a thin gold band

by Emily

Fourteen years old, nervous and embarrassed, I shift on the hard metal folding chair in our church’s Youth Room.

It’s True Love Waits night.

Grotesque pictures snap by on the projector. Body parts mangled by disease. I bite the insides of my lips to keep from gagging.

This is what happens, they say. This is what sex before marriage brings. Disease or pregnancy. Or both.

I am wide-eyed, can’t look away though I desperately want to.

And then, when the horror picture show is turned off, the voices get quiet, serious. Because, they say, even if you are lucky and escape the physical punishments,

you will never have a healthy marriage with all those ghosts of partners past weighing on your conscience.

The good girl, the one who is so expert at following the rules, opens up wide and swallows that lie down whole.

The idea is pressed down into my soul: sex is dirty, shameful, and guilt-ridden.

I wear a thin gold band, a purity ring, on my finger to remind myself to never make the ultimate mistake.

********

The vows have been spoken, the hem of that white gown is green-tinged from dancing in the grass by the river. It’s tossed over a chair along with the gauzy veil.

My handsome groom, my beloved, lays sleeping beside me. I can see that thin gold band, now on a chain around his neck, gleam in the moonlight. He’s replaced it with a band of his own. Sleep comes easy for him tonight, but not for me.

I breathe shallow, not wanting to disturb him. Silent, hot tears stream down. In my mind, I know, I know, that this is good. It is natural and right.

But though the head argues, the skin only remembers shame, the heart: guilt.

I choke back the panic rising. It’s been a beautiful, but long day. I must simply be overwhelmed. It will pass.

But the months go by, and the shame is tattooed deep because it won’t let me go.

The husband, he can’t help but noticed how I shy away.

His gentle words are my undoing, “It’s like… It’s like you still feel bad about it, Em.” And this time I don’t hide the tears. Sometimes just naming something lessens its power over you. But there are still battles to be won, even when we know what we’re fighting.

It’s hard to erase such life-defining messages.

********

We are coming up on a decade of dating, seven years of marriage and he stills wears that band on a chain around his neck.

But slowly, slowly, slowly we are replacing the words

Guilt, Shame, Fear, and Filth

With

Love, Joy, Freedom, and Unity.

I know that sex is sacred, and that we should carefully guide our children. I know that there are consequences to taking it lightly, abusing it.

But the fact is, fear mongering and brainwashing were nearly the undoing of my marriage.

So why should the church use such fear tactics, such heavy handed guilt? When we could be preaching respect, responsibility, and joy?

*photo credit



171 Responses to “a thin gold band”

  1. Katie February 11, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    This post brought me to tears because I thought I was the only one struggling with this. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been trying for almost 8 years to let go of those very same tattooed messages but I can’t seem to do it. Knowing I’m not alone and not defective will make the healing easier.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

      Oh Katie. Your comment has me teary as well. You are so, so not alone! I’ve spoken with enough women from a similar background, that it gave me the courage to write this. I believe there can be healing… hang in there!

  2. kendal February 11, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    thsi is why i love my blogging community. honesty. this is a great piece and so so needed in the christian community. praying god’s continued blessings on your marriage.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

      Me too, Kendal! It is so sweet to be a part of this community, being able to bare our hearts and receive warm welcome. Thank you.

  3. melissa February 11, 2011 at 3:46 am #

    oh emily! i can totally relate!! i received those messages as a youth as well! it can be soooo detrimental to an intimate relationship. the fear tactics have got to go. jesus never taught that way. he was loving and gentle and kind. he guided those he encountered towards a new life. a life abundant, full of joy.
    this should be the message of the church. the message of true love waits.

    thanks for sharing your heart sweet emily! you are a jewel.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      YES. The fear tactics HAVE to go. It’s so good to know I’m not alone in this, and that others have been wounded by the same messages. Hoping we can change this attitude for the next generation.

  4. Tiffany February 11, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    i was not brought up Christian, but still received the same type of shameful messages from my parents. My husband, who was brought up Christian, received those types of messages as well. neither one of us waited for marriage. we both wish we had. when we have children we want to be more loving about it. i want my children to know that it is beautiful and wonderful…and it IS worth the wait. that no matter what anybody tells you, sex can never be as awesome with anybody other than your spouse. i wish somebody had expressed it to me that way, so i will.

    also, has anybody read “The Sexually Confident Wife” by Shannon Ethridge? really amazing book, and she has ideas in it for talking to children about it as well.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      I haven’t read that, but I’ll check it out. I completely agree that waiting IS God’s best, but the fear and shame? So not need and detrimental in many cases. Thank you for sharing your story here.

  5. kimberly February 11, 2011 at 4:02 am #

    Amen. So many of us know exactly where you’re coming from…

    Here’s to lovingly teaching our children…

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Amen and amen. I’m so passionate about the messages I send my son as he grows.

  6. Ruthanne February 11, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    I come from a totally different experience.

    I was the black sheep.

    Actually, is there a color darker than black?

    It took me a very long time to understand that my past is my past. Christ has removed it from me as far as the east is from the west. I was still walking around like I was carryign a dead body on my back – all those sins piled up and weighing me down. I know now He’s forgiven me.

    What was once unclean, He has made clean.

    That’s me.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

      Oh, Ruthanne! What gets me about this is that we are just opposite sides of the same coin. Whether we run from Grace with our poor choices or try to out perform it with our “goodness” it doesn’t work. We’re all so desperately broken.

      The purpose, just to point us to Grace, I’m beginning to see.

      Love you, friend.

  7. patty February 11, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    on a bit of a different note, i became pregnant at 22, was alone and had moved back home to be with my parents. on a reccomendation from my parents, i decided to meet with our pastor(the man i had grown up respecting and loving) as a way to help me heal from the brokenness i was experiencing.
    what a shock it was to have this man tell me that it would be selfish of me to keep my baby…that keeping my baby would be serving myself and would bring shame to me and my parents.
    he went on to tell me that if i chose to keep my baby i would be single and alone for my whole life, because no one would want to take on a woman with a child.
    these words from this man i had respected for so many years cut deep. i went through years of bad relationships after that, settling for whoever came along, because i thought i couldn’t do any better.
    thankfully, God brought people and circumstances into my life that changed my way of thinking and helped me to see how God really sees me. God gave me a wonderful husband who just happened to meet my sweet daughter before he met me, and he loved her right from the start.
    so thankful we serve a faithful God who can cleanse not only our hearts, but also our minds.
    so very thankful for this blog……
    ~patty

    • Rebekah Grace February 11, 2011 at 6:52 am #

      How eerily familiar your story is to mine. I got chills reading. Thanks for sharing.

    • Melissa Brotherton February 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      Patty, my sister got pregnant at 17 and went through much the same conversation…with our dad. To this day, 10 years later, there is brokenness and pain in their relationship. My sister chose to keep her son, and we’re all so grateful she did. He is a joy and a blessing to many. She is now happily married and has had another child. I know my dad (and probably your pastor) thought they were doing the right thing, but…

      I’m so happy to hear that your story has ended well! And I echo your statement: “…so thankful we serve a faithful God who can cleanse not only our hearts, but also our minds.”

    • Nish February 11, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

      Patty,
      Thanks for sharing that story. I can’t imagine how deep those scars must go. But praise God from whom all blessings flow… your husband, your sweet girl. He is so good. Grateful you’re here.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

      Oh Patty. Thank you so, so much for sharing your story here. What a picture of redemption and grace. Just beautiful…

  8. lifelivedfully February 11, 2011 at 5:23 am #

    amen 147 times. Especially for all of us who have some Church “scars” from misconstrued,tied, and twisted truth..

