It was a beautiful, simple, bell-cut dress with delicate lace. We printed our testimony in the program as a reminder of all God had done to bring us to this pinnacle point: marriage. My white wedding dress resembled to me that I was pure, white as snow, and forgiven before the Lord. I was walking toward my future husband clothed in Christ’s righteousness and aware of the deep and meaningful oneness that the night would bring.
My white dress did not represent a life of purity. It did not represent a young blushing bride who waited to know the mysteries of the intimacy reserved for the bride and groom. My white dress did not represent a born-again virgin. Rather, it represented a born-again Christian (John 3:1–15). God sought me, saved me, made me a new creation and has given me a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3).
Sin, shame, she
And yet, I can long for a different testimony. I can look at my past indiscretions and feel shame. This has never been heaped upon me by my loving husband, so why the shame?
I think, in part, it could be that I do understand the seriousness of sexual immorality. The Scriptures warn that the sexual immoral do not have a place in the kingdom of God (Eph. 5:5). Matthew says if a man even looks with lustful eyes, he’s committed adultery (Matt. 5:28). Even Paul, a man called to celibacy, instructs the Corinthians not to withhold sex in the confines of marriage—temptation to sexual immorality is too great (1 Cor. 7:1–5).
I am not defined by that old, raggedy sin.
But I think there’s more to the shame I can experience creeping up in my gut. It often comes after I’ve read an article or post warning this generation of the seriousness of this sin. I agree with much of what I read, but then at some point I find myself being told that I won’t be able to fully love my husband or that a woman doesn’t lust. My head begins to burn as this coal sits and sinks down into my skull (Rom. 12:20). It’s hard to be a woman and to have had a sinful past, especially one of the impure nature. We are expected to be pure and undefiled. And most temptations to sexual sin are always attributed to men. So not only are we sinful, but we are also quite abnormal (at least by appearances). We are no longer even women—we are man-like.
The power to turn and run
Paul helps us again addressing the Corinthians: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13a). Temptation to sexual sin is not isolated to men. Jesus knows this to be true. As he walked the earth, he interacted with prostitutes, he challenged the adulterer, and then he died for them—for us.
Here’s more good news: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13b). Even now this may be a temptation that you find yourself battling daily. There is a way of escape. We can say no to sin. You don’t have to fall into sexual sin. If you have God’s Spirit, you have the power to turn and run the other direction.
Walk in the finished work
To the women who are living with the shame of forgiven sin: if we’ve placed our hope in the finished—oh thank you, Lord, that it is finished—work of Christ then we don’t have to fear punishment. We don’t have to walk in shame. We don’t have to long for a different testimony as if God didn’t say, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, emphasis mine). Christ took it all on him the moment he hung on that cross. We don’t have to suffer our own punishment—he did for us.
I wore white on my wedding day and I’d wear it again. I am a new creation. The old is gone. That doesn’t mean I’m without temptation, but I am not defined by that old, raggedy sin. I am not defined by my past. I am born again—Christian.