I am not my Virginity.

Confession: I am a virgin. Actually, that’s not really a confession, so much as a statement of fact. I’ve never tried to hide it or put it on a pedestal as a virtue. I am a virgin in the way that I have brown eyes or size nine feet.

The real confession is that I hate that I’m a virgin. It’s nothing I am proud of, much like my brown eyes and size nine feet. It is merely a part of who I am, a piece of my story, something I can say when I want to make people uncomfortable. And oftentimes, my virginity makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know what to do with it or where to put it. I feel as if it’s a shirt I’ve outgrown, but continue to wear because I haven’t the heart to toss it away. My virginity has become a burden, and that leaves me embroiled in guilt and disappointment.

Especially because I know when people hear that I’m a virgin or see my purity ring, they expect certain things. They make assumptions about my innocence, my purity, my experience. They look at me and say, “This is a good Christian girl.” They shame me with their praise, by assuming I’m something I’m not. They become the mirror I look into, all my struggles with lust, sexual desire, sexual urges glaring back. I hear their words and I cringe.

Because what would they think if they knew I resented my virginity? How would they react if they knew I only wore my purity ring to please my parents? How much disgust would fill their eyes if they knew I would have had sex years ago if I’d been given the chance?

I couldn’t bear it. So I smile and hide behind the ring, ignoring the breaking of my heart.

Because the Church today places worth and value on virginity and sexual purity. In a society that sells sex, encourages sex, exudes sex, we are “special” for not giving in. We are the “good” ones. We have managed to hold onto something that apparently makes or breaks your salvation. As if sexual purity is the currency to heaven.

I am a good Christian because of my virginity.

So where does that leave the virgins in body, but not in mind? Where does that leave those who are virgins by circumstance, not necessarily by choice? Where does that leave those who have given away their virginity, or had it taken from them?

I am the mascot for a movement that does not belong to me, a movement of purity that has become a breeding ground for shame and worthlessness. My virginity is held up as an example, a beacon of light in the darkness of our sexualized culture.
To the wide-eyed, innocent Christian girls and boys, “This is what you should strive for.”
To those who are no longer virgins, “This is what you should have been.”

My story is mine no longer, taken away from me and made into something that serves man. My virginity has become someone else’s virtue. And my worth as a woman, my value as a Christian has been tied to my body, to my sexuality, to my ability to say no.

And I can see no God in my story. I seem to have lost Him, pushed Him aside in my embarrassment, my guilt, my shame. I don’t feel pure, and I can’t imagine God would approve of me. I’ve been tainted and don’t deserve to be near that which is perfect, which is good, which is divine. How could God look on me with anything but disappointment? I can’t control my thoughts; I deal with lust daily; I long to do things I know I should not, things I’m told are sinful. But that doesn’t stop the wanting.

And yet…
When did I decide I must be perfect? Sinless? When did my Christianity become a matter of my sexuality? When did my walk with God become a walk of shame?

I have condemned myself, forgetting there is no condemnation in Christ. I have denied myself solace from the only one who has the power to heal, or overcome, to redeem. My purity resides in Christ and His sanctification, not in my virginity.

You are more than your virginity, my soul whispers. You are more than your virginity.

In the scheme of my story, my virginity is merely a chapter, perhaps an excessively long footnote. Because while it is a part of me, it does not define me. My worth as a creation of God is not confined to my untouched body. It is not dependent on a shiny ring. It is not dependent on something that is not meant to last. Because, one day, my virginity will be gone.

But I will remain. My worth will remain. My value will remain. My love of life will remain. My writer’s soul will remain. My loving heart and critical mind will remain. My creative bent and love of words will remain. My strength will remain. My determination and resolve will remain.

That is who I am, truly, at my core. Those are things I would point to and say, “These make up the foundation of my being. These are the things that make me happy. These are my treasures, my blessings, the reason for every smile.”

And that is who God sees – the beautiful, intelligent, writer of a woman; His own creation. He doesn’t look at me and see my virginity. He looks at me, knowingly and with a smile, and sees the soul of His daughter. He sees someone worth loving.

He sees me, just me, and He revels in it.

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.

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Modesty, lust, and the clothes in between.

{Disclaimer: Many of you who read this are probably going to be offended or disagree. That’s quite alright. But I believe that the important issues are sometimes the most difficult to discuss, and I think the Church has a tendency to avoid controversial topics. I have no such problem. So read on, disagree, and feel free to let me know why. But please be respectful.}

Modesty. I’ll be honest and say that if the Church never used that word again, I wouldn’t be upset. Not because I don’t see the value in modesty, but because no one knows what that word means anymore. Or rather, we’ve made it to mean too many different things. It’s ambiguous, confusing, and argument-inducing. Just looking at it has the power to make my eyes roll. Modesty…ugh.

