Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sexuality

(Tap...tap...tap...on the desk.)
The "blogshpere" is an interesting world. Don't misunderstand: I like it - that doesn't change the fact that it's an interesting place with strange, unwritten taboos and rules and whatnot.

I said I wasn't going to talk about my sex life. I meant it. Then, I read the comments on my last post and I started thinking - me not talking about sex is exactly one of my hang-ups that I need to just get over. I keep it "private" because I'm afraid of it. So let me address the question(s) and innuendos from a certain commenter.

Shoshannah said...
I am a conservative Christian who is old fashioned. My husband is very respectful and loving towards me. He is the leader in our home, but would never make a decision without my input. He very much cares about what I think and is a very loving father.

Hi, Shoshannah. I am "Ruth". I'm going to assume that everything you say about your husband is true and I want to congratulate you on finding such a wonderful husband. A lot of people are never as lucky as you. With all due respect, however, conserative Christianity is different than QF/ATI/fundamental patriarchy and the power structure created within. You probably do have a very loving, considerate husband and a blessed marriage. Regardless, none of that gives you any sort of authority over me, nor does it give you the right to assume certain things about me.

We are teaching our daughters about purity in relationships (and no, we do believe in arranging marriages or being too involved with themselves and their boyfriends).
I would love for you to comment some more about this. How do you do this? How can you teach your daughters about purity in relationships and then claim that you're staying out of it? I'm not doubting that it can be done - I'm just curious how this works.
We want our daughters to respect themselves and their bodies and not freely give their bodies and hearts to men who are not serious enough to be married first.
Here's where I have questions and a small problem with the wording of this. You say "we want our daughters to respect themselves" and that's fantastic. I grew up hearing this speech day-in-and-day-out. The thing is: I don't respect myself any less for having a serious relationship without thhe promise of a marriage at the end and I'm sure many women feel the same. You're, maybe without realizing it, teaching your child that her self-worth and self-respect lies, in at least some large part, between her legs. And, that by some logic, if she allows a boy to breach that barrier or even kiss her seriously (I'm assuming because you speak of purity in the relationship, not just saving herself for marriage), she's somewhat "less" or she's letting you, her community, and God "down". Why is that such a noble thing? Are you aware of the other messages your unintentionally, probably sending her? Are you aware that quite a number of girls in these situations end up terrified of sex or end up breaking their purity bonds anyway? Are you aware of the guilt that follows them for the rest of their lives if they can't live up to the expectation of perfect purity? I'm not advocating that you say nothing and let your daughters have pre-marital sex in the family room or anything, but just how seriously do you take this and how do you define sexual purity?
It makes me sad that you seem to be throwing out everything having to do with Christian faith.
This, to be quite frank, pisses me off! I never swear in this blog, so maybe this will show you the depth to which your statement angers me. You drop this bomb in comments and then you wonder why you received such a poor reaction from the readers of this blog. Do you really think this sort of accusation is even fair, let alone Christian? If you truly think this, then isn't it your duty to approach me privately and make inquiries? I have an e-mail that's very easily found on this blog.

You may not realize it, but your wording is very condescending. You say "It makes me sad...". Why? Why are you sad? You don't know which values I've kept and which I've rejected. What have I said, specifically, that makes you the authority on what I've thrown out?
"Your parents made some very serious mistakes, especially your abusive father, but not absolutely everything they taught you was wrong.
I've never, EVER said that everything I was taught was wrong. However, you don't konw what it is that I was taught. So for you to stand here and say that I should respect and uphold the broader message, without knowing first hand what that broader message was, is foolish. What if my parents had told me that any Christian mother who spends time on the internet is putting Satan's interests before her own daughters' interest? What if I told you that my parents taught me that no true Christian would send their child to a public school? My point is this: I've been very fair in saying that my parents did teach me some useful and valuable lessons. I appreciate those lessons and wouldn't say otherwise. You, though, unless you lay it all out there, can't say that you know me well enough to know that I'm throwing it all away.
Please don't let the world pull you completely from Christ and His offer of salvation to those who will follow His humble example.
Love in Christ

This "world" that you seem to feel would pull me away from Christ has done more to show me love than my parents did. This "world" is giving me an education and independence. This "world" is showing me that there's more than one path to happiness and God than could be found in the cookie-cutter, garden variety hatred that I learned at my father's knee.

To answer the unanswered question that I imagined was personal - I am, technically, a virgin. Like I've said, I have hang-ups. But, I see no spiritual degredation that comes from holding Harris' hand during a movie or kissing him. If I chose to go to his home unaccompanied, I don't think that makes me a slut. We're having responsible fun and we're getting to know each other in a way that will make "going all the way" even more pleasurable. If I chose to have sex with him before marriage, I don't believe that would make God love me even less or make my future husband value me less. If it does, then that's not the right husband for me. I think Harris will be my husband - I'm almost sure of it. Anything can happen, so I won't guarantee it, but the fact that he's kissed other girls doesn't make him any less attractive and wonderful to me. I don't feel like his heart is broken up into pieces or that he's giving me less of his heart. That's ridiculous, honestly. We're both adults.

Being chaste and having virtues is a fantastic choice for children, and for adults if that's what they choose to do, but physical intimacy isn't evil. I do realize that relationships take focus and time away from other, maybe, more important things (especially for a child). I don't think it's wise for children to focus more on the boy next door than their education, for example. But, if they daydream about kissing the boy next door during biology, I don't think they're going to hell. If they hold his hands in the bleachers and snuggle under a blanket during the football game, I don't think they're giving away pieces of anything that belongs to their future husband. I think a girl's heart is hers. As her parent, while she's a child, you have a right to keep her safe and teach her what you will. It's your choice. Just be careful.

70 comments:

  1. Wow. That was an awesome response to an extremely unwelcome comment. Proud of you.

    Liz

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  2. (ARGH lost my very cranky comment while trying to log in to something - I may not have the same commenting name as before. Will try to recreate...)

