On today's broadcast, national speaker and best-selling author Vicki Courtney talks about her teenage years and the secret she kept hidden from her sweetheart until after they married.
On today's broadcast, national speaker and best-selling author Vicki Courtney talks about her teenage years and the secret she kept hidden from her sweetheart until after they married.
Bob: As a parent, if you're trying to raise your children to embrace biblical values and to live righteously before God, you are going against the flow. Here's Vicky Courtney.
Vicki: I see this with my own kids, in a culture's mentality that anything goes, and that sex is just natural and you shouldn't be ashamed in this hookup culture that our teens are exposed to through, gosh, everything from the fashion magazines the girls read, to billboards, to the OC on TV, to MTV. I mean, it just goes on. The choices that are out there, we're seeing first-hand the fallout.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 1. Our host is the President of Family Life, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today one of the reasons why Vicki Courtney is so passionate about this message of virtue for teenage girls.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I love hearing people share their testimony, and nobody has a bad testimony, right? I mean, God's work in anybody's life is a great story to hear, but it's always interesting to hear the Apostle Paul kinds of testimonies. You know, the people who are headed in one direction and God grabs them and shakes them and says, "Uh-uh," do you know what I mean?
Dennis: "I'm going to take you in another direction."
Dennis: And we've got one of those with us today. Vicki Courtney joins us on FamilyLife Today. Vicki, welcome.
Vicki: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Vicki heads up a ministry called Virtuous Reality Ministries, a ministry to moms and daughters all across the country. It's growing like wildfire.
Bob: You're the "Ya-da Ya-da Lady," right?
Vicki: I am, and I've actually had people come up to me in public and say, "Are you the Ya-da Ya-da Lady? I don't really know how to respond to that.
Dennis: She's written a number of books, speaks around the country, and I guess Vicki, I've read a little bit about your life. You went to the University of Texas, and I'll forgive you as a Razorback from the University of Arkansas for that.
Vicki: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: But if I had known you coming out of high school going to the University of Texas, how would I have known you as a young lady?
Vicki: Oh, wow! Well, this is going to date myself here, but it would have been in the early '80s. I was leaving high school as one of the popular crowd, varsity cheerleader. I had been invited throughout the years to maybe some youth functions, church, vacation Bible school, so I had some limited exposure, but really never caught on. I can't really remember -- I remember one occasion where the Gospel was presented clearly on a Young Life ski trip, and one of my friends actually went forward and afterwards I gave her a hard time and said, "I can't believe you did that; you're going to be so embarrassed you did that."
Dennis: Did you grow up in a home that was not Christian?
Vicki: Well, interestingly, my mother was raised in a Southern Baptist home, and my father was raised in a pretty strong Pentecostal home, and for whatever reasons I think they both have shared since that time that they saw a lot of hypocrisy, not necessarily in their home, but in the church at large, and chose not raise their own children in the church.
So, behind the scenes in this part of this tapestry that's being woven of my life, I had these -- I had two pairs of praying grandparents, who really -- and that's part of what I love to share about my testimony, especially to some of your listeners who are grandparents that might be frustrated because they have a prodigal child, or a prodigal grandchild. Just a beautiful part of my story is in high school going off to the University of Texas when I graduated. I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, went down to Austin, and that's where my mother's parents were located, my grandparents in Austin.
And so when I went off to UT, part of my testimony is that my grandparents invited me over once a week for dinner. And, you know, dorm food versus Grandma's home cooking, I took her up on the offer and said, "Sure," and so I didn't make it every week, but in that freshman year, I have great memories of going over to my grandparents' house, having dinner with them.
In the course of conversation, sure enough, just about every time they would invite me over and over again to their big mega Baptist church there in Austin and say, "Oh, there's a wonderful college department, and many students from UT." I just kind of shrugged it off there the first couple of years that I'd go over for dinner and say, "Well, you know, that church seems really not for me," all the while I'm doing the whole frat party scene --
Bob: Yeah, I want to ask you about that. In high school you were one of the popular kids; were you one of the good kids, or were you one of the wild kids?
Vicki: Well, actually I was pretty good. I think that by the shear fact that my parents did raise me with values, to try to determine right from wrong. It was more of, you know, "You know in your gut," and that doesn't always work out for the youth of today, we know that. But that kind of kept me in line.
Bob: But when the good girls go off to college, things often change for the good girls, and they start to get a little wild.
Vicki: They do. Let me say, too, Bob, that when I say "good girl," that it's a relative term for a girl that was not raised in the church that's not getting the solid, biblical teaching, I would say that most of my high school peers would look back and call me a good girl. I had one steady boyfriend. I did have sex outside of marriage, but as far as promiscuity, drinking, that was not a part of my life in high school. I was afraid to drink too much. Now, college was a whole different scene and, you're right.
