The Promise

 

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pu·ri·ty
ˈpyo͝orədē/
noun
freedom from adulteration or contamination.
freedom from immorality, especially of a sexual nature.

 

If you're looking for what Merriam Webster says about purity, what some guys decided should show up in the dictionary, that's what you'll find. But, really, two definitions could not even begin to capture the significance of the word purity that has become such a word-bomb in our culture. Truth is, there is no purity club, no abstention membership, there is no virginity stamp or medal of celibacy. 


At the root of purity, there is only the promise. 

Webster's two definitions; they're not completely awful. The common denominator is freedom and, my goodness, that's the truth. When the world screams that intimacy through sex is liberation, that the epitome of freedom is sexuality, what in the world is the word freedom doing at the beginning of each definition of purity? Well, I think that the dictionary is on to something. 

Rewind. 

I gave my life to Jesus when I was four years old. I affirmed my belief in Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, accepted him as my savior, declared that decision publicly, and was baptized with bows fastening my ponytails and joy in the knowledge that I belonged to The One who would stick with me for my whole entire life on Earth (and for an eternity after that)! Sounds like a whole lot for a four year old to conceptualize. I mean, I was in kindergarten getting my number-line straight- how could I appreciate eternity? What my four-year-old self had yet to understand was the lifelong commitment that I made, in that moment, to my relationship with Christ. I didn't win the lottery of an eternal vacation through baptism, I took on the responsibility of dedicating myself to a relationship with the one who hand-crafted my mind, spirit, and physical body. I made a public declaration of my belief that The One who made me truly knows me, and that He sees me exactly where I am.

When I was twelve years old, my dad bought me a purity ring, and it was beautiful. He had my initials engraved inside of it along with the acronym "S.E.X.I." which stood for safe, exciting, excellent, and intelligent. He explained that these were characteristics that he saw in me, and ones that he wanted to develop, which is why he encouraged me to wait to have sex until marriage. As a twelve year old, I heard his message but only really understood two points: 1) that he loved me and 2) that he wanted me to wait to have sex. I agreed because I wanted to make him happy and knew that he had wisdom, but did not necessarily make a promise to him with an understanding of what it would mean for my own life. I admit that, in my twelve-year-old immaturity, I lost the purity ring. His message, however, remains with me and has evolved into a promise that honors to The One who created me. 

Fast-forward. 

High school sucks, for the most part. Let's just put it out there. Sure, some fond memories exist between the crazy challenge of trying to fit in and stand out at the same time (to my lovelies in high school, the secret's out. Here it is. Eventually, those who learn to survive, ditch fitting in and just decide to stand out). Not only are you forced to hang out with other people your age who don't really know too much about themselves but have an opinion on everyone and everything else, but hormones are practically seeping through the walls and vaporizing into a foggy haze that everyone fumbles through all day long. At the beginning of my sophomore year, a girl in my class found out that she was pregnant. Word spread like wildfire and just about everyone knew in a matter of a few days. One of my close friends and I were terrified by how quickly and drastically her life changed, and made a pact that we would wait to have sex until graduation. This promise came out of fear, but we claimed that we would keep it.

My first boyfriend in high school (and pretty much my first boyfriend ever) was king of the hormone haze and used it to his advantage, as most high schoolers do. He knew what he wanted and he liked me well enough. We called infatuation love, tried to figure out what a relationship was supposed to look like, and did our best to act it out. When that came down to sex, he was clearly determined to act that out, too. I thought about my pregnant classmate who inspired the promise that I made with my friend, but as my own hormonal haze thickened, this promise seemed less and less compelling. As the mutual attraction grew within the relationship, I questioned my motivation to not have sex before some randomly determined milestone, like high school graduation. I felt like a coward for making a decision like that out of fear, and decided that having sex would prove my ability to think for myself.  

So, one day, I told him that I didn't have anything against sex anymore. Of course, he had no objections, and began to push me towards physical intimacy on a whole new level with no regard for my lingering hesitation. We did not get anywhere near sex before I backed down, terrified by my decision to go against my initial decision to wait. In a moment of clarity, I realized that I didn't feel comfortable making sex a part of our superficial relationship. I didn't feel right giving him my body when I wasn't totally sure about it, myself. No, I cannot claim that I was born with the conviction to wait until marriage. As a junior in high school, however, I could see far enough through the murky haze that I was under construction and totally not ready for anyone to claim my body- a space that I had yet to truly appreciate. 

