There is nothing I can add to this post. It is honest, beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful. It gets hard, but I hope you’ll read to the end. We are about halfway through our sex and shame series; you can catch up here.
I was fourteen, attending a purity weekend retreat with other high school-aged girls in our church youth group. There was worship and Bible study, but most importantly the message we received was “You are a daughter of the King. All boys think about is sex. Don’t let them touch you or you’ll get pregnant and have an abortion and regret it the rest of your life.”
There to punctuate the message was our local abstinence cheerleader. She worked at the local anti-abortion pregnancy center and told us how, back in her college days, she had had a one night stand with a man and become pregnant. She was so scared to carry to term that she had an abortion. She regretted that decision every day the rest of her life.
She also told us that there was a link between abortions and breast cancer. See how that sin follows you the rest of your life? Your sexual indulgences literally become a cancer that you will have to fight for your life against. Best course: Don’t do it.
Easy peasy, I said. I’ve never had a boyfriend, so this is the perfect time. I’ll just draw a line before kissing. My first kiss will be my wedding day, and I’ll have no sexual sin problems. No regret. No “piece of my heart” given away before its time.
We were collectively asked to make a commitment to God that we would keep ourselves pure for our husbands. We went home, steadfast in our newfound promises.
I was twenty, and a junior at a Christian university. My boyfriend and I had just patched things up after a semester breakup. But this time, this round, our relationship was For Real. The breakup would make us stronger, I told myself, and hadn’t I gotten a word from God that He had hedged me in and would set my path before me? This was fated, predestined to work.
We kissed, everywhere but the lips. No French kisses. Those were for wedding days, right? The first time he slid his hand between my legs, I pushed passed the immediate terror and hesitation. He wanted to love me. I should let him. Besides, there was no penetration. This was okay, right? We had a future.
The second time—hidden in the back of his university housing bedroom—we went further, ever edging around true intercourse, while still avoiding lip contact.
I heard the door to his apartment open, signalling the arrival of his roommate. Shame and panic gripped my heart. Females were forbidden in male bedrooms, to name just one of the myriad school rules I was breaking. I straightened my hair and skirt, positioning myself quickly at a modest distance from my boyfriend to leave room between us “for Jesus”; wincing as the bedroom door opened; praying the dreaded roommate wouldn’t hear my panicked movement and frightened breathing and report us to the school.
By the third time, I felt so filthy and soiled from pretending we weren’t having intimate relations that I figured true intercourse couldn’t add any more sin to my already enormous heap. I would just marry him, and all our pre-marital dalliances would be washed away by the ultimate consummation of our love. But the sex hurt and was overwhelmingly unpleasant; I left his apartment nauseated and unfulfilled. The silver purity ring, which I had worn since middle school, gleamed mockingly from my left ring finger. I couldn’t remove it, lest anyone suspect. I was the most false Christian to walk the earth.
In subsequent months, I often cried in the shower, trapped by my shame and wishing I could throw up. Maybe if I purged enough I would be pure again. I begged God to forgive my sins of lust.
I married that boyfriend. I accepted his proposal for a myriad of reasons, but underlying all of those was the pressure to marry the guy with whom I’d had sex, as if it would redeem me somehow. Our marriage was short-lived and as terrible and unfulfilling as our nights of clandestine passion in school housing.
Now I am twenty-seven, revising my understanding of virginity, purity, and worth. I’ve left behind those innocent assumptions at the purity retreat. Through prayer and conversations with other godly people, I’ve realized several truths:
I am not less of a Christian because I have had sex. No mistake—no matter how large or small it actually is—is insurmountable for Christ’s sacrifice.
I am not a less desirable partner because I have had sex. I am not blackened and damaged and unfit for a godly, loving husband.
I am not a less worthy person because I have had sex. My value is not reduced to mere biology. It is more than whether my hymen is still intact.
God’s love for me is not diminished because I have had sex. To believe that He loves me less would be to cheapen His grace and to ignore Christ’s response to the sinful people with whom He kept company. He loved them, despite how “holy” they were before he met them.
May these truths bring as much healing to you as they have to me.
Some questions to ponder or discuss:
Have you ever found that your innocent assumptions suddenly clashed with reality?
In what ways do various aspects of culture tie men and women’s value to sex?
Where have you found your worth when any of those models of value failed you?
You can still contribute your own anonymous story (or a guest post including your name if you wish.) Details are at the end of this post.