    Wow, that was like a perfect Exhibit A to a conversation I just had with my sister about whether I "like" Christians (I am one).
    There is so much failure here:

    1. dripping sweet condescension
    2. self-righteous bragging
    3. assumptions of superior knowledge about the intimate details of someone else's life and history
    4. entitlement to judge accordingly
    5. and finally, invoking Christ to provide cover ("Love in Christ")

    Is it too much to hope for that Christians could spend more time trying to be Christlike ("love one another") than looking for sins in other people? That "I'm sad for you" is a particularly galling lie.

    Ruth's story and details are hers to decide what to reveal, so I completely support that. I don't support any goading and the ATI/QF mentality that purity is something public to brag about (see: Duggar wedding announcing to the guests that they haven't kissed.) To build on what Ruth said, sexuality is not a commodity, not a "thing." (This mentality spans Christian circles as well as "the world.") There are many good reasons not to perform sexual activities at a given time, but not because it's a thing that will be lost (because sex is something you DO, not something you POSSESS). Teaching children and young adults that sex will leave them irredeemably broken, *and treating sexual sins as far worse than any other*, is flat out lying. Mostly I just laugh when I look back as an adult on some of the things I was taught about sex, but these lies can have real world consequences.

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  3. It's hard to be angry and gracious at the same time; you rock.

    I still don't think you owe readers anything you consider private, but it's interesting to read what you think about sex itself. I'm glad you brought up the pieces-of-your-heart spiel because I've hated that one ever since I heard about it. For all the preamble about self-respect and sensible choices, it automatically reduces people to used/unused goods.

    One more annoying thing: the narrow way in which the word 'purity' is used in fundamentalism. What about pure honesty, or pure courage, or pure compassion? Pure honesty is crucial when it comes to sex: making sure that you know and trust your partner, and knowing yourself, what you're comfortable with, and what you want out of a relationship.

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  4. Chiara410

    LOVE #5...had to stop and really reflect on the use of that terminology.( GEEZ I hate that tactic.)

    Loved all points.

    Later in one of her, comments she wrote she was awake and praying all night.

    I always wonder about stuff like that. Maybe it bugged her so much was because everyone else was right and the HS or whatever was actually convicting her, and yet in our superiority(we all do it) we rationalize it as hurt or whatever and don't look at it for what it really is. That invoking of Christ's cover is so big and thick we can't see through it ourselves....

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  5. Thank you Ruth!
    This was exactly what I needed to hear!

    Lately I've been waffling between some very different conflicting view of "purity". I too am a University student, and I have a number of friends who live with their boyfriends. At the same time one of my roommates is engaged and she and her fiance are waiting until they get married. At the far end of the spectrum one of my best friends from back home is actively being "courted" by a wonderful guy. With so many different conflicting points of view it's hard to take a stand.

    Lately I've realized that I don't actually care. I don't think any less of my friends who live with their boyfriends, and I am actually ecstatically happy for my friend who is being courted. These are their decisions, to make on their own terms, and as a true friend I shouldn't be judging them, just supporting them.

    I will respect them in their choices. I hope that someday, when I make my choice, they too will support me.

    M

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  6. Ugh, now I feel bad, so let me be clear that I'm responding to the *comment* not the commenter, because I don't know her any more than she knows Ruth. That comment is unfortunately emblematic of what I believe is a serious problem in Christianity - foregrounding the the confronting of sin (and presuming to know what and where sin is in the lives of other people, including strangers), and it also gets into this competitive righteousness. That comment jumped all over my triggers because I have so much experience with that mentality, that belief that our Christianity *requires* that kind of "righteous" condemnation of others. It is not a witness of what being a Christian actually is all about: all of us sinners saved by grace, not who can keep their children the most pure and unsullied.

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  7. Well done, Ruth.

    Ultimately, it's your life and you're the one living it. While it's helpful to seek guidance from others, the key is just that: seeking guidance. Not listening to whatever anyone says because they sound like they know what they're talking about.

    While I think that many who push the Purity Gospel to teens mean well, they focus on a behavior to the detriment of overall well-being. The focus of some churches on behavior rather than the heart is damaging to everyone involved. It is unhealthy to push behavioral standards to the extent that teenagers (and, later, young adults) feel significant guilt or other damage for any misstep (from an engaged couple in their late 20s engaging in sex to a teenage boy looking at a girl in a bikini longer than a few seconds).

    Ruth, whatever choices you and Harris make are your own -- you do not have to defend those to anyone. It is not anyone's business but yours. Please, do not feel obligated to justify your actions to strangers on the internet (especially trolls -- which often disguise their hostility with faux concern).

    Go forth and enjoy your life, friend. Share whatever you feel comfortable and motivated to share.

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  9. Chiara

    What you said was the unfortunate truth.
    No other way around it.

    Don't apologize for stating the obvious, unfortunatly your last comment seems to have fallen into the christian guilt trap.

    What you said was the truth.

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  10. Ruth, the more I read your blog the more I admire your wisdom and maturity. What an honest, gracious post. Thank you for sharing that. I am someone who grew up under the "purity" teachings about saving yourself for your husband, not kissing before marriage, not "giving your heart away," etc. I am 31 years old and I've been married for eight years. I still have a lot of hang ups about my sexuality. I plan to teach my children that it is best to save sex until after marriage but I'm not going to push "purity" in the way it was pushed on me as a child.

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  11. Ruth, you continue to amaze me. I truly believe we are all the sum of our experiences, and when we accomplish goals or achieve things in life, it's because we've dealt with and grown from the events that have come before, be they positive or negative. You had a heaping pile of negative dumped on you at an early age, and you've not only risen above it, you ARE able to see the positives and bring them with you.

    You just rawk. So does Harris. :-)

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  12. Ruth, I wonder if you've read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." There's a passage where the main character asks her mother if she should've spent the night with her first love. The mother says that she has two answers: one, as a mother, it would've been a horrible thing for her to run off for the night with a man without being married. As a woman, however, she writes that it would've been a beautiful thing because there's only once when you love like that. My mother talked to me about that passage when I was embarking on my first sexual experience and even though the relationship ended with tears, I've always looked back on my first sexual experience with nostalgia and happiness because I truly haven't loved as fully as I did at that point, as innocently. Perhaps I'm more wise, more experienced, more intelligent - but never more innocent. My point? If you and Harris ever do decide to consummate your love, know that it is pure of heart, of spirit and something to treasure. I wish you all the best.

