Disclaimer: the views expressed in this post are my own. Perhaps your experiences have looked different, but I share my story as my story is the only one I know. If you didn't read my thoughts on being a newlywed from a few days ago, before you check out what's below I urge you to read before & after (part 1) and before & after (part 2).
I wasn't a virgin on my wedding night. Neither of us were. To the contrary, I had been with a number of other people, and he certainly had his share of sexual experiences before I came into the picture. The Bible says that sex is reserved for the covenant of marriage, meaning it was designed with a specific purpose in mind: to unite a husband and a wife (not to mention create babies). So many people today seem to have a huge problem with this aspect of Christianity - for some reason it is such a defining part of our belief system. It is common now for even Christians to argue that there's nothing wrong with sex before marriage. What God originally created to be a beautiful expression of love between two people has been bent by Satan's will to a grotesque degree; sex is a commodity, sex is a necessity, sex is a tool. In Christian circles, sex is gross and isn't talked about; meanwhile, the pornography epidemic rages and strip clubs dot street corners as pent up men (and women) find private ways to express themselves sexually. If you're a 20-something virgin in today's culture you're viewed differently, and not in a good way.
I wanted to wait for marriage. I really did. But like many girls, I felt pressured into sex by a person who I thought cared for me, and while I resisted for a very long time, eventually the desire to feel loved won out. So I gave my body to get a little bit of love. I was going to marry him someday anyway, so was it that big of a deal? Repeat that story more times than I'd care to admit, fast forward six or so years, and here I am today: a wife struggling with the shame of many past sexual sins that have wiggled their way into my marriage where they certainly don't belong.
When Nick and I started dating shortly after I moved to Seattle last summer, I was in a pretty good place. Both of us were hell-bent on pursuing Jesus at all costs. As the months passed, we began to shed past sin patterns and allow our hearts to heal as we fell in love and eventually chased one another to the marriage altar. Shortly after our relationship began, we moved in together. The details don't matter, and no I don't recommend doing this, but it's our story and for some reason was God's plan for us. We lived and traveled together for a year before we got married, and get this, we didn't have sex (or even come close) once. Don't believe me? That's fine - I probably wouldn't believe me either, but by the grace of God, we did wait until our wedding night.
Because so much time had passed, and I had learned to feel safe and secure with Nick - a guy who loved me enough to not pressure me sexually - as I entered my marriage I figured my heart had healed and my past would stay where it belongs... in the past. I also knew there would be a learning curve and that we wouldn't have mind-blowing sex right off the bat, but I figured since we had waited for one another for so long we would both want it often. I was not prepared for what actually happened: no crazy lust was awakened. After we had sex for the first time, life still looked pretty much exactly like how it always had. In my marriage, sex is a beautiful expression but not an obsession.
With boyfriends of the past, as dramatic as this sounds, I was primarily viewed as a sexual object. I can promise you that most of my dysfunctional relationships only lasted so long because there was sex involved. I was used to being desired constantly; as sad as it is, I began to see my worth in it. We're taught that men want sex a lot more than women, that they're sexual beings with all kinds of urges women are just never going to understand, and that as a wife one of your main jobs is to give yourself to your husband sexually even when you don't want to. I figured that when Nick and I got married it would be this way, and I prepared myself mentally and physically to have sex constantly. How loving of me.
I shake my head as I type this. You may be wondering why I'm being so personal and vulnerable on the Internet, and that's because no one talks about this. And they should. Now that I'm on the other side of my wedding day, there are two truths I've come to realize about sex before marriage. The first is that it's incredibly, unspeakably damaging. I know shame has no place in my life, that Jesus has forgiven all, but having sex in the right way brings up way too many memories of when I did it the wrong way. It's been difficult to deal with past sins I thought I had dealt with years ago. It's like I need to constantly forgive myself anew, which is ridiculous because Jesus only had to forgive me once and that should be good enough for me. I absolutely hate that I've had intimate sexual experiences with other people. Nick isn't affected by this; he's forgiven my past and I've forgiven his and yet... it still haunts me.
The second truth I've learned is that my worth is not found in my body, a truth that starkly contrasts against the message I was given through years of habitual pre-marital sexual sin. I was surprised the first night Nick wasn't all that interested in sex. "I'm tired babe," he explained. I felt rejected, which was completely ridiculous because I didn't really want it in that moment either! It's taken a few months to understand Nick doesn't love me for my body - sex is icing on the cake (and it's pretty freaking awesome, don't get me wrong) but it's not the foundation of our relationship, unlike with people from my past. Sigh.
Beauty, by the way, is not what I'm speaking of here. That's a discussion topic for another time, and one I definitely will visit in the future. Women were created for many, many reasons and a big one is to showcase their beauty. My beauty was made primarily for Nick's pleasure and I take great joy in him finding me beautiful. But that does not necessarily always equal sex.
How relieving to know that I'm so much more than a sexual being. That even though my choices from the past have consequences that still reverberate today, I have a Savior (and an incredible husband) who forgives all and loves unconditionally. I don't yet understand that Love. I'm still learning.
What about you? What's your story? As always, I'd love to hear from you in a comment below or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm still getting through the many sweet emails I've received this past week (thank you!), so if you're waiting to hear back from me, don't worry you will! I'm absolutely loving this new little blog of mine and the community that's evolving.
So much love to all of you. Enjoy your weekend! It's raining here in Seattle, which if truth be told, feels refreshing to my soul.