I didn't consciously discuss that decision with God very much, at all. Honestly, I was scared to ask Him what sex might mean to me, if He would be disappointed in me, or if I would be disappointed in myself. He made me, He made sex, but I didn't think that He would be able to handle me asking what it's all about. I thought that, maybe, since I wanted to prove myself by committing my body to this guy, God would be disappointed that I even considered going through with it. So, since I wouldn't speak up, He sent The Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts and He intensified my conviction to wait. Every time a conversation came up about sex, even when I began to explore the possibility, my spirit screamed no.

God does speak—sometimes one way and sometimes another—even though people may not understand it.
He speaks in a dream or a vision of the night
when people are in a deep sleep, lying on their beds.
— Job 33:14-15

To the guy who tried to fit me into his concept of a relationship, sex was essential. Our relationship was incomplete without physical commitment. After submitting to the conviction that I felt to wait, I desperately fumbled through the hormonal haze, I tried to distract him from his desires by constantly assuring him that I would be ready one day. Although I wasn't sure when exactly "one day" was, it seemed to alleviate the pressure for a while. 

For him, one day was not soon enough. He let me go and left to find his own freedom. 

I found freedom in knowing that my body was not a tool or tactic. Did I think about using it? Absolutely. Was it hard not to? Sure, it was. Did I regret my decision to wait? At first, I did. Did I feel at fault for his decision to leave? Painfully so. Even in confusion and temptation, however, I remembered that my four-year-old self  made a conscious decision to look to Jesus. When I didn't have the courage to talk to my Creator, His spirit spoke to me, and established my conviction to honor my body until there was a clear commitment from the person who would, one day, be granted access. 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
— 1 Corinthians 10:13

Without a doubt, He will always provide a way to endure. Through worshipping with other women in college, God led me to other believers who encourage me in my decision to wait. I do not make pacts with my sisters-in-Christ out of fear, but have made the conscious decision to save myself for my future husband until marriage. This decision does not define my spirituality, but my spirituality has led me to honor The God who made me in His image, who made my future husband for me, and who made sex beautiful.

Someone that our society does not embrace, however, is the woman who wants to seek God in her sexuality. To honor Him with her body. So, here is the part when images of femininity clash and we start to throw stones, right? Before you pick yours up and I get ready to throw my own, before we close our ears and defend our hearts, let's be brave enough to hear each other. 

Does a woman's decision to broadcast her sexuality make her more open-minded than a woman who decides to pursue abstinence or modesty?

No. 

Does one woman's conviction to wait to have sex until marriage give her the right to impose her beliefs on other women in a spirit of arrogance and judgement?

Absolutely not. 

When we share our stories, when purity becomes less cultural competition and more worship, we find that us humans have a whole lot in common. Purity, abstinence, celibacy, whatever word you might use to describe it, is not easy. To be human is to be tempted, but God loves a heart that looks to Him before making decisions about the body that He crafted. In my personal relationship with God, through prayer and consideration of what His purpose is for my life, I want to worship Him through saving His temple, my body, for someone who has made a commitment to literally consider my body as an extension of his own. The process of becoming one flesh through marriage isn't just a line that someone thought might be cool reading material, but it is literally God's perfect design. When purity is a lifestyle, when it is evident in the way that we walk and practiced through our everyday actions, temptation can't win.  

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.
— Galatians 5:13-15

prom·ise
ˈpräməs/
noun:
a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.
verb:
assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.


Purity is a beautiful commitment, purity is love beginning with freedom, but purity can be embraced as a noun and a verb, a goal and an action that is renewed every day. At the root of purity is The Promise, the peace that we've been given, even in the midst of knock-down, drag-our battles with temptation. Promise, noun and verb, is made possible by God's love for us and his perfect design. When we depend only on God's timing, when we are patient in submitting to His plan, when we fall crazy in love with Him, even when the world pushes us to believe that The Promise is a prison, we find confidence in the knowledge that that our attractiveness is undeniable simply because we are His. Our allure is evident because we have been created in the image of everything that is beautiful. We can always find freedom in The Promise because freedom is, truly, the foundation of His eternal love.

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