Archive | May 2015

Virginity: Is It Really Worth Saving?

Is the idea of saving one's virginity for marriage too old-fashioned?When you’re sweet-16-and-never-been-kissed, people write songs about it, but when that status hasn’t changed by your mid-twenties, people begin to look a little askance at you.

That isn’t the way it should be — isn’t the way it’s been for thousands of years — but, unfortunately, that’s the culture our children are growing up in, where virginity is regarded by many as more of a curse than a prize.

What follows is an essay written by my daughter Bethany. She is smart, sweet, beautiful, talented … and single. She is also a member of that seemingly shrinking population of young people determined to save sex for marriage. (Stay tuned for another post next week on why I believe that’s still the best choice.)

Please don’t misconstrue the intent of what she has written here. As she assured her friends when she originally posted this essay on Facebook, she does NOT regret her choices, nor does she think she’d be happier had she chosen a promiscuous lifestyle:

“What I’m saying,” she writes, “is that I don’t know what ‘waiting for marriage’ is supposed to look like if marriage never comes. And I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about everything — so much of our identity and purpose in Christian culture is wrapped up in the idea of being a wife and mother.

“I know all about ‘Love & Respect,’ about honoring God by honoring your husband, about following him as he follows the Lord, about being a ‘help-meet.’ All of that was beautifully modeled for me.

“But seeking holiness and meaning as a single woman? Even when that singleness is indefinite? That I am having to learn vastly on my own and without an example. This essay wasn’t intended to condemn abstinence as antiquated and obsolete; it was intended to shed light on the loneliness that often accompanies choosing a path that most others have long-since abandoned.

“And hopefully, by reading this post, others who are in a similar situation will feel a little less alone.”

Mint Condition

I was raised in the age of beanie babies and purity rings. Everyone I knew bought into the hype, with sterling silver rings on their left index fingers and rows and rows of beady-eyed bears lining their shelves. The rings invariably read “True Love Waits” and the pristine, heart-shaped tags on the bears invariably read “ty.”

Labels, you see, are of the utmost importance when you are 12 years old and still discovering what in this world – what in your own self – is of any worth.

I never bought a purity ring. I often wondered if maybe I should get one – you know, so that people would know what a good girl I was. So that people would know how seriously I took my faith (or my virginity, really, since at the time the two seemed interchangeable.)

But I never got one.

Purity rings [in my mind] were for the pretty girls, the ones with the boyfriends, the ones with the opportunities.

I had never been given that sort of offer, so I had no need for a ring to remind me to reject it.

And so I managed to escape puberty with naked fingers and not-naked everything else.

I did not, however, escape the beanie baby hype.

To be fair, I didn’t buy it myself. It was a gift. Brand new with tags and in a box that had never been opened, it came accompanied by a promise and a warning:

A promise that if I left it in the box, left it unopened and un-tampered with, that one day it would be worth a fortune.

And a warning that if I took it out – even for a moment – if I risked getting it dirty or losing those precious tags, it would be utterly worthless.

All my friends had beanie babies, and those beanie babies stayed in their boxes for days, weeks, months, even years. But eventually they all came out of their clear cubic prisons. The beanie babies were played with and shared, just like toys are meant to be. Their tags came off, as had been warned, and the fortune my friends might have had was forever lost.

Oh, but not mine. I heeded those warnings and hid my beanie baby away, safe from all the perils a carefree and careless childhood might bring. And as I watched my friends laughing and sharing and playing, I reminded myself over and over again of the fortune that awaited me if I just waited.

A lifetime has passed since then, a lifetime so very different from what my 12-year-old self imagined it would be. The purity rings and stuffed animals have long since passed out of fashion, ending up in garbage bins and garage sales and goodwill piles. But she is still here: my little brown bear with her heart-shaped tag, hidden safely in her box on my shelf – in perfect mint condition.

When people see her sitting there, their reactions are varied. Some are impressed that I’ve managed to keep her for so long. Some are nostalgic for the time when they, too, believed that a little stuffed animal carried with it all the hopes and dreams and promises of a prosperous future. But more often than not, it’s viewed as strange.

To be a quarter of a century old and in possession of such a novelty is an oddity, to say the least.

But despite all that, I’ve grown sentimental. I’ve had her for so long now that I could never just throw her out or give her away to a stranger like so many others before me have done. And in all honesty, I’m beginning to think that – despite all those pretty promises I was given at 12 – she isn’t worth anything at all anymore. She’s become nothing more than an odd remnant of a lost time that no one really wants to re-visit.

And somehow, by association, so have I.

But a part of me still secretly hopes that some day a collector will show up on my doorstep – an oddity, like me, who clung to those same childhood promises that I did. I imagine him falling to his knees and joyously proclaiming that she’s the one, the rare and unique treasure he’s been searching for his entire life. Then, at long last, she could come off her shelf and be exchanged for the fortune I was promised so long ago.

I wouldn’t mind parting with her then, because I’d know that she was valued. That she’d be cared for and treated with gentleness and respect.

It’s such a silly, pretty dream. With each passing year it becomes a little less realistic, a little more ridiculous.

But the hopeless romantic in me still clings to it, just the same.

So she sits there with me to this day.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

A symbol of the innocence and hopeful naïvety of a childhood past.

Priceless? Worthless? I suppose that distinction is in the eye of the beholder.

