The fact that I spent most of yesterday rewriting and editing this post, emailing trusted friends with drafts, making my husband re-read it over lunch, praying, rewriting a bit more, seriously contemplating deleting the whole thing and writing about cupcakes instead, and generally chewed my fingernails off is an indicator that I’m terrified to publish it. My writing process is usually pretty undisciplined and fluid, I sit down and write. I rarely agonize.

But over this one: I agonized.

This is the thing with shame: it’s not joke. And publishing something like this is another gravestone for my people-pleasing habits.

I say, let me only boast in Christ. My weaknesses only show His strength, and I want to decrease that He may increase. I say that, and I think I mean it, right up until I have to make a choice between following the nudge of the Holy Spirit towards honesty or propping up my own reputation.

It’s a hard thing to be vulnerable in a culture – and sometimes, let’s be honest, a Church – which values the mask of perfection, particularly for nice church ladies.

So this is me: taking off a pretty and perfect mask in the interest of glorifying Christ and his shame-destroying love.

Someone hold me.


I was nineteen years old and crazy in love with Jesus when that preacher told an auditorium I was “damaged goods” because of my sexual past. He was making every effort to encourage this crowd of young adults to “stay pure for marriage.” He was passionate, yes, well-intentioned, and he was a good speaker, very convincing indeed.

And he stood up there and shamed me, over and over and over again.

Oh, he didn’t call me up to the front and name me. But he stood up there and talked about me with such disgust, like I couldn’t be in that real-life crowd of young people worshipping in that church. I felt spotlighted and singled out amongst the holy, surely my red face announced my guilt to every one.

He passed around a cup of water and asked us all to spit into it. Some boys horked and honked their worst into that cup while everyone laughed. Then he held up that cup of cloudy saliva from the crowd and asked, “Who wants to drink this?!”

And every one in the crowd made barfing noises, no way, gross!

“This is what you are like if you have sex before marriage,” he said seriously, “you are asking your future husband or wife to drink this cup.”

Over the years the messages melded together into the common refrain: “Sarah, your virginity was a gift and you gave it away. You threw away your virtue for a moment of pleasure. You have twisted God’s ideal of sex and love and marriage. You will never be free of your former partners, the boys of your past will haunt your marriage like soul-ties. Your virginity belonged to your future husband. You stole from him. If – if! – you ever get married, you’ll have tremendous baggage to overcome in your marriage, you’ve ruined everything. No one honourable or godly wants to marry you. You are damaged goods, Sarah.”

If true love waits, I heard, then I have been disqualified from true love.

In the face of our sexually-dysfunctional culture, the Church longs to stand as an outpost of God’s ways of love and marriage, purity and wholeness.

And yet we twist that until we treat someone like me – and, according to this research, 80% of you are like me –  as if our value and worth was tied up in our virginity.

We, the majority non-virgins in the myopic purity conversations,  feel like the dirty little secret, the not-as-goods, the easily judged example.  In this clouded swirl of shame, our sexual choices are the barometer of our righteousness and worth. We can’t let any one know, so we keep it quiet, lest any one discover we were not virgins on some mythic wedding night. We don’t want to be the object of disgust or pity or gossip or judgement. And in the silence, our shame – and the lies of the enemy – grow.


And so here, now, I’ll stand up and say it, the way I wish someone had said it to me fifteen years ago when I was sitting in that packed auditorium with my heart racing, wrists aching, eyes stinging, drowning and silenced by the imposition of shame masquerading as ashes of repentance:

“So, you had sex before you were married.

It’s okay.

Really. It’s okay.

There is no shame in Christ’s love. Let him without sin cast the first stone. You are more than your virginity – or lack thereof – and more than your sexual past.

Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys you loved as a young woman. Your husband won’t hold it against you, he’s not that weak and ego-driven, choose a man marked by grace.

It’s likely you would make different choices, if you knew then what you know now, but, darling, don’t make it more than it is, and don’t make it less than it is. Let it be true, and don’t let anyone silence you or the redeeming work of Christ in your life out of shame.

