Thursday, May 3, 2007

Reclaiming the Gift of Chastity

[not for very young readers]

What I'm going to share today is difficult, but I feel it needs to be addressed. It has been brewing up in my head for quite some time.
Those of you who have been reading my blog might know that I wasn't raised in a religious family. I went to public school, watched TV, read plenty of glossy magazines – just like any other kid (or later, teenager). I was miles away from any idea that might have hinted chastity, modesty and humility are virtues, and not a pile of old-fashioned crap that should be tossed away without thinking twice.

Now, don't get me wrong. I assume full responsibility for the mistakes I made. I'm not going to sit here and moan about how it was not under my control (it was!) and how the negative influence was too powerful for me (I have friends – unfortunately, very few - who went through public school and even army with their purity intact). I just want you to understand what kind of environment I was immersed in.

In my years of highschool, I couldn't tell that the behavior we were used to and perceived as normal, was in fact immodesty, impurity, disrespect, violence and lack of moral standards. I don't think we even used the word "moral". Few girls weren't molested at some point or another. I will leave to your imagination the "dress code", the alcohol, drugs, foul language and more delights of "liberated" education. Let me give you just one example. Many girls in my school had abortions, girls as young as 13. It wasn't considered immoral or tragic; just a short unlucky episode, like sliding on a banana peel. The "real freak" was a girl who got married at 17 and had a baby at the end of her senior year (she was 18 when her baby was born. No, she didn't get married because she was pregnant). Oh, poor thing, people whispered about her. She ruined her life!

Girls who stated they didn't want to lose their virginity before 16 were looked upon as extremely old-fashioned. Teenage girls shared their sexual experiences in classrooms during breaks. Girls who restricted their sexual contacts to only one boy were perceived as incredibly virtuous, because they were in a "serious relationship". I started dating my "serious boyfriend" well after I graduated from school, but the context didn't change.

Again, I won't say "I was told it was normal and natural" or "I did this because he pressured me". I didn't want to do it, but it was still my responsibility and my choice – my very unfortunate choice. Call it love or crush or infatuation, but I felt a strong emotional connection with my boyfriend and didn't want to lose him. I was desperate to please him. As far as I could see back then, there was nothing else I could do.

I didn't want to go on the Pill, either. But once, my period was late, and I was terrified. Abortion – thank God! – never crossed my mind (although it was certainly on my boyfriend's mind, as he didn't hesitate to tell me), but I knew pregnancy would mean being a single mother. Raised by a single mom myself, I didn't want to repeat her story. I went to see a doctor and he prescribed the Pill in the most casual, matter-of-fact way. He told me it's normal to be on the Pill and that almost all young women are on the Pill. He also told me it's perfectly safe, but I didn't care at the time. The prospect of unplanned pregnancy terrified me so much that I would still go on the Pill even if I was told there's a risk. However, I will not expand on this right now. I've got too much to say! Better save it for a separate post.

Our relationship (my boyfriend, me and the Pill) lasted quite a long time, but it wasn't anything you would call "serious". There were no obligations. According to my boyfriend, that was only fair – after all, we didn't say anything about commitment or duty when we started dating! He could disappear for weeks, or dismiss me and be rude when he wasn't in the mood. I was abused verbally, psychologically, sometimes even physically, but I couldn't let go. Not now! Not after I did all those things for him! (Remember, at that moment I couldn't mourn my lost purity yet – it would be too old-fashioned! I couldn't admit that having a physical relationship bonded me to him – that went against everything I've been taught so far! So I told myself I've "invested too much in this relationship").

So there I was, tired of being treated like trash, tired of feeling like my life is going nowhere, tired of pumping hormones into my body. I didn't know what to do. I felt something was definitely wrong about this – but what?

It was then that I came across the book of Wendy Shalit, "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue".