    I have come from generations of pregnancies at ripe ages..and BEFORE marriage. Yes there are consequences, no doubt. But, just the brush of His grace and redemption wipe away the deepest stains..
    May we not scare people into religion, but love them toward Jesus.
    love your authenticity..thank you…
    lindsay

    • Rebekah Grace February 11, 2011 at 6:29 am #

      Just the brush of His grace and redemption wipe away the deepest stain. What a beautiful truth!

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      Exactly. Of course, of course there are consequences and we should strive for God’s best. I love how you worded that… just a brush of his grace…. lovely.

  9. Beth Anne February 11, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Thank you for this post.

    Oddly enough…the scars of the church have done more damage to me than the decisions I made years ago. The lies of the church have no grace to give, unlike Jesus.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

      I know so many who can say the same thing Beth Anne, and honestly it makes me angry. It just shouldn’t be that way, you know?

      I’ve been encouraged though by a few churches I’ve attended in the last few years (while we lived in California) and the beautiful way they were loving people. It is possible, I think. Just hard to find.

  10. Lynn February 11, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    Thank you for this vulnerable post! I found so much healing when I started reading Theology of the Body. It was a whole new paradigm for me as a sexual abuse survivor.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      Thanks Lynn, I know the guilt and shame take on a whole other force when abuse is involved. I appreciate you sharing.

  11. Julia February 11, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    Fear seems so much easier to convey. It doesn’t need too much intellect or thought…if you scare them right, they might just never question the whole concept. If you scare them early and keep scaring them, you’ll get them for live…no matter which (scary) doctrine you want to teach them.
    Only becoming a Christian at uni, I can’t imagine what all you described feels like. I am truly sad for so many sisters around the world who had to go through this particular sort of “being taught” God’s will for our lives. However, I admire all of you even more, who came round the other end, still have faith in God and allow Him to give you the answers for life’s questions.

    xx
    Julia

    • Sarah@EmergingMummy February 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      I am in completely agreement with you, Julia. That’s even the fear-based message we bring to the salvation conversation as well, the whole “turn or burn”, hell-motivated decisions for Christ.

  12. kelly February 11, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been married for less than 2 months now and I’m finding myself in a similar situation. There are patterns, habits and thoughts ingrained in me that have been holding me back from my husband in a way that makes me afraid. I’m nervous that this barrier now will turn into something greater in the future. But it’s a comfort to see that you have experienced the same and have pushed through to have a strong marriage. Thank you for writing this :)

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

      Oh Kelly, I’m so glad you can already see what it is that’s hindering you… it took me SO much longer. Glad my story gives you hope!

    • Kathy February 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

      Openness with your husband about this is so important, so he can understand and be patient with you. It takes some real effort to change thought patterns and response patterns, but it really is possible. Doing it together will strengthen your bond.

  13. Suzie February 11, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    So well said!

  14. Rebekah Grace February 11, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    Oh my goodness! Can I say how much I love this place? Truly!

    I read a book a few years back, The Fig Leaf Conspiracy by Jimmy Evans. A book and ministry (Marriage Today) I suggest for anyone struggling in their marital relationship. He was saying the devil WANTS us to think sex is dirty and perverted. God created sex. The devil didn’t! Man perverted it. God didn’t! If the devil can get us to believe the lie about sex, he can get us to do all kinds of things sexually that God never intended. Sneaky bastard!

    He makes a comment at one of his conferences that God isn’t up in Heaven looking down on the marriage bed saying, “Oh gross! You guys aren’t having sex are you?” Ha ha ha ha! That really struck me funny!

    I’m grateful for all the women here, talking about all the struggles. But not as grateful I am that Jesus covers us all (even those who distort His truth) with his abounding grace! Amen!

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      I’ll have to look that up! I couldn’t help but laugh at the picture of God saying that… and yet the church does send that message in a lot of ways!

      Thank you so much for your words today.

  15. Grace @ Arms Wide Open February 11, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    wow. what a great perspective. my heart hurts for the many young people the church has scarred. my husband and i were youth pastors for 3 years when we were first married. the expectations put on us as leaders was sometimes too much to handle. sadly, we moved far, far away and haven’t gone to church in over 2 years.

    thankfully, i am wise enough to know that it is never jesus who judges. it is never jesus who burdens with unrealistic expectations.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

      You know, in my heart I know the adults who taught this to me probably thought they were doing the right thing. I know that job must come with so much pressure.

      Thank you, Grace.

  16. elora February 11, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    wow. yes. i think my heart may have just released a very long-held breath.

    you know, i keep hearing over and over again that we all live one story. this is because there’s only one Story – the one about redemption and grace and living clean after running so long in the mud. i’ve never really understood this concept until these past few months. for some reason, people are coming out of the woodwork, willing to share their pain & their struggles and how it brought them closer to Jesus. oh how my heart loves this and needs it. so thankful for this place. em, so thankful for your choice to live authentically & with vulnerable grace.

    <3

    • Nish February 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

      “…we all live one story. this is because there’s only one Story – the one about redemption and grace and living clean after running so long in the mud.”

      That’ll preach, girl. Amen & goodnight congregation.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

      I’ve got to echo my girl Nish. You are dead on the money, Elora. Dead on.

  17. Ali February 11, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Emily,

    I love this piece you have written. Í loved it because I really related to the content, but I also loved it because it is bravely written.

    Bravo, brave and wonderful woman.

    Ali

    • Nish February 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

      hear hear!

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

      Thank you, thank you, thank you Ali. Your words are balm to my soul.

  18. Mary February 11, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    Reading your experience made me really sit here and reflect on the experiences that I had at that age. And I still remember sitting in 8th grade confirmation and it was time for “the talk”. But my experience was so different. There were no grotesque pictures or negative connotations associated. In fact it was quite the opposite. Sex was presented as one of God’s greatest gifts to us, a gift that was intended for marriage. A gift that if explored before marriage would result in emotions are so different than God intended. The emotions of a teenage girl engaging in intercourse for the fear that your “first love” might break up with you if you don’t. That was never how God intended sex to be approached. How do you heal the heart of a young woman, still a girl, who has her heart torn to shreds when he breaks up with her, anyway? And how do you repair the change in her thought process that sex is just no big deal anymore?

    For me, sex was portrayed as a wonderful and beautiful action that was worth waiting for…

    But, teenagers are curious and our society makes it so acceptable, and in my opinion, almost mandatory prior to marriage. On network television teenagers are talking about it, in the ever so popular Twilight series we are reading about the temptation of pre-marital sex and the attitude of “well, why wouldn’t we?”.

    There is such a fine line of approaching the subject with youth by instilling fear or glorifying it to the point of “wait. please. wait. it’s so worth it.” We need to step back from the physical consequences of disease and pregnancy and discuss the emotions.

    ****
    Book recommendation: This is Your Brain in Love by Dr. Earl Henslin — excellent book on how different people approach sex based on the wiring of their brains…

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      So much good stuff in the comment, Mary! I couldn’t agree more and wish my experience had been more like yours. But God uses all things for good, I still believe. Thank you!

  19. @laurenlankford February 11, 2011 at 7:34 am #

    Oh Emily. Thank you for sharing this. You wrecked my emotions.

