I was 16 and wearing an ankle length skirt along with the cross necklace I’d worn every day since my summer missions trip.
Most of the other youth group members were standing beside me in front of the altar.
We made our promises. We’d stay abstinent until we were married.
One of my friends wasn’t there. I’d asked him about it, but it didn’t sound like he wanted to participate. So, I mentioned it to his mother. I was closer to her than any other adult in our congregation. I trusted her judgment.
But, she surprised me. She didn’t think the abstinence pledge was a good idea. “Teenagers make mistakes sometimes and I don’t want them to feel like it’s the end of the world if they do,” she said.
Those were the wisest words ever spoken to me in that church, but I didn’t understand that back then. What parent wouldn’t want their kid to wait? I had completely missed the point.
How could I not have missed the point? I didn’t know anything. It was all pretty easy in my opinion. Just keep your darn clothes on. Simple.
It is an easy thing to do when you don’t have any romantic prospects at the time.
It’s a nice, low-risk way of appearing righteous. (If Jesus said to pray in private, I wonder what he’d have to say about public virginity pledges…)
So, I said the words and I the ate cake and washed it down with Surge.
And it was easy, just like I thought it’d be. Until it wasn’t.
Not long after I started going out with someone, the cheap purity ring slipped off my finger. It fell to the floor and cracked in half. I joked that it must be a sign. Nobody thought it was a very funny joke.
Then we started to break those promises and I didn’t think it was a funny joke anymore either. Apparently, True Love didn’t wait very long at all.
I understood what she meant then. I saw how much the guilt ate at some of my friends—people I loved.
I have a confession. Not about having sex. I never felt guilty about that. I have a confession about the abstinence pledge. Fair warning. It may shock you.
It was kind of my idea. At least, I’m the one who pushed for it. I don’t remember if someone told me about it or I’d read about it somewhere. But, I’m the one who asked for the ceremony. When I pushed, what were my parents and the other adults in the church supposed to say?
“No, Kristy. We don’t support abstinence.”
Of course the answer was yes.
I was still riding the post-outreach evangelical high and I pressured some people into participating. And what were they going to say?
“No way, Kristy. Sex is awesome. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it.”
Of course they participated.
I have a picture of us. We’re standing under a framed Bible verse.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
As far as some of us were concerned, it may as well have read, “Stay pure and thou shalt be saved.”
Because how can you stand in the presence of God knowing that you’ve broken a promise to him? We’d garbled the gospel until it sounded like purity pledges and elevator pitch testimonies. Grace wasn’t in our vocabulary.
It didn’t take me long to realize having sex outside of marriage wasn’t actually the very worst thing a person could do. It wasn’t any worse than envy or gossip or greed or any of the other things we didn’t stage ceremonies for.
Having sex didn’t negatively impact my faith. But, leading a double life did. Knowing that I was pretending to be something I wasn’t did. I know others felt the same way. Maybe if we hadn’t signed those cards and stood at the front of the sanctuary it wouldn’t have hurt anyone.
Sure, I had good intentions back then. I was young. I was naive. I was caught up in the hype.
I was wrong.