(Logo photo created by Hannah Jacob)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
The Marked Ministry Story
As Told by Sarah Komisky (Editor in Chief)
When I was twelve, I signed my name across a paper promising to remain sexually pure for my future husband. I felt super special at this purity conference. My paper was ornately designed with the words, “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” typed in the bottom corner. Little did I know how prophetic these words would be in my life. Today this aged document resides in my Bible, small holes still intact from pinning the paper to a cork board in my room years ago. Even at twelve, I knew this gift was so sacred and so worth saving for my future husband that I desired to honor God and my spouse with it. Today, I have kept that commitment as I wait for the man God brings in my life who is after His heart. The problem was that at twelve, thinking of a spouse seemed light years away. I mean, the only guy in my life at the moment was my crush Justin Timberlake as far as I was concerned! As a result, what I walked away that day with at the conference with a definition of purity that was singular (saving sex for marriage = purity). Therefore, I essentially checked off the box in my mind that read “pure” and went on my merry way.
When I first got started with Marked Ministry many young adults rolled their eyes at my excitement to create a magazine devoted to the subject of purity. They had been to purity conferences before and didn’t like the way the subject was portrayed as a list of dos and don’ts. It was as if to say, “yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.” Others cringed at the idea as if to say, “oh no, not that again!” Then there were some that instantly expressed shame, regret, and sadness upon the utterance of that single six-letter-word. Clearly the word “purity” had gotten misconstrued. But I also tuned in to what those outside the church were saying. Their picture of purity was a Mary Poppins persona dressed in “Little House on the Prairie” attire, naïve, and certainly not fun. The verdict was given: purity had a bad rep, and many were confused on its true meaning. But I also had my own misconceptions growing up.
My mom was my best friend who always went on adventures with me, made me laugh, supported my creativity, and gave me both a listening ear and a voice. My dad always showed respect to my mom and I, advocating for women and allowed me to express my spirited and vibrant self! He would equally help my mom around the house and always said we were beautiful no matter what. Therefore, I literally grew up thinking all men were like this! What a blessing to not know it any other way. Both of their compassion, kindness, desire to embrace differences and be a friend to others was instilled in me at a young age. Both never put down my dreams, allowed me to be myself, and made me feel like I could do anything! But overall, the best thing they taught me was about Jesus!
Yet, although I was raised by parents who loved me and loved God, seeking with all their heart to raise me to know and love Jesus, and was also fortunate enough to have a mom whom I could talk with about things like sexuality, I still had to take my own journey of faith. I was a “good girl” perfectionist who deeply desired to please God with my choices in life but I did it through the means of performance, not really understanding God’s grace. I had grown up in a church and church culture that had several things I loved, had good morals, and good people, but lacked a relational God. Therefore, I did not know this aspect of who God was and this played into my struggles with codependency.
As I got into my tweens, I began hanging out with the popular kids, binged on MTV, doodled during church, read tons of teen magazines, and developed attitude that came with the territory. I got mad at my mom when she waved goodbye as she dropped me off at youth group (now I thank her for it!) In my angst, I even did my best to give the stink eye to an older youth leader who tried to be my mentor (apologies if you’re reading this!). Funny how these are the very girls who God brings in my life to love on now (stink eye and all).
At fourteen, everything changed. I began getting new attention from guys and in my own insecurity, found strength. You see while my Dad was an amazing dad who loved me, he was not perfect like all human beings are. He had some deep past hurts that were unresolved at the time, making him unable to be there emotionally (even when he wanted to) from time to time. So, I set on a quest early in life to fill the void by initiating an unhealthy cycle of guy relationships. Although still in the church during this time with my deep desire to please God still present, I tried my best to follow external rules that I believed kept me “pure.” In fact, I was afraid of somehow “losing my purity,” but rules didn’t work. I honored my commitment with sexual purity but compromised (especially emotionally) in other ways in order to receive the love, security, and validation I desired. Chasing counterfeit love, I walked down a road of brokenness, heartbreak, and abuse that spanned the course of my teens to early twenties. The wounds were painful and took time to recover from, but full recovery came when I met the real Jesus, not just through head knowledge but through true relationship. This occurred when I was in my mid-twenties.
