While reading about the three women that were found yesterday after ten years of captivity, I ran into a statement made by Elizabeth Smart, the advocate for sex abuse victims, who once was abducted and abused herself. She said one of the many questions people still ask her to this day is why she did not leave her captor when she had the chance.
Elizabeth responded, “I remember in school one time I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence and she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum and when you engage in sex, that’s like being chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to be become an old piece of gum and who’s going to want you after that.’” She recounted recalling those words and feeling dirty, ashamed and discarded after all of the forced sexual encounters with her captor.
Her comment hit me like a ton of bricks. While she framed that comment within the context of sexual abuse, I believe there is a lesson to be learned about how we educate our kids regarding sex. I have heard similar teachings in the church since countless times and I consider them detrimental to a child’s heart. I am not advocating switching sides and telling our kids that sex before marriage is good and healthy and wonderful, like many in our society do. But I am issuing a wake-up call to loving Christian parents who, out of ignorance or inherited half-truths, are engaging in this type of condemnation in order to save their kids from sexual immorality. We are, inadvertently, drawing dirty pictures with our kids in them and flaunting them in the hope our kids stay away from them. How twisted is that?
Think about it. If we tell them that sex before marriage makes them less of a person, what will convince them after marriage that they are more than the sum of their mistakes? If we say that sex before marriage alienates them from God entirely, how will they find their way back to him? If sex is dirty before marriage, what makes it wonderful in marriage? Our words and our hearts have to change to give our children the gift of hope they deserve.
There is a way to protect our children from immorality without destroying their image of sex and themselves! As for me, I have three children to raise up in the ways of God. They are little, but one day they will be healthy teenagers with the questions and urges we all experienced. I will not wait until then to instill in them the picture of sex I wish I had been given when I was their age. I am painting it now.
I tell them that God loves them and that no mistake can separate them from Him.
When they make mistakes, I correct them, love them and point them to the One who loves me through my own share of mistakes.
I will tell them (in age-appropriate ways) about the physical, emotional and spiritual dangers of sex before marriage, but I will talk disproportionately about the absolute gift that sex within marriage has been for their dad and me.
I will celebrate the joy Brian and I experienced after we waited for each other and said no to all others.
I will share with them how we coped with the loneliness and temptations.
I will let them know, through words and actions, that it is possible to be absolutely passionate about one person and one person alone after many years of marriage.
Instead of scaring them into abstinence, I will attempt, by the grace of God, to embolden them in their pursuit of true love God can bless.
I will paint beautiful pictures for them and give them 10,000 reasons to wait and believe for God’s best.
- Mercy Alarid is the Creative Arts Pastor of Passion Church. Mercy has a Master's degree in Education. Mercy is a member of the faculty of Central New Mexico Community College, where she is an instructor in the Education department. Mercy has been married to Brian for 17 years and they reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico with their 3 children: Chloe, Colin, and Lauren.