I grew up in the thick of the evangelical purity culture. I didn’t come from a legalistic family and my parents were egalitarian Christians, so I did not believe I was responsible for the lust of boys. I dressed how I wanted to dress. I wore a two-piece bathing suit and crop tops. I never showed much cleavage or anything like that; I was simply a normal teenage girl.
I began dating young – 13 years old. I fell in “like” with one of our class clowns. He was silly. I was silly. It was a match made in middle-school-heaven. I was terrified of him french kissing me. What if I did it wrong and looked lame? I would secretly call my mom to come get me at the end of an evening party, sneak out the door and wait down the street for her to pick me up, all in an attempt to dodge my first kiss.
At 14, my boyfriend laid one on me. I guess he couldn’t wait anymore and I was not expecting it. It felt gross having someone’s tongue down my throat. Yet, after time, kissing him became my most favorite pastime. My mom gave me the book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” by Joshua Harris. I laughed and threw it across the room after she left. I was not about to kiss dating goodbye. Dating was new and exciting.
That same year my mom asked me if I wanted a purity ring. I was allowed to pick out a fancy ring for $100. Of course I wanted a purity ring! I also wanted purses, clothes, and shoes. All joking aside, I loved Jesus very much and I wanted to be pure for Him. I also wanted to please my parents. I picked out a gold ring with a rose on it and made a commitment to stay pure until marriage.
My parents did not put an unreasonable amount of pressure on me, but we as a family were embedded in the evangelical purity culture. Christian leaders, authors and ministers locally and afar, all had an opinion on how to help teens to fight for “sexual purity.” The truth is that I, being a perfectionist, internalized all of the information and placed a substantial amount of pressure on myself.
My first boyfriend and I dated for about two years and made out constantly. It went too far once in awhile, but it was fairly innocent. When it would go too far, I would cry. I felt extremely guilty. I was a “church girl” who wanted to be a minister someday. I needed to get it together and fight harder to maintain “sexual purity.”
At 16 years old, my first boyfriend and I broke up and I began dating a boy from another high school. He was the epitome of a “teenage dream.” He was good looking, funny, popular, smart, athletic, and most importantly, wanted by many beautiful, popular girls. I felt honored that he chose me.
We dated for the rest of high school. I stopped going to my own high school’s sporting events and solely supported him. I wore his jerseys with his last name on them. We went to every dance together at both our high schools. We were both raised in Christian homes, so we went to his youth group and my youth group together most weeks.
We dreamed of him becoming a professional baseball player someday and buying me gucci jeans (lol, makes me laugh now). Point being, we were in some kind of love and grew extremely emotionally and physically attached. The whole time we were dating, I struggled with inner turmoil.
It was only natural for us to become physical. We were together constantly and we both had access to cars with back seats. Every time things went too far, I would cry. After about a year of ongoing struggling, he would cry, too. It was ridiculous, but we could not stop fooling around.
Our fights became more intense as our adolescent souls became more and more intertwined. The “ups” and the “downs” became crazy. We were on a rollercoaster ride and we were way too attached to each other to simply stop the madness. We both wanted to please God, but we were trapped.
We were way too immature to consider marriage. We both had our whole lives ahead of us, but we couldn’t simply walk away. After we graduated from high school, I became so stressed out by our sexual sin that I rarely ate and lost a substantial amount of weight. The shame was unbearable, but I loved him in the way that teenagers love – fireworks and all.
One day, I read 2 Timothy 2:22 and found the answer I was looking for.
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
This is what I had to do if I wanted peace; I had to run. So, I decided I would go to Bible college over 2,000 miles away. Leaving him was the hardest thing I had ever had to do at that point in my life. It ripped my heart in half, and his as well.
The thing is though, we cannot outrun ourselves. I took both my virginity and my “sexual impurities” with me to college. I made a pact with myself not to date at all until I found the man I would marry.
I was finally ready to “kiss dating goodbye.” I was convinced that I was bad at dating, that I was a horrible girlfriend, that I was difficult, that I was tempted by sexual sin too easily, and that I had to beat my weakness into submission for the sake of my ministerial calling and love for Jesus. I reasoned that God was pleased with me now that I was walking in “sexual purity.”
I stayed pure and barely dated all through college. Dating was bad because dating led to sexual sin and sexual sin led to God being disappointed in me. I could not handle the guilt and the shame anymore, so I avoided all of it as much as possible. My highschool sweetheart moved on quickly and I didn’t.
I became prideful about my ability to stay focused and out of a romantic relationship. I viewed young men and women who “had to have a boyfriend or girlfriend” as weak. I became hyper focused on my virginity because I thought it was all I had left to give.
Christians would praise me for maintaining my virginity and I would eat it up. Unbelievers would make fun of me and I honestly believed they were just jealous. I became arrogant about my “sexual purity.”
I swept all of the guilt, shame, and condemnation from my adolescence under the carpet. It was too painful to deal with. I not only ran from sexual impurity literally; I ran from it emotionally. I would never let my heart get ripped in half again.
I met my now husband in 2007 and fell head over heels fast. It should have been the most blissful time of my life, and many aspects were, but it was also filled with extreme inner turmoil. Almost immediately we began to struggle with “sexual purity” and I became an emotional disaster. All of the guilt, shame, and condemnation that I had swept under the carpet 5 years prior rose to the surface like a whirlwind of uncontrollable dust.
I found myself in almost constant tears. My chronic headaches worsened. I began having panic attacks. I became depressed. I feared God was disappointed in me. I feared God would not permit me to marry my now husband. I feared my heart would break again and I would find myself sobbing in the bath tub, naked, with my heart wounds wide open.
Not only this, but after my husband and I did get married, I believed we would have a next-to-perfect sex life because we both saved sexual intercourse for our wedding night. Our sex life has always been good, but because I believed it should be close to perfect, it never seemed good enough.
I will say this, my husband and I do have a unique emotional bond due to having sex only with one another, for which we can probably thank the evangelical purity culture, but I have decided to walk away from the idea of “sexual purity” forever.
The truth is that as Christian men and women, we are all equally pure in every way because we are bought with a high price and covered by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Even the most “sexually pure” among us is as dirty rags compared to the purity of God (Is. 64:6), which is why we need an unflawed Savior. Likewise, the most “sexually impure” among us is as white as snow due to the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Our purity is found in Christ alone and it cannot be tainted no matter what we do or don’t do sexually.
Instead, I will teach teens and adults alike the value of “sexual wisdom,” the heart of God as a parent, and the power of grace.
We are wise not to get sexually involved with someone we are not married to because if it does not work out, the heart will show us no mercy and the healing process is painful and time consuming. The only reason the Bible tells us to save sex for marriage is because God designed us for everlasting commitment and promise and God does not want to see His children suffer. Yet, if we do fall down and make a mistake sexually, the beautiful grace of Jesus Christ covers all.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
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