by Marci M
(A true story)
This particular request from one of my college students was very different from the usual request for a letter of reference, or advice about finding an internship: “Marci, would you be willing to be one of the panelists at our ‘Real Life’ event?” I gulped hard and thought a minute.
I knew this week on campus was dedicated to women’s empowerment, with events about preventing gender-based violence, promoting positive body image, etc. But this “Real Life” event would be a panel of professors and staff members speaking about their own coming of age stories, sexual experiences, childbirth, etc. I was reluctant to speak about matters so personal, but I told her I’d think and pray about it.
I talked it over with my husband. It would be an understatement to say that the general college culture at my school is very different from our point of view – sex only within marriage. But we agreed that youth need plenty of role models showing them that waiting until marriage for sex is actually possible, even wonderful. I felt strongly that God wanted me to open my mouth and do this, and that He would help me figure out what to say while still being appropriate and respectful and maintaining some privacy. That’s all I needed to know: if God wants me to do it, I’ll do it.
Just to be sure, I told the student, “I want you to know I’m going to talk about chastity – sex only within marriage. Are you sure that you still want me to speak on this panel?” Her eyes widened. She looked at me as if she’d just discovered an exquisite, mythical creature – someone who actually had sex for the first time on their wedding night. “Oh yes,” she replied breathlessly. “We’re looking for a spectrum of experiences. We hope you’ll come.” “I’ll do it,” I replied.
With butterflies in my stomach but God’s hand on my shoulder, I took my place with the other panelists on the comfortably worn couches in the dorm lounge as the event began. We’d been given the questions ahead of time, so I was prepared. Other panelists said things like “I absolutely think premarital sex is necessary. Sex is such a big part of a relationship that you need to be sure you’re sexually compatible before you decide to commit to someone.” Although I didn’t say it, my thought was, “If he’s considerate of your feelings, wants to make you happy, and is willing to work with you to find mutually acceptable choices in matters outside of bed, he’s going to be considerate of your feelings, want to make you happy, and willing to work with you to find mutually acceptable choices in bed too. You don’t have to give him a sexual test; you just have to be completely committed to each other, completely trusting of each other – and you will figure out the rest together.”
At first I kept my remarks pretty guarded. As time went on I felt more and more comfortable with the earnest young women and men in the audience who were listening respectfully to the panelists’ different points of view. What I didn’t know was that there was a reporter from the student newspaper in the audience.
Here’s the quote in the paper the next day: “At the Real Life [event], Marci said, ’Abstinence is about making a physical sacrifice because of your love for someone. Besides, there’s nothing hotter than two virgins discovering each other – and themselves – on their wedding night.’”
While I felt a little mortified, I was more convinced than ever that being on that panel is exactly where I belonged that evening. Several people, including other panelists, came up to me and said wistfully, “What you did is what I wanted to do, but, well…”
I didn’t say it that night, but there’s one more reason – the biggest reason of all – to wait until marriage.
This is it: God is our Creator. Making beautiful things from scratch – mountains, oceans, birds, trees, even our superb human bodies – is what He does. In His great love for us, He has given a portion of His creative power to us – the power to create human life. He cares a great deal about how we use that sacred power. He wants us to use that power only in the bonds of marriage, to build families and strengthen the love between husband and wife. Sex is not for personal entertainment or selfish pleasure; it’s holy and sweet between eternally committed partners who love each other.
Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Such a total, virtually unbreakable union, such an unyielding commitment between a man and a woman, can only come with the proximity and permanence afforded in a marriage covenant, with the union of all that they possess — their very hearts and minds, all their days and all their dreams. They work together, they cry together, they enjoy Brahms and Beethoven and breakfast together, they sacrifice and save and live together for all the abundance that such a totally intimate life provides such a couple. And the external symbol of that union, the physical manifestation of what is a far deeper spiritual and metaphysical bonding, is the physical blending that is part of — indeed, a most beautiful and gratifying expression of — that larger, more complete union of eternal purpose and promise.”
Naturally, for those who have already spent this precious gift, there is always a way back through repentance, because Christ’s atonement covers missteps of all kinds. (see Where’s the Real Life Reset Button?) And yes, it’s not easy to be chaste, when hormones are raging and our sex-saturated society pummels us on every side with sexual messages. But as always, God stands ready to help us do hard things and learn to make this physical sacrifice, waiting for the one we love who will love us completely in return, while honoring God and thanking Him for giving us this gift of power.
It is so worth it.