Question

I grew up in a Christian home. My mom, my siblings and I lived in a different country from my dad; a very poor country but God still blessed us. My dad worked in a different country but he'd visit us every two to three months and would always send mom money to take care of us. We never needed anything; my father provided us with everything, even though he was not Christian himself.

I have unclear memories from my childhood. I remember going out to play with my cousins, two boys older than me. I was in second maybe third grade. We would play family, I was an innocent child and look back and realize my cousins, who where 4-5 years older than me, where taking advantage of me. I remember one of them getting on top of me and humping me. I remember one of them kissing me. In my innocence I had no idea what I was doing, I just considered it a game.

I also remember very faintly that one day this older cousin of mine, who I had played family before that, I'm not sure if it was before or after that, but I remember I was at my grandmas house, playing hide and seek. one of my younger male cousins and I hid under a bed together. My older cousin came in the room and found us. I remember he encouraged my little cousin to get on top of me and hump me. 

When I was in fourth grade I remember my dad took me with him to meet some of the family I hadn't met. I met two cousins, a younger girl and a boy a year younger than me. The boy would play inappropriate movie scenes and we would watch them over and over again. Eventually  we started to recreate what we saw and play between us. We would play me giving birth or humping each other. I went back home and eventually a few years later, my mom, siblings and I moved to the country my dad lived in. We moved into the house my cousin I had messed with lived. At this time I was about to finish fifth grade. We would all pkay together, five of us, normal games with nothing inappropriate. Until one day me and the cousin I had previously messed around with started to do inappropriate things again. We would send our younger cousins out and touch each others genitals, or when we were all togother watching a movie in the dark he would touch me and I would touch him.

One day my dad must have noticed something weird so he told my mom to talk to me. She spoke to me and asked me if there was anything going on. I lied to her and told her eveything was okay. She had previously told me not to let anyone touch me or that if anyone tried anything to immediately tell her. Of course, I never did. My cousins family eventually moved out so all that ended there.

My mother and my siblings would still attend church, even though my father still didn't want to. My father eventually returned to Christ and we would all attend church together. He was very protective of all of us. As I was growing up he would never let us out with friends after school, and we also couldn't participate in any after school activities activities or sports. When I was in high school  I secretly dated guys but would always fear my parents would catch me. I would break up with them within  weeks or days.

There was a guy I really liked and he also liked me. We never dated, but he persuaded me to send him some nude pictures. I did send some wearing underclothes and thought he would love me. I thought he'd date me and other dumb things teeneagers think. He was just playing with me, so eventually everything ended with him. 

I didn't really have a relationship with God at this point and it happened again. I sent pictures to another guy I thought I'd be with forever, even though we never dated.

By my sophmore and junior years I started to watch pornography and masturbating. I felt alone, depressed and even thought about suicide. I wanted to be loved so badly, even though my parents loved me very much and showed me with everything they did. What I really needed was a relationship with God I realized eventually. I would try to repent and get away from pornography and masturbation for a while. But eventually I'd fail and be right back into it. I tried to develop a closer relationship relationship God. I would cry myself to sleep so many nights for failing over and over again.  As I was growing closer to God I realized it was Him who could fulfill  this desire for love. He was what I had been seeking in all the wrong places. By this time I was a senior. I decided I wanted to get baptized and give Christ my life. I was baptized that summer after graduation and I had a close relationship  to God. Things were going well. I was doing great in college.

I started dating this guy from my church secretly again and got distant from God. He cheated on me and broke up with me. I stopped praying and reading the Bible. I was drifting away from God, watching porn and masturbating every once in a while. I was still attending church, though fighting with myself, trying to stop but failing. I would stop for months and fall back into it. I would do the same thing occasionally. 

As my father was getting closer to God he was becoming less strict and letting me do more. There was a guy from church I liked, and we secretly started hanging out. After class sometimes I'd call home and ask for permission to hang out with him. My parents were okay with it. They knew he was a guy from church and liked him. One night we made out. He knew I liked him, he was attracted to me and said he liked me but didn't want to date me. I decided I didn't want him to just use me and ended everything there.

