the big deal about virginity {day 18}

realhardlove

Over the past year or so, I’ve had to limit my diet of what I’d call “critical Christian thinkers” blogs. (I make an exception for Jen Hatmaker, who only blogs once every two months or so.)

I really appreciate all their hard work at exploring and questioning topics conservative Christians have been dogmatic about for years (but that Jesus may not have intended for us to be dogmatic about).

However. I have to take my questions and doubts and what-have-you in small doses. Or I get completely overwhelmed and burdened to the point of paralysis.

All that to say.

There’s been a lot of talk lately in Critical Christian Thinkers blog circles about virginity before marriage. About how Christians are obsessed with it. How they define people by their virginity. How we’ve created this purity culture. How it’s all or nothing. That a virgin walking down the aisle will have a happy marriage, while a non-virgin is doomed to a marriage full of shame and regret.

I read stuff like that, and I see their point.

However.

In the 10 years that I’ve been writing and speaking on marriage, I can’t even tell you how many, many, many women have come to me, saying essentially this: “I was sexually active before I met my husband, and now our sex life is a wreck. I feel dirty; I have flashbacks; I can’t enjoy sex; I don’t want my husband. Please help me!!”

Over and over and over and over. And it’s not just the women who believe sex before marriage is wrong. Even the ones who have no moral issue with it are still affected.

So, while I don’t believe in elevating virginity to some high plateau above all else, I do believe in virginity before marriage. I think it’s what God wants for us. And while I can promise you it’s not going to solve all your sex problems in marriage, it will eliminate all of the ones that result from having sex with other guys before your husband.

However.

If you’re not a virgin when you get married, you are not ruined. You are not less-than. It’s not the end of the world by a long, long shot. Our God is a God of redemption and forgiveness and making all things new. A sexual past is not, in any way, too big for him to heal, to redeem, to restore and make whole.

Today’s Real. Hard. Love. story is from my friend Lisa. I asked her at church this morning if she’d be willing to share, and bless her heart for writing the short version of her story this very afternoon.

Before you read Lisa’s story, I need you to promise me something. If you feel led to comment, I need you to know that I will not tolerate any words that are not 100% filled with kindness and grace. I am very, very, VERY protective of her. She is baring her soul, making herself vulnerable, and I love her for it.

My prayer is that God will use this post to help Lisa find healing, to help her know she’s not alone, and to work a miracle in her marriage bed. I pray that she will know her true worth and be able to see herself as God sees her, as clean and pure, untainted and precious.

I love you, girl.

Here’s Lisa:

The summer after my freshman year of college, I met what would be my first “real” boyfriend. We dated three years. He was controlling, verbally abusive, a smoker (not just cigarettes), not a serious Christian…pretty much everything I WASN’T looking for in a relationship. I let my shyness and insecurities take over and decided it was a good idea to date him.

Shortly after our relationship began, I let him convince me to have sex…he thought I was pretty and he was “in love” with me. That is the single, most awful decision I have ever made.

After that relationship finally ended, my insecurities were multiplied by 10,000. I became an attention seeker (with regards to the boys). My last year of college, I had a couple of sexual partners but, at this point, didn’t feel the shame and guilt. Why, you ask? Because sometime during that 3 year relationship, I stopped going to church (because that’s where I felt guilty). I avoided all of the wonderful Christian friends I had made my first year of college. I was so stupid.

After graduation, I knew I wanted a fresh start…basically, I was trying to run away. I was accepted to PT school in Nashville, TN (I grew up and went to undergrad in Arkansas). I would be hours away from my old life and never have to deal with it again. Yeah right. The good thing is that I went to a grad school at a Christian university and a lot of my classmates were Christians. I started going to church again…Praise the Lord…but my sexual habits remained.

The thing with sexual sin, for me, is that I could keep it a secret. My family and closest friends had no idea it was part of my life. They knew I was more flirty and outgoing than in high school but had no idea I was sexually active. I had sex with people I barely knew, for no reason at all, except that I didn’t see my worth. I was numb to the shame and guilt. I didn’t want to feel it.

