Every Sunday of high school Sunday School it seemed like we talked about purity. It’s not lost on me that I had an abortion on Saturday and the very next day, we began another series on saving ourselves until marriage. It was a cold January day, and instead of paying attention, I tried to ignore the cramps in my stomach and instead stared out the window at the gloomy gray clouds. Because there was no point in me listening. I was no longer saving that part of myself — that was done and gone. And we only ever had sermons on being a virgin when you got married. We didn’t talk about what happened when you made a mistake and had sex with someone long before you were even old enough to get married. You either waited or you didn’t, and if you didn’t… well, if you didn’t, then shame on you.
I’ve seen a lot of blog posts in the recent months dealing with the topic of purity written from the female perspective. I find these blogs mostly heart-breaking. They’ve all been written from the perspective of women who chose not to wait until their wedding nights, whether they were Christians or not. My heart breaks for them because I also know what it’s like to sit in the pew on Sunday morning, shame burning my insides as the words coming from the pastor’s mouth single me out, even if no one else knows. My heart breaks for them because I know what it’s like to be the girl everyone smugly talks about, the girl who didn’t wait, the girl without the ring her parents gave her and the pledge to guide her. I’ve been the church gossip and I’ve been the lost cause. When I read words like this, written by Sarah Bessey in a gut-wrenching post called “In which I am damaged goods,” I literally feel like I want to hit a bunch of people:
He passed around a cup of water and asked us all to spit into it. Some boys horked and honked their worst into that cup while everyone laughed. Then he held up that cup of cloudy saliva from the crowd and asked, “Who wants to drink this?!”
And every one in the crowd made barfing noises, no way, gross!
“This is what you are like if you have sex before marriage,” he said seriously, “you are asking your future husband or wife to drink this cup.”
I feel angry and I feel the seeping shame begin to wash over me again and it takes me a few minutes to remind myself, “I am washed by the blood of Jesus and no man or woman or pastor gets to tell me I am unworthy because I stand on the promises of God, not the shame of people.”
But honey, I just want to say I know. I know. I know. I want to repeat it over and over again until the words don’t feel real. Because I totally know the feeling. Even if no one spit in a cup and told me to drink it. I didn’t go to a church that did that, but I didn’t go to a church that talked about how I was redeemed even though I made the mistake to have sex — and to have an abortion in an attempt to cover up my sin — when I was just 15 years old. No one told me that God still loved me and that His grace was enough for me. If they did, it got lost in the message that was exactly the same as the message Sarah Bessey heard, minus the gross-out factor:
You are unworthy. You are defiled. You are damaged goods. You are baggage. No man will want to marry you now that you have given a piece of your heart away.
I went to a church that emphasized the sanctity of the before but never the grace of the after.
I wish I had felt loved then. It makes my heart burst with joy when I say without a moment of hesitation that I feel that love and grace now. The mixture of these two very polar emotions — the shame at 15 and the holy love of God at 30 — makes it hard for me to write this post and to make these words come out in a way that makes sense.
But it’s harder for me to read all of these posts on purity whose main message of grace gets lost in the message of abuse of grace.
So much of what I have read lately that deals with the issues of purity and sex before marriage emphasizes grace but almost grace to an extreme, to the extreme where it becomes about grace abused. I have to say this loud and clear: I will never, ever judge or condem or shame someone, anyone, who tells me they have struggled with purity. Are you kidding me? I have made the decision to wait for the man I marry before I have sex again, but there are still aspects of purity I struggle with every.single.day. I will never look at a hurting person and shame them for sinning. Never, ever, as long as I live. If someone came to me and said, “Krista. I caved. I didn’t wait,” I would look that girl in her eye and I would tell her what my friend Megan told me the night I broke down crying in the dark of my bedroom as I shared with her the shame and anguish of my own sin. I would hug her and look at her and I would say: “I’m so sorry. Do you know how much God loves you? His love is without end, without fail, even in this moment where you can barely stand to say the words out loud.”
But at the same time, I have to say in the same clear, steady voice: purity matters. Don’t take it for granted. Fight to protect it. Do not think “If I mess up, it’s okay; I’ve got grace to cover me.” Don’t abuse God’s grace! You’re right — if you do mess up, grace will cover you. It covers me every day. But whatever you do, do not abuse the privilege of God’s grace! It is a struggle to rise against temptation and be holy as we are called
It bothers me to my very core that there are women all over this whole wide world whose hearts are aching because the price placed on their virginities was so high that they felt like it could never be paid and so they sold out and let others make them feel awful for doing such.
But at the same time, it makes me feel just as angry that there are women all over this whole wide world who are being told their virginity doesn’t matter at all. Yes. It matters.
Its value doesn’t come from how worthy your husband sees you. Its value doesn’t come from God looking at you and seeing a perfect human (because that will never happen as long as you live — sin will happen for us as long as we are alive!). Its value doesn’t come from a pastor getting up behind a pulpit at a youth conference making you feel like you are unworthy to sit in the hallowed walls of a church.
Its value matters because we are children of God, given these bodies and these lives and these minds to bring honor and glory to Him. By choosing purity over the world, we are choosing His glory.
Does God love me even one teensy, tiny bit less than He did that day in October of the year I was 15 when I decided I didn’t want to wait? No. Not even a smidge less. But because my love for Him has grown in amounts I cannot express, I will wait and I will, with love oozing out of me, gently remind others to wait, too.