Marriage, My Personal Journey, Reflections

Why Wait? From someone who didn’t, and did.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to post on this topic, as SO MANY people have weighed in already… but given my story, I feel like I have a pretty unique perspective on the matter… and if only one person reads it, it’s worth my time to write it all out. So, here goes.

A woman wrote a few months ago that she waited for marriage and wished she hadn’t… And it went viral. It’s tragic, for so many reasons… first, that she has found herself unable to enjoy marital intimacy, and second, that she chose to share with the world a post that has undoubtedly changed the hearts and minds of young girls who might have otherwise done the same (and not regretted it). I can understand the reasoning in some ways, but I mostly just hurt for her… She waited. She assumes it would have been easier or better somehow if she hadn’t. The thing is, though, that she doesn’t know whether it would have been better. I do. I know what it’s like not to wait. I know the hurt, the ick, the expectation that not waiting can bring. But I also know what it’s like to wait. I know how it feels to date a man and, through temptation after temptation, keep yourself chaste and just. wait. So with that unique perspective in mind, let me tell you … why wait?

The first time I remember thinking about sex and what I thought about it, I was 12 or 13. I was talking with a friend who said she had lost her virginity a few months prior because she had been raped. I was so sad for her. She felt that this was going to define her life and that her purity was gone and it didn’t matter what she did anymore. I cried for her. Because we were friends I told her that it didn’t have to change things for her.. that it was sad, and awful, and I was so sorry, but that she could move on and it didn’t have to change who she was. I had already decided for myself before that point that I didn’t want to have sex until I was married. It wasn’t because of my youth group — I didn’t have one. It wasn’t because of my parents — they themselves were never married. It wasn’t because I was passionate about Christ or because I wanted to honor God or anything like that… it was honestly probably because of logistics… I didn’t want to share something that had to be seriously intimate (and, in the mind of a 12 year old, inevitably gross) with more than one person. I saw my purity and my virginity as a gift, and it was the only thing in the wide world that was mine to keep and give to whomever I wanted.

I don’t know if it would have helped or not, but I never made a True Love Waits commitment or wore a promise ring. But at 14, when my boyfriend made suggestive conversation about things we *could* do, I resisted.. but eventually caved. In retrospect, I think it was a combination of naïveté and fear. A part of me thought this could be the easy way out. We had talked about marriage, and what if he was the one? Maybe this is the way I could ‘seal the deal,’ and we really would be together forever, and I’d never have to deal with the hassle of picking a husband or being single or whatever. Yeah, I was definitely naïve.
Unfortunately, the fear I felt wasn’t invalid. He did leave – not because I wouldn’t do what he wanted but in spite of it. After a few months of a relationship that revolved around sexuality on a level that I am, even now, very uncomfortable with, he began seeing other girls. Not behind my back – I was fully aware, but they weren’t. I was afraid to leave at this point because I had given such a huge part of me to this person and I couldn’t just leave that chunk of me behind. My parents, wisely, did everything they could to pry me from him, up to and including moving me about 200 miles away from him. And that worked, in a way. On our one year anniversary, he broke up with me because he ‘couldn’t handle a long distance relationship.’ Unfortunately, when I found myself living locally again six months later, the abuse continued, and I continued to allow it.

I finally began falling for another boy as a new school year began. He was a virgin, and I remember thinking that was cute. At this point, sex had become, in my mind, a weapon; it was power. It’s frightening to look back on, actually. It did feel empowering once or twice, until that weapon was turned on me and I found myself once again at the wrong end of this incredible, soul-crushing power. Once again, my boyfriend began seeking other mates while I bowed to his every whim until eventually, I walked away.

My senior year was about the same, only the boy was cuter, and the abuse was exponentially worse. Everyone could see it but me, as it always happens, and before I fully understood the extent of the abuse I was enduring, I found myself pregnant as a freshman in college, by a boy I couldn’t imagine having to spend forever with.

What you have to understand is that there was a large part of me that entered each of these relationships fully believing that I could marry this guy. The relationships began and these guys exhibited marryable traits. They all went to church and were fairly active in their youth groups. They pulled out chairs and opened doors. They didn’t dress like thugs. Each of them was actually in our high school ROTC program, which required a level of discipline and poise that you wouldn’t expect from the ‘average teenage boy.’ These weren’t the bad boys — they were the good guys. But sex. changes. everything.

