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Am I a Fake Virgin?

Reflections of a Chaste Single Christian

Rating: 5.00


medieval_ladyI'm a 32-year-old, reasonably attractive female who just happens to champion abstinence until marriage.

Routine questions in walk-in clinics and during physicals leave doctors (male and female) gobsmacked. Many are so disbelieving that I find myself having to solemnly swear that I’m telling the truth. I am one of the last virgins of my age alive, or so it seems. The contemporary climate automatically puts those who practice abstinence until marriage on the defensive, as so much of the political heat-waves rippling through the United States involve abortion and birth control.

Growing up, I was very involved in church activities, conventions, and youth group. I knew throughout my teen years that sex before marriage was a sin. We discussed often the ramifications of impurity and imagined high school scenarios where I might be tempted and would have to stand strong with the Lord's conviction guiding me. I anticipated many such scenarios where I would be strong enough to withstand the pressure and pursuit and win, of course, the reluctant admiration of my peers who, while they might not understand, would certainly respect me.

Having not encountered any such temptation in high school, I nonetheless entered university with the same convictions and expectations. Co-ed dorm rooms, late night study sessions: I would have to stand strong and unshakable, my resolve tested and tested again. If this challenge had, thank heaven, been absent from my teen years, my 20s would be a veritable breeding ground.

I envisioned a knight in shining armor—the one that had somehow evaded me in my high school years, despite the attention our youth group leaders devoted to his inevitable appearance and my need to withstand any impurity for his sake. I figured that God must have been saving my white knight, and now that I was a pseudo-grown-up, he would arrive, Bible in hand, David Crowder Band on his iPod, ready to challenge and inspire my faith. We might grapple with physical attraction to the point where we would have to pray for guidance, and then I could really test my fortitude to wait until marriage.

This time, of course, my indefatigable certainty that abstinence would win the day would result in a glorious wedding with the Christian man of my dreams. Most likely by my late 20s.

This scenario also never happened.

Now, 32 and single, I sometimes wonder if I’ve accomplished anything at all. If I’ve really stuck to any resolve. If I’ve witnessed to anyone about the virtues of following a God-planned life of abstinence. Having heard so incessantly in my youth that temptation would plague me and that men were only interested in one thing that had little to do with respect, I painted myself into a sort of religious corner. If I haven't been tested, have I really triumphed? Am I a fake virgin?

And how much did the expectations that God would be saving someone awesome for me if I would wait for Him and on Him distort my view of reality? Are we, as Christians, victims of our own promises?

Don’t misunderstand me. I wholeheartedly believe that waiting until marriage is God's ultimate design. He is the ultimate romantic, who has a story plotted for our entire lives: whether peppered with romance and physical passion, or full of trials and frustrations and moments of hidden truth that will be much more clearly seen in Eternity. The romantic part of my soul also buys into the cherished notion of waiting in all of its sparkling purity, for a marriage of minds and souls. Moreover, this lifestyle ensures that we are saved from a lot of the emotional baggage and insecurity that can result in giving such an integral part of ourselves in a casual relationship. It is God's way of looking out for us: not only to keep us close to Him on a spiritual level, but also for our personal preservation.

My experience seems relatively easy. For the most part, when it comes to keeping physical attraction and gesture in check, it has been. But that doesn't make up for the amount of loneliness, insecurity, and despair building when I realize that part of my faith in waiting for marriage was born of the faith that there would be a marriage to wait for. Indeed, the more that I heard about possible scenarios, the more I expected to be rewarded by a partner worthy of my resolve and chastity. God must be saving someone awesome for me since I was saving myself for him.

Now, single and in my 30s (my teenage self would never have believed it), I sometimes feel I have held onto a gift that no one wants.

I believe in purity but I have never been truly tested. I have, however, grown to see a church where men and women like myself are becoming more and more rare. I am used to being a minority in secular circles, but the older I get, the more I realize that I am becoming a minority in Christian circles too, and it is surprising and disheartening.

If my own resolve has not been tested yet, my respect for those who have overcome temptation is stronger than ever. Especially since I know of young Christians in serious, committed relationships or entering into engagements or nearing their wedding date, who have decided that teachings on purity do not hold the weight they once did, and that a commitment to God and each other is enough to bend this strict rule. God, after all, champions love and unity. Where is the harm if you are to be married anyway?

This is beyond the realm of my human judgment, but having it stare me in the face is troubling. Are we, as evangelicals, making allowances for one of the "lesser" sins? Are we bending the rules elastically to allow for more young people to come into the fold without the fear of being lectured in the same way that I was as a teenager? Does waiting for marriage in Christian circles still have some clout?

And for those like me, who have never had the opportunity to be challenged—does that make us any less strong, or cause our moral stance on this subject to have any less of an impact?

All I really know is that, whether challenged or not, I have experienced the strength of spiritual conviction. What if that very lack of challenges has been God protecting me, so that I remain fervent in an aspect of Christian living that I hold high on my list of values and that remains phenomenally important to me? What if leading me along this particular path, with all its hardships, has been His way of helping me stay faithful to Him?