A month after that I started seeing and talking to a guy who wasn't a Christian. Surprisingly my parents let me go out with him. He straight up told me he wanted to sleep with me and put all his desires out there. I thought I could win him over for Christ, and that we could date and do things the right way. I only let him caress my arms and the like with me. Before he dropped me home we kissed. I realized I was falling into temptation and that I didn't like him. It was just lust. I ended that and tried to focus on God, school and my job.

Four months later I started talking to a guy I would sometimes see at church. We talked for three months until we went out on a date. On our first date he asked me out. I told him it was too soon and that we should get to know each other better. He agreed but we told each other how attracted we felt to one another. He held and played with my hand, and I told him I had never felt that way before. After a few dates I finally said yes, and we started dating. He is six years older than me, so he's experienced more. I told him I only believed in dating with a purpose, which was marriage. I told him I was staying abstinent until marriage. I said kissing, hugs and holding hands was okay. He agreed. We kissed for the first time and I felt things I had never felt before. We would hang out and would make out for longer and longer. One day I went to his house, we made out. I would go over to his house once a week and the make out sessions got more and more intense.

After a month we were kissing eachother necks and ears. He tried going down into my breasts, but I stopped him. We slowly started breaking the boundaries. I told him I wanted to cuddle with him leading him on. After two months we were making out, and I was letting him get on top of me. Every week from my side, I was experimenting with new things. I would panic, regret what we were doing, and tell him we needed to stop.

Three months into the relationship we were having dry sex. I would also give him oral sex. Until one day we got very close to going all the way. We stopped. We told each other we could not do such thing if we really wanted to be with each other.

Almost five months into our relationship and we went all the way. We regretted it. Five days later we did it again. We decided to seriously repent and ask God for forgiveness. We have been talking about marriage for a while. We have stopped doing anything sexual. We just peck, quick hugs and we hold hands. It's been almost three weeks since the second time we had sex. It's hard but we want God to bless our relationship and marriage.

We have decided to get married this spring. By then we will have been dating for nine months. He has spoken to his father and wants to ask for my hand before this month ends. We will officially get engaged soon and were both working on making our relationship better with God. He wants to start attending Bible college, and I'm also getting involved in church. We know we really failed God and realized that we love each other too much to lose our relationship because of lust. We realize it's going to be hard and that if we really love each other, like we say we do, we will make it with God's help.

We both agreed that it's best to marry soon. But I know my parents will not like the idea of us getting married after just nine months of dating. Can you give us some advice? Also how does an engagement work? Should he ask my parents for permission to marry me and then propose? Or should he propose and then ask for my hand? We're not sure what's the best way to do it.

We would greatly appreciate your advice. May God bless you. Thank you.


Answer

Since you both know you want to marry each other and the temptation to sin is strong, the best solution is to go ahead and get married. "But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:8-9). Having a date can make it easier to withstand the temptation to have sex again because you know when the waiting will come to an end. Unfortunately, it can also increase the temptation. You could start telling yourself that you're going to get married anyway. You have to be determined to do what is right in God's sight and not act on your feelings.

Along with this, you can't stir up sexual passions and think that you can resist the natural consequences. See: Is it OK to be sexual with someone you will marry soon?

In regards to engagements, it is more a cultural thing. Engagements are mentioned in the Bible but with very little details. While it is better to take a year or so to make sure you really know each other well, you made this difficult with your sexual acts. Avoiding sin is more important than meeting cultural expectations.

It doesn't matter whether he proposes first or asks for your parents' blessings. You are both old enough that you don't need your parents' permission to marry. Even if your parents object, there is no reason you cannot continue with your wedding plans. This is your life, not theirs. If they do object, listen and understand why they disagree with your choice, but realize that in the end it is your choice.