I Took Off My Purity Ring.

I am always grateful for the many voices that walk through the doors of Project Six19. Talented, respected, deep-thinking, and articulate are the words that capture these individuals. One of those people is Julia Feeser, our new social media coordinator. She is all of these things and I think you will understand why when you read a recent blog she posted at HelloSoul. Take a moment to read her story…

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When I was a sophomore in college, I took off my purity ring.

I had worn it on my right hand (it didn’t fit my left) for almost four years, a small trinket I had acquired at an abstinence conference because everyone else was getting one and I felt like I should too.

It wasn’t a particularly fashionable ring. It had a Bible verse inscribed on it (I can’t even remember which one) in juvenile font and no discernible qualities other than that once in a while someone would ask me about it. It had no significance to me other than I knew that by wearing it I was somehow on this holy level that people who were having sex weren’t.

Wearing a purity ring made me feel proud. I felt level-headed, innocent, able to practice self-control. I didn’t particularly care if others saw me as prude, because I knew that I was making smart life choices. Their experimentation with sex would end in sadness and broken relationships; mine would end in a blissful and committed marriage. I could feel worth and have self-love because I was Waiting.

Unlike high school, I found myself surrounded by girls wearing purity rings at my small, private Christian university. There were even girls who didn’t want to kiss until marriage (something I was slightly horrified by because I wasn’t about to wait for that). I realized I felt slightly less set apart in this environment, suddenly not in the noble minority as someone who had made the courageous decision to Wait.

A few months into my freshman year I began dating someone. I had dated a little in high school, but this time was different. No longer were there curfews or watchful parents, and I distinctly remember feeling that my transition from girl to woman was completed now that I was in college. I could handle an “adult” relationship and whatever that entailed.

My new boyfriend was not a Christian (something I would eventually realize was a deal-breaker), and while we tried to be on the same page about physical boundaries it proved to be very difficult for both of us. Waiting, it turned out, was virtually impossible when you really liked someone and could stay in his room well past midnight.

And eventually there came a night (which turned into many nights) where we went too far. And while we never actually had sex, we did just about everything but.

I was crushed.

As I sat in class next to girls proudly displaying their purity, I felt like I could no longer count myself amongst them. I was both angry and disgusted with myself, heartbroken that I was letting go of my convictions night after night. And while I still wore my purity ring, I felt like a fake. I couldn’t believe that I, a girl who was clearly so capable of Waiting, could compromise herself and her aspirations for sex within marriage. I mercilessly beat myself up.

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It wasn’t until several months later that I actually took my ring off, after my boyfriend and I finally broke up. At that point, I had come to terms with the fact that I had gone too far and had stopped feeling so angry with myself. So when I did finally take it off, it wasn’t because I did not feel worthy to wear it.

It was because my purity had become my identity.

Who I was as a person and a Christian had become wrapped up in whether I was having sex or not, and there was something distinctly wrong with that.

The reason it affected my self-worth so deeply was because Waiting had become such a part of how I saw myself: I had used abstinence as a means to feel good about who I was rather than because I really understood what it meant to me. I thought that “being pure” affected everything else about me: how others saw me, how God saw me, and my own worth as a person.

It also gave me a false sense of entitlement.

I had begun to perceive abstinence as a means to an end, as though a husband was a reward for my dutiful Waiting. When I wasn’t going too far physically, that meant I deserved a happy marriage I wouldn’t have to wait too long for. When I was going too far, I felt like I didn’t deserve that anymore, which only added to my sense of loss.

I took off my purity ring because I was done with what Waiting had become to me: a badge of honor, a method to get what I wanted, a way to feel good about myself.

I am still waiting to have sex. And while there are many reasons for this, my hope is I do not rest my identity on that one aspect about myself.

Sexuality, specifically for Christians, should be about so much more than just the act of waiting, and sometimes I feel like we tend to focus solely on that. Waiting to have sex should not be a scheme to make ourselves beautiful or worthy or a “good Christian,” but should instead be used to demonstrate the beauty of God and thus the perfection of his design for intimacy.

My hand doesn’t look like it’s missing anything at all.

© Julia Feeser and HelloSoul, 2014.

Why Unanimous Roar?

I shot up out of my sleep from a deep slumber. You know, the kind where you wake up and freak out because you’re not exactly sure where you are. After a few seconds reality comes to you and then you realize, “oh, I am in my room.” But what awoke me has been an image that has led me in much of my ministry over the last 10 years…a picture.

Concerts have always been my weakness. In fact, my wife and I just finished paying off all of our debt. I am embarrassed to say that much of that debt was mine…mostly from trips I took to live out a life long dream of visiting most of the major league ballparks and then from the many concerts I’ve gone to great lengths to attend. Ask me about a band and it is highly likely that I’ve seen them perform live. In fact, it is easier – and would take less time – to tell you who I’ve not seen perform then those that I have. But here is the thing; what always drove me to a concert or a ballgame, what always kept me going, and to this very day is the reason I will still go to a concert or ballgame, is the essence of community that happens in brief but spectacular moments while you are there. It’s when all the hands in a stadium are raised in unison and a cheer has fallen over the place. It’s in those moments that something happens, something holy, something divine. For a moment in time 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or even 50,000 people are united…making a unanimous roar! That was the vision I had that night when I awoke. But it wasn’t for a team, or a band, it was a body of people who were united in cause, devotion, and love because of one person, Jesus Christ.

We live in a culture that celebrates the self. Endless consumption of goods and services, obsession with others that are overly narcissistic, and sex without any bounds are some of the many symptoms. Plus, you have to add the fact that we now live in a society where we are endlessly critiqued and what others think only amplifies and propels this continuing epidemic. But this dream, or vision, or thing, whatever you want to call it, spoke to something different. It spoke of community. It spoke of change.

One of the most beautiful things about any great concert or ballgame is the fact that for brief moments you are brought together with people from different backgrounds and beliefs. There are those moments, those special moments, where you are one with everyone there…and you know it! Differences fall away for a short time and you just focus on being there.

I love what the theologian Karl Barth wrote: 

“We return to our main thesis that the Christian is a witness, a witness of the living Jesus Christ as the Word of God and therefore a witness to the whole world and to all men of the divine act of grace which has taken place for all men. Thus in what makes him a Christian the first concern is not with his own person. He is referred, not to himself, but to God who points him to his neighbor, and to his neighbor who points him to God. He does not look into himself, but in the most pregnant sense outwards; i.e., to the fact that Jesus lives, rules and conquers, and to all that this fact includes. In the measure that he is engrossed in himself, rotating about himself and seeking to assert and develop himself, he alienates himself from what makes him a Christian. And in the same measure he curiously hazards and forfeits the very thing which does in fact personally accrue to him as a Christian, as a witness referred to God and his neighbor.”

My hope with this blog is that as I devote time to writing and sharing my thoughts on culture, sex, and Christ it will in some small way bring about moments that cause us to drop our differences and point towards the ONE that brings true life and gives us opportunities to discover…a unanimous roar!