I never planned on having a past to let go of, only a future to look forward to. But though I’d been raised by Christian parents, my dad a Baptist pastor, and I’d given my heart to Jesus, I still messed up. I lost my virginity at 18 to someone I loved and who I thought loved me. This wasn’t my plan — I was going to save sex for marriage. And it wasn’t at all what I expected. Instead of feeling loved, I felt used and humiliated. Something died inside me that day as my eyes were opened to the truth about sex — it was a big deal. In fact, I sensed that it was something holy and divine, and I had just carelessly given it away. But it was done; I couldn’t take it back. And this was the man I planned to marry, so now all I could do was stuff those feelings away, pretending it didn’t matter.
That one decision led me down a path I’d never planned for my life. Because my parents didn’t approve of him, I found myself running away and eloping with this man — but it didn’t last. Just two years later I was back home, broken, rejected and on my way to a divorce.
After that relationship ended and I moved on to others, I found I was giving in to sex even though I didn’t want to. I was skidding down a road that I felt so much shame and regret for, yet could not stop. Until I heard these words: “You’re pregnant.” By then I had hardened my heart to block out my feelings of pain and shame that the only voice I heard, said, “Have an abortion.”
This was the bottom for me, the end of the road. Although I married again and had four children, for the next 25 years I lived in a prison of shame, self-condemnation, pain, and regret. I asked God to forgive me many times, but it never seemed to work. I never felt forgiven. I knew God still loved me, but I believed He would never want to use me again. What I know now that I didn’t then, was that although God had forgiven me the first time I asked, without healing from my sexual past and abortion, the wounds I’d accumulated kept me suffering in silent shame, keeping me from being able to experience God’s forgiveness.
Until God set me free.
When He began to show me the wounds I’d suffered because of my past, how they were impacting me now and my need for healing, I chose to trust Him to heal me. God took me through a grieving process for my abortion and sexual past that healed my soul. Healing allowed me to receive and experience God’s forgiveness and released me from my prison of shame and pain.
Sex Like Glue
Sex is a big deal. Whether your past is mild or traumatic, whether you’ve had multiple partners or one or two — and even if the only person you have sex with is your future spouse — sex from your past can haunt you in the future, impacting you and your marriage in a negative way.
One of the biggest lies our culture has told us is that sex is just physical. We can have sex and then move on without thought or consequence to the next partner, repeating the cycle until finally we get married. And then poof: All past lovers are instantly erased from our memories. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? But it’s not true.
Sex is a bond, an invisible bond that works like superhuman glue, attaching us permanently to all past lovers. Emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically — whether we’re married or single. Jesus tells us in Mark 10:7-8 that marriage makes a man and woman “one flesh.” That happens through sex. It’s not just saying “I do” that creates this oneness. In 1 Corinthians 6:16 the apostle Paul also uses the term one flesh, but this time it’s referring to becoming one with a prostitute. I believe God is showing us that this one flesh bond happens with sexual intimacy whether inside or outside marriage.
Sexual bonding from the past follows us into marriage and can cause struggles with emotional and physical intimacy, or sexual temptations, as in emotional or physical affairs. Too easily our minds can drift back to the connection we felt with past lovers, fantasizing about them and comparing them to our spouse. We can also struggle with a lack of desire for sex or – in some cases the opposite extreme — addictive behavior.
But seldom do we relate our marital struggles with our sexual pasts. “There’s something wrong with me,” we may lament. Or “I married the wrong person. I should have married…” Yet most of us never seek help because we don’t recognize that yesterday’s sex is revisiting us today in marriage.
Sex and the Brain
Wanting to save my children from making the same mistakes I did, I began writing curriculum and teaching young people about saving sex for marriage. In the process of teaching others, God began to show me how He designed our brains to create an intense bond with sex. This amazing truth is what God used to show me that although I’d been forgiven, I needed healing for my past.
Science is revealing that during sex both men and women release a hormone, oxytocin, that causes us to bond. Irina Bosse; “Oxytocin: A Hormone for Love,” Future Frame, September 24, 1999, www.morgenwelt.de. Oxytocin is released in high quantities three times in a human: when a woman gives birth, when she breastfeeds her baby, and in both men and women during sexual arousal and release. God uniquely designed us to bond to each other in relationships: mothers to their children, and husbands and wives together.
His plan was that we’d save this “one flesh” bond for our lifetime partner in marriage. Instead, in our promiscuous culture, we’re creating this intense bond with everyone we’re having sex with. And although we move on to a new partner, instead of leaving the last one behind, we bring each one with us into the next relationship. In fact, science shows that we can begin to inhibit our ability to release oxytocin in subsequent relationships, impacting our ability to bond. And unless we allow God to break those bonds and heal us from the negative association with sex they create, they can keep us from having the “one flesh” bond we desire in marriage.
That was me. Even 23 years into marriage, my past sexual bonds were keeping me from bonding completely with my husband. We’d been married long enough for the past to be a distant memory, except it wasn’t. Shame, regret, and memories were frequently triggered, causing me to shut down emotionally and physically. Rather than seeing sex as something beautiful and special in marriage, I found it unpleasant and a struggle.
I wasn’t alone. After leading women and men through healing for the past eight years, I’ve seen how our free-sex culture has destroyed our ability to build and sustain long-lasting marriages. But the good news is that when God heals our pasts and sets us free from the bonds we’ve created outside marriage, it changes everything — us, our relationship with God and others, and our present or future marriages.
How Can I Heal?
Not only was I unaware of my need for healing, I’d worked hard at forgetting my past. But as God gently pursued me with His love, I realized that before I could let go of my past, I had to face it. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a process. And it started with surrendering my past to Him and trusting Him enough to do the next thing He asked me to do — like telling someone.
Bringing my secret out into the open was the hardest step. But in doing so, God’s truth exposed the lies and set me free. Facing my hurts allowed Him to heal my wounds and grieve the losses I’d experienced. Other steps included writing my sexual history list and praying for Him to dissolve those past bonds I’d created, allowing me to bond completely with my husband.
I don’t know what your story is, but God does. He knows what needs healing and the past bonds you need to break. He’ll lead you step by step as you surrender to Him. Don’t believe the lie that your past disqualifies you from having God’s best for your future. Because it’s not true!
Regardless of what’s happened in your past — whether from your own choices or of others’ forced on you — God can and will heal you. You can keep the past from following you into marriage and robbing you of the intimate bond God desires for you. I know, because He’s done it for me and countless others. And He wants to do it for you.
He’s just waiting for you to ask.
Copyright 2014 Barbara Wilson. All rights reserved.