I am damaged goods.

by Sarah Bessey

glass of water


I was nineteen years old and crazy in love with Jesus when that preacher told an auditorium I was “damaged goods” because of my sexual past. He was making every effort to encourage this crowd of young adults to “stay pure for marriage.” He was passionate, yes, well-intentioned, and he was a good speaker, very convincing indeed.

And he stood up there and shamed me, over and over and over again.

Oh, he didn’t call me up to the front and name me. But he stood up there and talked about me with such disgust, like I couldn’t be in that real-life crowd of young people worshipping in that church. I felt spotlighted and singled out amongst the holy, surely my red face announced my guilt to every one.

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.”

Over the years the messages melded together into the common refrain: “Sarah, your virginity was a gift and you gave it away. You threw away your virtue for a moment of pleasure. You have twisted God’s ideal of sex and love and marriage. You will never be free of your former partners, the boys of your past will haunt your marriage like soul-ties. Your virginity belonged to your future husband. You stole from him. If – if! – you ever get married, you’ll have tremendous baggage to overcome in your marriage, you’ve ruined everything. No one honourable or godly wants to marry you. You are damaged goods, Sarah.”

If true love waits, I heard, then I have been disqualified from true love.

In the face of our sexually-dysfunctional culture, the Church longs to stand as an outpost of God’s ways of love and marriage, purity and wholeness.

And yet we twist that until we treat someone like me – and, according to this research, 80% of you are like me –  as if our value and worth was tied up in our virginity.

We, the majority non-virgins in the myopic purity conversations,  feel like the dirty little secret, the not-as-goods, the easily judged example.  In this clouded swirl of shame, our sexual choices are the barometer of our righteousness and worth. We can’t let any one know, so we keep it quiet, lest any one discover we were not virgins on some mythic wedding night. We don’t want to be the object of disgust or pity or gossip or judgement. And in the silence, our shame – and the lies of the enemy – grow.


And so here, now, I’ll stand up and say it, the way I wish someone had said it to me fifteen years ago when I was sitting in that packed auditorium with my heart racing, wrists aching, eyes stinging, drowning and silenced by the imposition of shame masquerading as ashes of repentance:

“So, you had sex before you were married.

It’s okay.

Really. It’s okay.

There is no shame in Christ’s love. Let him without sin cast the first stone. You are more than your virginity – or lack thereof – and more than your sexual past.

Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys you loved as a young woman. Your husband won’t hold it against you, he’s not that weak and ego-driven, choose a man marked by grace.

It’s likely you would make different choices, if you knew then what you know now, but, darling, don’t make it more than it is, and don’t make it less than it is. Let it be true, and don’t let anyone silence you or the redeeming work of Christ in your life out of shame.

Now, in Christ, you’re clear, like Canadian mountain water, rushing and alive, quenching and bracing, in your wholeness.

Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage. You don’t have to consign your sexuality to the box marked “Wrong.” Your very normal and healthy desires aren’t a switch to be flipped. Morality tales and false identities aren’t the stuff of a real marriage. Purity isn’t judged by outward appearances and technicalities. The sheep and the goats are not divided on the basis of their virginity. (Besides, this focus is weird and over-realized, it’s the flip side of the culture’s coin which values women only for their sexuality. It’s also damaging, not only for you, but for the virgins in the room, too. Really, there’s a lot of baggage from this whole purity movement heading out into the world.)

For I am convinced, right along with the Apostle Paul, that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any other power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.* Not even “neither virginity nor promiscuity” and all points between can separate you from this love. You are loved – without condition – beyond your wildest dreams already.

I would say: Sarah, your worth isn’t determined by your virginity. What a lie.

No matter what that preacher said that day, no matter how many purity balls are thrown with sparkling upper-middle-class extravagance, no matter the purity rings and the purity pledges, no matter the judgemental Gospel-negating rhetoric used with the best of intentions, no matter the “how close is too close?” serious conversations of boundary-marking young Christians, no matter the circumstances of your story, you are not disqualified from life or from joy or from marriage or from your calling or from a healthy and wonderful lifetime of sex because you had – and, heaven forbid, enjoyed – sex before you were married.

Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.”

image source, creative commons

Apostle Paul quote from Romans 8:38-39

Comments are now closed

454 Responses to “I am damaged goods.”

  1. Sarah Moon January 29, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    This is beautiful and affirming. People need to hear this.

    • Jim Fisher January 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      Agreed! With all my heart. I thank God that I had the balls to give my two daughters a very different message of how our sexuality fits into Creation. Have respect for it. Treat it as Holy and beautiful and part of the only commandment we had before the “fall”. It is the best of the best wine. Don’t chug it down like cheap booze. And don’t judge it as a cup full of spit.

  2. Alissa January 29, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    Eschet Chayil!

    I know this must have taken some serious guts to write, and I applaud you for speaking truth into such a big blackness.

    I was raised by atheists, and when I came to love Jesus when I was 17 the biggest thing holding me back from jumping in feet first was the Church’s fixation on sexuality. The youth pastor at my church’s wife gave a talk to the older girls every year in which she sat in front of us crying for an hour about how she threw away her virginity when she was in college and she had to live with that fact every day. How the guilt of it and the knowledge that she had tainted the marriage bed was something she would have to live with forever. And how much she owed her husband for taking her even though she was DAMAGED GOODS.

    And the second year I heard the speech I stood up and said “You need to accept the salvation Christ died to give you. Living in guilt every day and indebtedness to your husband is bullshit.” And then I walked out. And then everyone prayed for me and made excuses for my behavior by saying “she’s new”.

    And so when I read this I feel like cheering and touring you around the country to youth groups.

    Can your next book be “Jesus Sexuality”?

    • Kim January 29, 2013 at 5:04 am #

      Alissa, this is fantastic:

      And the second year I heard the speech I stood up and said “You need to accept the salvation Christ died to give you. Living in guilt every day and indebtedness to your husband is bullshit.”

      I love that you understood so early in your life and your faith what has taken some of us DECADES to understand.

      I wish I had been there to hug you and tell you how valorous you were after you walked out.

    • Lisa January 29, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      Alissa, I think I love you! :)

      This is an awesome story. Eschet Chayil! To you, and to Sarah, and to everyone who has the guts to speak out against this shaming obsession within the Church.

      • Jim Fisher January 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

        OMG! You (y’all) are giving me chills. Great words!

    • erin a. January 29, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      I love your response to second round of the speech. WISDOM!

    • Mistie Holler January 30, 2013 at 4:54 am #

      ‘And the second year I heard the speech I stood up and said “You need to accept the salvation Christ died to give you. Living in guilt every day and indebtedness to your husband is bullshit.”’

      I have a new hero.

    • Chris January 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      Thank you! Amen!

    • Grace February 10, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      “Can your next book be “Jesus Sexuality”?

      Oh dear, I hope not.

      …And the attitude of your youth pastor’s wife isn’t “bull****” (you said that in church?): she’s sharing a very painful truth with you, at great emotional cost to herself, yet you are too proud and self-righteous to accept it — and you even attack her faith by telling her, “You need to accept the salvation Christ died to give you”. (Honestly, which of you needs most to examine their faith here?!) …And everyone here says “go, girl!” and tells you that this was somehow brave! The woman whose words you scornfully dismissed as “bull****” was the brave one here: any brat can swear and storm out.

      Refraining from sex before marriage will not save you — no more than refraining from murder will. But it is nevertheless the right thing to do (and it’s hardly onerous). We are to be salt and light in an evil world, rather than to say, “yeah whatever” and follow the culture.

      I have sexual sin in my past: I would *love* not to have. And yes, I know what it’s like when it’s mentioned — to wish the ground would open up beneath you before anyone can see your red face. But it’s the consequence of our sin — even though the penalty for that sin has been paid. Do we just say nothing about just how bad fornication is (God’s Word is full of dire warnings about it), and instead leave the world do the talking, lest we cause some people awkwardness?

      And we are damaged goods — saved, but still damaged. Let’s just face it honestly, shame and all, and thank God for His mercy and goodness in sparing us the Hell we deserve. …Or are we all just too proud for this nowadays? I know that I deserve Hell for my sins. …But perhaps you don’t think that you do.

      In closing, I would, like the guy who writes below, urge those who trivialise fornication through a message of cheap grace to repent.

      • brad February 12, 2013 at 12:41 am #

        Full disclosure: I have had one sexual partner, and we gave each other our virginity on our wedding night. By the traditional standards of the church I am righteous, so I could legitimately throw a stone here, right? Except that my wife and I fully acknowledge that we were and are damaged goods, too.

        Please do not fall for the lie that guilt makes a person holy. This comes from a good desire in the church for people to be safe. There are consequences for actions, most assuredly, and we all want people to be protected from the worst of them. But this desire for purity is bent when we think (or insist) that people should carry the shame of their sin around for any length of time, let alone forever. That is human nature’s standard — or Satan’s intent — not the message of the Bible.

        Finally, for an “immature” Christian to so thoroughly go against the flow, and where a “mature” Christian has completely missed the point of grace, forgiveness and redemption, to call “bullshit” is the very height of bravery!

        You and I do not disagree that grace is expensive beyond human price!

        But my assertion is that it is cheapened if we merely selectively sip at it, when we are invited to dive into it, and be immersed in it completely.

      • katie February 17, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

        @ Grace

        I think you completely missed the point that Alyssa was trying to make. Her pastors wife has believed the lie that because she had sex before marriage she was not worthy of a loving Godly husband, that she was not worthy of being loved. Each year this woman shared her past that didn’t have to be sad, and heart breaking, but that is how she made it. God allows us to go through trials and mistakes to seek him and find him when we seek him with ALL of our heart. This woman wasn’t viewing her mistake as a blessing she was seeing it as a terrible Sin that she would never find healing from. She didn’t believe that she deserved the husband that she had, or the life that she had been given.

        I truly see Alyssas comment to her pastors wife as an arrow that hopefully popped the swollen balloon to let all of her past become vulnerable, and finally seek healing from a God who loves her no matter what she has done. She needed to turn her mourning into a joyful song. That sad, depressing story should be a joyful testimony. Young girls don’t need woman who sulk in their past to minister to them, they need strong confident woman who recognize the mistakes that they have made, seek God for healing and allow him to work through them to reach out to others. That pastors wife should be able to get up in front of those teenage girls confident in who she is, and confident in her testimony and share with those girls that no matter the mistakes that you have made, if you stray away from God, when you seek him God will ALWAYS give you healing.

        I was anorexic for eight years, and a cutter for four. Although I am not proud of what I have done, and wish that I had never believed the lies that I did, or gone down the road that I did, I now would not ask God to have given me any different life. He knew I could handle it, and he knew I would eventually seek Him for healing. I am now able to reach a completely different audience of woman and girls that not everyone has the opportunity to relate to. I can connect with woman and girls struggling with this same thing on such a personal level, and I can now inform them that my Loving, Forgiving God freed me from my bondage and gave me healing.

        I hope and pray that God gives this pastors wife the same healing, because she can do great things with what God has allowed her to go through. She sinned against God, but so did I and so have so many others, however God CAN turn your sin into purity again, but you HAVE to seek him!

  3. Becca:exile fertility January 29, 2013 at 12:31 am #

    Beautiful and courageous.

    Fear and shame are never good motivations, not with our toddlers or our teenagers. The TRUTH is that we are worthy of love and belonging no matter what choices we have made. Healthy expression of sexuality in marriage is not guaranteed by a virginity stamp – it has much more to do with the giving and receiving of unconditional love with your spouse in the daily grind than with your sexual past. Thanks so much for writing about this.

    • Mark Allman February 3, 2013 at 5:05 am #

      Well Said

  4. Shae January 29, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    I think this stretches beyond just sex before marriage. Sexual past. Period. The “eew gross” factor in the message is so loud it drowns out the message of grace. For sex, for abuse, for porn, for _____ (fill in the blank). Worth is not captured in the “what” or the “when” or even the “who”. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. April January 29, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    I’ve never understood when sexual sin became too big for God’s grace. When sexual sin became too complicated of a problem for God to use for the actual GOOD in someone’s life. When sexual sin became so gross and filthy that even God can’t redeem a life from its consequences and fill the broken places with wholeness and abundant life.

    If sex is too big for God to handle, to use for His glory, to use for our ultimate good, He isn’t God and we are (to plagiarize Paul) of all men the most to be pitied.

    I’ve never understood why the discussion about abstinence and sexual sin are seemingly always centered around “If you don’t have sex before marriage, you’ll be happier and more fulfilled in marriage. If you do have sex before marriage, you’ll be ruined, unhappy, and unworthy in marriage.” Since when is any part of our faith about doing or not doing things so that WE will or won’t be happy and fulfilled? Last time I checked, our faith is about bringing glory to God by agreeing with Him, by trusting the way He has made things to work, by being obedient out of love. It’s not about us saving our bodies for our spouse. It’s about sacrificing our bodies to God and what He wants. Just my opinion, but I think young people need a bigger vision than “Don’t be gross, save your body for your spouse. Give up the pleasure you want now because it’ll be better later.” Right, sure, mhmm.

    I’d rather focus my life on glorifying God in my body…in my body, mind, spirit, all of me. To focus my life on what God has done for me, is doing in me, and will do with me. The sin is already paid for.

    • Melanie @ M&M January 29, 2013 at 7:26 am #

      I’ve never understood when sexual sin became too big for God’s grace.


    • Claire January 29, 2013 at 9:20 am #


    • Ashley January 29, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Sara, I LOVE this. Thanks for the profound truth that Christ has the power to redeem ALL sin.

      April, WOW. I love this too. I love the line, “I’d rather focus on glorifying God in my body…in my body, mind, spirit, all of me.” Isn’t that the goal of purity? The real reason we should be abstinent. Not because we are damaged goods, but because we are conforming to Christs likeness. There is no shame in the before–or the after or ever rather FREEDOM as we conform to Christ’s likeness!

    • RClark January 31, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      THANK YOU.

    • kris February 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm #


  6. Nem January 29, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    Amen! *claps wildly* I shall be giving this to the many teenage Christian girls I have this conversation with.

  7. Gwyn January 29, 2013 at 1:36 am #

    Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you thank you. I’ve been following on twitter and I know this one was a bear to write, but please know that it was worth it. Talk about elephants in the room, this is the one no one wants to talk about. And yet for those of us who have experienced it, the silence is crushing. Everything becomes so bottled up and tangled up and huge. I finally came to my peace with it, between me and God, but it’s something to come to peace with yourself, and something else to have that affirmed, to know that you aren’t alone. Eshet chayil.

    • Jim Fisher January 29, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      Um Ya. What Gwyn said.

  8. erika January 29, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    wow. you are awesome. bravo!

  9. Melanie January 29, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    “Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage.” YES! Thank you! What a fantastic post. Well done, Sarah. Clear, grace filled and full of love! Bless you!

  10. rachel s. January 29, 2013 at 2:47 am #

    It took me so long ( a lifetime, it feels like, in my short 26 years) to distinguish that the thing that had me so messed up wasn’t the fact that I had sex before marriage–it was that I had it with someone who was emotionally abusive toward me. The words, feelings, and neglect are what hurt me, not the physical act of having sex. I was so obsessed with this one moment of “failure” that I couldn’t see the pattern of abuse in my own young relational life. And yes, perhaps the sex itself missed the mark in the eyes of God, but the shame that I felt came from trying to constantly earn the love of someone who took and always made me feel like it wasn’t enough. Oh, sarah, the therapy it took to figure this one out, let me tell you. I am now married to a man who is, as you say, marked by grace. Our life together is more than my younger, “damaged goods” mind would have ever thought I would have. Thank you for your words sister. I appreciate it.

    • Rachel P. January 29, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      “[t]he shame that I felt came from trying to constantly earn the love of someone who took and always made me feel like it wasn’t enough.” rachel s., AMEN. I dated my high school-turned-college sweetheart who ended up falling into drugs and became physically and emotionally abusive. When we finally broke up after a few very dysfunctional years, I was a wreck and felt emotionally and physically unworthy of love. To make things worse, my Christian friends, family, and Church told me I had brought this upon myself by not recognizing the abuse for what it was (which is THE last thing someone should ever say to victims of abuse) and that I had ruined myself and disappointed God by having sex with this boy. I needed therapy and the incredibly healing love of Jesus, but all I found was judgment and blame. A very dear friend of mine and I considered dating after that, but my friend told me that he would never date a woman who was “spoiled” by premarital sex, even though he confessed that he had had sex himself. It took two years of teaching English in rural Southeast Asia and recognizing signs of abuse and blame in my own students for me to realize that the way girls are taught to value virginity and purity is fundamentally dysfunctional and unhealthy.

      Thank you, Sarah, for writing this blog. I’ve dealt with so much emotional baggage and pain for 4 years and needed to read this. I wish churches could recognize that this unhealthy fixation on women’s “virtue and purity” is unBiblical and not what Jesus intended.

      • dina February 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

        UGH! It makes me so angry to hear stories like these – especially angry toward your potential boyfriend (friend) for saying he wouldn’t marry someone who had premarital sex (“spoiled?!?”), even though he did? What the hell. I hate double standards. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but I’m glad to hear you’ve had some space and time to heal.

    • Sarah February 9, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      Sarah, this post was an amazing read for me and spoke to me in words no one’s ever said to me before. And Rachel, thank you so much for your comment. You just cleared up something for me that I’ve never been able to admit because I was so busy feeling ashamed over the act that I couldn’t see the abuse that was done to me. Thank you ladies!!!

  11. A survivor. January 29, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Brilliant article. I just wanted to briefly add that I was made to feel this way even though my sexual experience was limited to that of being raped. Even though I was not in control of what happened to me, I felt guilty for so long because of a decision to trust someone I shouldn’t have. Because I’d had some kind of decision, even though I know logically that whether or not I’d agreed to trust my rapist, he would have raped me.

    And instead of supporting me, it felt as if the church was condemning me to never being able to be ‘pure enough’ for marriage. Six and a half years later, I’m happily married and in a supportive church but still have this feeling of guilt that I had sex before marriage.

    • Lisa January 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      My first sexual experience was rape. And after that relationship ended, I figured I was damaged goods and God and His people would want nothing to do with me, so I might as well leave Him and them behind. And I did, for many years, and carried such shame. I became defensive about my new life and flaunted it to my Christian friends in an attempt to combat the “slut-shaming” I felt. When I wanted to return to faith, I was so afraid of being accepted by other Christians, let alone by a good Christian man. I’m so, so thankful for my wonderful friends and husband who proved me wrong.

  12. Amy Hunt January 29, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    I never quite let myself realize it before now, how I have felt this shame all this time. Slowly, grace has percolated a trust in me. But I’ve been resistant of it’s wild freeness. I’ve thought about how good girls don’t do that and I did and I’m therefore no longer a good girl. I feel like a hypocrite, even though I know I’ve been redeemed. I want to live as though I’m redeemed. I want to skinny dip in it and not feel shame. I want to splash around and laugh and let joy just radiate from me. This happens sometimes, but I want more of it. And these words He’s led you to write are one step closer. I appreciate how this truth has taken hold of my heart, looked me in the eye and inspired me to choose it.

    • Michelle January 30, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      This is exactly where I live. “Slowly, grace has percolated a trust in me. But I’ve been resistant of it’s wild freeness.” Every word of your reply could’ve come from my soul.

      Seems to be a lot of us.

  13. Susan January 29, 2013 at 4:07 am #

    I like the message of this post. Jesus is not in the shame business, he is in the Grace business and drawing us close and making us whole.

    Thanks for your candor and your courage, and for giving those who are under the weight of this issue some room to breathe.

    On the other hand … purity is a great idea. I read your post quickly, but need to read it again. Sex before marriage is not a good idea. I hope that fact doesn’t get lost amongst your very good points.

    • Claire January 29, 2013 at 6:52 am #

      I was thinking the same thing, Rea. I’m glad that bloggers are speaking out against these shame/fear techniques. But at the same time, any sin, even forgiven sin, can have longterm consequences. Acting married before marriage (and I don’t just mean sex) can leave baggage that is hard to leave behind. God’s grace conquers all, but the baggage can make it harder for us to cooperate fully with that grace and heal from the consequences of our sins. I would love to see follow-up posts about how best to encourage chastity without using fear tactics, and without shaming people who have made mistakes in the past, as we all have in one way or another.

      • Claire January 29, 2013 at 6:53 am #

        Oops, I’m sorry, my reply was for Susan.

        • Susan January 29, 2013 at 10:46 am #

          Understood :-) I appreciate your remarks and as always, striking a balance is sometimes difficult.

          One thing I think we can all agree on – you can’t hear or read too much about Grace.

          But that wonderful Grace hopefully affects how we live and what we choose.

      • LeeAnn January 29, 2013 at 8:38 am #

        Well stated. Help to find a balance.

    • LeeAnn January 29, 2013 at 8:37 am #

      I agree with Susan. I am sorry to hear that so much angst has been endured because of the lack of grace extended. However, to not say that purity before marriage is God’s intended plan for us would be an oversight. His ways are always the best, but when we do misstep, and we all do, there is always grace.

      • Takisha February 1, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

        I couldn’t have said it better. This is a wonderful article, but it leaves an impression that devalues the rewards and outcomes of trusting God’s intentions concerning purity and marriage. I am very grateful, however, for the message of God’s grace and unfathomable love. Thank you ladies for speaking up. There’s no condemnation in Christ!

    • Jessica February 1, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      Thank you for sharing! I read this article over and I think it sends a great message to women who have stumbled in their sexual past, but we also need to be careful that we AREN’T encouraging women to engage in premarital sex.
      Too often I read articles from Christian women about being non-virgins and how it’s OK, but don’t even mention that it isn’t what God intended. I’m in no way saying that those who have a sexual past are “damaged goods”, but we need to keep up that dialogue about why purity is important. Otherwise, the statistics of girls who have premarital sex will only increase because they’ve been told it doesn’t really matter.

  14. Nelson Thurman January 29, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    At some point churches need to realize that guilt and shame haven’t worked, don’t work, and likely never will work. As a father of two teen boys and as a volunteer working with a youth group, I worry about the message our young people today get about sex. I know what didn’t work for me (can’t say I know what did work, but guilt, shame, and fear didn’t phase me or most of my friends growing up).

    If we are truly following Jesus, then we need to realize that Jesus didn’t use shame or guilt, and he didn’t get so bent out of shape over some of the sexual issues too many churches today focus on. Jesus saw each person he encountered as a unique individual who hadn’t always made the best choices (and often carried the burden of the consequences of those choices), but who was worthy of love, not shame. And Jesus reached out to those individuals and pulled them up with him.

    Seems to me we’d be a lot better off if we focused on building up each other’s self worth as someone God loves, rather than making them feel guilty.

    Thanks for such an honest, open post!

    • brad February 12, 2013 at 12:55 am #

      I agree with you, Nelson. The only idea I would like to challenge here is that Jesus found people “worthy of love”.

      Jesus chose to love people, but it wasn’t because they were worthy. It’s a fairly small quibble, but I think it’s significant in determining our posture of humility to this miracle we’re given. :-)

  15. Rea January 29, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    Thank you for this. I remember the fear when I told the man who is now my husband that I wasn’t a virgin any more. I was certain that I would be ‘soiled goods’ in his eyes, maybe not even fit to spend his life with. In essence, I was warning him not to get too attached, because he might not want me as I was. And his reply was that nothing I had done could make him not love me. Because yes, he is a man marked by grace.

    I am hopeful that the church will start having this conversation. That your voice and EE’s voice and other voices will be heard and we will put sex into its rightful place, not the idol that we’ve made it.

  16. tara pohlkotte January 29, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    the one in which i stomp my feet wildly. these are the conversations to have with our children. one that shows both sides of the coin, shows that love and reckless grace will cover them when the copper fades, the ridges smooth, the ooin still holds value simply in its being, no matter what side they fall, because if there’s one thing i know about human nauture its this, you will fall.

  17. Susan January 29, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    Thank you, Sarah. *hugs*

  18. KatR January 29, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    I have heard the usual degrading metaphors that are told to (primarily) young women in order to shame them into not having sex (you are a bitten apple, you are a necklace that’s been passed around, you are a used band aid) but the spit in the cup story is the worst. THE. WORST.

    I think church leaders need to ask themselves if trying to establish the “purity ideal” is worth doing this to teenagers.

  19. Sarah January 29, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you a million times over. “There is no shame in Christ’s love”. The children of God need to be reminded of this truth without ‘buts’. Thank you.

  20. Gary Ware January 29, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    Excellent and I agree with you.

  21. Ed January 29, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Thank you for exposing this shame and casting it out with perfect love. There is real power in love.

  22. D.L. Mayfield January 29, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    wow, that cup metaphor brought me BACK. oh, let us all identify and then root out the shame that keeps us all from Christ.

  23. Mar January 29, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Redemption. That’s what I see here.

  24. Lynn D January 29, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    Satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy, and shame is one of his tools. Thanks for speaking the truth of God’s love over a tough subject.

  25. Rachel January 29, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    Amen! Thank you for sharing your story and challenging the church! I have long agreed that the church over-emphasized sexual sin as unforgivable in the eyes of God or any potential, godly spouse.

    I am on the other side of the same coin, being intentional about preparing for a spouse who very well have sexual sin as part of his history. Thinking about how I can, even now, extend God’s lavish grace onto my (hypothetical) spouse; ’cause as a sinner myself I know I’ll need it lavished back on me too!

  26. Brittany January 29, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Thank you. Thank you. I am in tears reading this from the grace that you are showing me. And this line: “It’s likely you would make different choices, if you knew then what you know now, but, darling, don’t make it more than it is, and don’t make it less than it is.”