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  13. Gizmola,your point is exactly what many conservative parents mean when they tell their children to "save" sex for marriage--because the first time only happens once, because it's something special that you can't get back, and to have that incredibly sweet and deep bond with the one person you'll be with forever is priceless. That's what my husband and I chose, and it's wonderful. I know other people choose other paths, but I'll never understand how one can say both that sex isn't a big deal and at the same time recognize that it is.

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  14. I'm only saying, it's not always about patriarchy, religious mind-washing or control. There are many legitimate benefits to waiting.

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  15. "If I chose to have sex with him before marriage, I don't believe that would make God love me even less or make my future husband value me less. If it does, then that's not the right husband for me."

    Thank you!

    When I met my future husband, I told him (he's an MK/PK) early on that I was no virgin. The absolute last thing in the world I wanted was to have a Christian guy who treated me like damaged goods. My husband actually believes that not only is my past none of his business, since I am a new creation in Christ Jesus he doesn't think I should be concerned about it either.

    My sexual experiences and past relationships have not ever affected out marriage in a negative way. I don't compare my husband to past relationships. I don't long for any of my past relationships. And because I believe the Bible, I don't feel one drop of guilt over any of my past relationships.

    But, all his hang-ups about emotions and sexuality HAVE caused us problems! He never saw his parents touch or exhibit affection. That's a problem! Also you can't turn off the attraction centers in your brain for a decade and then suddenly be comfortable with your own sexuality when you get married. That's a problem!

    And also I have to disagree with Gizmola and Inkster in this: a person's first sexual experience may be full of youthful over-exuberance and an innocent belief in "true love", but that it NOT everyone's experience.

    I have an incredibly sweet and deep bond with my husband and it's wonderful. That is just crass for you to write (believe?) that your relationship (sex?) is somehow more special than anyone else's because you were virgins when you got married.

    I'm not against anyone who wants to stay a virgin until marriage, but it is not the end-all, be-all of the Christian faith or of a healthy relationship.

    You have a really good head on your shoulders, Ruth. Enjoy the good life God has given you. =)

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  16. Wow, those comments were ignorant and just . . . dumb. Encapsulating a put-down inside kindness. Ruth, I think your transition to a post-fundamentalist lifestyle is amazing and something to be proud of. You are functioning and thriving in a totally different society than the one you were raised in.

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  17. My sexual hang ups nearly cost me the love of my life (as in, he was not a virgin and I was, and I'd had the notion of a non-virgin being damaged and dirty, so drilled into my head that it was incredibly hard to move past that. Thank God I did, and we've been married 6.5 wonderful years) However, I did still want to wait until marriage and he was agreeable, and I treasure that my first time was with the man who had just committed his life to me, even though I knew he was the one long before that. There are a lot of benefits to waiting, and I don't think that should be discounted just because it happens to coincide with some stupid patriarchal views as well. I say this in general, not actually at Ruth. She will make her own decisions and no one has right to judge or point fingers.

    And Ruth, you sure hit the nail on the head with that whole "It makes me sad..." thing being condescending. It's a passive agressive way to pass judgment while trying to make it sound as though you're not.

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  18. Ruth,

    Real purity is being able to look at someone, at them as a person, even all their problems, and still being Christ for them.

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  19. I can say with honesty that much of the purity teachings only bring heartache and heartbreak to those of us who did NOT have a good experience that first time. I'm talking about the ones who had their sexuality taken against their will (often by someone they cared about, not by some monster hiding in the bushes). If this doesn't apply to you then that's wonderful. Just put yourself in the shoes of someone like me -- someone it does apply to. No matter how often purity advocates say that you can still be pure after having been raped the message doesn't jive with the rest of what they say. The idea that a woman is almost always at fault for causing a man to fall into sexual sin worsens matters. If you grow up in an oppressive atmosphere similar to what Ruth has described then you have no one to talk to and no one to trust with such an awful secret.

    Add to that the lack of education about sexuality and intimacy that a young girl in a fundamentalist world receives. And the perspective that you should not be open about such issues. You've got a recipe for years of self-destructive behavior and depression -- possibly a lifetime's worth.

    Yeah, I have nothing good to say about the whole "pieces of the heart" spiel. On the other hand, I did wait until marriage for sex with my husband and it was worth it. I have also had years of counseling to counteract the damages of previous experiences. I only wish my parents and a few other people who were important in my adolescent life were paying a few more consequences for what happened to me.

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  20. a woman's heart is her own. yes. and so is a man's heart his own.

    beautifully and strongly said, ruth.

    xo

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  21. I love the way you handle comments, Ruth. Your responses are always thoughtful even when they are angry and that's a really difficult thing to do.

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  22. @inkster

    i think my main problem with it is it raises an expectation and places assumptions on how things will be based on that ONE point. it very often does not live up to those things. it's really love that it did for you, but i know ~many people who have aimed for that and found the experience lacking.

    also, agreeing with @shadowspring that shutting that stuff down for years doesn't always make for a smooth transition afterwards.

    so, not knocking that choice for those who freely make it, but holding it up as some pinnacle of sexual/emotional/relational experience is potentially very damaging.

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  23. Excellent points, Ruth. Love love LOVE it!

    I will say one thing though to the whole purity thing. If you waited til you were married, great. It's another to be like Josh Duggar and had to inform EVERYONE and their mailman that he hadn't even KISSED until his wedding day. Wanna keep sex for marriage? Awesome. But don't be the braggart that says "I was pure, nyah nyah nyah!" kind of self righteous jerk.

    I don't regret having sex before marriage, but I have the "it could've been better" way of it. But I learned from it. Everything in life is a learning experience. Whether you do or don't, learn from it. You learned growing up how YOU want to be treated and respected, Ruth. And you are dealing with the hurt and learning from it, through therapy and the support of Harris and your blog followers.

