Sowing Wild Oats

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

Sowing Wild Oats

The day my friend Louisa and I drove to Stillwater, Oklahoma to explore the possibility of me doing some radio work with KOSU, I told her over an Eskimo-Joe lunch about the working title for my memoir: The Sex I Didn’t Have, The Drugs I Didn’t Do, The Rock That Didn’t Roll. 

That rock being the Solid Rock, as in hymn 92 in the Church of the Nazarene’s Worship in Song Hymnal.

I appreciate the fact she laughed hysterically because it would have been a real bummer if she’d just sat there and felt sorry for me.

Jene’ Jackson could probably write that exact same memoir. She’s a girl I went to college with at Southern Nazarene University in the late 80s and early 90s. She was a couple years behind me in school, but we were good friends. We both majored in political science and were involved in student journalism. We were also both dyed-in-the-wool Nazarene preacher’s kids. Back then, the Nazarene manual forbid dancing and movies. Rural churches and those located in more conservative areas of the country even frowned upon swimming with the opposite sex.  They called it “mixed bathing.” To do even these things equated to sowing wild oats.

It wasn’t a bad way to raise your kids, and I draw upon many of these principles in the raising of my own children. Chastity and holiness were things my father drilled into my head and grilled me over during my teen years. I am sure his influence saved me a lot of heartache. But, I have to tell you something. You can be so innocent and naive that you don’t even recognize disaster. Even when people tell you the house is on fire you can’t really appreciate the flames because you can’t even see them.

I can’t remember when I reconnected with Jene’ on Facebook, but it was only recently that I learned about her work on The Oat Project. Jene’ writes:

Four summers ago, several mom-friends were stunned to learn that at 37, I’d never been drunk in my life. After hearing of my conservative Christian, Nazarene preacher’s daughter past, they gleefully made a list of 25 wild oats I’d “missed out” on sowing, thanks to my fears of eternal damnation. And so began The Oat Project.

The Oat Project includes a memoir about sowing wild oats. It’s being written in chapter increments and you’ll be able to download different chapters as the months go by. As someone who has so much in common with Jene’, I must admit, I choked up while reading her first excerpt. Here’s a portion:

Though my parents weren’t oppressively restrictive, our church and community pounded fear into me. Go out into the world, and I might wreck my car while drunk, or get a sexual disease, or cancer from instantly-addictive cigarettes. But worse, I’d harm my spiritual life, potentially doomed to hell, separated from God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit for eternity. Thinking about wildish things meant I was spiritually weak. Doing them was to flirt with hell itself.
I’m not saying I hadn’t experienced Life, and I certainly wasn’t yearning to reclaim my youth. I’d lived all over the U.S., married and had sex (in that order), had three children, friends, a community, and a burgeoning writing career…

The Oat Project also includes a new forum where you can share stories about your own wild-oat-sowing.

Do you still need or want to sow your wild oats?

Do you think sowing wild oats will separate you from God?


I don't know what brought you here today, but I'm glad you're here. I invite you to sign up for my MONTHLY NEWSLETTER. It will be delivered right to your inbox just once a month. (No annoying daily emails.) Life is beautiful and though the days be short, sometimes, our troubles are long. Let's share a small part of the journey with each other! --jen


  1. jenx67 says

     or any congregation acting like a precinct for any political party. irks me mucho. =) Smiley face to temper my opinion. ha!

  2. jenx67 says

     That last line is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day!! Thanks for posting “Gracie.” I have never heard the term Nazbeen before. I know a lot of Nazbeens. Makes me sad. I’ll never stop believing in the doctrine of Holiness. It’s the Republican precinct I can’t handle.

  3. yogiabb says

    Couldn’t wait to read this post, Jen tells all and expands on her previous lawlessness.  I certainly didn’t understand it as a kid, or even as an adult, but as a parent I get it that there is plenty of time for kids to experience the wild side of life when they get older and it is ok to hold them back now. I wasn’t raised in a really religious or strict house but I didn’t just go out and go hog wild. I didn’t have a big spiritual basis about it, and I worked in the oil fields in the summer, totally unsupervised, living on my own. I just never wanted to and I didn’t want to do anything that would make my parents disappointed in me. How about that for being a dweeb?

    Don’t get me wrong, I was no saint and can’t believe that I did some of the things I did. I don’t feel the need to sow any more oats. As I get older, I realize how blessed I am.

  4. Grace says

    Jen, I’m a Nazbeen also and thankfully my mother was not so rigid.  We often talked about the restrictions and how to manage them – unlike my father who ruled with an iron hand.  All in all I think I’m fairly well balanced – a fact that some would likely challenge – but I have relaxed a lot since my earlier years…I no longer believe I will get to heaven solely based on the fact that “I don’t drink, smoke or go with those who do.”  I also grew up being told that movies were of the devil.  As a teenager I attended a screening of a Billy Graham film at our local theater.  It was the only place in our small town for such a showing.  When my friend and I exited the building I saw my pastor parked across the street wearing a look of total disapproval!  Now, as luck would have it, the Nazarenes have decided that going to movies is not a sin!  I haven’t found either ruling in the Bible…interesting!  I now love to dance, enjoy a glass of wine and feel that my relationship with God is the center of my life.  I’ve checked a few things off of my wild oats list, but nothing that a Methodist wouldn’t do, so I think I’m safe.  LOL 

  5. says

    This is such a cool idea. I love it!

    To answer the questions: First, no. I don’t believe that sowing wild oats separates one from God. God gave man free will. And I don’t think He did so expecting people would always make the “right” or “best” choice. In fact, making mistakes was exactly the point. But what do I know.

    At this point I’m not sure I have any wild oats left to sow. ;-)

  6. jenx67 says

     You would love her, Rose! She inspires me, even if I feel like I don’t have any wild oats to sow. I’m just trying to survive getting snacks to Kindergarten during my week; a new dress for Juey’s speech contest and more. Sometimes, I worry that when I do find a wild oat I want to sow, I’ll be in my 80s and everyone I would have wanted to sow it with will be gone.

  7. says

    Jen, OUCH–this post has touched on the single greatest regret category in my life–the fact that I thought I had to sow wild oats (a few, mainly of the sexual type–somewhat) in order to be “normal” and overcome my ultra repressive background, which included the sanction against “mixed bathing”.  I am so much more mature now, know God loves me and sent His Son to be the propritiation for any and all sins confessed to Him.  My father was not a Nazarene minister, but my upbringing was just like yours in terms of moral prohibitions.  I refuse to live swamped in regret and think this light-hearted approach of your friend with the Oat Project website is wonderful!

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