When I was fourteen I met my first “boyfriend” at church. He was sixteen and had a car, so my parents were convinced that he was going to take advantage of me. In all reality, he was a nice guy who gave me the wonderful memory of my first kiss on a bridge in the woods and that’s it. However, during the short time we were “dating” (aka talking on the phone and holding hands) our church youth group decided to feature a program called “True Love Waits.” Considering that a lot of my friends were starting to date and experiment with sex, I don’t think the timing was coincidental.
The program started out innocently enough. We learned about relationships in the Bible through the lives of couples like Sarah and Abraham, about love from Corinthians, and facts on the importance of marriage. “It is not good for man to be alone” exclaimed Genesis 2:18, but not all of it sounded bad. Ephesians 5:25 urges men to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Unconditional love from a partner like the Bible described sounded almost worth living a chaste life.
But not quite. I was young, but I had already made a plan in my mind regarding sex, which I followed out to a T. I didn’t want to have sex with this boyfriend, but maybe the next one. I wanted to loose my virginity when I was 16, so I did, a week before my 17th birthday. At 14 I knew I wasn’t ready, but I also knew that it would be disrespectful to make a promise to God that I couldn’t keep.
We all knew that True Love Waits was going to end with a big pizza party, and if one so chose, the opportunity to sign a promise to remain pure until marriage. They were also going to provide forms in case anyone wanted to order a ring or a tee-shirt exclaiming their virginal status. I planned to go for the pizza and to sneak a kiss from my boyfriend. To say the least, I did not bring a pen. I wasn’t expecting Pastor Dan to pull a fast one.
After pizza and games he gathered us in a circle for prayer. Anyone who felt moved by the spirit was supposed to leave the circle and go into a smaller room with a counselor to pray and sign the TLW pact. The pastor’s daughter was the first to leave the circle, followed by some deacon’s kids and my best friend who I knew was counting on oral as “not being sex” to get her through. I sat tight, but soon I was one of four people left in the room. The pastor was staring at me. I had to go.
As Pastor Dan prayed, “Oh Lord, we know Hannah will be led into temptation as she goes through high school and enters college, but we ask you to shield her from those temptations. Keep her strong and close to you,” I kept my fingers crossed in my coat pocket and prayed my own terrible prayer. “God, you know I didn’t want to do this. This is NOT my promise to you. I know it’s a sin, but don’t I get some points for telling you my true intentions? Doesn’t that make us close?”
When I got home my mom said she was proud of me and propped the certificate on her dresser. Eventually it fell down beside the wall and gathered so much dust I had to throw it away.
No one told us how to use contraceptives. No one talked about the ugly truths behind STD’s. No one explained that while kids are adorable, they truly do change your entire life. I watched my friends learn for themselves, and we learned from each other’s mistakes. I am one of the few that escaped unscathed. I understand the importance behind the message Shelby Knox delivered last week because I know what it is like to grow up in a community lacking in sex ed. The effects are detrimental.
And they say feminism is obsolete. Hah!