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  24. Michelle Duggar seems to have much guilt over her' baggage' from past relationships. how much baggage could a 17 year old have. She met JB at 15. And don't get me started on 'pieces of the heart' It shows how Fundamentalism can brainwash someone. As conservative as some like the Duggars are, they seem to be obsessed with s-x in another way. I got no problem with someone who saves kisses and intimacy for marriage. But do they have to broadcast it or hold their way up as best for everyone? And then the kids have so little experience with real life they may not can separate love from infatuation

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  25. @cranberry cottage: Ha, yeah, you're probably right.

    A lot of good stuff here. Esther, wow, thanks for sharing your perspective. I am so sorry for what happened to you.

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  26. Ruth, I love your blog! I bet a lot of us are so interested in your story because a) you write well, b) your experiences resonate with our own, and c) it's so encouraging to see another strong woman successfully being herself in the face of patriarchy. I want to affirm your decision to talk about your sexuality when and where you choose. You go, girl!

    My background was not as conservative (or should I say abusive?), but I worked through a lot of probably very similar issues. I took my time, and had the luxury (and awkwardness!) of working through body image and sexuality issues with someone in a similar situation, which must be rare for people in their mid-twenties.

    I cannot say how much I wish I'd had a healthy view of sex and my own sexuality as a child, certainly before college! Anything relating to sex had an aura of shame, including my own body and early exploration of it, although I had no idea what I was doing (and was never told, only yelled at). I learned to be ashamed of myself, guilty about my sex drive, and paranoid about ever opening up to a partner. Thankfully, I've been able to get past it. Despite early confusion and angst, it's been fun! :)

    From where I am now, I can't imagine what it must be like to not let your physical relationship with your partner develop as naturally as the emotional, intellectual and other facets. I can't imagine not having a healthy, equal sexual relationship, where both people's pleasure is equally important, and both people's feelings and comfort levels are equally respected.

    Trust and commitment don't come from a piece of paper or even a ceremony. Do what you feel comfortable with, when you want to, with your enthusiastically consenting partner! :) I've had sex (several kinds), I'm not married, and I'm fine. I'm great! I'm sick of the taboo on saying that. If I don't stay with my partner the rest of my life, I'll regret nothing; honesty, commitment, respect and intimacy have made it wonderful. And this:

    "We're having responsible fun and we're getting to know each other in a way that will make "going all the way" even more pleasurable."

    Is just right on. If you know almost nothing about your body and how it works sexually (that was me), you need time to explore and figure it out! No need to rush anything. I feel bad for women who marry and just have sex without figuring out what they like. No wonder all those horrible relationship books I read growing up say women's pleasure isn't as important; they have no idea how good it could be! You deserve to have a great time at your own pace. Have fun!

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  27. My parents went through a pretty fundamentalist stage in our homeschool career when I was around the age of 12. My mom made me promise not to kiss a guy until my wedding day. Fast forward to 8 years later when I was in college and had my first "real" boyfriend (I did a lot of "fake dating" in high school with home schooled boys who were way too freaked out of my dad to actually try an court me) and my mom has now totally forgotten about the long-ago promise and tells me to go ahead and kiss the boy! Talk about confusing.
    To be fair, though, it was more the culture of "purity" that we lived around than anything my mom explicitly taught me. I agree with a lot of the other commenters who are saying that your choices are your own business, but in my experience a strict purity culture really screwed up my value system in dating. I actually felt like I could flirt and date guys, but as long as we didn't have a physical relationship of any kind then I wasn't really committing to anything.
    Dating my husband ended up being a major coming-of-age drama for me (at the age of 21). I had to make my own choices about our physical relationship without ever having had a physical relationship before. I agonized over when to kiss him. And I discovered that I didn't trust myself to make the right decision about who to marry - my dad wasn't totally crazy about him and I almost trusted my dad's judgment over my own because of the quasi-patriarchal structure of our family! Oh how I would have regretted that.
    So, after that personal ramble, I just want to say that this whole topic is such a minefield. It's about so much more than sex and it has a lot of implications to a girl's self-worth. I now have a baby girl and I am terrified of someday making her feel that her self-worth is tied to her ability to stay "pure." Hopefully she'll just turn out to be a wild child and I won't have that problem ;) ha.
    Anyway, enjoy your relationship Ruth. You sound like you have process so much of this already and are making mature decisions about what is best for you.

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  28. Inkster, I never thought of that passage in relation to purity-minded parents, etc. I always thought of it as stating that the first time you fall in love is a bit more innocent than any other love you have and to go to bed with someone for the first time is something to treasure, whether or not you ever stay with that person. My mom knew (though I didn't) that my first love was not going to be my last love and when it ended it was pretty brutal - he tried to seduce my best male friend and came out as gay - but I look back on what he and I shared and still smile. I don't regret a thing. It may not have ended in a fairy tale but I can still recognize the sweetness of what was at one point.

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  29. I for one am happy that you have that fond memory, Gizmola. I'm just saying that is not everyone's experience.

    Understand I am coming from the perspective of an older woman who has met many different kinds of people over the course of her life. I know women whose first sexual experience was not freely chosen by them,as mentioned above. I know women who had sex the first time thinking it would lead to true love, and were woefully disappointed in that belief. I know women who sort of "fell into" their first sexual encounter because of loosened inhibitions and a strong libido.
    I know women who had sex the first time merely out of curiosity, no crush or controlled substances involved at all.
    I know women who chose to limit sex to the expression of romantic love, that first pure love you had for your boyfriend.

    I think it's great when that works out for someone. I am glad you have an experience to treasure.

    But I think the whole purity ideal actually works against that happening. The honeymoon night is not all "Blue Lagoon" for most people who have had purity pounded into their heads for years. It can be full of anxiety and inner turmoil for some.

    I know one evangelical fundamentalist marriage that is still tainted by false expectations of the honeymoon. Twenty years later the husband still holds his wife's reticence on the honeymoon up as proof that she doesn't really love him. In reality, she was just conflicted, inexperienced and anxious.

    This from Naomi: a healthy, equal sexual relationship, where both people's pleasure is equally important, and both people's feelings and comfort levels are equally respected. should be what we all of us up to our daughter's as ideal, imho.

