We live in the “already but not yet” is how a Princeton theologian described the Christian life early in the 20th century. We begin the process of having new hearts when we receive Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives. We become new creations who bring about God’s Kingdom in this world.
But not yet. Not fully, not completely. In our humanity, we are still limited creatures who stumble and fall more often than we’d like to.
Every date was a battle. Every moment we locked eyes, our flesh was fighting our spirit.
For 7 years, my boyfriend and I struggled to keep our hands off of each other. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to get married, but we never consciously used that as an excuse to act on our lustful desires.
Every date was a battle. Every moment we locked eyes, our flesh was fighting our spirit. Whenever we did allow ourselves to go “too far”, there was immediate regret.
“I knew I shouldn’t have come over.”
“This can’t happen again.”
“We need to get out of here.”
“Let’s talk to our pastor.”
“Let’s pray first.”
The first time we “went too far”, I cried. I couldn’t stand to think that my sexual brokenness from my previous relationship with a non-Christian had carried over into my “godly” one. I reached out to an older friend from church and told her what happened.
I would tell myself, if I’m really a Christian, I wouldn’t struggle like this. It shouldn’t be this difficult.
I asked her to “keep me accountable”. Looking back now, I realize that I expected her to be the solution to our problem — that one person praying for us would stop us from struggling. Of course, that was not the case.
Weeks later, the battle continued. The fight for purity in our relationship only got more difficult. Not to mention the fact that we struggled with purity individually. I was exposed to porn at a very young age and had struggled with masturbation ever since. His childhood followed a similar trajectory.
This was not a one-sided problem. Satan had a foothold from multiple angles of both of our lives.
Over the years, I questioned the genuineness of my faith. “If I’m really a Christian, I wouldn’t struggle like this. It shouldn’t be this difficult.”
“We should be able to control ourselves by now.”
Satan had a foothold from multiple angles of both of our lives.
The gospel was faithfully preached at our church, so I knew that we were recipients of God’s grace. We were always encouraged to be honest about our sin and to cling to Christ. We were works in progress, being transformed into God’s image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).
I wanted to be perfect. I didn’t want to sin anymore. But, that’s not realistic. If entrusting our lives to Jesus meant that we would never sin again, we would have no need for a Saviour. We would not know the deep joy and peace of knowing God that only comes with helpless, utter dependence on him and his power to make all things new and right.
I felt like Paul:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:15-25)
We would just have to accept that this would be our problem until we got married.
A couple of years had passed of the same old cycle. We’d “fall”, turn to the Lord for forgiveness, ask a friend to keep us accountable, then fall again. It seemed like marriage would be the only ”solution”, but marriage seemed so distant. I had always joked, “The only way my parents are going to let me get married is if I get pregnant.”
Somewhere around year 5, I remember telling my parents I wanted to get married because there was temptation.
“Why is there temptation? Don’t have temptation,” my parents said.
He, too, told his parents that the temptation was difficult.
“Always pray”, is what his parents said.
We approached our pastor and told him we wanted to step down from our leadership roles, but he assured us that this problem wasn’t going to go away if we stepped down. It would only make us less accountable. We would just have to accept that this would be our problem until we got married. It seemed like only the three of us recognized the “urgency” in getting married.
It was over seven years of fighting ourselves, of wanting to know each other more but always feeling like being together only led to hurting our Lord.
Well, year 7 came along and after countless battles between our lustful desires and our fear of God, we went too too far. I told my closest friend. We told our parents. We told our pastor. We got engaged. We told our church. A few months later, we got married.
I wonder what went through people’s minds when we said the words “we had sex before marriage”. There is so much history of pain, shame, and wrestling behind that sentence, over seven years of fighting ourselves, of wanting to know each other more but always feeling like being together only led to hurting our Lord, our testimony, and ourselves.
I wanted to know who else struggled with purity and thought to themselves “well, at least it wasn’t me that got caught”.
I wanted to write this not to justify myself, but because you reading this might identify with my story.
I tried to follow all the tips and guidelines for “staying pure”.
I wanted to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
I feared both God’s holiness and his judgement.
I recognized him as Lord over my life.
I would read my Bible and meditate on Scripture in the face of temptation.
I prayed daily for strength against temptation and forgiveness when I gave in.
I trusted him to be my Redeemer and to rid me of the shame that I held onto for years.
I asked friends to pray for me. Some would even text me whenever my boyfriend and I were together.
I read books and articles about purity. I listened to podcasts and sermons.
I tried to follow all the tips and guidelines for “staying pure”.
Many times I wanted to end our relationship or “take a break” so we could each focus on our relationships with the Lord.
Many times I wanted to step down from church leadership because I felt like a fake.
And yet this foothold remained.
After telling our immediate families, I knew I wanted to tell our church family.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16)
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:6-10)
We felt so ashamed, and yet the biggest burden had been lifted off our shoulders because, by the Holy Spirit, we brought our sin to light.
Today, we are married. It might seem like marriage was the solution to our battle against purity. In some ways, it was. The real root behind our habitual sin, though, was selfishness. From my perspective, the solution is community. The way for the Christian to fight oppression against sin is in community with other followers of Christ.
It’s weird, now. Being with my husband and not feeling a heavy weight on our shoulders, not feeling like we’re always walking on eggshells with Satan just waiting for us to fall into his trap again.
When I look back at the last 7 years, I am exhausted. I relive the pain and struggle for purity that I felt every single day.
Can you relate to my story? Are you struggling with purity? If so, fill out the form below to connect with a mentor. It's free, anonymous and you won't be judged for what you say. I hope you find freedom just like I continue to every day.