Although we went to church and my parents were basically good people with solid values, they somehow never got around to encouraging me to think about sexual values. And I never decided what I wanted for myself in terms of sex, either. I gave my virginity away to my first boyfriend at 18. I remember thinking, “Oh, wow. I can’t take that back. I’ve ruined my life.” And for a few years, it really seemed like I did. I made a series of bad choices and got a point where I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror.
One day, I went to my friend’s church for a youth event. I sat in the back while her pastor preached about sexual purity, and all I could think was that no good man would ever want me and Jesus probably didn’t really love me, either. It was years before I could sit in a church without thinking about my sexual sin and feeling like I was contaminating all the good people in the sanctuary with me.
I will always regret that I came to my husband with sexual experience. I did not feel I deserved a good relationship with a good man. My husband and I had premarital sex, and part of that was because I’d never developed the skills and strength needed to resist sexual temptation.
Sometimes I wonder if my sexual background contributed to my years of refusing. After several years of feeling safe and loved in my marriage, was I finally feeling a sense of the ability to control my sexual life after having felt out of control for years before? I will never know. And looking back, I wonder if I resented my husband for not cherishing me enough to wait. My sexual sin before marriage planted doubt in my mind that took decades to root out.
The fact that we are still married is a testament to a good man and a good God. Getting used to living with another person and learning to cleave to each other rather than my parents were hard enough. Instead of just being able to focus on the work at hand, I was busy dragging all my baggage along with me for years.
At 19, I thought the consequences of my sins would all be spiritual. I thought God might not love me enough to take me into heaven after all. As I settled into a life as a wife and mother and we became part of first one church community and then another, I finally realized that I was truly forgiven. And I learned to forgive myself for my past.
Despite forgiveness, sin has consequences. I had experiences that shamed me and hurt me. I didn’t know how to develop a good relationship with a decent young man. I contracted HPV, which led to a couple cancer scares in my 40’s. I will always have my shameful memories. I will always know that I was not strong enough to do something important.
Part of God’s wonderful gift to me is that He has found ways to use my experiences for His greater good as I talk with young women and support them through confronting their own mistakes. More important, He has used this as an object lesson to me that no one is beyond redemption and value.
We are all greater than our deepest sins. We are children of God.