I was 21 years old, just, when I found myself sitting in a tiny counseling office trying to recover from a painful breakup. The woman in the chair across from me was praying passionately as she called upon the Holy Spirit to free my heart from my ex-boyfriend.
From the aching of being dumped… over email.
The focus of our session was all about freeing my heart, which was intrinsically linked to his, because we’d had sex.
She opened an old, metal drawer and took out some pre-cut, crimson yarn. She held the ends between pinched fingers and held the taut strands between us.
She handed me a pair of scissors and told me to cut the yarn as a representation of my cutting my heart free from my ex.
Through snipping this yarn, the Holy Spirit would set me free and disconnect us. Although I was told my heart was forever damaged and would be messy and incomplete because of my transgressions.
I remember getting into my raggedy blue Saturn and wondering… “Would cutting the yarn really do it? Should I feel different now?
And for that matter, would this painful breakup be easier if we hadn’t… “gone there?”
I turned it all over in my head for months, like you do when you’ve been dumped. I took to rollerblading around my parents neighborhood while I listened to Dashboard Confessional on my disc-man.
Was it true that I had superglued my heart to his, never to be whole again? Had I robbed my future husband of something special? Was I forever demoted because I proved true the age old cliché of “looking for love in all the wrong places?”
The more I rolled around the neighborhood, the more I realized that I hadn’t had sex with this guy out of love, or even for physical pleasure.
I’d done it because I needed to believe that someone had wanted me completely, just as I was.
you see, my problems went far deeper than my lost virginity. I had an incredibly screwed up sense of who I was… and whose I was… and what I was doing with my life.
I thought that I needed to belong to a man to feel complete and that belief was far more damaging than my sexual mistakes would ever be.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking through all the clumsy, awkward steps that led me to ultimately “losing it.” All those concessions I made, one by one that ended with me tucking my purity ring in my jewelry box and hoping my Dad wouldn’t notice its absence on my ring finger.
If all the girls I’ve ever mentored as a youth worker were sitting across from me and I could tell them one thing about their sexuality, what would I say?
They’ve heard thousands of words from hundreds of sources, what would I add?
It’s this: Your worth cannot be found or taken from you through sex.
You were created for a big, bold beautiful purpose. If you go have sex to feel better about who you are, you will only be taking steps backward.
I would tell them that I regret having sex before marriage, but that I regret all the years that I lost believing that I was worthless even more.
I regret looking for my worth in sex, because it only ever left me emptier.
I would tell them that if they’ve already had sex, God loves them and values them just as highly as he would if they had their “v-cards” in tact. I would let them know that they can still have a healthy, joy-filled, passionate, sexy and intimate marriage someday.
I would remind them that even though the church world seems to see sexual sin as weightier or dirtier than the rest, that God sees it all the same. And that he loves the virgins and the non virgins equally.
That he’s close to the broken hearted, even the ones who didn’t wait.
Then I would tell their parents that when it comes to “the sex talk” that they should spend most of their time teaching their children who they are and who they belong to. Because kids who value themselves and have a solid send of self worth are less likely to go looking for it in all the wrong places, Like in the backseat of their cars.
And then I would go home and kiss my husband and cry a little. Because there is nothing easy about this jumbled mess of human sexuality. I would lay my head on the pillow and thank God for infusing my journey with so much grace… for leading me to this place, this day, these words.