This is part six in a series telling my own personal testimony. If you would like to read from the beginning, you can CLICK HERE to see all the posts in this series.
Girl Meets Boy at Church Camp
Camp Wesley Pines became a special place during high school and as a “goody goody church girl” I knew I wanted to work as a summer camp counselor as soon as I could. During spring semester of my senior year I applied and was accepted. Two weeks after graduation I packed my car and made the 45 minute drive to begin the next season of my life. It was a dream come true! As an 18 year old new high school graduate and summer camp counselor, I felt I had it all together.
I was excited about living in a community of believers, but the people I served with were not very different than the world. They would share Jesus with kids during the week at camp, but go out drinking on the weekend. While I knew this wasn’t right, I didn’t have an example of what true Christianity looks like in my like.
The first week of camp I began to get to know one of the lifeguards. He had lost his father to cancer the year before and we connected in sharing our experiences. He began to pursue me and I was excited by the attention. Looking back I see that I was craving the attention from a man that I lost when I lost my daddy.
As the summer went on we spent more and more time together. He bought me flowers and took me out on romantic dates. We met one another’s families and everything seemed so perfect. I knew that he was still partying with his friends, but he protected me and didn’t want me to get involved with that scene. I felt loved an honored by his protection. It was truly a whirlwind romance and by the end of the summer we were in love.
Dating/Engagement – Self-Righteous “Purity”
Camp ended and it was time to begin my freshman year of college. I was certainly not my plan to go to college committed to a boyfriend, but we were in love. He moved back to Starkville as a Junior at Mississippi State University and I moved to the freshman girl’s dorm on campus at Mississippi College in Clinton where a two hour drive would separate us. The day I moved in he had a dozen red roses delivered to my dorm, and the romance continued.
The first year was a sweet time of getting to know one another. We would stay up late into the night talking on the phone for hours and hours talking about our day, our classes, our hopes, our dreams for the future. We began to talk of marriage. While we were separated during the week, we spent most every weekend together. Either I would make the two hour drive to Starkville, or he would drive down and we would stay at his mom’s house just a half hour drive from my campus.
I was so excited to begin my freshman year of college, to begin this new life of more freedom and entering the adult world of making decisions for myself. I got involved in everything on campus that I could. I went through rush and joined a sorority type organization, I organized intermural flag football, I wanted to meet and know everyone!
I believed very strongly in purity before marriage. Sex was designed by God to be enjoyed in the context of marriage and I was determined to remain a virgin until my wedding day. Unfortunately I did not understand appropriate boundaries. The seeming innocence of a kiss and cuddling quickly led to more physical contact. The further we went, the harder it was to stop, and the more guilt I felt. I believed the lie that as long as we were not having intercourse that I was remaining pure, holy… but I couldn’t get rid of the guilt. I would cry and feel overwhelmed by shame. While he honored my desire to remain a technical virgin, there was a constant pressure to do everything leading up to actual penetration.
I began to go out, to hang out in college clubs and bars. I believed it was just part of the college experience, part of what I was suppose to do. There was a part of it that appealed to a defiant spirit in me, but I also thought I could enjoy a bit of rebellion and remain pure and holy, that I could live with one foot in the church and one in the world. I could go out Friday and Saturday night, go to church on Sunday and this was the normal Christian life. This was the example that I was seeing throughout the church. This was normal. But deep down I knew it was a lie.
I distinctly remember the first time I came across pornography on his computer. I was devastated. I was overwhelmed by guilt and shame. When I confronted him with what I found he blamed others – so & so sent it to me and I forgot to delete it – he blamed me for not having sex with him, for not meeting his physical needs. Eventually he asked for my forgiveness and promised it would never happen again.
Everything that was going on in my private life began to shake my confidence. The guilt and condemnation I was feeling overwhelmed me and I began to withdraw.
During the beginning of my second semester of my freshman year I began to pull back from my involvement in campus activities. I saw that I was living a double life and I no longer wanted to be divided, but I didn’t see it as a struggle between my spirit and the world, but as a struggle between locations. I made the decision to finish my freshman year at Mississippi College and transfer to Mississippi State. I believed that if we were in the same city, going to the same school that we would both be more involved, that we could be united more.
In May of 1996 we returned to Camp Wesley Pines as staff. This summer our relationship would begin to shift. There was a part of me that hoped to return to that place of innocence, but as the summer went on my confidence was more and more crushed. I began to feel more and more bondage in the relationship. I specifically remember a time when I was to share my testimony. I purposefully did not tell him so that he would not be there. It was a sweet time where I spoke on James 1:4 about losing my dad and finding joy in my trials. I shared my limited knowledge of Jesus and the Holy Spirit was faithful to use it for His glory. Without him there I was free to speak, free to share.
The bondage of sin tightened its grip on me in a gradual way. I was enticed in the beginning, but found myself in increasing bondage. Instead of experiencing the freedom I dreamed of, I was in a relationship that was increasingly becoming more controlling. When I shared my feelings of guilt and shame, he made me believe that marriage was the answer. That once we were married then we would be free to have sex and everything would be ok… that marriage was even the answer to the problem of his pornography addiction.
In June of 1997 we returned to Wesley Pines not as staff, but to direct a week long camp. It was during this week that he proposed and I joyfully accepted the beautiful diamond ring he offered… and I wholeheartedly believed the lie that this was the answer.