Meet Jana. In many ways, she was your all-American teen. She was captain of her cheerleading squad, a good student and a great friend. But during high school something happened that would change her life forever.

Meet Sarah. At first glance, she seems a lot like Jana. She was well-liked, energetic and always on the go. Yet as she headed off to college, her life took a dramatic turn – for the better.


Two teens. Their lives heading down similar roads. That is, until they reached a significant fork in the path. It demanded a choice – a choice about purity. One chose abstinence. One did not.

Can you relate?

Both would tell you that it wasn’t an easy decision. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to sexuality. And while the vast majority of teen girls have received some sort of formal sex education by age 19, many of you are still left scratching your heads, wondering how all these facts translate into real-life decisions. If you can relate to this confusion, keep reading as these two girls talk candidly about one of the most personal areas of their lives.

Jana – Heartbreak and hope: Growing up

When I think back on my childhood, I have some great memories. Wrestling with my brothers. Chatting with my sister. And road trips that took us across the country and back. My family has always been an important part of my life. But we were far from the ideal family. We weren’t what you’d call an affectionate bunch. We never hugged each other or said, “I love you,” but we always knew that we cared a great deal about each other.

In retrospect, I can now see that my dad had a major impact on my life. He was a man of extremes. There was no middle ground for him. He was either upset and angry or loving and affectionate – he couldn’t seem to strike a happy medium. At the time, I just figured this was the normal way for grown men to act. After all, he was my dad.

Naturally, his moods spilled over into his marriage to my mom. While Mom was always outgoing and bubbly, Dad was just the opposite. Their relationship got pretty tense at moments. In fact, they fought a lot. They didn’t show much affection toward one another, either. Frankly, my dad is one of the most unromantic guys I’ve ever met. They’ve been married for more than 20 years, but I’ve never seen him do anything special for their anniversary. They never went out to eat alone. He never bought her flowers or even complimented her on the little things, which is something every woman needs.

Now don’t get me wrong – I never doubted that he loved her and that they were deeply committed to each other. I always felt a sense of security in their marriage. They provided us with a good home and great family memories. But as I got older, I wondered if true love was confined to the model I’d witnessed.

The “Talk”

My mom and I were always pretty close, but when it came to talking about sex, forget it. I remember her handing me a book about adolescence when I was in fifth grade. She told me to read it. My response was typical junior high – “Whatever, Mom!” Needless to say, I never picked it up.

Several times along the way, my parents told me I wasn’t supposed to have sex until I was married. But I was rarely given an explanation as to why not. However, there was one exception. My youth pastor at church talked about it. He drew this whole analogy between girls and rubies. He explained that we should consider ourselves to be like rubies, treasured by the men we give our hearts to. He and his wife were in their 20s and said that he had foolishly lost his virginity on his prom night. His wife, on the other hand, had remained pure until their wedding night. I could tell how much he regretted his decision. He was tortured by the fact that he couldn’t give her that same gift of purity. At the time, that talk seemed to really have an impact on me.

School days

When I reached high school, I hit the ground running. I guess you could say I was your typical outgoing, overachieving type. I was involved in my youth group. I got good grades. I was captain of my cheerleading squad. And I had tons of friends. Life was good.

But still, there was something missing. I wanted a boyfriend, but not just any guy. I wanted Mike. When I was a sophomore, he was a senior. I’d had my eye on him since the seventh grade, and finally it seemed like I might actually have a chance. He was a football player. I was a cheerleader. Our paths crossed, and before long we were spending more and more time together. Did I mention that I had another boyfriend at the time? I did. Well, before long, I kissed Mike. I eventually broke up with my other boyfriend, and Mike and I became inseparable. And so began a slippery slope that swept me down to my darkest moment ever. (To be continued)

Guys speak out

“I met a girl my junior year. Yeah, I liked her. But more than anything, I wanted to have sex. So we dated. It didn't take long for me to convince her that we were in love and that it was time. I basically brainwashed her. I'm not proud of it, but that's the truth. We had sex one time. To be perfectly honest, I was disgusted with myself, with her and by the whole thing. Sure, I had conquered what I set out to conquer. But I never felt emptier in my life. The next day, we both went on vacations with our families. Some vacation! I spent the whole trip dwelling on what I’d done. Was she pregnant? What would she expect from me now? What was I thinking? I broke up with her the next time I saw her.” – Nate

Sarah – Purity redefined: Family ties

I know that this may sound corny, but I have an amazing family. My parents have been married for 25 years, and they have always been very intentional in the way they’ve loved each other and raised us kids. I had a full childhood with a lot of fun, love and laughter. I grew up in a strong church and prayed the sinner’s prayer at a very young age, but I didn’t become a believer until I was 15.