Fast forward three years of grad school and this behavior…I met my husband. He was a virgin and a good man. The first great man I had met that was interested in me. I tried to convince him, in the beginning of our relationship, that I wasn’t the type of girl he wanted to be in a relationship with…I was a bad person. Thank God he didn’t listen to me! He knew there was something more, something beautiful in me. Things worked out, we got married.

We waited to have sex (until marriage) because that’s what my husband wanted and, as we dated, I began to see the importance of waiting. After marriage, I thought all of my sexual sin would be out of my life and that I would never have to relive it again.  Boy, was I wrong. Every time we “have relations” (the term making love just sounds awkward to me), I feel weird, gross, full of guilt and shame…everything you shouldn’t feel with your husband. We’ve been married almost three years and I STILL feel that way.

My eyes are tearing up as I type this because I feel so bad about feeling that way. I want to feel safe and comfortable but something is holding me back. I have asked God a bazillion times for forgiveness. I truly believe he has forgiven me. I just can’t seem to shake those feelings. I don’t want deal with those feelings. I want to get over it. But, how? It sucks.

Thanks so much, Lisa. We appreciate your willingness to share so honestly.

And friends, please remember my gentle(ish) warning. Only kind, loving words allowed. If you can relate to Lisa’s story and want to encourage her privately, e-mail me, and I’ll put you in touch with her.

25 thoughts on “the big deal about virginity {day 18}

  1. Ingrid

    Lisa your honesty is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story. Your hubby sounds like a great bloke to not listen to you try convince him you weren’t his type. God is so good, isn’t He, He gave that man of yours a stubbornness right when you needed it.
    Praying or break-through for you.

  2. Sharon

    P.S. Have you heard of “soul ties” and breaking them? I’m sure you can find info online. Can’t remember where I first heard about the concept, I think from someone at my old church. Anyways, it might be helpful to pray through past sexual relationships and break the ties to help the memories etc to not pop back up when you are with your husband.

  3. Sharon

    Lisa:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I hope someone reading will choose to learn from your experience vs having to go through something similar on their own. My husband and I both had sexual pasts prior to meeting, but agreed we wanted to wait to have sex with each other until after marriage. I know we are so fortunate that our past relationships haven’t been a huge hindrance to our marriage. I know it’s different in every situation (with no rhyme or reason) but I have thought many times how glad I am that that part of our marriage is going as well as it is. Praying for you!

  4. Katie

    I didn’t have sex with anyone before marriage but definitely did things with an ex boyfriend that I regret. (And even things with my husband before we were married aside from sex that I wish we had saved for marriage.) As far as I can tell there is a spiritual connection made in those intimate times that can haunt us later in life when they weren’t with our spouse. 14 years after the relationship ended with my ex I still have dreams and flashbacks to times with him that I wish as a married woman, I did not experience. They make me feel guilty like maybe I made a mistake and married the wrong person,etc.

    The good news is that as Christians we can be free of all of that shame. Jesus died for us for those sins and many more. Thank you Lisa for sharing your story. I often do the same with young women in my life to try to help them avoid some of the same mistakes I made when they are in relationships as teens, etc.

  5. Wanda

    Nope, you are not alone!

    I fell for the lies. I believed it wouldn’t matter. I longed for the love I thought it would bring. And I’ll have to live with it forever!

    The hardest part? Is how it hurts…..my husband.

    I’ve come to realize that the times I’m struggling with it…..has been solely from satan! He really does come to steal, kill & destroy! I turn as fast as I can to the fact that I HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN!! He (satan) can’t change that just like I can’t change my foolish past!
    Thank you Lisa for sharing!

