Two Different Things

Maybe we lose our virginity the first time we breathe deeply in the back of a car in high school. We push the borders but don’t go all the way. Or maybe we lose it the moment man enters woman or boy enters girl.


Instead I think we lose it somewhere in between.

Even though in the mechanical sense I was a virgin when I stood at the altar, I was in no way virginal.

There had been heat and buttons undone and all the other things that girls and boys do when they don’t know what else to do and all of that while claiming virginity.

I announced virginity but I in no way claimed purity.

I was a tiny bit too old for the purity sweeps that raced through evangelical churches in the nineties. I was a tiny bit too old to sign a purity pledge or to wear a purity ring. There wasn’t a time I could remember that I had been really pure. Not in recent years anyway. By the time the “Purity Police” got to me I was already in college and pulling off sweaters in the backseat.

But at the same time my Evangelical guilt could have rivaled any Catholic or Jewish guilt. I felt bad every week and didn’t ever want to share my activities with my Christian girlfriends.

So we got married at twenty-nothing because we wanted to have sex. Plain and simple. There was no more time we could wait and there was nothing else to do. There were no more lines to cross.

It was the unspoken part at the altar and the unsaid vow in the ceremony: this is happening today (and not in a few years) so we will feel less guilty about doing what we were already doing.

When did I lose my virginity? I’m actually not sure now. Was it the moment my eyes and body was opened to the way it felt when touched? The way my heart and my mind hummed with new understanding about myself? During college I read The Awakening by Kate Chopin and I remember thinking THIS, this. I’m waking up.

I’m waking up but I feel so bad about it.

Or did I lose my virginity sometime later, mechanically speaking, when it all was consummated in that hotel room near the beach?

I do know this: I didn’t feel much different after the rings went on our fingers and we actually did the deed. Not like I felt as we were exploring as young people looking down a long month of Sundays at a future wedding date.

And what about the affair? When did the adultery truly begin? Was it at the first phone call or the moment we met in secret and actually committed the act?

Even Jesus says that sexuality begins in the heart. The thought of a person in bed with me is just the same as actually inviting him in. The act is no greater than the thought of it.

With Sarah Bessey’s recent and courageous blow-up-the-internet post about virginity and purity, I can’t help but think about myself and my own daughters.

When we teach our daughters and sons to be pure, should we teach them to remain virgins? Or should we teach them things like self-control, staying close to the Father, seeing the world with the eyes of Jesus and walking in moderation and righteousness?

Because I will tell you this: I may have remained a “virgin” but I wasn’t walking in moderation or practicing self-control at all.

There is something desperately wrong with this equation.

You could argue that the scare tactics employed by my high school youth pastors worked because, yes, I kept myself a virgin until I wore a ring. Or you could argue that the fear measures didn’t work because virginity and living in rhythm with Jesus are two different things.

I wonder if by teaching (and modeling) self-control, righteousness and walking close to Jesus, we teach them to wait. Maybe when we live rightly, we walk in step with the Spirit and we teach them the right things, it isn’t scare tactics any longer.

It becomes part of our daily lives in union with Jesus.

At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter WHEN I lost my virginity. Whether it was the night I got married or sometime long before is unimportant. What matters is that I examine my heart today and continue to try each hour to move in step with the Redeemer.

And our children? They will make mistakes. We sure did. But there is grace and forgiveness and there is Love (oh that Love that is possible because of Jesus). And there is my prayer that at the end of their days, they will land on the right side of it all.


  1. Sarah. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on purity. This is such an incredible post; with truth that I think all women need to hear. You have spoken from a true heart of wisdom and love for Jesus; this post has really made me think about true purity and true devotion to Jesus, my Savior. This is just such awesome insight; thankful for your willing heart to discuss this difficult topic! :)

  2. Loved Sarah B’s manifesto and I love this just as much. As a girl who did grow up embedded in purity culture, I know how well-intentioned and yet damaging that kind of attitude can be. I wish, instead of the diet-like admonition to wait, restrain and restrict until marriage (when you are suddenly permitted to indulge), that we would emphasize a lifestyle of consistent faithfulness, self-control and selflessness. Those skills don’t become obsolete in marriage…I think instead the need for those things is even greater! Unlike Sarah, I wasn’t in that 80%….I was in the other 20%…and “technical” virgin is the most accurate phrase. I wasn’t subjected to shame tactics. My issue was pride and judgment. Felt like I had been given permission to look down on (albeit unspoken) those who hadn’t managed to “stay pure.” Which is all disgusting. Shame is disgusting and pride is disgusting and if only we all had made a pledge to grace instead. So glad we are having conversations about this…and I desperately hope that we continue to seek God’ and obey out of love for His heart, not fear of His hand. We are ALL under the Mercy, and thanks be to God.

