Hey Sweet Friends! Somewhere between the years of 2008 and 2010 I was a substitute teacher. My favorite grades to substitute for were middle school and in that year and some change I saw and heard a lot. When I asked the Lord how to start a conversation about purity He quite literally had me stumbling across a blog post I wrote in February 2010. So if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to start there.
The bell rang and with a rush of high pitched giggles and the musk of an eighth grade boys’ locker room, they made their way into class.
From the back I heard, “Yes! We have a substitute today”, in whispered excitement. Poor guy had no idea that statement alone made him a target of my constant, watchful eye. His name made it on my list before the hour was over.
After getting the class settled and clear on their assignment, I made myself comfortable at the teacher’s desk reviewing papers from the previous period.
I allowed them to work in groups and made it clear, that as long as they were working, I didn’t mind if they talked quietly.
The table to my immediate left took me quite literally and while I wanted to shush them several times they were constantly working. Honestly, even if they hadn’t been working I’m not sure I would have made them be quiet strictly out of morbid curiosity.
Is there anything they wouldn’t talk about with the teacher sitting not five feet away?
At the table were five students, one of which made it clear she wanted the floor to open up and swallow her with a fiery passion. After a while she started to blend into the background which is, I assume, exactly what she wanted.
Sitting to her left was a girl who looked like she thought she had it all together. “Long Denim Skirt Girl” is how I affectionately thought of her for the duration of the class since that is what she was wearing, paired with a pink polo shirt that had every one of its buttons done up. She gave the other three at the table a cursory glance every now and then but mainly she focused all her attention on the assignment.
Andrew was the only boy sitting at the table and also the only one whose name I caught because the two girls who have yet to be described said it constantly…”Oh, Andrew. Stop it, Andrew! Don’t cheat off my paper, Andrew.” Think cocky, vulnerable, jock, who has daddy issues and a killer smile and you have Andrew. My heart hurt for him before I even got to know him.
Cheerleader One and Cheerleader Two were next. The blonde was the closest to Andrew and the pretty brunette was obviously envious. But wait ladies, Andrew just referred to his girlfriend…
“Why don’t you bring her to church with you this Wednesday”, asked Cheerleader Two.
“Y’all know I’m not coming to church with you no matter how many times you invite me, right”, answered Andrew.
This got Long Denim Skirt Girl’s attention.
“Why not,” asked Cheerleader One.
“I don’t like church because I don’t feel comfortable there. Anyway, Jesus doesn’t like me because of what I’ve done in my past.”
This got my attention. He was in the eighth grade! How sordid could his past be, for crying out loud?
Both cheerleaders and Long Denim Skirt Girl refuted this of course. I was starting to like these girls and I found myself paying less attention to the papers I was reviewing and more attention to what they would say next as they basically shared Jesus with their friend. Very quickly I saw whose motives were pure and whose were not.
The next thing I heard come out of Andrew’s mouth was about the last time he’d had sex with his girlfriend.
I thought I was going to throw up.
The girl who was steadily digging her way to China looked up startled but quickly went back to being invisible.
Long Denim Skirt Girl said, “Andrew, I’m going to pray for you”, and let me tell you, she meant it.
Cheerleader One and Cheerleader Two giggled and looked fascinated, totally buying into his charms.
In response to Long Denim Skirt Girl, Andrew said, “You don’t have to pray for me. I’m Catholic. Not a practicing Catholic, of course, but I believe in God.”
Cheerleader Two seemed to remember something and quickly said, “Since you believe in God you should totally come to church with us. We have a lot of fun. Sometimes we don’t even talk about God at all!”
I couldn’t believe how bad this was getting.
“Listen, I’m not going to church with you. Y’all hated me for the longest time but you finally got over it. So will everyone else. I like having sex too much to go to church. Seriously, it’s so good that if there were no girls in the world and I knew there were none coming, I’d go gay.”
Long Denim Skirt Girl looked like she was going to burst.
While Cheerleader One and Two were flirting their way into conversation with Andrew, Long Denim Skirt Girl only wanted to tell him about Jesus.
