Okay, take a deep breath. This is not exactly what it sounds like, but just a warning….this might be a bit hard to read if you still think it’s okay to have women hammer nails on a cross to illustrate sex before marriage.
I recently heard an illustration that I loved. Imagine walking into a room and you can’t help but focus on a couch that you absolutely hate. It’s not terribly uncomfortable but the style has never really matched yours. However, it’s practical and has some good components so you decide to keep it. Now, imagine you’re talking to a friend about getting rid of the couch but the friend warns you not to do it. If you get rid of the couch, then the ottoman won’t work. If you get rid of the ottoman, you will need a new chair, then a new rug. Suddenly, you will be standing in an empty room and having to start over from scratch. All because you got rid of the couch.
This hit me like a ton of bricks. This has always been my problem. I have never been settled with the so called purity culture. You know the one I mean….the one that says you are only “pure” if you remain a virgin until married. The teaching that men can’t control themselves, so once you start they won’t be able to stop. Women will be damaged goods and will never be able to rid themselves of the shame and guilt. They will forever be tied emotionally so they might as well get married. You could see the flawed logic in all of this.
However, because there are slight elements of truth here as well, it’s what makes it so hard to throw away the sofa. We become fearful of the slippery slope that we preach about, forgetting that the slope is often man made and it’s only slippery because we are holding a bottle of Dawn.
The truth is….we’ve made our own rules and added to Scripture in this area. We are attaching the word pure to something of our own standards. And to be clear…the standard is to be a virgin. You can do a lot of other stuff and still be pure by Sunday School standards. Not to mention, we don’t make a caveat for women who have been sexually abused or raped. We don’t want to touch that with a 10 foot pole, so we just inadvertently make them feel unclean without ever really saying it. AND….what about when the abuse is done on the watch of the church? What kind of purity standard does that fall into?
There is no other standard we attach words to such as clean/dirty except referring to sex before marriage. It’s no wonder that a watching culture wants nothing to do with us. We’ve really messed this one up. If a woman sleeps around she’s a slut, but if a guy sleeps around he’s a player. If a woman has sex before marriage she’s used and dirty, if a guy sleeps with his girlfriend once he will need it every time. We’ve covered up abuse in churches so much we don’t even recognize what’s right and wrong. We’ve had youth ministers taking advantage of girls since the beginning of time and guess what….most of them are still in ministry. And the women…well, they’re in counseling.
So what’s the answer? How do we get rid of the couch without throwing everything out of the window? How do we keep our kids safe and instill in them a healthy view of marriage and sex? How do I instill in my kids a desire to follow what God has for them without adding to His words? And what about my kids who might remain single? Um, let’s don’t even go there. But a purity culture that doesn’t address singleness and only addresses “saving yourself before marriage” is not a very well rounded view. When we are only preparing young women for their spouse, we are missing a generation of single men and women.
Our viewpoint is too often this:
- Teens and early 20’s be vigilant….don’t find yourself in a compromising position with a guy or girl. Have your guard up. Guard your heart. Don’t be a tease. Don’t run alone or be out after dark alone. Don’t wear short skirts….guys can’t handle it. Bind your breasts, wear baggy shirts. If you’re showing your knees, they might think you will easily show them something else. Spaghetti straps? Are. You. Kidding.
- Mid 20’s, early 30’s….watch out for who you meet on dating sites. They may have other ideas about what’s acceptable. Only practice courtship. No, only date in groups. No, only meet at church. They don’t go to church?? RUN. Oh, you were drinking?? Hmm…did you lead them on? Maybe your guard was down? Were you clear about your boundaries? Have you already had sex once? They could probably tell….
- Late 30’s, early 40’s…..wait….maybe your purpose is singleness. Um, no wait…maybe it’s to marry a divorced person. Wait, you aren’t sure you want kids? You do want kids? I’m not really sure what to do with you. At this point, purity talks go out the window. We quit discussing it because suddenly we’ve decided it’s no longer important. And because quite frankly, we are no longer sure what to say.
Surely, you can see the issue. For those of us in our 40’s, who grew up with ring ceremonies and purity pledges we are just a bit jaded. Everything in our world centered on sex and what to do and what not to do. Let’s don’t even talk about the fact that when you do get married, you’re suddenly expected to flip a switch and become a goddess in the bedroom.
What if we did this…..what if we were brutally honest with our kids? They can take it, I assure you. What if we told them that if (and when) they mess up, it’s okay. They aren’t impure. Or dirty. What if we taught them that sex before marriage is not God’s best plan and there are often consequences. That our desire is to raise kids who are so madly in love with Jesus that His plans for their life become their plans. That there is actually MORE freedom in a life with Jesus than a life without. We can’t blame our kids for not believing that when it comes to sex. We’ve spent decades putting restrictions on women’s clothing, their hair and their dating rules. We’ve conveyed the message that once a woman messes up it’s too late and often it’s their fault. There’s a nail in the cross that has now left a hole. She’s damaged goods. On the flip side, we’ve conveyed to young men that they can’t help it. Boys will be boys and all…..
How in the world did we not recognize the disaster we were creating, all in the name of Jesus?
However, there is hope. No matter how good you are, no matter what rules you adhere to, and no matter what religion you claim…you can never “save yourself.” You simply can’t do it. You also can’t be “pure” by following a set of rules. So, follow Christ. Love Jesus. Read His word. Rely solely on Him to save you and cleanse you. And confide in friends and family who can help you and point you to His word. And when you mess up…..just know this….Jesus is there, waiting to redeem and restore you.
And get rid of the couch. It’s okay to throw something out simply because you don’t like it and it just doesn’t fit. It doesn’t mean that you’re getting rid of everything. The alternative is forgetting why you kept it in the first place. And to me….that’s a much more dangerous place to be.