    Oh how my heart needed to read this. In regards to me having sex before marriage and to choices I made with the consequences of having sex. My heart still aches but grace entered this morning and my heart is a little less fragile. Thank you.

  27. Joy @ Joy in this Journey January 29, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    Thank you for persevering and for writing and for pressing “publish” on this.

  28. Stephanie Augustine January 29, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    What a powerful testimony sister! How very brave of you to speak up. Thank you! When I got saved almost four years ago I stumbled into a sermon preached by Pastor Matt Chandler in Ephesians 5. He included this story which is very similar to your cup story and it powerfully rocked my idea of purity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLgIecL1IdY&sns=em

    The beautiful relationship of the bride and Christ in Eph 5:25-27 so caught me off guard that it truly changed my entire perspective on sexuality and purity. I grew up in a home that taught purity as a state of being (read: by doing, or more specifically, by not doing), and that sexuality was something you could catch, like a cold. But as I read of this beautiful relationship between Christ and his love, I realized the powerful idea that purity was something Christ does in us. It is his sanctification that washes us clean. It’s a heart condition not a physical condition.

    I’m not a bible teacher or a “super christian” I’m just a sinner in need of a Savior, and it’s this radical love story between my savior and I that has given me a pure heart. Thankful my salvation isn’t contingent on what I’ve done, or who I’ve slept with, but what Christ did on the cross. And that is so much more powerful than being “damaged goods” don’t you think?

    Thank you for speaking truth in love!

    • Sarah January 29, 2013 at 8:21 am #

      Yes Yes! I was going to share this too. Love it

  29. Mkrabill January 29, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    Eshat Chayil! This is a message that needs to be shouted from the roof tops. Thanks for being brave and vulnerable. Hero of the day!

  30. Christie January 29, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    Sarah, this is beautiful. You are, most definitely, a woman of valor. What you’ve written is the same intimate conversation I had with a small group of women in recent weeks; that your identity is NOT what you’ve done, or what you will do. And, that even if that WAS your identity, it wouldn’t matter, because God’s grace has it covered.

    Oh, the glory of God’s perfect love, His sacrifice, and our redemption!

  31. Katie January 29, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    OH my WORD. What sweet truth. I’m standing at my computer, tears in my eyes… I would’ve stood next to you, terrified to admit to anyone what was real… that first, my precious virginity was taken by a boyfriend… but did I give it? I certainly didn’t fight him hard enough to be one of those sad movies you watch about the brave girls who are taken advantage of. I was quiet and afraid – of what was happening and of what would happen if I tried to stop him.
    And then – I gave it freely… always with a nagging sense of unfulfillment and regret, but I gave it. Over and over again. Every time was the last time. And I wound up marrying that boy, and we stand together, 11 years and 3 babies later, NOT bound and gagged by our sexual pasts, but clinging fiercely to a cross of grace.
    Yet there is still part of me that would be hesitant to let certain people know that past… afraid of the judgment and condemnation of my brothers and sisters, when there is NO condemnation in Christ. It’s all been nailed to the cross and covered with His perfect blood – the sex, the lying, the bragging and pride, the jealousy and anger and all other manner of inglorious imperfection that marks me as human. They are erased. Everything from my past, everything from my future.
    Thank you, Sarah. This was lovely – and so filled with grace and truth. We are so much more than our sins.

  32. Christie @randomreflectionz January 29, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    I admire the strength that it took to write this post. These actions of that preacher are just one of the reasons that so many believers are leaving the church. The actions are akin to spiritual bullying and intimidation. I am not a Christian so my perspective focuses more on living a Grace-filled life centered on religious humanism, rather than what Christ may or may not approve of. That said, I firmly believe that God is present in all forms of human interactions that includes sexual interactions as well. God is a vast web of connections that is present in all of our relationships – sexual and otherwise. There should be no religious shame in sex. I do not believe that sex is a sin, it is a human interaction that can be entered into maturely and lovingly and, unfortunately, sometimes recklessly. There are consequences to both kinds of sex, but in neither case is it a sin in my opinion. Thank you for bravely sharing your thoughts. Perhaps the more people like you share their ideas that belief need not adhere to outdated religious models will help reintroduce people to the redemptive power of God.

    • Kristy January 30, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Would love to hear more of your heart & thoughts!

      • Christie @randomreflectionz January 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

        I would love to share more of my thoughts on the subject, but I’m not sure I can adequately do so in a blog comment thread. I could probably fill my own blog post on the topic :-)

    • Marcus January 31, 2013 at 6:25 am #

      Hmm, I don’t think she’d like to be responsible for that.

  33. Megan (FriedOkra) January 29, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Brave, true, beautiful. Love this so much.

  34. Abby Norman January 29, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    I did wait, but my husband, it is exactly as you have written, if he knew then what he knows now his choices would have been different. But our God is NOT a liar when he says he can make all things new, and as I was struggling and wrestling with his sexual past the Lord asked me quietly,”You have been saying for years that ALL sin is dead in my death on the cross, are you going to believe that, or not?” And I did, and it is glorious, this newness I see my man in. This newness, this virtue, God allowed me to see ME with those shame free eyes too, even though I mess it up too. And I am grateful. Not that God can miraculously change my “not-virgin” into a “new-virgin” but that He makes all things new. ALL THNGS. Me too, every day. That I got to see a tiny part of that redemption.

    • Jennifer January 29, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Thank you for sharing. The message damages the perspectives of those who did wait when marrying those who did not. In years of ministry, I have talked women and men through this very issue: “I waited because it was a gift. But I didn’t get the same gift in return.” We set ourselves up to believe we “deserve” a singular type of purity from others when we ourselves are also impure.

      • Kimberly February 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

        I am so glad that you brought up this point and that Abby shared her story – it gives me hope. I am married to a man that did wait and this has been exactly his attitude through the years – he has definitely not been a man marked by grace. It has made parts of our marriage a living hell for both of us even after 18 years (although the Lord is working in him and I still pray that he will come around). I still weep when reading such grace-filled perspectives such as this blog post and so many of the comments. I understood God’s grace regarding my sin before I met my husband, but have felt like damaged goods all these years because of his perspective of elevating this “singular type of purity”. I also loved the comment by Rachel above: “Thinking about how I can, even now, extend God’s lavish grace onto my (hypothetical) spouse; ’cause as a sinner myself I know I’ll need it lavished back on me too!” Now that’s a Christ-like, grace-filled perspective!

  35. Rebekah January 29, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    I wish I’d had something like this to read when I was younger.

  36. Courtney January 29, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    So, so, so good. Especially for that 80%—redeeming. Revelation says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony and I see that happening here with these words you share. Thank you!

  37. Kristin January 29, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Amen! It took me forever to get over being condemed. I believed that since I was already “ruined” there was no reason to stop doing what I was doing. How satan used the church was so smart. Thank you.

  38. Dani Kelley January 29, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Your story is so similar to mine. Though the people who did much of my shaming did it to my face in the name of love and friendship.

    I wish so desperately I could print this out and take it to 21-year-old Dani. Before she was suicidal over her “grave sin,” before she thought that death would have been better than to make love with the love of her life. I would tell her about consent. I would explain that even if premarital sex is a sin (of which I am not remotely convinced), that it is not The Sin That Stains, it is not something shameful any more than loving someone is shameful. That grace covers all, love covers all, and anyone intent on telling me that I was now less-than and unworthy and unclean was intent on injecting poison into my tender heart.

    Thank you for this. I may just come back and read this a few times today, let the healing wash over me. Thank you.

    • Gunnar Tveiten February 5, 2013 at 6:36 am #

      I’m with you. It’s strange enough to consider pre-marital sex a sin at all, but the church so often goes further. Not only is it a sin, but it is *THE* sin, apparently being intimate with someone you love, in a consensual relationship, is worse than lying, worse than stealing, worse than drinking, infact worse than ANYTHING else you could possibly do (perhaps except murder?)

      That makes no sense at all. Even *if* you insist it’s a sin, surely it’s a minor one, down there with that time you grabbed two apples from the tree belonging to the neighbour, when you where 12 ?

  39. Shelley January 29, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    My banner in high school was ‘abstinence’–I wore my virginity like a sparkling tiara. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was a perpetrator–a grace-crusher–for those 80 percent who couldn’t be as holy and righteous as me. This is where my shame resides: I bought into the idea that God loves virgins more–and I treated the people closest to me with such contempt, disdain and judgement. I am so sorry for the pain I caused with my attitudes and behavior–thank you for writing this.

    You are right, Sarah. The ‘non-virgins’ aren’t the only victims in this unbalanced purity culture–there was, for me, the great shock and despair of the wedding night after all of those hopes and expectations and promises of God’s favor and sexual bliss for those who waited. There was the confusion and the questions and the ‘what’s wrong with me?’ I often wondered if I made the right choice BY WAITING. I often wondered if the rest of the world was having a MUCH BETTER time in bed because they didn’t wait, and therefore didn’t have the myriad of hangups that I had.

    It is SO damaging either way. I hope to give my daughter the gift of a more balanced and healthy view.

  40. Jo Inglis (@Piano_Jo) January 29, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    So glad you didn’t back down & pressed publish

  41. Bethany Bassett January 29, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    That cup metaphor… as if *one* man spitting in the cup exclusively would be something wonderful and precious? I fail to see how that view of sex is any less skewed and far from God’s heart than the secular view.

    I’ve read posts before where courageous souls point out the deep, deep damage that the Christian purity culture can do, particularly to women’s views of themselves and grace, but these posts usually end with a disclaimer along the lines of “Of COURSE premarital sex is bad, and of COURSE God’s blessing is reserved for the pure, and of COURSE we will always regret the ways we failed to preserve our purity” so that no one can accuse them of preaching free grace.

    I think that’s why I especially love your post here, because you don’t shy away from saying Hey folks, grace IS free, and virginity is not a prerequisite. Thank you for being brave enough to write about such a touchy but desperately needed topic. (I agree with the earlier commenter who asked if your next book could be Jesus Sexuality. Yes, please.) Preach on, sister!

  42. Linda Stoll January 29, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    Amen and amen.

    As a pastoral counselor, let me assure you that you are not alone, honey, that you are in good company with countless other women who love Jesus with all their hearts. Shame is like a huge wet blanket that keeps us immobilized and useless. No wonder the enemy loves that weapon so.

    My prayers for healing go up today … and that we’d all see ourselves as Christ sees us … loved, beautiful, priceless … and so worth dying for.

    • Marie February 16, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

      “Shame is like a huge wet blanket that keeps us immobilized and useless.”

  43. RevHez January 29, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    As someone who pastors college students and has written and done extensive research on hook-up culture and purity politics, I LOVE this essay. I also want to point out that marriage as purity advocates describe it, is actually not “biblical.” marriage in 2013 America is merely a function of the state. I spend a great deal of time talking about commitment, monogamy, and honoring your partner (& yourself) as a child of God. And can we also point out that Jesus declared all things clean? Purity politics are really about theological power and spiritual bullying.

    • Esther February 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      Can you elaborate on your statement: “marriage as purity advocates describe it, is actually not “biblical.”? I don’t think I know what purity advocates have to say about marriage and in what way that doesn’t line up with biblical marriage. A few more words?

  44. fiona lynne January 29, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    thank you thank you thank you thank you.

  45. kelliwoodford January 29, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    And may all shame’s captives read and be set free.

    • Linds January 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm #


    • Aimee February 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Shane, I think you are COMPLETELY missing the point.


      Maybe you should go back and re-read this post. I don’t recall reading anything where she is saying premarital sex is ok. The message of this post is, if you are a Christian and pray for forgiveness, you should NOT continue to live under the weight of guilt because Jesus’ blood covers that. His blood covers the sin, the shame, the guilt, and, YES, the judgment.

      Guess what? It is not YOUR place to judge. That is God’s place.

      You sign off with “Blessings!” but… are you a blessing? Are you shining the light to share it, or to use it as a spotlight on others’ sins & struggles?

  46. Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    Wow. Where is the gospel in that story?

    You are judgmental of a “all law, no grace” approach, so you opt for a “all grace, no law” approach, which is no more helpful or Biblical.

    It’s not “okay” that someone commits fornication.

    Nor is it “okay” to lie.

    Nor is it “okay” to cheat.

    Nor is it “okay” to murder.

    Nor is it “okay” to hate your neighbor.

    These are sins for which Christ died. Your presentation compeltely neglects the justice that was satisifed upon the cross of Calvary–Jesus Christ bearing the sins of His people upon His own body–in favor a superficial, emotionally-based construct of “love.”

    Your “love” is not love at all.

    Any idea that “love” that pats a sinner on the back and says “it’s okay” is not love.

    It is hatred.

    God takes sin so seriously that He sent His one and only Son…born of a virgin, born under the Law…to live the perfect live we should have lived and to die the death that we all deserve.

    He rose again from the dead three days later, defeating death.

    Sin has been put away, but that doesn’t make fornication suddenly “okay.” Nor does it make lying, theft, adultery, idolatry, racism, murder, rape, etc. “okay.”

    Have you fornicated in your past?

    It’s NOT okay in the eyes of God. God tells us that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). So the fornicator–as well as the liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, homosexual, etc.–needs to REPENT and place their faith in the One who died for sinners and rose again to secure new life.

    I urge you to repent of your superficial notion of “love” and dig into the Scriptures. Only there will you see how justice and love can comfortably and securely co-habitate.


    • Dani Kelley January 29, 2013 at 7:37 am #

      You’re not the Holy Spirit. You’re not Christ. Judgment of sin and the hearts of others has not been given to you. And it is Christianity as you present it that makes me want to throw up my hands and walk away from the whole business, because your God and your religion are petty and cruel.

      • Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 11:50 am #

        “You’re not the Holy Spirit.”

        Never claimed to be.

        “You’re not Christ.”

        Again, never claimed to be.

        “Jugement of sin and the hearts of others has not been given to you.”

        Christ taught that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34; 15:18-19).

        Christ taught His followers to judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24).

        “And it is Christianity as you present it that makes me want to throw up my hands and walk away from the whole business, because your God and your religion are petty and cruel.”

        Sounds like a judgmental statement to me. What gives you the right to judge my judgment?

        God is good, and that is humanity’s biggest problem.

        We’re filthy, depraved wretches. The good news is that Christ came into this world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Matt 9:13).


        • Sara January 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

          You have-very sadly-missed the whole point. If you are happy with your take on Jesus and are living in a way that brings hope, life, love, forgiveness and peace to the world around you…then keep it. But I think you’re making it all or nothing. I am grateful that my heart, my relationship with God and my future have met a Jesus who loved me before I ever knew I needed to repent. You see, that scripture that says…”God LOVED the world, so he came.” bottom line? Love. Love that covers sin, shame, etc. love that keeps no record of wrong, love that bears all things. Because without love…not “tough” love either…real, vibrant, alive, love…without it you’re just making a lot of noise.

        • Luke January 29, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

          “God is good, and that is humanity’s biggest problem.”

          The goodness of God is humanity’s salvation my friend, not its biggest problem.

        • Preston January 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

          “God is good, and that is humanity’s biggest problem.”

          Orthodoxy fail.

          • Sarah January 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

            Rising in my chair and stomping my feet.

        • Alex Headrick January 30, 2013 at 11:08 am #


          I think you missed the point.

          I can understand how you are afraid that this post has gone from all law, no grace, to all grace, no law. Tt’s a common fear that people feel, the whole “if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” theory.

          But Sarah was simply talking about her shame, and shame isn’t from God. In fact, Adam and Eve felt shame and hid, and God came to look for them, asking them why they hid. I don’t think her post was advocating we all just run out and sin. She was saying that if we have, God’s grace covers that–we don’t need to hide.

          If you re-red that post, my friend, I think you’ll see it clearly. I think you had a knee jerk reaction driven by fear, and we all have those.

        • Teri Anne February 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

          Shane is like the harsh, judgmental elders and pastors of my former church, who kicked my friend out of the church for leaving her abusive husband. It is my fear of meeting men like Shane that has stopped me from dating again since the death of my husband ten years ago.

          When I eventually try online dating, I plan to describe myself as “Christian but not evangelical” to hopefully discourage the Shanes who may reply to my profile.

    • KatR January 29, 2013 at 7:46 am #

      I seem to remember a little story in the gospel about he who is without sin can cast the first stone….

      In other words, Shane, your poo poo doth stinketh. Just like the rest of us. So put down the rock and climb down off the high hill.

      • Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 11:52 am #

        Never said I was without sin.

        Does one need to be perfect to used of God to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name?

        There was only One who lived a perfect life…and they killed Him for it.


        • Luke January 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

          You’re not proclaiming repentance and forgiveness, Shane, you’re proclaiming condemnation and shame.

          The gospel you’re preaching says, “Repent from the awful things that you’ve done so you don’t burn and can enter into loving relationship with Me.”

          It’s based on fear. But here’s the problem: there is no fear in Love, brother. You can’t scare someone into a loving relationship.


          • Dani Kelley January 30, 2013 at 6:27 am #

            “You can’t scare someone into a loving relationship.” THIS. This this this this this. This is what I wish I’d known growing up.

          • Dave February 4, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

            Jesus: The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:15)
            Peter: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19)
            Paul: I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)

            Seems repentance is part of believing the good news.

          • Luke February 5, 2013 at 7:06 am #

            No one is saying that repentance isn’t necessary. The difference is that Christ was acknowledging something better, and calling us to turn and step into it (as the verses you quote here illustrate). The repentance Christ preached was’t an exercise in shaming someone into conformity, it was a call to relationship and to citizenship in a new Kingdom. Put simply, Christ’s repentance was a positive project, not a negative one.

            His words to the woman at the well come to mind, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

    • Church Reject January 29, 2013 at 7:49 am #

      Hey, Shane, you sure like pointing that finger. Put it away for a moment and listen. The church’s hypocrisy concerning sex is so disgusting and so one-sided that I wish you would point that finger where it really belongs… but I know you won’t because it takes a level of courage the church no longer has.

      First, why is it OK for the church to shame women as permanently damaged because of sexual sin when it’s OK or maybe just a slap on the wrist when men screw everything around them before marriage? I have yet to see a church — ANY church! — hold men to anything remotely resembling a real standard of sexual purity. So really, only those women fornicators are getting sent to Hell, right?

      Second, why is it OK when the church forces women and girls to bear the shame and guilt for the sin of rapists? Or do you believe we’re all just a bunch of whores who really want it all the time or deserve to be torn apart and thrown aside?

      Third, is sexual sin for women so great that the blood of Christ cannot cover it? Why are men who sleep around not given this sentence of permanent shame and walking death like women are? Is the blood of the hymen so much more powerful than the blood of Christ that it must cause permanent damnation in those women who have shed it? Since the man loses no blood, is he free to fornicate without consequence?

      So you condemn the blogger for saying “okay”, when in reality the church has been telling men it is “okay” for… ever, really. You condemn her for being “all grace, no law”, but the fact is that the church has been exactly that for you and your brothers in this issue forever while we have lived under “all law, and absolutely no grace”. Hypocrisy at its finest.

      • Caris Adel January 29, 2013 at 9:39 am #

        I love it when you are in the comments. So helpful. Also, is there any decent book you’d recommend that covers those topics without heading across the pond? :)

      • Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 11:58 am #

        Your post suffers from a fatal case of red herring fallacies.

        Your argumentation is fallacious because hypocrisy in the visible church isn’t the issue here.

        Instead of dealing with what I actually wrote, you invented arguments and attributed them to me. For example…your “only those women fornicators are getting sent to Hell, right?” Way to prop up a strawman and light that sucker up, friend.

        SINNERS will not inherit the kingdom of God…be it male/female fornicators, male/female liars, male/female thieves, male/female murderers, male/female homosexuals, etc.

        Try again and deal with what my actual argumentation.


        • Heather January 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

          Shane, I think what’s happening here is that your initial response to Sarah’s post and then the following responses, look and feel a lot like yelling. Like a scream of “SINNERS will not inherit the kingdom of God…”

          This is rarely productive. I understand you’re trying to say that not everything is “okay” but I wonder if statements like the one I just quoted seem off to you, stepping back. We are all sinners, so…I guess there is no inheritance for anyone. That sort of statement is just as off-putting and ridiculous as the way you’re viewing Sarah’s statements. It appears ignorant, whether the context was understood or not. We come to these posts with different experiences and perspectives and a reactionary response mostly just serves to stir the pot and take the meaning away from Truth. Either side. No truth. Just argument.

          I understood Sarah to be talking to Christian women who have carried the burden of shame for years, even after repentance. Women who have left promiscuity or a sexual relationship outside of marriage behind. She was attempting to breathe life back into that woman’s heart. The hearts that stand still in fear that God could never love *her* not after she did *that*

          That’s a lie. Can we all agree on that? Of course His love is redemptive and of course she is free. From consequences? NO. From living with those memories of someone she once was? No. In our humanity that will always be there. It is for her to work through.

          I didn’t read Sarah to mean that she’s going to walk into a dorm room of a promiscuous twenty-something, a young woman who has lost herself for a myriad of reasons and given “it” away over and over and say to her “it’s okay, just keep doing that.” She’s not going to do that. But she isn’t going to walk in there and shout over her about how she’s going to hell. She’s a fornicator! Wake up! Stop it, you filthy whore!

          That would shut that girl down just as fast as your words here try to put a stop to an open conversation about redemption and shame.

          That girl in that dorm room, or whatever girl or woman or man in whatever sexual situation, needs to hear “I’m here. This doesn’t make you feel all that great about you does it? What should we do? How can you stop? I’m here.”

          Because we can do nothing about ourselves or each other unless we start with Love. Shame just keeps us stuck. Trust me. I know.

          • Brenna D (@chicagomama) January 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

            Heather? I love you. Thank you for your articulately stating what we all wish we could while reading this thread!

          • erin a. January 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

            Perfect, Heather!

          • Kimberly February 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

            What Brenna said. Amen and amen.

          • Esther February 16, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

            Bravo, Heather. Thank you for giving an apt reply.

        • Church Reject January 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

          Oh, no, Shane. Hypocrisy concerning sex is _exactly_ the point. The permanent blame, shame, guilt, and condemnation are only given to women. NEVER to a man, no matter how many women he uses and tosses aside. I have never seen or heard of a man judged in church for sexual activity anywhere near as harshly as women regularly get. I’ve only heard of one… and even then, the pastor was calling it adultery instead of the rape of a minor, and the jerk got out with a wrist slap. You probably wouldn’t be so quick to judge if a man had admitted he had sex outside of marriage, right? Of course you wouldn’t! Boys will be boys, after all. Men have “needs”… yeah, I’ve heard it all.

          I didn’t invent a single thing I said. I’ve _lived_ it as an abuse survivor. Don’t you DARE accuse me of making stuff up. I know extremely well what the church teaches concerning sex outside of marriage. Men can bang everything in sight and still be righteous. One fall for a woman — or even a brutal rape — and she might as well give up all hope for her future now. No, thanks. I know men like that setup, but we don’t.

          You, as a man, will NEVER suffer the judgment and shame we women have had to endure — even if our only sexual experience is from rape! — no matter how much you choose to have sex outside of marriage. You are free to use women and throw them away, you are even free to rape, and chances are your church will not judge you. At best, you will get the tinest of a slap on the wrist and all the permanent and damning blame and shame will go to whatever woman you decide to take advantage of.

          Maybe you’ve just never paid attention to how much harsher the church is toward women. Maybe you have and think we’re just a bunch of worthless whores who deserve it anyway. I don’t know which. But the fact is, you came in here to judge. Forgiveness? Not from you. That’s OK, we’re used to it. Sad to say, many of us expect nothing less from “good Christians” like yourself. Yes, we may be “forgiven”, but we’re still considered whores. As I said, it’s like you “good Christians” consider the blood of the hymen stronger than the blood of Christ when it comes to sexual judgment. Since that’s the way it’s lived out, and there’s no hope for us, then what is the point? Go shame someone else somewhere else.

          • Darcy February 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

            “I know extremely well what the church teaches concerning sex outside of marriage. Men can bang everything in sight and still be righteous.”
            I don’t know what church you belong to, but you need to find a new one. Regardless of whether it is a man or woman, if sexual sin (or any sin for that matter) is committed, there must be repentance and there must be forgiveness. Continuing in sexual sin shows a lack of repentance, just as judgement and shame show a lack of forgiveness. Any church that shames anyone for their sin after there is repentance, doesn’t know the grace of Christ.
            My wife and I had pre-marital sex which resulted in pregnancy before marriage. My church did not shame either one of us, but rather talked sincerely to us about whether or not we truly repented. Once we assured them we had, the issue was dropped and love and grace abounded. We were able to celebrate a wonderful wedding and haven’t looked back on our sin since.

          • brad February 12, 2013 at 1:13 am #

            Church Reject, I absolutely do not want to discount your experience. Just for what it’s worth, I will say that mine has been a lot more equal in how responsibility has been expected and applied.

        • Marcus A. January 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

          Shane, when Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, he knew what she had been through and simply said what he knew. He did not rub her nose in it. She in return called upon every Samaritan she could find to come and praise him.

          There is a place where you go to be haunted by your sins for the rest of your life. That place is not church. It is hell.

        • madelineperry January 30, 2013 at 1:34 am #

          Sorry Shane, but I don’t agree with you. Each person is entitled to their own opinions. However, perhaps you don’t have much experience in dealing with situations like this? I’ve found in my experiences with family and close friends, that until you need to deal with such situations and truly display unconditional love towards another, that in these instances, truly understand God’s grace.