In singleness, I fell in love with Jesus, I wrote a ton. I read anything I could on the subject of purity. Because of my past mistakes, I felt like I had an opportunity to do things differently and purposed in my heart to truly follow God. A big part of that was that I wanted to learn what it actually meant to walk in sexual integrity. I had only known what the world had to offer me and now, wanted to live in the fullness of blessing that came with doing things God’s way. The blessing was that I didn’t have to go on this journey alone. I got to do it in community inviting everyone close to me to come along. My friends, my pastor’s wife, my school counselor, my aunt and mom (who I do MM with), and also my dad who I am proud to say, got help and transformed in his own recovery. Today, our relationship is restored because of it.
What I learned was that purity was a lifestyle choice stemming from the heart to desire to honor God with my mind, heart, body, and soul out of love, not duty. It was not a works-based theology to be kept “pure.” Purity was placed on me through my position in Christ when I made Him Savior. Consequently, I began to grasp God’s heartbeat behind the true definition and also came to understand that there are other aspects of purity besides sex that God cares deeply about because He both loves His creation and wants the best for us.
Like an archeologist who uncovers treasure, I wanted to share the wealth and the beauty I observed with others. Because my past was marked by brokenness when it came to my sexuality, I now wanted to make a new mark. In 2013, this is where Marked Ministry came into play. I ran across the scripture 1 Thessalonians 4:7 in a book written by a lady who had a similar passion named Rebecca St. James. The verse said, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” Holiness can be misinterpreted many times and redefined by what we do rather than who we are. God spoke to me that day of the calling He was inviting all humanity into; a life of immense wonder, loveliness, adventure, and blessing. There was a better way of doing things where I could reap blessing instead of destruction and find the epic love my soul longed for. When I found it, I had to share it!
God said in Hosea 4:6 that “My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.” My false interpretations of purity and who I thought God was, caused me to reap destruction. Knowing truth when it comes to sexual integrity truly saves lives by breathing life, beauty, and fulfillment into them! Because of it, it moved me towards action.
I grew up during a time when the church was trying to do the same thing. In modesty culture and the purity movement that occurred in the 90’s and early 00’s, the church was trying to address the subject of sexuality. We were facing an AIDS epidemic and on the brink of a revived sexual culture with a new generation of youth who were struggling. During this time, the church boldly took action in speaking up in truth on the importance of saving sex for marriage while also coming alongside youth. While I myself am a byproduct of someone who was impacted by the godly principles presented in this movement as a tween/teen and am forever grateful for being introduced to the sacredness of purity so young, I felt like there were some areas in the movement that were problematic.
One such is that it’s focus was primarily on sex, neglecting the areas of the mind and heart. Also, birthed out of the movement were extra biblical rules associated with maintaining purity such as stringent modesty code, courting elevated as a holier means of having relationship instead of dating, etc. While youth knew it was wrong to have sex before marriage, no one ever talked about how sex is a good thing in the context of marriage and how God designed us sexual by His design and we can use it to honor Him. I like what Dr. Juli Slattery says on the subject, “Underneath your sexuality is the drive and desire to be known and loved. God created you as sexual being so that you might understand what it means to long, desire, and to crave oneness.” This primarily points to God. As the Bible portrays God as the bridegroom and the church as the bride, He had also given marriage as the early representation of intimacy. Unfortunately, the movement caused us to look at our sexuality as all “bad” and viewed being “pure” only as a means to an end with marriage. However, purity is both for the single and the married because we are pure because of Christ. Because the focus was on what we did and did not do, anxiety emerged if we didn’t follow the extrabiblical rules to a ‘to a T’ and if we make a mistake, we felt tainted. Also, no one ever really addressed real struggles and said they were normal or offered grace to those who made mistakes.
