Hooking Up vs. Holding Out:
Helping Singles Find a Healthy Sexual Balance
(Part 2 of 7)
If anyone had asked me in the sixth grade if I wanted to remain a virgin until marriage, I would have said, “Of course I do!”
In the seventh grade, I would have said, “I think so.”
By eighth grade, I would have replied, “Maybe.”
As a freshman, my response would have been, “I don’t see how that is possible.” Indeed, my innocence became just a memory that first year of high school. I was date raped by a guy I wasn’t even officially dating — an eighteen-year-old boy with whom I’d been flirting for attention. I never told anyone for fear that I would be blamed, or at the very least labeled with one of those harsh names that echo in a girl’s ears. You know… slut, whore, tramp. Because I kept this secret, there was no one to help me heal from this traumatic experience.
A few months later, my parents allowed me to begin dating (far too prematurely, but that was only to be discovered in hindsight). Because I believed that my virginity had already been stolen from me, I didn’t feel I had a reason to withhold my body from most of the young men I dated. Sex became a routine part of my romantic relationships—the price I felt I must pay for the attention and affection I craved.
I appeared to most in my world the good Christian girl who had it all together. I attended Sunday school and church regularly. I was the president of my youth group. I’d attend Christian concerts and yell, “Praise God! Praise God!” But I’d often have sex with my date in the back seat of the car on the way home, completely oblivious to the hypocritical life I was living. At 19, after four years of increasingly reckless dating, I was shocked to realize how full my sexual scorecard had grown. In fact, I lost count during those years of looking for love in all the wrong places.
Fortunately God got my attention and drew me back to a sexually moral lifestyle in my early twenties. I was enrolled in mortuary college and working at a large funeral home in Dallas. I expected to be embalming people who were in their twilight years and died of natural causes, but I was shocked at how often I was embalming people in the prime of their lives – twenties and thirties – who died of full-blown AIDS, or committed suicide once they discovered their HIV positive status. I was shocked to discover that I was not HIV positive after four promiscuous years of sleeping around, but truly grateful for the wake up call and the second chance. I began attending a local church, met a 26-year old virgin who was willing to look beyond my past, and married him one year later. It took several years to sort out my sexual baggage and forgive myself, but I’m thankful to say that we just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, along with 15 years of ministry to young people about healthy sexuality.
Many of my friends who walked similar paths back in the 1980s were not so lucky. At my 20-year reunion, I was saddened to see how many marriages had crumbled since college, many due to sexual incompatibility… extramarital affairs… pornography addictions, etc.
I sometimes think back to what our spiritual leaders (pastors, youth directors, parents) could have done differently to guide us through those tumultuous teenage years. Sadly, I never remember a single Sunday school lesson, or youth group event, or sermon focused on sexual purity. An unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule loomed large: Don’t embarrass us by asking questions about sex, and we won’t embarrass you by trying to bring it up. I guess the adults in my life thought that complete silence about such a taboo topic would keep us innocent, but there’s a big difference between “innocence” and “ignorance.” As Hosea 4:6 says, “Lack of knowledge causes people to perish.” You simply can’t protect young people from sexual sin by trying to hide them under a rock. There simply isn’t a rock big enough.