Through my teen years I was overweight, insecure and “somber,” as Mother would say. In my Bronx neighborhood, guys took pride in having sex with as many girls as possible — the more sex they had, the manlier they considered themselves. So I was in a real predicament at 19 — and still a virgin. I felt like a freak.
I thought something was terribly wrong with me. Maybe I have a biological problem…a physical problem. I’m ugly! The pressure to have sex weighed down on me like an elephant stepping on a peanut. I felt humiliated, ashamed, the weight heavier with each passing day. No normal guy stays a virgin for so long, I thought.
I finally met a girl who showed interest in me. And we did it. We were a top-class act — a real Romeo and Juliet. I spared no expense. After all, this was my first time. So I took her to the top of a dark, smelly stairwell in my apartment building — a climactic end to 19 years of waiting. It was over in 10 minutes.
That’s it? That’s what I waited for… felt pressured to do? I didn’t need to be a Christian to know that something wasn’t right. I felt dirty, uneasy and just wrong.
I married the lucky lady, Suzette, six months later, and we moved to Astoria, Queens. We fought most of the time and separated after a year. I had learned about condoms but never used them. During our separation we discovered that Suzette was nearly six months pregnant. I almost fainted; horror seized my mind.
At 20 years old I didn’t have a clue about babies, pregnancy or fatherhood, nor did I have a place of my own. I gave that up when we separated. And sadly, I didn’t like Suzette anymore. I knew she only married me to flee her overbearing father who would have never allowed us to live together unmarried.
Suzette decided to “terminate the pregnancy” — as the people at the family planning clinic called it. Looking back, I’m struck by the jargon the clinic used: terminate a pregnancy — it sounds like a sterile, harmless procedure. What they did there was terminate babies.
Ignorant and afraid of pregnancy, I agreed with Suzette’s decision to have an abortion. The building stood on a busy Manhattan street. Once in the office, dim lights and partially closed blinds subdued smileless faces seated in the lobby. The receptionist, a short, sergeant-looking woman, glared at me several times while Suzette filled out some papers. We wrote a check for $500 and sat in the waiting area — I was the only guy. I felt like I was at a murder victim’s funeral and I was the murderer.
I wasn’t allowed to accompany Suzette to the back. When they were done, Suzette’s tan complexion was pasty white as she paced slowly towards me. My stomach tightened and my heart pounded in my chest. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
“We have to come back in the morning,” she said, looking at her stomach.
What? I thought, horrified and angered. “Oh, really? Why?” I tried to act calm.
She told me how the “lady in the back” explained that a “D and E” procedure for late-term abortions takes two days. The first day is only to inject a fluid to stretch her uterus.
“Okay,” I swallowed hard as we walked out onto the busy street.
“I might have cramps and slight bleeding,” she continued, “so the lady told me to go home and rest.”
Cramps? Bleeding? I panicked.
We didn’t speak for the 40-minute subway ride back to my mom’s apartment in the Bronx.
That night I felt nauseated as I watched her in pain from cramps and bleeding. I didn’t, at that time, fully understand the fact that the following day our six-month-old unborn baby, whose organ systems were completely functioning, including body parts required to feel pain, would be pulled out of Suzette’s body — whole, or in pieces.
Suzette lay there tossing and turning that night, slightly moaning, an occasional tear rolling down her cheeks.
The sun hung high in the sky the following morning, illuminating the city. Yet its far reaching grasp could not touch the darkness I felt inside my heart.
After that event, though Suzette never verbalized it, her eyes screamed that the abortion was my fault. Our relationship never recovered from that experience. We divorced four months later.
I moved back to the Bronx and moved on. I met Sophia, and it was lust at first sight. That sounds crude, but it’s true. I didn’t have the first notion of God’s plan for relationships or His power to carry it out. As a result, every relationship after my divorce followed a predictable sequence: lust, then sex, relationship and finally, unhappiness — the complete opposite of God’s plan for relationships.
Three months after my first date with Sophia — and by that I mean our first sexual encounter — we moved in together. We’ll save tons of money, I thought. Again, even though we both knew about condoms and other forms of birth control, we never used them. And not surprisingly, she became pregnant. Differences and arguments soon followed, though, as did our first of several visits to a family planning clinic. I was greeted with the same cold, “What are you doing here?” glare from the receptionist. I felt like a loser. I could see why guys didn’t come to these places. I felt a constant indictment of all men’s irresponsibility.
Sophia and I stayed together, but not without problems. Some days I burned with jealousy imagining all the handsome guys Sophia eyed out, while she seethed with suspicion, envisioning all the beautiful girls I flirted with. Late night quarrels filled with hurtful words that never healed left me without focus and energy to accomplish much.
During Sophia’s second pregnancy, I reluctantly followed her to the clinic. To my surprise, we were in and out quickly. Nonetheless, it was sufficient time for my conscience to contemplate something new. For some time, I had been an HIV counselor working in a teen health center in the South Bronx. I warned patients about the consequences of unprotected sex and taught them how to use condoms, but I never practiced what I taught. My conscience screamed, “You hypocrite!”
Sophia became pregnant a third time. I figured she’d make an appointment at the clinic and take care of “the problem.” One day I received a call. Sophia was waiting to see a doctor in the emergency room at Montefiore Medical Center. She was bleeding and didn’t know why. After five hours of waiting, the doctor confirmed she had had a miscarriage. We never talked about it.
We had other problems that we did discuss, though — quite vociferously. As Sophia studied to become a nurse, I pursued a career in music. “Get a real job,” she often suggested.
Sophia had a preschool-aged son from a previous relationship and I burned with jealousy each time the child’s father visited.