  3. ro elliott says:

    I did not grow up a christian and did not come to the Lord until I was 21…the one thing I was thankful was my “virginity”…even though everyone around me were losing it left and right…I remained in the middle…or so I thought. It wasn’t until I was married and was growing closer to Christ that I actually grieved…I was a “technical virgin”…but I wasn’t pure. Oh yes…I was still thankful, that other than my husband…I shared very little of my self with others…but my heart was still saddened and even though I grieved…there was much Grace…only God can bring grief wrapped in His Grace. And so when I talked with my daughter’s I did not boast in my virginity…I did not shame myself in my failure to be pure…I took what God redeemed…the sweet truths He spoke to my heart and enter in the journey along side them…keeping an open and honest conversation with them as they found their own space with their Redeemer. As always Sarah, I love your heart~

  4. Sarah, I think this is the best thing I’ve read on this topic thus far. It is so easy for Christians to miss the point, to teach children the letter of the law instead of the spirit, and to make slaves of ourselves to rules instead of to Christ who redeems us.

    • wow, matt! thank you so much! it is easy to teach the letter of the law. trying to figure out how to teach my daughters the right way without being legalistic about it. thank you!

  5. Great article, you always win when you tell the truth & say what you feel!

  6. This is the first time I’ve come across your blog, thanks to Laura up above. I love the realness that is in this article and the tug at the hushed question, “what is virginity?” You poke at a big question near the end: what do we do with this current generation to make them more aware of sex and help them stay pure? Is there an answer to this–is there hope?

    • Welcome! yes, i think about how do we really approach the reality of sex and culture but at the same time avoid legalism. thank you so much for visiting and for commenting!

  7. Micah Smith says:

    I LOVE this! I was exactly the same — a virgin at the alter, but a one that had compromised basically everything else. I didn’t want to break the rules, so despite having several boyfriends and crossing more than a few “purity lines,” I refrained from sex.. BUT, in hindsight, I might as well have just gone ahead with it. Because God isn’t interested in whether or not I follow the rules for the rules sake. He’s concerned with whether or not I follow the rules for His sake.

    That’s so hard to understand as a teenager – regardless of which side of the “line” you’re on. And I think my experience is part of the reason I feel called to worth with teenage girls… to teach them about the difference between virginity and purity.

    Great post!

  8. Wow! That was awesome! I totally agree with this too. I think we spend way to much time TELLING people what not to do and not enough time modeling a life that SHOWS them what to do. Thanks so much for writing this!

  9. “And our children? They will make mistakes. We sure did. But there is grace and forgiveness and there is Love (oh that Love that is possible because of Jesus).”

    This is beautiful. I know because of Jesus’ grace, I am redeemed of my past.

  10. Love it! This is what it is about. It’s not that we say “eh, it’s ok, you’ll be forgiven” and we can do whatever we want. It’s about Him, always, always always about Him.

  11. Sarah – I lived this post, growing up not crossing the line but going right up to it, technically a virgin, but not at all pure. I lived this post right down to the “what about the affair” part. When I went on a weekend with my 12 yo daughter to talk to her about such things, it was the most humbling thing to do in light of the fact that she knew all about my most recent impurities. I was afraid of it, actually. But it was such a good conversation about consequences and forgiveness and grace. You want to know what makes me so sad? When I was technically not crossing the line, yet knowing that I could make a mistake and jump over it at any time, as much as I was pro pro-life, I was afraid of the condemnation of having crossed the line enough that – and I don’t know that I would have, but – I have sympathy for girls who think they need to have abortions because they can’t tell their parents for fear of wrath. There. I said it. What would it look like if there was more grace in this area? I think it would look pro-grace, pro-forgiveness, pro-loving kindness, pro-life. Anyways… thanks for writing this and I hope it turns the tide for this culture, my daughters’ generations. xo, ab

