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.

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Speak Softly, Love

Cross Pointe Speech

Speaking on Flirtation

In a sexual culture, in which dating is extremely physical and the constant barrage of music and television only encourage such behavior, people really do seek an alternative.  At the same time, however, they are prepared to doubt and shoot down any idea they view as ‘too extreme’.  They will want results — but not sacrifice.

When talking about purity to and in the world, we cannot present the message as we can to our fellow Christian girls.  Christians have the responsibility to walk in purity: thus, when speaking to girls who have made the committment to Christ and to keep themselves pure, I challenge them.  They know the facts, they know the answers, they know what to do — now it is up to them to keep on track.  I don’t need to pussy-foot around them, because they are strong enough to stand on their own.

Girls of the world, however sad it may sound, are innocent of purity.  They know nothing of modesty, true femininity, or the beauty of a pure heart.  Their hardened faces and hearts are the product of pain and anguish that those of us raised in Christian homes may have never experienced.  What I see happening, too often, is a lack of compassion from ‘the pure girls’ for those who know no better.

Legalism.  Arrogance.  A haughty face and whispered words.  Unwillingness to greet the ‘immodest girl’ who attends church for the first time.  These are not attributes of the beautiful, loving woman God desires us to be, and even worse, there is nothing attractive about the ‘pure girl’ who possesses these attitudes.  Why would someone want any part of that for himself?

When I was twelve we left the church we had attended all my life.  My parents were married there.  Following that came a period of three years where we church-hopped, seeking one that fit our family.  As we went church to church, I went to only one where a girl approached me and asked my name.  Only one.  When we finally found a church of our own, I resolved to be that girl — no matter how uncomfortable it was.  I had hated the feeling of lonliness, watching the little cliques moving about the sanctuary, without hope of breaking in.  I didn’t want other girls to feel that way.

Now I ask you girls — and guys too — are you presenting a message of purity as unattainable?  Are you making purity seem arrogant, undesirable, and unapproachable?  Those weighed down by a guilty conscience will be looking for ways to judge and condemn the walk of purity.  Give them no reason to condemn!  Kindness and love go much further than legalism and a false sense of pride.  Remember, we are all sinners.  Left to myself I would probably be just like those ‘other’ girls.  Out of this recognition, I can maintain a spirit of compassion.

Compassion influences our actions and our words.  If there is one thing I have learned, it is that a condescending message turns away our society faster than you can say Sam Hill.  In countering this, many pastors and teachers make the mistake of watering down the message itself to tickle the ears of listeners.  This is wrong!  The message must remain the same — but the messenger, and the presentation, may change to fit the listener and the situation.

So many young men and women need to know the alternative to what they suffer through.  They don’t have answers, or hope, or a future — and we can give them all that.  Give kindly… and speak softly, with love.

“Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.  And they shall be called the Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord, and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.””  (Is. 62:11-12)

Got a Boyfriend Yet?

Every Christmas one side of my family used to gather together in the town hall of the little village where my grandma lives.  There was usually a huge turn out — up to 100 family members total.  And every Christmas, while I piled my foam plate with mashed potatoes and baked beans and my cousin’s squeaky violin was tweeting out “Silent Night” from the corner, my Aunt Charlotte would come out of nowhere and ask the question she had asked every Christmas since I was eleven:

“Got a boyfriend yet, Phleesha?”

While other people may not grab your elbow and ask it in the same nasal tone, you have probably already fielded this question plenty of times.  And you will continue to answer it for years to come, until you’re married, and society becomes bored with your faithfulness to monogamy. 

As one guy friend of mine said, “It seems to me people are so bored with their own romantic lives that they have to go meddling around in everyone else’s.”  It seems that that is the case.  Now, some of these are well-meaning relatives that just want to see their little babies grow up and move on and be happy — but often even they can’t understand why a girl would consciously choose not to spend her high school years dating.  “Hey, it’s fun! I did it, and I turned out okay, right?”

Maybe in the 50’s, when there was a current of morality still running through the culture, dating could be viewed with a little less caution.  Back then television had just appeared on the scene, and music wasn’t constantly blaring with sexual innuendos and overtones.  Children grew up innocent, girls learned to be homemakers, and boys learned to be men.  But even in that time, dating opened up room for temptation and consequently, failure.  With the invention of the car, young people could ‘take off’ anywhere they wanted to.  No one was watching. 

And no one was watching while the dating scene became more and more centered around physical interaction.  No one was watching when children — fourteen and fifteen years old — were committing adultery without even knowing what the word meant.  Namely, parents weren’t watching. Or perhaps they watched, with hands thrown in the air, and ‘let kids be kids’, rather than training them to be the adults they should be.  The current of morality became nothing but a trickle through the 60’s and 70’s, and in our present day, we are lucky to see but a drop of it on the wasteland that once was our country’s moral standard.