          I don’t believe that Sarah is advocating ‘pre-martial’ sex but I do think she is trying to say that if it happens it doesn’t lesson God’s love and grace towards you. You are not a second class Christian but a truly precious Child of His. God deems no sin worse than another. We need to be careful that we are not judging others in our approach to these things.

          From my experiences, so many Christians do sleep with their fiance prior to marriage and simply ‘keep it to themselves’ so they are not shamed in any way but on Sunday’s were strict Christians. I say, what kind of example of are we setting? I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do know that hypocrisy can be very fluent in churches, turning others away from the Gospel.

          Remember Jesus showed mercy and grace to the Woman at the Well?

      • Lydia January 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

        THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU so much for this. I grew up in the church and participated in all the ritual purity…crap that was sent around. The church didn’t have a hard time shaming my friends when they had sex, but did they say one word to my father when he had an affair? NO!!! Not one word.
        Before we talk about all grace no law (which is totally a ridiculous accusation) we need to talk about the inequality and the slut shaming that only happens to one of the genders in the Church.
        I believe that an affair has much more negative impact than having sex with your boyfriend in high school. I am not saying that either of these things are right, or good. They are both sins. I would just like to know why one is treated as the unforgivable and the other is not his fault?

    • Preston January 29, 2013 at 7:53 am #

      Hi Shane, as someone who spends a lot of time digging into the Scriptures in their original languages, comparing the extracts and manuscripts, and has a deep commitment to exegeting the Word well, I’d like to hear the definition of “fornication” you think the Bible is using. I’d also like to hear you trace sexual imagery in the Old Testament, because it’s that imagery that Paul draws upon when writing to the Corinthians and especially the Thessalonians. Having done that, I would then like you to explain how Jesus and His interaction with those caught in sexual sin mirrors the Old Testament and Pauline exegesis of sexual relations, literal and spiritual, and then explain how the judgement of your comment best aligns with the Old Testament and Pauline insistence on righteousness and the Jesus insistence on grace. Perhaps, by that point, you’ll have realised it’s time to drop your stone and walk away.

      • Beth Anne January 29, 2013 at 8:24 am #

        ::insert gif here::

      • Hännah January 29, 2013 at 9:04 am #


      • Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

        Preston…glad to hear you love to study the original languages.

        Can you give me a quick list of the scholars whose work you follow closely? Thanks!

        In the meantime, I would posit this question to you…

        Is it possible that you’re wrong about everything you claim to know?


        • Preston January 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

          Hi Shane, I attend graduate school at the University of St. Andrews, so I work with NT Wright, David Brown, Mark Elliot, Gavin Hopps, Trevor Hart, and a handful of notable others on a daily basis. I count Lauren F Winner, at Duke, a personal friend and peer. My theological training was under first David Lyle Jeffrey, Robert Miner, Peter Candler, SJ Murray, Phil Donnelly, Barry Harvey, and Ralph Wood. All of them and their extensive publications are pretty easy to find.

          But, that’s not even the list of scholars I follow closely. These are the scholars I count as personal friends.

          As to your question, the possibility does not negate the logic until the logic itself has been engaged. It’s possible that Moses wrote all of Exodus, that is until we sit down and actually read Exodus and the passage about his death. So, we engage the logic, move to a new possibility. We don’t turn around and say, “But what if he did?” when we have evidence that strongly suggests the contrary.

          And, truly: the peace of Christ to you.

          • Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

            Thanks, Preston. I like to hear what scholars influence Bible students…it helps to determine which presuppositions one brings to the text.

            As for my question…with all due respect, you didn’t answer it. Again, it is this…

            Could you be wrong about everything you claim to know?

            This is a general question about what you claim to know, not just Bible knowledge specifically.


          • Aimee February 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

            Hey Shane, what scholars do YOU follow? What is YOUR theological background? Do you have a BA or Master’s in Theology? If so, where did you study?

            Seriously. Inquiring minds want to know.

        • brad February 12, 2013 at 1:18 am #

          Right back at you, Shane: Is it possible that you’re wrong about everything you claim to know?

          • Shane Dodson February 12, 2013 at 6:36 am #

            How about you, Brad? Do you wish to answer that question?

            My answer: No, not everything. Those things that God has revealed to me such that I know them for certain I cannot be wrong about. Outside of that, certainly…I could be wrong about many things.

            How about you?


          • brad February 12, 2013 at 9:46 am #

            Shane, I can’t reply to your latest comment — so I hope you find this. :-)

            The only way to prevent empty dogmatism is to admit that I might indeed be wrong. I might be wrong about a whole lot. In fact, I cannot prove that God exists, so I’m betting my life on this whole story that I cannot in any way conclusively prove. That is way ahead of my concerns about figuring out my unique interpretations of the story, or then saying that everyone should believe it all the same way I do.

            From that framework of humility, I take great pains to not put words into God’s mouth, or put attitudes into God’s heart. What I have as my best example is Jesus Christ’s presence on Earth. He was incredibly patient and gentle with those who were identified, and who identified themselves, as sinners. He was not nearly as patient or gentle with those who were called, and who called themselves, righteous.

            The earmarks of the self-righteous are that they point out sin in everyone else, instead of first acknowledging it in themselves. They lead with confrontation of sin, rather than an introduction to the Saviour. They give more power to guilt in effort to steer people toward superficial morality than to grace to steer people to profound relationship.

            I appreciate that you are using God’s revelation to steer your perceptions. What do you do with other people’s similar claim to God’s revelation when it is contrary to yours, even though it is not contrary to their reading of scripture?

            Personally, I resort to trusting the Holy Spirit to guide and direct those who are earnestly seeking to follow God through a believe in and love of Christ. My great hope is found not in my own ability to be right, even about the consequences of immorality, but that God’s got a better, more intimate handle on this stuff than I ever could.

      • Seth January 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

        Well shoot… I don’t really want to muck up this up with my own questions, but I’ll be the first to admit it… If you’d asked me those questions, I’d freeze pretty hard. (Looks like someone else did, too?)

        In any event, I’d love to hear more about your take on these definitions and imagery. Seems like this would be beneficial for us all.

        I’m glad you’re ’round these parts, P.

    • Linds January 29, 2013 at 7:54 am #

      I was just sitting here wondering if you have ever read anything Sarah has written before? If not, I urge you to do so. Grace is a wonderful thing. A most precious gift given to those of us who indeed, see their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus. Make that ALL of us, who see our sins washed away – every single one of us has sinned. Grace. Never judgement. Love, never condemnation.

      • Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

        “Grace. Never judgment. Love, never condemnation.”

        Have you read the words of Jesus?

        John 3:18
        Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

        Sin–including sexual sin–is what brings about our condemnation. Grace is what God pours out upon those who repent, trust Christ, and bow the knee to Him as Lord. However, sexual sin is NOT “okay” because God is holy.


        • Luke January 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

          “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

          And the judgment of who believes and who doesn’t isn’t up to you, or to me.

          Christ put aside condemnation for those who abide in him when He fulfilled the law. Is it perhaps time we considered following his example?

          • Shane Dodson January 29, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

            I cannot condemn anyone.

            As for following Christ’s “example,” I cannot put aside condemnation since it is the Lord who judges (Psalm 98:9). God is the one who will set aside or not set aside condemnation based upon His good will and pleasure.

            He has given me the ministry of reconciliation, so I plead with sinners to repent and turn to the Savior.


          • Church Reject January 29, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

            Shane: You have not been given the ministry of reconciliation. If you had been given that gift, you would have known right away not only what Sarah really meant, you would not have attempted to dump more shame on people who have already experienced the permanent shame, guilt, and condemnation the church has turned loose on us, whether our sexual past was consensual or not. Fortunately, many of us recognize it for what it is and have either moved on to grace-filled churches or walked away from organized Christianity entirely, so we recognized your judgment for what it is and called you on it. And it was judgment. I have seen no evidence that you truly could forgive a woman’s sexual past, or hold a rape victim blameless, and truly see her fully restored in the kingdom. I just see a typical “good Christian man” who can only point fingers and remind us of the judgment we have already suffered. What is the point?

          • Church Reject January 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

            If you truly believe you have the ministry of reconciliation, then you should let the strong responses to your posts make you step back and realize you are missing a very important piece of the story. Let me help you: there is a word in my posts, “permanent”. If you really have the gift you say you have, you will re-read and understand. If not, well… then there is no hope.

        • Kelley January 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

          Hi Shane,
          I think you may have misinterpreted what Sarah meant by “okay.” When I read her post, I didn’t interpret it as saying that sexual sin itself is “okay,” like it’s okay to forget purity, to forget holiness. I read her as saying that her sexual past is okay, for Jesus’ blood is enough for complete forgiveness, enough to make everything new. She (and everyone else who believes in Jesus) is no longer condemned, because Jesus died and redeemed us. He came not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). Whatever we have done in the past no longer condemns us before God. And in that message, the Gospel does shine through.

        • Linds January 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

          Shane, it is not my right or intention to judge or to condemn. I think that the vast majority of the readers here today are indeed redeemed Christians. Ones who have confessed their sins and been showered with grace and forgiveness, and that may be why your words seem so harsh in this forum.

          Oh – yes, I have indeed read the words of Jesus. I am also a great deal older than most of those commenting today. My walk with Jesus has taken me across the globe more than once.So I say once again – Grace, not judgement. Love, not condemnation. That is what I am called to demonstrate.

        • Joy @ Joy in this Journey January 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

          Shane, you keep using that word “Blessings.” It does not mean what you think it means.

          • Luke January 29, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

            Joy officially wins this thread. :)

          • Sarah Silvester January 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

            Blessings!!! Funniest thing I’ve seen all day. And he keeps doing it! Oh dear me.

          • Lesley January 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

            Thank you for saying what the rest of us were all thinking!

          • Beth Anne January 30, 2013 at 7:45 am #

            In the South we say “Bless your heart.”

          • Hope January 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

            In tonight’s production, Joy will be playing to part of Inigo Montoyo…

            Heh Heh Heh…awesome

          • Renae January 30, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

            Amen, Joy. I was thinking the same thing.

        • erin a. January 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

          This is all just nonsense, Shane. Have read Sarah Bessey’s work? She believes! She lives under the grace and forgiveness offered up in the very verse you quote in effort to condemn her.

    • Sarah January 29, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      Sarah’s post was clearly written to those already in Christ, who are so shamed by a whole culture of SEX IS THE BIG ONE. How dare we shame God’s beloved? How dare we say anyone’s value is tied up in anything other than that He created us and the very FACT that He came down and died and rose again for each one of us? He did not do it because He simply hated sin. No, it’s much bigger and far more beautiful than that. He did it because of sin’s hold on His wonderfully created men and women, to rescue us, to be near us. Because He loves us. It is that simple. If you are in Christ, you are to live free. It is the work of the Spirit that reveals and nudges and pulls out the bits of our flesh, the lies we’ve believed, the sinful acts that stand between us and true peace. But it is HIS work. And it is for our good as we continue on this imperfect path, fully human with His spirit filling our hearts and souls. Shame has no place in the heart of a believer, and those who would place that yolk on anyone, are far from heart of the gospel.

    • Alyssa Bacon-Liu January 29, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      In which Shane Dodson attempts to spiritually bully Christian blogosphere darling Sarah Bessey and gets shut down immediately.

    • Luke January 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

      Shane, you asked where the gospel was in that story. The gospel is all over that story friend, and all over the grace and healing flowing through these comments (most of them anyway). If fruit is what we are to judge when it comes to kingdom work, then this thread is a tree swollen with hope, branches sagging to the point of breaking with the ripened fruit of redemption and restoration.

      Old things are passing away, and things are being made new here, today, right now in this random internet comment section.

      I’d urge you to open your eyes to it, brother, because it’s a beautiful thing.


    • Jim Fisher January 29, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

      Dear readers: You all can quote or at least paraphrase John 3:16, can’t you? Can any among us quote the very next verse? God, in the person of Jesus Christ, did not come to judge the world. So if we come into this discussion to judge, are we not placing our ability to discern right from wrong, good from evil, on a pedestal above God? Idolatry! Cries the Lord. Oh, how we love to chomp on the forbidden fruit and feast on its sweetness. Munch. Munch. Swallow hard, oh Pharisee. The saccharine taste of judgment is what led us into this mess in the first place. The voice of the Spirit (oh dear Sarah) will lead us to be free of it. Selah.

      • Richella Parham January 30, 2013 at 8:32 am #

        Bingo, Jim. Just what I was thinking. I knew John 3:16 long before I knew John 3:17: “For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” I’m now 49 years old, and I’m finally, finally starting to understand this.

        Jesus preached repentance. His continual message was “Repent; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” We’ve co-opted the word “repent” simply to mean “turn away from sinful behavior,” and we especially like for it to apply to particular behaviors. Dear God, help us to learn better!

        Jesus was calling all of us to “turn” away from our bad thinking and to enter into the Kingdom he made available to us–where there is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. And from that place, I can say with a whole heart and a straight face:

        Blessings to all of you.

        • Jim Fisher January 30, 2013 at 11:51 am #

          I wrote that as a reminder to all of us to pause and reflect (Selah) on the motives behind our comments … and to remember that we stole the knowledge of good and evil against the will of God. With that knowledge, are we standing and preaching and pointing fingers … or sitting and sharing and holding hands.


    • Kreine January 30, 2013 at 9:48 am #


      I believe you missed the point. Sarah is not saying that sin is okay. She is saying that because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are washed clean from EVERY sin and shame has no place in our lives. That is the gospel.

    • Mary February 1, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      I have to say that I agree with some of what you said. I understand that forgiveness and grace for a sinful past is so important, but the author doesn’t seem to really be advocating abstaining from sexual activity outside of marriage. The whole idea of reassuring non-virgins that what they are doing isn’t a big deal only encourages them and other Christians to keep engaging in sinful behaviour.
      It’s like “don’t worry if you sleep with someone other than your husband, because a godly man wouldn’t struggle with your sexual past.” Really? I know of many married couples who have a hard time dealing with the sexual history of their partners…it’s not just some quick fix confession and forget all about it.
      Be careful, others will surely disagree with this…

    • Tony C. February 12, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      “God tells us that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10)

      By God you mean Paul.

      You also mean to refer to examples given in the context of Paul telling Christians not to pursue matters through the civil courts.

      How sad that we regularly lift out of a context the juicy bits we can beat people over the head with rather than lifting the actual cross laid out for us in a message?

      I know of no Christian who would consider pursuing a matter in the civil courts a graver sin than sleeping around even though that is actually the message of Paul here. Fornication is given as an example of the reason why you wouldn’t go to civil authorities.

      I suspect many people only skim their bibles for the bits that let them call other people sinners.

  47. Marcus A. January 29, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Okay guys, spit into a cup every evening before you go to bed. After a couple of months, you only need to do it a couple nights a week. After a year, just spit into it once a week. Then whenever you’re ready take a sip. What are you worried about? It’s only YOUR saliva…

    • ABC February 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

      Melanie, as a survivor of abuse, I COMPLETELY understand what you are saying. I felt much of the shame that Sarah discusses, and Satan used the shame and fed me lies that no man would love me because I was damaged goods–and I didn’t seek out the abuse. I endured it for years and was petrified to tell my family. That’s what happens. Satan uses people to hurt & abuse people sexually because the results are/can be fear, shame, humiliation and silence.

      With the help of a fantastic Christian therapist, I was able to forgive (which I never thought I’d do), and work to move on.

      I realized something. Virginity is so much more than an unbroken hymen. It’s the emotional and spiritual aspect of the act of love making, and in that, I think you were completely right when you said your husband is your one and only. When you were raped and abused, you did NOT give yourself away; it was taken from you.

      I wish, desperately wish, that the church did a better job when dealing with survivors of sexual abuse and rape. Dare I say, I think many churches and ministers will be judged because of the way they dealt with survivors.

      I hope you are doing well, Melanie. Kudos for you for speaking out. (((Hugs)))

  48. Melanie @ M&M January 29, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and 2 rapes as an adult, I thank you for this. I realize I may not have been your intended audience, but this speaks volumes to me as well. I remember my first therapist asking if I were a virgin when I married. I answered, “I thought I was” because I had blocked all that horror out. But once it was out, I had such guilt for having misled my husband. He married me based on a lie. He believed I was his one and only, but I wasn’t. There had been several before — that I just couldn’t (wouldn’t) remember until much, much later. It took a long time to realize I wasn’t damaged goods. Why do we teach that one act — deliberate, mistaken, or forced — is all it takes to drive God away from us? God never leaves. God only loves.

  49. AD January 29, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    Thanks for sharing. The story about the spit and the water ticked me off, and gave me evangelical flashbacks. I didn’t experience that exact scenario, but know exactly what you’re talking about. We had other similar “props” that were used to scare us into abstinence.

    Which, consequently, worked for me, but confused the heck out of me about sex, or anything related. It was a terrible kind of sex education, that’s for sure. Especially pitted against occasionally hearing the adults say something along the lines of, “sex is a beautiful thing to be enjoyed!”

    What? A lesson on how to confuse a teenagers in the area of sexuality.

    My husband and I were both virgins when we married, and sex was incredibly difficult for 11 years. I don’t doubt it’s in large part because of the very conflicting and confusing messages we heard. That, and a total lack of any REAL education or information! (other than the mechanics of STD’s and pregnancy) Pre-Marriage: Sex is horrible! After-Marriage: Sex is bliss! Uhh…no. That’s not how life works. Chalk it up to evangelicals not being able to deal with how life works.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing! Shame is a lie, and any adult who gives a kid a whole cup of shame, an ugly cup of lies, in which everyone spits…well, they’re the ones who should be ashamed of themselves.


    • brad February 12, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      I once heard a comedian say: “Here’s the church’s whole take on sex. It’s bad. It’s wrong. It’s evil! Save it for someone you love!”

      Oh man, sometimes it hurts to laugh!

  50. Jen January 29, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    You speak freedom and grace and wisdom. I’m glad you hit publish. Proud of you, Sarah!

  51. Sarah Askins: Poet-Writer January 29, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    This is so grace-filled, friend. It brought me back to summer camps and bonfires. So many shamed into silence, pushed farther away from love and forgiveness.

  52. BA January 29, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    Sarah, I can’t tell you how I needed to hear this. Redemption. Grace. Love. Humility.

    I’ve had those things from God & from my husband, but never from the church. Never from another believer. THANK YOU.

    I never felt shame of losing my virginity to a boy that I loved, truly loved. I never felt like I made a bad choice. I didn’t have a moment of gut-wrenching trauma telling my future husband that he wouldn’t be “the only one.”

    My husband (& my God) know that I’m not perfect. I’m damaged in far more ways than lady-bits.

    The ONLY time it made me feel uncomfortable was knowing what the rest of the church might think of me.

    “Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys you loved as a young woman. Your husband won’t hold it against you, he’s not that weak and ego-driven, choose a man marked by grace.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I was told that having sex before my wedding night would DESTROY my hope at having a healthy, loving marriage. That it would haunt me my entire life. My mother told me repeatedly that if I had sex before I was married, then every time I laid with my husband I would be thinking of all the men before him. But I’m pretty wrapped up in my husband when we’re getting down & dirty with the maritals. RAWR.

    • Mary February 1, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      “I never felt shame of losing my virginity to a boy that I loved, truly loved. I never felt like I made a bad choice.”

      Christians who think nothing of premarital sex do not understand the value and importance that God placed on keeping sex within the bounds of marriage…

  53. Cara @ WhimsySmitten January 29, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I am applauding and weeping and worshipping with these words. I was a “damaged goods” teenager and later, a “damaged goods” adult as a product of young marriage and young divorce. These words are gold and I will share them with anyone who will listen. Beautiful.

  54. Corinne January 29, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Thank you thank you. Shame cannot hold us when we speak it out. You are so brave… For me, the irony is this: I waited. I was a virgin when I married my husband. Sure… I fooled around. We came close. But alas! No penetration means I’m virginal right?!? Wrong. I still was shamed by my leaders. By other women. When sex wasn’t easy for me, I was looked at like I was the odd one. I was told it was my “fooling around” that caused this shame. That it was my burden to arty. It wasn’t until years later when I broke down sobbing and told my husband everything. Every dark thing I had done, every dark and impure thought… And I thought he would surely leave. But he held me, and said “oh honey!!! I don’t care. I love you. We all have this shit” and Through blurry year stained eyes, I heard Gods voice too… It doesn’t matter. I love you.

    Thank you for sharing this… We need to speak out about the shame that we carry… :-)

  55. Amy January 29, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    I did wait until marriage, because I was desperately afraid of the kind of judgment you’ve talked about here. I heard it all, and it made me afraid to so much as look at a boy in case I did something wrong. It didn’t help at all that when I went to college, nearly every guy I met sang the same tune: I don’t want to marry a woman who is “damaged goods.” Even my own husband felt this way, and his attitude just continued the shame I felt that I had any sexual feelings or desires at all. (I should say here that my husband is a wonderful man; this is just a sticky issue for us.) Recently, he told me that he would be “disappointed” in our children if they didn’t wait for marriage. I told him that I didn’t believe that it was his to approve or disapprove, to be pleased or disappointed, with their choices when it comes to sex. Your words are so affirming here. Thank you.

  56. Lisa DeLay January 29, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    Thanks Sarah for sharing your heart.

  57. Linds January 29, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    I just want to slither through the Internet waves and give you a huge hug. Grace. Love. Blessing. You epitomise them all, Sarah.

  58. zena January 29, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    sarah ~

    this post reminds me of the natalie merchant song, wonder. do you know it?

    “O, I believe
    Fate smiled and destiny
    Laughed as she came to my cradle
    Know this child will be able
    Laughed as she came to my mother
    Know this child will not suffer
    Laughed as my body she lifted
    Know this child will be gifted
    With love, with patience and with faith
    She’ll make her way”

    thanks for all the ways you’ve been brave as of late.

    ~ zena

  59. Diana Lark January 29, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I never got the “spit in the cup” thing, but i was told that i was a rose, and that anything physical i did was like removing one petal. Hold hands with a boy, there goes a petal, make out with a boy for ten minutes, there go two petals. “Don’t you want your husband to have as much of that flower as he can? Don’t you want to present him with something full and beautiful, not something withered and torn?”

    It wasn’t until after i’d already had sex and was beating myself up for it that i realized: even if i had held back EVERYTHING for my husband, every kiss, every touch, that it would ALL be “ruined” on our wedding night. You can only have one “first time”, and even if that first time is with your husband on your wedding night, he still only gets to “deflower” you once. And then you are never a virgin again. You’ve lost all your “petals”. But guess what? You STILL get to have amazing sex for the rest of your lives. It doesn’t matter how many times you have sex (or even with how many partners), you STILL have plenty of sexuality to offer. It’s not something that can be used up.

    You also have beauty, grace, wit, intelligence, humor, crazy good baking skills, a beautiful singing voice, an encyclopedic knowledge of 80s sitcoms, the ability to do your own taxes, or whatever other attributes you bring to the table; sex doesn’t invalidate any of that. If your husband marries you just because you’re a virgin, he’s going to be pretty disappointed on the day after your wedding. Whereas if he marries you because you are a beautiful, amazing, vibrant person who has stolen his heart (and who he is attracted to sexually), then none of that will ever go away.

    • Natasha February 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      I never had the misfortune to have to endure one of those sermons with the torn up rose, thank God, but the best response I’ve seen to that nonsense is Matt Chandler’s “Jesus wants the rose” on YouTube.

      And on a more general note, I don’t think people will be more inclined to sin sexually or otherwise because of too much grace. It’s the opposite-they still know too little of what Christ has really done for and in them. “If anyone is in Christ, (s)he is a new creation…” etc. Shame is the best way to keep someone in sin because they see their past as who they are now. It’s the law bringing death all over again.
      (Sorry if that’s a bit muddled- I’m typing while thinking) :-)

  60. Mel January 29, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing, Sarah. I too have felt like damaged goods because of my sexual past. I’ve always inferred that sex before marriage is the worst possible sin you could ever commit. There is such a strong taboo in the church that makes people who are not pure before marriage feel absolutely condemned. I was abused from a young age and have felt like God never wanted me. After all, if being impure is such a travesty that God looks on with contempt, then I never even got a chance. My virtue was stolen from me and God didn’t protect me. I need to start looking at things with a perspective like yours. Thank you for sharing.

  61. Marina Lehman January 29, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    This is beautiful, Sarah, not only because of your honesty and vulnerability but because we should all be able to get behind this. This is not about the rightness or wrongness, the holiness or sinfulness, of sex before marriage (as Shane in the thread above unfortunately seems to think that it is); this is about the way that no sin and no action is enough to keep us from the love of God. It’s about God’s redemption and restoration, and the fact that our sexuality does not fall outside of those actions.

    Thank you.

  62. Ben Irwin January 29, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Sarah, that’ll preach.

  63. Patrick January 29, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Thank you so much for this!

  64. the Blah Blah Blahger January 29, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Preach, Sarah Bessey, preach!

  65. Laura January 29, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Thank you for posting this Sarah. I became a christian after I was married. I did not keep myself pure. I suffered some abuse as a child and became pregnant in college.
    I believe God gave me a husband who could look past my past and love me through the healing process.
    I believe that when I was baptized, those waters washed away my past sins.
    I don’t belive that I serve a God who would forgive my sins one day and then hold them over my head the next. To tell a group of young people that God can’t forget their past sins is shortsighted and irresponsible. The Bible tells us that we are continually washed clean and that once forgiven our sins are forgotten by God. Jesus said it is the sick who need a doctor.
    I think one of the saddest things about todays churches is they forget about grace and forgiveness and preach judgment to try to force us to live righteous lives. I can’t reconcile this with what I know about Jesus.