    The church guides us with guilt when it doesn’t know the greater guide: Love. I hate that the church has marred the beauty of sex by throwing the guilt and shame and pain into the mix because it doesn’t know how else to handle it. I know all the lies. “You’ll think of all the men you’ve slept with when you sleep with your husband, and it will ruin sex with him.” “Sex is only good with your first.” “You’ll compare your husband with every other man.” No. Those are lies. Birthed from guilt. The truth is that Jesus heals all. Jesus restores all. Jesus mends all hearts, all bodies, all minds, all relationship, all intimacy. The truth is that Jesus has set you in exact places in exact times so that you will need to see him and when you do that you will find him (Acts 17:26-27). For some of us, sex before marriage is part of this story. The story that drives us to God’s heart, which is the only part of the story that matters.

    ““Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” Hebrews 10:17

    All is forgiven, all is free, all is gone. Be blessed and be loved. He restores all things.

    • Mary February 11, 2011 at 7:49 am #

      This is so what I was trying to say, but you worded it 10,000 x better!

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      Oh I’ve heard all those too, Lauren! And I think you worded it just perfectly. “Those are lies. Birthed from guilt. The truth is that Jesus heals all. Jesus restores all. Jesus mends all hearts, all bodies, all minds, all relationship, all intimacy.” Beautiful.

  20. @laurenlankford February 11, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    Need to seek* him, not see him.

    <3

  21. Amber Mc. February 11, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    My sobs are overwhelming. My shame and pain and anger are overwhelming. I feel like so, so much has been stolen from me. Praying desperately for peace and joy.

    • Rebekah Grace February 11, 2011 at 8:23 am #

      Oh sweet Amber my beloved……..Peace and Joy are granted to you. Look to My Face and breathe in all I have given you. Freely.

      Signed,
      Jesus

    • Nish February 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      Praying for peace for you, Amber. May it come swiftly. Shame and pain and anger are not of the Lord… may those leave quickly & may Christ return what has been stolen – your joy.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      My heart breaks for you, Amber. I have been there, too, friend. I pray with you for peace and joy.

  22. Renda. February 11, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    Wow. Thank you so much. I never mentioned any of this before and who would I say it to. This fear, guilt for no real reason kept me from truly enjoying newlywed life. Thank you for saying it perfectly and providing such comfort miles a part. Thanks Emily !

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      Sweet Renda, it’s not like it comes up a lot in Bible studies, huh? ;) And you feel like it must just be you, you’re the only one who feels like that. There is so much strength in realizing that’s not true! Miss you friend!!

  23. Natalie February 11, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    I can absolutely relate to this posting.
    I’ve been wondering a lot about how my conservative mental programming is affecting my life lately. Yes, it was a protective barrier for my heart when I was young, for which I am thankful. And yes, I am:
    “The good girl, the one who is so expert at following the rules, opens up wide and swallows that lie down whole.” I completely agree.

    But now, I have a deep internal struggle. I am constantly asking myself- why do I have such negative connotations with sex? I don’t feel like a prude, but I am. I like the idealism of saving sex for one partner only, but frankly- that sounds quite impractical, and unappealing now. Yes, I want to honor God with my life, but the world won’t end if I have sex.

    Sometimes I feel like an angry, deprived Catholic priest, judging other people when all I really want is to be doing what they’re doing.

    • Angela Mackey February 11, 2011 at 9:20 am #

      Sex is a beautiful gift to make two into one flesh. It is amazing and wonderful. God intended it for a husband and a wife to enjoy.

      No the world won’t end if you have sex outside of God’s designed plan. When we make those choices, there are consequences, but they do not change who we are. We are loved by God. Sin can and will be forgiven in Jesus. There is grace enough to cover that sin. Oh, but consequences often remain.

      Let me say sex is worth waiting for in marriage. It is a wonderful, amazing, mysterious gift.

      My heart is saddened that the church often loses sight of grace. Oh, but I lose sight of grace and the church is peopled with sinful folks like me. Do we abandon the church because it is broken like me? No we build the church up, pray for the church, and ask that God help shape the church to look more and more like Him. We offer grace to the church because we all need grace.

      I confess I do not pray often enough for the church and for those who would lead churches without grace. I have been blessed to be surrounded by grace in the churches I have attended. I have never known this kind of pain. However I know it is there. I will be on my knees that God would have His way in all His churches. That His grace and mercy will be taught as well as His desired lifestyle. The lifestyle taught as our reasonable act of worship for the grace and love He has freely given us.

      • Joy February 11, 2011 at 9:52 am #

        Angela,
        Thank you for this very gracious and wonderful response to all that is being said here. WE are the church and WE are broken. To speak against the church is to speak against HIS bride…an institution that He established and loves, as broken as it is. All of our experiences, including the negative church ones are used for His purposes and His glory. It doesn’t excuse the mistakes, but it speaks to a good and gracious God who can intertwine everything for our good. Grace both ways. Amen.

    • Heather M February 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

      hey natalie, i know exactly what you mean. i felt the same way about 2 years ago. however, i kept with the decision to abstain from sex until i got married about 9 months ago. i know that i would have regretted it had i abandoned my decision that was made as a teenager.

      2 years ago it seemed that i wasn’t going to find a man who would support my decision so i became doubtful. i was able to find a man who made it easier to stick to my choice. i was lucky in that. i don’t know what God has in store for you, but if this is a decision you made with Him, i encourage you to hold to it.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

      I honestly feel like it would be such a struggle if I were in the dating world right now. We married so young (both 20) that I wonder if I would feel differently now. The others who have replied have said it so perfectly… such great discussion here.

      • anonymous February 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

        I went to a Christian school and kissed dating goodbye like every other good kid. Then I graduated from college and realized, everyone else was doing it, especially all of my friends who were lucky enough to get married at such a young age. It felt so unfair.

        It is so much different as a late 20 something. It’s so much harder. It seems like so much less of a big deal. Nonetheless, every time I’ve caved, I’ve had the exact same kind of guilt that you felt. It’s not so much that Jesus wants better for me, it’s that I’m “bad.” I’m thankful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but I’m terrified of what seems to be the certainty of my future sex life: horrible guilt.

  24. emily wierenga February 11, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    oh emily, you struck such a chord … this was beautifully written, and so powerful. we are a messed up church, aren’t we? sigh. thankful for a God who doesn’t throw stones…

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      Mmhmm. We certainly are, and the more I see of it, the more grateful I am for Grace.

  25. Erin February 11, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Emily, thank you for sharing this. I can relate on so many levels. As a mother, I desperately want my children to understand why God designed sex for marriage and for them to want to wait. My daughter is at the age when these talks come up, and my prayer is that God will speak through me, because left to my own devices; I would probably mess up my words. As one who didn’t wait and regrets it, I can speak to those ghosts. But, God is bigger than those ghosts and there is healing to be had.

    I think that sometimes our own fears can drive these particular conversations with our kids. And if we’re not careful, the wrong message may be conveyed, like the messages you got at the church event. I know when I parent out of fear, rather than relying on God, the results are less than desirable.

    Thank you again for sharing this. Praying for healing and joy for your marriage.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

      Oh, I agree with you Erin! It worries me too, how to convey this in a loving and respectful way to my child. It’s so tough.

  26. Joni February 11, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    The pre-programming of guilt with no hope of forgiveness and the must of comparisons added an unwelcome third to our marriage bed. The shame an ever present reminder with the fear of some sexually transmitted disease that could appear at any time, even years-decades after my wickedness.

    Two children in their teens, I finally discovered that God truly, completely forgives and recreates. Joel 2:25, “I will restore the years the locusts have eaten” is my healing, grace promise. Knowing that He created sex as a gift of joy and blessing for us has made a huge difference.

    My desire is to share the knowledge of grace, forgiveness, hope, healing words, blessing and joyful marriage. Redemption and hope are such a lovely change from judgement and condemnation.

