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I was a committed nineteen-year-old. Committed to God, my church, my education, and my future. I was determined to save my first sexual experience for my wedding night. This was never a problem, it was just a given based on my beliefs. I'd never considered it any other way.

I'd heard the horror stories about pregnancy and disease, but those never fazed me. I knew my taste and perhaps overestimated my judgment, and figured I'd never choose a guy who wasn't a best friend first. The truly scary tales were the less dramatic ones. Like the hours I spent one night at a girlfriend's while she poured her heart out about the way he treated her afterwards, like she was a slut, like she didn't exist, like he was better than her. She told me about that empty hole it left in her heart when she realized she'd given away a part of her she could never get back, or give to anyone else. She felt tainted, used, incomplete, worthless. I was scared to death of knowing that feeling first hand.

All of us remember that girl from high school with the "reputation". No one ever bothered to find out why she acted the way she did, or how it made her feel. Just talked about her. I knew that feeling all too well. I developed before most of the other girls. They got jealous and I got a reputation. It faded after a few years, once people grew up a little and everyone knew it wasn't true anyway. But I could always sympathize with "that girl" as a result.

I knew about the promise that the sexually immoral would never see the Kingdom of Heaven (I Corinthians 6:9). That scripture always struck a little fear in my heart - just enough to motivate me to wait for marriage.

That's when he came into my life. I knew I was going to marry him. Our relationship started very pure, so innocent. I don't remember whose fault it was. It really doesn't matter now. We were sort of engaged. Everyone knew we'd get married, and so did we. Marriage was our intention. He was perfect; he still is as far as I'm concerned. He was so strong, so able to resist the temptation. We hadn't even kissed.

That's when it happened. We got too comfortable. We slipped. Our first kiss. Then, just three weeks later, I gave him my virginity. Suddenly, I knew that feeling, that fear.

He stuck by me. He planned to marry me before, and this didn't change his intentions. I respected him more for that. I still felt like someone, or something, had just ripped away the most precious part of me. I loved him and he was there for me, but I still felt empty. I knew better, but did it anyway. I spent several nights crying myself to sleep. Nineteen years I'd waited. Why? Why couldn't I have waited just one more? For nineteen years I said no to several guys. Why couldn't I say no this time? I didn't understand what went wrong. I still don't.

I became more emotional, a little more depressed. He had to fight a little harder to keep me around. People with depression tend to run away from anything and anyone that may cause pain. I got so scared he'd change his mind. I was even more scared at the idea of having to tell another guy somewhere down the road that he wasn't the first.

It affected every aspect of my life. I distanced myself from everyone else. I didn't want anyone to know. I distanced myself from God. I didn't know how He could forgive my hypocrisy considering how dedicated I'd been to promoting physically pure relationships.

Our relationship changed. We no longer spent nights on the phone talking till two or three o'clock in the morning. He stopped sending me cute little e-mail messages at school. Our communication stopped. I guess we figured there was nothing else to learn. We never started fighting, but there seemed to be a greater distance between us. I felt like I didn't know him anymore. I cried a lot, he hated that. I pulled away, and he thought I didn't want to be with him anymore. They weren't fights, but very emotional. We both shed a lot of tears over our regret and the emptiness it brought into our relationship.

We officially got engaged nine months after our first time together. We committed to keep our hands to ourselves from that point until the wedding night. We knew we'd have a lot people to answer to during our pre-marital counseling. We couldn't change what we'd already done, we knew being held accountable for our actions would help us stick to our decision.

During our short seven-month engagement, we started talking again. It was a stressful time, so things were still tense, but in the midst of that stress I fell in love again. I know it was because we were spending more time talking and just being together. We were no longer in a hurry to get back to my place. We could take our time at dinner again. There was nothing but some dirty dishes and laundry to go home to. A weight had been lifted. The desire was still there, but there was more satisfaction in the thought of how rewarding our wedding night would be if we waited. I don't why we couldn't think of that before. But once "the prize" became the focus and not "the moment" waiting got easier, and we got closer.

