Age 9- Fourth Grade
My dad let me stay up late one night and told me about puberty and sex. He got really science-y and used big words I didn’t understand at all. He told me that when puberty started I would begin to notice changes and stuff. I laid there listening to him, but I was kind of just ready to go to sleep. Everything he said felt important though.
He finished by telling me something I’ve heard a lot since then, something that has defined our relationship: “Remember, there is nothing you could ever do that you couldn’t tell me about. Drew, you never need to feel ashamed. Do you understand?”
I said yes, and I told him I loved him. Then he prayed for me and kissed my forehead; I turned over onto my side and fell asleep—a little confused but content.
* * *
Later that month we had the “puberty” talk at school, and at the end of it Steven Stucker raised his hand.
“How does the sperm get to the girl’s egg?”
As the lady pursed her lips and said something about finding out next year, I imagined little School House Rock cartoon sperms dancing on a bed sheet towards a chicken egg that the woman had somehow laid.
* * *
I remember leaving both puberty talks—my dad’s and the old lady at school’s—feeling like the same kid that walked into them. I didn’t feel fearful or ashamed or anything.
Age 12- Sixth Grade
Something happened in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, and suddenly all the guys at the lunch table started talking about how “hot” girls were. At birthday parties they would play “Hot or Not” and rate the girls we used to run away from at recess.
I felt super uncomfortable about doing that and would try and play ping-pong or something instead, but I often joined in. I rated my friends—the girls I played soccer with and did homework with and went to church with—like they were animals at the stockyards across town, just breathing creatures living to be judged, living for my approval.
People started dating, too. They would walk the halls in between periods holding hands. They would write notes on each other’s binders and trappers. They would kiss during Spider Man 2 on Friday nights, and then people would whisper about it on Monday mornings.
I didn’t understand the madness.
But I still rated girls with my friends.
* * *
In February we had a lock-in at church. I ate a crap-ton of candy and scraped the cheese off my pizza because, at the time, I thought I was lactose intolerant (I wasn’t). Around 11:00 pm we all came together and the youth pastor started talking about dating and stuff.
He told three or four hypothetical stories, and I’ve never forgotten one of them.
He told the story of two prized students in a youth group that began to date. Everyone thought it was awesome and lovely and cute.
They got serious and started going to youth group less and eventually had sex and broke up and they were devastated and so was the church.
I never wanted that to be me.
* * *
I began to think of girls like walking Mona Lisas—walking perfection. They were created perfectly by God and were God’s prized daughters, the apples of his eye. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to make them purer or better.
The problem is that, by definition, perfection is complete. Whole. Pure. You can’t add anything to it. You can only take away from it. Only corrupt, hurt, and ruin it.
I began to think that was all I was capable of: corrupting, hurting, and ruining.
I was just a boy who would chip away at a girl’s heart by taking away her “firsts.”
She could never have another first boyfriend.
She could never have another first hand-hold.
She could never have another first kiss.
I was a soldier on a failed mission. The only thing I could bring was corruption.
She was perfect. I was corrupt.
I felt ashamed.
Somehow, in two years—between fourth grade and sixth grade—shame came and built a home.
And I have been carrying that shame ever since. For me, it is this thought: There probably isn’t a point in dating because I will only end up hurting her. I fear we will talk and laugh and kiss and then it will end and she will be hurt. Her Mona Lisa will be tarnished—just a bent frame and a reminder of what was.
And it will all be because of me.
Each day I feel like a fourth grader laying in bed and looking up at my dad.
“Drew, you never need to feel ashamed. Do you understand?”
And each day I do my best to tell him yes and live like I believe it.
* * *
I don’t know your story. I don’t know if you have similar fears as me or if your dad ever told you that you don’t need to be ashamed. I hope he did.
I don’t know if you felt pressured to be an object or pressured to be perfect.
I don’t know if you felt the inevitability of corruption or felt shame for its possibility.
But tonight I am praying for you.
I pray you have people surrounding you who see you as fully human—neither fully perfect or fully corrupt but redeemed by the God who redeems. I pray they are helping you discern what is sin and what is shame, and they are continually pushing you towards wholeness and fullness and life.
I pray you are able to discover your full humanness in the humanness of Christ. And I pray you are able to work towards intimacy with others out of a spirit of truth and not of fear.