We are both untouched.


In Mint Condition.

Why God Made Mothers

I woke up this morning with the following verses forming in my head, so in honor of Mother’s Day (and at the risk of stating the obvious) here’s why I think God gave us mothers:

Happy Mother's Day from

Why God Made Mothers

by Jennifer Flanders

For giving birth — as moms do best,
For nursing babies at her breast,
For singing lullabies at night
For soothing fears and hugging tight,
For wiping teardrops from my eye
And sympathizing when I cry
While kissing boo-boos on my knee,
For bringing out the best in me,
For teaching me to tie a lace,
For using spit to clean my face,
For rocking me upon her lap
Cajoling me to take my nap,
For baking cookies by the batch,
For making sure the doors are latched
At night before she goes to bed,
For placing cold rags on my head
Whenever I am feeling sick
And fetching throw-up buckets, quick!
For bringing me “just one more” drink,
For understanding how I think,
For daily lifting me in prayer,
For combing tangles from my hair,
For teaching me to blow my nose,
For scrubbing stains out of my clothes,
For reading stacks of picture books,
For complimenting my good looks
And calling me endearing names,
For driving me to football games,
For watching o’er me as I play,
For spanking when I disobey,
For letting me help wash the dishes
After dinner — so delicious,
Coaxing me to eat green beans,
For being patient in my teens,
For measuring how fast I grow,
For holding on, for letting go,
For all the many things you do,
I’m grateful, Mom, God gave me you.

Postponing Motherhood… at What Cost?

Postponing Pregnancy - 6 Must-Read books for the next generation of Mothers
Back when my husband was in medical school, his pharmacology textbook listed seven full pages of adverse side effects associated with oral contraceptive use, including:

  • heart attacks
  • strokes
  • liver tumors
  • blood clots
  • gall bladder disease
  • migraine headaches
  • depression
  • loss of vision
  • urinary tract infections
  • yeast infections
  • weight gain
  • thyroid problems
  • high blood sugar

… and myriad more, as well as an increased risk of infertility, miscarriage, and birth defects even after discontinuing use of the Pill.

That was enough to convince us we’d made the right decision when, as newlyweds, we opted to forgo hormonal contraceptives three years (and two babies) earlier.

Yet when we shared this information with family and friends, they remained skeptical. “If the Pill were really that unsafe,” they reasoned, “then doctors wouldn’t prescribe it.”

Fast forward 25 years, and we’re still having those same discussions. That’s why my husband recently bought me a copy of Sweetening the Pill: How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control.

Sweetening the Pill The author, Holly Grigg-Spall, writes from an ultra-liberal, pro-abortion, anti-Christian, doctor-bashing, communist-sympathizing, sexually-licentious radical feminist perspective.

In other words, she is my ideological opposite.

Yet on one point we can emphatically agree: that there are compelling reasons to reject hormonal contraceptives that have nothing to do with religion.

I found the book refreshing (despite the author’s rather one-dimensional representation of folks — like me — who do not share her political agenda).

It asks questions that desperately need to be asked, discussed, and answered. Plus, it’s chock full of interesting (and ofttimes harrowing) statistics:

  • “Today eighty percent of women will take the birth control pill at some point during their lifetimes.” (p.25)
  • In the US, half of all women under the age of 25 are currently using the Pill. (p.26)
  • The Pill significantly lowers a woman’s libido — sometimes irreversibly so, since “the impact on testosterone levels is permanent.” (p. 50)
  • Using hormonal contraceptives greatly increases a woman’s risk for developing many life-threatening conditions, including heart disease and breast, cervical, and liver cancers. (p. 60)
  • “Recent research shows that if a woman starts taking the Pill before she turns twenty her risk of developing breast cancer in later life is doubled.” (p. 60)
  • Birth control pills represent “a $22 billion a year industry with approximately sixty brands on the market.” (pp. 112-113)

Interestingly, Grigg-Spall and some of the authors she quotes have run into the same argument my husband and I heard when he was in med school: People (mistakenly) believe the FDA wouldn’t have approved hormonal contraceptives if they weren’t safe.

She answers that objection by pointing to the money trail. In her mind, the Pill is a conspiracy to pad the pockets of physicians and pharmaceutical companies, to keep women in the workforce, and to bolster our consumer-driven economy.

Granted, some of those factors probably do come into play. But I don’t think you can fully understand our society’s unhealthy addiction to birth control without taking into account its general prejudice against children and aversion to “unplanned” pregnancies.

Just as cancer patients routinely submit to chemotherapy, despite the fact it saps their strength, leaves them nauseous, and makes their hair fall out, because they consider the alternative (letting the cancer grow unchecked until it kills them) completely unacceptable, so our society is willing to assume the high risks associated with hormonal contraceptives, because the alternative (conceiving and carrying a baby until it is time to deliver) is seen as something to be avoided at all costs.

These days, an unplanned pregnancy is about as welcome as a cancer diagnosis.

As long as this is our attitude toward babies, doctors will continue to prescribe the Pill, and women will continue to take it, regardless of the risks.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Check out these books, all of which I highly recommend:

Adam & Eve After the Pill Start Your Family Be Fruitful & Multiply download Three Decades of Fertility

Postponing Motherhood... at What Cost {6 Must-Read Books for the Next Generation of Mothers}