A note from Mary Margaret West: Rebecca has served with teenage girls for a long time and has a ton of wisdom to share with you today. No matter what your role is with girls, this is an important topic and I hope you’ll share it with other women.
My life in ministry has finally journeyed long enough to reach wedding season for girls I discipled in middle school and high school. Their biggest struggles in the teenage years are being put to rest as they link their heart to the one God revealed as their beloved. Recently one of those girls left me a message asking me to call her. We chatted about wedding details, the color of the bridesmaid dresses and their future rent house. Her voice was lighthearted and joyful. Then the question and change in tone came.
“Rebecca, we’re struggling with our physical intimacy. How do we arrive at our wedding day pure without giving in to temptation?”
I was so humbled that she would choose to call me and ask this weighty question. After all these years of pouring truth into her heart, my answer was sincere: grace.
Early in ministry I wanted my teaching to convey no room for error. God’s way or the highway. Walk the straight path without stumbling, at all. My reasoning was honorable in hopes that the consequences of poor choices and foolish late-night temptations would not leave their mark. My approach was rigid and without compassion.
The vast majority of our teenage girls are experiencing temptation at an immense level. Their insta-connections, hours of unsupervised freedom and culturally cheap view of love have left them bruised and vulnerable. Most of our audiences are hiding scars and broken hearts, and the straight path is overshadowed by failure. This is what God knew when he sent his Son, Jesus, to take on human form. He knew, before time began, that our human strength would never succeed at perfection. Our sinful flesh would always seek to destroy the good that God created. We received grace from a perfect, holy God who had no obligation to save us. We denied him and yet, his unconditional love guided Jesus to the cross so that he could restore our relationship. His grace, bathed in love, covers our scars and repairs the broken to whole again.
“God’s grace is the answer,” I explained. “Your body is naturally thrilling to the beautiful gift of marriage, and our weakened flesh is always prone to take a shortcut. Ask God to meet you in those moments and remind you of his freely-given grace. It is by focusing on Him that we find strength to inch any closer to right standing. None of us are perfect and pure, so do not let the enemy shame you in this last leg of the race.”
God’s grace is enough for the waiting. God’s grace is enough for the missteps along the way. God’s grace is enough for those who were unable to wait. I believe our banner for young girls seeking honorable lives, wholly-lived and pure, is the banner of grace. Bless their hearts and bodies that are battered by a world of shortcuts and heartache. Let us not belittle their struggle or tow the rigid line of perfection. I pray we can be the listening ear of wisdom and grace, along the road of weighty questions, both now and later.
Rebecca Bradford is a mom of three who happily just sent her youngest off to kindergarten and skipped all the way home. She served for over 20 years in SAGE Ministries and as the Director of Girls Ministry at Lake Pointe Church for 15 years. Currently, Rebecca is called Queen of her own home, and teaches and volunteers in Girlz 4 God, Gather Moms, and discipling 4th grade girls. She loves encouraging girls and moms with transparent truth that helps them understand God’s grace and feel connected with others experiencing similar struggles. Her easy going spirit makes her a joy to be around and she is never short of laughs. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for 18 years and loves doing ministry together in their hometown of Rockwall, Texas.