Bob: Did your parents know when you were in high school that you and your boyfriend were sexually active?
Vicki: I think so. I think so. I don't know why they would not think otherwise.
Bob: They never talked to you and said is this going on, or it shouldn't be going on, or it's okay as long as you're using protection; none of that came up?
Vicki: No, not really. My parents were real busy building their careers, and so I think for all practical purposes, my brother and I were kind of on our own making our own decisions at that point in high school. Part of my testimony is an abortion at the age of 17. So you look at that and you go, "That's not such a good girl."
Dennis: Hold it here. Let's go back to this sex outside of marriage and an abortion at 17?
Dennis: Were your parents a part of that?
Vicki: No, they were not, which, as I look back is strange, because they would have supported -- more than supported the choice that I made at the time. And so it's strange to me even today, I'm not sure why, I guess I didn't feel close enough to them. I was pretty much on my own.
Dennis: Did you have help from your boyfriend to do that, or did you pull that off on your own?
Vicki: I was pretty much on my own, although he was in full support of it. He had a very strong Catholic upbringing, and so it was one of those deals where we really -- I had bought into the culture's lie that because it was legal it must be okay, and that was my -- I remember that was my rationale at the time. He actually struggled with it more.
Dennis: And so when you had that abortion, was there a moment as that abortion was completed where you were pierced in your conscience?
Vicki: Oh, absolutely. And, actually, it's interesting you ask that. It was at that moment where I remember thinking what I have done is very wrong, even though I tried to justify on the front-end that it's legal, so it must be okay. My mother was a feminist of sorts as well, so in the early '80s, there was a lot of talk -- I mean, the pro-choice movement was really, I think, at it's peak, and the women's movement had come along way post Gloria Steinem. So, yes, that was the moment for me where even though I had that flash and that sadness of this is very wrong, I spent the months that followed trying not to think about it, because I didn't know what to do with that thought. It was too late.
Dennis: Hiding it completely from your parents.
Dennis: I'm trying to picture a mom and dad not knowing that their daughter on a Friday afternoon, or however it occurred, slipped out, had a procedure done, and eliminated a human life.
Vicki: That's right.
Dennis: And yet they didn't know.
Vicki: At 17, and I have a 17-year-old son now. You're right, as you say that, it's absolutely -- it's mind-boggling. You know, another thing that I remember is when the procedure was over in that recovery room where they take you, both my boyfriend and I were weeping. I remember that feeling of if it's not wrong, why would there be tears? Why would there be sadness? And so that was a real indication to me, but there was also, I think, behind our tears, I know for me, I wanted my mom. I remember thinking I'm just a kid; I'm too young for this. I'm too young to scrape up $250, or however much it is, and have somebody call in school saying I'm sick today and arrange all that, and then go do something like that, and then need your mom at the end. I did share with her later.
You know, that ended up being a driving force in me becoming a Christian, because I could not figure out what to do with that guilt and shame that followed.
Dennis: That's what I was going to ask you. I feel like our country right now is languishing under the weight and the burden of incredible choices. I mean, if there have been 40 million abortions across our country, that means a lot of women are carrying that same shame, that same guilt and burden, and they need the Savior. They need forgiveness.
Bob: Well, you know, I spoke to a group of women last summer on the subject of helping women through post-abortive work, and I did some research in the process. Forty-three percent of women under the age of 45 have had an abortion, 30 million women, at least in 2001, had experienced an abortion.
There are scars on the soul of every one of those women. If those scars haven't been healed, then they're open wounds, and you have to wonder how much of the depression, how much of the alcoholism, how much of the phenomenon the people are experiencing as adults and they don't know why they feel so depressed. They don't know why they can't shake this, and part of it's traced back to the fact that they've never healed from that abortion. They've never gone to the cross with it, and the message of the Gospel has never penetrated their heart, and they've never experienced the forgiveness that's essential for that healing to begin.
Dennis: They've kept the sin hidden from God, so-to-speak, and from other people.
Vicki: Yes, and I'd like to just piggyback. You're absolutely right in saying that in those years and after I did become a Christian, it was not an instantaneous, "Oh, thank you, Lord; I found the forgiveness I've been seeking." It too many, many years thereafter because, in the church I think at that time it was very hush-hush. There was still a high level of shame. I still see it today, and that part of my past is, again, a huge variable in why I do what I do.
