I entered The Pinto, a trendy vintage coffee shop/eatery in downtown Batesville, and ordered my favorite caffeinated beverage—café breve—while waiting to meet with my FOFO (formerly online friend only) for lunch, coffee, and conversation face-to-face for the first time.
Half an hour later, deep into a great chat about grace and relationships, a mutual friend greeted us and stopped to talk. While discussing potential dates for this mutual friend, the topic of abstinence surfaced. The mutual friend asked us, “Did you have sex before you were married?”
This time, I only felt a slight sting before responding to this version of the age-old question, “Tell me about your first time.”
21 years ago, a family friend raped me when I was 16 years-old. It was the first time I’d had sex.
Immediately following this traumatic experience, I did what many PTSD-infected, confused, depressed teenagers do who’ve been sexually assaulted: I acted out. I used drugs and consumed too much alcohol, engaged in sexual activity with multiple people, and moved in and out of understanding God’s role in my life.
Prior to this horrible experience on July 11, 1995, I nearly bragged about my virginity, wearing it like a badge of honor while skating a thin line of promiscuity. I wore a freaking True Love Waits ring. I attended youth group twice per week and thought I really had it all together, and that if I just continued on the straight and narrow path, I would certainly succeed in absolutely everything I attempted. I believed that good things come to those who wait and that God rewards good behavior.
Obviously, those maxims proved themselves false. My world felt shaky, and I have plenty of poorly written poetry scribbled in my high school journals to demonstrate this.
One night, nine months after being raped, a boy I loved (who knew all about my assault) asked me if I believed in God and pointed me to the sparkling stars in a black, clear sky as evidence of His existence. I responded, “I do believe He exists. I just don’t believe He cares anymore.”
But that brief spiritual conversation served as a catalyst which sparked change in my soul, and a few months later I accepted Christ while standing all alone in an Oklahoma hay field, watching fireworks on Independence Day.
But I wasn’t set free right away from my past, my feelings, my PTSD, or my inability to make choices that reflected an ounce of self-worth. The chains were heavy. It was just the beginning of my spiritual journey.
I’m still taking it step by step.
I used to hate it when the topic of “firsts” came up in conversation. It isn’t so bad today, even though it’s still not the most pleasant thing to discuss. I’m content today to reflect on the past, knowing not even God can change the past and that I only have to mention my past wounds or mistakes if it will benefit someone else, for I “do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous).
I am not glad I was raped.
But I’m grateful for the many opportunities God’s given me to serve and love other sexual assault survivors.
I’m grateful for my brokenness because God proved His love to me by putting me back together again.
I pray He does the same for you.
2 thoughts on “The question”
Reblogged this on Daily dose of gratitude and commented:
How to find gratitude in the midst of trauma.
Same feelings when it comes to being asked about my firsts. I was 8 years old when this happened to me and continued until the age of 14. 6 years of terrible, horrible, painful, experiences. I do not wish this on anyone else. I continue to find things like this out about people I care about and love and it never ceases to bring tears to my eyes. I cannot save everyone, I know this, but still I continue to feel pain when I realize that I couldn’t save someone I love from the same fate as me. The answer to the question even after being raped is yes, yes I did have sex before marriage and no I do not condone that behavior. I ENCOURAGE people to wait. I WANT people to wait. Wait for the one you KNOW you will be with forever (married to the person). I loved the man I let have all of me after my assault with every fiber of my being. I loved him more than myself. Just because I loved him so much and believed I was going to marry the man, does not mean that it was ok to do so. Maybe if we’d waited we would have seen that we were not meant to be together? It hurt even worse when we broke up and I was forced to move forward knowing that the first person I let get close to me out of my own free will still hurt me. DO NOT DO THIS TO YOURSELF! DO NOT PUT YOURSELF THROUGH THAT KIND OF PAIN! Be pleasing to God and God will please you! Wait. Wait. Wait. The answer is always wait.