I’d like to say having a baby helped me get my head screwed on right, but it didn’t. I still hoped, in a way, that sex could somehow lead to marriage — it always worked in sitcoms, after all! I endured a couple more ’empowering’ situations with other boys before deciding that this wasn’t going where I wanted it to. I remember driving home from my boyfriend’s house one night and it finally hit me — sex is bigger than me or this boy. It’s bigger than an activity that you do together. It’s an emotional and spiritual giant and it can and will swallow you. It was there in the driver’s seat of my car on Hwy 80 that I realized why sex is meant to happen only within marriage.

I don’t know how pertinent it is to the story, but it was a few months later that God shook up my whole world, and I got baptized and actually changed my life. Or I guess, my heart, because I was still a single mom making barely enough to pay for rent, gas and daycare, but it didn’t feel so hopeless anymore. That doesn’t mean I never made a stupid decision about a boy again… but I did feel somehow different about it.

A few months later, I reconnected online with a guy I had met on MySpace a year and a half earlier. He was a Christian – and now I had a way better grip on what that actually meant. I wanted to approach this relationship differently… with conviction. He was a virgin, and I liked that… but this time it was because I hoped it would keep him from trying anything. I hoped it would mean he’d respect me. Something my friend when I was 12 told me that always stuck with me was ‘once you give him more than a simple kiss, you’ll never have his respect again.’ I wanted to be respected. I wanted my feelings to matter – not just about sex but about life and TV shows and the color of my hair and how I dressed and whether I was well and what I was interested in. Any boy who had ever had more of me than a simple kiss soon lost interest in my feelings about any of those things.
Anyway, for some reason, this Christian boy took a chance on me. And to tell the truth it was so hard to stick by our convictions. Once you’ve been there it’s so hard to step backwards, even with a new person. It would be a lie to say we never stumbled or were never tempted, but we fought hard and made it to our wedding night before giving ourselves to one another. And you know what?
It was different.
There wasn’t some magical thing that made it amazing in spite of our inexperience, but the respect, the actual active, even-when-it’s-not-easy love he felt for me, the trust that we had given to each other — that he had earned — in the hard waiting… that made all the difference.

I can tell you, with more experience than I wish I had, that sex is better when you’re married to someone who truly loves you, than it is when you are dating someone who says they love you. It isn’t picture-perfect, it didn’t eliminate the natural process of it all, but it didn’t kill me inside. It still had all the markings of two people who still don’t know everything about one another written all over it, but it felt more like the beginning of a process than an event to get over with.
To anyone who has waited and regretted it, I would say to remember that you have the rest of your lives to practice getting things right, and if one party or the other is unwilling to do so, there is counseling for that. Don’t give up or think that you have to be miserable, because that isn’t what marriage is about. This is part of the ‘for better or for worse’ that you signed up for…
To anyone who hasn’t waited or didn’t wait, there is no condemnation here, but there are always abundant opportunities for redemption. If you have questions about that, comment below and leave an email address and I would be happy to talk more about that.
To anyone who is on the fence, I implore you to wait. Don’t let one girl’s bad experience change your life forever.
To any and all of the above: You are a gift. You are worth waiting for. You are precious. You are pure. You are lovely. Nothing you have done changes any of that. And it’s never too late to start over.

**and, side note: to cut down on first-night awkwardness, I recommend reading books like Sheet Music & The Gift of Sex before your wedding night, and discussing sex with your future spouse, as well as participating in premarital counseling. Sex isn’t wrong, bad, or dirty – it’s complex, intimate, and important. Treating it like it isn’t – one way or the other – is ultimately damaging to everyone involved.**

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Reflections

New

I woke up this morning – as I’m sure a lot of people did – with a “new” feeling. New goals. New vigor. An almost invincible feeling that whatever is past is past, it’s a new year and I can be the me I’ve always longed to be. It’s funny how a new year can give us that.
But this morning in worship, God gave me an amazingly simple revelation that I had to share. That feeling isn’t just for today. The bible tells us very clearly that His mercies are new every morning. As Christians who are intimately connected to an almighty God, we don’t have to wait till January first to feel new again. In fact, as I’ve heard many people share, God’s not strict on timelines. You don’t have to wait till after midnight to have His new mercies. They’re there for us any time we need them. It’s hard not to be madly in love with a God who has storehouses of new mercies for me to take advantage of at any moment. And if you can keep that in mind, you’ll never let the enemy hang anything over your head again.

