Not too long ago I went to my family doctor for a yearly physical wellness exam. A very friendly nurse measured me, weighed me, and took my temperature. She also asked me the regular series of questions for women, such as, “When was your last menstrual period,” and “Is there any chance that you are pregnant?” To the latter question, I answered no. At that point I was a 21-year-old college student who, by God’s grace, was saving my virginity for marriage, trying to live a chaste life, and feeling very strongly about my convictions in this area. The nurse proceeded to ask me, at this point seemingly deviating from the questions on the form, if I was on any kind of birth control. I again said no and briefly informed her, in a patient-to-health professional way, that I was not planning on needing birth control because I was waiting until marriage to have sex (I didn’t even bring up the fact that I will not be using contraception after marriage either!). At my answer, the nurse smiled at me condescendingly and said, “Well, dear, I’m sure that is how you feel now, but I can’t tell you how many girls I’ve met who had similar intentions, but then weren’t prepared with contraception when in the heat of the moment they changed their minds.” Lord, have mercy, when a young unmarried girl goes to the office of a Christian family practice doctor, and, rather than being commended and encouraged in her desire to save herself for her future husband, is told that she will not have the self-control to do so.
If anyone should be telling young people to wait to have sex until marriage, it should be the health professionals who know all of the physical risks that pre-marital sex brings. I am horrified that someone would offer me a birth control pill to “protect” me from pregnancy while not once warning me that such a pill would do nothing to protect my body from STD’s or my heart from breaking—both common consequences of sex outside of marriage. I was indignant as I left the doctor’s office that day. Unfortunately, I was so shocked and dumbfounded that I was not even able to voice my righteous anger and let the nurse or my doctor know how I felt. I understand what that nurse was trying to do for me and even appreciate her concern. I am sure that she had seen her fair share of girls in that office who had planned on saving their virginity for their wedding night but didn’t make it. And may God have mercy on all those girls who let go of that hope, on that nurse who was really trying to help, and on me as I continue to strive for purity and confidently hope with God’s grace that I may someday look into my husband’s eyes and know that he believed all along that I could wait for him. And I can wait for him.
Who has the right to tell young people that they are mere animals with no control over their bodies or hormones? No one ever said it would be easy, but for goodness sakes, with some willpower, self-control, prudent planning, and God’s ever-present grace, surely it is possible! In the words of former congressman Alan Keyes, “If we encourage our children to believe they can’t control their sexual desires, what of their greed, their anger, their prejudice, and their hate? What condoms will we distribute to protect them from the consequences of those?” I’m just thankful for all of the people in my life who let me know that they believed in me—my parents most especially, as well as the other teachers and role models.
One person who has changed my life because of his belief in me was Pope John Paul II. He said to me and to all the young people of the world, “It is the nature of human beings, and especially youth, to seek the Absolute, the meaning and fullness of life. Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals!
Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart. You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.” Now that is what I wish that nurse would have said to me! Young people want to be believed in, not talked down to. We long for someone to raise the bar high and challenge us to reach for it. We know that we can say yes to sex—therein lies no great feat. But we need someone to tell us that we can say no as well. Because if we cannot say no, then what does our yes mean? And deep within every human heart lies the knowledge that the sexual act is—or at least is meant to be—deeper and more meaningful than MTV and Playboy magazine make it out to be.
So… where does that leave us? Well, it leaves most people, like the nurse I met, in a place with good intentions toward young people but without a real belief in them. It leaves me, in love for the first time, in a place where I am appreciating both the importance of chastity in true love and the need of God’s help to achieve this, yet confident that His grace is always ready! Where does this leave you? If you are a parent—the most important player of all in the game of life your child is trying to win—it leaves you with some very important questions to ask yourself: Do you believe that there is any value or importance in saving one’s total gift of self inherent in the sexual act for marriage? Do you believe that saving sex can help your child to achieve his or her goals in life, to have greater self-esteem and less hurt, to have a healthier and happier marriage down the road?
And, finally, do you believe that he can do it—that your child is capable of choosing to put his hormones under the custody of his reason and choosing long-term happiness over short-term gratification? If you answered yes to the questions above, tell your child what you expect of him and believe him to be capable of—and why of course. Because only by being believed in and believing in himself will a child come to realize the great dignity and respect he or she deserves—and this realization will turn the rudder that shapes the course of his or her entire life.