Choosing not to date in high school should not be done out of fear, which is what many people would like to say is our motivation.  The decision to wait is a decision not to avoid, but to attain. Our motive should not so much be to make known what we are against as to proclaim what we are for.  While a discussion of the problems with dating is necessary to understand why we need an alternative, focusing only on the negative turns off the world faster than anything.  What solution do you have?  Why should you wait instead of date?  What are the benefits?  What can you attain by waiting to be marriageable age before entering a relationship?

So we tell them.

“You can attain freedom to have friends, and to be one.  You can attain character as you wait, free of distraction.  You can attain a greater understanding of family and marriage.  You can attain appreciation for the sanctity of the marriage relationship.  You can attain inner peace knowing God will bring the right one, rather than grasping for him or her.  You can attain, and maintain, purity of body — out of the way of temptation.  And you can attain a purity of heart, unbroken, untarnished, and precious in the sight of God.”

What can a temporary relationship offer that outweighs those benefits?  The teen years should not be wasted with broken hearts and unkept promises.  They should be a time to grow, and enjoy life with friends without the unknowns and pressures of a ‘special’ relationship.  Am I saying that after high school dating is also unadvisable?  No.  I will be addressing that in later posts.  But high school is a time where a relationship has a 98% chance of ending.  Is that worth the time, energy, emotion and temptation?

I don’t think many people realize the implications of the teen dating scene.  Unsupervised interaction between girls and boys in this over-sexualized culture will inevitably lead to the problems we see all around us today.  Parents bewail the state of our generation, wondering what to do, and what went wrong.  We know what went wrong — and now we can offer an alternative; a way to do things right.  Many people won’t want to receive it because it seems too ‘extreme’.  Let me ask you:  in view of the consequences of unsupervised dating relationships, is there any alternative that wouldn’t be ‘extreme’? 

Waiting instead of dating in high school is a commitment.  Like I said before, it isn’t always easy or fun.  But your Lord knows that you are doing it to honor Him and your future mate, and He will bless your decision.  Saving your heart and body will be a decision you will never regret.  Make your high school years the best they can be.  Have good guy and girl friends, have fun, and enjoy life.  A temporary relationship is not necessary to fulfill that goal.  I can testify to that!  I am now out of high school, and no, I don’t have a boyfriend yet.

So one more Christmas for Aunt Charlotte to go unanswered.  But that’s alright by me.

Holding Out for the Fairy Tale

There was a certain girl I knew from when I was in kindergarten forward, and we had grown up knowing each other somewhat distantly.  We didn’t do a lot together, because she was older than me, but we interacted enough that I knew how she was doing and what she was up to, as aquaintances usually do.  She had a boyfriend in high school, and had planned to continue the relationship when she graduated — but only weeks after her open house, he dumped her.  I watched her then go through several hair color changes, and several more boyfriends.  We never knew when one relationship began or ended.  While she had remained pure in the prior relationship, she had given away her kiss.  Now she was left with a broken heart, searching for someone to put the pieces back together.  No one stayed long enough to finish the repairs, instead leaving her heart in even more shatters.  For her, fairy tales don’t come true.

That girl is just one example of thousands. 

To choose not to date in high school, and even afterward, it perhaps the most absurd thing people can try to comprehend in this day and age.  They cannot fathom why you wouldn’t, and how you would ‘meet anyone’ outside of their idea of relational correspondence.  Perhaps one the silliest things to me is the fact that these very same people are in anguish over the rates of teen pregnancy and date rape, and are upset over sexually promisicuous teenagers and abortion — yet they cannot understand that letting two young, hot-blooded people go out alone together could be the cause of it. 

The girls who choose to save their bodies for their future mate are often applauded for their wonderful contribution to society.  We are indeed a minority.  But the girls who take it a step further — those who choose to save their hearts — they are the ones who are often greeted with scorn.  They are ‘naive’ and ‘too pure’; ‘prudish’ and ‘inexperienced’.   Their commitment is often viewed by the world as a result of fear of men or relationships — when truly, this commitment is the result of a love for one man, and the protection of the wonderful relationship a woman will have with him. 

The world will mock.  They want no part of purity, for light and darkness cannot have fellowship with one another.  They want solutions for their problems — for unwanted babies, teen mothers and physically involved young people — but they don’t want to do what it takes to achieve that solution.  It takes too much.  It makes you different.  Yet those girls who have chosen Christ have already made the decision to be ‘different’.  Being different is their lifestyle.  Walking in purity is just one facet of the ultimate commitment they have already made. 