“You know, Jesus loves you no matter what you do”, she said.
Score one for the sweet little Long Denim Skirt Girl!
Ignoring her, Cheerleader One asked him if he loved his girlfriend. He turned beet red and with emotion in his voice he said, “I’m not talking to you guys about that. It’s personal!”
I was taken aback…more personal than the information he shared with them about the last time they had sex? What on earth?
It was at this time Andrew noticed me, probably because I was staring at him, having decided this conversation had gone on long enough.
“Dude, the teacher can totally hear us”, he informed the girls.
Immediately eyes went down to their papers and pencils began firing across their assignment.
Things were relatively quiet for the rest of the period which lent me the opportunity to process.
When I was in the eighth grade there was only one girl I knew having sex and a couple more who I knew had some heavy petting experiences. We talked about it but in hushed whispers away from any form of authority.
It had me asking what our children are being exposed to that it is nothing to just have a conversation about sex, in mixed company, around the table in the middle of class? I didn’t like the answer I came to and how I am responsible for part of the exposure by allowing myself to be exposed as well.
When I was in the eighth grade I went to church about three times a week. I was a part of the leadership team of my youth group and I was always inviting my friends to come with me.
It had me asking what has happened to the Body of Christ that a 14 year-old boy doesn’t feel comfortable in a church? How we have failed if the heart of a 14 year-old boy truly believes that Jesus does not like him because of the things he has done in his past or even for the things he is doing in his present for that matter.
I watched him for the rest of the period and my heart broke.
How do we teach our daughters to guard their hearts?
How do we teach our sons that a woman’s heart is worthy of their protection?
How do we teach our daughters that her mystery is one of the ways she uniquely bears God’s image as a female?
How do we teach our sons that being a man of integrity and Godly character is more valuable than how many notches they have in their bedpost?
We have to model it. We have to believe it ourselves. We have to be above reproach. We have to be honest about the times we have failed.
The bell rang and with a rush of high pitched giggles and the musk of an eighth grade boys’ locker room, they made their way out of class.
“Andrew,” I called before he could get away. “Can I see you for a second?”
He was embarrassed, his face turning red as he made his way to where I stood.
“You’re not in trouble,” I stated up front, trying to put him at ease. “However, I do want to encourage you to keep what is private to yourself. You dishonored your girlfriend today by sharing what you did and she deserves more than that…so do you.”
The humiliation was setting inside of him deeply so I needed to wrap up quickly. Did I dare say what I had to say next?
If he told anyone I would lose my job for sure.
“That’s all. You can go.”
Deep breath. Jump.
“Oh, and Andrew, Jesus really does love you no matter what you do.”
I was 34 years old when it dawned on me that society, as a whole, has stopped assuming that people don’t have sex until they get married. Looking back it’s laughable that it took me that long, but I grew up in church and was in high school in the 90’s when purity rings, I Kissed Dating Good-Bye and the True Love Waits movement was all the rage.
So when I stood in the kitchen of my boss sharing about some pretty terrible menstrual cycle symptoms I had been experiencing, wondering aloud if I was going through early onset menopause, and she said forcefully, “You just need to get laid”, it FINALLY dawned on me.
Trying to pick up my jaw off the floor so I could say what needed to be said with confidence and not the shame I felt, I said, “I’m a virgin.”
If I thought my jaw had been on the floor, I was wrong. The look on her face was incredulous, almost like she didn’t believe me. But then why would I lie to her when I knew her 20 year-old daughter’s boyfriend slept in her daughter’s room when he came to visit from out of town. I knew she wouldn’t judge me for not being a virgin but there she was judging me for being one?!?
I think she asked me “Why?” and I could only answer, “Because I’ve never been married.” The conversation disintegrated after that, both of us lost in our own thoughts, but it was here I realized we have stopped assuming people, real people, not just characters on the television or in movies, or celebrities, but real, every day people, wait until they get married to have sex.