But I’m a Christian woman. I’ve grown up knowing about modesty and about the importance of being modest. I’ve been told the rules, the do’s and don’t’s that change with each year and new fashion trend. I’ve been shown examples of immodesty and warned against tempting men with my feminine physique. I’ve heard, seen, and read it all. And I am always left with the same questions and frustrations.

What is modest? What is immodest? Who decides? And why should anyone get to decide? What makes one person more qualified than another to determine if my clothes are “unacceptable”? And why can’t I decide for myself? And where do men fit into this mess? (Because let’s be honest, it IS a mess.)

Probably my biggest issue with modesty is that it’s become a woman’s burden; a method of dealing with or curbing a man’s lust and improper thoughts. I am supposed to be modest in order to avoid leading my fellow brothers in Christ down the path of temptation. And to some extent, I agree. I don’t want to dress with the intention of making a guy uncomfortable. I don’t want to wear something I know will lead a guy astray. I honestly don’t want to be that girl. But at the same time, I can’t be responsible for the thoughts of every guy I pass in the street. I can’t take on the burden of every man’s lustful wanderings. I can’t please every guy’s version of modesty in my attempt to not be a temptation.

A man’s struggle with lust is separate from my clothing. A man’s struggle with sexual addiction and objectifying women is separate from my intention to look my best. A man’s overactive libido is separate from my sexuality and femininity. Me covering up my body and wearing the “right clothes” isn’t going to help a man come to grips with his personal issues about sex, lust, and desire. It’s the equivalent of putting a bandaid on a bleeding artery. It’s a quick and ineffective fix.

The moment I have to sacrifice my individuality to please a man, we have a problem.
The moment I have to dress to please a man, we have a problem.
The moment I have to be ashamed or uncomfortable about my body in order to reduce the guilt of a man, we have a problem.
The moment my worth and value as a Christian woman becomes inextricably linked to the clothes I put on, we have a problem.

Gentlemen, you dress for yourselves. Every day, you put on what you want, and I‘m sure the idea that what you’re wearing could cause a woman to lust doesn’t even occur to many of you. (It can, by the way.) You don’t agonize over the tightness of the shirt or the pants you wear. You don’t worry that you’re exposing too much skin or displaying your body in a tempting manner. You don’t have breasts to hide or curves to downplay. You wear what you want, and you aren’t made to feel ashamed for dressing to impress.

Shouldn’t women be allowed the same?

When I get dressed in the morning, I shouldn’t have to try on everything in my closet trying to find an outfit that will please the Church or every man I might meet. Whether I put on my v-neck sweater, skinny jeans, and classy boots or my sexy black dress, I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to look my best. I shouldn’t feel ashamed for wanting to be beautiful.

Because wanting to be beautiful is not immodest. Wanting to be beautiful is not a sin. Wanting to be beautiful is not degrading, dirty, or shameful.

Modesty shouldn’t be about all the things we can’t wear. Modesty shouldn’t be a cure for lust. Modesty shouldn’t be sacrificing femininity to masculinity. Modesty shouldn’t be a way to measure my faith, my relationship with God, or my Christianity.

Modesty should be about finding a way to celebrate the body God gave me, rather than hiding it. Modesty should be about glorifying God with the beauty He created me to have, rather being ashamed of it. Modesty should be about trusting me to decide what’s too inappropriate, too suggestive, too tempting. Modesty should be about me being comfortable in my body and in my clothes. Modesty should be about me dressing for myself, not to please anyone else. Modesty should be about the intention with which I wear the clothes, not the clothes themselves.

Modesty should be between me and God. My body is His temple after all. It was created by Him to house His Spirit and my soul. And it was created to be beautiful. My body is wonderfully made. God created woman and saw that she was good. I am good. Modesty should never disregard those things.

But ladies, we shouldn’t let the clothes we wear become more important than they are. We shouldn’t let our desire to be beautiful turn into vanity. We should be thoughtful and considerate when we dress while still realizing that we will never please everyone. Because truthfully, God is the only one who matters. He sees our heart and reads our intention. He knows us. And He loves us unconditionally. We are His daughters. Our value is intrinsic, our worth is innate. It is not determined by what we put on or how it’s received. We shouldn’t let clothes define who we are. We should ask that of God.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts. And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter?

Why I’ll wait: On sex, virginity, and my choice.

There is one thing that I have found to be rare in our hyper-sexualized society. There is a type of male or female that seems to be incompatible with a culture that produces such iconic gems as Magic Mike and Fifty Shades of Grey. Most in my generation, after entering into their roaring twenties, have probably forgotten that such a thing exists.

I’m talking about being a virgin.

Now, when I say virgin, I mean virgin. I am probably the absolute least experienced person when it comes to physical intimacy than most twentysomethings you’ve met. My sexual history is a list of things I haven’t done. I’ve never even kissed a man (much to my dismay). I’ve never gone on a real date or been in a relationship, let alone spent a night of passion with a man, trading desperate embraces and soft caresses. I’m inexperienced and innocent, though my sense of humor might indicate otherwise.

