Thoughts on Purity
Ryan and Selena Frederick, authors of "Fierce Marriage," reflect on meeting in 8th grade and the romance that unfolded in their high school and college years. Desiring to keep their relationship pure, they decided to marry at 20 and 21 years old. Together they tell how waiting until marriage to be sexually intimate didn't ensure them the instant fireworks they expected and that in reality, oneness in sex took time and effort.
About the Guest
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FierceMarriage.com in 2013 when they felt God calling them to share, with brutal transparency, the struggles God had helped them overcome. Since then, Fierce Marriage has grown into a thriving online community with hundreds of thousands of readers each month. Ryan and Selena have two daughters and live in Tacoma, Washington.
Ryan and Selena Frederick reflect on meeting in 8th grade and the romance that unfolded. Desiring to keep their relationship pure, they decided to marry at 20 and 21 years old. They explain that waiting until marriage didn’t ensure them the fireworks they expected.
Thoughts on Purity
Bob: Ryan and Selena Frederick believe that a strong marriage requires, from both a husband and a wife, a level of fierceness that is missing from a lot of marriages today.
Ryan: When you think of love, you don't think of apathy; right? You think of—you care deeply, and there's a fierceness there—like, if you love something deeply, you're going to fight for it. I think that's where that word, fierce, came from for us. We realized that, “Yes, there's that trend—people tend to be more apathetic toward their covenant.” We're saying: “No, this is worth fighting for. Fight for your marriage like everything is at stake”; because, in a lot of ways, it is—everything is at stake.
Selena: We give up too soon, as a generation—we don't fight longer; we're just too ready to jump ship and go to the next thing. I think that it does take a fierceness and this tenacity that God gives us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 16th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Would you say, as a husband or as a wife, you have a fierce commitment to one another? We're going to talk about what that means today with Ryan and Selena Frederick. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I don't think everybody can point to a moment that changed their marriage; but you guys can. You've talked about the moment that was transitional in your marriage, when on your 10th wedding anniversary, you confessed, Ann, that you'd lost your love for Dave.
Dave: Bob, do you have to bring this up right now? [Laughter] It was the worst moment of my life!
Bob: It's the best moment of your life—
Ann: It is the best moment.
Bob: —because it was a turning point in your lives.
Ann: Yes; we got on our knees and surrendered our marriage to God.
Dave: And I will say this—I was just thinking about this the other day; we were talking about this—when that moment happened, I honestly had this thought: “Nobody will ever, ever hear about this.” [Laughter]
Ann: Because you are embarrassed.
Dave: I was! I was sitting there, thinking, “I never wanted this said by my wife, ‘I lost my feelings for you.’” And I thought, “This will be our little thing.” But you're right; it is the best moment, because God wanted to meet us there and then use it to help others.
Bob: Yes; I'm thinking about all the couples you've shared your story with at Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways over the years—and all of the couples, who have moments that have happened at a Weekend to Remember, like yours, that have been turning points/pivotal moments in their marriage.
Of course, I'm bringing that up because right now, this week, we're encouraging FamilyLife Today listeners to join us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We've got dozens of these happening in cities all across the country this fall. If you sign up this week, you save 50 percent off the regular registration fee—that's a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about dates/locations—get registered online; or call if you have any questions: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. We can register you over the phone.
This weekend will be the best investment you make in your marriage this year/maybe, the best investment you make in your marriage ever. Find out more—go to FamilyLifeToday.com and take advantage of the special offer this week to save
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Well, we've got a couple joining us who can point to a moment in their marriage that was a transitional moment. Ryan and Selena Frederick join us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome guys.
Ryan: Hey. Thanks for having us.
Selena: Thanks for having us.
Bob: Nice to have you both here. This moment we're talking about—at some point in your book, you say, “We had two months of marriage that were magical, followed by twenty-two months that were filled with various kinds of fear.”
Ryan: Yes. [Laughter]
Selena: Very true.
Bob: So, let's go back before the magic actually happened, because you met each other in the 8th grade?
Ryan: Yes; that's exactly right. My mom was actually a teacher, and she got a job as an administrator for a new private school. When she was interviewing for that job, I actually went with her—I was in 8th grade, and I went with her—and I sat through the classes while she was being interviewed. I was kind of a loner; I didn't like—I wasn't very outgoing at all. I just kind of sat in the corner of gym class, and this girl runs out onto the basketball court. My heart dropped to the soles of my feet—
Ann: In the 8th grade, you knew.