  6. Beth in the City

    Thank you so much Marla – I was really struggling with the way this latest topic was being handled and had to stop reading blogs about it. I think you put it so well. Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m sure it was difficult to put it out there for all of us to read. I pray that God blesses you abundantly for it. I pray that you are released from these feelings, into a wonderful freedom with your husband. Hugs!

  7. Jenn

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have to say I completely understand where you are coming from and these two passages sum up my thoughts and feelings exactly.
    “The thing with sexual sin, for me, is that I could keep it a secret. My family and closest friends had no idea it was part of my life. They knew I was more flirty and outgoing than in high school but had no idea I was sexually active. I had sex with people I barely knew, for no reason at all, except that I didn’t see my worth. I was numb to the shame and guilt. I didn’t want to feel it.”

    “After marriage, I thought all of my sexual sin would be out of my life and that I would never have to relive it again. Boy, was I wrong. Every time we “have relations” (the term making love just sounds awkward to me), I feel weird, gross, full of guilt and shame…everything you shouldn’t feel with your husband. We’ve been married almost three years and I STILL feel that way. ”

    My husband and I have been married 9 years and we still struggle with intimacy in our relationship. It is a struggle for me everytime (which really makes things tough when your husband’s love language is physical touch!)

    Thank you so much for sharing, it is comforting to know someone else “gets” it!

  8. Angela Parlin

    Marla, I completely am with you in the paralysis of it ALL and having to just stop reading so many points of view. If we, the church, could just love like Christ, with grace and truth…but our pride and fear get all mixed up in our responses.

    And Lisa, you are not alone. I have had a handful of women express these same feelings of guilt/shame and feeling like their sex life is “ruined” now. This is the enemy at work, he would like to keep your thoughts on all you’ve done and your guilt, to keep you from glorifying God by enjoying amazing sex with your husband…and to keep you chained by your past, anything to keep you from freedom in Christ!

    I’ve just prayed you will see Jesus restore, redeem, and make all things new…thank you for sharing!

  9. Jacki

    Lisa – Thank you for your boldness and your honesty! I know the guilt and shame I have come up against because I slept with my husband before we were married. I was so jealous of my friends who waited and seemed to be magically blessed in their marriage. While I think it’s true that God blesses us for our obedience, He is also more than able to forgive us fully of our sins and help us to heal. What a blessing your husband is, and I know that with God’s help and your hubby’s support that you will be able to heal and move forward and enjoy sex one day. I pray it’s very soon! I think being honest and open with others is just another sign of your heart’s desire to please God with your actions! You go, girl!

  10. Rachelle

    Thank you for sharing your story, Lisa. I love the way Shannon articulated God’s love. We have all failed, not one of us deserves forgiveness and yet we are forgiven and loved with an everlasting love. Your story is a beautiful picture of grace.

  11. Jenn

    I blogged about the same thing today! All this talk about purity is all over the place right now, and I seriously hope that we’re all learning, as the body of Christ, how to deal Scripturally and with overwhelming grace regarding these issues. It is my heart that the church would learn to love like Christ because, wow — we do a poor job of it sometimes, don’t we?

    To your friend, Lisa — you are God’s precious, set apart, pure gift to your husband. God has done infinitely more than just forgive you — He has made you someone new in Christ. And though there’s no one who can walk through this with you, who knows your heart as intimately as Christ does, we can, as people who sin and sin big, affirm that we ALL need to start with the foundational understanding that we have worth in Christ, that we are made new in Him, and that His purpose and plan for us is to MOVE ON from the past and live in the forgiveness He’s given us, redeemed and glorifying to Him in the process. I find that when I continue to grieve over sin that He has forgiven and covered over (and, wow, there are old, old sins that come back to mind every now and then and threaten my peace in Him) that I’m denying Him greater glory in my life because I lack the faith to believe and live as though His grace is bigger than my sins.

    I’ve just prayed for you, trusting and believing that God wants and WILL show you grace and blessing in this area of your life. He is SO good and SO faithful to us, and He is honored by marriage and by the marriage bed. Praying just now that you would know these truths, believe them, and see them become real in your life.