  66. Miles O'Neal January 29, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    I had to FB share that before I could even respond. You are awesonme, beautiful, perfect, loved. I am so glad you have reclaimed that / are reclaiming that.

    Because I wasn’t a virgin, when God wooed me back, I fully expected to marry a non-virgin. This was partly because I figured nobody else would want me, but also because I knew it didn’t matter, and I figured there was someone out there I would love who needed to know that.

    Instead, I fell in love with an amazing woman who was still a virgin, and whom, until we fell in love, would never have married an ex-hippie, with virginity being one of the reasons. We’ve both ha our eyes and hearts ioened a lot since then.

    Grace is grace is grace is grace. The Chuirch needs to know that deep down in every last cell, every last mitochondria, every last farandloa of her body.

  67. Ann January 29, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    As a parent of two college aged girls, my husband and I continue the conversation that we began when they were very small…about many things including sexuality. Of course it is our desire that they would abstain from sex until they are married, as we believe God would want them to do. But I hope in the conversation, that we have communicated that the issue is not the act of sex. Sex will feel the same before or after marriage – if it didn’t so many people would’t want to do it. The conversation that we have is that sex within marriage can draw you closer to Christ, but that sex outside of marriage can make the other person more important to you than Jesus and the relationship your focus. I have no problem with purity rings and pledges and open conversation for what that represents. I do have problems with putting a ring on a child’s hand or watching them sign a pledge and pretending it’s an iron clad contract they will never break. We also try to impart a spirit of grace in our children so that should the person they choose to marry come with a history of sexual experiences (odds are high), that they are able to extend grace – the same grace we hope their future spouse will extend to them for the baggage and sin they carry into the marriage too. If we teach our children to be disgusted by those who have had premarital sex, they may take a pass on a future spouse who understands redemption and will extend the kind of grace in marriage that makes relationships wonderful. I don’t think we’ve been perfect at this conversation – and I have had to get over thinking my biggest failure as a parent would be if my children had sex before marriage. My biggest failure would be if I communicated that the act of sex before marriage was bigger than the grace of God.

    • Jennifer January 29, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

      Wow. So well-stated. I’m going to copy and paste your comment into my “Parenting” folder, if that’s okay with you. :)

      • Ann January 30, 2013 at 8:23 am #

        Of course :)

    • Roman Victor February 1, 2013 at 7:34 am #

      Awesome stuff Ann! Spot on! So happy there are other christians who teach children the Grace of God!!! Be blessed!

  68. Amy January 29, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Amen! I was lucky that I never felt shamed for sleeping with two different serious boyfriends in my twenties before I got married at 27. Not by my family, not by my church, and certainly not by the man who became my husband, himself divorced from the first wife he had “waited for.” If true love waits, that wasn’t it. This is.

  69. Erika January 29, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    oh Sarah, I don’t know you, but thank you for writing this. Thank your for being brave, and vulnerable. It’s interesting, I felt this way at 20, in love with Jesus, wanting a husband–like I was damaged. And now, at 26, a divorced woman, wounded by her husband, and with a little girl, all of those feelings rush back. I have even more “baggage” now, and I’m more damaged than before. Thank you for truth, for extending grace, for reminding us that God himself extends grace.

  70. Meg January 29, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Thank you so much for speaking truth, Sarah! I completely agree. The church’s outlook on matters of sexuality is pretty disheartening. I feel as though the church has taken sexuality, a beautiful gift from God, and twisted it into something evil and horrible.

    I’m on the other side – the remaining 20%. I remained pure until marriage, and as a result have had SO many psychological problems with sex. I still feel, in the back of my mind, as though sex is an ugly thing not of God, even though the complete opposite is true!

    For me, waiting until I got married and being brain-washed by the Church to think sex is a horrible act, has ultimately led to me not being able to have a healthy sexual relationship with my husband. It’s something I struggle with every day. My husband is very patient with me and we are working on my problems, but I often find myself wondering if I would have actually been better off if I had had sex before marriage.

    The church caused me to bury my sexuality into non-existence.

    • B January 30, 2013 at 2:14 am #

      I could have written your exact comment, Meg. My husband and I waited too… but from the time we got engaged and were committed to marrying each other, our motivation for waiting was 100% a sense of churchy shame. We felt like God’s big-picture purpose for sex–that of being able to share an incredibly intimate experience with the person who is committed to loving you for life–could already apply to us. The only reason we weren’t married yet is because of planning the wedding, so we ended up in a weird relational bog of knowing we were already together for life and feeling those soul-ties but having our physical ties limited by an arbitrary wedding date. I was ashamed of the how far we did go, especially when another engaged friend struggling through the same thoughts asked me point-blank. I was ashamed of spending the night with him, even though we never had sex, and I was ashamed of how badly I wished we were having sex. Every single aspect of our physical relationship was wrapped in confusion and shame and a lifetime of sermon snippets so that I couldn’t hear God’s voice at all.

      …And then we got married, signing a piece of paper that gave us the Church’s permission to consummate our relationship, but the shame didn’t magically evaporate. It wasn’t that I was haunted by the physical things we had done before getting married; it was that I had been so thoroughly indoctrinated about the wrongness of sex that even just realizing I was enjoying my husband’s touch would send my heart spiraling downward. Over the course of our engagement and our first year or two of marriage, I got used to shutting down any pleasurable impulses out of shame, and then it became involuntary. To this day, any time my husband touches me, it touches off a huge battle with myself to try not to flinch away, to try to interpret my body’s sensations as enjoyable instead of dreadful, and to try to keep preachery voices out of my head. It’s exhausting, and most of the time, I don’t succeed.

      Like you, I often wonder if I could have broken the Church’s hold over my sexuality by refusing to let it dictate my actions before I was married. I’m not talking about being promiscuous or having premarital sex just to rebel (I’m sure you’re not either), but I wonder… if my husband and I hadn’t practiced stifling our passion or hemming our impulses in with shame while we waited for our wedding day, perhaps we wouldn’t be ten years into an otherwise happy marriage with a truly baggage-filled sex life.

      • M January 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

        As much as everyone needs to read this beautiful post by the brave Sarah Bessey – so do the other 20% of us need to hear exactly what the courageous Meg and B are saying. They tell my story. We have been scarred too. We long for healthy sex lives without the voices inside of our heads shouting, “DIRTY!!” It sounds like we need a guest post!

        • lmichele January 31, 2013 at 2:39 am #

          Sarah, B and M,

          Sarah, you demonstrated strength, courage and love by sharing your story. How awesome that God used you to glorify Himself by sharing the depth and truth of His grace with others!

          To all three of you, having been in the church most of my life, for many years as merely a church goer who thought I was a Christian, but who did not become a born-again believer until I was an adult and out of college, I can very much relate to the use of condemnation in the Church (for many things, but particularly related to sex). Unfortunately, sadly, preaching condemnation for sin rather than repentance and grace is often the rule rather than the exception. Does any true believer consider sharing the grace of God a thing to be avoided out of fear it might encourage others to sin or otherwise give us a license to sin? Of course not. As near impossible as it is to grasp, we know we are declared righteous (even though we may not FEEL righteous because we all know we are sinners) and called to “be holy.” We know we are to confess our sins and turn from them, yet through our humanity and weakness we often forget that God promises when we confess, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us, and many of us somehow imagine OUR sin is greater or more un-forgivable than others’. We know that isn’t true, yet so often many of us can’t help thinking it and so continue to bear the burden of carrying the guilt and shame for which we’ve already been forgiven; and I believe in part, it’s because of the frequent, perpetual seeds of condemnation sown by other Christians in the Church. Through the sowing of condemnation often comes the idea that we must work, and strive harder to earn God’s favor and grace, as if that were possible. Certainly, as believers we are called to good works, but not so we might earn God’s favor or some higher standing with Him. Why should it surprise any of us who’ve experienced such condemnation that we might suffer from feelings of confusion, uncertainty, inadequacy or disappointment, as it were in this case about sex, sexuality and intimacy after having been told nothing of sex or intimacy in the Church other than perhaps it’s a distasteful, shameful, dirty thing to be feared and avoided.

          FAR from it! Sex and intimacy were GOD’S idea, and He created it for us to enjoy!My wonderful husband and I have said to each other so many times what a gift we believe it is that God gave us to share with each other. My encouragement is that each of you pray with your spouses about whatever you’re struggling with emotionally in this area and ask God to help you both get to the place where you can enjoy this gift he’s given the two of you as a couple to enjoy.

          Our LOVING Father, knowing what would bring Himself the most glory and us the least pain (emotionally, spiritually, and perhaps even physically)thought it best for us to share the gift of sex and intimacy with our spouse. Our ALL-KNOWING Father knew before he ever created us that some of us would fall short and choose less than His best for us, while at the same time extending grace so that we could be forgiven and move on to His better plan. Does that mean entering into marriage in and of itself automatically equips all of us with all the answers about how to give and receive and fully enjoy the gift of sexual intimacy with our spouses (whether we waited or not)? No. But it gives us a God-ordained safe haven within which we can share, communicate and grow in this area of our marriage. It takes both spouses being willing to communicate with each other about it, a willingness to be vulnerable-open and honest-and a commitment from both to be trustworthy with whatever each shares with the other, in order to overcome whatever uncertainties, insecurities or feelings of inadequacy we might bring into the marriage – until each spouse gets to a place of being able to accept and enjoy God’s gift to your marriage rather than allow the lies of condemnation to steal those precious moments God intended for you to enjoy together, FREE from guilt and shame.

      • KKSorrell January 31, 2013 at 3:22 am #

        Dear Meg and B, I am right there with you! I waited until marriage, although I constantly felt ashamed for how far I did go before marriage, and then when I got married I felt guilty for having sex. I have been married for 12 years now and still have issues with sexuality. I can remember early in my marriage having friends who were having premarital sex, but I was jealous of them because they were having better sex than my husband and I were! I was very psychologically programmed to think that sex was bad. Gladly things are better in the bedroom now, but the influence of that mindset I was raised with never quite goes away. I feel like part of the problem is the church tells us how to NOT have sex, but then it doesn’t tell us how to HAVE sex when we’re married. Sex talk is taboo in churches. We are warned about our highly sexualized society, but ironically, we are forced to look to it to find out how to have a good sex life even within marriage.

        Sarah, I love love love your honesty and authenticity in this post! You are a beautiful woman in God’s eyes and in ours! Thank you.

        • CJ February 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

          My husband and I waited until we were married to have sex as well but thankfully I had a mom who always spoke to me frankly about sex, and my husband and I both read books and talked about sex. We didn’t do it, but we talked about it and talked about the physical issues I might have (my doctor warned me, and she was right). Because we cannot expect this to work: Don’t do it! And then when you get married it’ll be incredible!
          It’s a lie. You cannot just flip a switch because you’ve said your vows and expect everything to be wonderful and easy.
          I’m so glad we had the frank conversations we had before marriage and that still didn’t mean it was the best sex ever right away, of course. But we had laid the foundation for good conversations and an openness with each other so we could talk about the problems we had physically and thankfully it therefore didn’t have to end up being a huge emotional issue between us.
          I get so mad that the church does what those above said: Talk all about NOT doing it and fail to prepare people for doing it. It is a huge harmful disservice.
          To those of you who are having problems in your sex lives in marriage because of this, I admire your courage in speaking about it here. And I sincerely hope you can speak with your spouse in the same way — it can get better, I promise!:)

  71. H.B. Allaman January 29, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    A beautiful, courageous, wonderful post! What leapt off the page, though, was this:

    “I would say: Sarah, your worth isn’t determined by your virginity.”

    Why? Because it made me think of honor killings. Our Christian culture is not so very far away from the cultures dominated by other religions in other parts of our world, the ones we Christians like to label as “demonic” or “full of lies.” When we buy into this purity paradigm, we are telling young people (and let’s be honest, it’s most ardently directed toward girls) that their honor is in their virginity. And if they lose their virginity before marriage, we may not be killing them physically, but we sure are killing them spiritually, with soul-devastating shame.

  72. Drew January 29, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    I’m all about grace and the gospel but I think the danger in speaking about sexual sin like this is that it lessens what it is- sin. People today don’t have a holy hatred for sin. That is why it is important to point out that the sex people had and enjoyed before marriage is terrible sin against God. After all, without truly understanding the depth of sin we cannot truly appreciate the grace of God. It is also important to be biblical in our thinking and realize that lust in the heart is adultery in God’s eyes and so in the truest since there isn’t a single virgin on the planet. Physical virgin, sure, but spiritually we are all mired in sexual sin (even the guy who has never kissed of touched a woman.) I think condemning mesages on sexual sin are good. They condemn sin. That is Godly. And then, of course, after sin has been condemned, the Gospel of Grace is sweeter than ever!

    • Preston January 29, 2013 at 8:49 am #

      “People today don’t have a holy hatred for sin.”

      Would you point to a time in history where people did have this holy hatred? If you’re going to say it was a generation ago, then you’ll have to account for a whole other list of sinfulness. And would you consider, for a moment, that the work of grace might actually work in hindsight, that it is grace that brings someone to the cross and then the work of the Holy Spirit that lets them look back and reevaluate their past? Maybe that aspect is, truly, only the word of God.

      • Drew January 29, 2013 at 9:02 am #

        No generation of people have ever had a holy hatred for sin. So that statement is true for today’s generation as well. Thus, “people today don’t have a holy hatred for sin.” I don’t see your objection?

        As for your other point, yes as we grow in Christ we learn more about the holiness of God and therefore, begin to see our past and present sin as even more heinous. But a person who doesn’t recognize their sin cannot be saved. That is basic to salvation. A person must recognize their sin, repent, and submit to Christ as their Master (or Lord if you prefer based on kurios). In regards to this article on sexual sin, the sexually sinful must recognize their actions as that- sin. And as I stated, that would include every believer since we are all sexually sinful to some degree, from lust up to the physical act. Only at that point of recognition of sin, would the sexually sinful person then be able to repent from the sin. To summarize: the recognition of sin and repentance from it occurs at the beginning of salvation in the judicial sense of justification and continues until death in regards to sanctification. No recognition of sin = no justification of sin in Christ. Therefore, it is necessary to condemn sin (sexual in this context) in any Gospel presentation before the showering of grace through the message of redemption offered through Jesus Christ.

        • Luke January 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

          I’ll tell you what I told the twitterz, bro: “When you use condemnation as a weapon to shame people, that’s not the gospel. Christ is anti-condemnation. Condemnation is anti-Christ.”


          • Dan February 15, 2013 at 1:53 am #

            Drew is saying that without repentance there is no grace. Grace is given to all those who repent and turn to Jesus.

            Many people in the comments section seem to be equating “shaming” and “call to repentance” like you seem to be doing.

        • Esther February 16, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

          I understand the logic you’re putting forth (condemnation yields a recognition of wrong yields repentance) – but thank God that The Lord doesn’t do things the logical way!

          “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Romans 2:4

          It’s his kindness, not his condemnation, that leads us to repent. How amazing is that good news!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      “People today don’t have a holy hatred for sin.”

      The Taliban and Saudis do. Especially when it comes to women’s sexual sin.

  73. @OdysseyMamaC January 29, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Thank you SO much for writing this beautiful post. So many women (young and old) need to hear this truth.

    I have a dear friend who lost her virginity in college after drinking a bit too much one night. She suffered from depression and sought acceptance in the wrong places. Raised in the church, she placed incredible importance on the “first-time,” and when it was horrible, and the guy refused to speak to her the next day, she was crushed by the shame. A week later, she attempted suicide.

    She survived, but had a long and difficult road back to health through the judgment and ridicule of so many. How horrible that the church continues to enforce the message that a girl is somehow “less” without her virginity….that her entire worth could be measured by this one thing. Because while the church judged, I’m fairly certain Jesus was crying as that girl laid in a hospital bed trying to put the pieces of her life back together. I’m fair certain Jesus just loved her.

    Now, she is married to a wonderful man, and they have a beautiful family…..and great sex, apparently. :-)

    As Christians, we should know that if God is in us, we can never be “damaged goods.” Thanks again Sarah! Amazing. :-)

  74. Paula January 29, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    My husband and I were asked to give a talk on purity at the local Christian high school.

    I held up a bottle of water. I explained that if you live close enough to the equator, the rays of the sun will completely destroy every bacteria and germ in the bottle of water if it is left for a few hours. I talked about The Water Project, and how they are teaching third world countries this free and totally safe method of decontaminating drinking water.

    And then I held up the water and said “This is you. There is NOTHING that you have ever done that God cannot clean up. NOTHING. He’s God. You stay transparent before Him, you focus on Him, and He will take care of the other stuff.”

    The kids began sitting higher in their chairs and paying very close attention, while many of the teachers began to look nervous. Where were the shame-messages, the behaviour modification rules, the lines the kids shouldn’t cross?

    Either God can deal with everything, or He can’t deal with anything. We are clean drinking water, no matter how many people spat in our cup.

    We weren’t asked back to speak there ever again. But kid after kid sought us out to thank us.

    • Lisa Bartelt January 29, 2013 at 10:27 am #

      This is a great illustration.

    • H.B. Allaman January 29, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      Paula. Wow. That’s an amazing truth you told to those kids. I hope you don’t ever stop sharing it. Powerful.

      • Paula January 29, 2013 at 10:46 am #

        Thank you. It just drives me nuts when Christians believe that their sin is more powerful than God. How small do they think God is?

    • Kimberly January 29, 2013 at 10:52 am #

      Paula, I love this beautiful illustration. Thank you for sharing (with the kids & with us).

    • Dan February 15, 2013 at 2:10 am #

      While it is true that God will forgive our sin and wipe our slate clean if we repent, the real world consequences of sin will still remain and we will end up paying something because of our sin. If I murder someone and repent, God forgives, but a real life consequence of that could be a long prison sentence. Similarly, fornication can lead to broken hearts, stds, unwanted pregnancies, or marital dissatisfaction later in life. All these and more are the real world consequences that can occur. Ultimately, God is looking out for our best interests by instructing us to flee from sin. He knows that the worldly and spiritual consequences are great.

  75. Sarah aka MainlineMom January 29, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    I want to stand on a chair and shout “Yes!” to this. I went to Christian school and concerts and heard this message over and over. I’m not sure it was quite so shaming but it instilled a deep fear in me. I did get some healthy Christian messages about sex that balanced it out but what it did for me was create an enormous pride wrapped around my virginity which was messed up in all kinds of ways.

    “Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage.” I SO wish someone had told me this too.

    It is only recently, as a thirty-something adult, that I have been able to quit judging my Christian friends who have slipped up this way. Their mistakes are no more shameful than mine, and they can be forgiven AND forgotten by both God and spouse.

  76. Jane Anderson January 29, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Sarah, I’m envisioning you standing on a pedestal and pouring your story out to a mass of young adults shamed by the “poisonous pedagogy” that their fathers and forefathers have instilled for generations. Without a voice like yours, our children will reach adulthood already burdened by fear, shame and self-hatred. Don’t ever be afraid of righting a wrong that dictates our children’s worthiness. It’s time for grownups like us to undo what was previously done to us. I applaud you…Jane.

  77. Jenna January 29, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Thank you, thank you for speaking these healing words. Shame taught me that I could not forgive myself for the times when I would have made different choices. It took a long time for me to even learn how to receive forgiveness from others. It’s harmful when the church neglects the shame and condemnation that surrounds our sexuality. It’s healing when someone says, “I do not see you through the lens of your past choices” and offers you love that you have not offered yourself.

  78. Jane January 29, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    This is beautiful. What love! It brought me chills. I only wish I had been told this as a teen.

    What you heard was what I heard as a 16 year old girl. I didn’t believe I was loveable. As I went to church and dated a great Christian guy, I felt worse and worse. It was as if I was living a lie. Our biggest struggles as a couple was me believing that I wasn’t good enough for him. He was a virgin and I wasn’t. I told him the truth but he still loved me. I was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t good enough for him and I never could be. I expected that one day he would own up to that. He still loved me and always told me as much. But the more I listened in church and youth groups, the lower my self esteem went. This lead to terrible struggles. I felt worthless. I drank. I did drugs. I wanted to feel good but nothing worked. I didn’t feel good about myself. It was the worst time in my life and it really stemmed from feeling as if I had no value left from the viewpoint of Christianity.

    How my life changed is a another story entirely. I just want to thank you for writing this. My hope and prayer is that it will be shared with women that need to read it.

    As a side note, I’ve been married to that wonderful boy now for 17 years.

  79. HopefulLeigh January 29, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Sarah, I am so unbelievably proud of you for sharing this. Preach, woman!

    As you know, my story is different. I’m still a virgin and while I grew up in the church that occasionally bought into these damaging Purity Culture ideas, somehow that is not a part of my narrative. My mom always talked openly with me about sex and I believe this made a big difference. My parents waited until they were married and encouraged me to do the same. I am not a virgin because I have amazing self-control or because I’m a saint or better than anyone else. So far from it. To be honest, I put myself in some sticky situations and there were a few years in there where I could have cared less about abstinence. But here I am and I’m glad (75% of the time) that I’ve waited, even though I am very much ready for the wait to be over. It has been frustrating to not hear anything beyond True Love Waits- to not hear anything about sex and singleness from the pulpit. (Don’t worry. I have a post in progress about this very topic.) I’ve had to develop my own theology of singleness and sex. I wish the Church as a community was a part of that process. You’ve clearly shown today how much further we have to go. We need messages on the goodness of sex and about chastity and about the grace available to us no matter which side of the spectrum we’re on. We need these messages to be delivered to both men and women. No more double standards. No more shame-based tactics. No more universalizing our individual experiences.

    • Gina January 29, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      Good points, Leigh (from one who is also still waiting! :-) ).

    • Tanya Marlow January 29, 2013 at 11:55 am #

      Love this addition in the comments, Leigh – and I think I need to hear you more on sex and singleness.

    • Marilyn January 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

      Leigh – thanks so much for this comment. I loved the post but also am in a position of raising teens and young 20′s – As a mom I long to reflect to them a healthy sexuality, and big picture purity. A theology of singleness and sex as you so beautifully articulate. I am a product of my past – not bound to it, not living in shame, but one who entered into marriage with another who is a product of his past. Two broken people does not a whole person make. We also live in a culture that has idolized sex and we see the repercussions of this daily. In all this I recognize the need for living out grace before my kids, being honest about choices I made. Perhaps in all this the word to use is holiness – seeking holiness out of love for our God in whose image we are made. And recognizing that the transformation process takes a lifetime. I’m rambling but all this to say – thanks to you and Sarah.

      • HopefulLeigh January 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

        Thank you for sharing, Marilyn. You perfectly captured how we can reframe this narrative: focusing on holiness. I have no doubt you and your husband can talk honestly and openly with your kids about sex, your hopes for them in this area, and your love for them no matter what.

  80. Krista January 29, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for this Sarah!
    It’s so crazy how our focus becomes so myopic on this! Yes, there are consequences, but sometimes they’re nothing compared to the consequences of other sins in your life that you bring into a marriage. Oh my word, the other sins in my life have wreaked crazy havoc on my marriage compared to this!
    As I now have 2 baby daughters this has come so much more close to home for me. I want to raise them differently than I was raised (and my boys too). I want to be able to talk to them about all these things, not just the surface level things of “don’t go too far”.
    A million times thanks!

  81. Sarah January 29, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    I signed the card a few times. I wore the ring. I felt the shame of being caught and having someone close to me come to me “as a sister in Christ”, Bible in hand and a list of requirements for my true repentance; tell my fiance’s parents or she would, tell my pastor, or she would. And to this day, my soul revolts every time I hear one more person claim the destruction sex before marriage can wreak. It wasn’t the sex that injured me so. It was the shame of being told I was a liar for hiding it, the shame of other people being privy to intimate details between me and the man I loved. It was the feeling of having it all stripped away with no regard for my dignity or respect for my coming-marriage to this man. It wasn’t that we didn’t feel convicted, or that we weren’t praying for strength, or that we didn’t repent. But, the process of healing for us, was thwarted with the shame of others. And we did get married, and our sex life has been blessed. My relationships with those who sought to shame us however, will never be the same.

  82. Luke January 29, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Beautiful post, Sarah. The torrent of similar stories that has flooded in since this post went live is particularly eye-opening for me. As a guy growing up Evangelical, the same kind of power dynamic that allowed men to dictate modesty rules for girls, placed the onus of purity squarely on the shoulders of those same girls. (I mean, mother-son purity balls are certainly the exception rather than the rule, right?) This puts men and boys in a privileged position regarding purity culture, and instead of feeling shame (even when we’ve done the most shameful things), we end becoming the ones who do the shaming, who perpetuate the culture of condemnation that ends up reducing the value of our daughters to the sum of their sexual (in)activity.

    It is particular telling of this power dynamic that the loudest voices of condemnation in response to this post are coming from men. To them I would simply say,

    “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The end.”

    Be blessed, sister.

  83. anna {girlwithblog} January 29, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Preach, sister. And thank you for doing so. As Meg shared above, the messages from the Church about sex and ‘how close is too close?’ and conferences and images really messed with me, and my husband. It took us a while before we felt like we weren’t doing something wrong, because for 24 years we were told that all sexual activity was wrong. Those kind of ingrained thoughts don’t just turn off with ‘I do’. Over five years later and that part of our marriage is healthy, but that poor first year… Shame is a monster.

    I wish I could have read this at 15. Thank you, friend.

