We have two words in English to use about someone who has never had sex, but we don’t have words to use for people who have never said a swear word; never cheated on their taxes; never stolen anything.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that people who have had sex before marriage feel a degree of shame that people in the midst of other sins don’t.
When we have sex before we’re married we figure we’re in a special category of sinners. After all, we’re “pure” unless we have sex…That’s what we’re taught, isn’t it?
This week I’ve thought a lot about “lost purity” and the way we talk about it. I wrote my top post EVER on Tuesday–the 10 Things That Scare Me about the Purity Movement (my daughter’s post on why she didn’t rebel actually went more viral, but this is the top one that I actually wrote).
And I’ve had comments and emails and Facebook messages about it. And I’ve been transported back about 5 years when I was doing my surveys for my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. In those I asked people about their sexual history and what they think of sex now, and I left some blank spaces for people to comment anything they want. And so many of the comments that were left were about people’s baggage.
I wish so much that we had waited until marriage. The only one I’ve ever slept with is my husband, but we slipped up with just six weeks to go before our wedding. Why couldn’t I have waited? I have a hard time forgiving myself.
I grew up determined to wait until marriage, but we ended up sleeping together before we even engaged! It made me think of myself so much differently. I wasn’t a good Christian anymore, and we stopped going to church. I’ve started to read blogs again and I really want to take my kids to church, but I don’t know how to go back.
Sex before marriage still haunts me. I’ve never been able to relax during sex and I keep thinking that maybe the root is that I feel guilty? I don’t know. But it all seems like too much work.
So, so sad.
On the last two days as I’ve processed so many messages, I’ve gone on a lot of walks here in Florida (it’s cold, by the way. Not as cold as at home, but still cold!) while my husband and staying in our RV, trying to think of what I want to say to all of these women.
A good friend left a Facebook message where she said that she always felt like “Mary Magdalene”. She had had sexual partners before. Her husband was a virgin. And his friends grilled her like crazy, because they didn’t think she was good enough for him because of her past.
And so I want to talk to all of those who feel like Mary Magdalene.
But I’m in a tough spot. I really want people to wait until marriage for sex. It saves so much heartache! God commands it. It does tend to make sex better in the long run, because you don’t have baggage. I want to be that cheerleader, cheering people on to the finish line!
But I’m sure most people who DIDN’T wait would agree with me. They just feel badly now.
After we say our first swear word, we don’t wonder how to get our “clean mouth” back. But after we have sex–we realize our virginity is gone forever.
I think so many of us in Christian leadership (and I’d put myself in this category) don’t know how to handle this. If we give TOO MUCH grace, and talk about how God loves you and how everything can be brand new–then what message does that give everybody else about waiting?
And so we say very little to those of you who are stuck in guilt and disappointment.
Disappointment at yourself for not living up to your own expectations. Disappointment that you’ve lost something and there’s nothing you can do. Disappointment that who you thought you were has come crashing down.
This week, after my post, I’ve been driven back to the Bible a lot to see what Jesus said. And I’ve come to a few conclusions.
Jesus was never scared that too much grace would mean that people would feel they had the freedom to mess up.
On the contrary, Jesus always came down on the side of lavish grace. He told Mary Magdalene that what she did with the oil would be told to people forever, but no one would remember those Pharisees names who looked down their noses at her and judged her.
Paul got the order of sin and grace right.
He had just finished explaining in Romans 5 how amazing grace was, and then he addresses this issue: but if grace is so great, then what’s to keep people from sinning? (That’s exactly our question–if grace is so great, why would people wait until marriage?)
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. (Romans 6:1-6)
He’s saying: We don’t stop sinning so that we can have a good relationship with God; we have a good relationship with God and that causes us to stop sinning.
Preaching grace won’t make people all decide to sin like crazy–not if it’s real grace. If they truly understand Christ’s love, they’ll have the Holy Spirit to help them. They’ll be renewed!
Here’s John 8:10-11, where Jesus is talking to the woman caught in the act of adultery who was about to be stoned:
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Jesus said “Go”. Go. Do we understand how important that little word is?
Don’t be stuck here where there’s judgment. Don’t stay here where all you can think about is what you’ve done wrong. Go live your life! You’re free. Go and grow, and bless others, and enjoy what you’ve been given. Go and live abundantly! Whatever you do, just don’t stay here. This isn’t who you are anymore.
And that’s what I want you to hear today: This isn’t who you are anymore.
And so, to all who mourn lost purity, I want to say this:
I hope nothing I’ve said, and nothing any other Christian leader has said, has ever made you feel “less than”.
I hope nothing I’ve said, and nothing you’ve ever heard in Christian circles, has ever made you feel that you can’t have great sex now, in your marriage!
I hope that nothing I’ve said, and nothing you’ve ever heard from the pulpit, has ever made you feel that you’ve committed a worse sin than anyone else.
Let’s be honest: there may always be disappointment that you didn’t do things differently. But that’s part of life! And as God’s grace abounds, and as you realize more and more that it is HE who makes you pure, not what you do yourself, I think your heart gets bigger. You walk a little lighter. You become more humble, but that also makes you more excited to share with others what God has done. You feel joy to a different level.
Your story didn’t start at the moment you lost your virginity, and it didn’t end there, either. Yes, it may have been a defining moment for you, but God doesn’t want that defining moment to be a negative in your life. He wants it to, in retrospect, be an opportunity to really “get” grace.
He wants you to understand there never was lost purity, because your purity was always only in what He did for you in the first place.
So, please, don’t stay stuck there. That’s not what God wants. Jesus already reconciled you; it’s done. It’s now your choice whether you’ll stay there, defining yourself by that one moment of what YOU did, or whether you will GO, and define yourself by what Jesus did.
Go, my dear ones. Go. Please.