wrong. But I took in that first draw of sweet smoke and thought to myself, “Wow, this ain’t so bad.”
I remember the first time I took communion. I grew up in a church that took it together every week. But, you weren’t allowed to eat it unless you’d been baptized. Every week someone would get up and say something about Jesus and the cross or the passover and the lamb or the church and the body and then, in silence we would pass the cold trays with little crackers and tiny cups of grape juice. Even with its cold and distant silence, it was a sacred moment. I was baptized after church one Sunday when I was 11 and took it on my own right afterwards. From then on every week I was allowed to tear off a piece of that little cracker and drink one of those grape juices along with everyone else.
In college, my roommate and I used to go to the local tabacco shop just about every week and get a cigar or two. We’d pick those up and then go to a park and smoke them together while we mused about life, confessed our sins, and dreamt together about what might be. He’s the same guy who was terrified with me in the town square back home. We eventually discovered that pipes and pipe tobacco were way more cost efficient. I loved those nights. It was this moment we got to just sit and experience something together.
I remember the first drink I had. I was at a family Christmas party during my first year of college and my uncle—who has always had an extensive wine collection—greeted me, “Hey there! How’s about a glass of wine for a college man!” I looked to my Dad for permission and then accepted with great delight. I always looked forward to those Christmas parties from then on.
Better yet, I remember the first beer I had. It was a Newcastle Brown Ale. I was sitting on my front porch celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday. It was everything I’d wanted beer to be. Smooth and subtle with a hint of sweet in the bitterness. I’d say that was a better introduction to beer than the Swisher was to cigars. My friends and I sat on the porch and just enjoyed the beer together.
I remember the first time I ever had a coffee drink. A friend and I used to go to this coffee-shop style hang out place on Friday nights called “the Backdoor” at my church in high school. They made this frappe drink called the “Fizzing Wizbee.” Being a Harry Potter fan, I had to try it. It was a white-chocolate-caramel-frappe. Buried underneath all of the sweetness was that little bit of coffee. We used to both go there every week and order this together. A couple years later I was drinking coffee every morning before school.
With each of these, there is a small coming of age experience. The partaking of something that is a regular part of greater society with others. It is a beautiful communal celebration of that slow-moving fleshy thing called life. Each of these moments marks a bit of growth, a bit of progression, a bit of age. It is a new shared experience with others like joining in communion, or lifting a glass of wine, or lighting up a cigar together. You soak in the moment and enjoy this thing together.
20 days from now I will experience a whole new realm of humanity on my wedding night. Sex is another one of these coming of age experience. Just like all of these other moments it’s something I’ve anticipated and feared. Something sacred and something I look forward to enjoying. It is another moment just like the rest of these to experience a little more of what it is to be human.
It is, however, altogether different than any of these, I imagine. For when my friend and I lit up our pipes we were each individually smoking together. Or when I first took communion, I was individually partaking with everyone else. Or when my uncle offered me my first glass of wine I was individually drinking it with the rest of my family. My friend and I were together, but we were each smoking a pipe. My family and I were together, but we were each drinking a glass of wine. With sex, we will not merely be sexing together, we will be sexing each other.
People smoke pipes, not each other. People drink wine, not each other. But sex. Sex is the drinking of one another. It is the enjoyment and experience of another person. It is why the scripture pictures two lovers saying to one another, “Your love is better than wine!” (1:2) It is like wine, but it will be altogether different. This is why God later joins in and says, “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (5:1) It is like eating and drinking, but it will be altogether different.
My love, I anticipate with my entire being this moment that we will share together. We will not only enjoy something together, but together we will enjoy one another. This other realm of humanity will be sacred and beautiful and will no doubt reveal more of the beauty and awe of God to each of us. 20 days, my love, and we will belong to each other.