Ryan: She had no idea I existed—whatsoever—[Laughter]—but I knew she was there.
Selena: I did not.
Ryan: I was laser-focused. It took about two years to get up the confidence to talk to her, but here we are.
Ann: You were high school sweethearts then.
Selena: We were. Yes; yes. We were playing my favorite game in P.E. class, so I was pretty enthusiastic that day. [Laughter]
Bob: If he notices you right off, how long did it take for you to notice him?
Selena: Two years. [Laughter]
Bob: Two years!
Selena: The first year, I didn't really notice him; but all the girls were like: “Oh, you know that Ryan kid? He's so sweet.” And I said, “Who?!” [Laughter] “Ryan!” “I don't know who that is.” [Laughter]
Bob: When and how did you notice him?
Selena: His mom is an English teacher, so we were in an advanced English class together. He started speaking up and saying all these smart things; and I thought: “Wow! Who's this smart guy? He's kind of cute, too.” [Laughter]
Ryan: Thank you, John Steinbeck—[Laughter]—The Grapes of Wrath.
Ann: That'll get a girl every time. [Laughter]
Bob: So, when she noticed you talking smart things from The Grapes of Wrath, was this kind of like, “My moment has finally come!”?
Selena: No; he was with someone else, sort of.
Selena: He was taking someone else to the—
Bob: I don't remember that part of the book!
Dave: I don't remember that either, actually.
Selena: I kind of missed the boat; but I was like: “That's fine. We can be friends.”
Ryan: Yes; our friendship, actually, was a more solid foundation because that blossomed into a relationship, about nine months later, I'd say. We were friends and then one summer I just said, “Hey, let's take this to the next level.” We did the DTR [defining the relationship] talk.
Bob: Is that what you said?
Ryan: No. [Laughter]
Dave: “Let's take this to the next level”? [Laughter]
Ann: That's pretty mature. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, that does sound like John Steinbeck. [Laughter]
Bob: I want to know—take us back to the moment when you, as a trembling 11th grader—sat down to have the DTR talk with the girl that you've had the crush on, back in the 8th grade.
Ryan: Okay; you asked for it—so we were at a friend's house doing a little campfire out in their backyard—it was during the summertime.
Selena: I think we had spent like all day together, but just not—
Ryan: —like in a group of friends we were together.
Selena: Yes; just kind of eying each other and knowing that we both had feelings, I think; but just still kind of—I don't know.
Ryan: Yes; I think we both knew it was the elephant in the room, for sure. I offered to give her a ride home.
Ryan: And I just—neither of us was talking. We hadn't talked a ton, but we knew like this conversation had to happen. [Laughter] Finally, I just—you know, we started talking about it and ended up spending—like what?—three hours?—in your driveway; we were just talking. I think one of the lines I said to you was, “I wouldn't be”—this is so arrogant! [Laughter] But I was being honest.
Selena: “I wouldn't date you unless I thought I could marry you,” or “…we could get married.” So, unless you're like marriage material…” basically.
Ryan: And it's true.
Selena: It was true. I took it for what is was.
Ryan: Yes. And it was absolutely true, obviously. We've been married 15/16 years.
Bob: Now, wait! Are you—you’re 17 years old, saying this to each other?
Selena: That's what he said; he said it and I'm like, “Okay, yes; that sounds good.” [Laughter]
Ann: Where were you guys, spiritually, at this point?
Ryan: You know, pretty sold-out—pretty much just wanted to live for Jesus and didn't see any other point in life. I think you were on the same page—that's what was so cool about it.
Selena: Yes; yes.
Bob: When this guy says, “I wouldn't date you unless I thought I could marry you,” did that not freak you out a little bit? Or was it kind of like, “This is kind—this is what I’m hoping he would say”?
Selena: That's kind of what I was hoping for. And looking back, I hope our daughters never hear that at 17. [Laughter] At the time, I was very grateful for that kind of vocabulary from a guy.
Dave: That's like an advanced DTR, by the way.
Dave: I mean, that's all the way to the end of it.
Ann: —for a 17-year-old.
