If the beginning of this essay seems a little boring, that would be because it’s about my life, which was boring for a long time. But hang in here with me — I promise it gets better.
My childhood was sadly typical of the American family of the last couple of decades. My mom and dad had both been married before, and had a blended family with one child right out of the starting gate. Then not long after they were married, Mom became pregnant with me, and down the road came my little sister.
When I was nine, one day I came home from school to find my mom already home and sitting on the couch in the living room. Through her sobs, I managed to make out something to the effect of “your dad’s not coming home today.” As it was put to me, dad had found another family in another town and decided that was where he wanted to be. To spare you the details of the emotional torment I felt for some time (which a majority of American youth are intimately acquainted with anyway), it’s enough to say the remainder of my childhood was spent in a broken home with separate families, leading separate lives.
The relevance of my childhood to my purity journey is simply that I never had an example of what a godly, healthy marriage relationship should be like. There was no “mom and dad” in the angst of my adolescence and teenage years. That’s not to say that my mother didn’t do the best she could. I love my mother and am fully grateful for the efforts she made to raise us the best she could. Nonetheless, it was not a home with open communication. We just didn’t talk about things like our problems, feelings, schedules and especially not about sex or the opposite sex. There were a lot of serious, significant conversations that needed to take place, but never did. We went to church every other weekend, stayed away from drugs and alcohol, and basically lived very boring lives. I was raised to be a good kid who stays out of trouble.
If it wasn’t a good family influence that set me on the right track, then what was it? To be quite honest, I’m pretty sure my initial decision to not have premarital sex was made in seventh grade science class, the unit on sex education. Gross pictures and horrific stories scared the sex out of me! I realized then that I had no desire to have sex before I was married.
High school was spent listening to stories of who’d done what with whom and where and how and other details that still turn my face red as I’m writing this. There was pressure for everyone, but for me, an athlete, it was worse. All the other guys were doing that stuff, so why shouldn’t I? As bad as I wanted to “become a man” (how cliché is that), I stayed away from sex to stay out of trouble. There was something else too: the people around me who were having sex and partying their weekends away weren’t happy. They talked like everything was awesome and just what they wanted, but their lives were empty.
There was a lot of junk to deal with in high school, but I had other, good influences too. My core group of friends was incredible. We not only got along well, but they put up with me, listened to me, encouraged me. They lived life with me, hurting when I hurt and rejoicing when I was joyful. Those guys got me plugged into a ministry where people cared for me, mentored me and prayed for me. I had no idea that strangers could care so much about me. These were the kind of people who you can tell are set apart by the kind of life they live. I heard them talk about purity and about living a life that was righteous and without blemish before a God who desires those things from me. Even though I knew it was good to be a Christian, I didn’t understand the relationship they were describing.
As I spent more time learning and listening to my Christian friends, I noticed more and more of them were pledging to live a certain lifestyle before the Lord. They wanted to wait for marriage to have sex to honor their King, not just to stay out of trouble and avoid nasty STDs or fathering a child. Then I began to want that too. I didn’t know why, but I wanted that very badly. Soon I realized that my life and my virginity did not belong to me anymore, but to my King.
By the time I graduated from high school, I felt certain I had heard all the stories and experienced all the temptations…WRONG! High school was nothing compared to living in a coed dorm my freshman year. I went from being sheltered and guarded to having no area of my life private anymore. Not only was my life open to the public, so was everyone else’s. There are things you just don’t need to know about other people — and I knew them all!
It doesn’t take long to realize when you’re out on your own for the first time that all the ideals, promises and good intentions you had going in get shattered very quickly. The little world I had known was being blown away. I was surrounded and bombarded by all kinds of things I had been able to avoid during high school. Everywhere I turned there were people, drinks, smells, substances, etc., going around that I didn’t want anything to do with — and all this in a Christian university! Call me a wimp, pansy, momma’s boy or whatever you like, but I knew they were not things that honored Christ.
Again, it was true friends that helped me stay the course. If it had not been for a couple of people in my college life who believed with me and in me, I very easily could have gotten lost in the midst of all the craziness. I can’t stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with people who are not afraid to live a Christ-like life along with you.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle in faith. I had a lot of unanswered questions about how to apply biblical principles to my life: “What does this mean?” “Should I do this or that?” “What in the world am I doing here?” In retrospect, I can’t really say how or why things worked in my life the way they did, except that God wanted it and He made it happen.
