Our theme for the month of June is “sex and the church.” To read posts from our first pass at this theme, check out our June 2018 archives.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with the existence of gray areas. I was a very black-and-white thinker as a child. My need to categorize things into good and bad worked well in grade school: fill in the bubbles completely on the standardized test, don’t steal anyone’s snack, memorize the Bible verses perfectly to get an A+. As I saw it, the world should fit comfortably in my little boxes of right and wrong, and when something stepped out of bounds, I couldn’t compute. The difference between good and bad, with no space for nuance, felt so drastic in my little grade-school body. I lived in constant fear of falling on the wrong side of that equation.

So when my youth group and Christian school curriculum told middle-school me that sex was an immediate no before marriage, I placed it firmly in the “bad” category, to be retrieved only after I walked down an elusive aisle to a man I probably wouldn’t meet for at least a decade. Also forbidden were skirts shorter than my fingertips’ reach and shirts with spaghetti straps. Too much temptation for our male peers, we were told.

When I originally heard this message, it made perfect sense. Sex was a completely foreign concept to me anyway, and to that point the most I’d said to my middle-school crush was a nervous “hi” in the hallway before running away giggling with my friends. No chance of anything dramatic happening. And sure, it was annoying to not wear what I wanted to school, but I didn’t want to tempt my classmates either—that would make me the bad one.

Shame is a powerful thing. It can keep you silent, pushing things out of memory for fear of the judgment you’ll face. But ten years later, when you finally talk it out with your friends over glasses of rosé and a massive plate of truffle fries, you’ll realize that while those experiences absolutely mattered, they do not have to define you. Silence gives shame a crushing power, but it can be relieved one conversation at a time, laughing in triumph at pieces of a story that used to break your heart.

Contrary to the conclusions of my panicked younger self, sex is firmly in the “good” category, created by God as the ultimate form of intimacy and closeness. And I still believe its design to be shared within a marriage is God’s best for us. But there has to be a better way to communicate this with the younger generation—one that encourages us to choose the better option of something good rather than scaring us away from ourselves.

Sex is a good thing, but it will be even better if you wait. You should absolutely be careful, but there is forgiveness and purity found in Jesus always. It will be hard to wait. Nothing is wrong with you if it’s hard to wait. It doesn’t make you “bad.” It’s how you were made. And there is nothing you can do that will make God love you less.

2 Comments

  1. Laura Sheppard Song

    From a similar recovering black-and-white thinker, I love this, Olivia. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Sarah Plantinga

    My 14-year-old daughter just went through “willing to wait” curriculum at school. While I believe in the overall message, the potential shame factor made me nervous. I just sent her your essay and told her this is more in line with the way I hope she interacts with this message! Thanks for writing!

    Reply

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