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A sweet, thirteen year old girl waits quietly in her parents’ living room, eyes closed, nervously toying with the lace on her new dress, imaging what in the world her parents are up to. After a brief absence, she hears her parents reenter the room, and her daddy’s gentle voice says, “Dear one, you can open your eyes.” Her breath catches as she opens them; somehow candles and roses now grace the room, and her loving parents sitting across from her on the leather love seat. In all her life, she has never had anything like this happen to her. The new dress was the night’s first surprise, then the trip to the fanciest restaurant she’d ever been to, and now, to top it all off, this fairy-tale moment. She could see her daddy fidgeting with what looked like – oh, could it be – a jewelry box. Her mom was so beautiful, her daddy so handsome, and she had never felt so special. Her daddy continued speaking and – though a little stiff and not incredibly sappy – lovingly told her how special she was to them, and how they desired her to walk through the coming years of her life with purity and honor towards God as well as her future husband, that shiny-armored knight she always dreamed of. She had never seen her daddy get teary-eyed, but as he opened the jewelry box and showed her a beautiful ring, she couldn’t help bursting into a flood of overwhelming tears. As her mom and daddy explained to her how proud they were of her, and how they hoped she would live to honor God and them and her future husband, she adamantly nodded in agreement.
That night, while drifting off to sleep, she wondered how long it might be before her prince charming would come. She was convinced that until he gave her an engagement ring, nothing would ever be more special than this night was. She resolved to live a life of purity, honor, and holiness; and as sleep finally took hold of her, and a joyful tear ran down her face, and she whispered a prayer of gratitude to God for such an incredible night!
I have a hunch that a large majority of young women that grew up in the church had a similar experience to this one. Whether it was parents, a church, or a mentor who championed a decision to “remain pure” for a future spouse, many of us made a commitment of sorts to “wait.” Especially in the conservative wing of Christendom, this was heralded as such a virtuous decision, and we were ever so proud of the decisions our young folks were making. Many of us young men were encouraged to “guard the hearts” of young women, and young women were advised to not be overly open and free with young men lest they should “lead him on.” We talked often about just being brothers and sisters in Christ. Courtship became a hallowed word. Purity rings were all the rage. We “saved ourselves” for our future spouse. Young men learned to be providers and savvy entrepreneurs, and young women learned to (I presume) knit, bake, sweep, play an instrument, or learn Slovak. We gobbled up all the books on how a godly relationship ought to unfold. And now . . .
And now, I have observed, many of my peers who were once zealous advocates for purity, restraint, holiness, and waiting on God for their future spouse are now throwing in the towel on the whole idea. Numerous blogs have been written by young men and women who “believed the lie” of the whole “purity thing.” They rant to high Heaven that all the purity rings and courtship lectures ruined their ability to interact with the opposite sex. They cross their arms in a teenage huff when they hear certain relationship books or authors mentioned. They write blogs expounding their angst and how they have “removed their ring” because it was just a fuddy-duddy way of dealing with sexuality, and, with rolling eyes say, “It doesn’t work anyhow.” They make viral YouTube videos that accentuate all the ridiculousness our parents told us about these matters. I’ve seen multiple blogs, videos, and books come out in recent years that all take aim at the whole “sexual purity thing." It isn’t that they are advocating impurity, they have just had it up to here with all the propaganda that their churches and parents gave them (i.e. purity rings, godly relationship conferences, and books). They say it isn’t practical, realistic, or healthy. They say that it ruined their ability to have healthy guy/girl interaction.
I can empathize with many of my peers and understand the frustration of waiting for a godly spouse to somehow appear. I can agree that many parents and churches don’t do the greatest job of explaining the reason why these things are important. I absolutely agree that putting a purity ring on your finger doesn’t make or keep you pure, or make it any easier to wait, year upon year, for that fairy tale romance to come true. However, does that license us as a generation to snub our nose at our parents and criticize them for how restrictive and unrealistic their idealist expectations were? Just because the advertising was somewhat inaccurate, does that make the product any less valuable? Let me give an example. A preacher gives a rather pitiful Gospel message. Yet, a hardened sinner in the back row is broken by the Spirit of God, sees the glory of what Christ has done for him on the Cross, and he receives Jesus as his Lord. Now, ten years later, life gets rough, and the man returns to a sinful lifestyle because the preacher wasn’t the best communicator of the truth. Does the messenger’s feebleness discount the efficacy of the truth he is endeavoring to proclaim?
I have a hunch that what is behind all this angst, all this disgruntled blogging, and all this huffiness is an attitude of self-justification. I will be the first to declare the life of purity, restraint, self-denial, and holiness (not just for a future spouse, but in every arena of life) is hard. Okay, really hard. Well, actually, impossible. Could it be that like the foolish Galatians, we have become a generation that began in the Spirit, but are now trying to perfect ourselves through the flesh? (see Galatians 3:3). My concern, as a Warrior-Poet-in-the-making, is that a whole generation of young women will be led into a compromised and self-justifying lifestyle that is based wholly upon the sarcastic cynicism and bad experiences of those around them. Why do you think our parents and churches desired us to live pure lives in the first place? Is it not because there is a Higher Authority behind even them, which they are called to represent, who demands, “be ye holy, as I am holy?” And is not His law considered lovely by the Psalmist David (see Psalm 119:113)? Since when was our behavior and lifestyle supposed to be guided by the experiences and testimonies of those around us? Say that everyone in your generation fails to live a life of purity and holiness unto God and to honor their future spouse, and say furthermore that they have a vendetta to spew the bad taste in their mouth out on everyone who will listen. Does that give you a license to not live a sacred life of set-apartness for the glory of God? Paul thunders in Romans 3:4, "Let God be true, but every man a liar.”
Do not build your life on the shaky ground of others' testimonies. Build it upon the solid promise of God’s Word. My guess is that most people enter into a marriage and proclaim, “I wish I had done more to honor my spouse. They deserve so much more than what I gave them. I should have served them more faithfully in my single years.” Further, do any of us really think that five minutes into eternity we will cherish the fact that we threw off the restrictiveness of purity and holiness which our parents “shoved down our throats?” Why do you think every tear will be wiped away? Is it not because many of us will realize how little we gave to the Savior who gave all? I live my life all out for Jesus, not because He forces me to, but because He is altogether lovely! Your future husband will be richly blessed by your purity ring, your journaling to him, your restraint in relationships with other men, your discretion of what to post on your Facebook page, your modesty of speech and body, your thoughtfulness of him even before you meet him. Do not let the enemy encroach upon your soul through the deceptive power of others' behavior and bad experiences. Rather, stand steadfast in the battle to see Jesus glorified not just in your sexual and emotional purity, but in the overarching testimony of your life.
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