    For Christians, that should be the ideal for sex in marriage. ON the other hand, who hasn't failed to live up to one of their own ideals before? And who can guarantee that no one will ever force or seduce our daughters, or are sons for that matter?

    This is why I try not to make "purity" such a huge deal in my student's lives. I know too many Christian women who struggled with feeling like damaged goods because of rape, molestation, and even youthful curiosity. It's wrong to idolize sexual purity. It serves no good purpose.

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  30. Argh, forgive my horrible grammar and spelling in the post above. I am getting off the computer now and going for that second cup of java...

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  31. The molestation angle brings up another disturbing avenue regarding the purity pledges and bonds. What if a young girl has been molested? It happens. From what I've seen and read- it happens with some regularity. Did any of the purity-minded cultures think of what message they're giving these little girls? What if the little girl had never told her parents (again, this is fairly common) out of fear or embarassment or general confusion over what happened? Then, one day, she's told that any girl who allows a boy to take her "flower" is unclean and won't have her "whole self" to give to her future husband (aka - the one GOD has for her). What is she supposed to feel like? Parents: how do you think she feels?

    If you want to talk about protecting your daughters, start with protecting them from the real threats all around them.

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  32. @ Inkster - your point ("I'm only saying, it's not always about patriarchy, religious mind-washing or control. There are many legitimate benefits to waiting.") is well taken, and I don't want to imply that it was somehow inappropriate. And yet, it still feels a little "off" to me.

    I think I'd be in complete agreement with you if you'd said, "For some people there are many legitimate benefits to waiting."

    I wasn't a virgin when I got married. Neither was my wife. Insofar as that was an issue at all, it was actually a benefit for us. We came to the marriage knowing what we liked, what we wanted, and that we were compatible in that area. I can't imagine waiting to be officially and permanently committed before working those things out - and, if you've had any sort of traditional wedding, you're probably trying to work them out after a very long, busy, and stressful day. That sounds like a horrible way to start things off... but that's just me. It obviously worked for you, and that's great.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that different things work for different people, and it's important to remember that.

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  33. @Michael, valid points. My husband and I weren't ignorant to the potential difficulties we might encounter, and talked very openly and frankly about our expectations. When we decided not to have sex until we were married, we also decided not to put pressure on ourselves to rush through the act just to say we had done it one our wedding night. Details of our honeymoon are of course between us, but I will say that having discussed it so much beforehand and jointly deciding to let things unfold naturally without the idea that you must consummate on the wedding night worked well for us. I think whatever people choose you have to be realistic. My upbringing stressed "purity" but outside marriage but never compensated by talking about sexual health within marriage. Luckily I can read, and I educated myself.

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  34. "I think whatever people choose you have to be realistic."

    Ohhhh, yes. I am absolutely in agreement with you here.

    And thanks for taking that the way I meant it; I really wasn't trying to refute your post or shoot you down, I just had this itchy feeling that something important was getting left out.

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  35. I am a 24 year old woman, and I was raised Anglican. While I have beliefs that fit in line most with Unitarian Universalism, I also balance my beliefs with what I read as I grew up. In fact if push comes to shove, science almost always wins.

    My parents didn't give me "the talk" when I was a child. I was never told about my body or how it worked, and sex was a near-forbidden topic. I lost my virginity at 17 with my first boyfriend. We'd been together for over a year by that point, I had been careful to get on birth control first, and we used condoms.

    I have had a couple of partners since that relationship (which ended when I was 18), but I have no regrets with losing my virginity when I did. It was a decision we both made out of love and commitment to each other. Since then, with each additional partner I've had (only a couple), it has always been a decision that has never been made lightly.

    I do not think that not being "pure" when I one day get married makes me less of a woman or less of a "pure" person. On the contrary, I'm glad that I've had the knowledge and experience that I have. Because I wasn't told anything by my parents, I took it upon myself to educate myself (starting in late elementary school), which I think actually worked out better for me.

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  36. Eh, faith is one of those things we have to figure out for ourselves. Our parents can teach us whatever they want. And yet, we make the decision later for ourselves.

    Just look at how many Christians there are in the world, my being one of the, who can't agree on things. Even within the same denominations.

    It's a journey Ruth, and I know you know that. Kudos for putting yourself in the position to be able to figure it out for yourself instead of following blindly into what is, by no means, a cult.

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  37. I've been thinking about how to respond to this. I am a strong believer in the Bible, and I do believe it is clear that God intended sex to be a WONDERFUL gift, but that He intended it to be enjoyed within the safety of marriage.
    Now of course I do not know what it was like in your home growing up, but from what you've said about your brother not even consumating his marriage for 6 months makes me think they did not put any emphasis on the part about sex being a wonderful gift! I would guess the focus was all on the negative aspects of how sexuality can be abused, rather than teaching it is something to look forward to. And that is how you end up with people not being able to enjoy sex at all, or having it take a long time before they can learn to enjoy it.
    I do think that type of thinking also grieves God, as it is essentially a rejection of his gift of sexuality.
    I know for me, as a parent, I hope that I will be able to lead by example and show my children the joy that comes from following Jesus. If I can do that successfully, they will want to follow God's ways. I won't have to do things like beg my daughter not to kiss a man until her wedding day. Or sign a purity pledge. I think the issue with some of these parents is that they are trying to force the "good behavior" without addressing the core issue of whether or not their child wants to follow God's ways. And that is also something that cannot be forced.
    One more thing before I get off my soapbox: the whole notion of "if you aren't pure your future spouse won't want you" really disgusts me. My God! I would not want to marry someone that was unwilling to forgive my previous sins! If my husband couldn't forgive that, how will he react to sins I will commit in my marriage (because we all sin, all the time.)
    Anyway, off my soapbox.
    Much love to you Ruth, as you are finding your way.

