Riches to Rags, Rags to Riches
I went to high school in the early ’70s in the midst of the so-called Sexual Revolution. The motto of our times was, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”1 Of course, this song had nothing to do with love. It really meant, “Screw whoever you can; don’t be loyal to anyone.” There were a couple thousand kids in our high school, but I think you could count the number of virgins on two hands.
Jill Jones (not her real name) was the most popular girl in school. She was beautiful, with long blond hair, blue eyes and a great body. She was always the best-dressed woman on campus. Our school was very ethnically diverse, and prejudice was rampant, but Jill’s favor somehow transcended racial tension. Everyone liked and respected her. But the most amazing thing about Jill was that she was a virgin, and everybody knew it! She carried herself like nobility, like a princess, like someone special. I loved her like a sister and looked up to her.
Then one day I was in the locker room getting dressed after P.E., and I overheard two guys talking. One guy said, “Last night I took Jill Jones to a party. I got her drunk, and I screwed her!” (As you can imagine, it was quite a bit more graphic than that.)
The other guy said, “Wow, what a score!”
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to think or say. I ran all the way home, threw myself on my bed and wept for hours. I wasn’t sure why I was crying, but my heart was broken, and my grief left me speechless. Looking back now, I understand that Jill was our hope. She was a lighthouse in the midst of a bad storm, a monument to the impossible. She was the underdog in the battle for righteousness, and secretly, many of us who were still virgins or wanting our purity restored were rooting for her to win.
But things got worse. Within a couple months, Jill began to dress like a slob. Her once vibrant countenance was now etched with sadness and grief. Her confidence fell away, replaced by a head hung in shame and covered by ragged, unkempt hair. Soon she was smoking and hanging out with the drug crowd. She had lost her self-respect and dropped her trophy. Instead of picking it up again, she stepped on it and smashed it into little pieces.
I saw Jill at my 30-year class reunion. She was in her third marriage and had been dragged through the mire of life, crushed by mean men, virtueless tramps. But thankfully, I learned that her story didn’t end there. Later in life, Jill found the Lord. He gave her the strength and the fortitude she needed to emerge from the mire of a miserable existence. He dusted her off, recovered her purity and restored her trophy. She was older now, her beauty tempered by the sands of time. But her self-respect was back, her stately walk had returned and nobility reigned in her eyes again. I will never forget Jill. To me she is more than a fond memory. She is a lesson in life, a parable of riches to rags and rags to riches. She will forever stand as a monument in my memory—as a monument to the destruction caused by lust and shame, but far more, as a testimony to the greater power of true love and grace.
1. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, “Love the One You’re With” (lyrics and music by Stephen Stills),4 Way Street [Live] (Atlantic/Wea Records, 1971, 1992).