When it came to sexual purity, 14-year-old Renna had her mind made up: She was going to be a virgin when she got married. Period. So when a guy she really liked started calling her, Renna had no qualms about being, well, direct. In one of their first conversations, she told him, "Don't think you're going to be one of those guys who can talk me into anything. I know what I want, and if you don't want to go along with that, then we'll end it right here."
Fortunately for both of them, it didn't end right there. Renna and her new boyfriend quickly became high school sweethearts. They committed to sexual purity early in their dating relationship and stuck to that commitment. And now, several years later, Renna and Christian recording artist Clay Crosse are a very happily married couple.
It's tempting to turn Clay and Renna's story into a fairy tale. After all, they successfully avoided the pitfalls of premarital sex—an accomplishment that might sound old-fashioned and unrealistic to lots of teens today. But Clay would be the first to admit that remaining pure was an uphill battle.
"The sexual drive is the strongest one you'll ever face," he says. "But Renna and I are two people who can tell you it is possible to wait. It wasn't easy. But it was our goal and our prayer, and through God's strength, we made it."
How? For starters, the couple avoided one-on-one dating until Renna was 16. They spent most of their time with youth group friends, ice skating, miniature golfing or eating pizza. And even after Clay and Renna got more serious, they made sure others knew about their commitment to sexual purity. Clay looked primarily to his youth pastor and other role models at the church for guidance, while Renna found support in a time-tested friend: Mom.
"I always felt accountable to my mother," she says. "When I'd come in from a date, I would talk with her. I always told her everything. She was someone I had to look at every day, and I knew I would let her down if I broke my commitment."
Sexual purity was such a high priority for Clay and Renna that the pair even decided to backtrack in their physical relationship as their wedding day approached—just to avoid any possibility of giving in. As Renna warns, "It can be so easy to say, 'We're getting married in a month. What's the difference?'"
The difference, says Clay, is that sexual purity wasn't just a priority for them; it is one of God's top priorities as well. Clay says it's simply wrong to feel entitled to a sexual relationship without the commitment of marriage. "There's no debate on where the Lord stands on this issue," he says. "So be committed first of all to Jesus Christ and follow him. To be committed to Christ is to wait."
On tour last year with fellow CCM artist Jaci Velasquez, Clay Crosse encouraged students to practice sexual abstinence until marriage. The two musicians teamed up with True Love Waits (see page 34) and offered their unique perspectives on sexual purity at each show. "I could speak from the standpoint of someone who's married," Clay said. "And Jaci is right in the middle of her dating years. It was good for us to take some time to address this issue."
True Love Waits reports that more than 60,000 teens made definite pledges to remain sexually pure in 1997-98, and several hundred thousand more were impacted by the abstinence message at concerts and other events.
1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Campus Life magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200.