Now, in Christ, you’re clear, like Canadian mountain water, rushing and alive, quenching and bracing, in your wholeness.

Virginity isn’t a guarantee of healthy sexuality or marriage. You don’t have to consign your sexuality to the box marked “Wrong.” Your very normal and healthy desires aren’t a switch to be flipped. Morality tales and false identities aren’t the stuff of a real marriage. Purity isn’t judged by outward appearances and technicalities. The sheep and the goats are not divided on the basis of their virginity. (Besides, this focus is weird and over-realized, it’s the flip side of the culture’s coin which values women only for their sexuality. It’s also damaging, not only for you, but for the virgins in the room, too. Really, there’s a lot of baggage from this whole purity movement heading out into the world.)

For I am convinced, right along with the Apostle Paul, that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any other power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.* Not even “neither virginity nor promiscuity” and all points between can separate you from this love. You are loved – without condition – beyond your wildest dreams already.

I would say: Sarah, your worth isn’t determined by your virginity. What a lie.

No matter what that preacher said that day, no matter how many purity balls are thrown with sparkling upper-middle-class extravagance, no matter the purity rings and the purity pledges, no matter the judgemental Gospel-negating rhetoric used with the best of intentions, no matter the “how close is too close?” serious conversations of boundary-marking young Christians, no matter the circumstances of your story, you are not disqualified from life or from joy or from marriage or from your calling or from a healthy and wonderful lifetime of sex because you had – and, heaven forbid, enjoyed – sex before you were married.

Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.”

image source, creative commons

Apostle Paul quote from Romans 8:38-39

Comments are now closed

In which I am brave in an ordinary way
In which I share what I'm into (January 2013)
thank you for sharing...
  • Pin this page100
  • 477
  • You know, I heard that teaching a lot when I was growing up, and I’m just going to call it what it is: shit. I’m so sorry that man shamed you, Sarah.

  • Thank you for this vulnerability, Sarah, it’s a gift. I can also testify to the other side of this shaming coin, my wife and I waited until marriage in the evangelical pressured culture but found in our first year of marriage not freedom, but that we had only feelings of shame attached to sexuality regardless of it being in marriage or without. The message we received was not beauty and freedom, but rather “dear God don’t think about or do that” and then a 45 minute ceremony was supposed to undo that teaching. It didn’t, we were damaged goods too. Grace in our brokenness for all. Peace to you and your home.

    • I can resonate with this, Chris. My wife and I *did* have sex before we were married, but then she became a Christian, I came back to Christ, and we both were made to feel so guilty about our sexual activity (in no small part to me repeating the messages I’d grown up with) that we chose abstinence during our engagement. Our wedding night, as I remember it, was obligatory, awkward, and unfulfilling. And we’d had sex before! Plenty!

      We’d been baptized by a bucket of shame and it took more than 7 years for our sexual relationship to recover. Now, some of my more conservative friends will hear in that story that we simply reaped what we sowed. I disagree. Sex was good before we were married (a secret they don’t want you to know!) and it is good now, after we have undone a lot of the shame-speak that had been spoken into and over us (some of which came out of my own mouth).

      Now, I will say that I think that the most appropriate place for sex is within marriage. My conviction regarding that hasn’t changed. But many Christians think that conviction alone isn’t enough to keep their teenage sons and daughters from having sex. So, they’ve resorted to shame and fear instead. Your story is a great example of the devastating impact that can have on those who wait. Thanks for sharing, friend.

  • Kim

    Sarah, here you are brave in an extraordinary way. Thank you.

  • Thank you for being honest and open and vulnerable. A whole lot of us fall into that “damaged goods” category (a whole lot more than are willing to admit it). And I also think that the way too many churches respond to premarital sex is no way near how Jesus would respond. I can’t see Jesus using guilt or shame. I think Jesus would focus on us as individual, vulnerable people who don’t always make the best choices but are still worthy of being loved. And I keep reminding myself of that every time the subject comes up with my two teen boys or with the youth group where I volunteer.