    Thank you, Emily, for opening your heart! Yes, you are courageous and your words bring healing.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

      “The pre-programming of guilt with no hope of forgiveness and the must of comparisons added an unwelcome third to our marriage bed.” Yes, this. Thank you for sharing your story.

  27. cindy February 11, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Knowing what I know now, I have often wondered what I would say if I could meet the 14 year old me . . . what would I say to that young girl while she was still so innocent of “life experience?” . . . what Truth would I tell her before the lies have a chance to be spoken? . . .

    • Rebekah Grace February 11, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      And? You left me hanging *smile* Finish. Finish. Please finish.

      What a cool topic!!! I read a book a long time ago, by different contributing female authors (not a Christian book) who wrote a letter to their younger selves. Wish I could remember the title?? It was profound!

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      Wow, what would I tell my 14 year old self? Food for thought for sure…

  28. KatR February 11, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    How I dearly wish that I could get back my “purity years”. There is nothing that speaks to the control that I let others have over me more than the fact that they dictated what I got to do with my own body.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

      I think so many of us wish we could get some time back… time we feel was wasted needlessly. I look at the early days of my marriage and desperately wish I could do it over differently, but we can only go forward. Try to make decisions today that reflect who we are now and let the past go.

      • KatR February 11, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

        I read somewhere that forgiveness is the willingess to let go of the idea that the past could be any different. I am SO not there yet. I am millions of miles from there.

  29. LaughingMouse February 11, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    Not only do I agree with pretty much every other commenter, I can only hope that this message begins to truly SWEEP through our churches and youth groups. I can’t comprehend at what point fearmongering became the “best” way to teach our young people. I can only pray that we do teach them the love, the boundaries, the emotional attachment your brain makes (through inescapable chemical reactions) to every person you have sex with, and that yes, sex before/outside of marriage can cause scars and issues, BUT if you do go down that road, there Is Still GRACE for you!

    Keep writing!

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

      AMEN! (And thank you!)

  30. Sheila February 11, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Emily,
    Thank you so much for this. The whole time I read it I just saying yes, I totally relate!!!I always love to read your blog posts. God has given you such an amazing gift! What a huge blessing you are to so many!
    Paul and I struggled with this too! In some ways I think I will always struggle with it. It is easier now after being married for 11 years and getting better all the time. It is such a HUGE responsiblity to teach and guide young people and I think some may take it way to lightly and feel that because they are young they wont remember or are not paying attention to wha tis being said. Little do they know we were listening and remember everything! And they don`t realize the true impact of what is being said.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

      Sheila, as someone who was (quite literally!) right there in that group with me, it’s so validating that I’m not the only one who walked away wounded by that. I appreciate your words more than you can know. Thank you so, so much.

      • Sheila February 11, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

        I remember all of the talks we were given.:)lol! Though I do understnad the message that was trying to be sent, looking back, I think maybe there could have been another way. Honestly, (I hope he doesnt mind me sharing this) Paul and I did have to deal with the fact that when we got married one of us could not say that we had waited. I can speak to the fact that it was difficult to deal with. But, b/c of our love and the fact that God was the center of our marriage an drelationship from day one, we worked through it. In our relationship we were pure before God:) So , like I said, I can kinda understand what they were trying to say about the “ghosts of our past”, but I just dont think its right to scare someone so much that it affects the rest of their life so profoundly in a bad way. I hope that makes sense:) I always learn so much from reading your posts. keep it up!

  31. tiny twig February 11, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    been there. am there. :) it’s especially crazy when your husband was your boyfriend at the time of those messages–and you danced the dance of maintaining purity then during your teen years, only to be allowed the fulfillment of intimacy in marriage. it’s a strange transition, and i’m not through it even 5 years into our marriage. husband doesn’t have the same issues with it that i do…is it harder for women to shake?

    • KatR February 11, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      I don’t think the whole “wait” message is aimed at men quite the same way as its aimed as women. I’ve never heard of a “purity ball” where mothers vow to guard the virtue of their sons until they are handed over to their wives.

      • Nish February 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

        Amen and amen.

        I was once told that women have too much power over men with the use of seduction and our bodies, so we need to hide it and lock it away to protect our brothers in Christ.

        Yeah.

        • tiny twig February 13, 2011 at 6:52 am #

          yeah, i bought into that lie for a long time. i guess it’s hard to maintain respect for men when you feel like you have to lessen yourself to make it easier for them. i’m all for modesty, but i’m also all for self-control. the two MUST go hand in hand. our daughters (not that i have any…i speak in a whole church sense), must not feel like the sole gate-keepers and the purity-protectors in relationships.

    • Melissa Brotherton February 11, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

      My husband and I began dating when we were 17. We went through the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” years and into the “True Love Waits” years. People questioned why we were dating, and wanted to know if we planned on getting married. I love the church. I’m grateful for the church. I am grieved by the church. We rush our youth into marriage and commitment before they are ready, because of our fear of the world. My oldest is 6, I am already worried about how to address dating, sex, masturbating, lust, porn and all the rest in a non-guilting but honest way. God give me grace, because I know I could easily fall into the same mistakes those made with me.

      • Sheila February 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

        I read that book too:) Its funny that you bring up the rushing. I was just talking to a friend who recently got a divorce after being married for over 10 years. She made the comment that she wonders at times if they would have even gotten married if they hade not been so pressured to because of the fear that they might just slip up and have sex before marriage. I do understand and totally agre with waiting, but just thought that it was kinda a sad and food for thought worthy statement

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

      I didn’t really address that, but actually our stories are so similar! My husband and I dated in high school (he was my only boyfriend, ever, actually) and we walked that thin line of purity together as well. I think it probably feeds into that more than in other relationships. It’s all: no, no, no for literally years and then one short ceremony and now it should be yes, yes, yes all the time!

      And I agree, it’s not nearly as difficult for him as it was (is) for me.

      • tiny twig February 13, 2011 at 6:54 am #

        yeah, i think you also can carry some of those unhealthy habits/roles into marriage when you are constantly walking that line. it’s just rough, but i don’t know of a better way to do it. we got married young, too. :) 20 and 21.

  32. Julie Todd February 11, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    I’ve been married almost 28 years now… I can still see the attacks the enemy tries to bring against the intimate relationship with my husband. In my opinion, it is viciously attacked. For many years we didn’t really notice the enemy behind the attacks on our intimacy. But think about it. There is nothing more beautiful than two becoming one in a marriage.

    Those scare tactics were never intended to be given from God’s heart. The church has misused materials and misrepresented the heart of God.

    It was God who made sex as a gift. He called it beautiful. What God calls good IS good. We don’t hear enough about that.

    I didn’t hear the guilt messages from the church about sex. I heard it about other things, like the quiet time and prayer and tithing, birth control. They’ve done their damage on me. But God is redeeming it all.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      You are right on so many counts here: I do think that Satan attacks our marriages in subtle ways, and this is such an easy in for him to spread fear and separation. AND yes, often times fear and guilt are used to push other things as well. All good thoughts here.

  33. Sarah@EmergingMummy February 11, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    So, so, so good! I loved Lauren’s comment about about how we motivate by guilt because we ourselves don’t understand the motivation of Love.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Thank you sweet Sarah. I loved her words as well.

  34. Amy Sullivan February 11, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Love that you speak up on a topic so many ignore. Thank you for your honesty.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

      Thank you! It is so wonderful to receive warm welcome here.

  35. Vicki Fourie February 11, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    I also wore a purity ring for so many years… Thank you for bringing this topic into light. I can identify.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      So glad to hear that from so many today… it’s good to not feel so alone, isn’t it?

