How far is too far?
If we don’t have sex before marriage, what if it’s bad in marriage?
Is it bad to watch pornography?
How do I deal with the shame for everything I’ve already done?
Anyone would tell you to test-drive a car before you pay a big chunk of cash for it. Get to know how it feels on the road. The bumps, the turns, the brakes. Take it out for a spin. And chances are, you’ve heard the same idea applied to relationships. “Drive it before you buy it.” “See if you are compatible.” “Test out your chemistry.” Or more frankly, “Sleep with your significant other before you marry him to make sure things will go okay down the road.”
I won’t lie — I worried about some of those issues because of my commitment to purity before marriage. I even had thoughts like, Am I going to know what to do in marriage if I don’t learn while dating? Would a guy ever want me if I’m not experienced? Growing up, I just stayed away from sex because I thought God would hate me if I didn’t. It wasn’t until I entered my 20s that I developed the right view of sex.
Before we go on, I want to say I know this can be a hard topic for a lot of people. If you haven’t lived in purity up to this point, there is no judgment. This is a safe place. Maybe you’ve made decisions you regret out of pressure or temptation. Or maybe you never saw sex as a big deal, and everyone around you was having sex, so you thought, Why not? Maybe your innocence and purity were taken from you without consent. If you’ve been raped or abused in any way, I am angered and sorrowful for you. It is unacceptable and horrible.
Please know that this chapter is meant to express, “Come as you are, be you, and share your heart,” not “Fix yourself, clean yourself up, and do as I say.” We all have a past. We all have made decisions we aren’t very proud of. I am not here to judge you or tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. To be honest, I don’t care what decisions you’ve made in the past. But I do care about you and the future God has for you. The past is the past for a reason.
You can’t change it. But you can choose where you go from here.
I am hopeful that this chapter will be encouraging, challenging, and healing, wherever you find yourself.
Maybe you haven’t faced those kinds of real temptations and pressures yet. Maybe for you, steamy romance novels or pornography led to masturbation, which has been your outlet and escape, your way of numbing yourself or your way of feeling something, even if just for a second. Perhaps you’ve made the decision to wait for marriage, and you’ve stayed true to your convictions, but people around you don’t understand it and mock you, so you doubt. Maybe you always wanted to pursue purity, but you started dating someone who doesn’t value it and doesn’t understand it, so little by little you’ve given more of yourself away. Or maybe you never really saw the value of purity. You never understood why people would wait to have sex. You saw abstaining as odd or pointless.
Wherever you are, whatever has happened up to this point in your life, please know that grace and love meet you right there. And if it’s shame and guilt and regret that meet you there, you are at the wrong door, listening to the wrong voice. God loves you, and He cares for you more than you can even imagine. But I will say in truth, He loves you so much that He will meet you where you are but He won’t leave you there. He wants to take you higher. He wants to make you better. He will call you deeper because he wants you to experience the abundant life He has to offer.
So, as you read through this chapter, I hope you know that even if you haven’t made many decisions that you are proud of and you feel like, “What’s the point? I already lost my virginity. It doesn’t matter now,” that’s a lie. It does matter. Your heart matters. Your spirit matters. Your body matters. Your future matters. You can’t change the past, but you can change what your future looks like. You can decide today to honor God, yourself, and your future spouse.
My first car
When I got my first car, it was Christmas Day, and my parents sent me on a scavenger hunt. One clue leading to the next — I was so anxious to see what I got! My mom videoed my every movement. My sisters followed me around eagerly. My dad was just proud to be there. We were all in our matching pajamas, which was our Christmas tradition. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it had to be something big because the video camera was out!
I finally got the last clue, and it led me to the driveway. I couldn’t believe it. An all-white car with a big, shiny red bow. I thought, This is for me? My sister Mallory started crying. She was so happy for me. I couldn’t believe my parents pulled off such a big surprise without me finding out! And, of course, I couldn’t believe they got me a car! I was so thrilled and shocked. I immediately began thinking about the playlists I was going to make for late-night drives with my friends. I hugged my parents tightly. I wanted them to feel my appreciation. I opened the driver’s door, sat down inside, and took a deep breath. It had that new-car smell!
I sat in the car for hours, just taking it in. Then I adjusted my rearview mirror, scooted up my seat, and pulled out of the driveway. I remember thinking, This car is perfect. It’s everything I love in a car and exactly what I would have picked out. It drives like a dream!
But I want to make a point here. I didn’t have to test-drive the car first, because my dad did. My dad went to the dealership, looked at all the options, drove the car around, and decided, Yup, this one is made for Madi! My dad knew exactly what I wanted and, more importantly, what I needed. And how much more does your heavenly Father know exactly what you need? He knows every desire of your heart — he put the desires there! And let me tell you, when you trust your Father to give you exactly what you need, it’s always better than what you could have ever picked out for yourself.
One day on social media I made a post about how I was saving myself for marriage, and to my surprise, when I checked the post, I read more than a thousand comments telling me that I was stupid, and I should always “test-drive a car before I buy it.” I started to think about that analogy. Our society truly believes this principle when it comes to sex and purity — comparing a partner to something as disposable as a vehicle. It identifies the other person as worthy of love only if they perform well enough. It also insinuates that sex is not just a deciding factor but the make-or-break factor. Yet there are many, many other aspects of marriage that should be prioritized over sex. Marriage lasts your whole life; sex does not.