You hit the nail on the head earlier when you said the choices that are out there that face our youth today. I see this with my own kids, and the culture's mentality that anything goes, and that sex is just natural and you shouldn't be ashamed, and this hookup culture that our teens are exposed to through, gosh, everything from the fashion magazines that girls read, to billboards, to the OC on TV, to MTV. I mean, it just goes on and on. A lot of what we do is address the mother as well. And, Bob, what you said, and you hit on a lot of -- I mean, there are a lot of walking wounded out there among our women.
I heard the statistic -- and I don't know if it's still accurate -- I believe came from Crisis Pregnancy Center, that on any given Sunday in any given church, 1 in 3 women, I believe, between the ages of, I think it was 15 and 50, has had an abortion. That's one-third of our women sitting in any church pew on Sunday mornings. So, there are a lot of us that did and have tried to stuff it deep down, and so a lot of what we do, because moms are welcome at our events, is dealing with some of that as well.
Dennis: Do you remember, Vicki, the day you let somebody into your shame?
Vicki: Oh, absolutely. I would say the first time that I really told someone and quit playing that denial game was three months into my marriage, interestingly enough. Let me tell you a little bit about my husband, first of all.
When I did become a Christian at the age of 21 -- and, again, the guilt from that abortion, as well as poor choices made in the college years that followed those high school years, drove me to the cross of Christ. I met at the very event where I became a Christian, my future husband. I often refer or describe his family as it was the typical kind of June and Ward Cleaver were his parents. I married the Beav. I mean, this guy, he was squeaky clean. In fact, I'd say, "What was on your sin list? I mean, running in the hallways in fifth grade? Did you chew gum in class?" I mean, squeaky clean, 3.96, valedictorian, chemical engineering UT. I mean nerdy, cute, very cute, but saved himself for a quarter of a century. Now, he knew once we began to date that I had not saved myself for marriage. Of course, he knew my testimony of coming to Christ. He was at that event at the age of 21, and there were a lot of things probably prior that shook down in those years.
Bob: Your sin list was a little longer.
Vicki: A little longer than chewing gum in class and running in the hallways.
Vicki: And so, but I really felt so much -- I had him on such a high pedestal, and when we married, I just -- and even during our engagement, I remember thinking this was the catch of the century, even in our little college group there at my mega Baptist church. Everybody wanted to marry this guy. I never felt like I was worthy of him or deserving of him. So, a good three months into our marriage, I really just had a meltdown. One night through tears told him, "There is something else that I have to tell you about my past." I want you to know, too, that it's important that he had freed me up from that in the sense that in our engagement, we went through, I think, some of the FamilyLife -- we did the FamilyLife Marriage Weekend.
Vicki: And I remember that being one of those times where I remember wanting to seek out an older woman -- isn't that interesting -- at the event, and share the secret then, because we were engaged, but I knew that older woman would tell me to tell my fiancé. And so I didn't like that answer that I knew I'd probably get, and so -- I forgot you guys were behind that stuff, and thank you. Thank you, Dennis for that ministry.
Dennis: I'm glad you came as an engaged couple.
Vicki: My in-laws paid for us to go, and I have great memories of my husband and I going to that weekend, and that being one of those weekends where I remember crying a lot as we were writing our notes to each other. I was harboring that secret, and I do remember thinking "I've got to find someone on staff. I am going to have a meltdown here." Well, the meltdown came three months later in my marriage. I remember even referring -- or that evening telling my husband, "I wanted so desperately to tell you this in a letter at that FamilyLife weekend, and I couldn't, because I was afraid you would not marry me, that you would not go through this wedding, but I have something that I need to tell you." Of course, by then, he's, "Oh, my goodness, what is it?"
Dennis: Were you sobbing at the time you were admitting this?
Vicki: Oh, I was. I was so broken. I felt like I deceived him.
Vicki: I felt like maybe he was supposed to marry someone else and had I told him and done the right and noble thing in the engagement, that he could have found that girl that was pure and saved herself, also, for marriage.
Dennis: And you still had never told a soul.
Vicki: No. I think maybe a couple of my friends in high school that were in on it, that had also had them. You remember, did I refer to myself as a good girl? Some of the good girls -- we were known as being the good girls -- this was the secret that we harbored, that had the long-term boyfriends, and such a shame. You're so right when you refer to the walking wounded out there.
Bob: What forced the issue for you?
Vicki: I don't really remember. I know -- you have to remember, too, that I was 23 when I was married. I became a Christian at 21-1/2. I was still a fairly new believer. I know that over those probably years, I was hearing for the first time the church's stand against abortion. We were, I think, as Christians quick to say, well, that's murder. I remember one person, one woman even saying at my church, "I just think that every woman who has had an abortion should be locked up in prison." When things like that are said, that just emphasizes to you that I must never, ever let anyone know that I'm that woman.