  • Jamie

    reading this was like a blast from the past. i remember telling my husband before we were married, scared shitless, about the things i’d done in high school, thinking they would haunt our marriage forever — perhaps we’d never be sexually satisfied because i wasn’t smart enough at 14, or didn’t have parents who were vigilant enough, or whatever. thankfully, he is an amazing, grace-filled, level-headed man, and he reminded me of who God is and how that matters much more than who we are or what we do. (i love him.) so sad how this kind of teaching leads to nothing but fear, shame, and undue hurt. thanks for sharing your story, sarah. it reminded me that there are many others who need to hear of this freedom.

  • Kim Written in part as a response to your post.

  • Sarah, thank you for sharing your story! I think what you are saying here is universal. When you said “you are not disqualified from life or joy… because you had…” you can really substitute any word that describes something you’re ashamed of or people shame you for: Divorced, a child out of wedlock, are a single mom, don’t go to church, have depression and anxiety, etc. I also think this post will also be helpful to women and men who have suffered from sexual abuse. They need to know that it doesn’t make them “damaged goods.” They too can find their worth in Christ.

    I love that lyric by 10th Avenue North: “You are more than the sum of your past mistakes.” I feel like that completely describes what it means to reside in Christ. He has wiped the slate clean. There is no condemnation in Christ. That’s why it frustrates me to no end that Christians and pastors especially continue to condemn others, even if they think it’s in a loving way. There are people suffering out there in immense shame who aren’t being told that God loves them warts and all. We need to stop focusing on people’s behaviors and making Christianity about following some rule book, and begin focusing on Jesus and how our relationship with Him transforms our hearts in such a way so that we will be renewed from the inside out. No one should feel guilty for being human. It’s essential that people have a support system of people who love them for who they are, who trust one another, and can confide in one another about these things, and work through issues they have about shame and guilt.

    I really hope writing this helped free you from any burden you had been feeling. I wrote a poem about being freed from shame, which I read in front of my congregation during my testimony (talk about putting yourself out there! I felt like I was going to be sick). It’s specifically in regards to my hair pulling disorder but again, this idea of no shame in Christ is universal. If you get a chance, check it out.

  • I’m heading to Deeper Story next, to finish the story, but I couldn’t leave your home here without putting my hands on your head in a gentle holy blessing, friend: Eshet chayil. Shame flees when we break free from the chains, because it is a coward master, and your freedom shines bright and true.

  • Preach, sister!

  • Laura

    Bravo for writing Truth and Freedom and Grace and Love. I respect and honor your story, your truth, your honesty, and your bravery, which all point to the goodness and overwhelming love and grace of Christ.

  • David

    This type of “instruction” comes from a mindset of an “us”/”them” thinking. It is that thinking which most basically describes a biblical pharisee. It attempts to delineate between “those broken” and “us whole” people. The truth is we are all broken and we are broken in the same way, SIN. Without a redeemer there is no hope. I does not matter our sinful nature chooses to make itself apparent, there is only US and our only hope is Him.

  • Brittaney Borman

    I’m going to steal the line from the movie The Holiday, “Sex makes everything complicated, even the not having it makes it complicated.” Obviously our shame based approach to abstinence has been unsuccessful. I was a virgin when I married, but by God’s standards I couldn’t be called pure. And there was a part of me that stayed in an unhealthy relationship because of this and thought, “Who would want me now?” Shame can help you make stupid decisions. Like feeling self-righteous over others or marrying the wrong person. I firmly believe in purity, but we need to teach it from a different perspective, one that motivates and doesn’t shame. Love you. So proud of you for this post!!!!! (Yes, I used excessive punctuation just for you.)