  12. Too often it is too easy for us to fall back on the false sense of security that comes from conforming to man made standards and commitments. Regardless of whether or not they are based in the scriptures. No one stops to think of the ramifications of those standards when they aren’t met. The guilt and shame can become more of a burden than the “sinful act” itself. While the intensions of the purity police may be true, they are still based on something man made. When the focus gets shifted from Christ, to the rules, we fall. Every time. The worries we carry to remain “pure” become our idol. What is the focus of your heart? Is it the idol of the rules or on Christ? In Psalms, David talks of keeping his eyes on The Lord for his refuge, his safety, his assuredness in success. We can all see what happened when David leaned on his own understanding. The unfaithfulness, the murder, the lies, the deceit. Yet, in spite of all that, God still found David to be a man after His own heart. Why? Because David shifted his focus to the one whose heart is always pure. The one whose path is straight and way is true. When my focus is on Him and not my earthly idol ( whatever that may be) I can be sure I will remain pure.

  13. These post’s by you and sarah b have challenged me. ( I wrote a big long comment on sarah’s post at a deeper story and the internet died so it didn’t post and was lost forever and I am still bummed about it.) I am sorting through feelings of my own past and trying to find answers. Trying to come to some conclusion so that as I am teaching my own children I am teaching them reverence for God’s standard and that his grace is sufficient.

    • yes. yes. i have been searching for a long time for the right way to approach this with my girls. i think its closer than it has been but not totally formulated. thanks for being a partner on the journey! =)

  14. Yes, Yes, Yes. I SO get this. Virgin yes, pure no. I can relate. And you are so right, it all starts in our mind, where the battle takes place. Thank you for the grace with which you write and for pointing to Christ through it all. I believe with my whole heart that modeling to our children is so much more crucial than telling them anything. May we walk as living proof of His grace and redemtive power, pressing in and longing to become more and more like Him, each and every day. I am praying for our youth. It is so very hard! Thank you Sarah for this beautiful post.

  15. All. For. Purpose.

    He’s that much bigger than even our sin . . . always using everything to show us His love, for us. Amazing Grace. So not a cliche. So life giving.

    Amen, friend. Amen and Amen!

  16. You reflected all that is in my heart with your words. I have a daughter now 18, and I want so much to teach her to just follow Jesus, not just enforce “rules of conduct”. I grew up in a Christian home, and my parents really loved the Lord, but lots of times looking back it seems as a kid I “acted” the way I was supposed to, but my heart was not there. I married when I was 18 certainly for all “those” reasons… I was a “technical virgin” also, but definitely not “pure in heart”. I also had an “affair” after a few years, only my husband and I did not work things out. I have been remarried now (unequally yoked) for 13 years. I live with so many regrets, and am thankful every day for God’s grace in my life. With a world that sells sex on everything and makes everything about sex,, and cares nothing of purity or morality, it scares me to raise my children. I want to help my daughter not make the same mistakes as I did.

  17. Thank you for posting this. And yes, the good thing is that there IS grace. And we can try to be better role models for our kids.

  18. What do you think ‘pure’ actually is? X

    • I think that when Christ redeems us he makes us pure. He presents his bride as pure and unstained, and the way he does that is by his blood. if he has cleansed us then we are pure, whether we’ve had sex before marriage or not.

      in my head there is no other way to see it. i am absolutely dirty and broken without christ’s blood. with it i am cleansed and whole and pure.

  19. Yep…I arrogantly walked this line as a male with the same technical definition of being pure as a sort of badge of pride. Before marriage, my future wife tearfully told me she wasn’t pure. My mind directed me to say the right thing which was something like Jesus sees your sorrow and repentance and as far as I was concerned, she was a virgin. The trouble is, we didn’t deal with it beyond that. We were in a hurry. As I continue in my own process of healing from my poor choices to medicate the pain, I see how we just want to move on from the broken places and not allow ourselves to be healed until we have no choice but to live in repentance as the Holy Spirit chisels and transforms us. I am grateful for the restoration of purity, but grieve the pain I caused, and the hindrances to true intimacy that resulted.

