“Wow, that’s great, I guess,” stammered my date after learning that I was indeed a 28 year-old virgin. “Your future husband will be really grateful.”
“Thanks,” I responded. Famous last words as I promptly never heard from him again.
This isn’t the first time a guy has asked me about my sexual history and then given me the deer-in-headlights look once he learns I’m abstaining from sex until marriage.
And although I’ve come to expect it, it doesn’t hurt any less each time it happens.
One particular night, I remember tears welling up in my eyes as I questioned God and myself, “Why does this keep happening? When did saving myself for marriage become something embarrassing or shameful, even a deal breaker?”
Growing up in a Christian home and attending Christian school and church, abstinence was constantly preached. It was not-so-subtly presented in skits and purity chapels, invoking the use of visual aids like a rose having each petal taken off and being left with only the stem, or my personal favorite, gluing two pieces of paper together to signify a sexual relationship and then attempting to separate the two. This obviously ended with tearing and bits of paper all over the floor.
My 13 year-old self didn’t want to be a petal-less rose stem or a torn-up piece of construction paper, so I have to admit, these tropes were somewhat successful, at least in my case.
In the early years, my decision to wait to have sex until marriage was easy. Most of my friends weren’t having sex, and the ones who were kept it really quiet. Even in college, the decision wasn’t a very difficult one for me. When people found out, they either thought it was cute or impressive, and the ones who were rude about it, I just brushed off as being jerks.
At a certain point, however, this all changed. As my friends who were also waiting got married one by one, and as other friends decided to have sexual relationships, I was left alone. I felt like an alien. Everyone I knew had had and/or was having sex except me. Not only was I alone, but what had once been credited to me as a cute or impressive quality was no longer anything of the sort. When people found out, they treated it as weird or sad or juvenile. After dating a few Christian guys who ran for the hills after finding out I wasn’t going to have sex with them anytime soon, I begin to wonder, “Why am I even doing this?” It seemed like the very thing I desperately wanted-a meaningful relationship-was out of reach because sex was off the table.
I began to do some soul-searching and realized that my motivation for abstaining from sex had been all wrong. I had been saving myself for marriage because I thought of myself as a “good” girl. “Good” girls didn’t jump into bed with guys. “Good” girls waited on God. I took pride in my virgin label, making it part of my identity, thinking that somehow I was a better person because of it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” (NIV) When God tells us to flee from sexual sin, He does this for our sake, something which I had never really understood. Obeying Him in this area was protection for me, and had absolutely nothing to do with the way He viewed me or the value I had as a person. I am His child. He paid a dear price for me, and my sexual behavior, or lack thereof, has no bearing on that.
This realization changed everything. It gave me the clarity to look at my decision and decide to move forward in it, but this time with the right intentions behind it.
It’s not easy. If you had told me in high school that I would still be a virgin at 28, there’s no way I would have believed you. It’s certainly not a status I would like to maintain forever! But for now, it’s where He wants me to be. To those reading this, no matter what your sexual history, I encourage you to continue to seek your identity in who God says you are, and not any other measure or status. Ultimately, the greatest and truest title we could have is that of God’s children trying to know Him more.