As do most adolescents, I went through an exploratory stage and faced certain amounts of peer pressure. I experimented with alcohol, drugs and sex. My parents probably thought I was just going through a phase and it would pass. To some degree they were right, but in retrospect, I know that these things were ways I was trying to fill an emptiness inside me, something I longed for but couldn’t find.
My search for significance manifested itself in school, friends, drugs and girls. I worked hard enough in school (which wasn’t very hard) to stay on honor rolls and principals’ lists that were printed in the local newspaper, bringing honor to my parents and recognition to me. It was very important to me to be popular and always have a group of friends to hang out with, which led to partying and whatever else it took to fit in, like drugs and alcohol. Having a girlfriend is a great way to feel important too, fit in and always have some security close at hand. I am sad to say that was the main reason I had girlfriends.
Having a girlfriend meant having dates and spending intimate time alone, which usually led to sexual involvement. It didn’t always end up this way, but sometimes it did. Looking back on those experiences, it bothers me that it never really felt wrong to me to be involved with someone physically. I had never received any teaching about saving myself until marriage or sexual purity. The sexual advice I received as an adolescent was, “Don’t get her pregnant; make sure you use some kind of protection.” I was so blind and selfish at the time, it was all about what I could get out of it for me.
In junior high and high school I was pretty popular. I fit in with the preps (athletic, well-dressed, smart, dating a member of the drill team). I usually didn’t have to pursue girls, they pursued me. I know that sounds arrogant, and I’m sorry to say that I was a rather proud person in those days.
Starting in high school, I dated the same girl for four years. It was a big farce, as I see it now. At the time it seemed so important, but looking back, I really wish that someone would have banned me from dating. They were such unstable times emotionally. I have big regrets from that experience. I took that girl’s heart, virginity, innocence and four years of her life, and in the end I trampled on it. And I also squandered myself.
But high school also held a ray of hope: A close friend I really looked up to in high school became a Christian. He wasn’t vocal about it in the beginning, but I began to see changes in his life. Since I admired him so much, I began to make the same changes in my own life. I stopped partying as much, stopped cussing and started having some interest in spiritual things. However, nothing changed with relationships with the opposite sex, and I had no desire for it to change.
When I left home to go to college, the search continued. During my freshman year, some guys on the football team invited me to a Bible study. God was working in my life. Through this Bible study and a divinely appointed meeting one weekend with my close friend from high school, I came to know Jesus. This new relationship would ultimately change all the relationships in my life, but the change would not come easily.
I began to study God’s Word, spend time in prayer and meet with a small group of guys. My mindset and perception were changing favorably toward the Kingdom of God in lots of ways, but one still under my control was sexuality. I was holding on tight. While I was undergoing spiritual transformation, I dated several girls, and in most cases, things went too far physically. I had never had a conviction about purity, but it now became a constant battle. I experienced highs in my new relationship with Jesus and very deep lows because I did not want to give up my sexual “rights.” Sometimes I would wrestle with the issue and sometimes just cave in to temptation. Back and forth.
I remember thinking of physical involvement as analogous to rolling a snowball down a big snow-covered mountain, which, if I started rolling, I could not stop. It would gain momentum until it was gigantic and out of control, unstoppable. As I was thinking about this concept, a light dawned for me. How do I stop the snowball from ever starting down the hill? I began to search this out in my mind and I came up with a simple answer: For me, it all started with the kiss. If the place was right, which can always be easily manipulated, the kiss would start the snowball that eventually led to trouble. I realized at that point the most practical thing I could do to remain pure in a relationship was to not kiss.
This principle worked great in the next relationship I was in. After a couple of months I did venture a small kiss, but the physical aspect of the relationship was far from the most important. I was changing, I thought. A short time later, the relationship ended on a good note—we just both went our separate ways.
Soon I began a new relationship, with a new hope in the area of purity. Then I fell flat on my face and blew it big time. I wrestled with it at first, and then just gave up. Spiritually hopeless, I stayed in the relationship for too long. I had reverted back to my old ways from before I had become a Christian.
I distinctly remember one morning waking up and thinking about my predicament. As I ran the whole purity process through my mind, I questioned myself: What do I really want? What do I really need? And who do I really love? As the questions circled in my mind I began to focus on whom I really love. John 14:21 came to mind: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” As I meditated on the scripture I realized that, in a sense, I was trading my relationship with the Lord for this physical relationship I was involved in. I was convicted that I had to end the relationship because I knew I couldn’t just end the physical aspect alone.
After the breakup, I turned my full attention to my spiritual walk and growth, and decided it was a good time to stay away from girls and any type of relationship for a while. During this time, I realized that my strategy for purity was centered on my behavior, the outer me. Finally, I concluded that this was a matter of love: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” And love comes through having a relationship. Instead of outward actions that would improve my image and standing as “a good Christian,” I began to grow in a more intimate relationship with Jesus.
