Q. I lost my virginity a few years ago. I've changed my ways and I'd like to continue on the right path, but now, I have no idea how far I should go with girls. What should I do?
A. I want to start by telling you I'm proud of you for making this decision. You've got a challenge ahead of you, but you're getting off to a great start by asking this question.
A big part of the answer, however, has to come from you. For one thing, you must understand the "point of no return"—the moment when you're so turned on you just don't want to stop doing what you're doing. For some people, all it takes is a little kissing to get to that point. For others, light kissing might not be a big deal, but touching bare skin is. Think about those actions and activities that turn you on sexually and make sure you avoid them at all costs.
If that sounds easier said than done, well, it is. That's why it's important to make some rules for yourself that will help you stop yourself before the point of no return. That might mean not kissing—at all. It probably means not being alone with the girl you're dating. And it definitely means talking about it with your girlfriend so you are both on the same page and can keep each other on track. Dating in groups can allow you to enjoy each other's company and keep temptation in check.
If you do go out alone, always have something planned to do—and have a time when you plan for the date to be over. That keeps you from spending a lot of time together without any solid plans. You might need to avoid spending a lot of time in a car with your date or sitting on a couch with her or doing anything that gets your mind on sex.
These things probably sound extreme, but once you've had sex, the desire to do it again is much stronger than it is for someone who has never done it. The best way to keep your promise to yourself is to keep yourself out of situations where you'll be tempted to go back to your old ways.
You'll also need the help of Christian friends who are committed to both sexual purity and to saving sex for marriage.
If you don't have many Christian friends or have a youth group to turn to, check out an after-school program like Youth for Christ (yfc.net), Cru (cruhighschool.com) or Young Life (younglife.org). You'd be surprised at how many other teenagers have rededicated themselves to lives of purity after making sexual mistakes. Getting to know some of these guys and having their support will be one of the very best ways to keep your promise.
One more thing: This is one of those questions teenagers have been asking for decades. This is why: Once we know where the line is, we think we can tiptoe right up to it and not feel guilty. But sex isn't about lines or guilt or pushing the limits. It's about love and commitment and sharing something with another person that you don't want to share with anyone else. So don't spend a lot of time thinking about how far you can go without getting into trouble. Instead, think about how you can demonstrate unselfish love, respect and friendship toward young women who are created in God's image.
Carla is an editor of the Teen Devotional Bible (Zondervan).