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The Virgin Woman

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

As women, we get caught up in the beliefs of the world. We get caught up in the world’s thinking that we have to wear this new cosmetic or have this new hairstyle in order to be beautiful in the eyes of our male counterparts. We get caught up in all of these material things and forget that we can establish beauty in the eyes of others simply through our decisions and our actions.

Did you know that purity is beautiful? I believe that committing your body to the Lord before a man makes you beautiful. And as many mornings as I wake up, do my hair, put on make-up, and throw on a dress, in my heart I know that I’m beautiful without all those things.

Purity, chastity, and virginity have all come to be somewhat strange words for men and women I believe. For so many individuals they’ve grown to be inherently intimidating or fear inspiring words. And coming from someone who strives to adopt those words to their identity in the eyes of Christ, I find that kind of sad. I find it discouraging to know that the decisions of myself and others have grown to be things that have the potential to make a person undesirable and strange. Because I feel as if that’s discounting a personal choice. And, honestly, sometimes it’s almost discounting a personal feat.

I would venture to say that humans have the inherent desire to be sexually active once they come of a particular age. And that to refrain from that desire is almost to refrain from instinct. Not to flatter myself or anything, but it takes a lot of strength and focus not to act on those desires. And it takes a lot of wisdom to be able to recognize those things that will increase those desires within you. Humans have a natural want to live in communion with others. And it’s difficult to remind your mind and your heart that sex doesn’t guarantee that when your body is telling you it does.

For those who don’t understand why purity is in some sense of the word attractive, I would honestly venture to say they don’t understand. Hard work is attractive. Passion is attractive. Cleanliness is attractive. And, just as those things apply to our lives in general, they apply to purity and chastity. An individual who works hard to preserve the best of their physical self for a spouse they have yet come to know is attractive. An individual who has a passion for the Lord and his promises of redemption, healing, and new life is attractive. And an individual who pursues cleanliness of heart that it might function properly in the context of love and affection is attractive.

I commend the man who ventures to pursue the heart of a chaste woman. Because each and every day I’m becoming increasingly well acquainted with the difficulties this brings. It’s hard to mold your heart to a value it does not inherently hold for itself in the interest of another. I get that. I get the questions that must go through your head. I get that you must wonder if it’s worth it. I get that friction and frustration must be encountered when you desire something your significant other refuses. But I’m telling you that despite any argumentation or spats that may result from this disjunction, she appreciates your effort. It’s hard. It’s hard to justify expecting that of someone for the sake of nothing but your own heart. But there’s little you respect more than someone willing to try. The human heart is well versed in the art of empathy. And it’s in that art in which so much of your strength lies. It’s that art that lead our Savior to give his life for us. And it’s that art that gives romance a heartbeat. For love is not a selfish endeavor, but rather on that thrives in an environment bathed in selflessness.

Your body is woven from the light of heaven. Are you aware that its purity and swiftness is the envy of angels and its courage keeps even devils away. 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. –  1 John 4:18

P.S. You are enough.

You can only love as far as you forgive

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

It was May 22, 2009 and I was in Colorado taking a week of graduate classes at the Augustine Institute. That morning I had gotten up early with one of the other students to go for a run in the mountains. We had returned in time to shower and make it to Mass without being late. The chapel was about a fourth of a mile walk from where we were staying and as I was walking there that morning Dr. Burns was walking ahead of me by himself. I recognized him by a picture I had seen, but had never formally met him.

I put a little spring into my step so I could catch up to him and meet him. As I approached him I extended my hand to introduce myself, Hi, I’m Maura. It’s a pleasure to meet you. He had a distinct presence about him; my brother James has the same, so I knew he had been in the military. But there was something else there too, he radiated peace, yet kept close to himself. I was intrigued.

Once inside the chapel, he chose to sit in the last row by himself. I sat several rows in front of him and when I turned around to give the woman behind me the sign of peace I saw him again. I knew in my heart that I was in the presence of someone great I just didn’t know why. I wonder what he is going to talk about this morning, I thought to myself.

Dr. Burns was our third professor and speaker that morning; and I sat up a little straighter when he walked in. The week was exceedingly condensed and I was exhausted; I think I may have dosed off before his talk and was determined to vigorously take notes during his class. Only the Lord knew that instead He wanted me to be still and listen with my heart.

