I was an early bloomer in terms of romantic relationships, and started having serious relationships since the age of 15.
My first relationship was with a Christian. Both of us believed in God, but that didn’t automatically mean that our relationship was a healthy one. We pushed the boundaries in intimacy, and did everything short of the technical definition of sex.
The whole time, I consoled myself that this was okay because “we were in love,” and “we’re both Christians”. After daily disagreements and fights for two years, our relationship ended.
Wanting to escape the problems of that relationship, I jumped into a new one right away, without much thought or repentance. This round, it was with a non-Christian.
Again, we pushed boundaries. But this time, we took things further than I had ever expected or planned to – in the heat of the moment, I lost my virginity to my second boyfriend. That night, I cried and cried, not being able to sleep a wink, as I learned the hard way that “lost innocence can never be retrieved”.
I felt obliged to hang on to this unhealthy and unequally yoked relationship, believing I couldn’t leave after I had given all of myself to him. For nearly three years, this relationship dragged on.
During those trying years, I faced an endless war within my soul. My ongoing secret sex life stood in stark contrast to my weekly church attendance. I felt disgusting, dirty, and guilty. I was full of self-hatred.
I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and yet I felt like I had neither capacity nor strength to escape it. It was like an addiction – just once more, and that’s it, I told myself. But “it” was never the last.
I grew distant from God. I would be physically present in church but spiritually absent. I would teach about putting God first, when in reality I made my own fleshly desire ruler of my heart. I would go to prayer meetings, but my mind would be wandering. I was living a double life, and this had become my deepest, darkest secret.
Most of all, I was convinced that I was beyond God’s saving grace. I was absolutely certain that God hated me.
And yet, God never gave up on me; He kept pursuing me. People around me would reach out to me, asking me if I was okay or if I needed to talk; Bible verses would jump out at me; sermons lovingly delivered would knock on the door of my heart. But just like Pharaoh, my heart was hardened.
I was convinced that I was beyond God’s saving grace; I was absolutely certain that God hated me.
Years later, through God’s amazing grace, my eyes were opened at last. I decided to put an end to this toxic relationship, and despite how much it scared me, something prompted me to talk to a trusted friend.
So I did; I reached out to my mentor, a lady from church who had led me through my youth days. I vividly remember her asking whether I wanted her to call me, or if I was more comfortable communicating through text. I chose the latter because of the awkwardness and the judgement I feared.
I finally gathered up the courage to share with her my darkest secret: I am not a virgin. My heart was pounding. I expected her to condemn me or say I should leave church.
Instead, she told me that she had been paying attention to me, and that she noticed how I was drifting away – not paying attention, always distracted. She even thanked me for sharing something so difficult with her, and also reassured me that my life was not over, and that God did not hate me because of sin.
She reminded me that sin is in fact, pervasive in everyone’s lives. All mankind has fallen short of the glory and holiness of God (Romans 3:23). It didn’t mean that I was worse than others because of what I did. It just meant that I was a fallen human being.
Romans 5:8 came to my mind: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
For the first time, I grasped the reality that God can forgive me for a sin I felt had separated me from Him forever. No matter how much I had spiralled downwards, I was never too far for Jesus to save. In fact, Jesus had already delivered me from the moment I accepted Him into my heart.
I was overwhelmed by His surpassing grace, full of gratitude that God had heard my cry to “hide [His] face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity” (Psalm 51:9).
I realised that God had allowed my iniquities to break me, to the point where there was really nothing else I could do but look up to Him for deliverance. And it was during the darkest night of my soul that God filled me.
There is indeed no other name like Jesus; I would never have experienced or known this without having been broken, and then put back together by His faithful hands.
For anyone else who may be suffering in a pit of shame, I would like to encourage you with these precious truths that spoke to me:
1. Do not underestimate the power of Jesus’ blood and redemption
God said to ancient Israel, who turned away from Him again and again, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). Surely, God will remember us too. Because of Him, our past does not dictate our future.
2. Remember that we as sinful human beings are all broken, and that God does not despise even the lowliest, should we choose to turn to Him
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
People may look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the condition of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). He looks at inward purity and glorification of Christ, rather than simply outward virtue.
3. While your virginity is a beautiful gift for your future spouse, the best thing you can possess is a steadfast love to God
A week into the relationship with my current partner, I was convicted to tell him about my past. I knew I was risking it all as I struggled to get the words out. When I finally finished, his reply encapsulated almost perfectly the love of God.
He said, “I’m not angry with you. We all have had our own past mistakes, but these past mistakes do not make you who you are. I mean, that’s why we need God, right? We make these mistakes, yes, but we ourselves are a separate entity from these sins because of God’s forgiveness. These sins are not a part of who we are. I still love you.”
With time, I’ve learned that the struggles I’ve had were never mine alone, and that God can use our vulnerability and brokenness for His glory. What was once a burden I could barely bear has now become a testimony I can use to reach out to and share with other struggling individuals, being a vessel of God’s love to them.
My prayer for anyone struggling is that God will transform your pain into your strength and testimony to minister to others, and to glorify Him. Commit yourself to continuous prayer for restoration and surrender your burdens to God each and every day.
Find a friend or a mentor you absolutely trust, and walk through the journey of healing together. God’s arms are always open to receive you, just like the father welcomed the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31).
This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.