This is a subject I rarely talk about in great detail – mainly out of fear that someone will think this is some “Look at me! I’m a Super Christian! I did everything right!” type stuff. Let me assure you that it is not. Rather, it is a story of God’s grace, self discovery and lifelong commitment.
Scene 1: Follow the Rules
Before I could walk or talk, I was in the church. Every Sunday, without fail. Something that was drilled into our brains was that premarital sex was wrong and bad. I mean real wrong and real bad. So I learned to embrace this concept at an early age. In fact, I put sex on my “don’t do” list.
What you have to understand is that I was a “good girl.” A rule follower. I took great pride in meeting expectations and had built my whole identity around my ability to do so.
So I dutifully placed premarital sex in the “don’t do” column. But everything else? I mean anything and everything else that came crazily close to but not quite committing the act itself? I threw all of that in the “okay to do” column.
I felt good about my decision. I was meeting God’s “no sex” rule that they harped on so much in church, but I was also able to keep a little something for myself.
During this time, I committed to saving sex for marriage to:
- Feel good about myself for keeping the rules.
- Maintain my good girl image.
- Not feel so bad about the other things I was doing.
Little did I know that God required so much more.
Scene 2: Matters of the Heart
I kept up this do/don’t do approach for several years. Every so often a thought would creep into my mind that maybe all the things I was doing, entertaining and thinking were wrong and not good for me, but I quickly dismissed them.
I told myself: I’m a good girl. What I’m doing is normal and natural. I’m not disobeying God’s “no sex” rule and that’s all that matters.
As I ventured off to college in the fall of 2001, I was excited to get away from home and explore the world on my terms. What I didn’t know was that Jesus would confront me head-on about the checklist of dos and don’ts I had created.
I joined a campus Bible study group, mainly because it seemed like a nice thing to do. I figured I could go to the hour-long meeting each week and then be on my merry way. I had no idea that what I would encounter there would change the trajectory of my entire life.
The first thing I noticed is that these people were not just studying the Bible. They were living it. Their lives contrasted so much with many of the examples I had seen earlier in life, where God was a high priority on Sunday but virtually nonexistent on the other days of the week.
At first, it was all too fanatical for my taste. I didn’t understand why these people wanted to get together all the time. Wasn’t the weekly meeting enough?
I was also turned off by things they considered normal, like studying their Bibles together in public places – like where people could see. Weird.
As weird as it was, it was also very attractive. Because they were seeking to live out their faith, these people had a sense of genuineness in their walk with God, something I didn’t have.
It didn’t take me long to realize that my “no sex” checklist had missed the mark.
God was not impressed with my ability to keep my self-imposed guidelines because they did not encompass everything that God was really after.
What God really wanted was my heart.
I found out that God is not only concerned with whether or not what we are doing is right. Above all, He wants our hearts to be completely pure. “Heart” includes all of the things we can’t see – our motives, desires, thoughts and intentions.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10
Think about Matthew 5:27 – 28, where Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
While I thought I had accomplished some impressive feat by not engaging in a particular act, God showed me that through the darkened state of my heart, it was as if I had performed the act a hundred times over.
In an instant, the sense of sufficiency and superiority I had created for myself with my “no sex” rule was ripped to shreds.
Scene 3: A Real Relationship
I knew what I needed to do. I needed to exchange my list of rules for a commitment to obedience based on relationship.
I wanted to pursue purity out of love for God. And in God’s economy, if you love Him, you obey Him.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – John 14:15
This time around, I committed to saving sex for marriage:
- Out of love for God.
- As an act of obedience to what God had said.
- To pursue a pure heart, not just to keep the rules.
Act 4: The Test
I was single during most of this time so I had never put my theories into practice. That changed in 2003 when I started dating my now husband.
My ideas sounded good on paper, but I wondered how we would practically pursue a lifestyle of purity.
Here are a few of the principles we put in place:
Set a standard
As I began to get to know my husband, I soon discovered that he had the same desire to pursue purity that I did.
Hear me on this: If that hadn’t been the case, and we had not been on the same page in this area, I would have left him alone. If he would have said something to the tune of, “that’s usually not my thing, but I’m willing to do it for you,” I would have left him alone.
I set a standard for the conduct I would accept and I refused to connect myself with anyone who did not have a true desire to do the same.
Be forewarned: If you do this, some may say your standards are too high. Or you’re too picky. Or you’re being unrealistic. Ignore them. When you’re left suffering the consequences of playing fast and loose with the Word of God, these people will not be able to help you.
Put up safeguards
My husband and I shared our first kiss on our wedding day.
Yes, you read that right.
I don’t mention it to suggest that all people everywhere should refrain from kissing their boyfriends. That is far from the point.
The point is that if you want to walk in purity before the Lord, you must create some preset, agreed upon boundaries that will help prevent you from going too far sexually. For us, this meant things like no kissing and staying out in public rather than spending lots of time alone.
This is not a time to be legalistic and impose our personal opinions and convictions about particular things onto one another. But this I do know: “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27) So make sure you plan ahead and put some guardrails in place.
Don’t be stupid
If you’re headed over to his place at 2 in the morning to “read the Bible and pray,” you’re probably fooling yourself and putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t let emotions and confidence in your own will power outweigh common sense.
“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3
Whether you are in a dating relationship or single (or married, for that matter), it’s a really good idea to have a trusted friend that you give permission to ask you the tough questions. To put it another way, you need someone who is allowed to get all up in your business – for the purpose of keeping you on track and helping you identify any potential danger signs.
Scene 5: Life After
Now that I’m married, you know what I get to do?
Continue the lifestyle of purity that I started years ago.
Much to my surprise, God didn’t drop down gold medals from heaven when we said “I do.” We had only done what He required, expected and had empowered us to do.
For the Christian, sexual purity is not extra credit. It’s a basic requirement.
In my marriage, I still have to practice self control and discipline. I still have to say no to things I’d rather say yes to and yes to things when I’d sometimes rather say no. The purity that God demands as a single is simply a precursor that helps set the foundation for a strong Christian experience for the rest of your life.
Sexual purity is a lifelong pursuit.
In case you’re wondering, pursuing purity in our dating relationship and engagement did not buy us a perfect marriage or guarantee us a smooth ride into the sunset. But it did do some other pretty amazing things, like:
- Create in us a stronger conviction to obey the Lord, walk with Him and hear from Him in all areas of our life.
- Set sex apart as an extremely special, highly bonding experience that is cherished and intensely valued between us.
- Give us a legacy and a heritage to pass down to our children.
Looking back, it’s clear to me that the commands that seemed burdensome at the time were for my good and will now be a blessing for generations to come.
If you are pursuing sexual purity, keep fighting! Do not believe the lie that you are missing out on something. When it comes to momentary sexual pleasure outside of the confines of God’s will, don’t forget to read the fine print. There is always a price to pay when we choose to disobey God.
If you’ve had some slip ups in this area, be encouraged! God’s grace covers it all. Remember, God’s standard is that we have a completely pure heart 100% of the time, and we’ve all fallen short of that standard, even us “virgins.”
Today is a great day to push the reset button and rededicate your heart, life and body to the Lord.
What is God prompting you to do in response to what you’ve just read? Is there a teen, young adult or some other person in your life that needs to hear this story? Share it with them!