Reflections

1 Chronicles 21:24b

Lastnight I was talking to a really good friend about the bible. I was telling her that I was reading Chronicles, and it was boring. She said “No, it’s not.” and proceeded to tell me about how each of the books of the bible can be amazing if we ask God to show us what He has for us in them. I felt a little convicted… I have been (contrary to my post here) taking my Bible reading for granted… which, I’m sure, was the reason God had us having this conversation in the first place.

So, as I was laying down to go to bed, I noticed Collin was doing his nightly reading, so I got mine out. I’m over 2 weeks behind. I started reading my May 4th assignment and came across this verse:

“I will not present burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

Wow. I don’t even know where God wants to go with that with me, but I can’t stop stewing on it.

The conversation I was having with my friend all started with the thought that America takes Christianity for granted. In many other nations, to say you are a Christian or confess that you love God means a huge commitment. There is nothing lukewarm about it. You can’t sit on the fence in these countries, because acknowledgement of God is an invitation to martyrdom. And it IS tragic that that’s the case anywhere… but I think it’s equally tragic that it ISN’T the case in the U.S.

The burnt offerings we present to God cost us nothing. There is nothing sacrificed in American Christianity as a whole. I’m not saying no American has ever sacrificed to know God or sacrificed for God or because of God or that someone else might know God… but in America, it’s FAR too easy to say “Oh, sure, I’m a Christian.” and go about your business ignoring God and not living a godly life.

Examine your walk with God… does what you have to offer God and the Kingdom of God cost you nothing?

Reflections

Can’t

My daughter will be 5 soon… that means (at least for her) that she thinks she can do everything and nothing all at once. And I guess, in a way, she’s right. (Was it Albert Einstein who said “If you think you can’t do something, you’re right.”? Henry Ford? Eh, it was someone.) Anyway, so this is what my house sounds like this morning…

“Mom, I can’t do it!”
“Mom, it’s too hard!!”
“Mom, I give up!!!”
(Be sure you read mom “MAAHHHHMM” lol)

It’s not like I asked her to move the couch from one side of the living room to the other… these were things like making her bed, finding her book (it was right in front of her…) The funny thing is, I was more than willing to help. In three different instances today, she was standing in her room, yelling across the house, frustrated beyond all get-out, because she couldn’t do it… and if once, JUST ONCE, she had said “Mommy, my comforter is quite large. I could really use a little bit of help getting it onto my bed right.” or even just “Mom, will you please help me?” I would have, in a heartbeat…

And that made me think.

How many times have I been in a ministry situation and thought “What am I doing?! I can’t do this!” and left it at that? It’s not like I don’t know my Daddy loves to help me, it’s just that I don’t ask. Duh, Jess! Of course you can’t do it. You’re not supposed to. I CAN. ASK ME.

I realize this lacks all sorts of profundity on multiple levels, but it hit me good and I wanted to share.

Ask for help. Big things, little things, it doesn’t matter. Daddy God will be happy to answer, if you just ASK.

Family, Reflections

Parenting

Some days, parenting is less fun. There are most definitely days where I look on the lives of others and realize the sacrifice having a family requires… It is on these days that I have to remind myself that every sacrifice is more than worth it… Missed showers, forgotten meals, lost sleep, etc. all falls short of the power of time.

Christopher was born nearly 7 months ago now. I sit in my bed and watch him in his and realize he’s already almost pulling himself up, and that the bassinet insert on his pack n play will have to come down soon. I can’t believe how big he is, how smart he is… so when he stares at me begging me to put him to sleep (for the third time, because he didn’t feel like it the first two…), I have to remember what I too easily forget…

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When this sweet baby boy is knocking down quarterbacks (or whatever he decides to do with his life), I’m going to remember these nights with fondness, and regret the moments when I didn’t fully enjoy him.