There was a time in my life when I was embarrassed by this. A 20+ year old virgin is a travesty this day in age. Something must be wrong with me, right? I mean, how unfortunate that I haven’t had the experience of sex, making love, and all the emotional intimacy that comes with it. How deprived am I that the only knowledge I have about the goings-on in the bedroom is from what I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched. (Not that kind of movie, my goodness.)

The worst part was thinking that being a virgin meant I was lacking. If a guy didn’t want to sleep with me, obviously I wasn’t woman enough. Being a virgin got twisted and tangled up in my self esteem. Being a virgin meant I wasn’t pretty enough, sexy enough, exciting enough. Being a virgin became every insecurity I had rolled into one. Being a virgin, instead of being a virtue, became something I hated, something I was ashamed of, something I resented. Being a virgin meant I was unwanted, unloved, and undesirable.

It’s hard when you live in a culture that bombards you with sex while maintaining a faith that places value in being chaste. It’s hard when society mixes embracing your sexuality with engaging in casual sex. It’s hard when the lines between being an empowered woman and being an experienced sexual being have been blurred. It’s hard when being a man and an assumed sexual Adonis leaves you feeling like you are missing a vital part of yourself.

Because the truth is that being a Christian isn’t enough to prevent us from having premarital sex anymore. Being a Christian hasn’t stopped me from wanting it or thinking about it. We sit in church on Sundays, nodding when the pastor goes on about sexual purity, trying to forget the hours we spent with lovers on the nights in between. We are told to wait for our spouse. We are told of the beauty of giving ourselves to our husband or wife on our wedding night.

Yet we live in a society that says we don’t need commitment or marriage to experience sexual satisfaction. The Church says that sex outside of marriage isn’t on the same level as sex between you and your spouse. But Hollywood says otherwise. Friends say otherwise. Even our bodies say otherwise. So why wait until our wedding night when we aren’t given a good reason? Actually, that isn’t fair. We are given a reason- the Bible says so. But when that is the reason for a lot of other rules we don’t really understand, we stop hearing it. It stops having meaning.

For an entire year, I threw out the rules. I took off my purity ring, because I thought the whole idea was ridiculous. I was tired of not doing something when I could see everyone else doing it and enjoying it. I was tired of going against the norm.

Nothing happened. And I honestly believe that a part of me didn’t want anything to happen. Emotionally, I couldn’t have handled a one-night stand or a meaningful sexual encounter. Because the truth is I didn’t want sex. I just didn’t want to be a virgin. I was surprised to realize there was a difference.

I didn’t want desperate kisses, multiple orgasms, and lingering touches. I didn’t want a soulful connection or lovemaking. I didn’t want a torrid affair.

What I wanted was reassurance of my femininity and attractiveness. What I wanted was affirmation that I was desired by men. What I wanted was the power to decide whether or not to be a virgin not because of a ring and a few Bible verses, but because it was my decision, only mine. What I wanted was the experience my friends had flaunted in front of me. What I wanted was the ability to say that I had finally done it.

What I wanted was selfish and reckless, which are two things sex should never be.

And I deserve better than to have sex just for the sake of having sex. The man I’d have been with deserves more than to be some meaningless fling, to be used for what I want. My future husband deserves more than for me to treat my virginity as a burden rather than a gift for him. I deserve more than to have sex just to gain the experience that comes with it. The act of sex, of making love, deserves to be treated with respect. It shouldn’t be an afterthought, something to cross off my checklist.

It should be anticipated, savored, enjoyed. Never regretted.

So for now I’ll wait. Not because it’s fun or easy, because it’s neither of those things. But I’ll wait because I’m not ready. I’ll wait because my femininity and sexuality aren’t defined by my sexual experience. I’ll wait because of love, because of my husband, because of my heart. I’ll wait because God has called me to.

I’ll wait because having sex shouldn’t be something we do to get it over with. It shouldn’t be something we engage in because everyone else is doing it. We shouldn’t use sex to makes us feel better about ourselves, because that disregards the person we are having sex with. It is self centered, and sex is always about two people, two hearts and two bodies.

I’m not going to tell you not to have sex before you’re married. That’s a personal choice you make. And I know that many of you may have already had sex in previous relationships, perhaps because you thought they were the one, or because, like me, you were tired of your virgin status. But I will say sex is a big deal. Sex means something. Sex changes you. And it won’t erase your insecurities or eliminate self doubt. Having sex isn’t going to solve the problems in a relationship. Usually it makes things more complicated.

So if you aren’t ready for the physical and emotional ramifications that come along with giving part of yourself to another person, I want you to know it’s okay to wait. You are allowed to wait.
And I choose to wait.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts. And maybe follow me on Twitter?

Sex and the Christian Woman

I’ve begun, deleted, walked away, and come back to this post for weeks. I’ve changed the title, purpose, and even audience for this post more times than I can count. I can never figure out where to start. And maybe … Continue reading