    • YourStandardIsNotGods

      i am hearing too many responses about teaching a different perspective. so, anyone out there got any great ideas on how to approach this different perspective? i think the one we have now works just fine. god commands us to be pure until marriage and anything less is sin. upon our realization that we have offended this supreme being, we have a sincere heart felt desire to ask forgiveness and be reconciled, upon which he is more than willing to offer redemption. and more importantly, we don’t repeat the behavior (true repentance). too many responses are trying to blur the lines of sin in my opinion. it is not sinful to have sexual desires. it is not unhealthy to repress sexual gratification. we are all called to do this. illicit sex WILL produce shame and guilt. the christian conscience is the holy spirit, your spirit guide in this life. and if you do anything contrary to god’s will he will gently remind you that action needs to be taken upon your part to correct it. god already corrected all sin on the cross. that was his part of the bargain. your part is to simply ask. but how can you ask if you don’t know what sin is? so the question needs to resolved. can i participate in any sexual activity outside of my own marriage and not feel guilty as hell if i’m a christian? well the answer simply should be — HELL NO! and if not, then we need to re-examine our faith.

  • JennaDeWitt

    Wow, this is so beautiful, raw, fearless. In other words, what you do best, Sarah. 🙂

    I have to ask, and perhaps this is a follow-up post or something you have already written about, how are you teaching Anne about purity? Do you think it is worth waiting for now?

    It’s something I may be writing an article on for my spiritual formation magazine and, while I was one of the few of my generation who is still waiting, I know most of us didn’t. I want to be able to approach it with love and grace, but at the same time not sound like a hypocrite.

    What do you think? Do the 80% have it right? Are the 20% just being judgmental Pharisees?

    • YourStandardIsNotGods

      Jenna. God thinks it is worth waiting for: for you, your daughter/son and their future husband or wife. Never be ashamed to stand up for what is right. You may very well be labeled a hypocrite, but do not let this fear overcome you. Boldness is a sign that the holy spirit is gently leading you. And the truth will always win. (just to make my point: the 80% have it wrong, so so WRONG)!

  • [This is the same comment I put at Deeper Story, but with typos corrected. Oh, and thank you for being so bold, so open, so awesome.]

    I had to FB share that before I could even respond. You are awesome, beautiful, perfect, loved. I am so glad you have reclaimed that / are reclaiming that.

    Because I wasn’t a virgin, when God wooed me back, I fully expected to marry a non-virgin. This was partly because I figured nobody else would want me, but also because I knew it didn’t matter, and I figured there was someone out there I would love who needed to know that.

    Instead, I fell in love with an amazing woman who was still a virgin, and whom, until we fell in love, would never have married an ex-hippie, with virginity being one of the reasons. We’ve both ha our eyes and hearts opened a lot since then.

    Grace is grace is grace is grace. The Church needs to know that deep down in every last cell, every last mitochondria, every last farandola of her body.

    • YourStandardIsNotGods

      awesome story. thanks for sharing. perfect example of an awesome god.

  • Thank you for clicking the PUBLISH button! I am sure SO MANY people, including myself, needed to be affirmed of this truth. You are wonderful and I’m so excited to read your book, ah!

  • Melissa V

    AMEN! He makes ALL things NEW! Our past is just that….PAST and yesterday was my past because His mercies are new every morning.

  • So glad you wrote this. I hope my daughters can grow up to live in freedom from the shame that is so prevalent.

  • “as if our value and worth was tied up in our virginity…”

    This made me think of honor killings. That connection blows the mask off our nicely wrapped purity paradigm, don’t you think?

    The killing isn’t physical in our culture, but it’s quite possibly just as devastating. So many of us, the walking dead, shamed into numbness and silence, believing a whopper of a lie.”

  • Thank you Sarah for your honesty, and your courage. Every voice that shares their story, like you just did, is light shattering the darkness of shame that wants to keep us all bound. Eventually the light will so pervade that it will overtake the darkness. The beauty of redemption…

  • Stef

    Full of awesome. You and your story. Full of awesome. Thanks for that.