Bob: And I want to know—because there are parents, listening, who are going, “I'm praying right now that my kids will, at 17, say something like that/be sold out for Jesus,” and not—you know, have the same ethos, when it comes to dating, that you guys [Dave and Ann] had. They want to know: “What's the recipe to create little Ryans and Selenas in our home?” [Laughter]
Selena: I came from a single-parent home, and he came from a two-parent home. I think that the biggest thing that influenced me was my involvement with church—and having those friends in that space; and the teaching that I had; and understanding God and His purpose and His will; and then going to school and having that, sort of in collaboration, helped me have my identity in Him and helped me form what I desired and what I valued.
All that to say—is just I think that God can work, obviously, in any area, no matter where you're at. I think that community is huge. I mean, you [Ryan] guys met—as high school guys—once a week at six in the morning. They would read the Bible together and pray—just kind of a—
Ryan: It was a really unique time, for sure.
Selena: It was a unique time for sure, but I think that we were all kind of sold-out for God and wanting to know more about Him.
Ann: —which really is every parent's dream.
Bob: But you've seen the statistics—the youth group kids, who are growing up today—
Selena: We also did not have screens; we did not have cell phones—and that's a huge, huge change.
Bob: Good point.
Selena: That's a huge change. We did not have screens; we had flip phones. We had a pager—you had a pager. That's how old—pager days.
Ryan: Oh, yes; I rocked the pager.
Bob: So, DTR—this is before your senior year/summer before your senior year?
Ryan: —before our junior year.
Bob: —before your junior year. So you've got junior year, and then senior year, and then college.
Bob: You guys are having to fight some feelings; right? [Laughter]
Ryan: That's one way to say it. [Laughter] Yes; so we did date two years in high school and two years in college.
Ryan: And then—maintaining purity was hard, for sure. And we fought it.
Ryan: We definitely fought for it. And at one point—I think it was going into our sophomore year in college—
Ryan: —I was like: “This is not getting any easier. I know this is the one that—I want to spend my life with this girl; so I'm just going to sell my car, and buy a ring, and ask her to marry me,”—which I did.
Bob: Twenty and twenty-one when you got married?—is that right?
Selena: Yes; yes.
Ryan: Exactly; yes.
Bob: I know we talked about getting to that defining point in your marriage—and we may have to delay that a little bit—because just in talking about this, you grew up as kids in the purity culture—
Selena: Very much, yes.
Bob: —with the idea that that's the magic formula that will guarantee you—in fact, you may have heard a youth group guy say: “If you want to have great intimacy when you get married, here's the key. You just stay pure…”
You share in the book that that's just not the magic bullet—being virgins, when you get married, is not the guarantee of amazing intimacy in marriage; right? [Laughter]
Selena: Absolutely. It's a learning curve. I think we went in—you know, you kind of go in with some expectations and naiveté. But I think the cool thing about it is that you get to grow together with each other and in the covenant you made before God.
Bob: Did it surprise you that you were experiencing challenges, early in marriage?
Selena: —in the intimacy area; yes.
Ann: I think that a lot of people assume, too, that: “Because we've waited, God will bless this; and it will be amazing.” And it doesn't always happen like that; there's still adjusting/there's still getting to know each other; and that can be hard.
Selena: Yes; yes. I don't think it's something that happens to us all the time; right?—it's something that we have to engage in and be a part of as well.
Bob: Ryan, what were the biggest frustrations?
Ryan: Well, expectations, I think, are always kind of the root of whatever the frustration is. Now, the challenge is: “Where do those expectations come from?”; right?—whether it's the youth pastor telling you that you're going to have amazing sex if you just hold out, or it's some other distortion that the world puts out; right?
I think God was very gracious to us in that pornography was not a big part of my childhood. A lot of those expectations were driven by movies and other things like that—so expecting her to be the awesome sex partner that you expected to have.
Ryan: God was also very gracious in that—we haven't mentioned this yet—my dad's a psychologist. He was very healthy in this area; he deals with a lot of sexual brokenness in a lot of couples. He wasn't like saying, “Here, here’s how to…”— he wasn't getting too detailed; but he was saying, basically, to be patient, communicate, talk through everything.
We've come around to the point of generosity/mutual generosity in that—instead of the expectation: “What can I get from you?”—right?—as opposed to what I think the spirit of a healthy sex life is: “What can I give to you?” or “How can I love you in a way that you feel loved?”—not just get what I want from you.
Dave: So, when you were going through that in year one, how did you talk about it? I mean, did you handle it well, or was it really a struggle?
Ryan: Man, I don't know that we really talked about it in a healthy way.