At first he talked about the New Evangelization and how the Church exists to evangelize. And to be completely candid, I was slightly disappointed because I had heard countless talks about the New Evangelization, not that one could ever hear enough. I just thought he was going to talk about something that was going to leave me breathless. Little did I know as I sat there drinking watered down coffee that everything I claimed to believe in was about to be tested in a dramatic way.

I remember thinking, I could really use a real cup of coffee or a few shots of espresso. Then Dr. Burns said, Is forgiveness possible?What? You were just talking about the New Evangelization and I was day dreaming about a good cup of coffee and taking a nap, how did we jump from that to forgiveness?

I instantaneously snapped to attention. Dr. Burns proceeded to share the story of an abusive man in his life with the class. There was one particular day in his childhood that he was describing that caused me to quiver. I saw someone who had hurt me in his story and started to relive a memory I had repressed for so long.

Tears began to well in my eyes and he glanced at me. He continued his story and then my tears turned to torrents. Dr. Burns paused and said he was available after class to speak with me. He had to stop half way through the story to compose himself and it was actually comforting to me to see that it was okay to cry.

When he had finished describing the trauma he told us about the beauty of reconciliation. He shared about how he was driving to Texas and listening to a tape in the car when the speaker started talking about forgiveness. The speaker told her listeners that when we forgive from deep within, we not only free ourselves but free the other person as well. God’s grace and our free will to choose to forgive will release the one who has caused harm. Dr. Burns said that we must forgive in order to be forgiven. For that gift we need grace and must frequent the sacraments and ask God how to forgive. God promises that He will not give us anything He can’t handle, for His grace is sufficient.

He continued to tell us how he pulled over on the side of the road and begged God to help him live out that message and prayed for the grace to forgive his father from his heart. As he grew in God’s wisdom, Dr. Burns realized that he needed to forgive not only his father, but his mother for allowing the children to be subjected to harm and ultimately he needed to forgive himself for believing it was his fault.

I could never compose a string of words deep enough to describe how God used Dr. Burns to inspire me to forgive those who have hurt me. As I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament one last time before returning home I begged our Father in Heaven to help me put into practice Dr. Burn’s talk. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “For gold is tested in fire.”

Coming home I wrote out a battle plan, which I still refer to daily. More than five years later, I am in utter awe at what our Father has done. When God said He would never leave His children; He meant it. And His grace is like the ocean, vast and deep.

Forgiveness is a choice and I am exceedingly blessed to be privileged to have met Dr. Burns. He is one of the most humble, courageous and encouraging people I have ever met. I am blessed to know him and thankful for his witness. His courage and virtue changed my life and opened my heart to the beauty of forgiveness. 

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

P.S. You are enough.

Keep your head up darling

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By  Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Keep your head up, little fighter. You can do this. I know sometimes it’s hard. But you’re not alone. He’s right there with you. He’s taking your hand and he’s guiding you to more stable ground. You’re almost there. Just hold on a little bit longer.

Tell yourself that every day you wake up and find that life is still harder than you imagined. Hold on just a little bit longer. Because better days are coming your way. You’re going to know joy and companionship and acceptance and love again. I promise. A few dark moments doesn’t mean you’re headed for a dark life. You are basking in light.

Don’t give up. Don’t think that it’s over. Everything is just beginning. Life and beauty are just beginning to make themselves manifest. Let hope and faith embrace you and lift you up. You deserve to fly. And God will give you the wings to enable you to fly to your dreams. You don’t have to give them up. Just because someone tells you they’re out of your reach or impossible doesn’t mean they are. You determine your dreams. And with a heart committed to Christ you will achieve them without question.

Don’t just commit your efforts or your works to Him -  commit your life to Him. Give it all to Him. Give it all to Him and watch what was once yours be turned into more than you could ever imagine.

Never give up, little fighter. You’re almost there. You’re so very close to the place you were created to be. You may have taken a few wrong turns along the way, but there’s nothing to worry about, darling. They were considered by the heart of God and promised to fit into the story of your life. He’s writing your story along with you. And with Him it is undeniably a story of redemption and forgiveness. So let the tears fall if they need to. Because your faults and misgivings are no longer the sum of your whole. Let them wash away every thought in your mind that tells you that you can’t do something. Let them silence the voices of those who couldn’t find it in themselves to believe in you. I believe in you. He believes in you. We believe in your ability to do great things and to affect the world around you.

