“Are you saving yourself for marriage?” It’s an age-old question and I was always eager to answer with a loud YES.

But I wasn’t really saving myself—I was saving my virginity. And there’s a big difference in treating your body as if it’s a temple and just making sure you can check the virginity box on your wedding night.

I have contemplated sharing this for a LONG time because I thought it was TMI. But it’s not too much information; it’s the exact amount of information girls (and guys) need today. So, I have to share it.

Revelation 2:11 says, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” We overcome the enemy with Jesus and by sharing our testimonies—and I strongly believe that our big testimony is made up of a ton of little testimonies. I will never stop sharing my struggles because I know they serve as a “me too” reminder to someone else, and I don’t ever want a single person to feel alone in their valleys.

I was listening to the “That Sounds Fun” podcast with Annie F. Downs the other day when her guest, Mo Isom, said, “When we share the struggles, it makes the grace that much sweeter,” and I can’t amen that enough. When we remember what we’ve been through, we also remember how Jesus got us out and turned our pain into our purpose. I hope I never forget all the times He has saved me.

Virginity has always been a big deal to me. I’ve been in church since I was born and I was always afraid of the big two: drinking and having sex. So, I stayed far away from both.

My mom got pregnant with me when she was young because she honestly had no clue it was “wrong” to have sex outside of marriage. She wasn’t raised in church and had never been taught the big two (or anything else for that matter.) So, when she met my dad, she thought it was what she was supposed to do. And then they had me, so God CLEARLY turned those ashes into beauty, right? (I am my own favorite pre-marital sex joke, sorry.)

I was basically scared to death to have sex. I was afraid my parents would kill me or I would get pregnant—and both scenarios felt pretty equal. They gave me a “True Love Waits” ring for Christmas and I wore it proudly to let the world know I was choosing to be abstinent until I said “I do”.

Virginity felt a lot like a box I absolutely could not check until my wedding night. And I really did wait until then to check it, but I didn’t save my entire self for my husband and I am here to beg and plead with every single girl to save your entire self for the man God has set aside for you.

I’m also here to let you know that if you messed up and didn’t save yourself, God can redeem that and you can start now. He makes all things new and gives you a clean slate as soon as you ask, so do not walk around in sexual shame for a second.

But, if you’re where I was at 15 telling your first boyfriend no when he tries to get to first base, then please hold on to that purity and don’t just settle for virginity. Because I held on tight to virginity and let my purity slowly slip away with each boyfriend after poor number one who barely got a kiss out of me.

Each time you let a guy go a little farther, he takes a little piece of you that you won’t be able to give your husband. I swear to you I’m not trying to make you feel bad or scare you—I just desperately want every single girl to experience the fullness of sex inside a covenant marriage.

Without going into all the details (obviously), on my wedding night, the weight of waiting hit me all at once, just like it was meant to. Because my husband and I both waited to actually have sex until our wedding night, we experienced the fullness of the moment—a moment that only happens once. I just kept thinking, “Wow, I’m so glad I got to do this with him for the first time and he got to do this with me for the first time and we have absolutely nothing else to compare it to!” (That was a serious thought—I have enough issues with comparison, so I’m pretty thankful I don’t have to worry about him sharing that moment with another woman.)

But then I thought, “Wow, I really wish I would have saved every single part of myself for him. And I wish we would have been totally pure together before that ultimate moment.”

The thing is, when you remain pure, you don’t have to have the awkward conversations explaining everything you’ve done with everyone you’ve done it with. You don’t have to experience the shame that unfortunately follows pre-marital sexual activities. And you can give yourself as a gift to your husband that still has all the wrapping paper and bows intact; my gift was more like one that someone else tried to tear into it with the bow about to fall off.

And you can let your mind wander guessing about every “bad” thing I ever did, but that’s not the point of this and I’m not going to sit here and make sure you don’t think I’m a horrible person. Because I’m not and neither are you. Our sins do not and never will define us—only Jesus can do that and He defines us as HIS.

And because you are His, you are good enough to cherish every part of your body and hold out for a guy who will cherish it, too. Pray to have self-control every day and pray the same thing for your future husband. Avoid situations that expose you to temptations, and think about your future marriage, or, more importantly, your eternity, rather than only considering the temporary happiness your flesh desires.

Sex is a gift. It really is. That sounds like a cliché, but it’s just the truth. God designed it and means it for good. But just like anything else, we can take it and make it messy. We can tweak it to make it fit our parameters—like focusing on only being a “virgin” and letting other things slide.

But when you develop a real, raw relationship with God, you will want to be pure not because it’s a rule you have to follow, but because you want to make your Father proud. Purity becomes part of your nature when you become more like the God who made you.

So, don’t just check the virginity box. Don’t just be complacent with telling everyone you’re “waiting  until marriage”. Strive for purity in all that you do, but especially with the one and only body God gave you. And I absolutely promise that He will reward that commitment to purity in a million little ways that you never even imagined. Because that’s what He does. And that’s why we praise Him.

I want to say this again—if you have made mistakes in the past or if you have experienced any type of abuse that you think has tarnished you in any way, read this and remember it forever: You are made new and redeemed by Christ. There is nothing in this world that can take your salvation away and nothing that can stop Him from loving you. And when you find your husband, He will love you the way Jesus does and remind you of that redemption. Your past cannot ever disqualify you from the future God has already laid out.

And you don’t have to have some miraculous moment to decide you are forgiven and you are enough. Start believing in yourself the way God does right this second.

You have the power to be pure when Christ lives in you, so use it and choose it and don’t ever grow weary, “for at the proper time, you will reap your harvest.”

Originally published on the author’s blog

Kaitlin Chappell Rogers

Kaitlin is a newlywed striving to be a strong half of a Kingdom team with her hunk of a husband. She is a lover of words, good coffee, and exploring new cities. Her favorite places include airports, hotel rooms, and bookstores and she has yet to meet a stranger she doesn't like. Kaitlin is addicted to shopping, yoga, and brunch and couldn't make it a single day without her dream-supporting family and best friends. She hopes everyone who meets her sees Jesus in her eyes and feels a little lighter when they leave her presence.