I lost my virginity in a hotel room. It was not like the movies, no dramatic musical crescendos, no perfectly crafted lines of dialogue, just two people cautiously traveling each other’s bodies for the first time. I was 31 years old and it was beautiful.
Like many church girls I signed a True Love Waits card when I was 14 and started wearing a purity ring in high school. My church community supported me, and my group of friends, mostly virgins, gave me no peer pressure.
In college, I busied myself in campus ministry and avoided dating to keep my worst fear from coming true. I was raised by a single mother who endeavored not to raise her daughters to intentionally become single mothers. I feared that I would arrive home with swollen belly and potential dreams dashed instead of completing the college degree my mom worked so hard to help me pay for and complete.
After college I spent my spare time working with the college ministry at church. It was normal on our team of twenty or so twenty-somethings for none of us to be getting any so my abstinence was accepted, applauded, and encouraged. My virginity wasn’t considered a freak of nature until I left my church bubble.
This is when I realized to be a virgin in my 20s, quickly approaching my 30s, to many people, seemed strange, weird, and unfortunate. I started working as an arts journalist, which changed my environment from church services to clubs and hip hop shows. When strangers asked about my ring and I explained it was a symbol of my commitment to Jesus to wait until I got married to have sex, I was met with blank stares.
In my late twenties, my virginity turned into a worry. I wondered what grown man would want to marry a woman in her thirties who had no sexual experience. A few potential dates applauded my choice. A couple of them tried a relationship with me only to decide breaking up was the best thing to do. Some of them expressly let me know that they did not date virgins, and didn’t want the responsibility, the clinging or the baggage.
By the time I turned thirty I was beginning to wonder if the status that I had worn proudly as a ring on my finger had become a liability to be managed and cautiously explained. So I decided the main thing my potential suitors needed to know was that I didn’t want to have sex until marriage. Whether my number of partners was zero or infinity was none of their business, especially on a first date. If we made it past a few dates into something that had the potential for a relationship, then I could share my status.
I wasn’t ashamed of my choice but I realized I didn’t have to wear my virginity on my sleeve. My virginity wasn’t the center of my worth. I realized although 14-year-old-me had signed a True Love Waits card, and high-school-me put on a purity ring, I was an adult now. My decision to wait to have sex until I got married didn’t have to be a platform for me to stand on. It was also a personal, private journey between God and me. A decision I would wrestle with, feel good about, get frustrated with, pray about, cry about, then feel peace about and decide that holding on to my virginity was something I really wanted to do: for God, for my future spouse and children, but also for myself.
I had seen and experienced enough abandonment, in my own family and among my friends. I wanted my first time having sex to be with a man who married me, wanted a family with me, and, like me, was living an imperfect life while growing and knowing Jesus.
The man I married had been my friend for almost two years. When I told him I was a virgin, as we held hands on our first date, I waited to be rejected or made fun of. He didn’t do either. He let me know that he respected and admired my choice and that before we were friends he committed to remain celibate until marriage.
A little over a year from that first date, we stood across from each other in front of our friends and family and vowed to love, respect, and walk through all seasons of life together. I shared a beautiful first time with him on our honeymoon.
I don’t regret it. I didn’t all of a sudden feel like the heroine of some chick flick but I felt sexy and beautiful and safe and loved. Not just because of the intimate experience I had with my husband but also because I was learning to love myself and to support my own decisions.
There are a lot of things connected to sex: our souls, spirits, bodies and emotions. There is a lot of guilt and shame shoveled at us for what we’ve done and sometimes for what we haven’t done; for what was done to us, or what we’ve done to others. God never meant for sex or sexual experiences to be a dumping ground for guilt and shame.
The choice to remain a virgin until marriage is an honorable one, just as the choice to wait until marriage whether you’re a virgin or not is honorable too.
The most important part is letting what we do with our bodies and souls, first become a personal conversation with the God who invented sex, created intimacy and feels no shame about communicating with us about either. From there we can make decisions that honor the God who made us in the first place and loves us unconditionally.