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What was I going after? I believed if I could ever have her, life would be better. I would be better.

What the Rules Don't CoverI waited. I didn't get anyone pregnant or, for that matter, touch anyone. I followed the rules.

The rules were simple. You kept a ring on your finger, or a chain around your neck, that always reminded you , and not so quietly told everyone else, that you were one of the good kids. That you were not going to have sex until you got married. That if you had screwed up before you would never do it again. Then all you had to do was not screw up.

There was even a little chart, kind of like the one at the eye doctor. The steps to doing the wrong thing were all right there in front of you: from holding a girl's hand to stripping down to your birthday suit and going all the way, just in case you were confused about how you got from step one to the next. The reason for this little chart was to make it perfectly clear when you had screwed up. It was right after kissing on the lips and right before hands below the hips, if I remember correctly.

If you did happen to go into the fine-print area of the chart, you were to stop. Then you could call someone and they would tell you to go home, or tell her to go home, or tell you to put your clothes back on and go to the prayer service that was going on upstairs in the chapel while you were screwing around in the church kitchen. I sincerely couldn't understand why so many of my friends couldn't just follow the rules. They seemed easy enough to me.

Maybe I heard it wrong, and maybe I taught it wrong, too. It still seems to me that what parents and pastors and most everyone else wanted was to make sure none of their girls got pregnant, which still seemed to happen with some regularity anyway. But not me. I didn't do anything wrong, except for everything that wasn't part of the rules.

The rules definitely did not cover wanting a girl to be near you so you would look better and feel better about yourself. No matter what you had to say to keep her nearby, it was fine-as long as you didn't try to do anything other than hold her hand. The rules didn't say anything about giving your heart over to another for validation. Or about developing an emotional attachment to someone without ever defining it, so there was no way they could tell you no. The rules didn't cover all the ways you could use someone, and allow yourself to be used by someone, all the while keeping your clothes on and enough room between the two of you for the space of a Bible, or as they said,"leaving some room for the Holy Spirit."

By the time I realized how deep a mess I was in, I was well on my way to being a youth pastor. I couldn't find the door, much less the key to get out. What was I going after? I wanted her not for the reason I often told myself, to show her "unconditional love." I wanted her because somewhere along the way I began to worship her. I began to believe that if I could ever have her, that life would be better. I would be better.

I try to forget all of the psychotic things I did. If I had been going after sex I would have been locked up. Instead I was encouraged because I was keeping the rules, or just ignored since I wasn't hurting anybody. At least not that anyone could see. A few brave friends asked questions, but they were not heard. I deserved her. God owed her to me.

If, God forbid, God had answered my prayers, I would have never realized how much I was willing to lose to get what I wanted. How much I was willing to compromise and lie. I would never have seen the need for my salvation. The emotional and mental lust to which I was addicted left scars as deep as any physical activity. It took as many years to get out as it had to get lost.

When I got married I was for all physical purposes a virgin; the only woman I have ever had sex with is my wife. For some reason I don't feel as triumphant as everyone said I would. Don't get me wrong-I'm glad I didn't have any more baggage coming into marriage, and I'm healthier today. But that health has come by admitting how screwed up I am, not by having kept all the rules.

October 8, 2003

This article first appeared in Regeneration Quarterly. Reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.

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10.08.03   LinuxTux says:
Yes, it's often neglected. We spend so much time on the "do nots" that we forget about the why's. You shouldn't be out having premarital sex, but that doesn't mean you aren't allowed to do other stuff. You can still read romance novels or look at magazines. Or these days, you can go to the net. Thing is, these rules aren't enough. Yes, these rules will keep you from getting pregnant or, even worse, getting AIDS. But like the guy in the article, your inner self suffers. But if we did teach the spiritual side of things, and show people how both women and men benefit from true chastity, so much could be gained. We could go back to equilibrium instead of having a bunch of objects walking around--which is what a lot of men and women have become to each other.

10.07.03   Godspy says:
What was I going after? I believed if I could ever have her, life would be better. I would be better.

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