  12. christine

    Lisa, I have a daughter who is a freshman in high school. She is just starting to date. She has multiple insecurities. So far with boys she has been pretty honest with me, thank God! We have had the sex talk multiple times. Society tells terns don’t t have sex you may end up preagnet. This is a concern, but everything you described is what I try to convey to her even more. To me the real concerns of pre marital sex. I am blessed beyond words to have read your story. I can relate to it as well as have a better understanding of words to share with my daughter. Thank you Lisa and Marla. I pray that in the name of JESUS the enemy will flee from your mind. Praying that he will mot be able to control your thoughts and feelings toward your husband. You are right, you have been forgiven by the blood of Christ. The enemy can not take that away from you.

    1. Lisa Davis

      Thank you for the prayer. I have an amazing mother but she wasn’t a Christian until recently. Because of that, she was unable to talk to me about the consequences of pre marital sex with regards to marriage. I think it’s awesome that you can talk to your daughter about this.

  13. Joy @ Joy in this Journey

    Lisa, I wonder if the shame and guilt you feel when being intimate with your husband is the manifestation of a more comprehensive shame and guilt? Reading your story, it sounds like you have many regrets about those years when you left church. I wonder if you are still struggling to accept the forgiveness and mercy and second chances that God offers everyone who seeks him?

    I also have struggled at times with intimacy with my husband. I realized that I didn’t believe him when he told me that I’m beautiful to him and that he is attracted to me. I thought he was just saying that, but that was so unfair to him. He loves me and I need to listen to him and believe him. I need to accept the forgiveness and love he offers me, especially since he is kinder to me than I am to myself many times. I wonder if that may be something you might want to consider too — do you believe your husband really loves you no matter what? Will you let him love you the way you can’t love yourself right now? Will you let him be Jesus with skin on as you heal and as God makes you new?

    I wish you all the best, and I’m praying for you.

    1. Lisa Davis

      Thank you for the prayer. I actually don’t feel shame and regret about missing church during those years. Although I didn’t go to church, I still felt the Holy Spirit…I just chose to ignore it 🙁 I definately feel forgiveness in that area. But I agree that I am struggling to accept forgiveness with regards to my sexual sin.
      In response to the second paragraph, I have no problem accepting my husband’s compliments, and I truly believe that he means them. I don’t have the same insecurities that I had in college…my insecurities are different and happen only “in the bedroom” because of that shame and guilt I can’t shake.

  14. Shannon

    Lisa, thank you so much for opening up your heart and sharing hard things with us. I’ve had some things happen in my life that caused shame, and the thing I have found for me that I hope is true for you, too, is that the act of even speaking this truth helps the shame to fall away and that you will receive the loving support and encouragement of friends (near and far!) who speak truth to your heart: that you are precious, loved and that even though it’s totally normal to feel just how you feel and that you are not alone, God sees your heart and loves you and will help heal the places that hurt and He is not an accuser – that the enemy will try to tell you that you don’t “deserve” the pleasure of what you have now, but the truth is, none of us “deserve” ANY of the good things we have, and it’s God’s grace that says we get to have so much good stuff in our lives anyway. Jesus paid it all for all of us, and it’s ok to speak that truth to yourself, too – “Jesus paid for my sin, so I don’t have to pay for it emotionally over and over. I can enjoy my husband, because a good and beautiful God made him and made me and made our marriage to be enjoyed.” Keep speaking truth to yourself, friend. We all are sinners, and we all have things the enemy wants to use as arrows to our vulnerable places, to cause hurt, to prevent us from fully enjoying the good blessings God has given us, and I would bet all of us women struggle with this issue in our own ways, and many in the exact same way you do. You have been very courageous to share with us, and I know your bravery will be an encouragement to so many women. Thank you.

  15. Carla

    Lisa – thanks so much for being vulnerable and sharing your story. Praying for you right now as I type. You are not alone!!!

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