Words Matter

On the day I got married, I walked down the aisle with a ring already on my finger. It was 14K gold with an ornate floral pattern ensconcing a big heart. I had spent years waiting for this moment when I would trade my purity ring for a wedding ring. Inside the wedding program the “Purity Ring Ceremony” was noted after the bride’s entrance. I would give my ring to my father, who would then give it to my husband-to-be. It was quick and without fanfare, but I wanted to honor the promise I had made to my father when I turned thirteen.

As a child I was a bookworm, so when the young heroine of a series I was reading had a purity ring, I wanted one too. The romance of it all—that there was a way I could love my future husband before I even met him—took my breath away.

My dad let me pick out the ring at James Avery, a household name in the Texas jewelry scene, and then he presented it to me at a special dinner on my birthday. I took it all very seriously and eagerly displayed the ring everywhere I went. Grown women would comment on its beauty, flashes of jealousy in their eyes as they wondered why a thirteen-year-old was the possessor of such an exquisite treasure.

I cannot tell you how many times I answered the question “What does it mean?” regarding my purity ring. In the microscopic private Christian school I attended, most everyone knew why I had a ring on my ring finger. I was the goody two shoes who followed the rules, earned good grades, was nice to everybody, and tried really hard not to laugh at the crude jokes the popular kids would make during the lunch hour (though they were quite clever). Of course, I would also “save myself” for marriage.

As I grew older, my reasons became more complex than mere obedience to God’s word. I knew that I would regret sleeping around; I couldn’t walk away from a sexual encounter like it was no big deal. I understood that the body and soul are inextricably twined, and whatever I did with my body would have a profound effect on my soul. Even when I turned my back on the Christian faith for a season, I continued to believe I would be glad I did not give away my body.

I realize that not everyone has the luxury to choose, and my heart breaks for those whose sexuality has been harmed. I myself am not unmarred by the damage that can be inflicted by this kind of evil. Yet, as much as was within my power, I took care of my sexuality. In doing so, I learned what it meant to be purified, set apart, and made holy for a worthy goal.

Having a purity ring was ultimately about committing to a choice.

Beyond “Oh, I am a Christian, and this is what I am supposed to do,” it meant I stood behind my words.

As a culture, I think we have lost sight of how much our words matter. When discourse is increasingly digital, the impact of words loses some of its weight. We are not sharing breath, which is a sacred exchange.

When I met and fell in love with my now husband, I took great comfort in the fact that neither of us had slept with anyone because it meant I could trust his word, and he could trust mine. I had proven that I could stand by my decisions. This does not mean it is easy, or that our marriage experiences no hardship, but our foundation is built on trust.

This month my daughter will turn three. I am charged with the task of teaching her how important and precious her body is, which hopefully will lead to a healthy perspective of her sexuality. I want her to understand that our bodies are a divine roadmap where words become flesh. I want her to know beautiful mysteries are embedded in a sexual relationship that is cherished and safe. I want her to become—like me—a woman who respects herself and loves wholeheartedly both in word and in deed.

Kelsi Folsom holds a B.M. in Voice Performance and has traveled all over the world participating in operas, musicals, jazz bands, and choirs. Now a mom to “three under three”, she currently resides in Saba, Dutch Caribbean while her husband attends medical school. When she is not putting on her best Cherubino while changing dirty diapers, you can find her perfecting gluten-free recipes, snorkeling, *gasp* reading, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. Kelsi writes here, and is also a regular contributor to the island website Women Who Live On Rocks.