I consciously gave my life to Jesus when I was 14 years old. I didn’t know all there was to know about the faith (still don’t) but I knew a few important things: I shouldn’t steal stuff, I shouldn’t lie, I should go to Church every Sunday, and I should save sex for marriage. So I made a commitment to stay a virgin until I got married.
Sounds noble, right? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that at that age no girl had even remotely desired to sleep with me. I was the freshman in high school who shows up and you wonder who let the sixth graders in. Girls didn’t find me attractive and I didn’t like them much either (being a fan of a lot of D&D and fantasy books, my ideal woman was an Elven princess who knew karate and was good with a knife—a standard most 13 and 14 year old Catholic school girls don’t live up to).
As time went on, I did attract some girlfriends (playing guitar helped) and I entered the exciting world of male/female romance.
How did I do? Not well. My sincere apologies to those who had the misfortune of dating me.
The biggest thing that hindered positive relationships for me was I understood virginity but hadn’t a clue about chastity. Chastity is the virtue of sexual purity. I might not have had sex… but I wasn’t sexually pure either. And so I really made a mess of things, hurting myself and the women I dated.
A turning point came in 1994. I had just graduated college and was dating a wonderful Christian girl. I had it in my mind that she might be THE ONE and we had even entertained some conversations about marriage. We both loved the Lord and prayed together but were clearly confused about the chastity thing.
Then I went to a conference where I heard a speaker give an amazing talk about what chastity really was. It was not a restriction—it was a gift! God desires us to live in purity so we can have the greatest expression (and experience) of love. As I looked back on my life, I realized how things were at the worst when I was at my most unchaste. Chastity was there to protect beautiful relationships, while sexual activity confuses and destroys them.
I was thrilled to hear the truth. I felt so liberated! They passed out “Chastity Pledge” cards and I hastily filled one out, putting my name and the date on it. I got an extra one for my girlfriend, bought her a copy of the talk on cassette (yes, that’s what we used back then) and mailed it to her with great excitement. She also loved the message and we committed ourselves to a pure and chaste relationship. I was more convinced than ever that she was THE ONE.
Six months later we broke up.
Sexual activity is like a drug and when we got “sober” we realized that there were things about each other that were downright annoying. I was thankful to realize this, at least in my mind. But my heart was furious. I desired love. I thought she was THE ONE. And that stupid card blew it!
18 months later, I dated another girl with bright blue eyes and curly hair. I finally understood with her what it meant to have a chaste relationship and I wished I had been that way with every relationship I had! One day, after a few months of dating, we were praying together when I opened my bible and the Pledge Card fell out.
Though I had not forgotten my commitment to be chaste, I forgot the card was there. I remember feeling embarrassed to see it. I’m not sure why. I wasn’t embarrassed about my commitment to chastity—this girl had the same commitment. Maybe it was because it reminded me of her, THE ONE. I signed that card thinking it would bless and protect the relationship I had with the girl I thought would be my future wife. Instead, it destroyed it.
My new girlfriend picked up the card and it looked as though she was going to cry. She reached in her bible and pulled out her chastity pledge card. “Look!” she said. I nodded. She had a Pledge Card, too. Lots of people had.
She could tell I was missing her point. “Look closer,” she said, handing me both cards.
I looked at them. They weren’t just both pledge cards, they were the exact same card. From the same conference. On the same date.
When I was in one corner of the room, committing myself to God and my future spouse to stay pure for my marriage, she was in another corner of the room, pledging the same thing.
We were married a year later.
Our God is a God of faithfulness. “‘Yes, I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future full of hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11) When we give Him the most intimate parts of our lives, He gives us His most intimate blessing. So, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I share this personal story with you to give you hope. God has an amazing plan for your life. No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, God can get you on the right path to the fullness of life He has planned for you.
(This story is one of the devotionals of “The 40-Day Spiritual Workout for Catholics” which you can get for free at http://40days.steubenville.
Bob Rice desires to share the love of God using every talent he’s been blessed with. He’s an internationally known speaker, acclaimed musician, inspirational teacher, and innovative writer. Bob teaches at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio where he lives with his wife Jennifer and seven beautiful children. You can keep up with him at bob-rice.com.