I'm completely in love and courting a really incredible girl. We've known each other for over a year, and we both love each other and are on our way toward marriage.
Saying all this, I know that a talk will come soon about our past sexual experiences. I have never even kissed a girl yet, but I have much reason to believe that my girlfriend has already had sex with at least one if not two guys in her past. This thought really makes me sad.
Like I said, we will talk about this soon (in the coming months), but I was wondering if you could give me some help on how to work through this myself and some advice on how to make this conversation as grace-saturated as possible while addressing issues that are or could be important (not that I even know what consequences could come from her past choices or how it could affect our relationship and marriage).
The issues that affect me the most are just sadness of us possibly not being completely as close as we could be, insecurity of being compared to these other guys, and just having trouble dealing with the thought of this girl I love having been so close and intimate with another (or others).
I have no idea what she could be worried about or how I could best prepare to help her through this. I would appreciate any advice you could give me or point me to.
I'm glad you wrote with a great question. This is one of those issues where the suffering of sin cuts so deeply and where the glory of the Gospel shines so brightly. It's where the dark valley walks hand-in-hand with the bright mountaintop. It's where sorrow aches and forgiveness heals.
Whenever we look across the table and see sin, we have two responsibilities. First is to acknowledge it for what it is — not a bad decision, not a poor choice, not an innocent mistake — it is a sin. It is a sin against God first, and myself and others next. And sin calls for confession and repentance on the part of the one who sins. True repentance leads to change. It bears fruit for good. When we see it in others, we don't dismiss it; we call it what it is.
But because we too are depraved, when we look across that table and see sin, we have a second obligation, and that is to be part of the healing, forgiving and restoring process. We understand that, "But for the grace of God, that would be me." And in fact, it is me. No, I might not have committed the same sinful act, but my heart shares the same depravity. Scripture reminds us that none are righteous, and all have failed to live up to God's high standard of holiness ... all but One.
Jesus showed us perfect response to people's personal sin. He exhibited the perfect balance of righteousness and compassion, justice and mercy. He called it the way He saw it without compromise; then He brought healing and hope and restoration.
I want to encourage you with two thoughts as you prepare for your conversation with her. First, you must have as your ultimate goal the glory of God. What I mean is that you can't see this as ultimately being about you, and you can't see this as ultimately being about her. This is about God. All of life is from Him, through Him and for Him. So as you think about this, you think as Christ would think. How could you do that, you ask?
That is thought No. 2. As a believer, you have been given the "mind of Christ." The very Spirit of Christ dwells in you. You have access to all of the discernment and wisdom of God. Additionally, you have the power of God to help you love, forgive, restore and celebrate the gift of grace: Christ taking your sin and her sin upon himself, and paying our death sentence.
You can approach this just as Jesus would because He dwells in you, and that is not merely a great by-product of the Gospel — it is our calling. We are the body of Christ. He has chosen the foolish things of this world (i.e., us) to love through, to live through, to forgive through, to restore through. As you lean into God, listening intently to His voice as you pray and meditate on the Scriptures, He will guide you perfectly.
On a practical note, whenever I have very significant events such as this that I know are coming my way, I will often spend a good bit of time praying over it, maybe for a couple of weeks or more each morning and throughout the day as God brings it to my mind. I'll also usually take a day or a few meals (or media or whatever) and fast while I focus that time I would have otherwise been eating or watching television to pray. I find that focused prayer and fasting helps keep me from diving into something unprepared and leaving the door wide open for my flesh to rule me.
If the two of you discover that this is more difficult terrain than you can manage on your own, then don't be shy about reaching out for help through a mentoring couple or even a Christian counselor. I don't believe it will come to that, but be open to it just in case.
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Earlier, I discussed preparing your heart for your conversation with her about her past behavior and the need for you to view this not from your view or her view, but from God's view. I want to add to that some thoughts on walking through the repercussions that we all experience from past sin, especially those that impact our marriage.
Sometimes our sin sets into motion consequences that are like waves from a stone (or boulder!) thrown into water. Every case is unique — sometimes God intervenes and there are no repercussions when there should have been. At other times, He allows them. Whatever He chooses, we can be assured it is for His greater glory and our greater good.
One classic example of the tragic repercussions of sin is that of David and Bathsheba. David had an affair with another man's wife then arranged to have her husband killed. God nailed him on it, and David immediately awoke to his depraved and perverse behavior that he had previously justified. He goes into deep, sorrowful repentance. In the ultimate of tragic repercussions of sin, God in His sovereignty "afflicts" the child of David and Bathsheba and allows his death.
David was so repentant, those around him were worried about him. For seven days while the child was sick, David wouldn't eat; he wouldn't do anything but seek God's mercy. One can only imagine what that conversation between God and David was like, but we can rest assured that David came out of it a changed man for the glory of God. In the end, God takes the baby home. David has wrestled with God, confronted His sovereign glory, and accepts that even in David's tragic choices, God is in control.
So it is with our sin. Will there sometimes be dire consequences? Yes. You and your wife-to-be might struggle with not only her sexual past, but also with whatever ways you have allowed lust into your life or a myriad of other sins you've both acted on. Memories might flare up; hurts could surface; shame could rear its head. It could be anything from a simple sharp pain in the heart to serious dysfunction (that might require outside help). The key is where you go from here.
Marriage is not only embracing another person's present and future, but also his (or her, in your case) past. One of the most exciting parts of marriage is partnering with God to bring healing to one another from past hurts, often caused by our own sin. We embrace this person who looks great from the front, and when we put our arms around her we discover all the wounds in her back, and she discovers ours. Guess what? You and God get to spend a lifetime enjoying the thrill of healing and restoration and being healed and restored. And what better way than through the warm, flesh-to-flesh, spirit-to-spirit bonding with another person?
The goal is not to run from those hurts, but to lock arms, openly discuss them, pray through them together, and seek God together on how to experience His restoration, never looking down our noses at the other person.
If he had another chance, would David had done it differently? I'm sure of it. Would your girlfriend? Of course. Would you? Yes. There are much better ways to get to know the goodness of God than through choosing to turn our backs to Him, causing Him and others grief and pain. (Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! Romans 6:1-2) But if that is where we are, that is where we are.
Don't bury your problems, but don't let them control your life and marriage. Enter into it together with God, seeking and discovering Him in this dark valley made by your own choices, and move out of it. You might have some ashes on your face as you emerge into beauty. Let them serve as a reminder of how seriously God takes sin and how beautiful is His forgiveness.
Copyright 2008 John Thomas. All rights reserved.