Toward the end of my second year of college, an acquaintance from the campus Baptist ministry approached me about staying around that summer to be an intern with a student ministry at a local church. I had never given much thought to going into ministry, and really didn’t even want to. Without thinking about it, I said yes, and served in this church for $40 a week.
Then things got confusing, but I believe it was all under the control of God. He does what He wants; He has the right to do that. Now that I was actually contemplating ministry, things that were never too much of a temptation before came at me all of a sudden like a hurricane.
I realize now that the Devil really does not want people to be in ministry or to seek God’s will for their lives. When you begin to really pursue God and His desires, Satan will go in hot pursuit of you. It’s in the Bible; you should check it out in Mark 4. He is trying to steal your life away from you.
For me, that meant that he was coming at me with sexual temptation and sin. What had not been a problem for me, or even a real temptation, became one big-time when I surrendered to follow God’s call to ministry. The choice to give away my virginity and have sex outside of marriage was all of sudden right on my doorstep.
It was no coincidence (there are no coincidences!) that I was living by myself that summer, isolated from those strong friendships. I was alone, except for the opportunities to give in to my flesh and be with girls who would have welcomed it. I would be lying to say I was not interested and that the thought never crossed my mind. I knew that no one else would have to know what I had done over the summer. It was a ridiculously tough time in my life and one that very few people know about to this day.
But I fought it. In the back of my mind was always the thought that sex outside of marriage was not what God or I wanted for my life. Knowing that I was about to go into a lifestyle where my choices and actions would be held to a higher accountability made it an even more critical issue. I could not minister to someone if I wasn’t living the life that I claimed to believe in. It was a gut-wrenching time for me. I have never been through anything that was so torturing to wrestle with, but deep down the Lord continued to give me the strength to overcome. It sounds stupid, but it is the truth. God will give us the strength and opportunity to avoid the things that cloud our relationship with Him. We must have the courage to follow Him.
It was also no accident that within my first week of ministry as an intern, I met the girl who would be my bride two and a half years later. We spent quite a while serving together and getting to know each other before we even realized what was going on between us. God was moving our hearts closer. After about a year, we began dating. Then a year later, we got engaged and six months later, married.
There was no way at the time, when I was struggling with temptation, that I could have seen or realized what God had in store. To think that I might have given in to a few moments of pleasure makes me sick, when I compare it to the relationship I have with my wife. It’s like I almost chose beef jerky over filet mignon (which is a steak… you should try it sometime).
During that first year, my future wife and I were both a part of a student ministry that put a lot of emphasis on understanding what God desired of our lives in purity and obedience with our bodies. One evening we had a service called “My Beloved.” We spent that evening writing letters to our future spouses, promising that we would wait until that night that God would allow us to be together. We even received rings with “My Beloved” inscribed on the outside. The rings were supposed to be worn until the day we were able to replace them with our wedding bands. Even though I had chosen abstinence, that night was the first time I had ever actually made a promise. And I had no idea that the woman to whom I was writing that letter was sitting in the room, writing a letter to me as well.
Some two years later during our wedding ceremony when it was time to exchange rings, stare in each other’s eyes and say the mushy vows and so on (like you see on TV), my bride had to remove the “My Beloved” ring before she could put on my wedding band. Having to take off that ring was one of the coolest moments of the wedding. I had been able to keep my promise to her, just as she had been able to keep her promise to me. We enjoyed our first night together knowing in full confidence that we belonged to each other. There is something incredible about knowing that we gave something to each other that we have never shared with anyone else.
It really was an incredible day that I thankfully will only enjoy once, as strange as that sounds. (And I pray the same for you.) My wife is my beauty and my bride. Marriage isn’t always easy, but we know we belong to each other. It’s a beauty that we were all made to know.
I have no regrets about how my life was lived, even though it was at times painfully frustrating and sometimes just plain dull. But to be able to look back and see that God was doing something through my frustration and dullness gives me great joy today.
I don’t know who you are or what you’ve been through or done in life, but I know this: God is calling you to live through Him. And I pray that you might be at peace knowing that God may desire a season of boredom for you.
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.