As always, the problems in history have come about when we follow man-made rules instead of following God. As a survivor of the movement, I look at it through the lens of grace. The church did their best at the time and God used the movement to changes lives. However, I think we can learn from our mistakes and change the landscape of what it means to be “pure” in all aspects of life today because what we are taught can change everything! What if life looked like responding out of a love-relationship with God instead of adhering to rules? What if there could be a full life blessed beyond belief if we walked down God’s path in design for our sexuality? What if you there was a road back to restoration? What if purity could be who we are, not what we’ve done or what’s been done involuntary to us? What if we could meet the God who loves us lavishly and calls us “pure” by our very name? I wanted to know these truths and wanted others to as well. Purity could be possible in a sex-saturated society.
I know it’s not the most popular subject and is even difficult to start the conversation, but as the church today has become less vocal about it, the world has become more vocal with their sexuality as we face an epidemic of sexual brokenness! Where is youth getting answers to their questions and struggles on sexuality today? We can’t remain silent. In case you did not know, many in the church are struggling with issues of sexuality just as much as those out of the church. I wanted people to know there was hope and healing and beauty to be discovered.
Marked Ministry is the vision God gave me to inspire a generation to walk in purity. Because many don’t know what it looks like, I felt it was important to show others through the content we provided. Like beautiful artwork is taken in, I wanted others to observe the beauty of Christ and become attracted to Jesus and the life He offers in Him. We invite the churched and unchurched alike in an honest space where they can come as they are, where we can dialogue about relevant issues concerning sexuality and look through a biblical lens with a balance of both truth and grace to find answers.
I also wanted to change the stigma of what others had known purity to be. The goal was to become an alternative to magazines like Teen Vogue or Seventeen. Originally, the target audience was for young adult females but as I began speaking at various events, God placed on my heart to go younger due to fact that girls were struggling at a younger age. This gave way to the tween section. When we began having a huge response with guy readers who were being encouraged by the content, that’s when my friend Ben Courson came along to help launch our guy section. Today the magazine is both for males and females.
Growing up a magazine called Brio reached out to youth; it impacted my life! But a few years ago, there was nothing guys and girls could equally enjoy and read. I respected and was also inspired by for KING & COUNTRY who had similar vision as well as Levi and Jennie Lusko who spearheaded the 02 experience. So, I gleaned from pieces of the past to do a new work of what had not yet been done, and God was calling me to use my out-of-the-box thinking and trailblazing to do it. I wanted the focus to not be about extra non-biblical rules but to look instead on what God had to say and to share my own imperfections and mistakes of my past as if to say this is where I made a wrong turn and don’t want you to do the same. God also used my journalism background and experience to create an online magazine where readers could enjoy all the fun aspects magazines offered like fashion, beauty, interviews, how-to’s, pop culture, and invite Jesus in it. Being pure didn’t mean we had to exclude or forsake fun or not be relevant! Therefore, I wanted to include a diverse group of real people (young and mature) from the Christian church (of various denominations) hailing from a variety of locations to walk this path together instead of alone. I wanted a community to celebrate living a life of sexual integrity together where guys and girls could recognize our value together and honor one another.
Today, God has blown me away at the response! I always said I would be happy if one person read it when it was birthed out from a small blog my friends and I created in 2013 without a budget in my living room! Amazing how God has fulfilled my dreams and more! Today, Marked Ministry is able to reach across the U.S. and abroad as an online magazine. We have partnered with several Christ followers who are influential artists, church leaders, authors, actors, speakers, missionaries, etc. to further this message of hope. Out of the experience, we have fostered several relationships and partnerships that have (and continue to be) so special! We are so incredibly grateful! Since its beginnings, we have also been able to work with various colleges and universities to create internships for students. In this time God had also opened doors for me to speak on the subject to youth! God has given me a heart for tweens and teens as I know the struggle is real (although the magazine is for everyone)! So, it is my desire to keep reaching this generation for the sake of Jesus Christ. Prayerfully, we are moving towards becoming a non-profit, so we can do more for Jesus! My team and I have seen God do wonders and change lives. We pray this ministry has changed yours! My desire (as well as the team’s) as we move forward is to continue to see things out of the box and always seek fresh vision from God for the magazine. We can’t wait to see what’s ahead and invite you to continue to come along in making your mark for this generation. Here’s to the memories and the ones to come! Thanks to God and thanks to all of you who believe and partner with us. May God continue to work among us, may we see His beauty, walk with integrity and may you make your mark right where you’re at.