True Love Waits

The theme of THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER was inspired by “True Love Waits,” a program that took root in the 1990s to encourage young people to abstain from having sex before marriage.  I am familiar with the program because I participated in teaching abstinence to teens at a Baptist church.  The program culminated in “DC 94,” where youth from all over the country displayed covenant cards (pledging to abstain from sex before marriage) on the Mall in Washington.

The True Love Waits theme is spelled out in the following conversation between “Effie” and “Benjamin Wright,” the youth pastor, in Chapter 22:

“I like being your assistant or whatever you call it,” Effie said between bites of a sandwich.

“Assistant has a nice ring to it,” Benjamin replied with a grin.”

Effie returned his smile, pleased that he treated her like an equal.  They were having lunch at the Black-eyed Pea in Fairfax, and she had chosen a seat by a window with a view of the Moore House, an antebellum home that reminded her of the parsonage.  

She had been helping Benjamin with MYF, so they had been seeing a lot of each other.  She was aware that people at church thought they were dating, but Effie deemed the relationship platonic because Benjamin, who talked mostly about evangelism, had never crossed the line of friendship. 

“How do you like college?”

“The first year was awkward, but now I’m at ease.”

“I knew you’d adapt.  High school is one thing but college is different.  Most people are there because they want to be.  They’re serious about getting an education.  Changing the subject, there’s something I want to talk to you about.  True Love Waits.”

“What?”

“True Love Waits,” he repeated.  “Didn’t you read about it in the paper a few years ago?  It was a church sponsored program that taught abstinence.  Teenagers were encourage to sign covenant cards stating that they would remain celibate until they married.  During the youth rally in Washington, covenant cards with signatures were displayed publicly.  I wanted our church to participate, but Gideon [senior pastor] was opposed to the idea, but maybe he’ll reconsider this time.”

Effie pressed her lips firmly together.  How typical of Gideon to oppose something noble.  

“I want you to help me,” Benjamin added, leaning over the table.

“How?”

“Lead a group at MYF [Methodist Youth Fellowship] on dating and sexuality.”

“Me?”

“Yes.  You take the high school kids.  They’re easier to manage.  I’ll take the ones in junior high.  All you have to do is ask a few questions to get a discussion going, and don’t let them go off on a tangent.”

“What kind of questions?” 

“Should a couple kiss on the first date?  How far is too far?  That sort of thing.”

“But what if they don’t give the right answers?”

“I’m not worried about that.  I just want them to think about abstinence.  The discussion will be held with a Bible study, so the youth can explore what the Bible says about fornication and discuss the role and symbolism of sex in marriage.  When the course is over, we’ll hand out covenant cards.”

“When do we start?”

“As soon as possible, but I have to run this by Gideon first.”

“Oh no,” she blurted.  “Do you have to?”

“Yes, because I want to end the True Love Waits program with a Sunday evening service, and I need Gideon’s approval in advance.  Have you finished eating?”

She nodded.

“Good.  Let’s go by the church and ask him.”

“We?  You mean you want me to go with you?”

“You’re my assistant, aren’t you?  Besides, I think he puts a lot of stock in your opinion.  Maybe with your influence, he’ll agree to True Love Waits.  You know him better than I do.  How do you think he’s going to react?”

Effie shrugged.  “He’s a mystery to me.”

***

“Unrealistic!  You can’t stop teenagers from having sex.  Smarter to give them condoms.  No?  Then go ahead.  Do as you wish but you’re wasting your time.”

Effie looked at Benjamin wondering if he was thinking the same thing she was thinking.  A half-hearted endorsement was better than none.

“A word of advise,” Gideon cautioned.  “You’d be wise to form a committee of parents and teens before you start.  “You’ll need their support as well as their ideas for implementing this . . . what did you call it?  Save It for Marriage?”

“True Love Waits,” Effie cut in.

“Whatever.  And one more thing.  Once this chastity drive of yours getting going, make sure you don’t alienate young people who don’t care to participate.  A vow of celibacy is meaningless if you pressure someone to take it.”

“I wouldn’t dream of pressuring anyone,” replied Benjamin. 

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2 thoughts on “True Love Waits

  1. Jamie Carter

    True Love Waits might sound like a wonderful idea, but we have to keep in mind that there wasn’t a TLW conference in ’05 or ’15 for a very good reason: four out of every ten card-carrying youth from the original conference couldn’t keep their promise. TLW was considered a failure and it lost a lot of steam. It was replaced by ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ by Joshua Harris, spurring the Courtship Movement into the spotlight. It too, failed miserably – it couldn’t keep it’s promise to create healthier, happier marriages and has a high divorce rate. You need to understand that the Baptist context emphasizes gender roles, among them the idea that women cannot serve as pastors (which the Methodist church allows and has no qualms over.) As a result, a generation of women have been taught to wait and pray for God to send them the men they’re supposed to marry because the highest calling for a Christian woman is to be a wife and mother. The men are expected to be leaders in the family and in the church. For them, they’re taught to think about dating in an intentional way – this girl is either your wife or somebody else’s future-wife, don’t date someone you won’t want to marry, etc. The women don’t initiate relationships (that’s the man’s role.) And the men are supposed to pursue the women; but this doesn’t happen because there are not nearly enough men in the Churches to pursue the women (seven women for every one man) and they’re never told to do so. So either way, the youth don’t win. Either they get into relationships when they’re too young and have problems or they don’t get into them at all because they keep on waiting and waiting. I fled from the Baptist tradition, so I know full well the dark-side of these teachings. Please don’t take this leaf out of the Baptist book. Don’t ask people to make promises they can’t keep just to gain your approval. Don’t shun them when things don’t work out.

    Reply
    1. Sheryl Wright Stinchcum Post author

      Hi Jamie. I’m currently not a member of the Baptist church, although I was when I wrote “The Prince in the Tower.” I now belong to a Messianic Jewish congregation, made up of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus. For me abstinence is not a denominational issue but a Biblical mandate. Read 1 Corinthians 6: 9. It’s written to believers. Fornication is one of many sins that will separate a person from God.

      Regarding women pursing men versus men pursuing women, I don’t think the Bible addresses that, although I note with interest that Ruth, prompted by Naomi, was the aggressor in the Ruth/Boaz romance.

      Vows should never be taken lightly or even made unless the person has a relationship with Jesus. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can a person overcome temptation. Even then the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. If a believer sins by breaking a vow of abstinence, he or she can repent and start over with a clean slate.

      I’m not in the business of judging others. I’m more concerned with living a life pleasing to God. All of us fall short. The key to an awesome relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah is to love The Lord with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your might and to seek Him first.

      I haven’t kept up with the successes and failures of TLW, but I applaud the concept.

      Thank you for writing and sharing your views.

      Reply

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