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  38. Thank you so much for saying this so eloquently! The concept of "purity" is pushed so strongly in fundamentalist culture with no regard for the damage it can to to girls' tender psyches and self-esteem. It's just one of many reasons why I ran far and fast from my religious upbringing, and even though I have come back around a bit (I do attend church, though not the one I was raised in) I am very leery of these types of discussions because my daughter's health and well-being (emotional as well as physical) are my primary concerns in raising her - not what anyone thinks about behaviors she may or may not choose to engage in.

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  39. My parents went fundie-light when I was in high school. I had already had group dates and kissed quite a few boys of my choosing and never felt I'd given away anything I didn't want to give. Same thing when I had sex my senior year of high school with a guy I dated/lived with for a total of 7 years and almost married (but talked ourselves out of it...way too young). Neither of us married until we were in our early 30's. No regrets; we're still great friends.

    The worst dating experience I had was no thanks to my parents, who loved this kid from church when I was 15 (boy was 17). I only escaped rape by bolting from his car and walking 3 miles back to my house. After that, they let me pick my own boyfriends.

    No sex hang ups. My worry is for the couple who waits and discovers a size discrepancy that would be horrible to endure without aids that the couple has likely never heard of and might not even be discussed in the how-to manuals...I imagine a lot of women only find pleasure by talking to other women on blogs....sure can't happen during Bible study!

    Just saying, the more information a couple can have, no matter when the time comes, the better off and more comfortable it will be. My first time was wonderful (and I'll leave it there). :)

    My husband knew my sexual history (at my age, I had one) and I knew his; 16 years later and no complaints other than with our completely different schedules, not enough!

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  40. I was a "total virgin" (never kissed or anything) until I met the man I married at 27. We anticipated the wedding, or even the assumption of a wedding, with an awful lot of what I had considered forbidden behaviors. He had a good deal of experience, including an ex-wife and a child. He was the one who insisted that we save something for the wedding night and, frankly, I thought that what we saved was kind of a let down compared to all the hype.

    I don't regret not having sexual experiences before my husband; what I regret is that I didn't have any sexual experiences because of FEAR. I thought unmarried sex (or anything that might lead to sex, like kissing or dancing or thinking about wanting sex) was an express train to hell. And that fear kept me from what might have been beautiful relationships with any number of men. Maybe they wouldn't have been fairy tales or maybe they would have been awful but the fact that I was too scared even to get to know a man because sex was bound to come up is really and truly a loss.

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  41. I just want to bring up a couple of points:

    1. A person can experience disillusionment/heartbreak/loss of innocence at the end of a first relationship, without that relationship ever having been sexual. I see sex as a tool for forming close emotional bonds; the bonds are what hurt when broken. And they can be very, very strong even when the couple in question have never held hands. This is why the courtship model doesn't work. It assumes that if you haven't dated, said "I love you," touched or been alone together, your heart can't be broken. What has done me the most damage of all has been the belief that courtship instills in young women that your first is your only - and if that first doesn't work out, your life will only ever be a shadow of what it could have been. I don't ever want to see the boy I was supposed to court again, nor do I at all wish that we did wind up together - what I wish, most of all, is that I could have had the chance to date him and break up with him without believing my purity/innocence/eternal soulmate was on the line.

    2. Marriage is not necessarily a safe place. Several of the women on NLQ had no idea how sexually abusive their husbands would be until the wedding night - how is that safer than figuring it out ahead of time? I'd rather have had sex with an abusive boyfriend and then got out quickly than have married him.

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  42. So for the people who think that you are only pure and worth marrying if you are a virgin, what about me?

    I was married for 22 years before I lost my husband. Does that mean that I am not worth marrying?

    Does that mean for a man who was married and then widowed, does he have to go looking for a virgin to marry? My "uncle" was 81 when he married my older than him grandmother. Go Grandmom, go Grandmom! (Clearly not a virgin as she was my grandMOTHER.) Should my dear old "uncle" have gone looking for an 18 year old virgin instead? He was a strict religious, Christian after all. A Mennonite to boot. Was HE wrong or soiled by marrying a woman who had been *gasp* married before and had *gasp* children so was clearly not *double gasp!* a virgin? Please people, that is disgusting to think of UncleGranpa with someone young enough to be his great-granddaughter! Beyond gross.

    My value and my grandmother's value was not LESS ANYTHING or anyone else's. Heck, we both had good men coming out the woodwork to court us. (And yes, I was in my 40's when my boyfriend asked my permission to approach my parent's for their blessing for him to persue me for an eventual life together. Completely unnecessary but charming as hell, I have to admit.)

    Don't know if I will marry him or not, but THIS I can tell you. I am of no LESS value because I will not go to the altar a virgin. Hell, I can't imagine most men my age wanting a virgin. I think there would be something twisted and control freak in that.

    Just saying,
    E

    PS. Ruth, I don't know if you know the history of the wedding dress or not. but the white think had NOTHING to do with so called purity. It was actually a reaction to making dresses that were simpler (white muslim) so that not everybody had to go around finding something fancy. Man, how we turned that on its head in the 50's!

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  43. noprophetmessage said, "What has done me the most damage of all has been the belief that courtship instills in young women that your first is your only - and if that first doesn't work out, your life will only ever be a shadow of what it could have been."

    AMEN, AMEN AND AMEN! So well said! Thank you for sharing.

    E

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  44. On a personal level, I can appreciate the command in the Bible to wait for sex until you are married. I wish I had waited because I still feel an emotional bond with the man I first had sex with. That man is not my husband.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my husband very much. We did wait until we were married to have sex, and it was worth it, IMO. We did not however wait to kiss, cuddle, hold hands or have quality time alone with each other.

    The only regret I have is having sex in a relationship that I KNEW was not going to be a long term deal. That was a poor decision on my part, and it caused me hurt.

    Anyhow, just wanted to put a different point of view out there. If you don't want to potentially be very emotionally tied to someone, don't be intimate with them. That was a lesson I learned the hard way.

    Then again, there are people who can separate sex from emotional intimacy. However, I personally think it cheapens the experience, having been on both sides of it.

