Preface: I am writing this because during my years as an unmarried woman having sex, I felt that everything written, spoken, or preached to me was solely to persuade me to stop having sex. I desperately wished someone would have abandoned the topic in order to speak to me where I was at, without their desperate attempts to end sex in my life. Even when most had good motives, I needed someone to write a letter to me, Lauren, and not to The Not-A-Virgin-Anymore. This evening, I rallied my past and my present, and wrote the words I craved for years and years.
Before we begin, would you get a little piece of paper? Please?
Write out your full name.
You are this particular woman. You cannot escape it. Do you know this?
You will never be another. You cannot escape it. Do you know this?
Tomorrow, the day after, and all the days: You are this woman.
And thank goodness, because you are the only person who deserves to make the most of everything you have experienced this far.
And thank goodness, because you have within you a capacity for Love that you would not believe even if you were told.*
* * *
I want to say that I see you. I am you. I was you, a long time ago. I will be you. We are.
Love sees you. Love knows you. Love adores you.
Goodness, hate, closeness, abandonment, purity, brokenness, wholeness, confusion, clarity, trying so hard, and given up. He looks at you and sees nothing but the infant girl that was born into this magnificent world, this middle ground, this holding place. This universe in which we only see in part.
You are three years old. You are five. You are seven. You are standing in the grass, in the backyard, by the impatiens, by the trees. You laugh at the wind, you smile for a camera, because It Is. Because You Are. You know nothing, except how to Be.
Joy, infinite, as it was created to be. Innocence, eternal. Embedded permanently into every cell of your being as your shoulders caved and your back broke as you wept that you needed Something, Someone – and Love promised to be there. Innocence, eternal.
Do you know that this is what you are? Do you know that this is who you are? Do you know that you are white as snow, pure as gold, spotless as your baby teeth in the family videos splashed across your mother’s TV that you will never again sit in front of because she no longer sees you the way that Love does?
Do you know that condemnation, loneliness, hatred, failure, and Innocence Lost are only lies you have thrust upon yourself**, and words that Friends and Church and Family have pelted at the sky in a way that has fractured your heart as they have rained upon you and everyone around you?
Do you know that you are still Joy, infinite; Innocence, eternal; The Name Of Your Heart, written upon His hand?
These are things I forgot. These are things that broke over me in the shower, in my bed, in his bed, in our bed, on my walks, in my mirror, in my pages, in their pews, in my home, in my breathing and numbness and depression and even in my laughter, my happiness, my beauty.
These are things that I put aside as I sang that Love is here and Love still remains, that He is my Father and I am His daughter. These are things that I left at the church door, and clothed myself with again as soon as I left How Great Thou Art. These are things that I remembered and remembered well but only so long as I did not, could not face that which we have named That One Thing.
And so I fall into a thousand pieces alone, and with you, Girl who feels guilty and confused and angry at the hypocrisy and the expectation and the Great Ache.
And so I remember the nights I felt it was wrong, the mornings I felt it was nothing at all; always backwards for me and never anyone else. But grief, it comes with the night, and joy, it comes in the morning. Maybe this is a great truth that the Lover has given us in all things, not just his own.
* * *
I write to you, past-present-and-future Self, and to you, girl-I-do-not-know-by-name-but-can-see-from-here: I write to you because I wish that someone had written to me.
I wish that someone had just stop, stop, STOPPED for one moment and seen me as a person with a heart, a mind, with intelligence, with thoughts and feelings and with damned good reasons – and not as the statistical young white Evangelical female who was raised right and fell out of virginity, left to sit silent in her bracket until she picked up the Purity Ring once again and joined the ranks of Did It Wrong But Am Back To Right Again.
I wish that someone had let up on me for just once, because I know all of these things they tell me. I fear everything they scare me with. I think about all the revelations-that-keep-you-from-sexual immorality before you preach them to me. I know what you believe, what I believe, but I am Woman and so help me God I am not A Belief.
