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.
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.
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.
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.