  • JeanS

    *hugs* Dear, brave Sarah! You’ve touched on a trigger of my heart. One reason that I am not in a church community right now is because of the ‘nice mask’ that is put on in the community. I was talking to my husband one night, and said: “If they really knew who we were…what we’re like…they wouldn’t approve of us.” (If they knew that we like to hang out with our gay friends, drink, and laugh at bawdy jokes…they wouldn’t approve.) It’s like a stricter form of ‘political correctness’ – and the stigmatism is twice is sharp. Bless you and your honesty.

  • Nikki

    Thank-you Sarah. The shame that I have carried with me in regards to this issue has kept me hiding myself from a relationship with the Father. I have run away from him because of my feelings of worthliness. I have kept people and relationships at arms length to prevent anyone from knowing the truth. The most ironic part is that I know and believe that this issue is not a disqualifier. I know that when I have held broken girls who have wept because of this that I have not looked on them with disgust but rather with a desire to see them revel in the great things that God has ahead for them and rest as their Daddy holds them and whispers of their beauty. I wish I was better with words and could truly articulate how powerful and meaningful the timing of this is. This was a truly brave and noble post and I hope that God uses it to fill those places that have been dark with shame. I pray that you will know that although this felt like pain to you it brought life to so many people. May God bless you richly for your honesty.

  • I posted this over at A Deeper Story, but I wanted to say it here as well. As well as this: WELL DONE!!!

    Thank you, Sarah, for speaking out what is true. What is good. What is loving. What is grace-filled.

    THIS is why I write and teach in the area of sexuality & spirituality in the first place ( Because, in general, the Church is filled with a dysfunctional message of shame when it comes to our bodies and our longing for connection.

    When I became a Christian, I was no longer a virgin. I was an adult, so I was able to parse the shame out a little easier than if I had been a teenager, but I still struggled with the message that I had been “redeemed” from all the past shameful actions I had taken, and that the only value in the story of my sexuality previous to my encounter with Christ was as a cautionary tale, something to be ashamed of and repulsed by.

    Do I think that sex before marriage isn’t God’s best for us? Absolutely. It misses the mark in some key places, but that’s what sin is—literally—missing the mark. And God’s fully able to correct my aim and help me turn and fire again. It wasn’t a one-time deal. As if grace is that limited.

    Plus, I’m tired (and quite often repulsed) by the way that the teachings of the Church on sexuality require men and women to relegate their actions and choices when it comes to their sexuality to this area of black/white theology that says that everything about their sexual choices are sin or not sin. How about the reality that we experience our longings and our sexuality as a divine gift from God? How about the truth that our sexuality impels everything we do—not with a prurient focus on genital sexuality—but as an example of how deeply we long for connection and communion not only with one another, but with God?

    What if *part* of what we were looking for in our sexual stories is actually a connection with God, and that our movements toward another human being can be seen as the very ground of our desiring for God?

    What if we shared THAT message with people, and sexuality got defined not as something deeply shameful outside of marriage, but something beautiful and good? What would change? EVERYTHING, I believe.

    Not only would that make a difference for those who have had sexual experiences outside of marriage, I believe it will make a difference for those who have been told to so jealously and carefully guard their desires. I think here, with sorrow, of a friend of mine who has been married more than 15 years, who has two children, and admitted to me that while she kept herself “pure” before marriage, on her wedding night she felt like a *whore*. She was unable to turn off the “don’t” messages of her pre-married life like some switch in her head and still, nearly two decades later, struggles in the marriage bed to feel like she’s embracing something good. What kind of off/on illness are we perpetuating in our marriages?

    (And, complete tangent, what if we stopped telling young men and women that sex before marriage feels bad? Because, frankly, that’s one whopper of a lie as well. Sex, generally speaking, feels GOOD, inside or outside of marriage, and a lot of us didn’t walk away with the deep emotional scars that the Church seems to think will be inflicted on us. What if we stopped LYING about sex, and actually admitted that it does feel pretty awesome? How much more would we be believed when we talked about the gift that it is and will be in a committed relationship, in marriage?)