My parents have a great marriage. For as long as I can remember, I’ve seen the verse that says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” played out in my home. They looked out for each other. Sometimes this meant Dad made dinner after a long day at the office because Mom had a headache. Other times Mom made sure the house was in order, not because she cared, but because she knew that it pleased him. It was really cool.

Let’s talk about sex

I remember very specifically the first time I heard about sex. I was in the fourth grade when a girl from school told me something I’d never heard before. I was confused and even a little grossed out. So I went to my mom that afternoon and asked her to tell me the real deal. She did – and to be perfectly honest, I thought she was kidding! It just seemed really weird. She assured me that sex was a beautiful and wonderful gift within marriage. But there was no convincing me at that point, which I guess was pretty normal for a nine-year-old.

After that, my mom and I rarely talked about sex. I did have a sister who was six years older than me, so when questions came up, I always went to her. When I was 14, I started working at a crisis pregnancy centre, which taught me a lot. I met with younger clients, gave them pregnancy tests and talked to them about their sexual experiences. It was sad to see the ugly, painful side of sex. So many of these girls had really thought the guys they were with loved them. By the time they made their way to our clinic, many of them weren’t so sure. My dad drove me to and from this centre each week for three years. Although we never talked specifically about sex, these trips gave us a great chance to talk through the experiences I was having. I began to better understand the “whys” behind abstinence.

Wild times

Before I wholeheartedly committed my life to Christ at 15, I went though a pretty wild phase for a couple of years. While my parents and teachers still thought of me as “the good kid,” I had headed down an entirely different path – drinking, smoking and kissing boys. I know the last part of this equation sounds kind of funny, but looking back I realize that this “phase” really shaped the way I viewed intimacy. In my mind, it was all just a game, literally! I remember hanging out with mixed groups, playing round after round of “kissing tag.” The object? To kiss as many guys as you could! At the time, I thought this was fun.

A few years and kisses later, my heart caught up with my actions. One night I was sitting around with a bunch of my girlfriends talking about our pasts. I wasn’t at all proud of the fact that I’d kissed more than 20 guys during my junior high and high school years. Most of these encounters were casual (like my prom date kissing me good night). But still, I began to realize how callous I’d become to the true meaning of intimacy with a guy, and what it really meant to preserve my purity – and keep it sacred and special. It was then that the light bulb began to come on. I knew that there had to be more to relationships than simple attraction. Where’s the depth in that? (To be continued)

Guys speak out

“It happened one summer night. I planned a romantic escapade for my girlfriend and myself. Her parents' house (with her parents gone). Filet mignon. Lobster tails. Jacuzzi. Flowers. The whole bit. Naturally, the night ended up in her folks' bed. It was perfect . . . and it was perfectly wrong. I'd felt this way before, but never this strongly. It was horrible! It was the most intimate moment of my life but played out in the wrong context. It was God's gift – perverted. For the next four and a half years, not a day went by without my being haunted by vivid images of having sex with her that night. I'm still regularly haunted by those memories. That was the last night I ever had sex. Not long after, I broke off the relationship.” – Nate

Let’s pick up where we left off with Jana . . .

Confusing times

Almost right off the bat, Mike and I had a pretty unhealthy relationship. He didn’t treat me well at all. He didn’t consider me a top priority, and he never made me feel special. He didn’t even acknowledge me as his girlfriend for the first six months we dated! So why did I stay with him? I guess part of it was a security issue. He was a senior and a football player. A cool guy. Just being associated with him made me feel important. But even more than the security issue, I don’t think I had a good grasp of what I could expect out of a healthy relationship. From what I’d seen in my parent’s marriage, Mike’s treatment of me seemed normal.