And Alexa… So smart but definitely in one of those challenging seasons. She can do so much, but she also wants to be babied… And, truth be told, she is my baby. But it’s my job as her parent to be raising her into a person, and with that comes independence (and teaching her not to be lazy…) It’s a challenge, but I’m thankful to God that I get to be the one to influence her. Even if it’s sometimes nuts how many times I have to repeat the same rule over and over, at least it’s me. I get to see her smile every day. And while I get every one of the challenging moments (or at least it feels like it sometimes!), I’m blessed to get just about every one of the amazing ones, too.

Thanks, God, for the amazing opportunity I have to be a mommy.

Reflections

Standing Still

Have you ever tried to grow so much that you just ended up standing still?

I’ve felt like I’m in a giant rut lately. I know I want so many things, but the list has become so overwhelmingly long that I don’t even know how to rightly express them anymore. Not big things; a house, a newer/nicer/bigger car… those will come in time. I want small stuff. An organized brain, a clean house, knowledge, wisdom. I want to be one of those moms that can do it all! And I don’t know what it is, but somehow, I go from LOVING my life and my kids and enjoying every second with them, to being miserable, feeling slothlike and useless. One day, I just want to stare at Chris and play with him all day… and THOSE days, it’s SO easy to clean the house like it’s nothing. Then the next day, I just want to sleep all day, and everything gets on my nerves.

I’m glad God doesn’t operate on feelings. I wish I didn’t quite so much.

I think I need to take a break. It’s funny, when I was blogging all the time, I was much more focused. Maybe seeing what God’s doing in my life on screen makes it easier to keep letting him do it. But sometimes, I get wrapped up in other peoples’ lives… Facebook, Twitter, etc… and I see “I’m going out back to shoot a cow and it’ll be on the table in gourmet fashion for dinner with all the sides & fixins and the kids are bathed and learned to count to 1,000 today and it’s only 8 am!” and I think “What the heck is wrong with me? I just gave Alexa a bowl of Lucky Charms for breakfast, and I haven’t even thought about dinner, and… what?!” Agh. I know life isn’t a competition, so why am I always trying to win it? I need to get past this insecurity of not being “good enough” for my family… Maybe one day I’ll be that crazy lady who got her grocery shopping done before her husband went to work at 4 am… or maybe not. Maybe one day I’ll teach Alexa calculus… or maybe not. Maybe one day, that weird lady on that germ show on TLC will walk into my house and be impressed… or maybe she’ll run screaming. But why does that matter? Why do I keep looking at others through these awful, ungrateful, greedy eyes, wanting whatever it is they claim to have today?

I’ve been quoting a verse I can’t find now to Alexa lately… basically, it says that those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise. I found another that says it is ignorant to use fellow human beings as the standard of measurement to compare ourselves to. It’s SO funny to me how every lesson I teach Alexa, God teaches me.

I need to quit comparing myself. Beyond that, I need to stop thinking I’m going to wake up one morning and be Superwoman. I need to make a list of goals… a list, without deadlines, and just do the things I want to do, in the order that I want to do them, slowly. For example, I want to be one of those moms who can have company drop in at any time and not feel like I need to spend the whole time cleaning. We had an incident last week that resulted in the need for EVERY piece of laundry in the house needing to be washed. That was a huge undertaking. And between that and Easter weekend, the house is a mess. And it won’t always be, but today, it is. And Collin’s gone to work before the sun everyday this week, so it’s been just me and the kids. And I know that if I don’t let it get to me, I can tackle the house by myself. But that’s the problem. It gets to me, and I let it. And I start to feel like a failure. I see the house a mess and I look inward, at the mess I am, and begin to toil… and nothing gets cleaned or done, I just sit, and I wallow. Ugh.

I wanna be a cleaner. Or at least a picker-upper.

and when I have that mastered, I wanna be a cook. An amazing, healthy (or at least yummy)-food-for-every-meal mommy chef.

and when I have that mastered, I’d love to be the best mommy/teacher around.

and when I have that mastered, I’d love to be a seamstress.

and when I have that mastered… and when I have that mastered…

And UNTIL I have it mastered, I’m going to let the small failures go… because otherwise, they eat me alive.

And for right this moment, I’m going to go be the best snuggler that waking-up-baby-boy ever had 🙂