…Wildly hormonal, confused teenagers.
Last week turned out to be “virginity” week around several corners of blog land. Several ladies did a great job of confessing, correcting and crying out for the status quo to change, when it comes to how the church teaches kids about sex and virginity. Sarah Bessey kicked things off (and if you haven’t read her story, you should), and several other equally good stories followed.
As I read these stories of shame and failure, I thought about my time as a youth pastor, barely out of my teen years, a confused, single college student. Hardly an authority figure on love and relationships, much less actually qualified to teach other peoples’ kids about indelicate evangelical topics like purity and virginity.
I’d like to make a confession. I didn’t really do a great job with “the talk.” I didn’t have the kids spit in a cup or sign pledges or anything (as I had no experience with such things.) Nevertheless, many things went unspoken.
This is what I wish I had said to those teenagers, and what I hope I’ll remember to say to my own kids, should the time ever arrive.
Love God and Love Your Neighbor
We Christians have a bad habit, as I’ve discussed before. It’s the same habit that the Pharisees had. We always boil down huge gospel truths into the minutia of tiny rules to follow. The Pharisees failed because they followed the letter of the law but missed the spirit of the law. When we tell new Christians that they must not swear or drink or have pre-marital sex, we often are studying the bark on individual trees while being unaware that we are lost in a forest.
We make sure teenagers are hedged in with little rules like flimsy fences. And then the fences have to be mended when kids ask, “How far is too far?” When we entertain those questions, we too have missed the point. We ought to be focused on how intimate our kids’ relationship with the Lord is, rather than telling them what base they can go to before Jesus gets pissed off.
The Path to Someone’s Heart is Not Their Zipper
Just like Christians foolishly boil down the gospel into tiny rules to be followed, Christians also boil down relationships (read: “marriage”) into mere black and white.
The message is that the key to a happy marriage is not to have sex before you are married. If you are able to do that, you will be happy. If not, your marriage will be cursed.
We tell kids this, but people who are married know it’s not true. Why do we keep lying to kids? Why do we boil marriage down into a binary proposition? We do it with sex and virginity. We do it when we say that men need “respect” and women need “love.” Virginity is used as a one step program to successful marriages, and it’s just false. Plenty of people who were virgins at the altar have had crappy marriages, and vice verse.
We Are All Damaged Goods
If I could go back and talk to those teenagers again…
I wouldn’t single out a girl who had had sex already and tell her she was damaged goods. I wouldn’t single out the uppity girl with the purity ring on her finger and tell her she’s God’s favorite.
I’d tell them all that each one of them is damaged goods already, sex or no sex.
When Jesus caught the woman in adultery, he challenged anyone who was without sin to throw the first stone. He was telling them you are all just as damaged as this woman.
When Jesus taught about adultery, he said that any man who even looked at a woman lustfully was already guilty. In other words, guys, you are already damaged.
Virgins or not, each of us go to the altar as damaged goods. We were born into sin, damaged from birth. Then we picked up bad habits, negative experiences and harmful prejudices for years. In other words, we all have a lot of baggage. The purity of virginity is like a white thread in the scarlet of our sins and shortcomings, and does nothing to altar our need for the Savior.
We are all damaged goods, but we have been redeemed and made pure, new creations.
That’s what I wish I would’ve said to those teenagers. What would you have said?