  36. Sharone February 11, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    This is such a huge problem, and I’m so glad we’re talking about it. This attitude toward sex ruins lives, ruins marriages, drives people away from God and the church. Christians get so caught up in rules, especially about sex. There’s so much anger about it, and it’s so twisted. I’ve seen inquisitions, friends being encouraged to report on one another, forced, public shaming disguised as “our brother has something he needs to confess.” Maybe the shaming and accusations about sex aren’t as overt in other places, but the same *spirit* is present, and it’s deadly destructive.

    We load the idea of sex with so much guilt and shame, so that people are ashamed to admit they even have (perfectly normal) sexual desires, while promising at the same time that marital sex is going to be so fulfilling it will be worth the wait–without giving ourselves the tools or mindset that will allow us to make it so. Under the current system, all we’re doing is setting ourselves up for disaster, disappointment, and broken hearts.

    How can people learn to have healthy sex lives in marriage in this world? I agree with so many of the other commenters who write that the focus needs to shift from fear and condemnation to grace and love, and that we need to turn from the physical implications of sex to the emotional ones–not in a fearful way, but in a way that communicates that we are created with incredible value. That what we think and want for ourselves is important enough to stand up for. That our hearts and lives are unique and precious and worth protecting. And that God’s redemptive power is bigger than any mistakes we make. It’s so vital, and so, *so* far overdue.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

      “We load the idea of sex with so much guilt and shame, so that people are ashamed to admit they even have (perfectly normal) sexual desires, while promising at the same time that marital sex is going to be so fulfilling it will be worth the wait–without giving ourselves the tools or mindset that will allow us to make it so. Under the current system, all we’re doing is setting ourselves up for disaster, disappointment, and broken hearts.”

      YES. You said it perfectly. We felt like the butt of some bad joke on our honeymoon.

  37. Miranda February 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I can relate. It scares me how much I can relate.
    It is so not fair to my husband for me to think this way about sex. Why it’s hard for me to just let go.
    All I want to do is just let go …

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

      I have been there and AM there Miranda. There is hope and it can get better. Don’t give up!

  38. Melissa February 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Beautifully put.. Leaders need to remember that grace is what needs to flow from the pulpit and the youth ministry..instruction, yes. But, grace is what sticks.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

      Grace is what sticks… Yes exactly!

  39. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Wow…I have never, in all my years as a Christian and writer and reader, heard someone talk about this.I didn’t know anyone else felt like this. Thank you.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

      I’m hearing it more and more. I think we all just felt like, “It must just be me. I must just be sexually defective.” The first conversation I had with a friend with similar experiences left me weeping… just to not feel alone was so comforting.

      • Genevieve Thul @ Turquoise Gates February 16, 2011 at 9:53 am #

        The “I must be sexually defective” works both ways. I have a husband who was exposed to the True Love Waits (in different, Catholic form) and came to marriage with certain expectations of what is “normal” for a woman in terms of desire and freedom and passion. Well, I was raised by two very honest, sex-loving Christian hippies, so I didn’t feel any need to fit what I’d heard preached about at church – men are light switches, women are crockpots, that sort of thing. I have always been willing and ready with no warm-up time, which scared my husband off and had HIM thinking “she must be sexually defective”. This hurt me deeper than anything else I’ve experienced in life, and nearly tore our marriage apart because I had to put my sexuality under wraps to please my husband. So AFTER marriage, my sexuality got the label of bad, dirty, out of control, you name it. Obviously, I wasn’t a “good girl” after all. (so I thought)

        It took a crazy intensive marriage course on sex with Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill), counseling, and an amazing group therapy course for those with sexual “wounds” in their past (offered through a church) before he has finally decided to see himself as blessed instead of hunted! LOL I am happy to say that after 7 years of shame and guilt and 2 years of working on this, we are slowly getting to the same page. I sense huge blessings ahead for our sex life as we near the 10 year mark for our marriage.

  40. Hillary @ The Other Mama February 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Emily,
    This is awesome. Your honesty and bravery, that is. And really well-written post. Just wonderful.
    The topic and subject matter, though, is tough. My husband and I teach a course through our church to middle schoolers that is fabulous. It’s called Christian View of Sex and teaches them about sex, how it’s intended, that it is beautiful and wonderful, etc. I feel like the church teaches many things well: giving, volunteering, teaching, casserole baking (:-)), but we just completely ignore sex in and out of marriage.
    One of the girls who was participating in this weekend a few years ago as a friend of a girl in our youth group left this comment on her evaluation: “I was afraid this whole weekend was going to be about why sex was bad and that we were going to hell if we had sex before marriage. So glad it wasn’t. Thanks for making the weekend fun.” That really made my day and I wish I would have had something that was relevant, not scary and actually informative on an information level like that as a teenager.
    Love you to bits. You are awesome. (Did I say that already? Bears repeating. :)

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

      I’m so encouraged by what you and your church are doing Hilary! Seriously it gives me so much hope for the next generation. I wish I’d had something like that as well.
      And I think you’re pretty awesome too. ;)

    • Sharone February 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      I love hearing stories about people who are working hard to make things different for the next generation. I’m encouraged by this, and that the kids were so responsive. I wish I would have had something like this too, rather than just what we heard in youth group (a version of True Love Waits minus the scary pictures, but no less informative), which was often seen as opposed to and in conflict with what we were taught in sex ed at school.

  41. We are THAT family February 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Girl-I could have written this post–True Love Waits and all.
    Only we needed a manual [with pictures] on our wedding night.
    This needs to be talked about correctly. Especially in church.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

      Oooohhh, Kristen. The stories we could swap. HA!

  42. anna February 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    You are all so smart. I was blessed by this post, and by the comments. I love what Melissa said about grace vs scary pictures – ‘grace is what sticks’. Lovely. True.

    My husband and I were asked to speak on this very topic last week to 6th-7th graders. They giggled when we opened with the story about how, the morning after our wedding, our best man texted my husband and said, ‘How was your night? ;)’ My sweet husband replied, ‘sex rules’ =) We did our darndest to lift sex up as a gift FROM God, one that He created, and that things work best when used by design (especially when He is the designer). After our talk, a group of girls kept me for a long time, asking honest questions.

    I wish I had had that experience when I was in 6th grade. I do believe this kind of honesty and truth sharing could have prevented lies from infiltrating our marriage bed. So thankful that I am not alone, and I commit to praying for all of us struggling with residual shame from well-meaning people.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      Me too, Anna, me too! Oh to have had honest conversation in a loving way in jr. high. Thank you for reaching out to those girls, I know they’ll be changed by that.

  43. Jessica February 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    This is brave and good. I’m glad I didn’t have the youth group experience growing up (even the little I did have was no fun).

    Sex was a topic my parents weren’t afraid to talk about. You see, my mom was 3 months pregnant when she walked down the aisle. Even as awkward as it is to have your mom talk openly about sex it was good. She talked about how sex was a good & fun thing, but outside of marriage there were consequences that could alter your life. The church’s attitude could use a facelift and I’m glad you were willing to share.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

      My parents didn’t really contribute to this line of thinking, I think they just didn’t realize the extent of what was being taught in church. We just didn’t really talk about stuff like that at home.

      Makes me want to try harder to have those tough conversations, even when they are awkward.