    I can look back and my sexual story now, and see the hand of God and His work, as well as my desire as a *good thing*. Do I want to take back some of my choices? Absolutely. Do I believe that I missed the mark? Yes, I do. But I can also see how, through each attempt to love and give myself to someone, I was looking, oh so desperately for God. And that desire wasn’t wrong or bad or dirty. I was pointing it at the wrong place, but that doesn’t mean my thirst wasn’t real, my desire somehow unholy. Let’s reclaim desire in the narrative of sexuality and the Church, and let God speak *through* it instead of in spite of it.

    • YourStandardIsNotGods

      i appreciate your comments. some i agreed, some i didn’t. i am somewhat guarded in the responses i am seeing here. blame shifting comes to mind. it is the ultimate original sin. eve shifted blame on the serpent, adam shifted blame on eve…and so on and so on and so on. the face is that we are solely responsible for the choices we make – ultimately. we can’t blame our parents, or the church. sure it’s the church’s fault a young woman who saved her virginity until marriage felt like a whore? NOT! somewhere we all must step up and admit our failures. sure it’s the church’s fault young people are confused about sex and why it must be so taboo and dirty before marriage and so extravagantly exquisite after. i don’t see this either. somehow this discussion has lost it’s focus on grace. that’s what it should be all about. a confused young woman struggling with guilt and shame over bad decisions finally finds peace and acceptance not in the eyes of her peers, but in the eyes of her redeemer. the connection and confusion between illicit sex and god ordained sex isn’t as difficult of a concept to understand as you imply. according to god’s standard, something is either morally right, or wrong. we need to teach this is every aspect of life, not just sexuality.

  • Emily Wierenga

    in your weakness, Jesus is shining so bright and strong, friend. and what a response so far!! love you friend.

  • Jen

    Thanks you for writing this and being bold…others are coming along behind you with similar/different stories that require courage to tell as well. I’m one of them, currently writing a novel about the consequences of choices made in the infertility treatment world. The shame and ostracization felt by those who face those choices runs deep and even deeper if part of a law-based faith community. It’s scary to proceed with this writing and some days I’m tempted to put it back in the box, but knowing that so many others are waiting for someone to tell them that God’s love cannot be pried away from them, according to God Himself, keeps me at it.

  • Morag Renfro

    I love you more now. That’s what honesty does – letting the truth out the bag – it makes true friends love you more because I always know when people are holding out on me and I’d rather just know what they are hiding because it explains all the shame-covering behaviour that is just weird. My friend told me her darkest secret. It did change how I thought about her, but it explained so much, and as I said above, it made me love her more. [I feel like a weird blogger stalker now but I do love your writing and how you share so much of yourself, bravely, here]

  • Janice

    I know you’ve gotten sixteen gajillion comments on this, but it really did rock. I’m among the 20% but I love the grace you conveyed here. I wish I could have read this in highschool to make sure I was not getting too wrapped up in legalistic pride. I hope every Christian young person reads this.

    And I can see why it would be terrifying to write.

    Here’s what you should do, though. If a comment is supportive, you should stand up on some sort of pedestal (anything tall, maybe the kitchen counter?) and read it in a booming voice. Add in some sort of cool accent or wear a fancy hat if you want.

    If it’s someone who’s misread you or read their own agenda into your words and is ignoring all the life-giving, blindingly gorgeous grace that you’re pouring out here you should find some sort of smelling place in your house (mine’s in the corner with the diaper pail but the kitchen trash can is a close second) stick your face right in there and read those comments aloud in a nasally, whiny drawl.

  • Pingback: Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity « word of a woman()

  • I know you’ve gotten sixteen gajillion comments on this, but it really did rock. I’m among the 20% but I love the grace you conveyed here. I wish I could have read this in highschool to make sure I was not getting too wrapped up in legalistic pride. I hope every Christian young person reads this.

