‘I have exciting news!” Grace said as she bounded past me and plopped on the couch in my office.
Wondering what she had to share, I quickly closed the door, spun around and excitedly inquired, “What?! What wonderful thing has happened?”
With a huge smile on her face, Grace squealed, “Kyle and I are officially dating!”
“Wow, this is big news!” I said as smiled from ear to ear.
Like many teen girls at the start of a relationship, Grace had trouble talking about anything else. Knowing this, I let her share more details about this new development. As she talked about their dates together thus far, I asked if they had set physical limits or talked about temptations.
Her eyes grew big as she hastily responded, “We are both definitely waiting until marriage to have sex!” “At least I am,” she emphatically added.
“Grace, that is so awesome,” I said, “but you need to know that a lot can happen apart from sexual intercourse.”
Wide eyed and quiet now, Grace agreed. As we talked more about this, she shared how several of her friends had already given in to sexual temptations with their boyfriends. Even though she was disheartened by their decisions, she hoped that her commitment and determination to stick to it would be enough. She never really thought about the challenges that might make it hard to remain committed to purity.
Grace is not unlike most high school girls I meet. Regardless of their commitment to remain pure, many teens do not have a plan to resist the physical temptations they will face in their relationships with the opposite sex. Not surprisingly fewer and fewer stay the course. One large nationwide survey indicated that 80% of “evangelical” adults between 18-25 years of age did not wait until marriage to have sex. (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2009)
Over the years, I have read many articles that try to explain why abstinence movements seem to have failed. Most cite a combination of reasons which often include the media’s perverted portrayal of sex, the prevailing “if it feels good, do it” philosophy, the exponential rise in pornography as well as a blatant misunderstanding of God’s intention for this limit.
While I would certainly agree that all of these play a role, from my vantage point as a counselor working with teens and families, I would add another. I believe there is an enormous void when it comes to open and ongoing discussions AT HOME about sex, sexual desires and temptations, and the ongoing challenges kids face as they spend more and more time with the opposite sex.
Too many parents (and kids) think that a verbal commitment, a purity ring, a ceremony, or one candid talk about the consequences of sex before marriage is enough. Some avoid the discussion altogether because of the awkwardness or resistance they get from their kid. Still others hope the talk at school or occasional admonitions from a youth pastor or youth worker will be enough.
We need to wake up to the reality that in order for kids like Grace to keep the commitment they made, they will need one or more adults in their life who affirm their desire to want more in a relationship but who remind them that God’s limits come from an incredible heart of love for them. They will need someone who is honest with them about how challenging it can be to remain sexually pure. They will need someone who will lovingly set limits, hold them accountable, and regularly ask them tough questions. If and when they mess up, they will need someone who will reflect the amazing grace of the Father and who will lovingly urge them not to throw in the towel because of their mistake but instead to run toward a God who remains crazy in love with them regardless of their failure.
Ideally, this message, does not come from just one person nor does it happen in one day or in one conversation. Instead, it comes from many people and it continues before, during and after relationships with the opposite sex begin or end.
We can’t wait for our kids to initiate this discussion because most tell me they don’t know how. They are waiting on YOU to begin the dialogue. They need YOU to keep it going. They are listening even when you don’t think they are. When you do this, you get the chance to reflect the heartbeat of the Father and His ultimate purpose to refine them as they courageously trust in His perfect plan.
So, will YOU be that person? For your son, your daughter, their friends, your friend’s kids? Because the dialogue out there has already begun. And, our kids are listening to it because they aren’t hearing much from YOU.