  20. Sarah! YES AND YES AND YES!!!!!

    Or should we teach them things like self-control, staying close to the Father, seeing the world with the eyes of Jesus and walking in moderation and righteousness

    I sat reading that post at A Deeper Story and read the comments trying to figure out my own answers to her questions as to what we ought to be teaching the young people. This sentence here is what my fried mind could not coherently piece together. This is all so much more than the one issue we are using as a touch point. This goes so much deeper to the relationship with Christ underneath it all, and the discipline of self and exercising of self-control in the things of every day life (like eating and tv and how much and how long we sleep!). The desire to be pure and remain pure should come from the deeper relationship with Jesus that reminds us that to get close to a boyfriend or girlfriend in that way will draw us away from our savior and is that a choice we really are making.


  21. This…yes, this my friend. And can I just say…me too. And yes, all of this. You said it better than I ever could though.

  22. Sarah, It is my first time here and I just read your ‘about me’ page. As I am having my caramel latte moment RIGHT NOW, I wish I was sitting across from you. I wish I was hearing your story in person. I wish you were listening to mine. I wish we’d run out of time because your kiddos come running into to room. But since none of that is possible, I will come back here and get to know you with many miles and States between us. Hope you’ll sit in my online living room too. I would love to connect!

  23. wow…straight to the heart…cutting deep & true!
    our hearts are stranger than we know…so…
    we try various techniques to bring the heart under control…
    the don’ts & the do’s & the i do’s…
    all of these shortcuts do just that…they cut short
    of the heart of the matter…
    so we cheat; we lie to ourselves & to everyone else…
    telling them that we’re doing okay…
    as if God is Someone we deal with only at life’s ending…
    so…we miss the adventure that only belongs to a tried & true heart of purity…
    the heart that walks WITH Jesus in the “dangerous wild” where anything
    can happen (and usually does)…finding that the sobs & tears
    of failure bring a healing that comes first & most deeply
    from the rich & full heart of
    our Jesus…the LORD of all…and that all of this
    deepens our purity…so long as we walk WITH our LORD.
    each day…seeing our failures buried beneath His love!
    your life & mine, dearest daughter, are testimony to this!
    love ya SO much,

  24. THANK YOU for this! Of all the posts on virginity going around this week, THIS ONE spoke directly to me. Thank you so much for speaking truth!

  25. I love this. Your honesty. The much needed perspective. I want to do better for my daughter, have more honest conversations, and encourage her not just toward virginity but towards purity.

  26. You got down to the heart of this well. When my husband and I feel in love, we were pretty darn virginal. But, no, we were not virginal when we got married, even though we were technical virgins. I honestly have a hard time believing there was anything wrong with us knowing we wanted to love each other forever, and also learning the heat of passion before we said our vows in front of a crowd of witnesses. This is it – “I wonder if by teaching (and modeling) self-control, righteousness and walking close to Jesus, we teach them to wait.”

    On the note of the heart and the internal “awakening”, I may not be understanding you correctly, but are you saying that feeling & thought of sexual interest is automatically lust & therefore the same as the act? I do believe there is a difference from the awareness of attraction, and the desire of the heart to “take” that body for your own pleasure. It’s probably a little off topic. So, feel free to not address this question. :)

  27. Thank you for sharing your heart openly! I’ve struggled to put my own thoughts on virginity and purity into words. I knew in the early 90′s, when I was finishing college, that sometimes true love doesn’t wait. Sometimes true love, stomps over indoctrinated boundaries and still survives. We are all broken. We come to marriage broken no matter how shiny or tarnished our sexual history.. More important than our laundry list of sexual experiences is our understanding of the love and grace available at the foot of the cross. True love, whether it waits or not, kisses shame good-bye and embraces the brokenness of humanity while holding tightly to Grace.
    This honest discussion has given me courage and direction as my children approach adolescence., Thank you!!!

  28. Such an incredible work of Heart and so very eloquently written. Should be required teaching in every young adult class. Thank you so much.


  1. [...] as we were exploring as young people looking down a long month of Sundays at a future wedding date. — Two Different Things by Sarah [...]

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