Selena: Yes; I don't think we knew how to talk about it, necessarily. We kind of: “Okay; you want it this way, and I didn't know,”—or we didn't know—and “How can we do this better?” Then, you miss each other; or somebody's frustrated—the mood is gone. [Laughter] It's escaped you, and you don't really know what to do.
Ann: How would you coach young couples now? If you sit down and talk to them, how would you encourage them in this area?
Selena: Give them the vocabulary; say, “To have these hard conversations—talk about frequency, and what's important, and “What are your expectations?”—all of them—because I think there needs to be some demystification, maybe—
Selena: —of some expectations. I think that's okay; because there's this beautiful reality that God has designed and created for us that, sometimes, our expectations may not be the best that we need to experience.
God is just so good in how He designs everything and creates us to become one. I think trusting God's design, understanding His design—again, all the way down to frequency; expectations; talking about his needs/her needs; and “How can I love you well?”; and what's comfortable and what's not? That's okay to talk about.
Bob: You know, this whole issue of parents raising kids with an emphasis on purity—I mean, here at FamilyLife®, we created a resource called Passport2Purity®, where parents can take their kids out and have a weekend and talk about these things. Part of it is that you want to impress on your kids, from an early age, God has a design for sex—it's in marriage; that's where it belongs.
That has almost come under attack a little bit from, even, inside the church today, with people who are saying that this emphasis on purity is an unhealthy thing for parents. And I'm going, “Wait, how can urging our kids to have a godly view of sexuality—how can that be an unhealthy thing?” I can understand how the perversion of that can be an unhealthy thing.
You've [Ryan and Selena] got kids now who are a long way away from these conversations or from these interests; but when your kids get to that age, will you do things differently than your youth pastor or your parents did with you?
Ryan: I'm sure there'll be differences; but my emphasis, as a father, with two daughters—and again, we have a third on the way; we don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet—is to set a standard for what a loving male should look like in their life; right? So, I pray—just this morning, we were talking about this; I'm like, “Man, I pray for a husband to love these girls in a way that makes me feel like they're loved”; right? I'll never not know—I have to trust that God's going to care for them through their husbands.
At some point, that will change from exemplifying to actually teaching; right?—and to actually getting interaction with them on what a healthy relationship is—and the sexual component, in terms of purity, I do want to be very overt about: “There is a right, and there is a wrong.”
Ryan: A lot of what you're responding to—you're saying that some parents are saying that it's unhealthy to tell your kids how to live their lives. That's no good; because the Bible gives us a standard, and it's for our flourishing/it's for our health. I think we are hurting our children if we're not just telling to them as straight as we can.
So, I'm going to tell them: “Here's what's right,” and “Here's what's wrong.” I don't want to buy into the kind of cultural—you know, whatever the culture is saying in terms of: “Hey, just go discover yourself. Try these things. Figure it out,”—that's not it at all.
Selena: You're really good about telling and painting the picture of why—
Ann: That's what I was going to say, too—the importance.
Selena: Yes; exactly—and talking about why God designed it this way; and why it's how we're going to flourish; and when we decide not to do those things, of course, we're always working on the disobedience aspect; right? And training young children to understand the weight of their decisions—not just: “Okay; here's a decision you should and shouldn't do this…”—but—“…here are the reasons why…This is why God wrote this in His Word. As your parent, I love you and I want to show you this brighter way so that you can have a more flourishing life. I don't want you to learn by mistake.”
Sometimes, I guess I understand that parents have to let their kids—when they're older—walk through brokenness. I imagine that's a very hard thing—it's not so hard at five and three—they kind of just break things, and it's not like life or death.
Ann: I think, for Dave and me, that was one of our frustrations. We didn't grow up in the church; and when we were told: “This is what God's Word says on purity—to abstain until you’re married,” my question was: “Why?
Ann: “Why does God say that?” And no one had answered that, so I think that's a really good question to talk to our kids about God's protection and consequences.
Ann: The other thing I was going to say, too, was—I remember when our first son got married—I can remember seeing these boys—all three of them—in the mirror, getting ready for this wedding day for the one son. I heard the high school son, who is the younger brother, say to his brother that was getting married: “Dude; are you not so excited that you get to have sex every day, all the time?” [Laughter]
And I remember that I had these alarms going off, like: “Is that what his expectations are? [Laughter] Oh, man, I need to talk to him.” I remember talking to him later and saying: “Hey; what do you think? What will that look like for you in terms of intimacy in marriage?” And he's like: “Man, I can't wait! It's going to be unbelievable.” And so I was like: “Um, alright. That's awesome.”
