Whatever you’ve done, whatever interesting decision you made in the past, you might be like me: so far removed from the old you, so unfamiliar to your ‘old ways’ that when you recite stories of how you used to be, you talk in third person. You’re clean from self-sabotage activities, you don’t look back, you don’t repeat the same mistakes because you’ve had a enough epiphanies to see that your sexual past wasn’t working for you, for him, for the future ‘him’ or for the future you.
Your head is up, and you walk boldly once more; until you overhear a conversation or perhaps a casual confession from a girl or boy you might be interested in: “I’d like to hopefully marry a virgin.” You know this statement doesn’t represent the entire perspective of single people, but you hear it never the less.
How do you respond? Do you start jumping on table-tops preaching the themes of redemption that fill the gospel? Do you accept that this is their choice, but disregard their existence in church forevermore, because to you, their statement made you a second-class citizen? Do you chime a bell to all of your fellow ‘redeemed’ friends who took similar sexual paths and start a ‘born-again virgin’ club?
Or do you buy a one-way ticket to where many twenty-somethings appear to go: Shame-land.
Within minutes, upon hearing that some people might want to marry a virgin, you clothe yourself in degradation, your head lowers a little more, you can’t look anyone in the iris, and within the next few days, you’ve forgotten your name, never mind your history with the Lord. One person’s opinion, one person’s ability to hold to their purity, has somehow scuppered the recovery of the mistakes you made in your past.
After I decided to become abstinent again after sexual relationships in my twenties, I found myself dating men who had held onto their purity. Suddenly the question of ‘am I good enough for him?’ was a puzzle that needed solving. As conversations unveiled, I learned that neither men nor women usually care for your past as long as you carry no shame in the present.
Wishing to marry a virgin if you chose a life of purity yourself isn’t a bad thing, it’s an understandable request, no different perhaps to me wanting a man who is taller than me. I’ve equally noted some great potential I’ve missed because of the goal posts I set in those who were let’s say, more vertically challenged than I.
For me, I choose to embrace the decisions they make today in purity, not the mistakes they have overcome a long time ago.
This article therefore is not written to discuss the pros and cons of marrying a virgin, nor discredit your desire to do so. This is written for the man or woman who did have a colorful past – one that left their world feeling nothing more than monochrome. Because when facing a community of people who’ve led in purity all their days, the scoundrel that is shame will do everything to whisper bitter nothings into your ear, robbing you of hope, of your worth.
“Guilt says I’ve made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake,” Brené Brown once told her crowd in a Ted Talk. In many conversations with generation Y (the ones who feel they won’t be suitable for a man or woman who led a fairly spotless sexual history), I realized just how debilitating shame is. How erosive, how unproductive, how pitiful, how victim-like it makes the soul feel. Grace was introduced to take you to the dance floor and show you off, while shame was an entrapment tool to believe you didn’t deserve the best, welding you to the floor so you could not fly. But as the man or woman of your dreams tells you that they refuse to hold your past against you, there’s something within still refusing to let go.
Why? Because shame creates a comfort blanket. One that will never let you explore the feeling of vulnerability as it prevents you from sharing your past with someone who might just love you unconditionally. We carry it around because we feel we should, to show how remorseful we are.
Life is too short to make your past mistakes, the ones you’ve already conquered, be resurrected. Faith tells us to let it go, God says He’s got you covered. You never see snakes return to their old skin, so why hold onto yours?
Self-value doesn’t come from a place of ‘what have you done?’ but a place of ‘but look how far we’ve come!’ Shame will not enable you to repair them, it will only leave you hopeless. It will encourage you to settle for the same unhealthy, codependent relationships, constantly seeking for someone else to say, “you’re OK.”
As we ensure we don’t repeat the same destructive behaviors, we also must allow ourselves to see how much we have overcome. Let this be your backbone, let this be your standard. Purity attracts healthy thoughts, forgiveness seeks connection, humility invites love. The fear of the Lord is a vital and beautiful thing, but never confuse it with shame, never dilute it with misnomers that separate you from the intimacy that is waiting for you, dying for you, accepting you..
...for all you are.
For all you were.
For all you will become.
Carrie Lloyd is an author and journalist from the UK, writing for Grazia, Company Magazine, Huffington Post, Christianity Magazine, Magnify, Alpha Life, The Daily Mail and more. She is the author of ‘The Virgin Monologues’ (Authentic Media). Her experiences have covered pregnancy crisis counselling, to pastoring young adults as an intern at BSSM in Redding, California. Her passion is for abolishing sex trafficking, helping Unlikely Heroes, as well as speaking to teenagers and young adults about healthy relationships. Her blog on the trials and tribulations of Christian dating can be found at www.herglassslipper.co.uk