      • Sheila February 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

        I know this may sound silly to some but Ill say it anyways. As you know Emily, I did not grow up in a Christian home AT ALL, so you can only imagine the stories I heard. all that to say. My parents were very open with me about the sturggles in their lives and the mistakes they made. Sometimes they told us more than we wanted to hear but it did help to not only help us realize not to follow that same path but to see that they are humans too. Now that my dad is gone I cherish those lessons. Paul and I plan on being honest with our kids about the tough stuff. I dont think it does them any favors by making it out to be like we dont and havent struggled

  44. Frelle February 11, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your heart. So brave, to talk about shame. So powerful to speak to its undoing, and how the message in your head that affects your heart is being changed.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      “to speak shame’s undoing” I love that. Thank you Frelle.

  45. Arianne February 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    {standing and slowly clapping}

    You.
    This.

    Wow.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

      High praise indeed, Ari. I respect you so much, friend. Thank you.

  46. Kathy February 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    Emily,
    Thank you for this post. This kind of teaching has no place in the church which is meant to be a place of love and forgiveness, and hope. A wife to an ex-youth pastor I remember many long evenings talking with our youth about sex, about relationships, how we tried to be so open about our own failure to wait until marriage and the difficulties that were caused by us trying so hard not to have sex again so that when we were finally married and “allowed” I found it so hard.
    Sex and marital relationships have become such a taboo in church, much to my sorrow. I believe it is hurting more than helping, this refusal to talk about it at all except to guilt people, to lay down the fear.

    Thank you for sharing part of your story and opening up this discussion.

    • Emily February 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      I agree, the lack of honest conversations about tough ideas IS hurting more than it’s helping. The discussion here today is blowing me away! Thank you for joining.

  47. QuatroMama February 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Emily, thank you for your boldness and sweet honesty.
    It’s powerful.

    No guilt of life, no fear in death
    This is the power of Christ in me
    From life’s first cry to final breath
    Jesus commands my destiny
    No power of hell, no scheme of man
    Can ever pluck me from His hand
    ‘til He returns or calls me home
    Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

  48. Crystal February 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    I agree w/everything you said! What a shame that the church has failed so greatly in discussing something so vital!

    I remember reading an article recently that discussed the importance of parents showing affection in front of their children. Not just looking like roommates or buddies, but letting your kids see a tad of the passionate spark (nothing inappropriate, of course.) The world preaches that premarital sex is awesome, and marital sex is dull and boring–all romance gone when you say “I do.” It said that if you let your kids see you in love the right way, when the world tempts them with superficial pleasures, they’ll be able to say, “no thanks, I want what my parents have.”

    Praying the Lord give me the ability to guide my babies to a healthy understanding of one of His most precious gifts.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 5:29 am #

      I think that’s an important thought… showing our kids what the marriage relationship should look like. Such a big job, and it needs to be handled to carefully.

  49. Leah W. February 11, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    Know what I think?

    The whole “True Love Waits” program — subjecting an entire generation to such ridiculous and truly debilitating nonsense — is more shameful than sex before marriage. I truly believe that. The good intentions behind it mean nothing. Don’t forget what the road to hell is paved with.

    Love you, friend! Thanks for talking about this on the interwebs of all places. God knows somebody needs to.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 5:34 am #

      “don’t for get what the road to hell is paved with” Love it! Clearly, I couldn’t agree with you more.

      Yeah, a few years ago, if you’d asked if I would share this out loud much less online I would have laughed at you. I’m finding it’s so much better to stop pretending that just because we learned it at church, it’s true. You know?

      Love you too, Leah!

  50. Rena February 11, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Powerful! So true. Those things that can happen to us when we choose that path. But they are consequences. The reason why we should choose or want our kids to choose is because His plan is good. His plan rocks! His way is better. His laws, they are fences to protect us just as ours are for our children. But the reason why . . . Well, He has something so profoundly good, so amazing in store that it must be protected. We should shout it from the rooftops. And not to leave the rest undone but to tell our kids it’s beyond wonderful! His plan for sex–it’s amazing! I only wish someone had told me.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 5:35 am #

      Yep, me too Rena! Me. too.

  51. Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms February 11, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    I’m with Ari.

    Clearly you’ve struck a chord, my dear. Bravely and beautifully done.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 5:36 am #

      I’m still a little tempted to snatch it back, you know? But I think too many people have seen it now. ;)

      Seriously, thank you, Kristen. Your words mean so much.

  52. Christan/MamaBearPing February 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    This post, and the comments are so intriguing to me.
    I too grew up with that message . . . and I didn’t listen. I didn’t wait. I still regret it to this day.
    My husband had waited for me. And when we decided to date seriously, I shared with him my past. He still loved me, still forgave, still married me.
    I would agree with the statements saying that God restores. He does. Oh, he takes the broken pieces of a heart torn by fleshly desires and mends them together with his love.
    But I can’t say that it doesn’t hurt. Because it does.

    However, I must also add this: when my husband and I said I do, when it was finally ok to consummate our love, and when we did . . . we felt no shame. We rejoiced that it was right and good and wonderful and made for the confines of the marriage bed. It saddens me greatly to know that others have carried misplaced and false shame into the marriage bed.

    My children are young. I don’t know what I’m going to tell them, how I’m going to explain the importance of chastity. I just know that I will. This is why laying a foundation for truthful conversation with my wee ones is so important now. So that when it comes time to talk about the difficult things, like sex, they will know that I am telling them the truth, that they can believe me when I say, “It’s much better to wait.”

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 5:38 am #

      Thank you for sharing your heart, your story here, Christan. And how to talk to our kids… phew… that’s so tough. I can only hope to do it justice when that time comes.

  53. Kamille February 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    so many women in the church have dealt with this. I think where I’ve come to is how to talk about masturbation with my daughter who is younger. She is sensing that there is shame with it, because we have come into the room after she has and ran away. I feel like there is a similar task at hand with what you write about and what parents teach their young children about masturbation. How do we teach against shame, yet uphold purity? Prayer–lots and lots of prayer to guide us.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 5:41 am #

      Oh gosh, Kamille, I’m all squirmy/embarrassed just thinking about THAT conversation. Shows how deep the negative programing goes, huh? Another tough topic…

  54. Melinda February 12, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    I just wanted to say that this statement: “you will never have a healthy marriage with all those ghosts of partners past weighing on your conscience” was also a struggle for me. I didn’t wait. I thought I was going to marry the guy, but ended up realizing that wasn’t a good idea. When I met my husband, I thought he would never want to date me because of my past. Thankfully, he did. We will celebrate our 14th anniversary in March, and while our marriage isn’t “perfect,” I would say it is very much healthy. We’ve learned a lot.

    Thank you for such an interesting article. I know I will be considering my words with my two daughters when we talk about this from now on.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 9:42 am #

      Oh thank you for sharing that Melinda! Of course, we all make mistakes, but to say there are some you’ll NEVER recover from? I just don’t buy it. I’m sorry I ever did. Grateful to hear about your marriage.

  55. sadly there remains much gnostic heresy within the Church (body bad! spirit good!), and these true love waits false teachings are but one strain. the crazy thing is, we have the Truth! God created sexuality and covenant marriage, and he wants the best for us. why then do we fall back on such a hurtful, hole-filled narrative?

    i took students to a local TLW-style event that received federal funding in the name of abstinence-only education, and it was even worse–deceptive fear mongering with the grace of the gospel completely stripped for government handouts.

    my husband and i thankfully did not experience the shame that so many share here, but we did fall prey to the other lie–that those who wait are rewarded with perfect fantasy sex.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 9:44 am #

      You make such an excellent point with all of your comment but especially that last sentence. That’s something my husband has really struggled with.