Chin up, darling. Look on your life with pride. Because it is so incredible. It is the most amazing testament of love and devotion. Did you know that you’re loved? Did you know that when you felt most unlovable there was a Being in this world that would have done anything for you? He hung on the cross while your name was whispered to His heart. He saw everything. He saw everything you’re ashamed of. And He wanted you. He wanted you more than anyone could ever want you. He wanted to spend eternity with you. He wanted to know you. He wanted to share perfection with you. He wanted to invite you into His family. He saw you and knew you were worth it in every way.

You are worth it, little fighter. You are wanted. You are cherished. You are consistently pursued. You are valued. You are enough in every way. Keep your head up, little fighter. Fight the good fight of faith and let the word surrender never become a part of your vocabulary. You’re going to win.

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - 1 Timothy 6:12

P.S. You are enough.

Dating: It’s not a fairytale, it’s work

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Our society tries to make women believe that dating is supposed to be like the TV show Sex and the City. Well let me tell you something, that is a lie from the pit of hell. That’s not dating, that’s glorified objectification and impurity at its finest. An authentic man doesn’t taint a woman’s purity. An authentic man stands up to heroically protect it, and vice versa. And this takes work, and a lot of it.

I know a gentleman who was attracted to a Catholic woman’s beauty. He desperately wanted to date her, but every time he asked her out, she said no. After several rejections, he smartly figured out that he would have to change his lifestyle if he was to win her heart. He started going to Mass, praying, and living morally. He continued to develop his relationship with God, then asked her out again. She said yes, and today they are married.

A woman by her very nature is a mystery. And when she conducts herself in accordance with the way in which God created her, she reflects this beauty and appeal in a unique way. When a woman is authentic, she calls a man to a higher standard by her very nature. Men are naturally attracted to her authentic beauty and integrity. External beauty may attract a man, but internal beauty keeps him.

Ladies, don’t ever conform to immorality to attract a man. You are worth more than that. In fact, your worth is beyond human comprehension. God created the universe, surely he didn’t forget about your future. Every woman yearns for a man who is going to protect and cherish her. My question for you is: are you conducting yourself in such a way to attract a virtuous man? Embrace the beauty of your femininity, and you will inspire a man to step up. So, instead of finding him, let him find you. Men have an inherent desire to pursue a woman, let them do that. We need to stop blaming men and become the women we were created to be, whether you are in a relationship or not.

Wait for a man who will hold your hand, instead of touching you inappropriately. Men like that do exist. And what you need to do is embrace the beauty of being an authentic woman, and you will attract just such a man.

Remember, “when a boy calls you cute, he likes your face. When he calls you hot, he likes your body. When he calls you beautiful, he likes your heart.” So wait for a man who calls you beautiful, for this is what you deserve, because that’s what you are. Let’s be authentic women ladies! Let’s embrace the beauty of our femininity.

You can’t have a relationship without vulnerability. 

And this takes work.

Let’s be real, relationships aren’t like all of the hollywood movies that are out there. There are no perfect relationships. Relationships take work, because love is a choice, not a fuzzy feeling. And the one you love should be fought for because love requires loving all of a person, the good and the not so good. Love is work. And it’s hard work. And it’s often the most challenging to love the one that is closest to us, because they are the ones that annoy us the most. But they are also the ones that make us smile because they know us, because they love us deeply. Love is desiring the good of the beloved, to sacrifice and serve the beloved without asking anything in return. To empty ourselves out of authentic sacrificial love, this is hard work and requires grace. This is love. 

The human heart is a complex thing to understand. In fact, I don’t think we can ever truly comprehend the depth of the human heart and all it’s facilities. It can love passionately one minute and be crushed the next, but admits the joy and pain it keeps beating, keeping us alive. Our hearts can give, feel pain, joy, sorrow, and be pierced with disappointment. I think everyone has experienced the pain of losing someone close to them. It hurts.

God is the ultimate example of vulnerability. He came not just to give a piece of His heart to us, but all of it. He allowed the Romans to arrest Him, spit, slap and beat Him. He opened Himself up to be scourged out of love for us, as His flesh was torn from His body and blood spilled out. They roughly submerged a crown of thorns on His head, which penetrated into His skull. Then he lovingly picked up His cross and carried it to Calvary. Along the way He thought of you and I, because we were why He chose to suffer. But He never regretted a moment of His bitter and sacred passion, He only kept loving us. When He arrived at Calvary, the soldiers violently stripped Him of His garments to the point of tearing His flesh. As they pounded nails into His scared Hands and Feet, He thought of you and I, and He kept giving until He expired His last.