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  45. "My worry is for the couple who waits and discovers a size discrepancy that would be horrible to endure without aids that the couple has likely never heard of and might not even be discussed in the how-to manuals"

    THIS. I know of a situation in which a woman lost her virginity to a man whose penis was so thick that she could barely wrap her middle finger and thumb around it. Sex was painful for BOTH of them, and they broke up after six months partly for that reason. This woman had once planned on waiting for marriage, but ended up very glad she didn't--because now she knows that some people are physically incapable of having comfortable sex together, and it's necessary to figure out that you're NOT in that situation before you marry the person!

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  46. @sj3339sta

    However, I personally think it cheapens the experience, having been on both sides of it.

    It would be way less critical of others if you said it cheapens the experience FOR YOU. You really have no way of knowing that it "cheapens the experience" for those you just mentioned who "can separate sex from emotionally intimacy" in the previous sentence.

    Then there are also plenty of people who can enjoy emotional/sexual intimacy with a person for a season and not feel cheapened, used or unable to bond emotionally with others. Your experience isn't everyone's experience. Just sayin'...

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  47. @EDavis & nonprophetmessage:

    There's a truth about marriage implicit in your posts that I think deserves to be brought into explicit focus. It's not the kind of thing you hear about often because most people have never come face to face with it and those that have usually don't have the heart to talk about it with young people in love.

    Marriage is not a safe place; the best marriages end in death. When you choose to spend your whole life with someone, heartbreak is far from impossible, in fact it's a guarantee. Barring some freak accident taking you both at once, one of you will be left to carry on, bearing with you the memories and the loss.

    As a widower I wouldn't trade that burden for anything. Because being married isn't about evading heartbreak and loss, but rather accepting them for all the rewards that come with them.

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  48. Since this seems to be a blog completely and only in support of Ruth and everything she says and does, I do not think I belong here at all and I doubt anyone wants to hear what I have to say. There is not nearly enough room for a commenter to have the advantage that Ruth has when leaving her thoughts. I will say that I have no authority over Ruth and never thought so. I can't help it when HUGE and mostly inaccurate negative assumptions are made about me through anger. There is a whole lot of anger expressed on this blog. Just because you do not like my opinions, it does not follow that I am what Ruth and the rest of you want to believe me to be. If anyone (especially you, Ruth) is really interested in what I have to say point for point concerning Ruth's comments and assumptions about me, I will be happy to address them if I can. Please try to be more kind and open minded, and I will try to do the same.

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  49. I do want to apologize for making assumptions about where you are in your faith, Ruth. I really have no idea. IS it any of my business? No, absolutely not. As a matter of fact, none of your life is any of my business. Do you really want me to address your many points made?Another question: do you want to make this blog private instead of public so that people like me who disagree with you can never leave a comment? I certainly feel attacked, as though you and your supporters would rather I just went away.

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  50. People need to realize that because someone disagrees with you, even passionately, does not mean their disagreement is an "attack" or hate. Furthermore, the "making the blog private" statement is a red herring. A distraction from the root of the debate and feeds into the persecution claims. Lastly, people can post here on Ruth's blog or the rest of the public internet for that matter, they do not however, get to assume their statements will be supported.

    Personally I'd like to see what you have to say in response Sho, but not if the majority of your statement is going to be about "mean people" instead of the substance of your belief. In fact, in that case I'd be more likely to just dismiss your words in totality.

    Really you could have just answered back by now instead of crying foul for two posts.

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  51. ' Since this seems to be a blog completely and only in support of Ruth and everything she says and does, I do not think I belong here at all and I doubt anyone wants to hear what I have to say.'


    The majority of commenters on this blog do support Ruth as a person, but there's been plenty of debate sparked by the things she's written. In this very section, a lot of people have expressed different opinions on sex within/without marriage. There's a difference between disagreeing and making ill-informed assumptions.

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  52. @shadowspring....

    If you read my entire post, I make it pretty clear that it is my exprience and my opinion. We are entitled to that, are we not?

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  53. Shoshannah, lay off the pity party.

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  54. I did read your entire post sj3339sta. That is what I was responding to with my last comment. I even quoted the part with which I disagreed.

    :\

    I may be too sensitive to religious moralizing and have read more into your comment than you intended. Sorry!

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  55. Shoshanna, Ruth has not attacked you nor shown any "hate." Most of what she did was ask you to think about your assumptions in the message you give your daughters/other people's daughters. She made a very good point that many young women instilled with the "purity doctrine" end up terrified about sex. I would add they are often uneducated about human sexuality beyond the notion of intercourse, but that might just be my experience.

    You stated: "Please don't let the world pull you completely from Christ and His offer of salvation to those who will follow His humble example."

    I disagree with this statement. Yes, we are supposed to follow Christ's example. No, we cannot do this ourselves and God knows that better than any of us. Your words seem very much in line with the mentality Ruth is discussing. It suggests that we are somehow responsible for our own salvation. God's grace is a free gift.

    A few comments did express some anger toward your thoughts. But don't forget you put those thoughts online to be disagreed/agreed with. You are choosing to represent the thoughts of a group of people that many feel strongly about.

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  56. @shadowspring

    No worries ;-) With the nature of Ruth's story and the evil crazy cult she was raised in, there has to be some major questions about Christianity and religion in general that comes from it.

    Christianity is pretty black and white in some things. The Bible does say that having sex outside of marriage is a sin. If you believe the Bible, then that is something you have to take into consideration.

    But not everyone believes the Bible. And not all believers follow what the Bible says hook, line and sinker. That is each of our choice to make. That is just part of life. And we are all probably going to come to different conclusions. Is it possible to have a conversation where nobody feels attacked or gets their feelings hurt? I hope so, because it is a good conversation to have.

    The point of my original comment was to show that there is a big difference between what Ruth was taught about courting/marriage and what many Christians actually follow. What Gothard and his cronies teach and live by IS NOT what the Bible actually says or advocates. The Bible is about love and relationship, not about control and pride.

    For me, sex is about more than just the physical enjoyment. It goes a lot deeper than that. And, while I have tried in previous reltionships, I personally can't separate them. For me, having sex with someone who I am not legally and long term commited to is not something my brain and heart can handle without some major hurt.