  84. Alecia January 29, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I loved this. Shame is such a degrading tactic to use. I remember very clearly being told how I was “damaged goods.” As I was planning a wedding with the guy I had gotten pregnant with I was being shamed into a “reality” that I would never be good enough for anyone else. God is bigger than that. His grace covers all. And it did take me a very long time to realize that. And it took our marriage an eternity to move past that. But…not just because of the shaming comments people made. Also because of what some other commentors have eluded to that I’d like to echo. Yes, grace is enough for anything in my past present or future. But, God’s best/God’s plan is for us to have sex within the boundaries of marriage. One person for life. When we don’t do that it can have immense consequences. Not that the grace of our God or our spouse cannot over come those things but it does make those hurdles that much more difficult to overcome.

  85. kim January 29, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    I am behind you here 100%. I work with youth and young people and most of what we do to protect them may be the most condemning and damning thing they ever encounter. Thank you for your courage to speak out of your own life experience. There is a much more excellent way to fortify our young with ideas about the evils of objectifying others. Thank you so!

  86. Veronica Zundel January 29, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    I am appalled by what this man said. I bet he wouldn’t have said the boys you slept with were ‘damaged goods’. In what sense are young women (or any women) ‘goods’? This is the mindset that validates rape. No Christian should be expressing the very worldly view that women are ‘commodities’ and can be devalued by too much use.

    • TheresaEH January 29, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Well not much has changed since our Lord’s time…when the crowd brought to him the woman “caught” in audultary and wanted to stone her, WHY was not the man condemned before our Lord with her. May that preacher have contrition for what he did and have the scales removed from his eyes.

  87. Lara January 29, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I think that wisdom is a better lens to talk about sex through than sin. What do you think?

    This thought was inspired by Richard Beck:


  88. Jennifer January 29, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Dear Sarah, Thank you so much for your heart here. I have a page on my blog sharing about my abortion, at age 16, and I believe silence around the topic of sex is one of the most damaging wounds to our heart. It makes the wound grow even deeper. (I kept my abortion a secret from everyone except my husband for twenty years.) I have to tell you though–that even now, after counseling and letting God in to heal me around my past, my heart is still raw and tender here. And the opening paragraphs of your post make my heart ache and tears fall again. I can’t help but regret what I did . . . it reveals how much I needed validation from others, no matter what the cost, as a teenager. I think the way you’ve framed the story is powerful and effective in conveying the main point, but, oh, it was hard to hear those words of condemnation again, to be back in the pews hearing them, feeling them . . . even though I know Jesus has washed me clean.

  89. Kelly @ Love Well January 29, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Sing the song of grace, sweet Sarah. It is the song of Jesus. He redeems and restores.

    I stand in awe of this glory.

  90. Julie January 29, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    There are many, many wonderful Christian people who do not believe sex before marriage is a sin. As long as we keep calling it “sexual sin,” there will be shame. As long as we keep saying “this is bad, this is not allowed,” there will ALWAYS be shame put on those who “slip up” or choose a different path. We have to change our view of sex and let go of our ideas that the Bible forbids sex before marriage.

    • Gina January 29, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      Even if the Bible does forbid it?

      Make no mistake, I’m all in favor of grace, and I love what Sarah wrote. But to pretend that sin ISN’T sin to make ourselves feel better is going too far in the other direction.

      • Hännah January 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

        Do tell me: where is it forbidden in the Bible?

        • Gina January 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

          1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, and quite a few more.

          If Sarah is right that we shouldn’t treat sexual sin as the sin you can’t recover from — and I believe she is right — that still doesn’t mean it’s not sin at all. To teach that is to fall into the opposite error.

          • Hännah January 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

            All of those verses use the phrase “sexual immorality” — what’s implied by that?

          • Gina January 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

            Hannah, it’s my understanding that the phrase is a translation of “porneia,” widely defined as encompassing a range of illicit sexual behavior, including adultery and fornication.

            A Greek scholar could get into this much deeper than I can. But a discussion that was too in-depth would probably detract from the main point of Sarah’s post — which, as I understand it, is that SIN CAN BE FORGIVEN.

            I think that’s what we should be concentrating on here.

          • Julie January 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

            Gina, I would encourage you to look up the definitions of “fornication” and “adultery”. Since you admit that Greek scholars could “get into this deeper,” doesn’t that show that there is more than meets the eye with these verses? Perhaps it is not so black and white? God and the writers of the Bible spoke to certain people in a certain culture in a certain time. Not everything will prove to hold true in a culture where everything–including marriage–looks different than it did in Bible times.

            This actually is the important thing to focus on here. Because defining sex as a “sin” is widely held in our Christian culture and it is clearly damaging, as Sarah’s post here proves. Many Christians do not believe it is a sin and we need to speak up to challenge people’s assumed beliefs. That is what will take away the shame — when we have healthy sexual habits in and out of marriage…when we start focusing on the health & quality of our sexual experiences and stop focusing on whether or not we had sex before we were married.

          • Gina January 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

            I may be mistaken, but I don’t think the post argued that defining premarital sex as a sin is shaming. I believe it said that flawed teaching that denigrates human worth and value is shaming.

        • Drew January 29, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

          Porneia means all illicit sexual activity. Fornication is an english word which captures the idea behind the Greek. That is, sex outside of marriage is sin. Literally porneia means “unlawful sexual activity.” Unlawful based on God’s law, obviously. Furthermore, Heb 13:4 says the “marriage bed” is pure and undefiled, not just the “bed.” Our understanding of God’s truth isn’t based on culture. Truth doesn’t change. God did not want sex outside of marriage then and He doesn’t want it now.

          The fact that marriage and other things look different in our culture than in biblical times is just evidence that our culture is degenerate in different ways. It doesn’t change the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is His self revelation and “[He] does not change” Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8.

          • Hännah January 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

            But this is circular! “Porneia means all illicit sexual activity. Fornication is an english word which captures the idea behind the Greek. That is, sex outside of marriage is sin. Literally porneia means “unlawful sexual activity.” Unlawful based on God’s law, obviously.” Where do you get that sex before marriage that’s consensual and adult is “unlawful based on God’s law, obviously”?

        • Drew January 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

          It simply is what porneia means. Illicit sexual activity. Adultery is even included in that. It is used in extra-biblical greek to refer to sodomy. It is used in 1 Cor 5:1, in regards to a man having sex with a his step mom. Matt 19:9, it speaks of divorce being permissible if a spouse has sex with someone other than their spouse. 1 Cor 6:13-20, it is used again of someone having sex with someone who is not their spouse (a harlot in these verses).

          The Hebrew equivalent is used of David and Bathsheba. You could go on and on.

          But the overwhelming testament of the Bible is that porneia always refers to someone having sex with someone who is not their spouse. That may mean a homosexual relationship, an adulterous one, or a sexual relationship between two unmarried people. It means sex with someone who is not your spouse.

          • Preston January 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

            I’m curious what you think the Hebrew equivalent of πορνεύω is and therefore why, with historical and contextual support, the Hebrew scribes responsible for translating into the LXX never, ever use it when describing David and Bathsheba.

            C.f. http://lexicon.katabiblon.com/index.php?lemma=πορνεύω

          • Drew January 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

            Zanah is the Hebrew equivalent of porneia.

          • Preston January 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

            And where is “zanah” (זָנָה) in relation to David and Bathsheba?

            C.f. http://biblesuite.com/hebrew/2181.htm

          • Drew January 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

            It isn’t. I was wrong on that one. It’s used in Ezekial 16:26, Amos 7:17, and Jeremiah 3:1,8. A source I thought I could trust led me wrong on that one. But on a closer look, I found it in these 3 other scriptures.

    • Mary February 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      You’re kidding, right? The Bible clearly states that fornication is a sin!

    • Mary February 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      This is what makes me shake my head – so-called Christians starting to argue that their own interpretations of what it means to be a follower of Jesus are better than the guidelines as outlined in the Bible. When we start making excuses for engaging in sinful behaviour by saying “it’s OK” we endanger ourselves to losing our commitment to living as Jesus lived. We are not blameless at all, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it…

  91. Jennifer January 29, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Our “christian” society is drowning women and girls in fear, guilt, and shame. I was one of them. The drowning ones. Not anymore. I took a stand. This needed to be written. Thank you for your heart. None of us are damaged goods. Just women trying to find our way in the world.

  92. Diana Trautwein January 29, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Talk about owning your anointing! Kudos, sweet Sarah, for speaking grace and peace into the sullied waters of sexuality and faith. Wow, have we messed this one up. May our children – especially our daughters and granddaughters – find good, solid teaching about purity. . . without the sexual overtones! We are pure when we are in Jesus. Period. Even a cursory reading of scripture underscores the truth that sexual ‘sin’ is on a list of all kinds of things that interrupt our communion with God and cause anything but love for our neighbor. And that list includes things that we all engage in day after day after day, with no thought that somehow we are forever branded/shamed because of them. Why in God’s good name have we singled out sexual sins — especially for girls/women — as so heinous? We blithely overlook cutting words, gossip, sinful anger, cheating, lying. No problem there believing in grace. Yet somehow sexual experimentation is the greater sin? God can’t forgive it? So I think you for striking a blow in the direction of balance, of grace, of health. Amen and amen.

    • Jim Fisher January 29, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

      “Why in God’s good name have we singled out sexual sins” – my thought exactly. Idolatry is mentioned or alluded to in nearly every book of the Bible, but we don’t get as nearly as wrapped around the axle about our tendency to put our money, our careers, our spouses, our Bible, our appearance, or our knowledge of good and evil on a pedestal above the One God of Law #1 — in both the OT and the NT. You got me thinking again, Diana. I love how you do that!

      • Diana Trautwein January 29, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

        Thanks, Jim. RHE took your idea and made the connection even more tightly – wondering if we have somehow idolized virginity in some way. Interesting idea. Check out her post today.

    • Bethany Bassett January 30, 2013 at 2:23 am #

      I’m cheering for your comment here, Diana! So. well. said.

  93. Kimberly January 29, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I am one of the virgins. Still am. I’ll turn 37 in April. I’ll most likely still be a virgin then. As you said, these messages are just as damaging to those who “wait” as to those who don’t. Unless you happen to be in the magical minority who hold out & happen to fall (and stay) in love young – the stories don’t hold. Prince Charming is not going to show up on your front porch because you kept your legs closed & did really good at Bible Drill. I’ve observed enough marriages to know that what works & what doesn’t isn’t tied to pre-marital sex – I’ve seen relationships break apart where both parties waited, and I’ve seen beautiful partnerships where both parties had “pasts”. It was a long time before I realized it was all a charade, that most people who were selling me the bill of goods hadn’t bought it themselves, that I had been dupped. I refuse to pass the lie on, and I demand we tell better, honest, life giving stories. Thank you for modeling that.

  94. Kelly O January 29, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Thank you, so much, for writing this. I’ll be 35 this week and I cannot tell you how long it took me to reconcile the fact that I’d had sex without being married, and how heavily that weighed on my conscience as a teenager and young adult. It’s part of what pushed me away from the church for several years in my twenties.

    (And, for those who may be reading this – I have a wonderful relationship with my second husband and our intimate life does not suffer, other than my own insecurities. And thankfully a good, patient man who loves you is going to reassure you there is nothing wrong with you, and you are not broken.)

  95. Pete A. January 29, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Sarah, my wife was raped several years before I met her, and I suppose, strictly speaking, that would have made her “damaged goods.” (She had a little girl which she gave up for abortion.) But I never thought of her that way. Not once; not at all. I married her for all whe good qualities I saw in her (and which have grown and developed far more in the 30+ years since then). And I would do it again in an instant.

  96. Kamille@Redeeming the Table January 29, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    I think many of us in our 30s who grew up in the church have to find the counter balance. How do we parent our current children who are apart of the church? How do we find balance of holiness & grace? I know your heart Sarah, and know you are seeking both of these in your life personally and the life lived with your family. I think of that preacher speaking thinking he was truly doing what was seen as good & holy.

    But, it was really shamed filled. I already see my girls bents on life and shame. I don’t want to shame, I want to lead them to truth filled with redemptive love & grace in the cross. My prayer is all of my girls would wait to enter into sexual oneness with their spouse if they marry. That said, my other prayer is that my girls would feel safe with me to be vulnerable in the hard parts and I would listen and love. Thank you for being brave to share your story here. Maybe a follow up with being “damaged goods” and the grace you’ve received from Jesus & Brian? love to you!

  97. Jessica January 29, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    IIIII Loooooove Youuuuuu.

  98. Erin S January 29, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Hell yes!!

    (letting this sink in now)

  99. Tara Owens January 29, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Thank you, Sarah, for speaking out what is true. What is good. What is loving. What is grace-filled.

    THIS is why I write and teach in the area of sexuality & spirituality in the first place (http://conversationsjournal.com/2011/04/long-bodies-aching-souls/). Because, in general, the Church is filled with a dysfunctional message of shame when it comes to our bodies and our longing for connection.

    When I became a Christian, I was no longer a virgin. I was an adult, so I was able to parse the shame out a little easier than if I had been a teenager, but I still struggled with the message that I had been “redeemed” from all the past shameful actions I had taken, and that the only value in the story of my sexuality previous to my encounter with Christ was as a cautionary tale, something to be ashamed of and repulsed by.

    Do I think that sex before marriage isn’t God’s best for us? Absolutely. It misses the mark in some key places, but that’s what sin is—literally—missing the mark. And God’s fully able to correct my aim and help me turn and fire again. It wasn’t a one-time deal. As if grace is that limited.

    Plus, I’m tired (and quite often repulsed) by the way that the teachings of the Church on sexuality require men and women to relegate their actions and choices when it comes to their sexuality to this area of black/white theology that says that everything about their sexual choices are sin or not sin. How about the reality that we experience our longings and our sexuality as a divine gift from God? How about the truth that our sexuality impels everything we do—not with a prurient focus on genital sexuality—but as an example of how deeply we long for connection and communion not only with one another, but with God?

    What if *part* of what we were looking for in our sexual stories is actually a connection with God, and that our movements toward another human being can be seen as the very ground of our desiring for God?

    What if we shared THAT message with people, and sexuality got defined not as something deeply shameful outside of marriage, but something beautiful and good? What would change? EVERYTHING, I believe.

    Not only would that make a difference for those who have had sexual experiences outside of marriage, I believe it will make a difference for those who have been told to so jealously and carefully guard their desires. I think here, with sorrow, of a friend of mine who has been married more than 15 years, who has two children, and admitted to me that while she kept herself “pure” before marriage, on her wedding night she felt like a *whore*. She was unable to turn off the “don’t” messages of her pre-married life like some switch in her head and still, nearly two decades later, struggles in the marriage bed to feel like she’s embracing something good. What kind of off/on illness are we perpetuating in our marriages?

    (And, complete tangent, what if we stopped telling young men and women that sex before marriage feels bad? Because, frankly, that’s one whopper of a lie as well. Sex, generally speaking, feels GOOD, inside or outside of marriage, and a lot of us didn’t walk away with the deep emotional scars that the Church seems to think will be inflicted on us. What if we stopped LYING about sex, and actually admitted that it does feel pretty awesome? How much more would we be believed when we talked about the gift that it is and will be in a committed relationship, in marriage?)

    I can look back and my sexual story now, and see the hand of God and His work, as well as my desire as a *good thing*. Do I want to take back some of my choices? Absolutely. Do I believe that I missed the mark? Yes, I do. But I can also see how, through each attempt to love and give myself to someone, I was looking, oh so desperately for God. And that desire wasn’t wrong or bad or dirty. I was pointing it at the wrong place, but that doesn’t mean my thirst wasn’t real, my desire somehow unholy. Let’s reclaim desire in the narrative of sexuality and the Church, and let God speak *through* it instead of in spite of it.

  100. Lana January 29, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Ever pastor and youth pastor should be required to read this. I had a pastor say he wouldn’t marry a couple who had already slept together. Way to tell people they are damaged goods.

  101. Emily January 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    I struggled with shame over this for years, and for a season accepted that it was just a consequence of sin. Over time, God revealed the depth of his grace, and I came to realize that the shame came more from the culture I grew up in. I do believe that sex is sacred, but shame is never, ever from God. A dear friend, who was a virgin when she got married, bravely told me about how difficult her sex life has been. She was taught (and believed) that if they abstained, God would reward them, and understandably feels pretty disappointed and confused. These problems are much more complicated than virgin-or-not, and there’s no formula. It took many years to get the church out of my bedroom, and it’s definitely helped. I think a lot about how to talk to my kids about all this as they grow up; how to not feed them half-truths just to get them to “behave”. We need to do better :) Thank you, Sarah, for elevating the conversation.

  102. SaraK January 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I just took a class through a local church based on the book, “Keeping the Good in your Boy”. The book made me scream for any number of reasons, but I was most upset by the other moms in my group staring at me with blank, condemning stares when I said along the lines of, “Well yes, we hope our boys will stay pure until marriage. But, I hope my boys know I will still love them if they don’t wait. I hope they will talk to me-or someone-if they are conflicted. Most of all, I hope they know of God’s love and forgiveness.” Thanks for this post today.

  103. Sarah Silvester January 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Thank you Sarah for doing this. I too grew up in churches were virginity was the prize, especially for girls. I still to this day, 9 years of marriage later, feel confused. This post is healing for me. I have a heart to communicate with and speak to young girls about sexuality, but am so aware that all our traditional messages in churches don’t work, and what is “work”ing anyway?
    I also give a big Woop and Holler to those who make the observation that boys get off light. I remember being in a bible study group at 18 and the boys saying they all wanted a virgin bride. But none of them cared about being virgins themselves. Our gender biases have messed up our boys too and they need a new voice also about what it means to be a man in our sex crazed world.
    I need this grace on my own life and I hope I have the courage to accept it. Bless you Sarah xxx

  104. Arianne January 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    That shame carried on for over a decade, for me. Well into marriage, and it was the shame that harmed my marriage. My sin had been long forgiven, but that shame sent out all kinds of roots that were hidden and hard to find. Thank you so much for this post, babe. Xo

  105. Allison C. Lee January 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Brave and strong and real. Clapping. Joining in with your cry for GRACE among sinners. Because after all…All fall short.
    Another great read Sarah.

  106. Renee Ronika January 29, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    The church shames so they can control people’s behavior. It rarely works. Amen, Sarah, to reminding us that no matter what our behavior, it’s belief in Jesus that sets us free, sustains us, and makes us whole. Much love.

  107. Dawn January 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Sex isn’t always moral within Christian marriage so these types of preacher should just shut up and leave people alone instead of piling on unnecessary guilt and shame.

    Of course it’s an ideal and it’s good for young people to pursue purity – but it’s a spectrum and even some Christians may decide to have sex before marriage – it depends on circumstances. A mature Christian friend of mine endured a virtually sexless marriage for 23 years (because his wife had been sexually abused when she was 12 so couldn’t stand a man near her sexually) which left him broken and suicidal. When he eventually met someone else – who was also a divorced Christian – neither of them wanted to risk sexual incompatibility so they cohabited for a while before marrying: neither of them wanted another hellish marriage with sexual difficulties to navigate.

    To be frank I think all this talk about purity is a Western fundie Christian thing. My sexual past hasn’t caused me damage – the thing which has damaged me most is how I was manipulated by a legalistic authority figure in church and who was forever telling me what and what not to do over stupid little things such as – I must wear a hat in church, I mustn’t wear trousers in church, I mustn’t work for the police, I mustn’t sing carols, I must give up my secular choir and join a Christadelphian one and so on and so forth – stupid man and I was stupid enough to go along with it because I wanted to please.

    That’s what damaged me most – not my three previous sexual experiences before I married.

  108. Sara January 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    What a great post, Sarah! I agree that women and girls who have had sex before marriage are shamed by well-meaning Christians. I so wish that you had not experienced that shame. Thank you for encouraging others with your own personal story. :)

  109. Robin Dance January 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Whoa, Nellie…I guess you opened yourself up to controversy with this one, but I’m honestly blown away by some of the folks in this thread. In good ways and… not so much.

    I know too many who’ve sat on church pews shamed but not loved; judged but not forgiven by man. The truths spoken within the context of fallible words is beautiful. Women need to hear a message of hope, healing, forgiveness, redemption; not because of what they’ve done or haven’t done but because of what’s been done on their behalf.

    It’s interesting how people read into another’s words their own experiences; that personal experience becomes a filter which alters what is written and what is received.

    People have some messed up filters, eh? :)

    Regardless of any negative response, I know this message will minister grace to some in need. Well done, Faithful.


  110. rebecca erwin January 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Thank you for that beautiful freedom.

  111. Alastair January 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Is fornication a big deal? Yes. The fact that we use euphemisms such as ‘pre-marital sex’ is probably telling, suggesting that we don’t view this as seriously as God does in some respects. Sexual immorality of all types is a unique sort of sin: a sin against our own bodies, against the image of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). It seems to me that a number of the things written here are in danger of minimizing its seriousness.

    There are a few key issues here, as I see it.

    First, this should be framed primarily as a discussion about our cultures and their values and priorities (the idolization of sex and sexual identity, for instance, and the movement away from the values of marriage, not least the connection between sex and procreation), rather than primarily as a discussion about the impressionable teens that succumb to our mixed up values.

    Is it surprising that kids constantly exposed to sexualized images in the media and prohibitions in the church end up with a radically contradictory set of values and internalized hypocrisy, which constantly thinks in the legalistic terms of how close it can get without being burned, rather than in terms of the whole-hearted pursuit of the biblical virtue of chastity? Not really. How can we create church contexts where people come to realize the value of their redeemed bodies and learn to become more focused on pursuing holiness than just legalistically avoiding wickedness.

    Second, forgiveness is the only thing that enables us to speak with utter truthfulness about the sinfulness of sin without being destroyed by the knowledge. In these areas there are too many people being destroyed by knowledge of seeming ‘unforgivable’ sin on one side and too many people not speaking seriously enough about the sinfulness of sin on the other. One side has no real forgiveness or redemption to offer. The other side all too often has a cheap presumptive ‘forgiveness’, which renders the sin ‘no big deal’.

    Third, our value doesn’t come from our chastity or our virginity, but from our redemption. Fornication is a serious sin against our value – a value given to us by a redeeming God (1 Corinthians 6:13-20). Christ has redeemed our bodies for himself and God will raise up these bodies on the last day. How we treat and honour our bodies says a lot about our view of God and our salvation. While such sins against the gospel can be forgiven, they should be taken very seriously. We are not ‘damaged goods’, but we are ‘redeemed goods’, belonging to one who died and rose again so that these bodies might be restored.

    I blogged on the subject of chastity a while ago here.

    • Alastair January 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      I’ve just made a follow-up blog addressing some of the issues raised in this post here.

      • AndrewF January 30, 2013 at 2:02 am #

        Thank-you for traversing the valley between the two polarized vantage points from which folks are (without any recognition of the irony) throwing stones at eachother here.

        This discussion has to start at the foot of cross where Christ redeemed us.

    • Dan February 15, 2013 at 2:20 am #

      Excellent post!

  112. Aaron January 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    The gospel of grace should reveal itself fully in our most intimate relationships. So I’ll just say that as man I am not so much concerned with whether a woman is a virgin or not, but what my role would be in creating a healthy Christian sexuality, both in my own responsibility and in relationship with a woman. Sure, sex is important for a lot of reasons, but it is also important to not turn women and men solely into creations of their sexual histories, for good or bad. Virgin or not, if we are honest with ourselves we see parts of our sexuality that need redemption and grace through our intimate relationships, with less concern for how some person not in relationship with us may judge us.

  113. Sarah D. January 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I agree that just because you have sex before marriage does not make you damaged goods. However I do also feel like you are telling people its ok to continue in the path of promiscuity just because God forgives you. Yes he forgives you but to repent means to turn from or to stop. I feel that everything you said was accurate but people need to be told also that just because you’re forgiven doesn’t mean you continue to do it. To tell youth to wait till marriage is not wrong and as a former youth leader myself I used to explain it as though yes you are forgiven from your sins but that doesn’t mean that there will never be any repercussions from having sex before marriage. There may never be any problems and you might live a happy healthy life in a marriage so full of love it makes others barf but what if its not that way. I also explain that its like with a speeding ticket. Lets say you were in a school zone going 50mph and the speed was 35mph. You get pulled over and get a ticket that you decide to take to court in hopes of the judge showing mercy which he does. Does that give you a free pass to not obey the laws and speed and drive how you want to? I know first hand that sometimes it does effect your marriage. I know because it has effected my marriage.

    • Preston January 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      Perhaps, though, part of what Sarah is pointing out is that a theology that is formed by our fears of what could happen does not fully align with a Scriptural narrative that reveals a God who more often talks of the desire for loving faithfulness than the consequences. Are there consequences? Of course. But what if we taught people to love God as He loves us, so that our obediences springs from our desire to show that love, not out of our fear? We put aside lists of rules and instead in every situation learn to discern what it would mean to respond how God would in that particular moment. Maybe that’s the freedom Sarah is getting at: when we love Him so much, the rest naturally follows. Not perfectly, but holistically.

    • Sarah January 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Can you see how a sentence like “Yes he forgives you but to repent means to turn from or stop” is loaded with add-ons to God’s mercy? As one who has walked this road, I can tell you that my heart was broken over my sin. I repented over and over again. But it’s never that simple, is it? My then fiance and I were isolated and without much support, even though we actively sought it. We were engaged for a year, to appease those who felt we were too young. We desperately wanted to be married and felt God’s blessing on that. It was not a happy time in our life, and sex was the band-aid. We were broken. And then we were shamed. I believe when God looked at us, two people who genuinely loved Him and each other, He was broken-hearted and full of compassion. We belong to Him. And I think He saw just how broken we were, how often we begged Him for strength, and called it repentance. And each time we fell again, He threw Grace over us. We’ve been married for 10 years now. Were there consequences? Yes, there were. But, His redemption and Grace is what I feel more than anything. No contest.