So despite how the world disappoints us, the people who lie to us and let us down we must keep fighting with love in our heart. We must keep striving to open our hearts to vulnerability without the fear of being hurt. And if our heart should get hurt, we must make the choice to see beauty in the opportunity to mirror Christ’s love: to give without asking anything in return.

When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.  – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

P.S. You are enough

I choose to wait.

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

When I was thirteen, I decided to be chaste. But it never stopped there. Because it begins again every day. I wake up and make that decision anew every day. Because every day it means something different to me. Every day it gets harder. Every day that decision expands as I add an increasing amount of knowledge concerning life, love, human sexuality, redemption, desire, faith, etc. into the mix.

When I was thirteen, chastity was like living a fairy tale. But it isn’t anymore. It’s living a life with someone who has yet to enter my life constantly on my mind. And I’ve never for a moment regretted it. It isn’t my identity, it’s the way through which I express my love and appreciation and respect for someone who I am yet to know. It doesn’t mean that I am in any way superior to someone who isn’t chaste. It just means that I made a choice and have chosen to stand by it as I go through life.

When I was thirteen, I chose to be chaste least of all for myself. And now, as I’m twenty, I continue to make that choice least of all for myself. I make it for God that I might become the person He’s calling me to be. And I make it for my husband that I might preserve the best of my existence to be bound to him in spirit and in body.

When I was thirteen, I didn’t consider the awkwardness of my wedding night. And I still don’t. Because the goal of chastity is not to ensure good sex. It’s to ensure a pure heart.

When I was thirteen, I didn’t know the man I was going to marry. But now, after writing nearly eighty letters to him over the period of two and a half years, I do in some ways. He doesn’t yet have a face. And he doesn’t yet have a name. But he does have a heart. And it’s a heart whose place is now reserved in my own. It’s that heart that swells inside of me in the face of temptation. It’s that heart that whispers to me in the aftermath of rejection. It’s that heart that keeps me laughing in times of awkwardness. And it’s that heart that helps foster forgiveness in the presence of my own mistakes or the face of other’s.

When I was thirteen, I dreamt of marrying a chaste man. But now I dream of marrying a man whose qualities are not necessarily limited to and do not necessarily include that particular feature. Because I learned the concept of a dynamic and forgiving love. A love with imperfections. And a love that may not have known what it would one day grow to encompass. I know that a person’s past does not always define their future much less their ability to love another. I know that all people deserve the best of my love. And that one day I’ll be deserving of the best of another’s love.

When I was thirteen, I was provided Biblical evidence to prove the validity of chaste living. But I’ve come to believe that the Bible isn’t always enough to keep me going in the right direction, nor is church. Because God’s story is still being written. His miracles are still abound. His Son’s sacrifice still stands. And His church isn’t limited to a building. Sermons are present in our everyday lives. They may not always be spoken by a priest. They may not be spoken at all. But God is spreading lessons of love throughout our existence.

“She holds onto hope for he is forever faithful.”  – 1 Corinthians 1:9

P.S. You are enough.

The Day a Scale Gave Me More than a Number

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Today, I ran across a scale that I found to be pretty incredible. Underneath the top where it would read your weight, it said the words “you are beautiful” in purple script.

Okay, so I’m a total sap. I accept that. But it turns out that I’m the kind of sap that just about sheds a few tears in HEB (store in Texas). Because, honestly, this really stuck me. I think that as women we really need things like this in our lives. Because, if you’re anything like me, you probably forget.

I forget that weight is just a number.

I forget that it’s a number only I can see.

I forget that the pound or two fluctuation that I see in my weight isn’t evident to the human eye.

I forget not to let petty things like a number weigh in on my heart.

And I forget that beauty is not measured or dictated by external factors.

As women, I think we do forget. I think that we forget that God doesn’t necessarily make girls like the ones we see on magazine covers. That the girl that we spend countless hours working out to look like doesn’t even look like that. That she’s been slimmed and toned to the specifications and ideals of an individual whose face remains hidden behind the screen of a computer. That she was created by the world.

As women, I think that we forget that our image of beauty is inherently flawed. We forget as we poke and paint and cover and tone that our image of beauty had been largely dictated by the world.

As women, I think that we’ve failed to realize the validity in the words of our earthly fathers. We no longer see the validity in him having told us that we would always be beautiful.