    • tiny twig February 13, 2011 at 11:43 am #

      i think that lie is two sides of the same coin. i felt both misplaced weirdness about the sudden allowance of intimacy–and totally jipped that what we DID have was far short of the “it’s gonna be so great you’re gonna have to chug gallons of gatorade on your honeymoon, if you wait” kind of sex. and yes, that was a line from a pastor speaking on sex.

      what we did have was great–but it’s no better to tell students/teens that sex is AMAZING if you are also loading it up with shame.

  56. Chalena February 12, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    This is why it is so very important for Strong, Christ-Centered Women to mentor and encourage other women in marriage. If we as women who have experienced this, turn the page and direct toward how Christ intended marriage, how many wonderful, healthy and fulfilled marriages would there be to glorify God? Take a chance and encourage!

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 9:44 am #

      Amen! I hope more women are inspired to do just that.

  57. Anna February 12, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Emily, Thanks for this. I’m right there with you. Even though I actually spent 11 years in youth ministry and was adamant about approaching topics of sex from a positive perspective, worked to ingrain in the kids that God created sex and it is beautiful, we just have to be careful with it because it’s so powerful, and all that, I then got married and still struggled because that fear/shame combination is so hard to get over. Almost 5 years in and finally doing better, fortunately, I have an awesome understanding husband.

    • Emily February 12, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      Anna, I’m so happy to hear that there ARE youth programs that are trying to talk about sex in the correct way. Thank you for sharing here, I’m so glad to hear that you are pressing through too.

  58. april kennedy February 12, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    I can’t help but comment. So many times it was quoted as ‘the church’s teachings’. I truly believe that ‘the church’ or God has never portrayed sex before marriage as gross, debilitating, or dirty. People do. People that go to church. God has always portrayed it as a sacred, beautiful act between a man and a woman married in holy matrimony. It’s purpose to multiple and replenish the earth and to bring a husband and wife closer than any two other beings can be.

    When the issues of sex {and even masturbation} was ever approached with our daughter {our son is too young still} we simple addressed both as sacred feelings and acts that were to be saved until after marriage. And in doing so would keep them a beautiful and sacred experience that you share with the one you have commited to spend eternity with.

    With that said, and raised with the same belief as I shared above, I still did struggle a bit with feelings of ‘really….its OK to do this now?!’

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I hope that people can learn to teach the gospel as God intended it to be taught…not as people intend. But unfortunately we are human and all need God’s grace.

    • KatR February 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

      What is the difference between “the church” and “the people who go the church”? Without the people, you have no church. “The church” does nothing except through people, does it?

    • Emily @ The Pilot's Wife February 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

      I think you make a good point, April. It’s certainly broken people passing on broken messages. It’s time for “the Church” to redeem it though.

  59. Megan February 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. All I was ever taught is that “good girls don’t want it” and that it was shameful and wrong to have sexual desires. Had anyone ever said to me, “You are going to want to have sex, and that is normal and good,” and then given me ideas about how to save myself anyway, I think I would have made different choices. Since I believed to my core that good girls don’t want it, and I did want it, I believed I wasn’t a “good girl,” and figured it didn’t matter anyway.

    Which now, reflecting back, and thinking about how my consequences have been relational with husband, I would do anything to go back and teach my teen self differently.

    • Emily February 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      Good point Megan! I didn’t mention that, and I don’t know that I ever heard anyone actually *say* that, but I certainly received that message as well.

  60. Alyssa Agee February 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    Thank you for such a raw and honest post about a struggle that so many experience and it just isn’t talked about all that often. It brings to mind my own questions about sensuality, the body and faith…in particular my personal studies on the traditions of Christianity from the 10th century onward. The root of these questions about sex and how Christ-followers talk about it, teach on it and live out our beliefs can be traced back hundreds of years to the Middle Ages where virginity became more valued than marriage and where the Church degraded sex and labeled it earthly (and thus sinful). This is not a cultural phenomenon of Western Christianity in the 21st century….we are carrying on a tradition that has been passed down for centuries and the current practice is to lump these negative views of sex into abstinence education. It is time for women to be raising up the next generation of women to embrace the bodies God has given us and to anticipate the breathtaking beauty of sexual intimacy with our spouse.

  61. Lindsey van Niekerk February 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    I love that you talked about this topic. It was something that I realized somewhere along the path in my 20′s as a single Christian adult — so my kids think SEX is a dirty word. I thank God OFTEN for a mom who never painted that picture and who answered my questions with love & respect along the way….the door was always open and I wasn’t afraid to ask her things.

    About 5 years ago during my time youth pastoring with my husband, I wanted the girls under my care to have a “positive” few of sex so on a retreat weekend, that was one of our sessions for “just girls.” The girls were SUPER attentive and I felt good about their response and attitude. When I got back one of the ladies that worked with me whose 13 year old daughter had attended asked me, “What did you tell my daughter about sex?” I asked her why…was something wrong. She said, “My daughter said, ‘Lindsey says sex is great and after I get married, I can have as much as I want!” Although slightly exaggerated in her 13 year old mind, I chuckled to myself that the message was clear….so I said to her mom, “At least she remembered AFTER she gets married, right? :)”

    Another one of those girls is getting married in 3 months and it has been a joy that she feels that she can come to me to ask me the questions like “Is oral sex wrong?” “Will it hurt?” “How long does ‘it’ really last?” and much more.

    I pray that through your courage to share that we will raise up a new generation of women who not only walk in purity in their singleness but excitement for the future of what God has in store for them in marriage…so beautiful and fun in His time!

    Thanks for your openness and honesty on this not-so-easy topic!!

    • Lindsey van Niekerk February 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

      “I love that you talked about this topic. It was something that I realized somewhere along the path in my 20′s as a single Christian adult — so my kids think SEX is a dirty word.”

      CORRECTION: ….so many women/church people/teenagers/etc think SEX is a dirty word

  62. Hope February 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    I hope you don’t mind a single young woman commenting on this post…I was engaged to be married last June; I ended the engagement because he was completely the wrong guy for me. However, when I was still engaged, I would freak out on a regular basis about the concept of sex. I have been told my entire life it’s BAD DIRTY SHAMEFUL GUILTY DONT DO IT DONT DO IT and all of a sudden, once I had a ring on my finger, it was all systems (almost) go?!?! That sort of teaching…it’s bewildering. (ps, I was 23 then, I’m now 24).

    I still cannot think of sex as something God created and calls God. It makes me NOT want to wait for marriage because…what’s the big deal? what’s the ‘piece of paper’? And look where all the fuss about “waiting” has gotten me: fearful. I don’t know what to do with these feelings.

    • Emily @ The Pilot's Wife March 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

      Hope– Of course I don’t mind you commenting! You are always welcome here. And I completely get where you’re coming from. The truth is, there are a multitude of good reasons to take care with your sex life, but none of them should be that debilitating guilt.

      • Hope March 1, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

        Thank you so much, Emily, for your welcoming, supportive reply. It truly means a lot. Thank you for the encouragement to think some more about the reasons behind decisions regarding sex.

  63. Christie February 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    Like Lindsey, I am was able to share about how beautiful sex is. My husband and I are former youth leaders. While working with the high schoolers, I was astonished to learn that some of them knew NOTHING about sex. Many at our church homeschool, and the teens simply were never exposed to anything about sex. Without going into graphic detail (out of respect for our husbands), my best friend and I met with the teen girls at our church to share about how amazing and holy sex within God’s law can be. We wanted to give these girls the viewpoint of how it’s something so sweet, so perfect, but so work waiting for with the one person God has for each one of them. We welcomed questions, and I look forward to the day when one of them pulls me aside with more personal questions. I will always be grateful for a dear, already married friend who gave me some hand towels as a bridal gift with the explanation of “sex can be messy.” I truly had no idea, and would have probably been scared had she not shared that wisdom with me! Sex is a gift of God for married couples.
    I too had a negative connotation of sex, and struggled for some time after marriage because of similar scare tactics.

