a promise kept
My dad gave me a promise ring when I turned thirteen. It was a little pink stone on a silver band that represented a promise to wait for my future husband, to stay pure until my wedding day. It was easy to put the ring on when he first gave it to me, but it was harder to live up to as I got older.
Going into college, I thought wearing my little pink purity ring would be easy. I had decided not to have sex until I was married and I thought that was enough. It wasn’t until my first relationship that I realized purity is so much more than not having sex.
In college, empty dorm rooms with no curfew gave temptation a foothold, and the physical boundaries I thought I would never struggle with started to feel blurry. I knew I didn’t want to have sex before I was married, but what about everything else? Looking around, I felt like the only girl who didn’t stay over at her boyfriend’s place on the weekends. Some days I even wondered if maybe I was too strict with my physical boundaries. I quickly found myself asking the questions, How far is too far? Is kissing okay? How much kissing? Exactly where should my hands be? What about his hands? And on and on my questions went. I wanted to stay pure, but I didn’t know exactly where to draw the line.
The first time I felt like things had gone a little too far, the shame felt overwhelming. All of a sudden, I felt like I’d failed. In the darkness, shame told me that I was a fake. “If only everyone knew what you were really like,” shame whispered to my heart. Shame can leave you feeling dirty and broken, and that’s not even its best trick. Shame’s real strategy is to keep you from telling anyone about it. Shame is what convinces us to keep our sin in the shadows instead of inviting the light of grace to shine in. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Finally, I found myself squirming on the couch in my college mentor’s apartment as she asked me about my relationship. I wondered how I was going to talk to her about all of my questions regarding purity and if I’d let things go too far.
confess and repent
Confession was easier when we were talking about not reading my Bible enough or being disrespectful to my parents over the holidays. Confession is a lot harder when you have to talk about the things that happened between you and your boyfriend when you were alone. And even though shame told me to hide my sin and pride told me I could handle it on my own, I’m so glad I didn’t.
Talking about sexual sin with a mentor or an accountability partner is uncomfortable and hard, but it’s impossible to find freedom over sin without letting the light in first (John 1:5). I’m thankful for the grace, love, and accountability my mentor (and others) showed me as I walked through relationships throughout college, and even up to my wedding day and beyond. Just like we need accountability in our walks with the Lord, we need accountability in our human relationships too. Whether you’re struggling with sexual sin or not, accountability is healthy! Find someone you trust who will ask you the hard questions. Especially as your relationships get serious, strike against temptation before it happens!
Because we are only human, there will always be physical temptation in relationships. Thankfully we have a God who is faithful and will help us fight temptation when it comes. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV). Don’t try and fight alone! Turn to God, to His Word, and to the people that He’s given you when you are struggling. And if you fail, don’t give into shame! Once again: turn to God, to His Word, and to the people He’s given you to keep fighting alongside you and shining the Light in.
Ultimately, when it came to physical boundaries in relationships, I had to change my perspective. In the beginning, I was so concerned with my little pink purity ring that all I thought about in a relationship was what I couldn’t and shouldn’t be doing. I was so focused on pursuing physical purity that I forgot about pursuing spiritual holiness as well. Holiness is about being more like Christ, so when you’re in a relationship, don’t just make a list of things that you can’t do physically; make a list of things that you can do to push one another to be more like Christ.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
Hiding sexual sin behind closed doors is the most unhealthy thing you can do for a relationship—especially a relationship that is striving to honor and glorify God (1 Corinthians 6:13b). Allowing shame to keep you from addressing sin in your relationship will hurt your relationship with your boyfriend or fiancé, and worse, your relationship with God. Whether you think your relationship is healthy or not, exposing it to the Light is the very best way to make sure God is at the center.
Contributors to the "Behind Closed Doors" series are sharing personal stories about sin, and the redemptive hope found in Christ within Christian community. Our mission at Well-Watered Women is to equip women with a deeper understanding and love for God's Word, and we also encourage women who are struggling to seek the help of biblical counselors and/or medical professionals. You are not alone!