There are many ways of looking at my personal experience, but this is the way I choose to see it.

Image courtesy of Tumblr.

Rachel McMillan is a writer in Toronto. She blogs at A Fair Substitute for Heaven.


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Comments:

I'm a little late to this party, but wanted to chime in. My wife and I were both in our 40s when we married; we were both virgins. I never felt I had a guarantee from God that I would marry, though it was something I desired. (Multiple times online I ripped into "God's Love Letter To Singles," the pseudo-pious promise that the perfect spouse is waiting when you get your act fully together.)

But while not putting my life on hold, I also prepared myself in multiple ways for the possibility of marriage. That meant abstinence. It also meant saving excess income so that if I did marry, my wife would be able to stay home with our children rather than having to juggle work and home (we have two preschool boys who keep us both very busy; while I realize some do or even must make different choices, I never liked the idea of someone else raising my children). It also meant investing in the lives of families around me, so that I could learn things about raising kids and interacting with a spouse. Each of these steps had value in itself, but also served to make me better prepared for the possibility of marriage.

You're not a fake virgin. You are truly one, and you have honored God with that choice. And it really is a choice, even if you're not seeing it. You say you haven't been tested, but that's because you've chosen to live in ways that protect you from temptation. For you, the temptation has been a couple of steps removed from overt sexual activity: it's in the ways you choose to spend your free time, the clothes you wear, the books you read, the company you keep, etc. When you make certain choices in those areas, you're less likely to face overt sexual pressure. (No, I'm not saying that dressing in a certain way is "asking for it," but provocative dress attracts a certain kind of attention, and isn't likely to encourage the chaste knight to come knocking.)

I have read that one reason chess masters play so well is that they don't even see bad moves; they can train their mental firepower on just the moves that have the most promise. Your discipline likewise makes "bad moves" much less likely, and that's something to celebrate, not denigrate. Not that it's a source of pride; "I'm not like them and would never do such things" is dangerous both in building up a legalistic, hardened spirit and in leaving you vulnerable to unexpected temptation. Yet there is a place for humble thankfulness that God is at work in you in such evident ways.

That said, there can be value in doing a personal inventory, asking yourself honestly, "Am I living in a way that makes me ready and available for marriage?" You may want to ask a trusted married friend the same question. And it may be that you are. One of the sad facts of Christianity in America is that there are more women than men who are believers. Simple math says it's not possible for all of them to marry in the faith, and marrying outside the faith is a recipe for heartache, which is one reason why God forbids it (along with him not wanting to share your heart with someone pointing away from him).

But you don't know what the future holds. As I remember Elisabeth Elliot saying in a talk she gave to a singles group I was once in, "You can be single for today." God will honor the choices you make to follow him; not necessarily providing a marriage (let's be honest), but his blessing nonetheless, "and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:30).

And then we need to work on the guys to see purity, and marriage, as desirable pursuits. (It was disheartening to me to discover how many single men in my church, indeed in the small group I was leading, did not share that commitment.)
Rachel, I would like to amplify some of Georgia Peach's remarks. As a father of 3 in there 20’s and as a teacher, I observe the lives of Christian young people on a regular basis. There are those who try to live as close to the world as possible. They go to parties they should not attend, date people who are not only unsaved, but clearly leading lives headed for trouble and/or run in crowds that are dangerous influences on their walks with the Lord. Then there are those who have a clear stand for Jesus. They make Godly choices and seek His will often. Because they avoid the lifestyle choices of others, they are not put in temptation's path.

In your article, you question your strength because you have not been tested. In this case, I think you may be looking at it backwards. You have not been tested because you ARE strong. Like Georgia, your lifestyle choices and strong stand for the Lord have kept you from situations that would tempt you and sent signals to men of questionable intentions that they need not bother.

Two of my three children are married. The one who remains unmarried faces the same struggles you describe. But I am so blessed that standards have not been dropped, choices have not been compromised and the Lord's will is still sought. As a human father, if it blesses me, guess how much more it blesses our Heavenly Father.

I know it seems like there are so few left of your generation who are single AND following the Lord. But you are not alone. Stay strong in Him.
It is worth the Holy Life
We as Christians and as human beings should practice chastity (No sex before marraige, and only sex with your spouse after marriage) because it is Gods will for us as his creation. It does not mean we will have great sex after we get married just that we are doing Gods will. God wants us to be his people and to be called out to show our love to him in all areas of life.

P.S. I was single till I was past 30.
I understand. It is just that this reminded me to much of that thing about "technical virgin". My point is that useing a descriptive word as a placeholder for an adulatory word drains utility for earlier purposes. For example, I hope I am a gentleman meaning honorable and courteous man. I know I am not a gentleman meaning scion of minor nobility.
I am a married man (soon ten years) who was a virgin until marriage.

Wanted to reply to "Mo".

I see that the charge to teenagers should be: give your life to God - not (just) save sex for marriage - since as you well point out, marriage may never come to some teenagers. Note, that even for teenagers that do cross the line, they may likely also not marry but have to carry the emotional and spiritual baggage of their sins.