    I have had friends and boyfriends who have seen that as a sign of weakness on my part. I don't see it as a weakness. I see it as knowing my boundries and protecting myself from hurt I might endure if I cross that boundry.

    Anywho, I'm rambling now. Just wanted to show a different point of view.

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  57. Since you have said above that your email is clearly marked on this page, I am sure that it is my fault that I cannot find it. I have a response that is too long to publish in comments. I will need to send it to you another way.

    Thanks, Shoshannah

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  58. Just had an ill thought- seriously, as I believe he (they) are literally possessed- Shoshannah, you don't happen to be Shoshannah Pearl, daughter of Mike and Debi Pearl, are you? If so, Ruth, I'd just ignore her. She's completely head over heels "in" it, and you know what I mean. Pearls before swine, all that. The Pearls are heretics, and are for sure not "of the Lord" by any stretch of imagination.

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  59. No, I am not Shoshannah Pearl. My given name is Susan, which I go by. I just use Shoshannah as the Hebrew version because I think it is prettier. I do not know the Pearls, nor have I ever read any books they may have written. The only things I know about them are from criticisms directed towards them by people like you.
    You actually know very little about me and your guesses are way off the mark.

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  60. Shoshannah,
    My e-mail is this blog's name at Gmail. I don't want to put it in comments because I don't want the bot mail. I will say that I do, on occasion, post passages of e-mails on this blog unless they specifically ask to remain private. I also don't appreciate your tone above. I would love to have a dicussion with you - but, I wonder about the futility of doing so when you're so defensive and have already set your opinion of me.

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  61. It is wrong to be defensive. However, it is somewhat natural when one is attacked, especially in some of the particularly illogical and venomous ways I have been above by some of the commenters. Your comments, above Ruth, are welcome and I have not felt attacked by you, though you have some harsh words at times. No matter how sincere I know myself to be, some people will always have hateful things to say because they disagree with my point of view. That is a natural, human tendency as well. I don't mind when people disagree if they can be logical and considerate without giving me a knee-jerk reaction from their emotions. I am sending you my comments. I hope you will read them.
    Susan (Shoshannah)

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  62. DaveL, this is bit belated but I wanted to thank you for sharing those very wise words about marriage. I appreciated hearing your perspective.

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  63. I grew up ATI, being fed all the "emotional purity" crap (BTW, I found a good blog post about THAT pile of hooey the other day... http://darcysheartstirrings.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-teachings-of-emotional-purity-and.html

    Anyway. I think it's clear from the Bible, that the ideal is for a couple to only have sex inside marriage. But, it's also clear, that no sin is any greater than any other sin. Premarital sex is certainly no worse than gossip, pride, or anything else, and like any other, is covered by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, and does NOT need to "ruin" the rest of our lives. I remember how worried I was, when I was brainwashed and in ATI, about "Doing what is pleasing to the Lord." When I read (on the sly, at someone else's house) "A Matter of Basic Principles, Bill Gothard and the Christian Life", it was a HUGE turning point in my life when I learned how Gothard has twisted the concept of grace. That day, I learned what grace REALLY means. And I realized, it is NOT dependent on what I do! God IS pleased with me, because I am His child! Period! End of story! That revelation moved me to tears. Nothing I do or don't do will change how God loves me one iota! God's grace covers every aspect of our lives. We can stop "trying to do everything right" and instead develop a real relationship with Him. He is NOT mad if I don't read my Bible every day or whatever. ALL my sins, past, present and future, were covered by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. As I grow closer in relationship with Him, I will grow more like Him... but not because I am following any lists of what others are telling me to do! Do grapevines have to work hard to grow fruit? No! The fruit is a natural consequence of being attached to the Vine! We draw our nourishment from Him, and the fruit of the Spirit just grows! And if we screw up in some way, whether it is being prideful or cheating on our taxes or having sex outside of marriage, He still loves us and he is quick to forgive.

    oops, ran out of room... to be continued

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  64. Something I found interesting... I have recently learned that previous generations were no where near as "pure" as we tend to think they were! (of course, I grew up with the ATI revised version of history) I was just reading that according to a lot of church marriage and birth records, in colonial America in the 1700's, ahem, "everyone knew" that the first pregnancy was always only about 6 months long... Funny how first babies were so often perfectly healthy "preemies"! Likewise, I have read a lot on the Medieval era in Europe, and although life for girls in the Nobility was sadly much like life as a fundamentalist in that they were controlled and married for political reasons or to benefit the family business or social standing; for the peasants, it was much different. Ever heard of "May Day"? During May Day celebrations, all the single young people in the village would go and spend the night in the woods, without any chaperones! Dear me, can't IMAGINE what they would be doing out there! And, girls were almost always pregnant when they were married. It was seen as a positive thing, a sign of fertility. They'd screw around until she got pregnant, then they would get married.
    My point is simply that like much of Scripture, the ideals are indeed very high. So high in fact, that it just humbles us and shows us how much we need God's grace, since we cannot live up to these ideals on our own! I was a virgin on my wedding night, but that doesn't make me sinless or better than anyone else or anything... God knows I have been hateful and judgmental sometimes, I have been prideful, I have lied... that is why I need Christ! He is accomplishing His good work in me, and in the meantime, God looks at broken, flawed, sinful me through the grace of His Son's sacrifice and sees me as spotless and perfect before Him. And I am able to look at others who stumble and fall and love them and extend grace to them by seeing them as a person, not a problem, and accepting them for who they are! It is NOT my job to be the Holy Spirit for other people. It is ONLY my job to love others as He has loved me and gave Himself for me!
    I hope my ramblings make some kind of sense. :-)

    Thank you, Ruth, for going through all the work (and writing is VERY hard work, isn't it? I'm also a writer) and pain of re-living these memories so that you can work through them and so we can benefit from your journey and what you have learned. God has used your story to really show me the dangers of legalism and "authority" without limits. I am so glad you escaped and are safe now.

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  65. Dear Ruth,
    I have been reading your blog all day and it makes my heart soar! You are so brave and so strong. You are a beacon of light for all women and I am inspired by you. May your life be blessed by all good things. Wishing you the best - your newest fan -
    Daerice

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