Maybe we chose It because We Are Now and we are scared that later may never come. Maybe we chose It because we knew the risks and we rolled the dice in favor of passion, love, comfort, and warmth. Maybe we chose It because we were terrified of the dark nights and even darker mornings. Maybe we chose It because They told us not to. Maybe we chose It because It knocked on our door and embraced us and promised to never let us go and It arrived in feelings and waves, and not in conscious decisions like we always thought It would. Maybe we chose It because It was and is everything we want, and do you know, it will be okay even then – even then when we are in that place? Maybe we chose It because we felt there was no better option. Maybe we did not choose It at all; some of us do not have the luxury of choice in a world where Men can thrust our decisions upon us as they pin our hands behind the arch of our back and repeat the words we’d heard from another man so very long ago.
Maybe we still do not know, and now we see the ghosted image of who we were, reflected back at us as we sit in ice cream parlor window seats and write in hopes of finally understanding.
Maybe the mothers and fathers and preachers and friends and everyone around us want to love us, protect us, but their words sound like things much more dangerous than the hand on your leg and the kiss on your chest. Darling, I know. I know.
* * *
I write the words I wish had appeared long ago, on a piece of paper on my kitchen table:
You are still you. I swear to you, you are.
Your future has not been ruined.
Your value remains.
Opportunity has not been lost.
These things sink deeper than your skin, yes, but God has sealed your heart in His Name and the great mystery is that we are made Untouchable by Grace.
You are not damaged.
Your wholeness comes not in Right-ness but in Love given to you by your Maker, and learning how to see yourself as He does.
You are capable of making any decision you wish to make today, or tomorrow.
It is okay if you cannot make the change you wish you could today.
It is okay to not be strong.
It is okay that you are confused.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ***, and this more than includes That One Thing.
You will give birth to a resiliency that shines brighter than the sun.
The heart is a muscle and it operates like one; these things strengthen you. You have not given your heart away and lost your ability to take it back. Women have survived and risen up despite brutality, gang rape, famines, the Holocaust, assault, torture, barrenness, and divorce: You will not be destroyed or permanently handicapped by a severed romance or loss of virginity.
You will marry a man that turns your past into a shadow, and your old self into a whisper that sings praises of redemption. Your bad decisions, your good-decisions-gone-wrong, your I’m-not-sure decisions will all swell into a wave of Peace as you realize that the man who truly Loves you has just taken an oath before God to see you as a new creation and he rejoices in the strength you have derived from Every Day You Have Ever Lived.
You are still you. Put it on a post-it and stare it down daily.
Forgiveness and understanding do not come only after you gather the healing and courage and strength to leave; they arrived and attached themselves to you the day you first asked them to. And they will stay with you every waking moment. You will find more strength in that fact alone than you ever will find within yourself.
God has not forsaken you and refused to return until you forsake That One Thing.**** It is in the deepest moments of questioning that you will hear Him, again and again, and get to know Him more than any other time in your life. Do not miss out on them simply because you think He has nothing to say until you can Heal Yourself or Change Your Ways. It is in our weakness that his strength is perfected.
* * *
And so, here is everything I wish had been said to me. Here we are. With our decisions to sleep with him, or to not sleep with him. With our desires to change, or our desires to stay the same.
For me, I wanted both.
But I only had the strength for him. For them. The one who asked nothing from me or of me, and who gave love and comfort and pleasure and rest. The one who held me when I cried and kept my body alive when I could not do it myself. The one who did not ask me to change, to become someone I was not, nor to face my weakness.
I understand. I believe that for some of us, this is necessary to our story. Sometimes it feels as though others chose the things that have become our story, and that is okay. Weakness, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental – it is something to be taken seriously, and speaks of our Great Need for one another.
I will tell you that one day, in a moment of extreme pain, I heard a whisper that flamed into a burning sensation in my chest. I heard it say, “I require nothing but weakness. We are still here, and we are still here together. I have written your name on the palm of my hand and I have called you in the darkness so that you would know it was I.”
I gave my weakness a chance. I gave his strength a chance. I fell, and fell often, as we all do. It was new for me, and I found a new Love.
I pray for you, as I do for myself, that we would continue to learn how to allow ourselves to be weak in order that we may find a Love that transcends everything we do know and everything we don’t.
But remember: no matter your weakness, or your strength, you are alive. And you are Joy, infinite; Innocence, eternal.
Do not leave their sides. They have not left yours.
* Look and watch– and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. Habakkuk 1:5
** I will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12
*** Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:12
**** Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5