Bottled Beauty

“Wanna come up?” “Netflix and chill tonight?” “What about friends with benefits?”

Rarely does one ever come out and just ask, “sex?” It’s an interesting world out there for single women.

I wish I could approach this topic from the sacred, safe place of marriage, but I’m willing to go here because so many Christians are not. I grew up in the church, but my story twisted away from the path of virginity. I don’t say this outright because I’m proud. But it’s important women like me know they are not alone. We need to know we are still valuable to the Kingdom of God.

We live in a society that is obsessed with sex, and our churches are too. The church just doesn’t want to talk about it. When Christians approach the topic of sex, it is only spoken of in hushed tones behind closed doors. Instead, the church focuses on purity. Specifically, for women, purity is held as ideal and many of us feel like we can no longer fall into that category.

Growing up I thought my sexuality and sensuality as a woman were dangerous. The church’s obsession with modesty made me feel like I needed to keep all of that hidden. I was ashamed of my own beauty. Button up and bottle up. The message was one of purity for purity’s sake. I wonder, can’t a culture obsessed with the idea of purity be just as damaging as a culture that doesn’t value it at all?

I believe sex is special, sacred, and created for covenant relationship. But I also know that some of us have been in so much pain we’ve had nothing left to lose. Some of us were stripped of the choice. Some of us were just children. Some of us made poor decisions. Some of us fell for the first person that noticed and called out the bottled beauty. I’m in no way trying to minimize God’s Word on the importance of saving ourselves for marriage. I wish that were my story.

I remember feeling my cheeks start to get red and blush in church one morning as the Pastor was talking about sex before marriage. Shame washed over my body as he talked about what an amazingly perfect gift your virginity is to your husband on your wedding night. My head began to swim as I wondered if my future husband would always hold some kind of resentment because I’m not able to give that to him. The Pastor went on to talk about rape on college campuses and that if Christian women didn’t get drunk at parties the statistics of rape would drop dramatically.

It took every muscle in my body to stay put in my pew.

So now woman are also responsible for their purity in rape?

I know that wasn’t his intended message, but I still got angry at all the nodding heads in the audience. I wondered about my fellow rape survivors sitting in church and how they felt about the person sitting next to them saying “amen.”

My heart cried for the other woman, like me, sitting in a consecrated place that should cover them with grace, but instead left them crushed, feeling like their value as a woman was gone with the night she lost her virginity.

That’s where I feel the church is failing… Only 3% of Americans wait to have sex until marriage. In highly religious groups, that number goes up to about 20%. [1] That still means that the majority of women who show up to church on Sunday haven’t waited until marriage to have sex. How do we cut through the shame and confusion about sex if we are only willing to talk about virginity? What happens after marriage? How do you shed shame you carry in your body?

God says He despises purity for purity’s sake. Purity should come from the outpouring of the heart. It is an outward expression of what has happened within the depth of our soul. While the church should be responsible for encouraging the wait for marriage, we must also make it clear a woman’s value doesn’t come from her virginity. It comes from Jesus who died and rose again for our salvation.

Our bodies were designed to enjoy sex. There is nothing wrong in wanting to feel sexy. My desire to please God and honor Him with everything, including my body, comes from treasuring who He says I am, which feels empowering to me.

As a woman, I need to be reminded that Jesus has made me a beautiful, lovely, inspired creature no matter where my story has taken me. And I know my future husband will want me to feel that way, too.

[1] According to statistics posted Nov. 20, 2012.

IMG_0400 2Anna Hull lives in San Antonio, TX. A graduate of Schreiner University with a B.A. in Religion & Political Science, Anna is passionate about finding Jesus in every day life. She enjoys unexpected adventure, making genuine connections with others, and finding beauty in chaos.