Dennis: Vicki, you had to feel like you were about unpack a box with your husband that --
Vicki: Great analogy.
Dennis: -- he wasn't counting on --
Vicki: And he didn't deserve.
Dennis: I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it seems like you're describing a love from him that gave you the security to be able to unpack that box.
Vicki: I got goose bumps when you said that. I know it was. I know it felt safe. I knew even in our engagement after that FamilyLife weekend, where it kind of came to a head, I had successfully stuffed it, or I thought I had, all those years. I knew even at that weekend and our engagement that I would tell him. That's what I resolved with the Lord, that I would tell him. And so his response when I told him was absolutely beautiful and what you'd expect of a godly young man. I just remember he started crying, and he leaned over immediately and just hugged me tight and said, "I don't judge you for that, and I'm not angry at you for not telling me even prior to our marriage." He even said, "I'm sad that you have to hurt by yourself on that."
I wish I could tell you that at the time that we had taken the next step in getting some help, but we didn't. Even though I told my husband, even though he'd wrapped his arms around me and said all the right things, "You're forgiven," "I love you," "I don't judge you for this," "I'm not sorry that I married you," "I know you're the one for me," he said all those things. Because I buried it and he allowed it to be buried, and we didn't bring it up after that, it was not the healing that needed to take place.
Bob: The wound got a bandage, but nobody ever came back to attend to it.
Vicki: Great analogy.
Bob: And so the healing never really happened until later, when somebody went in and said this has got to be attended to.
Vicki: And, Bob and Dennis, what you need to know, too, for the woman who has had an abortion, even though -- for that Christian woman that we read God's word and we know that no sin is too great for the forgiveness of Christ -- that doesn't mean that we stop thinking about that decision. Do you know that even a couple of days ago out of nowhere it popped into my mind that, wow, this is when that child would have been born.
Dennis: I think your life, as you've shared this story, is a picture of, really, a lot of women in our country, and they carry shame and guilt even to this day because they've hidden their guilt from God, they think, and from their spouse or from a family member. But God pursues us. He pursues us to remove that shame, lift off that guilt, that burden, because he became a person to communicate his love for us.
There is a passage of scripture that says "Without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sin." It was the picture of the Old Testament priest walking in to make a sacrifice on behalf of the people's sin. Well, Jesus became your sacrifice. If we're talking to just a single woman right now who needs to receive that sacrifice, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and you do that by faith. It's a choice of life-changing proportions, because his forgiveness may take a while for it to sink in --
Vicki: That's right.
Dennis: -- like Vicki has said here, but I would encourage you right now, before this day is over, kneel by your bed, kneel in your kitchen, in your office, wherever you may find yourself, pull off to the side of the road, and take God at his word. He loves you so much that he did send his Son to become sin on our behalf, that we might experience his goodness, that we might be clothed in that forgiveness and in God's perfect character.
Bob: Well, and if the statistics that we've seen are accurate, there are undoubtedly tens of thousands of women who are listening to today's program who are either numb or they are in tears at this point because they have never opened this issue up and allowed the light of the scripture to shine into the darkness of this experience. If that's the case for you, I want to encourage you to go to our website at familylife.com. Click in the center of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to a page where you'll find information about resources that are available. Sydna Masse's book called Her Choice to Heal. There are also links on our website that will suggest resources that can help you, but it's time to open this issue up and find some friends who can help walk you to a place where you can address this issue and experience the healing and the forgiveness of God.
If you know Christ, he has forgiven you, and he wants you to know the experience of that forgiveness in your own life. Again, go to our website, familylife.com, click where it says "Today's Broadcast," and you'll find more information to help on this subject available there.
We also have information about some of the resources that Vicki has put together for teenage girls and for their moms, including the magazine Teen Virtue, that has been designed for teenage girls, and a book for moms called Your Girl. There's a journal you put together for girls to go through. Again, more information on all of these resources on our website at familylife.com, or give us a call at 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY.
Let me say a quick word of thanks to those folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today by praying for us, by telling others about what you've heard on our program and inviting them to tune in and listen, and by helping with the financial support of this ministry. We are listener supported and we appreciate those listeners. About 1 in 20 of you has actually made a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today and we're thankful for your partnership. If you'd like to donate to FamilyLife Today, you can do that online at familylife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, and make a donation over the phone. We'll look forward to hearing from you.
Tomorrow, Vicky Courtney is going to be back with us, and we want to find out about what happened when you went away to college, and about the revolution that took place in your life during your college years. I hope our listeners can be back with us for that .
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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