I walked from the gym entry doors of my high school and made my way to the gravel parking lot and my white Buick. The distance between the doors and my car was the same as any other day, but on this day, I used every step as a prayer station. My urgent and desperate plea, Please, God, please don’t let me be pregnant. I bargained with Him, You please fix this, and I’ll never cross the line again until I’m married.
People said (they still say) having sex is normal behavior for young people. It never felt normal. It hovered over me, a tent-like shroud, silently consuming pieces of my self. Normal, I suppose, under different circumstances. But I didn’t have that context. The only context I knew was the one I was in, and I tried to normalize it. Whatever life sex leached from me, I sold for some price of belonging and being loved. I trusted too much.
We tossed around trust and love often and easily during high school. Terribly intense times to try and navigate such concepts. Adolescence is heightened enough without heaving in the melding of one body to another, of entrusting so much to hands too small to carry the weight of it all.
We were too young. I was too young. The information we got from adults about sex was lacking. Someone taught us about sexually transmitted diseases and preventing pregnancy. I knew basic anatomy. I don’t remember the class discussion about pushing all of the envelopes, about pressure and guilt, about how both boys and girls objectify and use each other, about the gravity of becoming so naked. So much insecurity and fear, yearnings and movie-scene dreams, self-doubt and self-loathing. And not enough protection in the world to keep any of it at bay, to barricade the impassioned and complicated emotions that surge all around.
By the time someone in church talked about sex in a way that was true as well as kind, real but not shame-based, a heavy turmoil already lived in my being. Growing up in the church, I knew well enough that pre-marital sex was displeasing to God. I was well acquainted with rule keeping, and how breaking the rules meant wrath and anger and disappointment. What I didn’t grasp very well at all, and would not internalize for years to follow, was how God loves, how much beauty and joy He intends for us. He conceived far more for any young man than buying temporary patches for the hole in his heart. He dreamed so much more for me than the relentless pursuit of a boy–this one or any other one–to fill a hole in my heart.
I imagine another young girl. She made the long trek to the school parking lot, too. All along the way, she prayed and asked God to reverse things. She slid into the driver’s seat and started the car. She and I share similar stories. But she was pregnant, and I was not.
What would life have been like if the switch had flipped in another direction for her? For me? How many young women in other small towns and big cities are walking to their cars after school, begging God to change the outcome?