We’ve been married for a while now, and I don’t regret marrying him one bit. I do, however, regret that someday I will have to tell my children we didn’t wait, that I will always know I betrayed God, myself and him, that I stayed in our dating relationship because I felt like I didn’t have any other choice. Don’t get me wrong, I married him because I am desperately in love with him and because I know he was the only one for me, but until we got engaged and stopped having sex I’d lost sight of those things. I went through a season where I felt like no one else would ever want me, like I had nothing else to offer. I felt tainted, used, incomplete, worthless. He tried so hard to be there for me, to put me first and to understand. He was wonderful, but I never felt like he tried hard enough.

Things would have been so much easier had we waited. We would’ve remained connected instead of going back and forth. Having sex before we got married prolonged my depression. He was such an encouragement to me that had we waited, I may never have dealt with another depressive episode again. Now, I’ll never know and I’ll continue to deal with an occasional episode probably for the rest of my life. Luckily for me, they are manageable. I will pay the consequences of my actions until the day I die. It crosses my mind every time we make love now, and I’m sure it will do the same every time I look at my children. Every time I try to teach them the importance of chastity, it will hang over my head. Things would have been so much easier had we waited.

What I learned from this? First of all, God will take what the devil has meant for evil and turn it around for His good. I know we wouldn't be the people we are, or have the relationship we have had things been done in the right order. The end NEVER justifies the means, but sometimes God uses our lives to foreshadow things to come. We can't always see His plan until the story ends, then all the pieces fall into place.

Sex outside of marriage, even if he/she is "the one"? Well, if he/she is “the one”, aren’t they worth more than a cheap roll in the hay? Aren’t they worth waiting for? After all, that pain, those empty feelings, that fear that comes with wondering what will happen next, is very, very real. Until that relationship is secured within a marriage, that fear does not go away. Before marriage, there is just no way to tell what will happen. There is no security in sex, only in commitment displayed by the bonds of marriage.

An unhappy fourteen year old. I had long since decided that Christianity was not The Truth for me as it was for my elder sister. I didn't know what, if anything, "god" was. I found The Bible to be great stories, but no real spiritual significance to me. The rules and laws detailed within meant nothing to me.

For years I'd known that the wait until marriage concept was not one I would follow. I simply did not see the point. My body was mine to do with as I pleased, and no one was going to condemn me for it. My mother had always raised me to think for myself, in all things. Including my sexuality. Granted, she hoped I would wait until I was more emotionally mature before having sex with anyone, but she wasn't going to try to forbid me from doing what I wished.

Eighth grade, my best friend Erica introduced me to one of her childhood friends - the only real friend she had from her Catholic grade school days. Chris. He was beautiful and strong. I first met him on the phone - talking for 12 hours at a stretch - his voice was completely captivating. Plans were made for an in-person date - going to the movies with Erica and her new boyfriend. Things started moving faster than I now think they should have - into overdrive, it seems, as less than a week later I had sex for the first time.

I felt so guilty. Chris did nothing to make me feel worse - only tried to make me feel better. But I felt so guilty for having sex that I took a razor blade and slashed the palm of my hand 13 times. (I would surmise that my guilt was more for the fact we did not use protection when we had sex, than for the sex itself.) Nonetheless, we continued having sex. After the first 3 times, I no longer felt guilty - I realized that this was enjoyable, and I had no reason to feel ashamed because of it. Chris did not treat me like a slut, like I was worthless, or anything else.

I was not anywhere close to be emotionally mature enough to deal with the upheavals that having sex causes, and - looking back - probably should have waited another couple of years.

I did not have sex again until I was 16, and then it was with female. My emotions had grown, and I was much more able to deal with the ramifications of sexual activity.

Since then, I have had several partners - and I have never again felt shame at my sexual actions. I discovered what The Truth is for me when I was 15 years old, and part of it was that I should never feel shame at my body, or at my sexual nature. Sex is a celebration of life, love, and joy when it is between consenting partners.

I am married now - and my husband knows my entire past sexual history. He in no way condemns me for it, nor will he ever. I know his history, and while it is smaller than mine, it matters not at all to me. He and I did not wait until marriage, and neither of us regret that. Each time we were together - both before marriage and now - we were giving each other the gift of our bodies and the most profound expression of our love that we could.

And when we have children, they will be taught that sex is a wonderful thing, but that they need to be sure they are emotionally, mentally, and physically ready before they begin to explore a sexual relationship with another. If they wish to wait until marriage, fine. If not, fine. My children will grow up with the knowledge that they are free to explore their sexuality, with no condemnation from their parents.

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