beneath the golden curves
I remember sitting in a McDonald’s last year with my buddy Z and a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member who was then serving as my “spiritual discipler.” He had asked me to hang out and have lunch with him, so here we all were, hanging out and having lunch.
It was my first Unofficial, that Saturday probably, because I remember thinking that we must have been the only non-intoxicated college-age kids in all of campustown. Our sobriety was notable, as was our ensuing conversation, one which felt equally out-of-place amidst the mess of tipsy teens and chittering children that currently surrounded us.
We chit-chatted as we enjoyed our burgers and fries, making small talk underneath the jaundiced-yellow golden-arch posters that hung towering around us. Presently, though, we moved our trays to one side and the real conversation began.
My “discipler” spoke first, emphasizing the importance of sexual purity, offering to share with me his own personal Christian testimony and struggles with sexual brokenness.
His story was short.
He was fairly cognizant of this, but shared it passionately nonetheless. He had not once in his life masturbated or viewed pornography, he had never been sexually active as a youth, and he did not so much as share a kiss with his wife until their wedding day. He was raised right, he explained, and learned about this kind of thing from a very young age.
And that was that.
Oh, how I wished this was my own story! I felt plagued with guilt as he spoke each word, because I knew I was not nearly as pure.
Like 97% of my fellow teenage males, I had certainly awakened lust “before its proper time,” in more ways than I’d like to admit. I was not a stranger to others’ lips, and I had been aware of my sexuality for a long time. I knew that I was (and in many ways, still am) tragically familiar with and controlled by actions that only inflamed my lust, and did nothing to produce a healthy, loving relationship.
But the prospect of having to describe in detail to this man every single erotic encounter I had ever experienced made my mouth dry.
“How about you, Ryan?” he quickly finished. “Have masturbation, pornography, or other sexual sins ever been a part of your life?”
I took an uncomfortable breath and ashamedly said something like:
I have “sinned” before with all of that stuff. I’ve had a girlfriend too, and we did some not-horrible but not-great things, at times, you know, I know, I felt really bad. I have definitely “sexually sinned” in different ways in my past… I went on like this for a while, speaking deliberately vaguely.
We talked for a bit about more individual sins before the conversation broadened (or narrowed, I guess).
“With your girlfriend, tell me this: did you go over the shirt or under the shirt, up the bra?” he asked, his eyes dark and concerned.
“Uhm, both, I guess,” I responded awkwardly, before continuing.
When I continued, wilting, that I had a Christian partner who I was fooling around with, his response caught me off guard.
“Ok, so then did you…uh…well, did you guys…” he trailed off. I looked up at his face, which maybe was reddening. Apparently, he was as uncomfortable asking as I was telling. I could tell Z was embarrassed for me as well, or he could have just been nervous about sharing next.
I sighed, annoyed. “No, I don’t know why exactly this matters, but we didn’t ever even get close to actually having sex,” I conceded.
“Sure, okay, but if you weren’t watching porn…then…in what ways were you…”
I knew he wanted me to get more specific, but I was really tiring of this.
I looked around the room as he went on, and I had a genuine moment of doubt.
“Is this normal?” I asked myself. “With all of the other shit that’s going on in my life and in the world right now, is this a normal thing for people to be talking and obsessing about?”
I didn’t know.
But as I sat there squarely and stupidly, silently brooding under the golden arches, I told myself that this is what Christians must believe – that sex is horribly shameful and polluting unless it is performed (not quite shared) in a very closeted, controlled manner, in a “Christian marriage” under the leadership of a strong, male head.
His flickering words shook me out of my thoughts:
“So, but you didn’t have sex, but you didn’t watch porn either, so but…well, does that mean…”
Openly frustrated, I spat out:
“C’mon, dude! What, did she bring me to the point of completion? Did I physically ejaculate as a result of my arousal from her sexual stimulation?”
He paused for a moment, then nodded sheepishly. “Yes.”
What the heck does that matter, is all I could think.
“No. No I did not have sex or any type of sex with her.”
“mm, okay,” he said, nodding again, more confidently now. “Good.”