*Names have been changed to protect the innocent, their privacy, and their friendship.
I have a testimony.
It’s hard for me to say that out loud, and I’ve been debating about writing about it for a while now. But I think the time has come.
I had a good childhood. I grew up in small town Arkansas. I lived in the same house for almost 10 years, until we moved around the corner, where I lived until I got married.
Momma was a secretary at the local Christian university, which allowed me to go to the private Christian high school that was attached. Daddy was a preacher for a few different little bitty churches.
I loved home. I loved my family. I loved my school and the church. Looking back on it, I am extremely thankful for all the opportunities I had. How many 17 year olds get a chance to sing at Carnegie Hall?
But I began to feel the need to stretch my wings. So at 18 years old, I left my comfortable home, my comfortable school, my comfortable life, and I moved to go to college in Tennessee.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country…” — Luke 15:13a
I thought it would be safe. I mean, Daddy’s uncle had been the president of the school. It was a small Christian environment that wasn’t too far from home, and I thought it would be perfect.
I made friends. A few I had known previously. They introduced me to a few more. We had a group, a circle.
First was *Ben. He was my first ever boyfriend. He was my first ever kiss. He looked exactly like Jim Carrey in “The Mask.”
There was Dee and her boyfriend. Dee was from close to home, so I was able to get a ride home with her a couple of times. I don’t remember her boyfriend’s name; only that he was blonde and seemed to like to cause trouble.
There was Audra my suitemate who ended up married to George. There was Mark who actually ended up married to Dee (not the blonde boyfriend). There was Bob who took me out for Sadie Hawkins Day. Other than just flashes of faces, I don’t really remember anyone else.
And then there was Teddy.
Teddy was the person I turned to when Ben broke up with me. He was tall, handsome, and more mature at 23. He was artistic, loyal, smart, and just everything I thought I wanted in my life.
He took me to see “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” He was wearing the coolest pair of jeans. He told me he would wear them when he was painting, and wipe his brushes on his jeans instead of a canvas or a cloth. The effect was rather remarkable with little bits of color all over. He held my hand through the whole movie.
Teddy had a part time job in the college radio station. It felt pretty awesome to be dating a disc jockey. (Although, being a fairly conservative Christian school, they only played jazz.) We would go to the booth during lunch and eat burgers and fries. He is the one who introduced me to mixing ketchup and mayonnaise, and to the game of Magic.
It was in that booth that things started to go downhill.
Isn’t it funny how when your life is spiraling out of control, it can feel like you are on top of the world? Looking back, I should have seen the red flags, but at the time, I only knew I was in love.
We had been dating roughly a week. We were in the radio booth. I was distraught about something. I don’t remember what about. He was trying to comfort me. One thing, kissing, led to another, petting, led to another.
I am highly sensitive to what I watch with my children in the room. I saw a movie as a teenager where a man had died and a woman who hadn’t been born yet met in Heaven. The man said something to the effect that he wanted to wait to make love until they were married. The woman said, “according to Heaven, we are.”
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. — Matthew 22:30
To my everlasting shame, I used that line. October 31, 1994 is the day I sinned before God, the day I lost my virginity to someone I wasn’t married to.
I knew it was wrong. I spent a good portion of that semester making excuses, lying, trying to justify what we were doing, what I had done.
Teddy tried to make it right. He proposed to me right after Thanksgiving Break. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we were caught by a friend, who pretty much told us we had to turn ourselves in.
So we did. Or rather, I insisted, and he went along. In a way, it was a bit of a relief to have things out in the open. It was good to have it “over.” We were suspended for a semester. In addition, after Christmas, I realized that I couldn’t marry Teddy, no matter how much I loved him.
So, how is this long, sad story a story of redemption, this testimony of mine? Because God has used that time in my life, over and over again.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.– Genesis 50:20a
For the first time in my life, I was no longer “the good girl.” For the first time, I really knew, really understood what sin was and is in my own person. I learned how far I had fallen from God’s grace, and I understood how desperately I needed Him.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.– Romans 3:23
I am more sensitive to the presence of sin in myself now, even though I still fall. And because I fell that day, I learned how far God is willing to go to pick me back up.
It’s pretty dadgum far.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.– Romans 5:6-8
I’ve also had to learn the fine art of forgiveness. I had to learn to forgive Teddy. I mean, he should have known better. He was 6 years older than I was. He should have known better.
However, I’ve really had to learn how to forgive myself. I have had to learn how to stop being so dependent upon myself, and how to fully rely on God. I can’t save myself. Only God can.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— Ephesians 2:8
I also had to learn to ask for forgiveness. I had to ask the school and the deans for forgiveness. I had to ask forgiveness from my friend who caught us. I had to ask my parents for forgiveness when they came to pick me up at the end of the semester.
I had to ask Dale for forgiveness. I had to explain to him why I broke our marriage vows before we had even met.
As I sit here writing this, I realize I haven’t asked forgiveness from one other person.
Teddy, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry that I led you on. I’m sorry that we messed around like that. I’m sorry that I made you turn yourself in, when you could have stayed. I’m sorry that I broke the unicorn and cut up all the pictures. I’m sorry that we parted in anger.
I am sorry for everything.
Maybe time has healed all things. Maybe it hasn’t.
I’m not asking for reconciliation. That’s not practical. I’m asking if you have the ability to look back twenty years to the scared young 18 year old girl and forgive her. Teddy, please forgive me.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.– Ephesians 4:32
And please forgive me for taking 20 years to ask.