    And I can see why it would be terrifying to write.

    Here’s what you should do, though. If a comment is supportive, you should stand up on some sort of pedestal (anything tall, maybe the kitchen counter?) and read it in a booming voice. Add in some sort of cool accent or wear a fancy hat if you want.

    If it’s someone who’s misread you or read their own agenda into your words and is ignoring all the life-giving, blindingly gorgeous grace that you’re pouring out here you should find some sort of smelling place in your house (mine’s in the corner with the diaper pail but the kitchen trash can is a close second) stick your face right in there and read those comments aloud in a nasally, whiny drawl.

  • Joanna Hyatt

    “We need to have a better conversation about wholeness and sexuality…” YES! The Church needs to be the ones most excited about what sex could be, regardless of our past, compared to what the world offers. We’re the ones who can truly speak to the whole person. It would be like the Rolls Royce of sex compared to a Jalopy. Lots of work to do in understanding how to do that but blogs like this excite me because IT’S HAPPENING.

  • Thank you so much for this post. The Church has done a terrible, terrible job of teaching about God’s gift of sexuality. The use of shame and guilt is downright abusive. I’m glad you have been brave to share this post and hopefully we can teach our children what a blessing our sexuality is.

  • Liz

    I adore you even more for doing this. I am in seminary to work with my denomination (ELCA) around issues of sexual wholeness and the intersections connecting sexuality and spirituality and this blog post/story is PERFECTLY what I hope women will share with one another. Bravo, peace to you, you are a blessing here!

  • Katherine Harper

    That was such a beautiful post! Thank you.

  • Pingback: Let's (Not) Talk About Sex |()

  • Betty Randall


    I read this this morning after re-reading your post about shame. And thought it was SO applicable.

    Thanks for your courage and generosity in sharing your life with us.

  • Steve T

    Sarah, Thanks for a thoughtful, vulnerable, grace-infused post. It is a moving piece of writing, and I appreciate your courage and honesty. I have intentionally not read the comments so am not sure of the response you are getting, although I can easily imagine two types of response: one critical, and one incredibly appreciative. I just wanted to say that I have been a speaker to youth at Christian camps and conferences for over 30 years, who was myself weaned on evangelical theology and conservative sexual mores. I have communicated about sexuality and relationships to thousands of Canadian young people and attempted to bring a much more thoughtful, relevant, and grace-filled message to them than what was given to me. However, although I know that I never approached this subject anywhere near like the preacher in your story, I can only assume that I still have brought shame and hurt on occasion to young people who heard me and your words served as a catalyst to sober and humble me. I am sorry.

  • Angel

    Thank you for speaking up! For some of us, the shame is so great that sex is physically painful no matter how long we have been married. My decision to have sex at 16 wasn’t the right one, but it doesn’t mean that I deserve emotional or physical pain, but the scars are deep. For some of us, the lines between consent and coercion were blurred, and we shouldn’t have to live with shame. Thank you!

  • Pingback: Saturday Surfin’ | Jessica Clemmer()

  • Pingback: Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week « pinkbriefcase()

  • Pingback: What I’m Into – January 2013 {Linkup} | All Manner of Inspiration()

  • Rachel

    Sarah, I couldn’t respond the day you published this for sobbing. Quite simply, this post, your honesty, the truth here has changed my life. For over 10 years I have believed that I deserved everything bad that happened to me because I made a bad decision. Nearly 8 years ago I married the man of my dreams, I believed it to be too good to be true, I didn’t deserve it. I believed we miscarried our second baby because I was being punished. I believed I am disabled by pregnancy related problems because I am being punished. I have been robbed of so much joy, comfort and peace because I believed those lies. Not any more. Thank you. I read your words and I heard God calling me. Amazing.

