She is 16
She is 16 years old.
This is her first real relationship. She’s dated some boys before, but this one has lasted through five months, two dances, Christmas and spring break, and it was a big deal to her. He also told her that he loved her; she has never been in love before. All of her friends told her it was the “real and forever” kind of love. She had the classic teenage complaints about her parents. She felt like the idea that she was in love would be silly to them. She always felt like they never truly understood her.
This is not the first heart-to-heart we’ve had. She has been in our living room a number of times, and she has always come to us when she needed direction. Her relationship with her parents was good and they had always encouraged her to come to us, her youth pastors, for spiritual advice. But when she sat down, I knew this one was going to be different. She had never been this serious about a boy before. We had met him when he’d come with her to youth group activities and over to the house when the kids hung out. He was a nice guy but didn’t connect with her deep spiritual beliefs. He said he was a Christian and went to church, but never really had much else to say on the subject.
As she sat there, I could tell she was nervous. I could tell that she had something weighing heavily on her heart, but she was dancing around the subject. In my straight-to-the-point, no-time-for-games, loving way, I asked her, “What is really going on? Why did you want to talk to us?” She was used to this type of conversation from us; the kids actually seemed to appreciate when we talked to them like adults.
“He wants me to…” She paused slightly. “Sleep with him.” Her head dropped and she stared at her feet in silence. “Ok?” I probed, breaking the silence. “What do you think about that?”
Her head popped up, wide eyes full of surprise. She looked like no one had ever asked her that question before, like she hadn’t expected it. She began to tell us what her friends were saying, and that everyone was doing it, and that if she didn’t do it, she was worried he would dump her. Some of her friends had lost their virginity and they kept telling her how great it was. This went on for a few minutes. Then I asked her the question again, “That’s what your friends think, but what do you think?”
She paused. “I know that God designed sex for marriage. I know that there is so much more connected to it than what my friends say. I know I have always wanted to save myself for marriage, but I’m so confused. He says he loves me and that the only way to show him how much I love him is to sleep with him. But sex is such a big deal!”
She reviewed all the things that her parents had taught her and what we had said about how God designed sex for marriage and how beautiful it was in that context. She told us about the consequences of sex before marriage, STD’s and pregnancy-- all the answers she thought were right. “I am still so confused!” she said with exasperation, bursting into tears.
I leaned in toward her and asked one question -- four simple words. Four simple words that would change her life for the next 8 years:
“What is God saying?”
I am 17 years old.
It’s been two months since he broke up with me. Two months since I told him that I wanted to wait till marriage to have sex. Two months since he tried to pressure me into sex. Two months since he said, “If you really love me, you will sleep with me. Waiting till marriage is so old fashioned. Everyone is doing it. It’s what teenagers do!” Two months since I heard the voice of God so deep in my heart say, “Wait. I have so much more for you.”
These two months have not been fun for me. “Not fun” is an understatement. He said he loved me, but I saw quickly how conditional that love was. After our huge fight, where he called me a lot of horrible names and told me I owed him, he stopped talking to me. Just like that, it was over. It’s amazing that someone can say that they love you and then when you don’t do what they want, how quickly that “love” goes away. The next day his friends began to share with me what they thought of my choice. I never knew how creative high school boys could be with words and gestures. If I hear the word “prude” one more time, I might go crazy.
My friends haven’t been much better. I really have uncovered the meaning of true friendship. Some were there to dry my tears as I went through the break up, some just stopped talking to me after I made my choice. Some joined in with the name-calling. I think the girls are worse than the boys. Usually, I can go into the girls locker room to escape what the guys are saying, but that doesn’t stop my old friends once I’m in there. Most of the time, it’s said in whispers or behind my back, but it cuts deep. Those that wanted me to do it in the first place seem to be the ones that left the quickest.
My birthday is today. My best friend is still around and is still supportive. Tonight we are going to see a movie and go out to eat with my family. The hardest part is how lonely I feel. Two months ago, I thought that I would be spending this day with him. Two months ago, I thought that I would be spending all my birthdays with him. After all, as my “friends” said, love is forever.
So no, these last two months have not been easy. They have sucked, actually. But I don’t regret my choice. I know that day, when I sat in my youth pastor’s living room, I heard God. I heard that He has a plan for me and that I should wait. Every day since then I keep asking Him the same question: “Did I make the right choice?” That is when His love fills me and He reminds me to wait, because He has so much more for me.
She is 24 years old.
From the caller ID, I can tell it’s her. I still have the silly contact picture we took of her when she graduated from high school. The one with her tongue sticking out of her mouth, silly string on top of her grad hat and life in her eyes. She calls me from the other side of the country. She has graduated from college and has begun to follow her calling, her destiny.
She’s no longer the unsure teen who sat on my couch; she’s now a young woman, vibrant and in love, calling me to talk about wedding plans. She has asked that my husband perform the ceremony. She is giddy and talking a million miles an hour. But I sense there is something deeper lingering, something reminiscent of all the times she came to us for direction throughout the years.
“Three months until I’m married! I am so excited!” she squeals. We discuss the place where the wedding is being held. She met her fiancé in college, at her church. He shares the same values and beliefs she does. He actually grew up in a small town only thirty minutes from us, so the wedding will be here, at our church. She always wanted it that way.
As her excitement winds down, what she really called to talk about comes to the surface. “We are struggling,” she says, finally.
“What do you mean, ‘you’re struggling’?” I ask.
“We are so close to the wedding, but honestly it’s so hard to… you know….” her voice trails off. I’m sure her eyes have fallen to her feet and her face is flushed; some things never change. She and her fiancé are both virgins. He had victory in his purity all through high school and college as well, though his frat brothers hadn’t made it easy.
“Ok? So tell me what’s going on.”
“Well, we both know that God wants us to be together. It’s just that knowing that, it’s so hard to wait. It’s hardest when we are alone and...he...he is just such a good kisser!”
I have to admit, I laugh at that.
“Both of you made an agreement when you started dating, one where you asked us and your current pastors to keep you accountable. Has something changed?” I ask.
“No, that’s why I am calling you. How do we do this? How do we keep ourselves off each other?” she asks, obviously very frustrated. I stifle a laugh.
We begin to discuss the boundaries they had set for themselves; what’s okay and what’s not okay to do. Then, I ask her some hard questions. Where were they when they found themselves in these situations? Had they gone too far? How far is too far for them? They hadn’t had sex, but they had gotten close and it was usually when they are alone in his or her apartment. We explore that a little further as well.
“Well, I guess we shouldn’t be alone in each others apartments anymore,” she concluded with a sigh. “It’s just so hard!”
Then I asked her that same question that I had asked eight years ago:
“What is God saying?”
Three months later, she walked down the aisle to meet her soon-to-be husband in the whitest of white wedding dress. They had won the battle! They had made it! She had been through it all. She had lost boyfriends, friends and her popularity, but she had made it and no one was going to take that away from her. God truly had so much more for her!
- Johanna Wilson, Volunteer