I had been contemplating leaving New York and I wanted Sophia to come with me. Then she became pregnant a fourth time. She threatened to get an abortion if I left New York.
Sophia went to the clinic.
I had poured my energy and focus into Sophia for two years and in the end, all I had to show for it was heartache, disappointment, emptiness and regret.
I left New York and landed in Phoenix, Ariz., determined not to hook up with anyone. I stayed single eight months. What a triumph!
I pursued my dream of music and landed a job working with a Reggae band. While performing on a cool October night in a sports bar in downtown Phoenix, I met Ashley. We followed the same pattern as my other relationships: lust, sex, relationship and finally, heartache.
But this time, I decided to try a little something different. I thought maybe we could make things work if we had a child together. I put the proposal to Ashley this way: we have a child, I play music to support us, and we live happily ever after. Ashley nodded.
This is awesome! I thought.
But I warned her, “I could be out of town several weeks at a time. But that doesn’t mean I won’t help raise our child. And, if for some reason your love for me turns to hate,” I continued, “please don’t disappear with our child or use her against me in any way.”
I took her blank stare to mean she agreed with me.
Ten months later our baby girl arrived.
Ashley could no longer hang out with me at shows late in the evening, and with only one vehicle, she couldn’t leave the house whenever she wanted. Trips to the mall were fewer than she liked, and without anyone nearby to babysit, going to movies was impossible.
“I’m a prisoner in this house!” she reminded me often.
With only me working, money was tight, so we shopped at secondhand stores.
“You want your daughter to wear clothes with holes in them?” she would say.
“It’s just that — ”
“You’re so (expletive) cheap!”
“I’m doing the best — ”
“What type of father are you?” she asked, but already had an answer.
My work kept me out late at night. Ashley accused me of sleeping around. I don’t blame her for thinking that way, because at that point, I used any excuse to get away from her. I could tell we were nearing the end of the relationship sequence. Heartache was in full effect. Having a child didn’t better our relationship as I hoped; it made it worse. Ashley’s love for me turned to hate, as I had unwittingly predicted, and our daughter became Ashley’s weapon against me.
One day I came home to an empty apartment. Ashley had packed all their clothes and left. I sat and cried. She came back two weeks later. And thus began a pattern of leaving and coming back, which continued throughout our three years together.
The last time she threatened to leave, I was more than ready for her to be gone for good, but I couldn’t bear the thought of not having my daughter with me, or of never seeing her again. Ashley made it clear that I was a deadbeat dad and had no rights as a father. I believed it. I felt desperate, trapped in a corner. I had no clue how to work it all out, to be rid of Ashley but keep our daughter.
Meanwhile, I had come to know and trust a Christian girl, Christina, whom I met while I worked at my brother’s grocery store to supplement our income. Christina owned a hair salon around the corner from us and would come in each day and buy a cup of coffee, Snapple peach ice tea, and Ruffle potato chips. In desperation one day, and because of her gentle prodding, I shared with her my dilemma. In turn, she invited me to church. I went twice then thanked her. I told her it wasn’t for me. Later I learned she continued to pray for me, even though I showed no interest in church.
One day Christina gave me a sermon on tape from which I learned God’s design for marriage. I also learned that God regarded “shacking up” as a sin, and when two unmarried people have a child, he or she is considered illegitimate in God’s eyes. My heart broke.
As Ashley once again packed her bags to leave, I knew I needed to change, not only for myself, but for our daughter as well. So I committed my life to Christ and began going to church.
I mourned when I learned that all those abortions were lives of my own flesh and blood that I had cut short. When I confessed the abortions to Christina, she told me I’d see the children in heaven one day. I wept (and have tears in my eyes even now as I write this).
Though God forgave all my mistakes in a moment, the natural consequences continued to play out for many years. I went months without seeing my daughter because Ashley would disappear with her, cutting off all contact. When my daughter became old enough to tell me stories of her mom’s boyfriend pushing her mother to the floor, police visiting their apartment, and her mom leaving her alone for several days at a neighbor’s house, I initiated a court case. The proceedings dragged on for three grueling years at great financial and emotional cost. But through it all, God gave me strength, support and resources to do the right thing.
My daughter has suffered many consequences of my mistakes as well. She’s had to deal with the pain of having been shuffled between parents, hearing one parent hurl insults at the other, and eventually being abandoned by her mother.
Even as I was dealing with my past, God was giving me a new start. Christina later became my wife and eventually adopted my daughter. With Christina, I followed a different relationship sequence, one that I learned from the tape she gave me: relationship first, courting second, marriage third and finally, happiness! My local pastor was also quite serious about no sex before marriage and he effectively reinforced this teaching for me. And at this point, I didn’t need any convincing to understand why God ordained this order in relationships. I knew first-hand the cultural enticements of premarital sex and the awful consequences that follow.
Christina and I were strictly friends for a year — no kissing, no hugging, no nothing! Then we counseled with our pastor before we began officially dating. We dated for six months, got engaged, and then dated another six months before marrying. Over two years together, we built a strong friendship.
If I started getting a little too touchy-feely with her, the Holy Spirit would “slap my hand” and lovingly tell me, “You’ve already blown your life in this area many times. Do you really want to do that again?” I answered, “No,” and I would stop and ask God to forgive me and to give us strength to keep our hands off of each other.
Many people have a hard time believing this, but our first kiss was on our wedding day, seconds after we said, “I do.” When I went to kiss my wife, she reacted by slightly pulling back. Stunned, I looked at the pastor as if to say, “Tell her it’s okay, we’re married now!”
I’m amazed at how God restored a sense of purity to my life after so many years of promiscuity. On my wedding night, I felt like a virgin. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. For the first time in my life, sex felt right, clean and pure — just the way God intended.
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.