Through this new awakening and spiritual change, I realized that I had really hurt several girls and taken something from some of them that I could never give back. I made a change in my dating philosophy and a commitment to the Lord that I would not date (like I had in the past) and that I would not kiss another girl until I said, “I do.” See what a radical change a real relationship with Jesus can make? The old me never would have dreamed of such a commitment.
Isn’t this like the Lord; I was just going along minding my own business (literally avoiding girls) and God brought a beautiful blonde, Gwen Ford, across my path. It was a crazy, short meeting. We were both in our vehicles and after meeting we drove off and didn’t see each other again for several months.
At the next encounter, there was a spark, and I had a strong desire to get to know her more. As we were parting, I flippantly said, “Hey, why don’t you call me sometime?”
Gwen looked a little embarrassed and said, “I won’t call you; I don’t call guys.” I was floored, taken aback. At first I thought, Is she too good to call me? But it didn’t take long to realize that qualities like that were what drew me to her.
After a short time of getting to know each other better (not dating), I shared with Gwen my commitment to not kiss another girl until we were married. I wasn’t sure how she would respond to that, but she told me that it really challenged her and she said she needed a guy to step up and lead her spiritually. She had been the one to lead spiritually in most of her past relationships. She agreed to the commitment and asked me for something too.
She had been in several relationships with guys who told her they loved her but didn’t mean it. She asked me to not tell her that I loved her unless I knew that I was ready to get married. I agreed and off we went.
During our friendship God blessed me with an unknown strength and a powerful patience to withhold myself physically. He allowed me to truly get to know this child of His from the inside out. God used Gwen in this critical place in my life to show me someone living out the Christian life with a real relationship with Jesus. This experience with Gwen helped solidify the work that God had begun in me.
About a year later, I knew in my heart that I loved Gwen. I shared with her one night that I did love her and how much she meant to me. Since she had asked me not to say that unless I meant it; she knew I was practically saying, “Will you marry me?” A couple of months later, I asked Gwen’s parents if I could have permission to marry their daughter. They agreed, and I asked Gwendolann Adell Ford to marry me. She said yes and we set a quick date. We were both ready. We knew we loved each other and we were ready for the kiss and more.
During our engagement we went through a wonderful and difficult time of premarital counseling. One of the hardest things that came up was my past. One night I decided I needed to share it all. As I unfolded before my future bride all the relationships I had failed at, I felt a strong desire that I should let her go if she wanted out. The grace I felt at the moment she told me she still wanted me was probably comparable to the grace the woman felt when Jesus released her after being caught in adultery by the Pharisees (John 8:3-6).
Gwen and I decided that during our wedding ceremony, we would have a private time of prayer, just the two of us, while we took communion, remembering the death of Christ. During that prayer, we figuratively placed the baggage from our past into a box and buried it, to be done away with, just as our sin is done away with in God’s eyes through the actual death of Christ. Although from time to time, we have some difficulties with our pasts, mainly mine, I believe God blessed that prayer, our attitude about the past and our passion for a hopeful future together as man and wife.
The moment the preacher said “You may kiss the bride” was and will always be an eternal moment in my mind: the most intimate and longed for kiss I had ever experienced. I have had many more since that night over 15 years ago—by God’s grace, we’ve made it! My wife is a beautiful woman inside and out and I was privileged enough through the power of His Spirit to know her intimately on the inside first. Thank you, Jesus.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I wish I never would have had to tell my future bride about my scarred past relationships. I wish I could have looked her in the eyes and said, “I have saved myself for you.” On the other hand, I know that if God had not begun some supernatural changes in me before I met Gwen, I would have never had a chance with her. A Bible verse that is fitting for how God has worked in my relationships is Isaiah 61:3b (KJV): “Give unto them beauty for ashes.” God has taken the ashes of my misguided searches for significance and given me beauty in my relationship with my wife.
This story was excerpted from the new book Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off, edited by Donna Lee Schillinger.
The most difficult task in the life of a Christian single today is maintaining purity until marriage. The payoff is perfect love and sex, just as our Creator intended. But if that’s so awesome, why aren’t more people choosing it? And how can premarital sex be so bad if so many people are doing it and loving it? People who were virgins when they married aren’t usually the type to kiss and tell. And when premarital sex goes wrong, no one wants to Tweet it. This awkward silence from both contingents isn’t helping the next generation to decide well on the issue of premarital sex.
Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off is a collection of 17 first-person narratives about successfully waiting for marriage to have sex—or not. Contributors on both sides of the issue candidly share in face-reddening detail what they learned on their way to the wedding bed. Young people aiming to remain pure will be encouraged and learn practical strategies for resisting sexual temptation. Those who wish they had waited will learn that it’s never too late to restore purity with God’s grace.
Learn more at PuritysBigPayoff.com. Now on sale at major online booksellers, through your local bookstore or for a special price of $12 plus free shipping at www.OnMyOwnNow.com, which receives as a donation half of the proceeds of its sales. Also available in Kindle through Amazon.com.
También en español: La Gran Recompensa de la Pureza / La Gran Estafa del Sexo Prematrimonial. Visite www.VivaLaPureza.info.