Dave: She came to me and was like, “What have you been telling these guys?” [Laughter] I'm like, “Well, I might have said that.”
Ann: I'm like: “I need to set a little reality for you—for your future and your wife—and the realities of life, and kids, and all different kinds of things.” But even to have that conversation with our kids of their expectations. I know that can seem really awkward, especially to a high schooler or middle schooler—like, “Mom, what are you talking about?” Dave was great at doing that. But I think that's important; because they come in with expectations, just as you said, Ryan, of what this is going to be like.
Ryan: Especially, if you've been waiting all your high school years and fighting all the urges that come along with it.
Yes, setting expectations is helpful; but, also, like you said—it's not just that God is trying to hold out on us. I think that's the lie that Adam and Eve—you know the enemy said: “Hey, God doesn't want you to eat the fruit of this tree because He doesn't want you to find out something; He wants to hold something back from you,” essentially. She bought that lie, and here we are.
The truth is that God puts His commands in place for our flourishing; right? It's because He designed the universe to work in certain ways and humans to work in certain ways if we walk in step with the law He's given us; right? His laws are good; they're not bad. They're not things that are to hold us back. Yes, we have grace; we're not saved through the Law—we're saved by grace—but His laws are still good.
I think painting the pictures for our daughters has been so huge. The language we use now—they're three and five—is: “It will or will not go well with you”; right? [Laughter] “Every time you argue with mommy—you're not honoring her/you're not respecting her—it won't go well with you.”
And not just saying that but “Here's what going well with you looks like…”—you can walk in a certain level of blessing. In Matthew 5, in particular, the word, blessing, is used there; but a more adequate translation would have been “flourishing,”; right?—so: “Blessed are those who mourn”; right?—those different phrases. Flourishing is a biblical concept that I think we can really press into hard, as parents, with our kids. Showing them a picture of what it looks like to flourish is actually more compelling than to tell them not to do things.
Bob: Yes; let me loop back around to marriage; because couples, who have been married—whatever their past was, sexually—they'll experience challenges in the marriage relationship. You said kind of the paradigm shift that needs to happen is we need to be asking the question, “How can we be giving in this area?” rather than be focused on our own interests, desires, and needs; right?
Ryan: Yes; that's usually the one piece of advice that I give to young men, headed into marriage—is: “Whatever you can give to your wife, be generous. The tendency is to want to take and to want to receive. That's our insecurity, and that's our pride, and all these different things. But if we do, what is it?—I John 4:19: ‘We love because He first loved us.’ That changes everything; it turns the entire script—turns it upside down—because He loved and He gave in such a generous way. Now, if I actually believe that, then my language turns from just taking to, now, I’m actually being generous and trying to find those opportunities.”
Selena: One thing you said is—we can love because He first loved us; but we have to first understand that Christ is the standard of love, and understand the Bible's perspective, and obviously the definition of love; because it's very counter-cultural. [Laughter]
Love today is what we feel; it's something we can potentially fall out of. It is very self-serving, very all about me and my feelings. The Bible does not describe love like that, at all. It is a very active and sacrificial.
Bob: One of the descriptors of love in I Corinthians 13—it does not seek its own; it's not self-seeking.
Bob: And that's true in every aspect of love in the marriage relationship. That's what fierce love looks like; that's what fierce marriage looks like. That's what you guys have written about in your book, which is called Fierce Marriage: Radically Pursuing Each Other in Light of Christ's Relentless Love. We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I'd encourage listeners to get a copy of this book—read through it together, as a couple; or get together with other couples and go through it, chapter by chapter. Fierce Marriage by Ryan and Selena Frederick. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And then, make plans this fall to come join us and be a part of one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We're going to be hosting these getaways in more than three dozen cities across the country this fall. It's a great weekend getaway for you and your spouse—you can relax, refresh, reconnect as a couple, and learn more about God's design for marriage.
You can find out more or register online at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you register this week—if we hear from you before the week is over—you save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. That's a special offer we're making this week for FamilyLife Today listeners. Go online to register at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we're going to hear about a time, early in your marriage, before you had kids, when you faced a life-threatening situation—one where you really had to lean in and ask the question, “Do we trust God?” when one of you was facing death. Ryan and Selena Frederick will be back with us again tomorrow to share about that. I hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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