Here's just one paragraph from the introduction:
"A friend of mine had an affair with her professor when she was 21. She was in his class at the time and madly in love with him; he had no intention of doing anything other than using and summarily disposing of her. She was a virgin before the affair. As she related the story to me, ten years after it happened, I was struck, not that what had happened had deeply upset her, but that she felt she had to apologize for the fact that it had deeply upset her: "And, well, and it didn't mean the same thing to him, and um...this is going to sound really cheesy but, um...I mean, for God's sake, he took my virginity!" As she struggled to find the words to explain what had happened to her, it occurred to me that in an age where our virginity is supposed to mean nothing, and where male honor is also supposed to mean nothing, we literally cannot explain what has happened to us. We can no longer talk in terms of someone, say, defiling a virgin, so instead we punish the virgin for having any feelings at all. Nevertheless, although our ideology can expunge words from our vocabulary, the feelings remain and still cry out for someone to make sense of them."

Reading this struck me like a lightning. All of a sudden, I could explain what happened to me. I could talk about it. I could define it and write it down and think about it. And more than anything, I could finally mourn my lost purity.

It was obvious I had to break up with my boyfriend, but it wasn't easy. I tried. I thought that perhaps, if he loves me enough, we can take our relationship on a different course. But it was finally time to open my eyes and see that I'm stuck with a boy – not a man, a boy! – who isn't ready to do anything for my emotional and physical well-being, and who doesn't even want to understand what is bothering me. Who only wants one thing. My body.

I cried and suffered and mourned and prayed for a long time. For a long time, I wondered – is healing possible at all? I felt worthless, dirty, unloved, humiliated and exploited. I felt I will never be able to trust a man again, or develop a pure, healthy relationship. But God was good to me. The pain molded and purified my soul. It also helped me to reach resolutions. I acknowledged my mistakes and decided I don't want to be in the same situation ever again. Now that some time has passed, I feel like a different person. I feel chaste and respectable and pure again. My mistakes were both thorns and roses – they hurt me, but they also prevented me from making more mistakes.

I made a major change in my standards of modesty and sexual behavior. But I understood it wasn't only about that. Apart from resolving I will never again use my body to get attention from men, and that I will never, ever again fall into the dark pit of temptation and lust with a man who is not my husband, I decided I need to make a stand against the horrible, ugly culture that tries to force us into thinking that virginity is nothing and purity is something to wrinkle your nose at. The culture that mutilated so many young girls, emotionally and physically, spiritually and socially.

Those of us who suffered and were fortunate to recover need to spread the word. I would encourage all young women to read "A Return to Modesty". I also want to state that I'm here for all the young women, who have been hurt the same way or struggle to avoid being hurt the same way, or wonder if it is possible to make a change. It is possible! It is possible to avoid mistakes, and if you already made them, it is possible to recover. God is good! There is nothing He can't heal. Reach out to Him and love Him and let Him soothe your soul and guide your path.

22 comments:

Coffee Wife said...

One thing I will never understand is the way that women are supposed to feel "liberated" because men take and take and take from them sexually. They take their virginity. They take their modesty. They take their individual personhood and turn them into objects...

And we are supposed to be happy and ok with this?? And we are supposed to keep on throwing ourselves into the fray with a big liberated smile on our faces?

Women lose and lose and lose again...yet that somehow makes us liberated from oppression?

I don't get it.

Anna S said...

Michelle,
The feminist mantra on this issue is that "nobody is supposed to feel used because women can have sex 'for fun' just like men". I'm sure you're familiar with that big. Fat. LIE.

Becky said...

Hi Anna. Thank you for your sweet words of condolences for our dear Abby dog. We are doing well. We still think of her first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and many times in between. But yesterday I thought about her without tears. Progress!

Anna what you shared here took such courage and I am so proud of you. I am also proud that you have allowed an enormous principle from scripture to set you free, as it should. The idea of "second chance" or "do-over" is so scriptural. Our God is a God of forgiveness and rebirth. Daily if needed! So Good. For. You.

One of the best things we can do is STOP looking back and START looking ahead. I am going to say a prayer for you this morning in your continued efforts to bring glory to our Father with your life, your body, your heart. You are a refreshing young woman. Thank you for your transparency today.

Anna S said...

Becky,
Thank you so much for your encouragement.

The worst thing about the period of my recovery was not being condemned for the bad choices I made once (I could handle that), but having my feelings about it dismissed and being told what I did was normal and there was no need to change anything in my life - perhaps just find another boyfriend who won't be physically and verbally abusive.

