Maybe we lose our virginity the first time we breathe deeply in the back of a car in high school. We push the borders but don’t go all the way. Or maybe we lose it the moment man enters woman or boy enters girl.
Instead I think we lose it somewhere in between.
Even though in the mechanical sense I was a virgin when I stood at the altar, I was in no way virginal.
There had been heat and buttons undone and all the other things that girls and boys do when they don’t know what else to do and all of that while claiming virginity.
I announced virginity but I in no way claimed purity.
I was a tiny bit too old for the purity sweeps that raced through evangelical churches in the nineties. I was a tiny bit too old to sign a purity pledge or to wear a purity ring. There wasn’t a time I could remember that I had been really pure. Not in recent years anyway. By the time the “Purity Police” got to me I was already in college and pulling off sweaters in the backseat.
But at the same time my Evangelical guilt could have rivaled any Catholic or Jewish guilt. I felt bad every week and didn’t ever want to share my activities with my Christian girlfriends.
So we got married at twenty-nothing because we wanted to have sex. Plain and simple. There was no more time we could wait and there was nothing else to do. There were no more lines to cross.
It was the unspoken part at the altar and the unsaid vow in the ceremony: this is happening today (and not in a few years) so we will feel less guilty about doing what we were already doing.
When did I lose my virginity? I’m actually not sure now. Was it the moment my eyes and body was opened to the way it felt when touched? The way my heart and my mind hummed with new understanding about myself? During college I read The Awakening by Kate Chopin and I remember thinking THIS, this. I’m waking up.
I’m waking up but I feel so bad about it.
Or did I lose my virginity sometime later, mechanically speaking, when it all was consummated in that hotel room near the beach?
I do know this: I didn’t feel much different after the rings went on our fingers and we actually did the deed. Not like I felt as we were exploring as young people looking down a long month of Sundays at a future wedding date.
And what about the affair? When did the adultery truly begin? Was it at the first phone call or the moment we met in secret and actually committed the act?
Even Jesus says that sexuality begins in the heart. The thought of a person in bed with me is just the same as actually inviting him in. The act is no greater than the thought of it.
With Sarah Bessey’s recent and courageous blow-up-the-internet post about virginity and purity, I can’t help but think about myself and my own daughters.
When we teach our daughters and sons to be pure, should we teach them to remain virgins? Or should we teach them things like self-control, staying close to the Father, seeing the world with the eyes of Jesus and walking in moderation and righteousness?
Because I will tell you this: I may have remained a “virgin” but I wasn’t walking in moderation or practicing self-control at all.
There is something desperately wrong with this equation.
You could argue that the scare tactics employed by my high school youth pastors worked because, yes, I kept myself a virgin until I wore a ring. Or you could argue that the fear measures didn’t work because virginity and living in rhythm with Jesus are two different things.
I wonder if by teaching (and modeling) self-control, righteousness and walking close to Jesus, we teach them to wait. Maybe when we live rightly, we walk in step with the Spirit and we teach them the right things, it isn’t scare tactics any longer.
It becomes part of our daily lives in union with Jesus.
At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter WHEN I lost my virginity. Whether it was the night I got married or sometime long before is unimportant. What matters is that I examine my heart today and continue to try each hour to move in step with the Redeemer.
And our children? They will make mistakes. We sure did. But there is grace and forgiveness and there is Love (oh that Love that is possible because of Jesus). And there is my prayer that at the end of their days, they will land on the right side of it all.