TLC released a new one-hour reality TV special called “The Virgin Diaries.” Purporting to be an objective documentary on those who have chosen to save themselves for marriage, the show ended up being a thinly-veiled mockery of virgins as unattractive, naïve freaks who are missing out on “all of the fun” the rest of the world is having. Indeed, virginity is the exception and not the rule in 2012. According to a Guttmacher Institute study released in February 2012, the average American loses his/her virginity at age 17. According to the same study, 70 percent of Americans, both male and female, have had intercourse by their 19th birthday.
However, despite the sexual state of today’s culture, this is not what God intends. One need look no further than the pages of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 7, for example, to see that God’s design for sex is between one married man and one married woman for life. While most today would call this archaic, narrow-minded, and ridiculous, God’s desire is to help and not to hinder; to save us from the pain, heartache, and difficulty that results from deviating from His plan. Yes, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are potential consequences of sexual promiscuity, but the relational, emotional, and spiritual consequences can be just as serious and damaging -with their full effect sometimes not being realized until years later.
While there are still many today who make the wise and godly choice to remain sexually abstinent until marriage, there is a much higher likelihood that men and women of dating/marrying age will bring some amount of sexual history into a relationship. For couples seeking to honor God and “do things right”, this can create quite a challenge as they struggle to deal with and overcome the issues associated with the previous sexual encounters of one or both partners. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged, or already married, you will be forced to deal with this sexual issue in your present or future relationship at some point – often continually and repeatedly. So, what’s a Christian to do?
Am I Damaged Goods?
Perhaps you’re single and have some previous sexual experience. Now that you’re walking with the Lord, you have a desire to obey God but your past haunts you. Maybe you feel dirty because of your past choices. Maybe you feel like your choices have disqualified you from the opportunity at a relationship with someone who has chosen to remain pure. Or, maybe you’re scared to enter a relationship now, because you don’t know what a relationship looks like without sex as the central focus. Perhaps you’re even on the other side of the coin and you are hesitant to move forward in a relationship with someone because of their past, despite their present desire to walk with God and to obey Him. As someone who was quite sexually promiscuous in my past, and who ended up marrying a virgin, I have personally dealt with all of the above. However, can I remind you that, because of what Jesus has done for you, you are clean! Psalm 103:13 tells us that, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Just as east and west never meet, your past sins will never meet you again. Each day with the Lord is a new opportunity to do it over with a clean slate. Sure, you may have challenges to overcome, but your past does not define you. Walk in the forgiveness that the cross of Jesus provides. In my case, the Lord blessed me with a virgin wife, a wife far beyond what I deserve or what I thought I deserved in light of my past. Although our relationship has had challenges in this area, God has been faithful to walk with us every step of the way. God is in the restoration business, and He can and will do and go beyond what you can ask, think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Is It Really Possible To Do It Right?
So, what about those who are dating or engaged? Even for couples who are both virgins, it can be very difficult to control the physical aspect or your relationship and to keep from falling into sexual sin. After all, God did create physical and sexual attraction, and that attraction is a vital and necessary component of a relationship; particularly once it can be enjoyed in the confines of the marriage bed. However, we get into trouble when we get impatient and allow our desires to control us instead of the Holy Spirit. For couples where one or both partners have had previous sexual experience, this fight can be exponentially more challenging. In worldly relationships, sex is everything. It is sexual attraction that forms the relationship in the first place, and sex is the fuel that keeps the relationship moving forward. The problem is, in reality, sex is a very small component of any lasting relationship. When trying to do relationships according to God’s design, those of us with past sexual mistakes usually have to re-learn what it means to do relationships God’s way. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient, does not demand its own way, and endures through every circumstance. This is the polar opposite of the self-seeking, sex-crazed relationship ideal that the world puts forth as normal today. The key for any couple to have success in this area, regardless of the circumstance, is to trust that God’s way is best. Even if you have already made mistakes or crossed boundaries in your relationship, it’s never too late to begin to do it right.
God will honor your decision to honor Him, and you will experience the blessings that always come from obedience.
My Marriage is Suffering Because Of My Past
If you are married, and have a sexual past with someone other than your spouse, you may have experienced some significant issues and challenges because of it. Even if you did things right with your spouse during your dating and engagement days, when sexual baggage and expectations from previous relationships enter the marriage equation, things can get messy. Your previous experiences hardwire you to expect that sex is going to be a certain frequency or style, and those expectations are usually quite unhealthy and unrealistic. Sexual encounters that take place in your teens or twenties after a night of partying are always a far cry from the healthy, selfless expression of true love and passion for your spouse that God designed sex to be. You can end up deeply wounding and isolating your spouse when you make comparisons, whether verbal or implied, to those phony past experiences and both of you can end up suffering for it. If you can relate to any of the above and desire change and healing, the key again lies in God’s amazing grace. Allow Him to wipe away the mistakes and sins of your past and to teach you what a healthy married sexual relationship is. Turn to the pages of His word; to Song of Solomon, Ephesians 5, and (again) 1 Corinthians 13. Dig in and find out what it means to truly love and serve your spouse as God has intended all along. Your marriage will surely become deeper and more fulfilling as a result.
No matter your sexual past, God loves you, forgives you, and has an amazing plan for you. He is ready to meet you where you are and to shine His light into this area of your life, if you will simply let Him in. He continues to work both faithfully and patiently in this area of my life and my marriage, and I know He desires to do the same in yours.
For more information on the Guttmacher Study, visit: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html
Justin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.