I'm glad I let God give me another chance. He is always willing to give us a second chance, we just need to step up and take it.

Tracy said...

Anna,
Thank you for sharing your story. I thank God for the impact that you are looking to make on the lives of young women.

Candy said...

Anna,
Ive been reading your blog for a while now and as you know I love it and I love the way your write. You truly were given (blessed with)a gift of writing, and relating and encouraging and helping not only young women but all women.
I have come across a couple bloggers that I know could write so well that they could write a book and your one of them. The topics that you wrote about here on your blog, save them because you never know, it could be a best seller :)
I know your blog is touching lives already.

Love Candy

Sheri said...

Anna, thank you so much for sharing your testimony with us. I know our Heavenly Father is faithful to finish the good work he has started in you and will give you beauty for ashes. You are a bright light in this world of darkness!

Also, thank you for your boldness and passion to share this message with other young ladies. Oh they desperately need to hear it! I’m praying for you and trusting the Lord to bring specific hurting young girls across your path that need this message of forgiveness, love, and hope for their futures.

And, I need to check out the book your mentioned. *Hugs*

Anna S said...

Thank you, Tracy, Candy and Sheri! You are so supportive.

AnneK said...

Anna,

This was a great post and God bless you for the courage you showed in sharing your testimony and for standing up against what is unfortunately perceived as "normal." This lie has been perpetuated so long that it is believed to be the truth now. I have gone through similar struggles dealing with peer pressure and do what is "expected", I understand your pain. You are truly an awesome person!

Anna S said...

Hi AnneK,
Glad to see you on my blog and thank you for visiting. I'm blessed if my humble thoughts influence even one person.

Emily said...

Anna,

Thank you for sharing your truthful experiences and wisdom gained from this issue. I imagine it can't be easy to deal with, and furthermore, in this day and age, accepted "society" makes it hard for ladies who've gone through this to speak out about how negatively they've been impacted by the "norm" (aka, the lies). I am going to share this with my sisters. . .

Your sharing your difficult experience is definitely one way to help rescue future women! God bless you and your future relationship with that one special man, and may He also continue to heal any hurts! Thank you!

Emily

Anna S said...

Emily,
Thank you for your kind words.

Jordin said...

Oh, Anna. Thank you for sharing this with us. And thanks for doing your best to warn other girls. It can't be done in a sugar-coated manner--it must be real, and you're doing an excellent job. :)

Anna S said...

Thank you, Jordin. I do feel I must talk about it - even if I don't feel entirely comfortable.

Bethanie said...

What a testimony of God's forgiviness and Love. Thanks for sharing- I know that must have been difficult.

Anna S said...

Thank you, Bethanie.

Emily said...

Dear Anna, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am so grateful that God has changed yours and my life around, and has taught us so much from the awful mistakes we have made in the past. I pray that God will use your powerful and touching testimony to affect other young women and teach them that there is a better way - the path of chastity and purity.

God bless you. In His care, Emily

Anna S said...

Emily,
Thank you! I see how my friends are also changing their attitudes after what I've been through, and think twice about relationships and appropriate behavior for a young lady. My heart rejoices when I see that. If I can save even one young girl from what I've been through, I'm happy!

MInTheGap said...

I believe it's in Corinthians where it says that we are to comfort those with the comfort that we have been comforted with. Praise be to God that He has brought you out of that time so that you can minister to those that find themselves in the same situation-- despairing over the past and needing a light toward the future.

Anna S said...

Thank you, M!

Anonymous said...

This is... exactly where I am now, exactly what I needed to "hear" (read, whatever), and exactly the right thing to give me some hope.

Thank you!

(I'm 23 and was raped when I was 15. The violent taking of my virginity led me down a very dark path to try and erase the memory. I felt impure, and like I could never be pure again anyway, so who cares? I've been thinking that it is time for some real healing to begin, and this definitely points me towards that path. Makes the light at the end shine just bright enough that I can actually see it from the beginning, even if only briefly, or something to that effect.)

Heather said...

Thank you for your courage in sharing about your past. I know from my own experience how difficult it can be to open yourself up for possible criticism or judging. It's nice to know that your story has a happy ending :)