      • AndrewF January 30, 2013 at 10:51 am #

        “to appease those who felt we were too young” < here is the big double-standard. The church needs to stop saying 'you're too young to get married' in the same breath as 'don't have sex'. Becuase, frankly, the age thing is almost always in relation to the 'great American / Australian / western dream' things such as education, home-ownership etc. Surely we can actually BE a community that supports young couples in making and upholding their commitment to eachother, even if that means financial support.

        • Preston January 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

          Andrew, since I know we’re in different countries I just want to suggest that the North American ideals aren’t always what you think they share with European or Australian. Here, evangelical culture pushes for young marriage often, which brings its own systemic problems. Dianna Anderson critiques this well here: http://diannaeanderson.net/?p=1989

          • AndrewF January 31, 2013 at 12:46 am #

            Hi Preston, in my experience the cultures have been similar – but I recognise that my sample was not necessarily representative, and that evangelical culture may not always reflect the wider culture, and indeed, it’s a big country, with more than one culture, so apologies for getting the wrong end of the stick here.

            In any case, I think my point stands, in that I’m not calling for anything systematic except for supporting the decisions of couples as communities (have you read Total Church?) as best we can.

            Thanks for the link, although I honestly found Dianna’s response to be rather a bit of a strawman (tangent warning…), not least in ignoring the whole covenental framework he’s using and (confusingly IMO) painting it instead as legalism. I actually read her review first, and was thinking at various points ‘yeah, he’d be wrong to be making that point’ only to read his article and not actually find him doing so, and had already headed off a few of her objections (e.g. on poor matches). To be fair, I also don’t share some of Dianna’s assumptions with which she’s assessing his piece (about pre-marital sex, and the post-modern idea of finding out who you really are – the kind of individualism which I think is at odds with the call to covenant of mutual submission, to give up yourself for another. Such self identity isn’t really static anyway, and marriage changes us). I agree with her that Regnerus is also bringing certain assumptions to the table (about pre-marital sex and the value of family), but given that they are kind of long-standing and accepted (quasi orthodox) assumptions, I reckon that the onus is probably on the one challenging them to point out why they ought not stand. I didn’t seem him making an ought of getting married young, as Dianna implies. Rather, he’s speaking against a culture which says we ought not get married young. What he does say is ” If a young couple displays maturity, faith, fidelity, a commitment to understanding marriage as a covenant, and a sense of realism about marriage, then it’s our duty—indeed, our pleasure—to help them expedite the part of marriage that involves public recognition and celebration of what God is already knitting together.” There is a rather large conditional ‘if’ there which I think she glossed over. Indeed, if there were a couple like this, why ought we not support them in any way we can? That’s hardly the ‘utilitarian baby factory’ Dianna paints him as promoting.

            If the culture where you are is not as antagonistic as Regnerus paints it, then I’m glad.

    • Mary February 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      Yes, I agree!

  114. Andrea January 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    This is beautiful. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (Jn 3:17)

    However, being one of the 80%, I can say that our choices can in fact impact our future relationships and our marriage. I chose to find my worth, value, and love in my relationships with men, including my early relationship with my husband. It wasn’t until I began to fully understand God’s power to redeem me that I was able to overcome the guilt and self-condemnation. And that did effect my marriage relationship. Until we get to a point where we can find freedom from the past (and let’s face it, most of us take a long time to get there), it will colour every single thing we do.

  115. Mel @ Trailing After God January 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Sarah, your post made me cry. I was that girl too. And I knew it was the wrong choice and I still chose to sin. I am so sorry a pastor made you feel so lowly. So often we forget there are real people absorbing our words and our condemnations. Taking the blows and internalizing them and sometimes, walking away from Christ because other broken people told us we were too damaged for Christ to accept us. Thank you for speaking out. I have often thought about my own children and how I would react if I found out they were sexually active. I’d be sad for them but I wouldn’t condemn them. I’ve seen some ugly things with the teens who get pregnant and the women who don’t think a baby shower should be given. They preach prolife and then turn their backs on the young mothers who DO choose life – I was also one of those young mamas. We’re all such a muddle of human sin and hypocrisy. I thank Christ daily that I am bathed in HIS grace, and not the grace that is often sparingly given by others.

  116. Marilee January 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Thank you for this, Sarah. :)

  117. perfectnumber628 January 29, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Amen! Amen! I have NEVER heard a Christian say “So you had sex before you were married. It’s okay.” and that’s something that NEEDS to be said. Why is this one sin apparently too big and horrible for God’s grace?

    Also this: “If true love waits, I heard, then I have been disqualified from true love.” Yes- we need to call this out for the shamed-based, fear-based lie that it is.

  118. Megan Willome January 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Oh, honey. I expected so much worse.

    And yet, I’m a parent now. A parent of teens. I read this very, very differently than I would just reading for myself, as someone who’d be your friend if I met you.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • EJ Reading January 29, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Thank you so much for writing this Sarah, it needed to be said and I’m glad it’s your graceful voice that said it.

      I struggled a lot of guilt and shame and would keep my “horrible secret” hidden. Then I dated a guy who was “pure and undamaged” and when he started talking about marriage I knew I had to tell him. When I did he told me he didn’t want “second-hand goods”, called me an adulteress, and told me that I would cheat on any man I married. Then he walked away from me. After that I was so fearful and sure no man would every marry me and that I had blown all my chances, and wondered if he might be right – would I always be an adulteress?

      Now I’m open and honest about my past. People need to know it’s ok not to be perfect – in EVERY area, including sexual pasts. Plus it gets over that awkward “So you know I’m not a virgin, right?” conversation… and it takes the fear out for me. It breaks the shame and the guilt.

      So thank you, thank you for saying this to all those who don’t know it, and thank you for reaffirming it in my life.

  119. Joey January 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I’m not a virgin, either. Not because I had premarital sex, but because my wife died two years ago, at the age of 22. I’m 25 now and looking ahead, I wonder how this is going to play out.

    She wasn’t spit in a cup. Those nights I spent with her are cherished memories. It’s no different for someone who decides to have premarital sex.

    Furthermore, sexual dysfunction in marriage is not caused by past sexual experiences. It’s normally a problem within our own hearts. Guilt,lust, insecurity, and sexual abuse have way more to do with it than premarital sex.

    • KatR January 29, 2013 at 7:40 pm #


      I am so, so very sorry for your loss. That is heartbreaking.

      • Joey January 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

        Thank you for your sentiment. It is what it is, yet because of such tragedy I’ve certainly developed a new perspective on love and sex.

    • Esther February 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Joey, first off, I am so sorry. That loss is unspeakable. Thank you, though, for sharing what the Lord has obviously ministered to you. I think you’ve landed on something important – that the sexual health of our marriages isn’t dependent on whether or not premarital sex occurred. That is, none of us are promised an awesome sex life just because we were faithful to maintain purity. There is so much (“within our own hearts” as you say) that influences our relationship to our spouse. We all need redemption and sanctification, especially in the area of sex.
      I believe that the comfort you’ve received The Lord will use to bless someone else – and that it will be a beautfui story!

  120. Katrina Grandquist January 29, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Hi Sarah- Thank you for this post. I especially likes the “don’t make it more than it is and don’t make it less than it is” idea.
    I might have made different choices in my earlier life had I been able to go back and talk to myself then- over things related and unrelated to sex. But, just because I walked in (metaphorical) darkness for a while doesn’t mean that I need to carry that darkness with me when I’m trying to walk in the light.

  121. Sarah January 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    I didn’t mean to say that repentance is an add-on to God’s mercy. I meant the definition she gave of repentance was an add-on. Repentance does not mean the sin automatically stops. It means grief, contrition, humility that we are powerless to conquer this nature without the life-long transforming work of Christ in our heart. When I came to faith in Christ, I repented of my sins, past and future. And as God’s Holy Spirit has done transforming work in my heart, I have repented, not out of fear, but out of gratitude, of the sins that He reveals to me. I believe He paid it all and it was final. Your Matthew 3:8 reference was John admonishing the Pharisees for their arrogant assumption that because they had Abraham has their father, they would not be spared the pit of hell for their sins. Christ had not died yet. Their lack of repentance truly did make them hell-bound. But now, we have the redemption of Jesus and because salvation is mine I am able to take up the posture of humility as His Holy Spirit conforms me to His image. I didn’t wake up the day after I was saved having conquered sin. Did you? His sacrifice for our freedom. Salvation is mine. I found it interesting that you chose 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, and especially that you substituted “hastens the person away from sin” for “leads to salvation” in verse 10. See once again, this reference is talking about the process one goes through to be saved, not what happens when one already IS saved and finds that our pesky sin nature sticks around. I have many sins that I am truly penitent of…. and I have confessed all of them over and over again. Fruit comes slowly. So it was with sex. And He was faithful to forgive.

    • Drew January 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Repentance is what one goes through to be saved in regards to justification. In regards to sanctification, repentance happens daily. Lack of repentance on either side of the cross shows a lack of salvation. John’s “fruits of repentance” is applicable to us as it was to the Pharisees. If you say you repent, but don’t actually see change, then you have not repented. 2 Cor 7:11 shows that as well. 1 Thess 1:9 too. Repentance means a turning from sin to God. That is done once at justification and daily in sanctification.

      • Sarah January 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

        I am going to assume that you have been able to conquer sin every time you truly repented, which I also assume do constantly because as you said,a lack of repentance shows a lack of salvation. And I can see you are certain of your salvation, if not anyone else’s. I truly hope the peace of Christ and the freedom of His redemption will give you the security that you are loved deeply and nothing and no one can pluck you out of His hand, not even yourself. He’s not waiting for you to forget to repent, keeping stock of your daily sins, as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far he has removed your transgressions. Bless you in your pursuit.

        • Drew January 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

          I think you’re confusing repentance/salvation (part of justification) with the daily repentance I spoke of (sanctification). Also, I believe fully in the sovereignty of God, the 5 points of Calvanism (I prefer to call them the Doctrines of Grace). Once we’re justified, there is no condemnation (Rom 8:1) and nothing can separate us from Christ (Rom 8:31-39). It’s not a matter of remembering/forgetting to repent. If a lost person is not willing to give up everything for Jesus, that one can’t be His disciple (Lu 14:26-33, Matt 19:16-24, Matt 10:36-38). A Christian is characterized by a love of God and holiness and so when he/she does sin, their is repentance from that sin. But someone who says they love God, yet lives in sin with no repentance and no desire to turn away from such evil, only proves they were never Christ’s to begin with (1 John 2:3-6, 2:19, John 14:15, James 1:22-26, etc)

          • Sarah January 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

            Nope, no confusion. I understand you perfectly. I just think your view or repentance in sanctification a little too neat and tidy to put on actual human beings.

  122. Nish January 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Hey everyone, just a heads up, we’re trying to keep up with the comments here, but they’re coming in fast & there’s only so much we can do in our limited time. I know there are some comments getting snagged in moderation and the spam filter, so I just ask you to be patient as we read through them and clear them for posting. Thanks for being here and engaging in the conversation on Sarah’s post!

  123. Heidi January 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Beautifully written, powerful testimony to God’s truth. Thank you for your courage in sharing!

  124. Jackie Turner January 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Oh, this made me cry. Thank you for having the courage to post it. I am SO SORRY for what was done to you in the name of Jesus. But you’re absolutely right, our worth is not in that tiny piece of skin between our legs, but in our hearts, our minds, our spirits. Nobody gets to define our value but Jesus.

  125. Cami January 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    I read this earlier today – with many of the responses – and have been pondering it over and over. I do not usually insert myself into these threads as I find that so many things are misunderstood and emotions become heightened.

    All that being said – this just wouldn’t let me go.

    I loved this blog. Not because I am one of the 80% – but because as a youth pastors wife and now a pastors wife, I have been guilty of saying some of the same things mentioned here. This blog has caused me to really think and have come to the conclusion that I NEVER did so with the INTENTION to shame anyone. I did so because these things were said to me and made an impact – positively. God used them in my life. I only passed those things along because I cared about the people that I was speaking to. I wanted others to live in the blessings I experienced.

    I will say that both my husband and I waited. He was 29 and I was 26. Was it difficult? Yes. Have we been blessed because of it? ABSOLUTELY. I look back on my life and my dating relationships and I see how God specifically protected me. I had an absent father – I had trust issues – I could have very easily gone the other way.

    Since then, as my walk with Christ has deepened and my faith has grown – my understanding for something very fundamental has come about. We all have our own journeys – our own testimonies. Why would God allow me to grow up and remain a virgin while someone else is raped? Was I better than others because I made different choices? No – it’s because He has a plan.

    He knows our lives – each and every day – before we are even born. He uses them. He causes ALL things to work together for good in order to bring Him glory – so that we can enhance His reputation. So we have a story of redemption to tell others.

    I go back to the story of David. A man after God’s own heart. And yet he sinned – he stole a man’s wife, he lied, he murdered.

    But let’s back up a bit – he went to God and asked God if he could build him a temple. God told him no – your son will build my temple. He was speaking of Solomon. This conversation happened BEFORE Bathsheba was in David’s sites. Who was Solomon’s mother? Bathsheba! I LOVE this! How freeing this was when I first put it all together.

    God knew before the beginning of time what David’s sin would be. He knew there would be a Bathsheba. NOTHING – NOTHING surprises our God. Bathsheba and Solomon are of the line of David – which leads to Christ. He didn’t just stick them in there because David made a mistake. He knew it would happen before it did and spoke of Solomon before the sin even came about.

    He was called a man after God’s own heart because even in his sin – he repented and turned away from that sin. But there were still consequences. Part of those consequences is the shame and the guilt that we feel when we sin against God’s word. We are hardest on ourselves and each other. God forgives – and He uses our lives.

    I can minister to people in a way that others cannot because of my story – my life – my choices. God already knows who those people will be. You (whoever is reading this) will minister to people in ways that I cannot – because of YOUR story – YOUR journey.

    We can beat each other up all day about judging and shaming others – but in the end, it’s all about telling others what God has done in our lives. My journey will not look like yours. God knows me better than anyone and he knows my heart and my mind. He knows my past and my future and he knows what it will take to draw me closest to him.

    There is grace – there is mercy – for ALL of us. God is in control – our lives are His. NOTHING we do surprises him – he is only waiting for us to allow him to use it. Let him – and watch amazing things happen.

    Don’t be afraid to speak the TRUTH about what God’s word says. But balance it in grace as you do not know the hearts, minds, and past decisions of the audience you are speaking to – not like our Father does.

    Grace on us all…..

  126. Sydney January 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Amen! As someone said earlier, this applies to the broader subject of sexual “purity” which includes so much more than premarital sex. As an ex-porn addict, I can attest to that. Thank you for finding the courage and strength through the Spirit to be honest and vulnerable with your story. You have no idea how God is going to move through it.

  127. Leah Colbeck January 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Obviously by the comments here today this is something we need to preach more often. In awe of the grace illuminated here by you today. Thank you for being brave and standing up and doing so beloved.

  128. Vicki January 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    I know some fine young men who need to hear this too. Thank you Sarah.

  129. John Gordon January 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Great post. I’m with Joey. Except instead of death, she divorced me, totally out of the blue. And I saved myself for her – I was a 30 year old virgin until I was with her. And now, three years later I’m divorced, and it was all for nothing.

    • Gina January 30, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      It wasn’t for nothing, John. As someone else here said, we don’t really save ourselves for a person — we save ourselves in obedience to God. You obeyed Him, and that is never “for nothing.”

      But I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. I pray for God’s peace and comfort for you.

  130. J January 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    This post was amazing. I don’t believe that premarital sex in the right circumstances is even a sin, and I think when it comes to sex we are better off asking ourselves what is wise instead of “how far is too far” or “is this a sin?” The truth is even if you wait until you get married, you could still get divorced. Then what? The topic of virginty and premarital sex is only discussed with teenagers. Purity comes from the heart. Purity is not a hymen. I received the same shame messages and I found them to be false in experience as well as in words. My past lovers don’t haunt my current relationship. My man adores and cherishes me. We are more than our sexuality and the church needs to see that otherwise the sin of objectifying people is still taking place, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. Anyway, thank you for your courage in posting this. This truth needs to be shouted out.

  131. Annie Barnett January 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Sarah, I’m grateful for your brave voice. How often am I oblivious to the “one burning with shame and hiding in the silence?” May our words and our lives point always back to our Redeemer. Thank you for this.

  132. Reita Lawrence January 29, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    Beautifully written Sarah. Such a message of grace. In college, a pastor visiting our fellowship group spoke about sexuality. I honestly don’t remember what drabble he spoke about women and I am quite thankful for that. However, I do remember the insane burden he placed upon the young men. He told them that any erection outside of marriage was a sin. Seriously. I don’t know if any of your tinies are boys but those of us who care for little boys will gladly explain that boys get erections with regularity even as babies. They wake up with one practically every day during puberty. It is physiology not sin. That was the first inkling I had that the churches view of sexuality was off kilter. In my personal and professional life I have known many who were sexually abused or raped as children. The absolute last thing they need is a message of “damaged goods” even if they go through a phase of promiscuity when they are older (very common among those who are survivors of abuse). Additionally, the current messages of purity and abstinence do little to educate teens and young adults about intimate relationships, whether sexual or not. That keeps them from recognizing when they are in abusive situations or otherwise unhealthy relationships. Add to that a dynamic of “he’s the only one who will love me because I’m not a virgin” and you perpetuate a cycle of shame and devalued self. God’s grace covers everything: everything we’ve done, everything that’s been done to us. And we are forgiven. Our task is to walk forward in that grace asking God to heal us from that which needs healing (if it needs healing) and thanking God for the exquisite beauty of our bodies and the incredible blessing of our sexuality. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your message. I guess writing about kittens was just too delicate a subject.

  133. Danielle January 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Thanks for this blog post. It’s completely wrong to shame someone for what they did in their past. Absolutely against Christ’s message of complete grace and forgiveness in him. God calls us to give ourselves to him and his love is what changes our lives. Not rules or shaming or judgment.

  134. Lisa McKay January 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Sarah, thanks for being brave and pushing publish. Woman of Valour!

  135. katie January 29, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    I remember going to my Mom and opening up to her that I had “lost my virginity” a few months earlier. Hoping for love and grace I had to instead see the horror stretch across her face as shestared first at me and next at the sapphire purity ring she and my father had gotten for me a couple years prior (yes, I still wore it, besmirched as I was). And the words she uttered are still etched in my memory and ring painfully, “I had such high hopes for your future.” Followed by tears and just looks of disgust. Her response is a far cry from the desperately needed safety I was seeking.

    I have two daughters now and hope I never imbed them with shame but rather can be a safe space for them to share all triumphs and follies and we can help each other to keep grasping for Jesus grace.

  136. Marilyn January 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    I want to honor you for sharing this beautiful post.

    So much of the conservative Christian writing on sexuality has been harmful to so many of us. And in many cases, what has been said is consistent with neither the Bible nor sociological data. In other words, it is flat-out wrong.

    There’s a need for writers who will speak Truth. For so very many reasons, sexuality isn’t an easy topic. But, as the Spirit leads, please, please continue to speak out.

  137. Maria January 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    I could say so much: comments about guilt and shame, dividing Christians into groups- those who had and those who hadn’t, growing up thinking this was the worst thing I could do, living with a warped view of sex, losing the man I thought I was going to marry over my “sin,” and still shaming myself to this day.

    Thank you for these words of grace. Thank you for helping me realize that I can be set free from these chains that have surrounded me for years. Lord, thank you for allowing me to read this today. Please bring it to those who need it. Thank you for your grace, forgiveness and love. Amen.

  138. Aly Lewis January 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Mercy: a compassion that forbears punishment even when justice demands it. Even when justice demands it.
    Even when we’ve sinned or fallen short, God gives us mercy in full supply. When we accept Christ’s story of who we are, the only identity we need to take on is that of Beloved. We are to be clothed in love, not shame.

    Amen to grace and bravery and choosing love over shame!

  139. Chris January 29, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    I belong to a faith tradition that does not consider pre-marital sex sinful… but I do belong to a society that does. I was moved reading this. I pray that it is widely read.

    These are beautiful words, and I can only imagine the bravery required to publish them. You have my admiration and my respect.

  140. erin a. January 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Thank you Sarah! You are beautiful! And the illustration of the cup of spit? THAT MAKES ME DO MAD. It’s enough to never send my kids to youth group. I hate that kind of crap.
    Praise God for his healing and redemption!

    • erin a. January 29, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      Um. That makes me SO mad. Not DO mad. :)

  141. Sarah January 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Beautifully written. Churches can be rather judgemental can’t they :S

  142. Karmen January 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    I can feel my eyes begin to burn and sting. That familiar feeling of tears, just standing at the ready. And I can feel all the words in my chest swirling around, constricting my lungs, so I breathe deep trying to loose their swirling grip. So many thoughts, so many words.

    God redeems us all, the virgins and the non. He loves us all and extends grace to us all. This is a great article, but it left me breathless in a sea of swirling words, because there is so much more to the story that needs to be shared and discussed in the church.

    As a high school girl I sat and I listened to youth pastors share the “stay pure” lectures. I was a virgin, but I sat through those internally drenched in guilt and shame, because even though I was a virgin I longed to be held by the arms of a man and take him into me. I had wanted this for as long as I could remember, not just my future husband, but from men, lots of men. So I sat through these lectures knowing that if anyone knew the truth about the internal me I would be considered un-holy, possibly even un-Christian. How could a girl who claimed to LOVE God and Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit possibly feel this way? I would be told that I must not really have Jesus living in my heart. I knew that I did, but I could not reconcile how I could be both a Christian and so very DIRTY at the same time. I wanted to be a good girl, I wanted to feel HOLY, but all I felt was worthless shame. Good Christian girls don’t think that way. They definitely don’t masturbate. I always felt a duality. So I did what we in the church have come so accustom to doing. I hid. I hid the feelings, the inner torture, the pain and I hated myself more and more every day. I was bad. So I would listen to sermons on grace and love and forgiveness, but somehow a church full of sinners couldn’t accept my sins without throwing stones. I knew this for a fact, because Grace is only for the un-churched, the drug addicts, the un-saved. Once you have become saved there is this un-spoken rule in the church that says you should not have these issues anymore and if you do, well then there is something wrong with you, Christ surely is not in YOU if you struggle with THAT (drugs, depression, self-harm, sex, alcohol, anger, sexuality, eating disorders, you fill in the blank) sin. It leaves me, who struggles with so many of these things, feeling bogged down in shame and it grows and I question my own worth and purpose, because obviously if I was strong enough and faithful enough these things would not be an issue. And that, THAT is a LIE. But I believed it and I still struggle with believing it. Because “real Christians” only struggle with little sins: gossip, judgementalness, eating too many cookies at dessert. Certainly they don’t struggle with the BIG things and those who do well, they must not have ever really accepted Christ. So why? Why is this? This is the where the church, me, we, need to go deeper. We need to figure out these answers, because at the root of every outward sin and inward sin is a deep seated issue that needs rooting out. It isn’t as simple as good girls do this and bad girls do that, or pray harder, or let go and let God. Not that praying and giving God a foothold are bad things, they are good things, but those cliché’s do nothing for one who is bogged down in shame already other than to push them further into that murky mud, because I can guarantee that they have prayed a million prayers and asked God to change them a million times already and so if it hasn’t already worked the million times before why now, why this time, or are they just unworthy of the answers? Not Christian enough or faithful enough for God to hear them? To hear me? So please, can we go deeper than the cliché’s, can we open ourselves up for others to be honest without stepping on them for being honest in their struggles? If we can’t then how can I and others like me ever get past the shame and the guilt and move on to the glorious freedom that grace offers, but at the same time feels so hopelessly elusive to the likes of me; who although now quite grown up still feels just as I did when I was that young girl in youth group.

    • ABC February 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      I’m so sorry, Rose. I do understand what you are talking about because my experience is very similar.

      I didn’t start dealing with it until I experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during the early years of my marriage. In short, I would completely freak out. It took several years of therapy to sort through it, the first year to specifically deal with the PTSD, and the following/majority of which was with a Christian therapist.

      You’re exactly right: the church needs to address the exceptions. The church needs to be more vocal about the abuse that DOES happen to people sitting in the pews every week. The church SHOULD be the safe place survivors can go to get healing.

  143. Rose January 29, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    I was so very damaged by the church. I went to church my whole life, was a “good girl” my whole life. But the church is negligent. The church never covers the whole story when it comes to sexuality.

    I was abused from the time I was about 8 or 9 until I was 13 by a member of my family. My parents still have no idea. I’m now 35. I only told someone for the first time 3 years ago.

    I have female health issues and the church, when covering sexual sin, used to preach that the punishment for sexual immorality was infertility. My abuser had kids. I was told I would never have kids. So, in my mind, because the information was so incomplete and I had to try to wrap my adolescent brain around very adult concepts (and had been having to do that since the abuse started), the abuse must have been my fault.

    Then all the sexual abuse that was happening *within* the church added to my confusion. Who can I trust?

    Long story short – the church, as a whole, sucks royally at addressing sex in a common sense, non judgmental, whole-picture way.

