We didn’t need the CDC to tell us this, but it’s welcome all the same.
You know the drill: When it comes to sexuality, traditional Christian values have this reputation of being rigid, outdated, and irrelevant. But we also know the truth—that all of Christianity is rooted in timeless love and truth designed to protect us from pretty much destroying ourselves. God is not just the God of Christians, He’s the God of everything—even science.
So recent research on adolescent sexuality by the CDC shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but it’s pretty big all the same. The government agency recently released findings from a massive study that links adolescent sexual identity with other health-related behaviors—even behaviors that don’t seem directly connected with sexuality. Among its many findings, this research makes the connection that teens who practice sexual abstinence tend to take better care of themselves in other areas as well.
Cue my flashback to 15 years ago …
Just after midnight, when Christmas Eve turned into Christmas Day 2001, Josh Kleehammer and I kissed for the very first time. We had already been dating for five months by then, and knew we were in love already, but I wanted to wait for the physical part of our relationship to begin. I wanted to know that everything else important to true love was present first—that his intentions were genuine. He honored my wishes, and proved himself trustworthy. A couple months later, he proposed. Then, on June 8, 2003, we exchanged our marriage vows, and consummated our union in our marriage bed where we’ve been consummating it ever since.
Our story is the traditional Christian ideal for the beginning of a truly loving marriage relationship. But unfortunately, I had absolutely no interest in Christian ideals until I was in high school, which left me plenty of time in middle school to experience way too much, way too soon. By age 13, I was no longer a virgin, and since I had already crossed that bridge, I figured that what I did with my body didn’t really matter anymore. I adopted a careless “anything goes” mentality as promiscuous behavior became part of my unruly expression of independence.
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My sophomore year of high school, I joined my church’s youth group, which changed the entire course of my life. I began to learn about God’s design for human sexuality as something sacred and beautiful, intended for the covenant of matrimony. I began to understand that my body is a temple, and I need to care for it as such. I learned to respect it, and insist that others respect it as well. This was the end of my adolescent promiscuity, and the beginning of my transformation from someone who gave herself away for the use and pleasure of others, into a child of God who only gave myself to Him, and His will. It was the beginning of my wholeness.
This is why I can personally attest to the soundness of this study. Check out some of the interesting highlights below, but these are just a small fraction of categories that found teens who don’t have sex have healthier life practices:
—Opposite-sex-active (OSA) teens are 337% more likely to ever binge drink than virginal peers. Same-sex/bisexual active teens are 375% more likely than their virginal peers.
—OSA teens are 500% more likely to have ever injected a nonprescription drug than virginal teens. SS/BA teens are 2,333% more likely.
—OSA teens are 3,300% more likely to smoke daily than virginal peers. SS/BA teens are 9,500% more likely to smoke than their virginal classmates.
—OSA teens are 260% more likely to experience some form of physical violence in a dating relationship than virginal teens. SS/BA are 683% more likely than virginal youth.
These are no small percentages! And even in common wellness practices such as eating breakfast everyday, getting enough sleep, wearing a seatbelt, and visiting the dentist, the research shows that teens who are not sexually active tend to have healthier practices in these areas as well.
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The connection is obvious. All of these behaviors are directly linked to an understanding of our bodies as something sacred and worth taking optimal care of.
My teenage years are far behind me now, and as a mother, I know I will have less and less control over my children’s actions as they grow older. However, I also know that I will always be responsible for the messages I give to them. Motivated by faith—and now, backed by extensive scientific research—I will confidently and consistently tell my kids over and over again: don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Wear your seatbelt, eat a healthy breakfast, and when it comes to sex, honey? Wait for it. It really is the best thing.
And the advice will always be couched in the primary message: “God is Love, and Truth, and He always knows what’s best.”
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