Bottled and Shelved

I’ve seen it happen. 

A girl, pure and committed, living by every rule and guideline in the ‘book’, yet confused, afraid, and guilty over her own natural emotions.  If feelings arose for someone she tamped them down, stifled them, and corked it all in, not to see the light of day… but then at night, they came flooding back… and there was nothing she could do but stifle them all over again.

I’ve seen it destroy.  Those natural emotions that we have been given by God cannot be contained in so extreme a measure and allow us to still operate in freedom.  We become slaves to our emotions, constantly battling ourselves and feeling guilty because of it — when those emotions are part of our very nature.  The extremity of measures taken to keep a heart ‘pure’ can instead cause it to internalize natural desires, and eventually this leads to rebellion. 

What is a pure heart?  It is not a heart in slavery to rule and regulation.  It is disciplined, yes, but it is not bound and shackled to keep it in submission.  A pure heart is free of corruption, pride, selfishness and fear.  But most importantly… a pure heart is free.  Just free. 

If there is anything that causes me the most pain and frustration in the purity movement, it is the stifling of emotion that so many girls tend to do.  It is this tamped down, corked in, wound-up society of hearts that have natural, God-given desires for love and affection and friendship — without an avenue to vent those desires.  Friendships with boys are forbidden or closely censored, and any feelings a girl or boy may have is told to be stuffed away for That Great Day in the future.

It is not effective.  It is not safe.  This fear of relationships in high school, simply because we are devoted to purity, will prove to be the destruction of our commitment if we do not realize that in Christ, we have a marvelous freedom!  It is our own choice to use this freedom for good or ill — but we are free all the same!  This fear of friendships with girls or boys, this fear of touching or standing close, this fear of what others will think — it is fear.  It is pride.  It is not of Christ.

Oh you girls!  Do you see what you can have?  Do you see the freedom you have in Christ, when you are in submission to Him?  You can have pure, good, godly friendships with boys and girls and no one can condemn you!  It is perfectly possible to spend time with the opposite sex on a friendship basis and remain completely above reproach.  You may even develop an attraction to one particular friend — a crush, perhaps.  That is natural.  What you do with it is the issue.  If you stamp it down and grind it out with legalism and human strength, it will come back ten times stronger.  Give it to Christ, and you will be able to maintain a friendship as well as your heart.

God says all through Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”  (Deut. 1:29, Josh. 10:25, 1 Sam. 12:20, 1 Sam. 22:23, Ps. 56:11)  Do not be afraid anything:  temptation, emotion, friendships, men, what others may think.  If you are indeed of God then you have nothing to be afraid of.  You should be perfectly in control of your emotions, perfectly strong in temptation, perfectly at ease in friendships, perfectly respectful to men, and perfectly content to let others think what they may.  Because God is perfect, and He is at your side.

So where is your heart?  Is it ‘bottled and shelved’ like a keg of beer, fermenting and growing stronger in its pungent smell?  Or is it growing free, like a lily in a field, with sun and water and a whole host of others around it?  The lily white heart is not rotting in a cellar but flourishes where accountability and beauty grow up together.  It is not afraid of the thorns of the thistle that grows beside it, because it knows that it is where it needs to be.  Someday someone will pick it, but until that day, it flourishes where it has been planted.

The ‘Good’ Kind of Party

When I went downstate to spend a weekend with a friend who was at college, she told me how some other students in her apartment complex were constantly inviting her and her roomate over for ‘a party’.  They never quite defined what ‘party’ meant.  From the thumps, shouts, and raucous laughter my friend rightfully inferred that it was the kind of party she didn’t want to be at.  “Why can’t people just party the GOOD way?!” She exclaimed to me.  “WE know how to party down in godliness!”

This isn’t exactly an astounding, controversial or life-changing topic.  It’s the topic of Fun.  However, fun is a part of life too, and how we go about having it directly affects us and our witness.  How can we have a good time without sacrificing our walk with God?  It’s very possible.  But it comes down to what you want.

The world advertises a specific kind of fun to us, saying that if we aren’t doing these specific things, then truly, we aren’t having fun at all.  The world’s definition of fun is, from a Christian perspective:  “sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft… fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…” (Galatians 5:19-21).  These things come wrapped up in neat, pretty little packages — like cocktail parties, ‘romantic’ nights out that escalate to greater proportions, clubs and groups that dabble in cults or witchcraft, and ‘harmless’ visits to bars and nightclubs.  To our world, these things are just part of life.  Yet for the Christian, these are representative of the life they left behind. 

For Christian girls and boys, usually homeschooled, doing these things is the last thing on their minds.  It wouldn’t even occur to you to go to a bar, much less to attend a drinking frenzy on a beach somewhere.  For the Christian, the problem comes from compromise.  We can’t just say “I don’t drink” and call it good. Our commitment requires us to go deeper in evaluating what we do and where we go.

I have been invited to parties where they would be drinking.  I have been places where drinking was taking place.  Being in the presence of drinking does not motivate me to join in, but at the same time, if I were endorsing the goings-on with my presence, then perhaps the better choice would be to leave.  This is not simply for my sake, and my reputation, but also for my witness.  People judge Christians by their actions — if we seem to be compromising a life of purity for the sake of a good time, our representation of Christ is sullied.

This post is not about drinking.  Drinking is just one of those widely accepted aspects of our culture that is too often taken too far.  Alcohol in and of itself is not evil:  it is not a ‘demon in a bottle’.  But we must ask ourselves:  who is my God?  Can I give up drinking this at a party even if I look like the stick-in-the-mud?  Can I give up anything so that God is truly God in my life?

It could be drinking; it could be an occultic game; it could be a questionable relationship; it could be gossip — it could be anything that feels like fun!  In that moment we have decision to make.  Do we sacrifice Christ on the crucifix of Good Times, or do we allow Him to reign over every circumstance?  It is perfectly possible to have a wonderful time with friends without turning our backs on the grace of God.  I will discuss how to ‘party down in godliness’ in my next post!