  • Pingback: wrestling: sexuality and feminism | Jessica Clemmer()

  • Pingback: things i’ve learned as an “adult” | The Young Woman's Bucket List()

  • Gin Dagger

    Sarah, I am the woman at the well. God not only redeemed me but restored me. The problem is that just because Christ did His work in me, I may not always be welcome at “the well”. For those of us whom much is forgiven, we have a stronger desire to cling to Jesus and to go deeper with Him. After publishing my story, those in the church have snubbed and ostracized me. I am not comfortable with craft-focused retreats and the cliques that I experience in Christian circles. Put me with the broken women, however and something emerges in me that makes God dance. Be encouraged and keep your focus on Him, sister! In Christ alone, Gin Dagger

  • Pingback: to my sister with the guarded heart | the very worst feminist()

  • Pingback: Remade | sacredmargins()

  • Pingback: Passion & Purity | Krista on Purpose()

  • YourStandardIsNotGods

    thank you for this bold move. i appreciate your willingness to bring this subject out in the open. i am concerned though about some of the comments i have been reading about the ‘disappointing’ experiences of those who did wait for sexual intimacy after marriage — those who were strong and obedient enough to follows god’s command, and more importantly those who received the love, support and instruction of family, parents and church. you see in my opinion, it is the latter that gives the notion of purity it’s greatest gift to us. young adults and teenagers simply aren’t taught what to expect and have a limited understanding of god’s purpose in bringing two people together in union. we are bombarded by a saturated culture which focuses primarily on the physical aspect of union. and admittedly, as parents, it is a difficult subject to discuss with your teenagers. so in some ways, it is a lack of education, and vision in which our young people’s purity is perishing. abstinence should be preached, but without a moral foundation it will fail. i firmly believe in god’s forgiving grace. upon our repentance of any sin, he neither continues to condemn us, punish us and fully forgives and pardons us. he receives us fully. nothing can separate us from him after this. we are fully redeemed and reconciled unto him. (do i hear an amen yet?). but given that, the consequences of sin may still continue to plague us in some form or fashion. yes, as with any wrong decision we will struggle at times.

  • YourStandardIsNotGods

    i had to revisit this (and your original) and make a few more comments. in the original sarah says “Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys you loved as a young woman.” let’s be quite clear here. She could have said that sentence a bit differently. Maybe something like this: “Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys as a young woman.” Very slight difference. Let us all be careful we do NOT justify our sin based upon relative comparison to others’ standards and not God’s. In my opinion, this statement is bordering on the condition of plank eye. What about those of us who said ‘yes’ to the boys we didn’t love, didn’t care for or whatever. God’s purity standard is ZERO tolerance for sexual activity before marriage. Anything else, whether it be one, 10 or 100, with those we do or don’t love, fall short of the mark. Simply put, this is sin, like anything else. We shouldn’t make more or less of it as she says, but we should be shouting about the redemptive qualities of the forgiveness of Jesus – if we truly repent. How many of us have accepted facebook friend request from our past lovers? How many of us still have photos albums that contain photos of the boys we said “yes” to and if requested, would gladly burn them, if we haven’t already, at the request of the of our spouse? These people should be dead to us. It is an insult and slap in the face, in my opinion for a spouse to reestablish a connection with any of our past friends in which we participated in immoral behavior. and her comment as follows: “and, heaven forbid, enjoyed – sex before you were married.” is inappropriate in my opinion if you think of the physical torture our savior endured for our ‘sinful pleasures’. yes the bible says sin is pleasurable, but why did you have to say this sarah? last comment is in regards to the fact that our culture places more emphasis on valuing women’s virginity over men’s. i believe this is true partly because of our anatomy. upon losing her virginity a woman is physically ‘marked’. she has lost something that was there before, unlike a man, where there is no physical distinction. just a comment. in no way do i personally believe there is any difference, spiritually, or emotionally. both men and women are equally bound by the same standards. and yes, we both are free to accept the wonderful redeeming gift of forgiveness.

  • Pingback: to my sister with the guarded heart | mrs.()

  • Pingback: Bad organizations dehumanize people. Sometimes good ones do too.()