The more time we spent together, the more we pushed the physical boundaries. We were both Christians and knew that we weren’t supposed to have sex until married. Still, we continued to do more, until we finally gave in – completely. It wasn’t a wonderful and special time. We didn’t even talk about what we’d done. I expected him to be loving and affectionate toward me afterward, but he wasn’t. And this became the pattern from there on out. We never even talked about using protection – because that would’ve required us to talk about sex.

Ironically, Mike broke up with me the same day I decided to tell him I wanted to go on the pill. As I started to talk to him about how I felt, he counterpunched by breaking up with me! He told me that he felt as though I was giving 110 per cent to the relationship while he wasn’t inclined even to give 100 per cent. I was devastated.

Moving on

For a long time I didn’t even feel the effects of what I’d done. I didn’t have those emotions of regret and guilt that normally follow right away. But eventually they started to creep in. I began to understand that with sin comes hard consequences. Some of these effects play out in how Mike and I relate to one another now. We’re still in the same town, so inevitably we bump into each other. If I’m lucky, he’ll greet me with, “What’s up?” It hurts my heart so bad to think that we went from being as intense and intimate as two people can possibly be, to a casual (and awkward) hello. It tears me up inside. He has another girlfriend now. I can’t help but wonder what she knows. Has she heard about our sexual relationship? Are they doing what we did? And to think that there was a point at which I thought I was going to marry this guy!

While I know I’ve experienced God’s grace and his forgiveness in my life, the emotional consequences of my decision are tough – just knowing that when I get married, I won’t be a virgin. Probably the hardest thing to swallow is the thought of having sex with my future spouse. I realize this may sound a bit weird, but I have a lot of fears surrounding that. What if he notices that I know how to do something I wouldn’t have known how to do otherwise? How will that make him feel? What if I compare him? Or what if he feels as though he’s being compared? That kind of stuff just kills me.

Looking ahead

I’m not in a relationship right now, but you can bet that I’ll handle things much differently from now on. While I didn’t know it at the time, I think that my dad’s lack of affection toward me had a lasting impact. I’m sad that I tried to fill the void and deep desire for affection with Mike.

I’ve also thought a lot about what I want in a mate. When I started dating Mike, I didn’t have a standard of my own. While he didn’t seem to measure up to my ideal, I really didn’t know what that was at the time. Through reading God’s Word, interacting with married people I respect, praying and really seeking good counsel on this subject, I think I have a much better idea of what I can expect in a relationship.

I want to make sure that whoever I’m interested in has a strong conviction about maintaining sexual purity. If someone truly loves me, he’ll care enough to keep me pure. That will be top priority. I will look for a guy who takes the initiative in setting this standard from the start. That’s really important to me. In fact, one of my friends had a great idea: She and her boyfriend created a list of things that they wouldn’t do physically. Their ground rules are in place.

For me, the most important thing to remember is that God wants me to remain pure. He has forgiven me for my past, and he’ll help me maintain his standard for the future. The best way to do this is to stay focused on God and his promises. Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Enough said.

Guys speak out

“Proverbs 4:23 says, ‘Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.’ Through all my challenges, I've learned that God never intended for us to give our hearts to more than one person. I know that might sound radical, but think about it: Sure, the world tells us that our physical relationships are a casual thing. It tells us that kissing is harmless fun. And emotional ties are expendable. But that's a lie. If we choose to buy into this philosophy, we're playing Russian roulette with our hearts! And that's no laughing matter.” — Nate

What about Sarah? – On the go

While I’m not proud of my casual approach toward kissing in high school, I am thankful that I never got seriously involved with a guy early on. Part of the reason I didn’t was simply a personality issue. I’m very strong and independent. I was the president of my student body. I did the cheerleading thing. Youth group. I volunteered at the crisis pregnancy centre in town. I spent tons of time with my girlfriends. All these things gave me the freedom to develop myself into the person I am today. I never felt the need to be something I wasn’t in order to attract a guy. I saw so many of my friends fall into this trap and lose themselves in the process. I’m really thankful that I didn’t waste time, effort, energy and emotion on guys whom I wouldn’t have ended up with. You can’t exactly write “devoted girlfriend (to a guy I’m no longer dating)” on your college portfolio, if you know what I mean!


When I went to college I decided to take this idea one step further. I made a commitment to God and myself to put my dating life completely on hold. I didn’t know for how long. I just wanted to deliberately turn my entire focus toward my relationship with Jesus Christ and find satisfaction in that relationship alone. I wanted to be content with being single and use that time to continue developing into the woman he designed me to be.

