premarital sex

You are Not a Gift to be Unwrapped: A Letter to my Daughter (Guest Post by Briana Meade)

Briana BioFor the second part of my Sex and the Church series I am so honored to have my dear friend, Briana Meade contributing this beautiful letter to her daughter. I am so moved by her vulnerability in this post. Briana and I went to Wheaton College together and even did a study abroad together one summer, but somehow didn’t really connect until we both began writing years later. I am a huge fan of her writing and an even bigger fan of her heart. Briana is currently working with her agent on a book about millenials and blogging at http://brianameade.com

If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here. You can also subscribe to or follow this blog (see the Subscribe via Email box on the side) to make sure you catch the rest of the awesome guest posts in this series. I am also still accepting guest posts. If you have a story you want to tell you can email me at lily.e.dunn at gmail.com.

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Dear Zoe,

I want to tell you a story. It starts out with a group of boys and girls. They are handed thick pledges that look like business cards.

“I promise God…” the cards begin.

There is a 5th grader in the corner. She has sparkly tennis shoes. She bites her lip in concentration, doodles sparkly pen onto the card. She whirls her signature carefully, dotting the “I” with a little star.  She giggles and turns to the girl next to her.

I remember exactly where I was. It was an air-conditioned room with pillows strewn on the floor. I had a crush on the boy next to me—another fifth grader with a cowlick haircut. I determined, in my heart, way before I knew the obstacles I would face, that I would meet my husband at the altar. That I would be proud.

That same day, I was told that I was a gift, waiting to be unwrapped. I imagined myself as a silver present with a droopy silk pink bow. What a beautiful gift I would be. My future husband would round the corner to see a shiny treasure bound with perfect execution, tiny triangles folded and taped on the edges. That was virginity. Me wrapped in a box.

This was the beginning. Over the next eight years I learned more lessons from the church – that my womanly body was dangerous and shameful and needed to be hidden.

That my body was a commodity – a wrapped gift, a perfect rose, an un-chewed stick of gum. And along with that, that I had no agency in the matter of my sexuality. It was something that would be “opened” by or “given” to someone else.

That there are two kinds of girls in the world –girls who adhered to modesty/virginity requirements and those who didn’t. That those girls would be separated like grain from chaff. That this was the ultimate value judgment. And we did not discuss what it meant in cases of sexual abuse and rape for girls to be “unwrapped” without a choice.

I lost my virginity at sixteen. I heard every single one of these messages communicated loud and clear. But I also heard very gentle messages from my parents that were affirming and compassionate.

This was a message I received from the church—your body belongs (as a gift) to your future husband, your parents, Jesus, the church.

I want you to know, darling, that this was a lie. My body belongs to me. It is me. I am my body. My self cannot be separated from it.

You are a beautiful gem. Your body is yours. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn to steward it but you are not a gift for any human being, nor will you ever be. You are not a bouquet of roses or dahlias or sunflowers waiting to be “given” away. You are purely, ultimately, only you.

You with your ability to jump a foot in the air. You with your twirling on the tile at your daddy’s work like a ballerina. You with your laughter and underwater bubbling in the soapy tub. You as a stomping teenager. You someday as a spectacular, beautiful adult with a body.

The real gift, my dear, is sex. Sex is the gift, waiting to be unwrapped. Sex is lying on the table wrapped in blue paper hearts, waiting for the perfect occasion.

If you open sex early, you are still loved. You are still body. You are still you.

If you open it on time, the celebration will be easier and it will be good.

This gift is for you, dear. When you open it early, it is often disappointing. It diminishes the power of perfect timing.

Could it still be disappointing if you wait to open the gift? Maybe. I can’t promise you anything. It’s entirely possible.

Wrap your heart around the receipt of the gift and the true giver. That celebratory day will have streamers and confetti and cake.

You’ll join the person you love the most, who has shown up to enjoy your gift with you.

This man who will carry the treasure side-by-side—from apartment to house—for the rest of this remarkable short life.

What a holy, surprising, and beautiful adventure.

It is good, this gift that God has given you of sex.  I’m sorry if anyone’s told you differently, but you are not the gift. Your body is not the gift.

Don’t let anyone tell you anything else.

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Briana Meade is a twenty-something mother of two toddlers who is passionate about singing “Royals,” Starbucks Salted Caramel Mochas, and learning that she is not a special millennial snowflake. Though not in that order, exactly. She writes at http://brianameade.com  and tweets @BrianaMeade.

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Sex and the Church Guest Post: Can We At Least Begin by Saying the Words?

Today is an exciting today. Today I’m starting a blog series called Sex and the Church. Every Thursday for the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a guest post from someone sharing their experiences with their church and Christian communities’ attitudes towards sex and teachings about sex. These guest posts include personal stories of how churches and communities that have missed the mark, ideas for how the conversation could change, and also examples of churches and communities that have addressed issues of sex and sexuality well. Check out other posts in this series here, here, here, here and here.