And, as women, I think we’ve lost sight of our heavenly Father. I think that in the process of growing up we managed to convince ourselves that believing in natural, God-given beauty is like believing in fairy tales. That it’s naïve or childish or just false. And we cover some of God’s greatest works of art with a product created with the intention of altering His creation. We’ve taken to fueling an industry that thrives off telling women that they’re not good enough. That if they use this mascara or this eye shadow they will in some way be better, maybe more desirable or attractive. We’ve lost sight of our Father’s creation. And not only have we lost sight of it- we’ve hidden it. We’ve hidden it from the eyes of the people we love thinking that it will please the world.

I’m just as guilty as anyone else. I’m just as guilty or thinking that that little number on a scale somehow directly correlates to people’s perception of my attractiveness. I’m just as guilty of relying on make up to make me beautiful. And I’m just as guilty of taking into account my beauty according to the world ahead of the beauty seen in me and given to me by Christ. I’m just as guilty of being blind to a reality that isn’t dictated by miniscule elements.

But we’re wrong. We’re all wrong. We’re wrong in our reliance on earthly things to make unnecessary “improvements” on what was already deemed lovable in the heart of Christ.

Because you are beautiful. Not because of a product or a number or an article of clothing. You’re just beautiful. You. Right now. As you are. Make up or no makeup. You’re perfect. And you’re perfect because you’re you. Because you were conceived in the mind of the Lord. And you were accepted into His heart as an individual with value and worth. You are always beautiful.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” – 1 Samuel 16:7

P.S. You are enough.

Get up, get pretty, and get over it

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Take a look inside, girl. Take a minute to reacquaint yourself with your soul and the Person who created it. Now try telling me that you aren’t worthy of love. Try telling me that when a man comes along with the most beautiful heart you’ve ever met you’ll still be thinking about the boy who hurt you. He’s just another stepping stone in the path to a romance created by the King.

No matter how bad it hurts, you have to pick your head up. Because you’ll never be able to see all the blessings God is bringing your way when you’re hanging your head in shame, regret or looking back at the man who couldn’t see how deserving you are of proper love and affection and wishing he would head back your way one day. Leave him in the past. That’s where his home in your life is now. Wipe those tears away. He’s not worth it.

You’re worth it. You’re worth someone’s time and attention. Someone in this world is waiting, even praying to find someone exactly like you. In fact, you are the woman of some man’s dreams. You may not see it now and it may be difficult to keep in perspective, but that man happens to think you’re one of the most beautiful women in the world. He’d do anything to have you by his side.

He makes fairy tales sound like jokes in comparison to the love story he’s going to write with you. He’d rather die than leave you. There is a man in this world with your soul written on his heart. And you’ll never be able to give those words meaning to him if you’re still caught up on the boy who could have been or should have done better or never really was.

Your past is the fairy tale. Your future is the life you could hardly even imagine. It’s better than you ever dreamed. It puts Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White’s Prince Charming to shame. Because your prince is real. He’s probably not going to show up on a horse. But he’s going to show up. And he’s going to make you wonder why you ever spent so much time fretting to God when His perfect plan could have been trusted from the very beginning. Hang in there, hun, it’s coming your way. And it’s a life more incredible than a story book could ever have imagined. Designed by the Creator of your heart and tailored to your soul, it will sweep you off your feet and leave you in awe the moment you lift your head to face it.

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious…” – 1 Peter 2:4

P.S. You are enough.

Your first love

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By Bobby Blood | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Jenny Haas Photography

You are My lily among the thorns. I created you. I, love itself, created you. My dear daughter I want you to know how much I love you. This love I speak of does not fade, and at every moment you can count on the fact that I’m thinking of you. Why? You make me happy. I know you make mistakes but I’ve seen you pull yourself back up to see me time and time again. Don’t be afraid to grab on to me when you are falling. I’ll hold on tight and keep you safe. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are mine.

I have perfect plans for you.

Amidst the difficulties of life I have a mission for you. This mission I trust with you alone. I have written it in the desires of your heart. When it is time your heart will be set aflame in a special way and you will carry much responsibility. I see the great weights that you are bearing for the sake of My kingdom, but they will become heavier, so will my love.

You are going to bring many to Me. When you smile, I smile. Your joy radiates My own joy and My dear daughter that will cause many to search for Me in you. Daily you remind Me why I carried that cross. I want to see you in heaven forever. I want to love you in ways that you can not yet imagine. I want you to bring many souls with you. You have already grown My Church by your life.

I will share your heart with another.

I love you and you are mine. However, I have made your brothers strong. I ask them daily to give their hearts to me to be purified so that they are more worthy to be shared with you. They will make mistakes; they will love little, but they are trying to show love to My highest creation, you. Don’t lose faith in them for I am working day and night to make the man in whom you will share your life with holy and full of virtue. Don’t lose hope.

