I remember sitting there in the doctor’s office, sobbing uncontrollably, being handed tissue after tissue from a 20-something doctor, probably with his first real job at a local clinic.
“Well everything else looks good. But… there’s a faint positive on the pregnancy test.”
Having gone in for something completely unrelated, I had not expected this. Nineteen years old, having broken up with my boyfriend just the day before, I was completely and utterly broken.
And I remember thinking to myself how did I get here?
I’m sure somewhere in those moments, I remembered my old purity ring, tucked away in some box, its purpose long since foregone and forgotten.
Suddenly, it’s purpose made a little more sense again.
Being a part of a teen mother’s ministry, I know my story is not all that uncommon. As a young teenager, I made the choice to maintain sexual purity until marriage. Following a two-day seminar in my 8th grade health class, I marched into a local jeweller with a 15%-off coupon for a purity ring. I was determined and committed. I knew that I had the strength to maintain my values.
The only thing missing was the fact that I didn’t have any reason “why”. I didn’t know Jesus, I didn’t have any counsel to tell me how to do it. I had a little ring on my wedding finger and all the determination my heart could muster, but it wasn’t enough.
So many young women are charmed by the idyllic stories that are placed before us like dessert on a silver platter, stories of waiting until marriage and how utterly delightful and beautiful it is. We are scared away from sex by the horrors of STI’s and the chances of pregnancy. We lie awake dreaming of marrying the perfect man and driving away from our wedding full of purity and anticipation.
But then we walk into a life lived in a culture that sabotages any semblance of moral purity. We forge headlong into a world that is manipulated and spurred on by the enemy of our souls, who knows very well what God desires for our bodies, and uses every tactic to derail us. Without preparation and conversation, so many of us lack the strength and understanding to know why we fight for what we do.
With these things in mind, I’ve put together a few of my thoughts on this issue. Ideas to help parents out there as they prepare themselves, and their kiddos, for this world we live in.
1) It takes a lot more than an event at church or school to prepare them.
As moms and dads, we can’t be content with sending our kids to the latest purity-based conference at church or knowing that it’ll be covered in their middle school health class. Conversations need to start at home, and they need to start a LOT earlier than you might think. I mean, sixth grade girls being pressured by their peers? It’s happening. Those girls are anywhere between ten to twelve years old. And as much as that terrifies me, and probably you as well, it’s the truth. They can’t be hidden from it all, but they can be prepared and educated.
2) They need to know and hear about the “why” and the “how” a lot more.
We can go on and on about sexual purity, about saving ourselves for our spouse and that beautiful image of anticipation I mentioned earlier, but if they never hear about the purpose behind it all, they will lose motivation quickly. They need to know all about God’s divine plan for marriage and intimacy, the beautiful picture of the gospel painted by a sexual relationship that is exclusive to marriage. And alongside that, they need practical steps on handling themselves in relationships. Appropriate ways to interact with a member of the opposite sex, how to handle themselves when they have feelings for someone, how to protect their hearts. Young adults these days desperately need guidance because the message they are being fed is so counterintuitive to what we know is right. Giving them the true message and the practical help is so important to setting them up for success. And really, they need to know that purity isn’t something that we adopt from the moment of puberty until the moment we say “I do”. Purity is a posture that we take before God that takes many forms and is shown in many ways, only one of which is honoring Him by waiting for marriage to have sex. That posture should not end at the wedding, but should be carried through life, in a new and different way.
3) They need you to be a safe place.
Starting early, your kids need you to be their safe place to land with their questions and curiosities. They need you to be the brave momma who will not freak out with even the craziest, hardest questions. Your kids are likely going to be exposed to some sort of information that you’d rather they didn’t know, and likely way younger than you’d ever imagine. But if you are there, ready to respond with grace and understanding and knowledge, they won’t be afraid to ask you. And as they grow up, if you continue to respond as such, that trust will continue and you will be able to speak truth in love to them. You can do this well and still have boundaries and expectations. In fact, those protective fences you put up will be even more effective if your kids know that they can really trust you if they have questions or if they slip up. Even when they make mistakes, even if they end up in trouble, you being this safe place for them will help you both as you deal with whatever comes together. This is the way that you can show them God’s abounding grace when they can’t imagine it for themselves. Be real and honest. Share bits and pieces of your own struggles. Let them see that you, too, are human and need God’s grace just as much as they do.
4) In the end, you don’t own their decisions. They do.
You can do everything right. You can prepare and you can have those great conversations, you can instill wisdom and do everything you can to build that trustworthy relationship, and they can still make their own choices. If that day comes, I want you to remember that their choices are theirs alone. While we as parents have responsibility to raise our children up in the ways of the Lord, they are still each gifted with their own free will to either choose the way they were raised or go the ways of the world. And that is not on you.
I want you to know something about me.
About two months after my son was born, I came to know Jesus and pursued a relationship with Him. Almost immediately following, I made a promise to myself and to God that from that moment on, I would choose purity and pursue relationships that honored Him. And while I walked that hard road, and endured scrutiny from many who knew me before, my mom valiantly cheered me on, being that safe place of love and grace. Without her belief in me, and her support of my choice, I could have easily given in when the outside voices screamed against me. Two years later I married the most amazing man, and we honored our commitment to each other and ourselves. I am ever thankful for her support.
Please remember these few things.
There is so much more to sexual purity than a ring and certificate.
Our kids need to see us as real people, not as the perfect parents who can’t understand what they are going through.
Your job is to be available and be real, sharing honest truth and being willing to prepare them for the hard things, even for the things you hope will never happen.
Mommas, you’ve got this. It’s hard, it’s so crazy hard, but I know you can do this hard thing. And whatever happens, you can rest assured that God is in control, and He’s got you.