To the author Rachel:
"... the more I realize that I am becoming a minority in Christian circles too, and it is surprising and disheartening."
Disheartening because you want to be married (i.e. all the virgins you know are now married?) or that others have fallen? (or like at the church I attended are all the Christian singles of my age divorced?)
Again, we put our hope in Christ.
This is something even as a married man that I have to do.
another good article
Here is a link to an excellent article on the subject. The church has too long failed to encourage marriage and biblical thinking about marriage--buying into cultural patterns of postponing it for unbiblical reasons. Well worth reading http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/august/16.22.html
I married at 37 as a virgin. I resonate with so much of what you said, Rachel, and with some of these comments too. God used a variety of "circumstances" to protect me throughout my single life. He also guided me into choices that reduced temptations--getting involved with a Christian group during college, working for them after, living with other committed believers, dressing modestly, not drinking, not giving encouraging signals to non-believers, etc. It is with humility and credit to Him, that I can say I remained pure.

At times when I was discouraged and insecure, I would honestly question God about my unmet desire to be married. I was open with others that I hoped that would be part of my life. I would go where I could meet marriageable men, and even moved to a different city because it was obvious I was not meeting anyone where I was living, working or going to church.

God answered my prayers with a wonderful godly man. It took me months to recognize him as the right one. We have two adopted children.

I am glad I didn't do what I (and you) could have, which is to give up on your desire or give up on God's ways. Taking things into my own sinful hands and "helping" Him by playing the worldly game--going to wrong places to meet the wrong men, wearing the wrong clothes and attitude to attract them. Like you, I regard sexual purity as a value I am glad I didn't compromise. You do, and have had, options you have not taken. Keep on keeping on to His glory.
Part of the problem is telling the lie to teenagers that they must "save sex for marriage."

The truth that no one seems to want to acknowledge is that God NEVER promises marriage to everyone who wants it!

Which, of course, means that you very well could remain a virgin forever.

There is no way in the world teenagers are going to go for that! That is why the message is made a little more bearable by the 'until you're married' bit.

But as you've experienced, you get to an age where you realize you may never be married. This leaves people feeling disillusioned and even angry. I think that's the point where people give up and sometimes give in, if an opportunity presents itself.

***

These are just observations. I can't say I have a real solution. Life is just... hard.
hi jason, i intended for the word virgin to be used in a physical context here as well. i'm sorry if that didn't come across. but, i, like you agree that it is something that is a physical and not mental or emotional label.

--rachel
The word virgin is a physical term. Saying someone is a "fake virgin" because of psychological issues is to esoteric. If we use it to mean "chaste" or even use the term "technical virgin" for overflirty people who haven't gotten around to it then the term "virgin" will have to be retired. It will be either redundant(as we already have "chaste") or meaningless(as the only virgins on these terms are asexuals). And thus another word will have to be retired.

Aside from that, it adds a legalistic bond on people. You can't have virginity end when someone says,"Gee, he/she's cute" and then continue to value it.
Great thoughts Rachel. As a 37 year old virgin I totally agreed with your points. It's sad the reaction we get from people about the status of our sexual life.
I to struggle when I hear of fellow Christians who bend the rules and justify their actions. Just because society tells us it's okay does not make the Word of God any less true. I do believe that staying faithful is just as important today as it was 2000 years ago. Everything we do should line up with God's Word - whether it's in relationships, finances, or how we honour God in our jobs. People are quick to justify and make excuses… but not sure that will cut it when they have to stand before God one day! Harsh but true.
"But that doesn't make up for the amount of loneliness, insecurity, and despair building when I realize that part of my faith in waiting for marriage was born of the faith that there would be a marriage to wait for"

Ouch this is so true, I totally hear you. Several years ago I was talking with a friend of mine. I told her that I'd give up being a pastor in a heart beat if it meant that I would get married and have a family. She said to me, 'Do you believe this is where God's called and placed you?' Yes… then she said something I'll never forget. She said then don't you think God knows exactly where you are and knows your heart. It's been at least 3 years since that conversation and I still struggle with the loneliness, insecurity and despair but at least I know that I'm doing exactly what God's called me to do. It doesn't always make it easier though.

And lastly… I'm so thankful that God has protected me and has helped me to be faithful. Will you or I find someone whose chosen to do the same? Hard to say, and the older we get the more unlikely it will be. So call me a virgin, I'll proudly stand on my wedding day and say it!
Waiting
Rachel,

This post is lovely. Your vulnerability and questions make it all the more so. My mom, bless her heart, told me that she'd never been unfaithful to my dad, but that she'd never been tempted either. I said to God that I didn't think she could claim victory in that area then, and God whispered to my hurting heart, "Well, maybe it's not her victory to claim. Maybe it's MY victory. Maybe I took on the burden of that temptation, so that she wouldn't have to, and so that I'd get the glory for it." Just words, I know, but it surely softened my heart toward her.

Your boldness will not go unnoticed, or unrewarded, sister. I'm praying now that you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, as David said in Psalm 27:13. Specifically, that you'll be swept off your feet by the knight in shining armor!