Carrie Lloyd is one of those women who, after five minutes of talking together, you feel like you’ve known forever. She talks, her openness encourages you to talk and before you know it, you’re in a deep conversation about some of the best and worst relationships of your life. Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I just talk too much. Or maybe it’s because when I rang Carrie it was to ask about her new book The Virgin Monologues and when you start with that as your purpose, the conversation really is guaranteed to go just one way.
My side of the conversation aside, (you’ll have to chat with me yourself to get that information out of me) Carrie is a girl who is passionate about helping women find their identity outside of relationships and to navigate the complicated world of dating in today’s world. Her book is an honest, open look at what it means to date in today’s sexualised world. It works to elevate a conversation that she feels was lacking when she needed it.
“I was in my twenties when I went through all the stuff I wrote about. I didn’t really have anything that was being real about what was going on in the church if I’m really honest. I’d had conversations with friends, but we didn’t know what the real answers were. We knew that God was saying, ‘you shouldn’t do it.’ But we needed a better reason as to why?
“We had this tension between the sexualised twenty-first century, and coming to church where people weren’t talking about it. No one was talking about it from the front.”
Carrie is phenomenally frank about the relationships she’s had, and how she has learned most of what she writes about along the way.
“I’d been in a five-year relationship with a guy, and half way through the relationship I realised that there was a connection between hearing the voice of the Lord and me not ‘putting out.’ So, not to put too fine a point on it, I ended up playing with that and then completely abstaining.
“What I started to realise was that actually, taking sex out of the relationship this side of covenant, meant it started to show the cracks in the relationship. We were really great friends, but we weren’t destined to be married to each other. We now had very different views on sex, and so the relationship finished. It was the most devastating thing I’ve gone through.
“I could see that this was why the Lord never wants you to get that attached to someone before marriage. It felt like a mini divorce; I’d lived with him; we’d had fishes together.”
Going forward, Carrie struggled to find books that helped her navigate the dating scene differently, so she wrote about her own life.
“I kind of just put it down and thought, ‘Well how do we make what I did wrong, right? Maybe I can just put my pen on paper and make it someone else’s gain. And that’s where the victory of the Lord comes through –because he does make all things good.”
But Carrie’s journey took her way beyond realising that sex before marriage isn’t a good thing. She writes that as women we have far more power than we believe and that the way we consider ourselves has a huge impact on the men we date.
“You know, I’d thought that dating a nice guy was a bit like Russian Roulette; it was the spin of the barrel as to which one you got. If you got a good one, then well done, good guy. But actually it was a lot more to do with how I valued myself.”
All this talk about marriage, sex and relationships distracts from the fact that at the heart of Carrie’s book is a challenge to value and cherish singleness.
“I believe that once we understand why the Lord designed us individually, a lot of the answers are made. Marriage and children are gifts; they’re blessings; they’re not necessarily your purpose. We need to ask ourselves, ‘What’s my voice, what are the passions and desires of my heart?’ But many of us have never sat down to work those out.
“I think the Lord is frustrated by that. I think he’d say to a lot of us, ‘You’ve been spending so much of your time running around trying to find a man, you haven’t looked into your heart. I planted things there a long time ago you’ve not even tried to look at.’”
It reminds me of advice I’ve heard before – to not put your life on hold, waiting for a magical wedding to signal that life has now begun. Advice to go out and buy that sofa or the dinner service and enjoy it now; to take up the hobbies and follow the passions of your heart today because your life is already in full flow.
I remember back to my days as a single mum, of wishing I could have a little boy, I’d call him Tom or Henry, of thinking my life would be better if I’d a good man to share it with. And then waking up one day in the contentment of realising my life was already full; I had two amazing girls, a job that fulfilled me and a God who was taking me on adventures that were blowing my mind.
Carrie was delighted with me; “That’s what I’m talking about – you’d learned to steward what you’d been given. When we live in a sense of lack, we do not believe that the Lord has given us everything we need. We ignore all that we have been given; we just want more. I think it’s a real problem with our generation – we want instant gratification and we’re never truly satisfied.”
I’m over the moon to be included in Carrie’s generation. But Carrie, and I for that matter have learned these things the hard way, how can parents approach this stuff with their kids so that perhaps they can have a gentler lesson?
“They must ask questions. They must talk about it full stop. Too many parents are in denial or give the token line, ‘I’d rather them do it in my house than do it somewhere else.’ That’s not an answer, that’s avoiding the subject altogether. That’s not teaching the beauty and wonder of sex. It’s demeaning it to an evening activity. So parents need to step up and be an inspiration by having great marriages and romance with each other.
“There are some great books out there to help; Moral Revolution is a good one or listen to people like Havilah Cunnington. But personally, I would get around other parents going through the same stuff. Talk, set up meetings to see what you can do and look at the biggest problems facing your children right now. Talk to your pastor and begin a new movement; anything can happen with a bit of passion and a belief that the cultural norm for today doesn’t mean your children have to lower their standard.”
And what should the church be doing? I was talking with one of my friends the other day, and her perspective was that nowadays the church turns a blind eye and doesn’t engage with this as an issue. I asked Carrie what she thought.
“I agree with your friend. The big churches in major cities struggle with purity more than any other issue. We’re living in such a sexualised culture; the church needs to be addressing this more than ever. Explaining WHY God told us to save it, not just that he did. Sex is rarely valued or revered as this amazing thing to have and join two people together.
“The church for so long scorned and subjected ‘hell and damnation’ quotes onto those that did have sex before marriage; now they are fearful they may come across like that again, losing understanding, losing numbers. But we’re missing out on the beauty of God. We’re missing out on having a pure relationship with him and all the gorgeous things that come with that.”
Talking with Carrie, as you can imagine, has left me with lots to ponder on, not least because I’m raising five teenage girls. But it’s good to think about it, not just good – crucial, if I’m to give them the ability to face life in today’s world with powerful tools in their hand.
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