Also, we buy a car to get us from one location to the next; it’s something we use when we need it. Not to mention, it’s something we trade out five to 10 years later when we get tired of it or the engine stops working. No human being is meant to be compared to a vehicle. If you connect with someone emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, connecting with them physically will be natural and beautiful. And if not at first, you have trust, friendship, good communication, and understanding to improve all aspects of your relationship.
Do you remember your first kiss? (If you’ve had one already!) I remember mine like it was yesterday. I could tell you exactly what I was wearing, where I was standing, and why I was there. I was fifteen years old. He was my first boyfriend. We had been dating for a few months. All of my friends were getting their first kiss, and, well, I’m competitive. So, I might have hinted to him that I was ready for a kiss (quite a few times, knowing me). One night, outside my friend’s house at exactly 9:30 p.m., he grabbed my hand and leaned in for a kiss. I was in jeans and an Abercrombie tee. Iconic. My hair was straightened and pulled back by a bobby pin. I had on blue eyeshadow and light pink lipstick. (Why was this allowed? How was that cute?) Anyway, I got my kiss. I felt on top of the world!
I immediately told all my friends. I was so proud and excited. He and I continued dating, and kissing became less about goosebumps and fireworks and more about leading into something else. This thing that I thought was so magical and beautiful became normal and led my boyfriend to push other boundaries that I felt uncomfortable with.
After he and I broke up a few months later, I went on to date other guys throughout high school. With each relationship, boundaries would get pushed, and I would feel something tugging my heart that I couldn’t deny. I knew I was supposed to stay away from sex and save it for my husband, but what about the other stuff? This was something I wrestled with. When boundaries were pushed, I would justify it in my head or even be told by the guy, “It’s not that big of a deal, Madi. It’s such a small thing.” But every time I gave in, I would feel shame and insecurity, like I was being robbed of my identity, strength, and purpose.
To be honest, for the longest time, my idea of purity and “saving myself” was fear based because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I didn’t want to let my parents down or even myself down as I strove to have the perfect reputation. My view of purity was even prideful; I thought God would bless me more if I somehow followed all His rules. So, it’s not surprising to me when I hear that people find waiting until marriage too hard. Not many people are willing to lay down their wants and needs to follow rules. And I don’t blame them. I’m not either. But many would be willing to lay down wants and needs for real love. Yet most of us haven’t been presented with this idea of purity being an act of love and protection.
When Grant and I started dating, we realized quickly how passionate we were for each other and how slippery that slope was. So, we decided to make a purity contract. Think what you want, but we did what we had to do! The contract was a commitment from us both to complete purity, honoring God and each other, individually and together. We signed it and sent it to our mentors and accountability partners. But let me just tell you, we were not perfect and there were moments when that contract was nearly broken because of “small” moments of compromise.
Those moments led to intense confusion, division, and anxiety. We even took a break one time as a result. One moment of pleasure isn’t worth weeks, months, or even a lifetime of regret and resentment. Anytime Grant and I crossed a line, I didn’t feel closeness. I felt shame and insecurity. It brought doubt into the relationship. And for weeks we would feel foggy, which would lead to more sin and anger. We would be short-tempered and quick to blame and attack the other. Until we got to the place where we finally just said, “It’s not worth it.”
Once we came to that conclusion, our relationship grew stronger than ever. Our communication was better. We gained clarity on the relationship. We grew in trust, respect, and love for each other. We became best friends on the deepest level. Today, with everything in our hearts, we want to encourage everyone that purity is so worth it. It may be the hardest commitment to keep, but it will change your life and relationship. It changed ours. When we fully pursued purity, Grant became more confident and led well spiritually. I became more free and joyful, trusting in his leadership.
Here’s the thing — sex and all sexual acts were created to be experienced in the confines of marriage and to bring unity to the marriage. But when we experience them outside the covenant of marriage, they bring the opposite — all the destructive consequences Grant and I experienced and, sometimes, irrecoverable devastation. This is true for any sexual acts, not just sex. Anything done that arouses you. Whatever that means for you. Making out. Lying together on a couch. Talking about certain things.
If you are asking yourself, “Is this too far?” It’s too far. Don’t try to get as close to the line of impurity as you can. Try to get as close to purity as you can. Crossing the line of impurity or dancing beside it hinders your intimacy with God and your future intimacy with your husband.
Chasing purity and holiness with all you’ve got helps grow your intimacy with God and your future intimacy with your husband.
Excerpted from The Love Everybody Wants by Madison Prewett Troutt. Copyright © 2023 by Madison Prewett Troutt. All rights reserved.
Madison Prewett Troutt, bestselling author of The Love Everybody Wants and Made for This Moment, is a speaker and social media influencer best known as a finalist on the reality television show The Bachelor. Madi has a degree in communications from Auburn University and a certificate in ministry in pastoral leadership through Highlands College. She has been involved in many outreach programs, including Adullam House, Make It Matter, Autlive, and Auburn Dream Center. Madi started her career working as a foster parent recruiter in Birmingham, Alabama. She lives in Waco, Texas, with her husband, Grant.