A few years ago, Russell Moore wrote an article responding to a letter from a young woman who desired to know when she should ask about her boyfriend’s sexual past. Dr. Moore’s answer is well worth reading in its entirety, but the quote that always has this straight-laced Reformed woman ready to run up and down the aisles is this one:
You are not “owed” a virgin because you are. Your sexual purity wasn’t part of a quid pro quo in which God would guarantee you a sexually unbroken man. Your sexual purity is your obligation as a creature of God. And you have rebelled at other points, and been forgiven. If you believe the gospel, you believe the gospel for everyone, and not just for yourself.
As a woman who could have written the very same letter back in the day, I’ve come to realize that sexual history isn’t the only kind of baggage we can bring to the table of marital intimacy.
As a teenager, I often heard the same illustration about guarding my heart: “If you’re not careful, when it comes to your husband, you won’t have any pieces left to give.”
Although well-meaning and wise, this warning from Proverbs (Proverbs 4:23) beckoned me to place my assurance in a whole-hearted future with my husband. However, what I needed was to be instructed to root my heart’s affections in the only one who can ultimately satisfy (Matthew 22:37).
Sexual immorality is an enemy of an upright heart (Galatians 5:19), but pride also ranks high on the list (Mark 7:22). In running from the former, I was often guilty of the latter. It is easy to put our sexual purity on a pedestal and forget the state of our hearts. Ultimately, our satisfaction comes, not from being history-free virgins when we are married, but in resting in the righteousness of our Savior and spurring one another on to live in light of that truth. Ultimately, purity isn’t just about virginity, and the holistic approach will do us much more good than focusing on keeping our legs closed.
If the blood of Christ is enough to cover the sin of arrogance, surely it’s enough to renew a heart that’s been broken into pieces.
When we fall into sin — sexual or otherwise — we can rest assured that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is sufficient for healing (Ephesians 4:32). It is finished.
But while these sins were atoned for on the Cross, the apathetic glossing over of a confession may do us more harm than good. There is a time to grieve over sin (2 Corinthians 7:10). There is a time to deal with our baggage. There is a time to mourn our brokenness and acquire tools to actively restore what has been broken.
My only regret about seeing a therapist is that I didn’t start seeing one sooner. There are things in my life that I need an impartial third party to help point out to me, tools that are missing from my tool belt that can grow deeper understanding in and reliance upon my Savior. God’s grace shouldn’t make us apathetic; rather, it should make us active participants in the inward change that he is bringing in our lives. And that change will have outward benefits. So whether it’s arrogance, pornography, fear of man, sexual promiscuity, trust issues, or daddy issues, get some good community and fight.
Not only do we need to fight against the pride that causes us to condemn others; we also need to fight against the condemnation that others can throw our way. In our culture, we can subtly (and not so subtly) put a higher premium on virginity than any other aspect of who a woman is.
Of course, we all desire to marry perfect people. The man next to me may desire to marry a sin-free virgin. Four years ago, I would not have turned down a sin-free millionaire. In a vacuum, there’s nothing inherently wrong with those desires.
But people don’t live in a vacuum.
We are broken. And the myth that the history-free virgin won’t bring insecurity in the bedroom; that she can satisfy her husband’s every longing; that she is a promise of sexual satisfaction?
Those are myths we all need to fight against.
Because, the truth is, women are not fairy tales. Regardless of their history, they come with a host of complexities. Learning those complexities is part of the beauty of a relationship. Battling the sinful side of those complexities is part of the hardship of sanctification. All condemnation does is cause women who need to be falling at the foot of the Cross for grace (and the men who ought to be on their knees beside them) to hide.
No One Is Blameless
In reality, we are broken. And our list of acceptable spousal qualities often forgets to take that into account. Our list takes the righteous pursuit of purity and diminishes it to a self-gratifying thesis of what we think we deserve.
Here’s the thing about marriage, though: it reveals all too clearly whether we are offering trite spiritual band-aids or honestly wrestling against our flesh. What all of us ultimately learn is that we all marry sinners. And that sin requires patience, understanding, and humility to work through. Marriage requires us to have standards for others that are guided by God’s grace, and not by our entitlement. And it requires us to have standards of ourselves that are guided by Christ’s sacrifice, and not by our put-together facade.
No one is blameless in this quest for the love that heralds the truth of the gospel (Ephesians 5:22). Thankfully, you’re covered in the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), who has not only called us to this sacrificial love (John 15:13), but has given us an example of it, and has equipped us for it by his grace (Hebrews 13:21).