Since the beginning of time I have loved you. This love will never cease.

- God, your Father.

P.S. You are enough.

Love Costs Everything

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By Jesse Garcia | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Jenny Haas Photography

I’ve always been a romantic. When I was little I would dream of ways to sweep a girl off her feet. I remember the first girl I ever fell in love with. It was a bright sunny day in Los Angeles, California. The cool breeze swept through the playground as she slowly turned around, her brown hair looked sleek in the sunlight. She slowly tucked her hair behind her ears as the sun radiated her shy smile. I was in love. I wanted to walk over to Karla that day and profess my love, even though I had not met her yet. 

I saw how the other guys looked at her and I knew I had to move in quickly. I mustered up all the courage I had saved for that year to ask my dad for a new bike for Christmas, but this was bigger than a bike; this was love. I slowly started making my way across the elementary playground as sweat started slowly crawling down my back. My palms started feeling as if I was holding a melting popsicle. I had cleverly acted like I was checking for something in my pockets so I could wipe off the sweat. I coughed on my bicep to check how my breath was, and then quickly wished that I hadn’t. Doubts started running through my mind, “she’s not going to like me, she’s way too beautiful. Maybe I can just send her a note asking if she likes me…” As I looked up, she was right in front of me. 

I mutter around my words trying to say “uhhhhhhh… hi, I’m Jesse” as I extend my hand to shake hers. She softly blushed. “Hi, I’m Karla.” We both started laughing like we were lost friends who had just run into each other after years later. “So… we should sit at lunch one day… like together…,” I said to her. Just as she looked up and started to say, “I would…” a ball came soaring right in between us. A group of guys came running after it. James quickly picked it up and looked at Karla and asked her, “why are you with him? Come play with us.” He put his arm around her and they both lived happily ever after. My heart felt as if it were a shirt that she had rung out dry for all it had and then she simply put me up on a clothesline to be forgotten.

Karla broke my heart, and on that day I didn’t want to open up my heart ever again. It hurt and it was painful, why would I ever do that again?

Twelve years later I found myself in the same place all over again. I was in love, or at least my idea of love, but I didn’t want to get hurt so I kept my heart closed. I didn’t want to be the one sending text messages first, I didn’t want to be the one asking, “we should hang out” first, I didn’t want to be the one to make the “first move,” and I didn’t even want to be the one to say, “I love you” first. My idea of what a relationship was; if they love me more, I have the upper hand. I have all the power if they like me more and I can walk away at any time when they can’t.

Relationship after relationship year after year I kept doing the same thing, leaving behind women who have full heartedly put forth effort into the relationship as I kept my distance. As I reflect back on all my mistakes I have to apologize to these women. For I have done a great disservice to you. I’ve allowed you to think that you are not enough, that you are not beautiful, and worst of all that you are not worth pursuing. But the truth is, as a man, that is my job. That is my role as a man to not just pursue you through the great valleys and mountains, but to fight for you when you are tempted by a serpent, to be a mirror and reflect the beauty that God created you in, to uphold your dignity and not defame it by watching pornography, to point you back to God instead of to my own desires and pleasures, and to treat you as a subject not an object.

We live in world that strips women of who they are and men, we don’t do anything about it but say “did you see the way she was dressed she is just looking for it.” Men, when did we submit ourselves to the passion of lust and let it cripple us into an animalistic state? When did we stop seeing women as daughters, wives, and sisters? How long will we entertain companies that diminish the true beauty of women? Men, how long will we continue to fail to protect the women around us? These are some questions we must answer in the silence of our hearts. These are some questions that I myself must answer.

Women you deserve more and I pray you believe these words. You deserve the best. You are beautiful. You are worth pursuing. 

Karla taught me something very important that day that I’ve never noticed before. That love must be fought for, love must pursue, love is selfless, and love must take a leap. Is it going to hurt sometimes? Yes, but love is worth it. Love costs everything.

P.S. You are enough.

