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Your Sexual Past Doesn’t Make You Damaged Goods

Fourth, be sure that your past really is your past. Are you still indulging daydreams about past sexual encounters? Are you justifying flirtatious encounters with other women while courting your current partner—favoriting on Twitter, messaging on Facebook, intentionally going to their favorite coffee shop? If so, the woman you’re dating has every right to the uncertainty and insecurity she’s expressing.

You don’t have to be perfect to date. Perfection is not a qualification for love. But integrity is. Make sure that you are experiencing real victory and progress in your personal purity before you begin dating and try to have these difficult conversations with someone. Duplicity at the outset or foundation of a marriage is a road to destruction: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them” (Proverbs 11:3).

Fifth, pray for your partner (1 Timothy 2:8).

Love Without Expectation of Return

At the end of the day, the person you’re dating may not be able to handle your sexual history. They may walk away, and that would be perfectly within their Christian freedom. You could pout and ponder their shortcomings, but the cold concrete reality is simply this: You are facing the real-time consequences of your past sins. God is not judging you. He is not implementing a law of karma in your case. David Powlison puts it well: “God builds reap-what-you-sow into the inner workings of how He runs His universe” (Innocent Pleasures).

You’re going to be OK. It hurts badly. But God walks us through things like this for our good. If he allowed us to be twisted without repercussions, we would all have spiritual nerve damage—getting burned and bruised because we can never feel the pain of dangerous choices. Against all the awful things we might feel about ourselves, God gives us three things when we are rejected because of sexual history. He gives us honor, healing and hope.

He gives us honor, because we choose to love out of the love that we have received, and not for selfish gain. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46) To love without reciprocation is to feel the pangs of Jesus whom we rejected. To trust God enough to love and not be loved in return is to be counted with Christ, and there is honor in that kind of faith.

God gives us healing, because he does his best work in brokenness. At any moment, God can weed out thorns of impurity that choke the life within you: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5). For now, and just for now, he is simply (and painfully) healing you.

He gives us hope because, with each new day, God charges himself with our care: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19). No mourning is outside the scope of God’s good plan for you. If you get married, it is by the hand of the same God who called you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. If you get married, it is by the same kind of decree that created the universe. If it’s God’s will for you to be married, then you are on an unstoppable crash course for marriage. And if you’re rejected by another person, that, too, is within God’s loving and merciful will for you.

Trust God today, and recognize that because he created time, that time is on your side. If you are rejected because of your sexual history, trust that it is not some arbitrary wound, but that it is a cog in God’s very orderly and detailed plan for your joy-filled life. May God grant us, the guilty, mercy to receive his good gifts as from a Father who loves us.  

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Paul Maxwell (@paulcmaxwell) is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute. He writes more at his blog, paulcmaxwell.com, and pretends to like coffee.