“My friend Kathy needs to talk to you,” Heather almost whispered as she slipped into my office with a friend in tow. “Well, gotta go.” With that the youth group’s president disappeared leaving Kathy looking frightened and alone.
“Hi, Kathy,” I began. “Would you like to have a seat?” The teen, who looked about fifteen, quickly sat down and stared at the floor. “So,” I began trying to break the icy silence, “How do you know Heather?”
“From school” she said quietly, still staring at the floor.
“Do you have some classes together?”
After a few minutes of trying to keep the conversation going, I finally asked, “Would you like to tell me why you’re here?”
Her body began to shake; then the tears began to stream.
“My father . . . he . . . he . . .” The words seemed to catch in her throat.
“Did your father abuse you, Kathy?”
“Did he sexually abuse you?”
“Yes,” she nearly screamed. “He and my two brothers!”
After a few moments she composed herself and began to tell me the story. After seven years of abuse, Kathy had gone to her school counselor. Now she was in a Christian foster home where she had asked Jesus into her life. Although Christ does make us “new creations” instantly, it often takes months or years for us to view ourselves as brand new.
As we talked almost weekly for the next six months, I discovered a girl who felt betrayed, abandoned, alone, unable to trust any kind of authority, confused about self identity, violated, disrespected, used, dirty, trapped, robbed, guilty, responsible for the acts, full of love-hate feelings toward her family, and depressed.
To help her understand what was happened we talked about how:
A sexual relationship dramatically changes a person.
It’s not simply something you “do.” It’s not just “getting physical.” It’s an act that affects a person not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually.
The first experience is usually less than successful and satisfying. If outside the security of marriage, it can create a negative view of sex. Often the disappointment destroys the relationship premarital sex promised to develop.
An eighteen-year, in my survey of twenty-five hundred students, wrote:
Sex is 99 percent mental fulfillment. It will be wonderful when it is clean, guilt-free, done from love and with God’s blessing. [My experience with premarital sex] was cold, embarrassing, lonely, and dangerous.
Another teen wrote:
We felt totally empty afterward, and feelings of hate and distrust came between us. I wondered how many other girls he had slept with, and he wondered how many other guys I had yielded to.
These reactions, emotions, and fears—especially in cases of rape and incest—can damage our healthy, God-given attitudes toward sex in marriage.
What about the couples who may still be virgins technically in that there’s been no vaginal penetration, but have been involved in nudity, mutual masturbation or oral sex? Author Walter Trobisch claims there are still drastic changes.
Virginity is not just a mark of the body. To me it is much more a question of the heart, or the ability to love. It is not something someone loses, but something they give.
Everyone has a unique gift—the ability to give themselves completely to only one. This gift is like [money] in the bank. But many spend it in small coins. Every day they draw a little out of their [bank] and in flirtation, here and there, throw it to the wind. Technically speaking, they may still be virgins, but they have lost their ability to love through a lot of [foreplay].
They have given some much of their bodies to each other, that they are no longer virgins mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. (Remember, I wrote that sex was only 10 percent physical.) And sometimes losing one’s mental virginity is more harmful emotionally than losing it physically.
But there is hope!
A relationship with God dramatically changes a person
The church in Corinth was filled with Christians who had been involved in all kinds of immoral behavior before coming to Christ. The apostle Paul lists “those who live immoral lives, . . . adulterers, and homosexuals” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 TLB).
He goes on to say, “There was a time when some of you were just like that but now your sins are washed away, and you are set apart for God, and he has accepted you because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you” (6:11, italics mine).
Perhaps you’re bound by other vices: pornography, lustful thoughts, jealousy, or [you fill in the blank]. Jesus’ promise of freedom (John 8:32) applies to every kind of bondage.
A relationship with God makes a person brand-new
In John 3:16, Jesus declares that when we invite him into our lives, we start life over! Regardless of our past and behavior, we are innocent as a newborn baby in God’s eyes.
Paul also writes, “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 TLB).
Unfortunately, we can’t deliberately forget the way God can. But he has provided a way that we can experience mental healing as well.
A relationship with God makes a person’s mind brand-new
As Kathy and I talked over the next few months, she began to see herself as this “brand-new person.” One week she shared two scriptures that had been helpful to her:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think (Romans 12:2 TLB).
Now your attitudes and thought must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature (Ephesians 4:23-24).
Kathy’s freedom from her past, however, wasn’t easy.
A relationship with God doesn’t change everything
Unfortunately, some things do not change because we ask forgiveness for our past and totally commit our lives to God. Social and natural consequences do not change. Innocence in God’s eyes—and our own—doesn’t change our earthly reputation. But don’t let that keep you from changing! The good news will get around; it just travels slower than bad news.
Sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy are not taken care of with a quick prayer, either. Medical and emotional treatment may be necessary. Some legal obligations may need to be fulfilled. For instance, a guy may be paying child support for the next eighteen years for eighteen minutes of sexual pleasure.
Memories don’t change at salvation, either. We can never completely forget our past, but the memories will fade and no longer control us as God “renews our minds.”
There’s one last area that won’t change: other people. People don’t change—at least not without God’s help. They may promise to change their behavior toward you, but only God can cause a person to be “reborn.” If you’re in a situation where you are being physically or sexually abused, your first responsibility is to get out of that relationship. Now!
Your pastor or school counselor can put you in touch with juvenile authorities who will give you protection. They can get help for those who are hurting you. You can’t change the situation by yourself, and you’re not helping anyone by protecting an abuser. And, while the person hurting you may not turn to God and repent of his or her actions, God can give you the power and freedom to love and forgive your abuser. He can give you love and forgiveness for yourself.
It has taken a lot of time, prayer, and professional counseling, but today Kathy has learned to overcome her past. She’s learned to forgive her father and brothers. She’s now happily married and is working as a therapist to troubled students. God can do the same for you and your friends.
Copyright © 2000 James N. Watkins
More posts on sexuality
• Falling in love—and getting back up
• Fifty Shades of Beige “Reel” sex is never as good as real sex
• Hang ups with hook-ups
• The hidden habit: masturbation
• Is oral sex “sex”?
• Looking for love in all the right places
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