The 24-Year Old Virgin

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By Patrick Dunford | Guest Blogger

She was already drunk when I arrived at the party. Her roommates were starting to get worried about her, and I was the only one who wasn’t in some way inebriated. She and I had a class together that semester, her roommates recognized me from study groups and campus organizations and asked me to walk her home. It was a chilly night and she wasn’t dressed for it so I gave her my jacket. I’d had a crush on her the whole semester, she still looked beautiful even in that state. She was rambling about a whole lot of nothing, but sometimes an attractive girl walking next to you makes subject matter of a conversation seem inconsequential. We finally arrived at her apartment and she made a beeline for the bathroom with my jacket still in her hand. I waited patiently in the apartment’s foyer. She emerged from the bathroom in only her underwear, holding my jacket. She looked at me almost expectantly. I remember thinking “God, I hope she doesn’t remember this tomorrow.” So I stepped away from her, out of the door frame, and walked home in my t-shirt.

Relationship speaker Jason Evert often addresses crowds at his talks like this: “Girls, wouldn’t you agree, guys never think about sex?” There’s a lot of nervous laughter and expectant confusion that follows. He goes on to say “We talk about it, we joke about it, we watch movies about it, we listen to music about it, but how often do we stop and think about it? What is the purpose of the gift of human sexuality?” He’s right. My decision to walk away from that young woman wasn’t a result of fear, or nervousness, or promise of a girlfriend’s wrath later. I’d made a commitment long before I ever stepped foot in her apartment leading to my choice to walk away. The decision to wait until I marry to have sex.

Sex represents the some of the checked luggage of all our problems, too large to be stowed carefully under the seat in front of us until the captain has turned off the fasten seat belt sign. With that in mind, I want to lay out first what this post isn’t. It is not a condemnation of anyone who’s had sex out of marriage, if we go by the numbers it’s likely 70-80% of the friends in my life have already. There’s as much hope there in God’s mercy as anyone who has abstained, so give me the benefit of the doubt until the end of this post as to why. This is my challenge on behalf of our beauty and dignity to the common idea in our culture that remaining a virgin until our wedding is at best passé and definitely worthy of humiliation and feelings of inadequacy. It’s a decision I and many others have made out of recognition of the beauty and truth about sex, the law of Love written on the human heart about intimacy.

The relationships we have are meant to be built on a firm foundation. Cheap car parts will last you a few thousand miles and break apart again, even good ones last a short span. So I offer to you a progressive relational foundation built on parts designed for eternity. The first two points are the foundation on which all our relationships are meant to be based. The second two directly address sex and marriage. So, in the words of Salt N’ Pepa which I’m slightly misinterpreting for the purpose of clever pop-cultural reference “Let’s talk about sex.”

1. You were created by and for Love, by virtue of which you are beautiful and have an inherent dignity.

2. We are only able to share this Love insofar as we come to know it and its role in our life. Without this Love as our center, our ability to Love is incomplete.

3. Sex is not this Love, but a gift meant to express a deep reflection of it and commitment to it in our lives.

4. Waiting for sex until marriage is not just a rule, nor is it stifling. It is meant to liberate us to Love others more fully.

We take our own origin from God, exist for one reason and purpose: Love. We see this reflected in God creating the world in Genesis, seeing that all He creates is “good.” You’ll notice the most descriptive pronouncement of any particular beauty is Adam addressing Eve, when he says “This at last is bones of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” Basically, “Whoah, good one God, this whole Woman idea You had is definitely the best.” Women, you’re the crown of creation, no doubt there. They were good simply because Love made them so. God created these two Goods to share in the goodness He’d already made, and before, during, and after their fall continues to give them the choice to love Him back and choose Him over anything else. Even each other.

Ladies, can’t you just imagine Full-House era John Stamos leaning toward you over a bowl of brand-name greek yogurt, looking you in the eyes, and with a voice like a combination of wine, chocolate, roses, and Ryan Gosling’s 5 o’clock shadow telling you “Baby, you’ll never be my everything.” Isn’t that every twenty-something woman’s dream? No? I guess I only had you until the end there. Let’s take a moment to recover from thinking about that jawline aaaannnd…and we’re back. What I could possibly expect you to find sexy in a man telling you (Gentlemen, there’s tact involved here with the how, so don’t run out and tell your significant others right away) you’ll never be the center of his life? It’s because I want you to consider that if a man tells you you’re his everything, there’s a good chance you’ll end up being his nothing

We saw earlier God calls man to seek, know, and love him. First priority: seek, know, and love God. So Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose this to you: If we do not have our heart and mind set on this priority how can we expect to truly love others, especially a romantic other? C.S. Lewis hammers this idea home with: “You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.” God is the first thing, our relationship with Him the first principle to address in life. Lewis expounds this point further in a separate essay, reminding us “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things. We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy.” If we don’t put God first, we lose the second things.