  64. Lauren February 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Sex is the most beautiful and amazing gift God has given us! It’s such a powerful gift exchanged by a couple that binds them together of such a deeper level…It is truly sad the the Church doesn’t teach of it’s beauty and the creativeness that ensues. I love sex, I love sex with my husband…I love it because God gave us this gift to cherish, love and engage in it.

  65. Jenny Lynn February 14, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I feel like I just read something I could have written.[well, not so eloquently]. I have struggled with this. My husband and I have struggled with my feelings of guilt and shame. Just months ago did we really start working towards overcoming this and allowing me to understand, not just in my head – which I’ve known all along, but in my heart, in my soul, that it is beautiful.

  66. KK February 14, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Back again to tell you thank you for your transparency. The rawness of these emotions is not easy to take head-on, so you should know that your bravery in putting heart to paper (well, blog) is appreciated and needed.
    I credit my mostly-healthy view of sex in marriage to my mother. She was honest, gentle yet bold with her words, crafting for me a picture of freedom, acceptance, trust, love and the absolute gift that sex can be for man and his mate. What I didn’t know before getting married, however, is how that same lie you speak of would come to haunt me, though not quite in the same regard.
    My sweet spouse made many mistakes before having his heart won over by Christ, searching for Love in the arms of women. His pattern resulted in a son at age 17. It’s sad for his loss of innocence, and hers, and more tragic that he suffers the consequences of not knowing this sweet boy. I thought I had come to grips with everything, that I was ready to take on marriage with my scarred, yet healed, husband.
    And yet, in an instant, as we lay in the sacred space of our marriage bed, the words of my youth came rushing back to me: “He’ll never ever forget those women. He sees you, but he’s thinking of them. You are NOT the only one.” Though my heart knew he was covered in grace, my head brought those women to this most personal part of our lives. Though my spouse had staked a claim of renewal in his life, mind, even sexuality, some part of me refused to trust him as if he were actually free. He tried with words and actions to assure me that the past was indeed the past, but often to no avail. It brought tears, tension, and mistrust, and it took a while for me to realize that I was working with doubled effort to dig up what he and God had made a pact to bury, all because someone told me it was so. Someone well-intentioned with protecting my purity, I know, but nonetheless, the lie robbed me of taking part of the grace that is my spouse’s story, of getting to be a part of the victory that is the healing love of Christ. It still haunts me on occasion, but I pray one day I’ll accept the freedom from it that I’ve already been given.

    Oh, and my apologies for the world’s longest comment. :)

    • Emily @ The Pilot's Wife February 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

      No apology needed friend. Thank you for sharing! Praying that we will both accept the freedom, the grace we’ve already been given.

  67. Genevieve Thul @ Turquoise Gates February 16, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    I read about half-way through Dobson’s Bringing up Girls and then chucked it. In the garbage. {this probably brands me as a bad Christian in most circles} I’m not even going to donate it so some other mom can read it. My girls will never wear a “purity ring” as many of my friends did. And their dad, who is heavy on the common sense and owns a lot of shot guns, won’t be their first date. Their dad will always be their dad, and never their stand-in for future lovers. If you make dad the stand-in, then when the vows are said, part of who he is to you disappears. If he is just a good dad, one you would be broken-hearted to disappoint, then he can stay exactly who he is for the rest of your life. I am never one to say what the Christian “community” should or should not do. Because, after all, we are individuals, free in Christ. But as for our family, I hope my daughters lie on their wedding night thinking about what has been ADDED to their lives through this miraculous event, not what has been forever lost.

    • Kelsey February 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

      Thank you! I know exactly what you are talking about. The other idea that i have heard time and time again is that the boy has to ask the girl’s father to take her on a date. In all honestly my parents welcomed my friends into our lives and if i was interested in someone enough to go on a date with them, I usually didn’t have to tell my parents, they already knew and respected and trusted me to let me make that choice on my own

      What is even better then the millions of books written on the dos and don’ts of dating is the Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II. I have never sat down with his original text but have found a great resource of unlocking the theology is talks and studies put together by Christopher West.

      • Tammy February 19, 2011 at 11:31 am #

        Kelsey,
        THANK YOU for mentioning Theology of the Body…it is a beautiful edifying fear-free teaching that most of Christendom has not scratched the surface of. FOr anyone who has not heard of it, do a google search and listen to online stuff, its beautiful.

        I taught my kids a healthy “sex is beautiful but its better to wait” concept and for a while, I walked around as proud as a peacock because my 20something son gave chastity talks. He went into a deep depression and all his values were questioned in the midst of the chaos and darkness he was in. He failed out of college (blowing $75,000) and became sexually active. His partner became pregnant. God draws straight with crooked lines and she turned out to be a truly lovely young woman. They had the little guy on Dec 20th and he is a dear…they live in our house (2 separate bedrooms) and are working at building a life together. My son is not well enough yet to be a fully functioning husband or father, but he is going in that direction.

        • Tammy February 19, 2011 at 11:38 am #

          Please let me add that my foolish pride in having raised a ‘perfect’ son was replaced by a much deeper pride at seeing my son and his beloved do the right thing despite lots of hurdles and seeing my son fight back through his disease. I was so humbled when I realized how much I took credit for his early success, it wasnt mine to claim.

  68. Meg February 22, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    Thank you SO much for sharing this. I thought I was the only one. I thought I was messed up. I have experienced the exact same thing for over 3 years of marriage now, and it has almost ruined us. So good to know I’m not alone.

  69. DeAnn February 22, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Very precious and brave for you to put this story “out there”. My husband and I were pressured to have our now adult children attend a true love waits session at our church … we said no way and were tagged as liberals … we just didn’t feel right about having them “promise” beyond their maturity level. I am very appreciative to see this from your perspective.
    ~DeAnn

  70. Katie February 24, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    I believe that Satan will do whatever he can to get us into bed before marriage and he will try anyway he can to keep us out of bed once we are married.

    Thank you for writing. You have given a voice to so many of us.

  71. priest's wife February 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    beautiful post…my husband is my only and there has never been guilt or fear- it is such a balance to encourage waiting but also to keep sex positive- but it worked for me!

  72. didigal June 6, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Hi Emily. I was linked to this article, by a lady named, Lauren Nicole. I’m a Nigerian, and a Christain. I’ve been in several relationships, and each time they end, I promise myself, no more sex until marriage. but I don’t end up keeping my promise. My last relationship left me devastated because in my heart, he was already my husband, I acted as “wife”, and generally just felt “wifey”. Now, I feel like I might not get a man to love me as I should because of all the stuff I have allowed myself to do. This article just helps to see why I felt I had to give sex to all these men. Thank you

  73. Grace January 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    Well, this post is pretty old so I don’t know if this comment will ever get read. I still wanted to say thank you though for your vulnerability and honesty sharing on this topic. It touched me greatly because I struggle with the same thing. I am even more ashamed now to say that my husband and I have been married over a year and a half and still have not had sex due partially to that brainwashing contributing to a physical and emotional condition preventing me from being able to. Though my case is severe, I am glad to know I’m not alone in the feelings.

    • Emily @ The Pilot's Wife January 6, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      Grace,

      I still see all the comments!

      Thank you for bravely sharing a bit of your story. My prayers are with you as you continue to wrestle with this.

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