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I WAITED by Jared Ray Mackey, Pastor The Next Level Church

I waited. I didn’t get anyone pregnant or for that matter touch anyone. I followed the rules.

The rules were simple. You kept a ring on your finger or a chain around your neck or some kind of something that always reminded you, and not so quietly told everyone else, that you were one of the good kids. You were not going to have sex until you got married, and if you had screwed up before you would never do it again. Then all you had to do was not screw up.

There was even a little chart, kind of like the one at an eye doctor. The steps to doing the wrong thing were all right there in front of you, from holding a girl’s hand to stripping down to your birthday suit and going all the way, just in case you were confused about how you got from one step to the next. This little chart was to make it perfectly clear when you had screwed up. It was right after kissing on the lips and right before hands below the hips if I remember correctly. If you did happen to go into the fine print area of the chart you were to stop, then call someone. They would tell you to go home, or tell her to go home, or to tell you to put your clothes back on. They might tell you to go to the prayer service that was going on upstairs in the chapel while you were screwing around in the church kitchen. I sincerely did not understand why so many of my friends were such screw-ups and why they couldn’t just follow the rules. They seemed easy enough to me.

Maybe I heard it wrong, maybe I taught it wrong too. It just seems to me that the thing parents and pastors and most everyone else was interested in was making sure none of their girls got pregnant, which seemed to still happen with some regularity anyway. But it didn’t happen by me. I didn’t do anything wrong, except for everything that wasn’t a part of the rules. How deeply the things that the rules didn’t cover run, I believe I am only now beginning to understand. The rules definitely did not cover wanting a girl to be near you so you would look better and feel better about yourself. No matter what you had to say to her to convince her to stay near you it was all right as long as you didn’t try to do anything past holding her hand. They didn’t say anything about not giving your entire heart and soul to someone to validate it. They missed developing an emotional attachment with someone without ever defining it so there was no way she could tell you no. What the rules didn’t cover most of all were the ways you could use someone and allow yourself to be used, all the while keeping your clothes on and enough room between the two of you for a Bible. The rules so awfully stated, “leave some room for the Holy Spirit.”

By the time I realized how deep I was into the mess I was in without having broken any of the rules, I was well on my way to being a youth pastor. I couldn’t find the door much less the key to get out. What was it that I was going after? If I were honest I think I would have to say what I was after was a better version of me. I wanted her not, as I often told myself, because I wanted to show her unconditional love. I wanted her because somewhere along the way I had begun to worship her and believed that if I could ever have her, I would be better. Life would be better. I would not feel all of the lonely and tired and frustrated feelings I had to carry. In some ways playing by the rules had made me much more isolated because I could never admit what I really wanted. It was so easy to hide in words that kept me out of trouble but never honest. I was never true to myself or to her.

“More often I was just ignored since I wasn’t hurting anybody, at least not that anyone could see.”

I try to forget all of the crazy things that I did. If I had been going after sex, I would have been locked up. Instead I was often encouraged because I was keeping the rules. More often I was just ignored since I wasn’t hurting anybody, at least not that anyone could see. A few brave friends would ask real questions and even tell me I was losing it. I did not hear them. I was in too deep and had played by the rules. I deserved her. God knows I had not done anything wrong. He owed it to me to give me what I would give anything up for -including Him. What would have happened if He had given in and granted my plea? She would not have been the problem. But I would never have realized how much I was willing to lose to get what I wanted, how much I was willing to compromise and lie. I would have become addicted to becoming a better version of me. I would never have seen the need for salvation because I had made my own. The rules had left out everything that had gone on in my head and my heart for years. The emotional and mental lust that I had become addicted to left scars as deep as those of anyone who has screwed up physically. It took as many years to get out as it had to get lost.

Until I was married I played by the rules. I was physically a virgin, and the only woman I have ever had sex with is my wife. For some reason I don’t feel as triumphant as everyone said I would. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I didn’t have any more baggage than I did coming in to marriage. I’m sure there are a lot of battles I won’t have to be in because my body didn’t know more than it did. It’s just that it didn’t all work out because I had been so good for so long. Most of the things that are going right now have more to do with my admitting how screwed up I am than the fact that I kept all the rules.