In his writing Humanae Vitae Pope Paul IV beautifully proposes the reality of love in marriage: “Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” It takes its origin from God. Its origin. It begins with Love Himself, Christianity directed toward a “whom” rather than a “what.” So we don’t therefore “make love” as a certain clothing brand’s widespread ads command us to do, but as recipients of a divine Love are given the gift of being able to share it. Love is meant to always be pointed back to God who created us, first things first.

 And we return now to how this all relates to sex. Humanae Vitae goes on to say:

“Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source.”

Where’s he pulling this madly counter-cultural message from? That we aren’t meant to “American Pie” styled masters of our lives and sexual destinies? We hear in the Gospel of Mark (referencing Genesis itself) that “a man leaves his family for his wife and the two become one flesh.” That “one flesh” represents the act of a man and woman consummating their marriage, the baby-making. Even sex, then, is not just about the man and the woman but the “very nature” of the act as creating life. Spouses selflessly telling each other “I love you so much that I am willing to lay down my life for you and bring life into this world.” So here’s point 3: if the sex isn’t open to uniting two as one flesh it’s incomplete. We even go so far as to call some contraceptive methods “barriers,” a distinctly separating connotation! 

The openness to life comes as a man and woman grow in Love for God first and by His Love for them Love for each other. He gifts them with the ability to Love and sacrifice for each other, that like Him they might come to desire to share their Love with the result of its progression. That progression being babies, who grow into children who throw their sister’s Barbie Jeep (Mattel TM) down the stairs, who grow into horribly ungrateful teenagers who cause their parents to wait in the E.R. in formal wear because he decided to break rules which caused him to need to run from a certain situation which caused him slam his forehead into a wall, who start to mature into young adults who start to understand what mature selfless Love means, who turn into lovers of God and each other to start the cycle all over again. None of that was anecdotal, probably.

So the final point here, why is all of this liberating? It’s because sex as God intended it is meant as a selfless act. It springs from the root of the true definition of Love: To will the good of another. 

Not just to will mutual pleasure or satisfaction, but to tell the one you love “my priority in life is to lay it down for you.”

Women, this is where you’ve been lied to most egregiously. The night I stood in front of that woman in her apartment broke my heart, because I realized something. She didn’t know she was worth selfless, exclusive Love. I am so sorry for what I’ve contributed to that lie myself, for objectifying you and satisfying my own pleasures in the past. If no one has told you anything like the following paragraph before, read it, and ask yourself if it is true. At least ask yourself if you wish it were:

“I am loved by Love Himself. I am worth selfless, complete, and dedicated Love from someone who has put first things first. I am beautiful, not because commercials and beauty commercials tell me so but because the inherent fibers of my being were made out of sheer goodness by True Love. I am worth waiting for, I am worth being sacrificed for, because my body does not define me. I have a heart that deserves knowing first, and a body worth giving to someone who wishes to be united to it to become one flesh.”

It is true. You are worth all these things. Oh, and to my brothers? You’re worth the EXACT SAME THING. Substitute some details like “I’m not a worthy of being a man as a result of wearing Old Spice, having huge biceps, and wrestling bears but because God has granted me masculinity” and we’re there.

So what if I’ve already had sex, where does all this leave me? I promised I’d get here. God is good and infinite in mercy, and perfect in justice. By putting first things first we allow God to redeem our broken sexual lives and recommit. It’s the Backstreet Boys moment of “I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love me.” If I end up falling in love with a woman who admits she’s had sex before I’ll strive to have the strength to tell her the same thing. And man, that’s courageous of her. To turn away from what’s become a life-stealing habit, to fight the lies, and to rediscover dignity or meet it face-to-face for the first time in the mirror of the heart or bathroom wall. 

So far, I’ve tried to show you how beautiful this all is. But I have a confession. This is difficult. I am terribly broken, and not free of past sins with my own sexuality. This is a constant battle; thankfully true courage and virtue are formed in fire. As iron sharpens iron, we should surround ourselves with people who will support us in the decision to choose profound Love. Not to only have friends who line up with us on all our beliefs, but to have a core group in the midst who affirm our difficult choices in the name of Truth. 

I’ve heard a speaker make the joke that guys don’t start having thoughts about sex at puberty, but from the moment they’re born. I understand that place that’s coming from. I have to make a choice on a regular basis to recommit to this goal, to choose to will the good of others over myself. But to encounter True Love in Jesus Christ is to encounter and learn to love our very self.

First things first.

P.S. You are enough.