I open my eyes. Look at the clock. I’m 18! I can’t believe it! I get dressed and head downstairs for breakfast. Momma Lea tells me Happy Birthday and reminds me that we are having dinner with the boyfriend tonight before church. I smile. Dinner cannot get here fast enough. I grab my lunch, bag and head to the bus stop. Today is my work-study day. I spend the day helping the Math dean’s secretary type an unending pile of memos. I like the hours I spend in this little office that looks out over the countryside behind the college. I see the small white church in the distance and think about how it would be a great place for a wedding. I am not focused today and it shows. The secretary leaves early and tells me to lock the door when I finish the filing. I am alone and I wish the boyfriend was here. Suddenly I see something…someone…it’s Momma Lea and a couple of my “little sisters.” They have balloons and wish me a happy birthday. It is a nice surprise and I’m happy I don’t have to ride the bus home. We get dinner ready and the moment I’ve waited for arrives…he is here. I wish I could give him a hug, instead I shake his hand and tell him I’m happy to see him. We pray and dinner begins. He has a surprise for me, a Starter 49ers jacket. It fits me but I tell him it’s too small. He agrees to exchange it for a bigger size. After service we go out with the young people. I get to sit next to him and talk about my day. He laughs and teases me and I just look at him and can’t believe that I get to date and eventually marry him.
This happened 24 years ago. I still remember the way I felt sitting next to him that night. I also remember his attempt to get close to me without getting caught. And how I told him to stop, because we’d get in trouble. And how I desperately wanted him to be able to hold my hand and pull me into him and hold me and kiss me again. But all that was forbidden and I made sure we followed the rules. I told him we were “suffering for righteousness sake” but we were just really making a mess of our lives.
I was told my whole life how evil my feminine body was…it would cause men to stumble and lose their soul. I hid my body because it was the way to show my brothers I loved them. No one told me what to do when a man actually wanted me. The boyfriend would tell me how attracted he was and I liked that but then I’d pray that God would forgive me for liking that. I would cross the boundary and then feel guilty for “giving in to the flesh”. I had no idea how to balance being his girlfriend and being his sister in the Lord. It didn’t get better when we married. I naively believed our marriage would work. Only a marriage devoid of affection and love and intimacy and sex is very unhealthy and it doesn’t usually work long.
When we were rebuilding our relationship we started dating again. I enjoyed the undivided attention and felt like his girlfriend. I upgraded my wardrobe, learned to wear make-up, painted my nails and changed my hair style. I spent my entire allowance one afternoon at Victoria’s Secret. I flirted shamelessly with him via text. I decided this time the husband was getting the REAL me. The me who loved to wear things that made him smile and caused him to pull me into him so he could kiss me. The me who could care less if other guys looked at me as long as he did. The me who finally learned there was nothing to be ashamed about giving him all of me…my heart…my soul…and my naked body. As I embraced the woman I was, he began to treat me like a woman. And then we fell in love.
There’s a part of me that is grateful for the boundaries that kept me from making a bigger mess of my life. But I am angry at a doctrine that clearly harmed my ability to be a woman and a wife. I am angry at the adults who told me that I was the reason men lose their souls and responsible for the lust in their hearts. I am angry that no one told me that it was good and normal and healthy for me to want to share my body with my husband and it didn’t make me sinful or dirty. Mostly I’m sad, because I chose to believe a man-made doctrine and pushed away the man who loved me.
Today, there is nothing I love more than to be alone with this man and our souls connect. He still drives me crazy and makes me lose my temper faster than anyone, but I desperately love him. I am so thankful for our second chance.