Was I afraid I might miss my chance to find a husband by making myself “unavailable”? Not really. Honestly, I figured that any guy I’d eventually want to marry would certainly understand and support my conviction. Now, I can’t say it was always easy. There were plenty of times that I moped around the dorm on a Friday night, wishing I was out on a date.

But when it came right down to it, I just didn’t see a whole lot of merit in dating a bunch of guys. When you leave college, you’re certainly not going to gather up all your ex-boyfriends and go out to dinner with them. The fewer of them you have, the fewer awkward situations you’re bound to run into in the future. On the other hand, the more time you invest in friendships and positive activities, the more confidence and self-assurance you gain.

True love

Between my junior and senior years of college, I spent the summer studying in Washington, D.C., with students from all over the nation. About two weeks into the program, one of my classmates, Dave, happened to sit down next to me on the bus on our way to class. Within five minutes we were talking about politics and theology (my two favourite subjects). We totally hit it off! A few weeks later, we decided to lead a Bible study together. And we really made a good team. It was cool to see how our individual personalities came together and complemented each other well.

During my “dateless” period of college, I had concluded that when I was ready to pursue a relationship, I wanted to practice some of the principles of courtship (dating in groups, avoiding exclusive situations, having the guy approach my father with his intentions of being romantically involved, protecting my purity – not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually). I didn’t want to be legalistic about it, but I did want to be careful. While Dave and I were just friends, I still practiced these principles.

Our friendship continued to grow. Our “alone” time consisted of him walking me to and from the grocery store once a week. He’d carry my groceries back. I loved that time. At the end of the summer, Dave and I talked. He told me I had the qualities he was looking for in a wife, but he felt that God was telling him to be patient and just remain friends. I agreed. Dave was a strong, confident, intelligent and great-looking guy – he was definitely worth the wait!

It’s been two years now. Dave has asked my dad for his blessing on our relationship, and we have been courting for just over a year. I waited six months for my first hug from him, and it was awesome! I was the first girl he ever kissed – and I’ve never kissed a more amazing man in my life. I just wish I hadn’t kissed those 20-some guys before him. Even though it doesn’t seem to mean a lot at the time, it does.

Looking back

As I look back on my experiences, I’m glad for all the activities and friendships I was a part of in high school and college. I’m not proud of my carelessness toward kissing. But the truth is, I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve realized that most of us are single for only a small portion of our adult lives. We need to use that freedom wisely and work to understand whom God has created us to be. I’m thankful that God gave me two and a half years to take my attention off the dating scene and place it on him. Sure, there were times when I just wanted to go have fun. But I’m glad I tempered that temporary impulse, because it’s such a great feeling to meet that one man whom you feel you’ve prayed for and prepared and waited for. I sacrificed little pleasures along the way. But Dave was definitely worth it! I’m excited to be able to enter marriage knowing that I don’t hold the scars of sexual impurity.

My experience also taught me that we need to be as prepared as possible for marriage. It’s easy to make a list of standards and qualities we want in a mate, but what are we doing to become those things ourselves? If we want a man who’s godly, dedicated to the Lord, patient, strong and active, then we need to be all those things as well. We’re not going to acquire those characteristics by sitting around and waiting for a boyfriend. When I was finally OK with being loved by Christ without a boyfriend and having abundant life through him, Dave popped into my life! That doesn’t always happen, but remember, God’s timing is perfect.

Jesus wants us to have a love relationship with him, delighting in his Word and all that he has to teach us. He is trustworthy and faithful; he knows our every need. When we figure that out and hold on to that reality, he chooses to bless us with a human picture of what that looks like. And that’s amazing!

Guys speak out

“The first time I ever went out with my high-school girlfriend, we sat on the couch talking until 3:30 in the morning. We looked eye to eye and never even thought about kissing. It was amazing! When I finally went home, my heart just wouldn't stop pounding. The last couple nights of this same relationship, we spent the entire night on the couch – fooling around. We didn't talk at all. Our relationship had obviously changed. We were out of balance. Our physical relationship had taken centre stage, leaving little to no room for the emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. And the results were nothing short of tragic.” – Nate

© 2000, 2005 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Published at

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