Looking back, my naivete has me rolling my eyes. Perhaps you have even rolled your eyes as well. That’s okay…I can handle it.
I need to be clear, this conversation about purity isn’t meant to condemn. God’s grace and redemption is deep and wide and completely covers all sin. But it’s that last word…sin.
Sweet Friends, we have gotten too comfortable with it. We have gotten too comfortable with watching it, joking about it, hiding it, not confessing it, participating in it. And as someone who leads and disciples teenagers, I can tell you, we (the adults) aren’t the only ones paying for that sin, and these brave, gifted, driven young adults need us to do better. They need us to talk about the hard stuff and they need us to be honest about our failures and how God has met us in the middle of them.
I remember exactly where I was…at Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Columbus, GA…when a 10th grade student began telling me about having sex for the first time with her boyfriend, about a month earlier. She was confessing because she knew how I felt about her decision but she wasn’t repentant. There is a difference, because she didn’t intend to stop having sex. As I graciously tried to ask her thoughtful questions she shared, “Kathryn, no one ever told me that sex before marriage was wrong before you did last year in TeenAdvisors.”
If she had punched me, I would have been less surprised! How on earth could that be true when it has felt like I have ALWAYS known.
Well, let’s take stock of things. I grew up in church. She did not. My parents were still married. Her mom had live-in boyfriend after live-in boyfriend. I wasn’t allowed to watch Friends or Dawson’s Creek and had to sneak watching it in the back tv room (Moma, if you are just now finding this out…I’m sorry!) She has had no such restrictions or oversight on what she watches and is exposed to.
As she continued to share her life with me I made a commitment to myself. I can no longer assume that my students know ANYTHING I don’t tell them.
That commitment has extended to you, Sweet Friend. So while, to me, it makes sense that I am still a virgin, at 40 years old, because I’ve never been married, I can’t assume that you would know that bit about me unless I tell you.
Before you get it in your head that I am some perfect goodie two shoes that you can no longer relate to, let me be perfectly clear! The ONLY reason I can say that is because of the supernatural protection of the Lord. This isn’t the post to go into all the ways I have experienced that protection or even my thoughts on why it exists but I can tell you I have a handful of experiences that are evidence of this.
Also, 20 year old Kathryn is cringing her biggest cringe ever and not because I just told you that I’m still a virgin but because I am still a virgin. There were two boys in particular around that age that if they had ever looked at me in any other way than a sister or friend, it would have been game over. And they were your typical “Christian Bad Boys” too so it would have been easy to give it up. You know the type, broken boys who know their need for a Savior but are maybe a little too broken to have the strength to really dig in for the healing they are desperate for and so they go looking for that healing in the arms of a broken girl, looking for her worth and value in his arms.
I was that broken girl and I would have looked for my worth and value in their arms if they had invited me to. But at 20, I didn’t see God’s supernatural protection, all I saw was rejection. They proved I didn’t have worth or value and so I disappeared into fantasy and that 20 year old virgin who didn’t want to be one anymore became addicted to romance novels, which led into books full of even greater filth.
I remember sitting in one of the pews in the church I grew up in as I confessed this to one of my Pastor’s wives. I could tell she was uncomfortable but I trudged on, in my shame, knowing God had told me to bring someone into this with me, to hold me accountable and to pray for me. When I was finished she told me I should connect with her niece who was two years younger than me and dealing with a similar struggle so that we could help each other. Since she had never dealt with anything like that, she couldn’t help me. I saw her every week for several years after that and she never once asked me how I was doing in this area of my walk with the Lord and I never called her niece.
Then a huge move came and isolation and a homesickness I’d never experienced before and the sex books just didn’t cut it anymore, and since no one else lived with me, my addiction to pornography began.
Whenever I have heard this topic brought up in church the pastor says, “Let me talk to the men for a moment…” Since we are here on my website I’m going to say, “Let me talk to the women for a moment.” In 2007 when I was getting help for this and I started doing research, 1 in 3 women was struggling with an addiction to pornography and that was BEFORE every single one of us had smartphones.