I am kicking off this series with a post from my friend Brett “Fish” Anderson. I met Brett via the internets and quickly learned that he is a great friend to have. Not only does he have lots of great stories and insights to share over at his blog, but he’s incredibly encouraging and has a gift for connecting people with each other. He also has a great sense of humor. 🙂 I am honored to have him on my blog and I think this post is a great start to what I hope will be a fantastic and thought-provoking series.

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Brett

‘And behold Jesus did turn to His disciples and these words He did spaketh thus: ‘Thou shalt not be having of the sexual relations before such time as thou has properly engaged in the ceremony of the holy matrimony and been cleaved unto thy wife. Thereafter shalt the sex be heavenly and magical containing sightings of unicorns. And thus it was so.’ [Imaginations 3.16]

Okay, so that is not exactly the message I received from the church growing up, but in many cases it might have well been. With my parents it didn’t go so much better as I came home one day [aged somewhere between 18 and 21] to find that well-known classic ‘What Every Boy Should Know’ sneakily left on my bed for me to stumble upon. At least I hope it was my parents.

The point being that I was pretty much left to:

# school friends [on a school tour in standard five, grade 7, offered a condom and invited to a visit to the girls’ dorm by Wayne, who had failed the grade at least twice and fortunately wasn’t anyone I was trying too hard at the time to impress, added to the fact that I had NO CLUE what a condom was, or probably a girls’ dorm, let’s be honest]

# and the media [which I guess would include the 30 plus year old man in my dad’s church who went into the shop and bought a brown-paper-bagged Playboy magazine and stuck it into my 12 year old hand one day when I went to hang out with him and his friends – who I used to do street evangelism with, of course]

Hm, so not doing so well here. If not my friends or my family, or the local media, then surely the church would be the one to educate me on a topic so centrally focused to my growing teenager years life?

Let us converse

The big problem was, though, that the church was not doing a whole lot of speaking about sex. Except that we shouldn’t do it. Until we got married. And then we should. And then it would be great. But if we did it before it would be horrible and we’d go to hell and burn and be ruined for the rest of our lives. Or something.

Youth group was not doing a whole lot of speaking about sex either. Except that we shouldn’t do it. Until we got married. And then we should. And then it would be great. But if we did it before it would be horrible and we’d go to hell and burn and be ruined for the rest of our lives. Or something.

I got married at age 35. To a beautiful woman whose first boyfriend was me. We were both technically virgins in the not-sticking-certain-things-into-other-things kind of way, but both of us had endured huge struggles with pornography along the way and racked up an impressive account filled with guilt.

And overnight we moved from a message of ‘Sex is dangerous and must be avoided at all costs’ to ‘Sex [in marriage] is the most beautiful thing and must be embraced with passion.’

We do what

Talk about messed up. Add to that the general clumsiness, confusion, figure-it-out-yourselves messiness and in some cases physical or emotional pain that is present with first time sex and it made for a very interesting honeymoon. I can’t imagine how well i would have handled that if i’d been 21?

HOW WE DO WE THIS BETTER?

Let me be honest. I don’t know all of the answers here. In fact, maybe very few. I don’t think the answer is free, encouraged and rampant sex before you get married. But i do think that at the very least we need to create spaces where people can ask the questions and be informed and share stories and not feel ashamed, embarrassed or out of touch. We need a church where it’s okay to say the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ [There’s your instant tweet quote for this post]. A sunday preach may not necessarily be the best place for this [although it also might – let’s be open to get creative here].

One of my favourite passages is Hebrews 12.1-2

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ 

The church through the ages has done its fair share of helping us focus on ‘the sin that so easily entangles’ but not always as well on the ‘everything that hinders’ side of things. When sex has been dressed up as the holy grail of what is not allowed then ‘everything but sex’ and ‘pornography’ are places where christian young people turn to for relief/having their needs met. And that is disastrous.

Maybe it is high time that the church got involved in the area of sex education [a collective gasp goes up around the room] where we get together and figure out a more helpful narrative than ‘Don’t have sex until you’re married. Then do. It’ll be great.’ A place where we can ask the tough questions and wrestle with them together, and invite others into that space of wrestling and not having the answers but desperately trying together to find healthy and helpful paths.  Especially for our young people.

With a faith where the focus is on a call towards ‘life and life to the full’ [John 10.10] we need to be doing better in leading the way [and not simply playing ‘survival’ or ‘catch up mode’] when it comes to sexuality and relationships.

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Brett “Fish” Anderson is a 27 year old trapped in the body of a 40 year old man. He is married to the beautiful Val [tbV] and lives in South Africa with the world’s most famous stuffed dolphin [called ‘No_bob’ cos he doesn’t bob]. His passion in life is seeing the church live out what we say we believe and you can find some of his writings, ponderings and deep challenges on his blog Irresistibly Fish