    Sure, technically, I was a ‘virgin’, but every sermon about purity was like a barb. Even now. I never chose this. I never chose to have to navigate such a confusing mess on my own. I didn’t know how to turn off what had been stirred up. And then I concentrated so hard on trying to be a good girl and reclaim my purity that I pushed men away. The church didn’t give me freedom to speak about the abuse – it just compounded the shame. No one ever spoke about the ‘exception to the rule’ from the pulpit. Now I’m 35, alone and finally trying to wade through this mess.

    The church contributed to my damage.

  144. chris January 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    Myself and my wife waited. And we are glad we did. I know many people who are the same, and several who didn’t and wish they had. And not because a preacher condemned them, but because their heart’s told them so, their desire to become one with another tainted by past choices.

    Our youth need an encouraging, loving message that that’s what they should aim for. I love your sentiments, and grace conquers all, but any teenager skimming your post is most likely to say “ah, so though church has got it wrong, sex before marriage is fine”. Do they really need another voice in this world telling them that?

    • Chris January 30, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      I don’t think that’s her message. Sarah’s saying that if you screw up, it is, in fact, forgivable. Forgivable is not the same as “OK”. Women who make one sexual mistake their whole lives are shamed as though they have lost their value, despite being forgiven for it. As though their sexual impropriety is bigger than God. That is why what she is saying is so radical – because women are shamed so severely as though they cannot be redeemed.

      Saying that God forgives all sins does not encourage any of them. It just notes that His grace is big.

      • Mary February 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

        Yes, but it doesn’t really say in the article that “It’s OK if you screw up, but don’t do it anymore.” I feel like it’s just a post about how wrong the church can be about this issue…

  145. Jordan January 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    Hello, i thought i would just put my thoughts about what this paper… I understand that sometimes its hard to admit to others about your past, and as a person who has per-marital relations i have no problem explaining to you what i think is wrong about what you are saying…
    1. It’s not about you
    I realize that sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes have a hard time letting it go… The preacher, my guess, was in no way saying that you are a horrible person for your past, even indirectly… but his example of the spit cup, like you said, is an analogy to get across having multiple sex partners before marriage… The fact that you took such offense means you don’t get it…And that is okay, too.
    2. What do i mean you dont get it?
    It’s not about you… Everything is about God. Everything is for God. To bring glory to God. The fact that you took offense means you re making it about you… and that is taking glory away from God.
    3. How is it taking away glory from God
    It’s not about you…So now you are different… You have been saved and you are trying to live a life for Christ. So why try and explain yourself to the rest of the people… Just say, “even in my sin and my weakness, and i compare nothing to the holiness of God, he still loves me and is going to do things in me for my future… I know im going to fall, but God will help me out and be my headstrong for my future.
    4. So what is my main point?
    It’s not about you… God is about peace, God is about love, God is about righteousness, because God is all those things… What you have done here is brought in your humanistic thoughts…You’re american ways, and pride is a weakness in the eyes of God and not a way to have the relationship with him that he wants.

    Its not about you

    Take Care

    • Preston January 30, 2013 at 3:00 am #

      … shame about that whole Sarah Bessey being from Canada thing.

      Take care!

      • AndrewF January 30, 2013 at 5:02 am #

        Isn’t Canada part of the (north) american continent? :P

        • Luke January 30, 2013 at 6:54 am #

          Right, but you’re using “American” as a pejorative in an attempt to denigrate her thinking and her actions as simpleminded or wrongheaded, but…uh…she’s not American (not that there even is such a thing as a monolithic body of thought or practice that could be defined as “American”).


          • AndrewF January 30, 2013 at 10:38 am #

            Hi Luke, actually I didn’t use ‘american’ in any sense except continental – Jordan may have, however, meant it as a pejorative, I’m not sure. And it’s OK, I got the point of Preston’s sarcasm, I replied with sarcasm to make a different (and ironicly light-hearted, dare I say, Australian?) point, which was perhaps a little too obscure (and probably also uncalled for). It was relating to the (un)helpfulness of using passive aggression in instances like this. It might makes us feel better, and it might get us digital high-fives from people like us (and who like us) but I can’t see it really being edifying or constructive. It merely get’s people’s backs up even more, and is really a form ‘otherising’; and then things like ‘blessing’ and ‘peace’ are hard to take sincerely, and that is, I think, a pretty sorry state of things. (And I’m thankful for the people who call me out on it too, because I need that).

          • Luke January 30, 2013 at 10:45 am #

            My mistake, AndrewF! I got lost in the comment threading. Mea culpa, friend.

          • AndrewF January 30, 2013 at 10:55 am #

            No problem Luke. Easy to do ;)

            p.s. The idea of whether there are national cultural trends or if stereotypes ever have validity, is an interesting question.. but for another time I suspect!

      • J February 3, 2013 at 8:24 am #

        Hi Preston,
        I’ve been following your posts throughout the comments and I wanted to ask you what your view is of premarital sex. When I shed the American cultural lens I noticed that the Bible doesn’t actually ever mention premarital sex, and when I looked up the word translated “fornication” it had to do with idolatrous sexual worship/sex with a prostitute. I was also curious when I considered the kings of the OT who were allowed concubines (and not condemned for it). My understanding of premarital sex has shifted from “always wrong” to “right if intentions are right” (monogamous relationship with intentions of marriage). This is not an understanding that condones promiscuity. I’m wondering if you think I am totally off-base.

        • Esther February 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

          I’m definitely not the biblical scholar Preston is, but I had that same question a few years into dating the man I would later marry. I will say this – the only thing I could hang my theological hat on was the verse in Hebrews that says “Honor the marriage bed and keep it holy” Holy, set apart. I think if you go before The Lord and His word, the Holy Spirit will show you what is right and what is wrong for you to do. But anything you do out of obedience to The Lord, God will bless! So, even if you conclude that some things are permissible, it isn’t all beneficial. I hope that makes sense – but if you give your heart and all to The Lord first, you can trust him with the rest. Don’t let yourself rationalize out of doing the thing you know is right.
          But if Preston has any specific light to shed, I’d be interested in reading it!

    • Luke January 30, 2013 at 7:26 am #

      “Everything is about God. Everything is for God. To bring glory to God. The fact that you took offense means you re making it about you… and that is taking glory away from God.”

      Shame is not of God. Condemnation has never and will never bring glory to God.

      Taking offense to God’s name being used in vain as a weapon of condemnation isn’t “making it about you”.

      There are those (especially in the context of purity culture) who would reduce the name and nature of God to a whip and shackles, nothing more than implements of control and bondage. This is not the nature of a God whose heart yearns for creation to be reconciled with Godself. This is not the name of a God who is Immanuel, God with us, God who suffered shame and death with us and for us.

      Reclaiming the name and nature of God to preach a gospel of love, of hope, of restoration and redemption – that is what brings glory to our God, the One who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, the One who gives rest to the weary, the one whose Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, the one who was sent into the world not to condemn it, but save it.

      There is Glory all over these comments in these stories of rest for the weary, comfort for the mourning, and healing for the brokenhearted. Open your eyes to it, brother.


    • suzannah | the smitten word January 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      it’s a terrible analogy perpetuating terrible theology, which is, at its core, heresy. women are not objects whose value lies in where or whether we’ve been touched by men. we bear the imago dei, and no sin (sexual or otherwise) can corrupt the core of that theological truth.

      words matter. words have the power to create or destroy life, and worshippers of the Word-made-flesh ought to know that best of all. lazy, shaming purity analogies don’t need defending or “getting,” and no woman here needs some dude to just help us understand it better. (seriously, guy??) the Church needs the Light of Christ to expose jacked-up, language surrounding our purity narratives for the dark lies they tell.

      thank you sarah. proud of you.

    • AD January 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

      “but his example of the spit cup, like you said, is an analogy to get across having multiple sex partners before marriage… The fact that you took such offense means you don’t get it…”

      Nope. Try again.

  146. Jess January 29, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Sarah, thank you so much for your honesty and courage. I’m a youth pastor in South Africa, and for the first time in 4 years in this job, I’ve been asked to do two “purity pledge” ceremonies in the last month! It seems this purity movement has found it’s way to us.

    I was – very very technically! – a virgin when I got married, my husband was not. I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to these requests from well-meaning girls and their enthusiastic parents, and this blog has given me the wisdom and truth I need to proceed.

    I was speaking to mom about this, and she wisely said to me that these “pledges” mustn’t be vows or promises, they must be prayers for grace. If these girls make it to marriage as virgins, it will only be by the grace of God. And if they don’t, it’s by the grace of God that we can hold onto the promise in Revelations 21:5 “Look! I am making everything new!”

  147. Kim January 30, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    I love the picture of shame becoming the clear clean mountain water.

    But I also nearly dropped to the floor with heart pains as much of what you wrote is what my husband has said after two adulterous affairs with accompanying deceit and lies and neglect of his family. He doesn’t see the big deal about sex and purity and faithfulness: God loves and forgives him, if I have a problem with his behavior, I’m the one in sin, not him. Wow.

    I’m not saying his worth is defined by his behavior. I know God loves him and forgives him. I have forgiven and continue to act in love towards him. But the pain he has caused to me, our marriage, and the unintended consequences to our children and friendships etc. is still there. And I must admit, I want him to show the tiniest bit of shame or regret or sorrow for what he has done and said. Above all, I want to hear that he loves me, still wants me, and will at least try to keep his sexuality within the marriage. No one is perfect. Certainly not me. And our God is so full of grace and mercy. God help me to be as well.

  148. Marilyn January 30, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    During one of many conversations following Les Mis, I told my husband and a couple of our friends that I didn’t like the portrayal of Cosette. She was whole, but in reality the Cosettes of this world bear the scars of their years with the Master and Mistress of the House. In my opinion, Cosette would have struggled with an attachment disorder.

    Our friends spoke passionately in defense of the transformative power of Val Jean’s love. Cosette had been healed! My husband offered a different perspective. He said that he didn’t think Cosette was whole. Rather, we were seeing her through Val Jean’s eyes. To see someone through the eyes of love is to see them as God sees them. That is what it means to see the face of God.

    We need to throw off the shame and to see each other through God’s eyes. I abhor the shaming that you experienced. Yet (and I say this as someone whose past is no different than yours and who was similarly shamed), there is a reality. And the ugliness of that reality is well-represented by a cup of spit.

    Now, this post is not the place for addressing that piece of the story. But, somewhere in our conversations, we need to find space for that truth, too.

    • Gina January 30, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      I like the “Les Miserables” example! That’s a really interesting way to look at it!

  149. AndrewF January 30, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    Hi Sarah,

    I appreciate how you point to the deficient and sometimes destructive way in which contemporary western Christianity treats issues like these.

    I think that any discussion of sexuality, and indeed, sin has to be a discussion that takes place at the foot of the cross – for we’re all marred by sin, and all of us need our sexuality to be redeemed.

    To be fair, I can see why some might have taken your ‘it’s okay’ statement the wrong way, but I don’t think you’re saying that sin is ok (are you?) Because the truth is that we DO get to say that on the other side of the cross, because that ‘okayness’, that redemption from our own marred image was bought at the cost of Jesus being marred upon the tree in our place. The new Adam.
    The reason we can say “There is no shame in Christ’s love.” is because Jesus has borne that shame and taken it as far as the east is from the west. God’s love is most perfectly displayed in this: that Christ was the propitiation for our sin, so that we can stand confident on the day of judgement (1 John 4) – confident that we have been redeemed, and are being made new – we are no longer damaged (my only disagreement would be your comment that we never were), but redeemed – all who are in Christ Jesus, purified by his blood, being built into a holy temple.
    That is why I say that any discussion of these things has to take place at the foot of the cross, because it must involve calling the broken to have their sin and shame washed away in the crimson love of Christ. We ought not talk of sin without echoing the Apostle’s declaration that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The church has been tragically negligent in this call and realising this declaration.

  150. Amber January 30, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    I grew up in a “no dating, no kissing, no handholding” church community. So when I, also 19, “gave it up” I dealt with the shame for years and years. Some times it still creeps up. It wasn’t until seminary (seminary!) that some of us were able to be open about our sex-lives, our questions, our embarrassments, and our relief at finding others who didn’t understand the Christian obsession with it.

  151. Susan Mains January 30, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    I couldn’t agree more. I had a boyfriend in high school with whom I was sexually active. My drive and motivation to have sex with him lacked greatly in perspective. As my daughter matured I endeavored to share with her the practical and beneficial reasons to stay pure before marriage. She and her husband are wonderful examples of God’s grace in that regard. The older I get, the more I realize that the Word of God is a very practical book given to instruct us how to best love. When we fail in God’s standard of loving, there are repercussions in varying and unpredictable degrees. There is, however, nothing mystical about staying pure before marriage that insures anything magical if we do. Life happens regardless. Matthew 5:45 tells us just that. I’m grateful for the standards outlined in the bible. I aspire to them, not to shame myself or others, but because I trust that God’s perspective is what’s best. His standard, when applied, puts me in the best position to love others, myself and, ultimately, God (Matthew 22:36-40). I’m forever grateful that His love is never tied to my ability or inability to maintain those standards. When (not if) I fail, Jesus tells me that His grace is sufficient for me and that His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Thank God that this same grace is available and sufficient for all those in my life who I have failed to love well and have hurt in the process. My prayer is that they realize His grace in the same way that I have.

  152. Jazmin January 30, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    To quote my main man C.S. Lewis,
    “Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.” Mere Christianity

    • Gina January 30, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      Isn’t Lewis just the best? :-)

  153. Richella Parham January 30, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Thank you, Sarah, for your courage and your kindness.

    I was a virgin when I married. I was a Christian. But oh, was I ever damaged. Damaged by the false things I believed about God, condemned by my own heart. “Purity” is no guarantee of peace and joy, I can assure you.

    I have now been married nearly 28 years, and I am learning that God–the true God, not the petty god of my imagination–never condemned me. Never once has He reproached me for my sin, for my misunderstanding, for my slowness to learn. And finally I am understanding a little of God’s love for me and for all of us. For God simply to condemn the world would not have required the blood of Jesus. That high price was paid for our redemption, not our condemnation.

    We Christians are concerned about the tragic effects of sin in our world, particularly when we see our loved ones struggling. But too often we have felt that we must do the work that only the Holy Spirit can do, and instead of our loved ones’ feeling convicted of their sins, they have only felt shame. May we learn to listen to the Spirit, be convicted of our own sins–and then to accept the priceless gift of redemption that Jesus offers. May we learn from Jesus to hold ourselves ever close to God and to pour forth grace and love and mercy to those around us. Dear Lord, help us.

  154. "Ann" January 30, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    And yet here I am, a wife of 30 years, and 25 of those years were hard, because my husband felt as though he’d lost something precious. I knew I’d been forgiven, I usually even FELT forgiven, but when my husband would bring up my past, over and over again, I just felt guilty.

    All the years of faithfulness just didn’t seem to matter, just because of my previous mistakes.

    He knew I was not a virgin when we married. In fact, a few days after he’d asked me to marry him, I knew that if I did not let him know, I would be forever living a lie, so I told him. I spent that whole night wondering if I’d lost him forever. He came back to me, and I thought everything would be fine.

    We would discuss this sometimes, and EACH TIME, I thought it would be the last time! And yet years later, it was still a sword over my head.

    After 25 years of this heaviness, I finally told him how it felt to have him constantly bringing up my past and throwing it in my face. I also let him know it had to stop. The past few years have been a relief in not having to deal with this issue anymore.

    I think those of us who have taken this path need to know that we’re forgiven, and that others need to treat us like we’re forgiven. But I also know I would do almost anything to save the younger generation from having to go through anything like I did. Purity IS a virtue, and the world portrays sex before marriage as OK. These two things are complete opposites. Blessed are the ones who have no regrets.

    *Name used is “in cognito,” to protect the guilty …

  155. Sacred Margins January 30, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this. It is unbelievably brave and something that has needed to be said and said in such a beautiful way for a long time. All three of us have been in youth ministry and have tried to communicate these ideas, but this is such a fantastic article filled with so much truth and grace. We appreciate what you do

  156. Amber Low January 30, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Romans 5:16
    Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

    Romans 3:23-25
    New International Version (NIV)
    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—

    How freaking awesome are these verses?!? It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in the past. In Christ, I am justified by His grace. Justification – Just-as-if we had never sinned! All I have to do is accept it!

    People need to seriously start living and walking in this amazing freedom that has been given to us! Let our past sins serve as a reminder to us of the awesome power of God’s love and redemption. It doesn’t mean we have to be proud or ashamed of them. They have made us who we are. They allow us to sympathize with our fellow man. They serve as a testimony to the world of God’s grace! Sin is sin. No matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ the world labels it, sin is sin. And Jesus took care of it all on the cross. And because of that, I’m white as snow, baby, white as snow!

  157. Janis Cox January 30, 2013 at 11:19 am #


    No wonder your site crashed yesterday. WOW – you spoke the truth so eloquently. Judgment is only God’s prerogative not ours. And once we are saved by Grace all is made new. That is all in the past – not in the future. I am studying as a Bible Study Max Lucado’s In the Grip of Grace.
    Shame is not to be given to anyone.
    Can’t remember reading such a splendid post.

    I am alive again because of Christ. He paid the price for our freedom from any past.

    Just love your statement: Now, in Christ, you’re clear, like Canadian mountain water, rushing and alive, quenching and bracing, in your wholeness.

    Janis (A fellow Canadian)

  158. angela January 30, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    I really needed to read this. Thank you.

  159. Jourdan January 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Sarah, you’ve written what I’ve feared writing for years. I want to read this in front of all of the high schoolers, college students, and young adults (male and female) that I know. Thank you for being courageous, honest, truthful, and trustworthy with your community.

  160. Debi January 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    What I have learned and apprciate,in my life time: There is only one person who is justified to address our short comings, that is Jesus Christ himself. He is the only One with the knowledge and power to judge us, his children. He, and He alone is the only person that can bring to light what we, as his children need to mend, or fix or what ever the cause may be. To disappoint Him is truly, and only between Him and Us. Jesus, loved everyone, everyone. It didn’t matter what that person’s short comings were, He Loved, and Loves us unconditionally.

  161. Allen January 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    This is why I am not religious. Too many people use religion and god as a way to judge others. I know Christianity and other religions frown upon sex before marriage, but they should not judge those who do it, nor should they refer to them as damaged goods. They should let God be the one to judge.

  162. Kristin T. (@kt_writes) January 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Thank you for this, Sarah. I believed the lie the church told me, and I firmly believe it was that lie and the guilt it brought with it–NOT my sexual past–that ate away at the core of my first marriage. Praise God for his redemptive work in our lives, though! Now I just need to figure out what our three daughters need to understand about their sexuality and God’s love for them…

  163. Rebekah Devine January 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Thanks for this, Sarah. I blogged about this and Elizabeth Esther’s recent post, if you’d care to read it: http://rebekahmgiffone.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/when-christians-idolize-virginity-a-gnostic-heresy/

  164. Sandy Cooper January 31, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    This past summer I taught my daughter and her middle school friends their first bible study lesson on purity, complete with pledges and signed contracts. I have been a bible study teacher on one level or another for 25 years. And I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that bible study was the most difficult study I have ever, ever taught. Because I have carried around shame for my sexual past. And I want my daughters more than just about anything to remain pure (in all ways…not just sexually). But I had to come face-to-face with what I truly believe about redemption and Christ’s ability and willingness to make me whole and righteous and yes, pure.

    The bible lesson I was teaching from suggested the illustration of the dirty water in the glass.

    I couldn’t do it. For all the reasons you described.

    I’ve been wanting to blog about it–but find myself struggling the same way you did. I’m not ready. Thank you for being brave enough to say what needs to be said.

  165. Sara January 31, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    I have teenage daughters and I teach them about respect for themselves not about purity. Saying this they attend a church youth group and they say one of the main reasons their teenage friends walk away from the church is because I the disgrace they are made to feel over sex. Those that have taken the step feel dirty and rejected by Christ.

    Marriage is more than just the sex it’s about love, commitment, giving, patience this is what we need to be teaching our teens.

  166. Sommer Hicks January 31, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    I would like to go on record saying that yes, sex outside of marriage is a sin. God made sex as a gift for married people to bond them and to bless them with children. Sex out side of marriage is a sin. However Gods grace has the power to forgive all sins.

    Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultry. John 8:2-11 KJV) When the men brought her into Jesus’ presence they wanted his opinion of what to do to her. He wrote in the dirt let him without sin cast the first stone. No one there did, they all left. The only person there on the scene without sin was Jesus. He cast no stones. He forgave her. She was pure again in the eyes of God. He told her to go forth and sin no more. Jesus is our example here.We as Christians ( followers of Christ) need to follow his example in similar situations) .

    No sin is to great for God. He puts our sins as far away from us as the east is to the west.He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. …. Lev 16:21, 22
    Does this make sexual sins ok? No , when we repent from as sin we are to turn away from it ( not continue sinning) . Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? No…. That would be taking advantage of grace.

    However once a person becomes a Christian or repents for sins commited as a Christian. God restorest them and forgives there sins and remembers them no more. Sexual sins are forgiven just like all the other sins.Jesus died that all may be forgiven.We as Christians should never make light of Gods ability to forgive our sins and give us a fresh start.

  167. Stephanie January 31, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    This was awesome and so very true. Thank you for being brave enough to write this.

  168. Jaye January 31, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    As a 33-year-old, I feel shame around the idea of virginity in a backwards way.

    It’s like the church promotes abstinence and virginity from Junior High through college and early careers–but when you hit 28, 29 and people start looking at you a little strangely, and then you hit 30 and you must really be doing something wrong, if you’re not married or even AT LEAST dating now and then.

    With the teaching on virginity as to teenagers and young adults, you were taught that you were failing as a woman if you had sex. But once you cross an invisible line somewhere in your late twenties, it feels like you’re failing as a woman if you haven’t…damaged goods in a different sense. Something must be really be wrong with me if I’m over thirty and single.

    Church leaders seem to get a little confused about how to handle the logistics of a single woman. What if two of the guys bail at the last minute and the married pastor gets stuck at coffee with the single woman? Easier just to not have her on the team.

    • Agnes February 1, 2013 at 7:50 am #

      Ha! Yep. And woe betide if you meet the new pastoral worker and give him a friendly smile and quick chat to welcome him. All of a sudden he’s talking non-stop about ‘his wife’ and looking really uncomfortable and all of a sudden I’m wondering if I said something wrong, and then I realize – he thinks I want him and want him NOW because I’m single and talking to him, so he’s warning me off with talk about his wife. Please God – REALLY?? So insulting and embarrassing!! Not that this has happened to me or anything..

      • Jaye February 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

        right? I actually work with a lot of christian co-workers; once, when asking a casual question about the training schedule for the company team for the local marathon (you know, elevator small-talk), the guy actually turned to me and said “you know I’m married, right?” as if I wouldn’t be talking to him HAD I KNOWN.

        It does make for some funny situations; I expect like any “status” issue it comes with a parcel of assumptions, prejudices, and confusions.

  169. Sarah-Anne January 31, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    thanks for this. i really really needed this. part of my sexual past wasn’t my fault and part of it was. i even had physical stones thrown at me for my sexual past. thanks so much for writing this!

    • Morgan February 8, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Physical stones thrown at you? Oh, Sarah-Anne, I’m so sorry. That thought simultaneously brings tears to my eyes and makes me mad as hell. You are God’s beloved one, and I hate that anyone tried to make you feel differently.

  170. Rachael January 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    I have read and re-read and teared up because of this post. I was raised this way and lost that “purity battle.” The years of torture and self-hatred because of those choices and the beliefs have been many. Thank you for sharing this, it is what I have always wanted to say but could never believe.

  171. Eryn-Faye Frans January 31, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    Christianity has a long history of using shame and ignorance to distort the topic of healthy (and Godly) sexuality. Your story is just one more example. Thankfully, we are now beginning to have open dialogues about how we can heal our shame and educate our ignorance. Thank you for having the courage to share your story.

  172. Stephanie February 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I so appreciate this kind of honesty. Growing up hearing those same illustrations and sermons, I felt this same kind of pressure. Only to me, a virgin, it meant that keeping my virginity or ‘purity’ was the recipe for a ‘blessed’ (aka magical) marriage and sex life later on. NOT TRUE. This kind of teaching puts SO MUCH undue pressure on sex, healthy or not, and resulted in all sorts of dysfunction and unmet expectations once I did get married… I just wish I’d never heard it.

  173. Mark Allman February 2, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Are we not all damaged goods? Why do we not admit we do not have to remain damaged? We do not have to be the person we were last decade; last month; or last week. God’s love changes us and I believe so much that those of us who have been forgiven much forgive much and show much grace in this world.

  174. Charise February 2, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Oh wow! This! This is incredible. So many girls are brought up being told “sex before marriage is immoral” and that “you can’t find a good man if you’re not a pure woman”. They are brought up in a home/environment where sex is a dirty, secret thing that is shielded from them. And, then if they choose to have sex before marriage, they are shamed for it and made to feel badly about that choice and themselves. I know that I, for once, was shamed and made to feel that because I chose to do something very adult and very beautiful with someone I loved before marriage, I was damaged. Its been thrown in my face by my own mother and by my friends who knew about it. But, the older I’ve gotten, I know that my self worth can’t be placed in the words of others. My self worth is rooted in Jesus and His thoughts of me.

  175. jay February 2, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Thank You.

  176. Marian February 3, 2013 at 12:30 am #

    “Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage.” AAAAAAAAA-MEN. But that’s what legalism does: boils down even the most complex elements of humanity into a single point to determine who’s “in” and who’s “out”.