So let me talk to you for a second about this. If you haven’t confessed this consistent struggle or even occasional dabbling, I urge you to. It was almost impossible for me to get over this before I invited the right people into it with me. I prayed and asked God to help me but without the consistent accountability of my Sisters in Christ I never stayed away from it for long.
Also, because this particular sin issue is supposed to be a “guy only” issue, I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I remember a particularly nasty lie the enemy used to shout to my heart that I must have more testosterone than most women, as he attacked my femininity, when that struggle had nothing to do with my genetic makeup and everything to do with my heart.
Sweet Sister who has struggled or is currently struggling with any kind of sexual sin, there is nothing more wrong with you than anyone else who has ever walked this earth, except Jesus. The only thing wrong with you is that you, like all of us, are in need of a Savior who has access to all the many broken pieces of your heart.
For every good and perfect gift that God has to give us, the enemy gives us counterfeits. Many times the counterfeits are more shiny and easily accessible than God’s good gifts and so we go for those first because who wants to take the long road to healing? The only thing is the long road to healing is the ONLY road to healing. Those shiny short cuts are actually roads to even more brokenness…which then makes the long road to healing even longer.
Yes, I may be a unicorn and the butt of every person’s joke about a 40 year-old virgin but here’s what I know to be true…it is possible to live a full life without sex, it is possible to find freedom from sexual sin, and it is God’s kindness and supernatural protection over my life, alone, that has kept me from making decisions I would have absolutely regretted.
So as I talk about purity in future episodes I pray you remember that it isn’t in condemnation but in a plea for you to remember that God doesn’t give us rules to keep good things from us. Don’t believe the same lie from the Garden.
Genesis 3:1-6 says,
“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ ‘No! You will certainly not die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
Make no mistake, this lie was not about a piece of fruit. This lie was about getting Eve to doubt the heart of God towards her. Getting her to ask the questions, “Is God really keeping something good from me? I can’t trust Him to give me the things I want so I need to go ahead and take them for myself.”
This may be a dumbed down version of why people have sex outside of marriage but if I had to guess, buried deep down below all the other reasons, this is the original seed that was planted.
I know it’s true of my heart in regards to the sins that have held me captive.
Let me pray for us…
Jesus, you are so good at making things clean and so in whatever ways the words I have written today might have exposed brokenness in the hearts of my Sweet Friends, I pray in the powerfully healing name of Jesus that you would come in and clean them fully. From the hairs on their heads to the tips of their toes. Thank you for being a trustworthy source of healing for those who ask and give you access to every broken piece of their hearts.
Father, for those of my sweet friends who find themselves having missed the mark where their sexual purity is concerned, I pray they would experience your grace in a way no one else can. That you would make yourself so known to them that they would forget all the lies the enemy has ever told them about themselves. That they would hold onto who You call them. Chosen, Dearly Loved, Your Spotless Bride.
For those young people or even those who are older, like me, who are waiting for a marriage covenant, God would you empower us with your Holy Spirit to set up healthy boundaries in dating relationships? Would you give us a BIG GIGANTIC WHY for why you would have us wait. Would you paint it on our hearts and on our eyes like a billboard, reminding us constantly that you only give good things, which means the boundary of sex only being appropriate within the covenant of marriage is a GOOD thing. It isn’t a punishment. It is for our protection and for our good. Jesus, give our teenagers a greater vision for their lives than sex. Jesus, give the adults in their lives the courage to appropriately share our stories of how we got it wrong so they can learn from us.
Holy Spirit, no matter where these words find them, would you surround your children with a community of Believers who would not shy away from getting dirty with those who need help?
Thank you for boundaries, Lord. Thank you for making us clean with just a word. Thank you for truths that are hard, but worth sharing, because that is where abundant life is found. Amen.
Sweet Friends, please remember…if God has chosen to tell the world a different story through your life than mine, that isn’t just okay, it is needed! Please don’t let shame take root if your story is different than mine. We need yours too!
Until next time…
Thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths.
And God has got us!