In college, I sinned sexually with a girl I thought I would marry. I have since realized my sin, confessed and repented. I realized how I had step-by-step let myself be convinced and justified that sex would be OK. When convicted of my sin, I confronted my girlfriend. She didn't want to stop and subsequently left me.
After much hurt and shame, I moved on and remained sexually pure. My biggest fear was, "How would my sin affect my future wife?"
Fast forward four years: I met my current girlfriend. My fears of how my sin would affect my future wife resurfaced. I prayed and sought counsel and told my girlfriend early in our relationship of my past. She told me it is hard to swallow but that she sees a change of heart. She sees someone who has turned from sin.
I know that she is nervous and unsure about my sexual past. Is there anything I can do to help her work though her emotions in coming to grips with the fact I didn't wait? I love her so much, and I desire to be there for her as she processes though this.
This question is somewhat of a recurring theme that pops up on Boundless on a fairly regular basis, so I think it’s good for us to give it a fresh visit.
The reason we cheer God’s commands of sexual purity is not for the purpose of shaming when there is failure in this area, but to help avoid some of the real and difficult emotional fallout that can result from choosing our own way over God’s design. While all sin has its negative impact (not the least of which is separating us from God), sexual sin brings profound negative consequences that obviously reach beyond one individual to all who are affected.
As you now well know from your own experience, sexual purity, no matter how counter-cultural it is, is worth fighting for.
I say that to give context to what I hope will be words of encouragement. God can bring good from all things in the believer’s life, but I don’t want us to miss the seriousness of sin. I have the same concern that Paul had when he wrote his letter to the Romans, not wanting his great news about the grace of God to in any way be misunderstood as a justification for unholy living.
But I get the sense from your note that you feel the soberness of your past choices; however, for the sake of our readers who might be in a similar situation, I want to be clear about how serious God is about purity.
Your question was about how you could help her come to grips with the choice you made to not wait. The reality is that you can help some — and I don’t want to minimize your role — but in the end, she’s the one with the task of forgiveness.
That’s a bit of a scary place for you to be in (as it is for all of us in need of forgiveness), because other than being truly repentant for your sin, sincerely asking her forgiveness and asking God to bring His miraculous redemptive work out of the whole thing, there isn’t much more you can do. Forgiveness will have to be her own choice.
The way for her to give that kind of forgiveness is to understand her own depravity, her own need for forgiveness and her inability to earn it, just like you. Once we come to grips with our own desperate need for God’s grace, it's eminently easier to dispense it to others.
I wish both of you would read my previous columns on "How can I bring up a conversation about my girlfriend's sexual past?," where your roles are reversed, but the one who waited asked for my advice on how to come to grips with the past of the other.
In that article, I said:
Will there sometimes be dire consequences [of past sin]? 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.
I’ll let that be my closing thought and pray you both discover the thrill of redemption in God's incredible love, so rich in mercy and who, “because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4–7).
Copyright 2011 John Thomas. All rights reserved.