Reflections from a hapless middle schooler
When I was in Middle School, I was terrified that somebody might out me for never having kissed a girl before. As I’ve looked back over my memories from those years, I’ve never been able to identify any singular source for that fear. It was just something that I absorbed from the surrounding culture. Even in the context of youth groups, there was an implicit understanding that if you didn’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend then you were deficient. And all of us wanted to know “how far” was *too* far. None of the authority figures would gives us a straight answer. Don’t even get me started on the church-endorsed Valentine’s Day functions.
As a straight laced Southern Baptist kid, I knew that sex was too far, of course. That much was clear. Also, just to be honest with you here, at the time I had no understanding of sex whatsoever. Sure, my parents had had the talk with me. But sex was little more than an enigma in my imagination. It was something of a coming-of-age safari expedition that, God willing, I would go on some day.
Dear Jesus: Please delay the Rapture until I’ve had sex. Just once. Amen.
File that under “Arcane Prayers of a Southern Baptist Teenager” in the Proven Ministries filing cabinet.
retrojecting wisdom into youth
Looking back, I wish that somebody had sat me down and explained, “you don’t need a girlfriend to be complete.” Aside from the desire for companionship and the intoxication of all those feelings – being in a relationship was something of a status symbol, a designation of social standing. Even when we were not walking the halls or sitting together, that kind of association was like an invisible badge shimmering on the lapel of my confidence. But I was a train wreck with all those girls. The regret of many heartaches has never left me.
Brief aside: Am I alone in seeing Valentine’s Day packaging for grade-schoolers as the height of lunacy?
As I write this, my wife and I have been married for 17.5 years. We have six children between the ages of sixteen and seven; three boys and three girls. Life is pretty good. Our family is reputed for hospitality; our kids are known for being personable, pleasant and fun.
Yet I still experience the pang of guilt and remorse that I did not come into marriage with more of myself preserved for my wife’s keeping. You see, I am the only man that she has ever kissed. Ever-ever. How precious is that‽ It’s like a perpetual Valentine’s Day of affections that have only ever been spent on me.
redeeming the time
To be very clear, I’m aware that a great many of you reading this have ventured on that safari… outside of marriage. If you are Christian, there is always going to be an angst about that gnawing away at your interior spaces. Well, only so long as you remain unrepentant about it.
In our day, the real culprit isn’t even premarital sex or extra-marital affairs anymore. Pornography offers the illusion of gratification without risk, as though a mitigation of sin is somehow insulated from consequences. It is not.
The use of pornography shrinks your pre-frontal cortex, decreases your satisfaction in a relationship as well as your sexual gratification. Pornography usage increases your sense of entitlement and your propensity to contempt. Many other statistical quandaries and anecdotal curios besides. In short: pornography makes you less. You become a diminished version of yourself. This was not the life that you were created for.
Hokey as it may sound (no offense to Virginia Tech fans), you are the best gift for Valentine’s Day. Regardless of how much baggage you might feel like you carry into a relationship, it is never too late to begin the process of renewal today and redeem the time. This truth applies whether you have never been married, have been divorced, or even if you feel stifled in your present relationship. Your soul is worth fighting for. And you still have meaning and purpose to live into, no matter your current station in the world.
The Next Steps Are Both Simple and Satisfying
Our founder, Joel Hesch, is famous for saying that you are God’s gift to Jesus. As harrying as life tends to be, our essence is inextricably bound up in the pursuit of intimacy with our Creator. If you are still breathing – there is still time. Let the next breath become your inspiration.
– C. T. Giles