  177. "Cathy" February 3, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    Oh yes, Sarah. Keep singing the song of grace. As a 60 something grandmother, I have only recently truly understood how loved I am by God. He LOVES me. Period. I am His beloved daughter. God redeems and restores. Everything. I am beautiful in His eyes, perfect and pure. Knowing this has made all the difference.
    To all the male theologians who commented: stop being religious pharisees, so self-righteous but with hard hearts. We are all broken and wounded. None of us is without sin. Love your wives and your daughters. Make sure they know how much you treasure them. Treat them like the adored royal queens and princesses that they are in God’s eyes. We need husbands and fathers who understand this to change our world.

  178. Matt February 3, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    I suspect, even if there was a female audience in mind, that this is something that men need to hear just as much.

    • Bridge February 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

      From some of the other comments, it appears that there are several who need to hear it over again.

  179. Bridge February 4, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Yes and amen. Well spoken. I heard the same kinds of illustrations, the same messages. For some reason, at some point, the part of me that was learning to know Jesus and understand His heart just rejected the nonsense. I am still working out how I understand the theology of sexuality (along with What is Scripture and a host of other complex, confusing, much-blogged about ideas…I blame RHE for a lot of it!) But I am certain that you are right about this:

    “There is no shame in Christ’s love. Let him without sin cast the first stone. You are more than your virginity – or lack thereof – and more than your sexual past.

    “Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys you loved as a young woman. Your husband won’t hold it against you, he’s not that weak and ego-driven, choose a man marked by grace.”

    Choose a man marked by grace. So right. So glad I did. A man becoming more like Jesus every day. One who holds nothing against me, but holds me tightly against himself while we both work out our salvation together. And we will pass along that grace to our children.

  180. Jessica. February 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    This is so, so sad!!!! Jesus never condemned!!! He came to save us! He was nailed to the cross and while paying our sacrifice he watched our sin but he said “Father forgive them, they do not know what they do”. i’ve never known Jesus to be anything but love.

    Thank-you Sarah for sharing this xx

  181. Jessica. February 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Also, I am not perfect because I have condemned in my mind and what I have said about homosexuals or anyone who has premarital sex.

    So that makes me a hypocrite,judgemental and just a person you don’t really want to hang out with.

    I think I can get so caught up in being the judge that I forget “Wait! i’m not the judge”.

  182. Nicole February 6, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Wow! I like what you said, “It’s likely you would make different choices, if you knew then what you know now, but, darling, don’t make it more than it is, and don’t make it less than it is. ”

    Knowledge in my opinion is key in accountability before God. If we know and have a testimony of the fact that sex should be saved for marriage then we are more accountable if we break that commandment than someone who has never had a knowledge or a testimony of the Gospel. That said, even those who are more accountable are capable of obtaining total repentance. Our Savior has said that if we repent he will remember our sins no more. I was blessed to be taught to save myself for marriage, but while I never went all the way, there were some lines I wish I hadn’t crossed, and felt guilty and unworthy for a long time. However, I knew that I could go talk to my bishop (leader of our congregation) and he would help me find peace and forgiveness, which he did and I have been happily married for 9 years.

    I enjoyed your essay. I agree completely that we should not make it more or less than it is, but instead do our very best, pray, repent daily as we all must, try to teach our children to follow the Lord, and rely on our Savior.

  183. Sarah Smith February 6, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    This is beautifully written, but I see a flaw. “Your husband won’t hold it against you, he’s not that weak and ego-driven, choose a man marked by grace.” I agree that this should be the case, but as the person on the other end of the spectrum, this seems to be simplifying such a complex emotion. In time, you will forgive your spouse for their past sexual sins, but as the person who has had to do the forgiving in marriage, it does not always come easily and without hard conversations and some bruising. I can’t stress enough, this is a beautiful and true article. But please, do not rely on the idea that “my spouse will have no choice but to forgive you.” If they love you, they will, but it doesn’t fully go away in their minds. Just a thought. Thank you for this beautiful article.

  184. Dr Harvey ward February 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    How many times do you think Jesus reminded Mary Magdalene of her past life? Great article! Beautifully expressed ! Thank you so much.

  185. emily February 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    this is hard to read..
    i am a virgin – or – i guess, my sexual “status” is that – this isn’t my identity.. nor is the flip side of the coin, along with other sexual sins not meant to be identities.
    reading through the comments, and then the titles of the links referencing this post almost heap shame the other direction.. evangelical women challenging the purity culture” – (granted, the culture itself should be challenged- but the act of purity seems to be what’s on the table. “is it time to celebrate per-marital sex”, “news flash, you probably won’t marry a virgin”..

    what the heck?

    yes, statistics. yes, the christian culture in general is so messed up – it’s ridiculous – yes, Jesus redeems, and restores, and ultimately defines us – and yes – there is absolutely NO condemnation in Christ.. Jesus said to the woman, after those threatening to cast stones left – “Go and sin no more” – we ALL receive that message of grace, but the charge to walk in a new life because of Him..

    i don’t judge you. i don’t think i am better – what I do wonder after reading through the follow through to this post, is what the majority seems to think of “the other side” – and why it’s necessary to completely dog it?
    the bible is clear about all sexual sin – not as a way of shaming, but as placing a boundary because our human nature is to totally self-destruct.. it’s for our protection..
    i am a sinner, i am a mess- i have for whatever reason not fallen into this area like others, but not by my own doing- it’s more like lack of opportunity, which in itself heaps shame, and makes you wonder, what’s so wrong with me that I am not picked or chosen? what’s even the purpose of holding out – if everyone else seems to “advance”- i have these thoughts, and they obvi point to an area I need to surrender to God..
    anyway, all of this is to say, while i do not have a scar in this area, I have plenty in others & I challenge those of you compartmentalizing this to think about your response towards the gay community or groups that currently are on the front-line of shaming via the christian culture.. really, what it that makes us separate or classify each others sin & shortcomings. we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.. and while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.. thank you Lord, for that gift – and I pray we all focus more on that, than the culture, or crappy preachers, or condemning christian community – may we see your grace, and unmerited favor as our identity & source for healing – because our desires to reconcile the past, or put it into a box, will only end up alienating those on the flip side.

  186. Nadine February 8, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Thank you, Sarah. Thank you, thank you, thank you…this post speaks to my heart so much. I appreciate your boldness. I was 19 and one of those that was not only told that I was damaged goods, but also how dare I date a non-Christian. I was called out in youth group in front of my peers. I didn’t walk back into a church for a while after that incident. For the longest time, I didn’t think God loved me anymore because I didn’t maintain my virginity that I had promised to keep for the man I married. The story goes much further than this, so lets just say it was a long journey to get to the man I now call my husband.

    I’m not damaged goods. God’s grace covers all sins, no matter who judges the severity of them.

  187. ~Nicki February 9, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    This article brings back a lot of memories for me. Not good ones. Nobody ever said it directly, I don’t think, not to me. That thing about girls who aren’t virgins on their wedding nights being damaged goods…filthy… but I understood it just as deeply. I trembled at the thought of anybody asking me if I was a virgin. I didn’t know what I would have said, but I thought about it a lot. Um, not exactly? Depends on how you define it? I thought about the fact that I probably wouldn’t bleed on my wedding night (if I ever had one). How I would explain that to my future husband. How he would feel, knowing someone else had been there before him. A long time before him. A very long time. Cause I was only 5 or 6 years old when a man began coming to my bedroom at night. And as a young teenage girl, when I finally understood what had been taken from me, I was so devastated in so many ways but THIS – the feeling that I would never, could never be the pure virgin bride I was supposed to be? Horrified me. And I couldn’t even talk about it, to anyone, because the shame of that made me feel like I was drowning. But even after I finally found the courage to talk (I can do all things through Christ) and got the therapy I so desperately needed, and after long and painful struggles accepted that I bore no guilt for that, the fear never truly left me. The fear of rejection for my past, the fear that if I ever found a man who’d marry me he’d demand what I couldn’t give him – my first time. And any marriage would be broken right from the start. But you know what? It wasn’t like that. My husband wanted ME. And that was something I could give. And it was good and right and not broken at all, not even a broken hallelujah, a whole one because I was not, I am not damaged goods. And I wish I’d known that when I was 14.

  188. Marcy February 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Sarah – This was posted on my 19th anniversary, the first one I remember enjoying fully! I know intimately the shame spoken over you. As I’ve grown into the grace Christ offers, I’ve dared to speak out loud that even the power of sexual sin was broken at the cross. My life is not God’s “second best.” My sin does not exclude me from true love. Sometimes true love doesn’t wait and what we have to say good-bye to is the shame! Thank you for breaking the locks off the doors containing of one of the greatest lies in Evangel-unism.


  189. E. D. Watson February 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    The real insult, IMO, is in referring to a person as “goods” — damaged or otherwise.

    Also: sex inside of marriage can be just as emotionally and spiritually devastating as sex outside of marriage. A wedding ring is not a magic pill.

  190. Abby February 11, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    I appreciated this article. A lot. I’m still a virgin but I feel secretly ashamed all the time because I gave away my first kiss (and quite a few others) for crying out loud! Kisses. Just kisses. And I was in college! And yet, I’m damaged goods because I should have saved that business for later? How ridiculous is our culture of shame?
    Also, the metaphor our youth group used in high school was two pieces of duct tape. Stick them together and you can’t pull them apart to be fully functional pieces of duct tape again. They’ll be ripped. Ruined. Damaged. Useless.
    I have friends that are terrified that I and others will hate them if they talk about that part of their lives. When they find out I don’t, they are still afraid. As though somewhere down the road I will suddenly start hating them or suddenly start acting judgmental and angry towards them. Or think they are weak or useless. These are Christian folks who are trapped. Scared. And I am sick of seeing the terror in their eyes. The fear that they are not good enough or might lose friends if they tell them the truth. Since when has our faith been about being “good enough”? And yet here we are, all carrying some sort of secret shame because of things we have done and because of a culture that tells us we are awful terrible little creatures that can never be healed and shouldn’t be allowed in polite society or aren’t “good enough” (ugh) Christians.
    Thank you for writing this blog post. It means a lot to a lot of people.

  191. Aram February 12, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    And yet, you still believe…Wow. Amazing to me how far people can think they’ve gone, yet they haven’t even stepped outside their front gate. Well done you, well done. So you’re not pure. Whoop dee do. Moving on…

  192. Dave February 13, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    (Psalms 103:11–14) For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

  193. Zach Nielsen February 14, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    My take here:


    I love how Jesus dealt with humble women and their sexual issues in the Bible. He doesn’t bring the hammer and he doesn’t sweep it under the rug as if it’s no big deal. John 4 and John 8 are very instructive here.

    Jesus doesn’t allow us to say that sexual sin is “no big deal”. In some sense, it is in a unique category in the Bible (1 Cor. 6:16), and our sexual lives point to the oneness of Christ and the Church. God doesn’t like it when we mess around with his pictures that are supposed to be used to glorify him alone (ie, The Lord’s supper, marriage, etc). After holding back the stone throwers in John 8, Jesus clearly tells the woman to “go and sin no more”. Take note that he didn’t say, “It’s ok. Your sin is not that big of a deal.” It was a big deal but Jesus knew that his grace would transform her more than the law ever would. This is the Gospel.

    But keep in mind that Jesus’ standard on sexual sin is much more rough than a mere cult of virginity could ever produce.

    [28] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. [30] And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:28-30 ESV)

    So what is the answer for sexual law breakers? Hell really does hang in the balance. Jesus is pretty clear on that here.

    I can tell you for sure that it’s not in a watering down of the law as some would have it but rather it is highlighting our need for the true lawless and sexually pure One to stand in our place. Flee to him as the only source of hope for the coming wrath on sexual law breakers and every other kind of law breaker of which I am the chief. Jesus’ standing in our place never communicates that our sexual sin is no big deal. It shows us how truly ugly it is! The wrath of God had to be poured out on it! But it also shows us how deeply loved we are in spite of our sexual brokenness. This true love is what we have all been waiting for. It runs deeper and is more profoundly satisfying than sexual sin could ever be.

    Law breakers have only one hope. Jesus. He loves to replant and revive broken roses by his sheer grace and mercy alone. This is our only message to the sexually broken.

  194. Kendra Macdonald February 16, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    I have been with my boyfriend for six months and so far we have done everything except the real act of sex. Its not for a lack of desire. He isn’t a virgin. Well my dad is a pastor and all my life I’ve been told sex is wrong. Don’t think about it. Don’t desire it. If you do, you are a disgrace. Even the fact that I like, and heaven forbid, agree with this post makes me on the virge of tears. Whether or not we will go all the way is still undecided, but I am tired of living in the shame and guilt my religious background has thrust upon me. Whether or not I wait until I am married I refuse to allow myself to feel like or be regarded as damaged goods. Any future person I am with should not mull over my past relationships. They are in the past.

  195. Ed Hooper February 17, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Sarah, thank you!

    After spending a lifetime of bad choices regarding my sexual history I’m finding a lot of truths about sexuality in general. We’ve allowed fear, shame and anger to scare our kids from ever being honest about an intimate moment they want to share with someone. In the process, we turn them into rebellious hypocrites stuck in a cycle of denying, falling, repentance, and commitment only to start back out as a hypocrite because we started the cycle all over again.

    And who wins?!

    No one.

    Thank God for His grace or I’d turn away from God and the faith. Thank God I can finally admit my sexual urges and that they take a back seat from following Christ. Thank God He’s redeemed me and my past so I am not bogged by shame and guilt but the hope and assurance His love is bigger than me.

    Sarah, I don’t know you a lot, but you hit it out of the park girl. Thank you for your honesty and courage to speak what many of us in the pews have been longing to say for a long time but had not the courage to believe, let alone say it out loud. Thank you so much!!

  196. The Epistolarian February 18, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I think the issue originally written of here is PAST sin reflecting on who we are today… not a free ticket to do whatever we want. It seems like some people may read this and put poor Sarah in the position of preaching freedom-to-do-whatever-the-hell-we-want-who-cares-what-the-bible-says-because-we’re-forgiven-anyway. But we need to let her (as with every writer) be the author of her own words (including the bible authors). Don’t read something without putting yourself in the author’s shoes and considering their point of view or situation from which they pen a piece.


    Then he says, now go and leave your life of sin (specifically taken from John 8). He knows we can’t cease to sin… to fall short, but rather go and do not let your old nature (the one before the Holy Spirit came into your life) rule you… allow Jesus to be your identity and the New Creation that you are to rule your choices. He does not say this because he want’s us to be set up for failure, but because he want’s us to become people who know who we are, know who he is, and die to ourselves daily so that he might live in us. 1 John 2:6 “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” If you think this does not apply to you then I will not be able to change your mind (so I will not try), but if you believe that it does (as I do)… then you have the awesome responsibility to figure out HOW JESUS WALKED and don’t just take your preacher’s/teacher’s/parent’s/friend’s word for it… you may be surprised what you find if you look at Jesus’s life (chronologically) and watch what he does and then translate it into your own life and do the same thing.

    When Jesus touches it, it’s clean. Impure no longer wins. Now, go become a new creation! Let Jesus define Eshet Chayil to you and then let Him be it in you… because we will never find it on our own!


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    [...] I am damaged goods – Sarah Bessey at Deeper Story [...]

  18. ordinarywomanordinarytime - January 31, 2013

    [...] a couple of blog posts were published that also seemed to fit in with the theme—In Which I am Damaged Goods by Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans response,  Do Christians Idolize Virginity? along with the [...]

  19. Life Hurts « Shadowing Abigail - January 31, 2013

    [...] up. Good discussions are happening at the Good Women Project, Rachel Held Evans, Elizabeth Esther, Deeper Story, and [...]

  20. About My Promise Ring: A round-up on sex | Accidental Devotional - January 31, 2013

    [...] I am damaged goods by Sarah Bessey [...]

  21. What It Will Really Take To Bring Down the Cult of Virginity | Patrol - A review of religion and the modern world - January 31, 2013

    [...] first post this week was by Sarah Bessey, headlined “I Am Damaged Goods.” Unlike a great deal of the writing in this genre, Bessey actually confesses something: that she [...]

  22. the sixty-third formica friday | see preston blog - February 1, 2013

    [...] post everyone is talking about from Sarah Bessey, I am damaged goods., but mostly her response the day after: “Here’s something I learned yesterday about doing [...]

  23. Notable News: Week of January 26-February 1, 2013 « unchained faith - February 1, 2013

    [...] Bessey is just marvelous, and this post is no exception.  This is what freedom and grace look like.  For anyone struggling today, I urge you to read this [...]

  24. To women, young ladies, and girls | Kimchi Sauerkraut - February 1, 2013

    [...] This is harmful and, dare I say, idolatrous.Read the full post.The second comes from the always-brilliant Sarah Bessey, who wrote a post for A Deeper Story entitled “I Am Damaged Goods”: [...]

  25. 7 Quick Takes Volume 4 | Life's Rich Pageant - February 1, 2013

    [...] other bloggers had an impromptu “series” on Protestant Purity Culture. Growing up as a lax Catholic, I [...]

  26. On Friday: Purity « surrounded by clouds - February 1, 2013

    [...] reading a lot about purity. On Tuesday, on A Deeper Story, a post appeared from Sarah Bessey called I am damaged goods. If you read no more of my post beyond this point please at least go and read it, it’s [...]

  27. Holistic sexuality, distorting pieties, and the pursuit of heaven | Mercy not Sacrifice - February 1, 2013

    [...] evangelical women bloggers against the idolatry of virginity. Three prominent posts have come from Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, and Emily Maynard. It’s been amazing to read in the comments about the [...]

  28. Links. (2.1.2013) | style & grace - February 1, 2013

    [...] Bessey wrote this, posted it Tuesday and the site crashed due to traffic. I appreciate her take on a sensitive topic, [...]

  29. Anthology: Purity in “Christian” Sexual Culture « Place of Abundance - February 1, 2013

    [...] 3) I am damaged goods [...]

  30. Damaged Goods Blog « From My Heart To Theirs - February 1, 2013

    [...] http://deeperstory.com/i-am-damaged-goods/ [...]

  31. reads for your weekend - February 2, 2013

    [...] In which I am damaged goods by Sarah Bessey at A Deeper Story [...]

  32. What I'm into (January 2013) | Thorns and Gold - February 2, 2013

    [...] New and Improved! – Elizabeth Esther (critiquing the American purity ring etc culture) I am damaged goods – Sarah Bessey at A Deeper Story. (So popular it crashed the site [...]

  33. weekend links « il mucca - February 2, 2013

    [...] This post by Sarah Bessey had me nodding in agreement at every turn. ” …don’t let anyone silence you or the redeeming work of Christ in your life out of shame. Now, in Christ, you’re clear, like Canadian mountain water, rushing and alive, quenching and bracing, in your wholeness.” [...]

  34. Links and Joe « Blood Stained Ink - February 2, 2013

    [...] And yet, as this article goes on to the suggest, the ways in which we often pursue this leaves almost 80% of the audience distinctly marginalized.  A provocative read that should ignite a discussion in local [...]

  35. Virginity: Christianity’s Main Idol? - February 4, 2013

    [...] Bessey added this devastating post about how the church has failed in how it has spoken about these [...]

  36. Best of the Rest (Feb 4th) - February 4, 2013

    [...] The other post that went viral within my network in the past couple of weeks came from Sarah Bessey writing for A Deeper Story about her experiences being shamed for having sex before mar…. [...]

  37. “You Oughta Know” (for the fifth time) « alternativeadventist - February 4, 2013

    [...] Sarah Bessey – I am damaged goods. [...]

  38. In which this is the house that Jack built | Sarah Bessey - February 4, 2013

    [...] chances are, that will be the day that your big scary from-the-depths-of your-soul post about virginity publishes and suddenly rockets as close to “viral” as anything [...]

  39. Monday Stuff #5: Sex and Silence | Mustard Seed - February 5, 2013

    [...] a lot of online conversation reconciling this disappointment. In a nutshell: Sarah Bessey wonders, Am I Damaged Goods?. Rachel Held Evans asks: Do Christians Idolize Virginity?. And Elizabeth Esther says Hell [...]

  40. News Flash: You Probably Won’t Marry a Virgin | A Deeper Story - February 5, 2013

    [...] need to talk about sex. That much is clear from the response to recent posts on the damage done to individuals and couples by the purity culture in recent days. People have shared story after [...]

  41. News Flash: You Probably Won't Marry a Virgin | Joy in this Journey - February 5, 2013

    [...] need to talk about sex. That much is clear from the response to recent posts on the damage done to individuals and couples by the purity culture. People have shared story after story of [...]

  42. Purity Culture « Distracted Blogger - February 5, 2013

    [...] on my favorite blogs. Elizabeth Esther talked about it here and here, Sarah Bessey talked about it here, and Rachel Held Evans talked about it [...]

  43. Used Up Spread Around - Virginity and the Church || CulturalSavage - February 6, 2013

    [...] has come across my radar in a few ways. First, it was Sarah Bessey‘s raw post “I am Damaged Goods“, followed by Rachel Held Evens’ straight forward question “Do Christians [...]

  44. Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud - February 6, 2013

    [...] Last week Rachel Held Evans linked to a trio of articles with the common theme, Do Christians idolize virginity? One of the recommended articles is being recommended here as well; the story of a girl who believed that, in her words, I am Damaged Goods. [...]

  45. Finding My Pulse | Damaged Goods: How should the church respond to sexual sin? - February 6, 2013

    [...] That’s how Sarah Bessey explains the unfortunate subtext of much of the purity speak that is happening in our churches in her recent post “I Am Damaged Goods.” [...]

  46. Friday Stream of Consciousness – 66 | New Vintage Leadership - February 6, 2013

    [...] made the rounds. You can read Rachel Held Evans’ take here.The others were written by Sarah Bessy, and Elizabeth [...]

  47. Is It Time for Christians to Celebrate Pre-Marital Sex? - February 6, 2013

    [...] Recently, Sarah Bessey wrote a powerful post at Deeper Story, “I Am Damaged Goods“: [...]

  48. Virginity Isn’t Our Holy Grail - Gadsit Radio – iGadsit, Do you? - February 6, 2013

    [...] That’s how Sarah Bessey explains the unfortunate subtext of much of the purity speak that is happening in our churches in her recent post “I Am Damaged Goods.” [...]

  49. The revolution will be blogged: Evangelical women challenging purity culture - February 7, 2013

    [...] • Sarah Bessey: I am damaged goods [...]

  50. impromptu sex week (a link list) | A Deeper Story - February 8, 2013

    [...] week, our own Sarah Bessey wrote a little piece that started a big [...]

  51. What I Wish I Had Told My Youth Group About Purity | The Church of No People - February 8, 2013

    [...] the status quo to change, when it comes to how the church teaches kids about sex and virginity.  Sarah Bessey kicked things off (and if you haven’t read her story, you should), [...]

  52. End Of The Week Snacks {2.8.13} | Motley Mama - February 8, 2013

    [...] I Am Damaged Goods by Sarah Bessey. “Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage. You don’t have to consign your sexuality to the box marked ‘Wrong.’” [...]

  53. Friday Favorites 2/8/2013 | Jenny Rae Armstrong - February 8, 2013

    [...] week, Sarah Bessey wrote an amazing article about some of the unintended consequences of the purity [...]

  54. Commitment-Free Critics and the ‘Christian Virginity Cult’ « Juicy Ecumenism - February 8, 2013

    [...] Sarah Bessey continued the theme. She observes that she was “disqualified from true love” because of her previous sexual encounters. She and others “feel like the dirty little secret, the not-as-goods, the easily judged example.” For those so shamed, Bessey enthuses: [...]

  55. The Naked Truth About Purity & Shame | The Center for Women of Faith in Culture - February 8, 2013

    [...] not how I would go about illustrating the matter, but she gets it wrong too as she concludes, “There is no shame in Christ’s love. Let him without sin cast the first stone. You are more … I think Bessey is sincerely trying make some great points about how we handle the topic when the [...]

  56. Weekend Links::Freedom Edition - February 9, 2013

    [...] I am Damaged Goods, by Sarah Bessey This past summer, I taught my 13-year-old-daughter, her closest friends and their moms an 8-week Bible study. I’ve been teaching Bible studies since I gave my life over to Jesus at the tender age of 17. I love to teach. It’s easy for me. So, hear me when I tell you, without exaggeration: teaching this Bible study to my daughter and friends was the most challenging study I have ever taught. Particularly the lesson on purity. [...]

  57. Best of the Rest (Feb 4th) | Menno Nerds - February 11, 2013

    [...] The other post that went viral within my network in the past couple of weeks came from Sarah Bessey writing for A Deeper Story about her experiences being shamed for having sex before mar…. [...]

  58. when it should be about love | see preston blog - February 11, 2013

    [...] Sarah Bessey wrote the best post on sexuality and the Church I have ever read. [...]

  59. Dangerous Teaching: Where We* Really Start Talking About Sex… | harrietlong - February 13, 2013

    [...] got even braver, bolder and did in my view, something really important – they named sex to be pleasurable even outside of marriage, they called out the wrongness of shaming people, they discarded virginity labels and deconstructed [...]

  60. You are loved « unchained faith - February 14, 2013

    [...] one of the first posts went up, Sarah Bessey’s wonderful I am damaged goods, I began to notice something that disturbed me.  Rather than understanding Sarah’s use of [...]

  61. Your Worth Isn’t Determined By___________________. | Jason Micheli - February 15, 2013

    [...] as Sarah Bessey points out in the post I discovered below, if nothing can separate us from God because of Jesus [...]