God has our lives in the palm of his hand.  He knows that walking in purity, going against the grain of society, turning down dates — it won’t be easy.  Singleness in truth is not a ‘gift’, but a trial.  Gifts are gladly received and usually don’t entail any pain in the receiving.  Trials are what show you for who you truly are.   Trials test you, push you, stretch you and finally mold you into the person that you need to become for God to use you to your full potential. 

So hold tightly to Him.  Trust Him to bring things about in His own time.  I have to learn this right now.  But even in the waiting, never lose faith.  Keep holding out for the fairy tale.  With God, they do come true.

A Little Flirt Don’t Hurt…

This week I am following up on a talk I gave to a wonderful group of girls here up north.  Each post will be focusing on a topic that I have not addressed on the Quill in quite a while — flirtation.  While modesty addresses our appearance, flirtation addresses our actions.  These actions can either reflect the love of Christ in us, or a love of us in us!

Flirtation is rooted in a desire for attention, just like immodesty is.  Both bring the eye to self, glorifying appearance and action that might otherwise go unnoticed.  I am going to relay a story here that I told the girls yesterday:

When I was fifteen, I was spending a lot of time out on the ski hills at night with my friends.  There was a certain lift where the staff member was a young man from Colombia.  He was friendly, and probably quite cold, lonely and bored as well.  So, most likely for some entertainment, he decided to pick me as his target of flattery.  With a white, winning grin he declared that I had a “bee-yoo-teeful smile”.  I was — well, flattered!  No guy had ever told me that before… so I smiled even more.  Soon smiles turned to waves, and eventually that turned to him blowing me a kiss and giving me a little ski resort pin (he gave one to my friend too).  After a few days of this going on, I ‘happened’ to be skiing alone at the end of the day, ‘looking for my brother’ — of course.  As I approached him, he asked, “Is thees your last run of the night?” “Yes,” I smiled (conveniently)“Well then, I shall say goodbye like we say eet in Colombia.” And he draped an arm over my shoulder, pulled me close and gave me a big *smack!* on the cheek.  At first I was pleased, then I was shocked, and then I was appalled… and then I began to cry.  Who could have thought things could have escalated that fast?

That’s how flirtation is.  It starts “innocent”, just as ‘fun’, and then someone has the potential to get shocked — always emotionally, and then sometimes physically.  Flirtation is like playing with fire, to use an age-old cliche’.  One of the persons involved usually thinks things are more serious than they actually are, and when they find out they are wrong, their hearts are broken and burned.  

Over the next few days I am going to discuss the methods of flirtation in more depth (for my girls, this will be a more thorough examination of what you already heard, with examples of such behavior), and I will also be getting into the effects it can have on your relationships with God and family. 

“Stolen kisses require an accomplice”, and no flirtatious situation is ever completely one-sided.  Someone is either intiating or encouraging.  Our job as Christian girls is to honor God and our future husband by being pleasant and friendly, but not suggestive of intentions we do not have.  In interaction with young men, remember this: could you say, act and gesture the same way if your husband were standing right beside you?  If you couldn’t without some serious jealousy problems, then you are treading on ground that is not yours to walk on.  Think also of the young man’s future wife.  What would she be thinking if she were standing there?  Remain above reproach.  We will discuss how to do that right after this commercial break :-).

When Dreams Must Die

   Every girl has dreams.  The majority of her life is spent in either the making of or the pursuit of them.  Dreams are wonderful things.  They are what inspires us to move forward, to go onward, discovering God’s will for our life along the way.  But dreams can have a tendency to become our all-consuming passion… or rather, distraction.  Dreams, rather than remaining our inspiration, become our aspiration.  They become the thing we live for, rather than the One behind them. 

All dreams have this tendency, but I think romantic dreams are the most likely to drift this direction.  Or perhaps its we who dream who allow them to drift that direction!  Girls dedicated to purity and/or courtship often place marriage on an extremely high pedestal in their dreams; sometimes it is considered the dream of all dreams.  It is the ultimate goal.  All things work together for that end.  The problem with living life in your dreams, although the world may tell you to do so (and so may many churches), is that the dreams become your god.  This focus on desire and hope distracts from the Maker of desire, and the Source of all hope.  I know from experience.  It seemed sometimes that I couldn’t go one day further.  Every other girl had a fella on her arm, and every relative I had was asking me why I didn’t, and every day went by slower and slower as I felt my dream was the slowest in coming in the history of the world.  How does a girl live with her dreams without allowing them to possess her?  By allowing her dreams to die.

The first time I heard that concept it was the least appealing thing I had heard all day.  Let my dreams die?  What would there be to live for?  Where would my hopes go?  If I didn’t want to be married any more nobody would want to marry me!  But that isn’t how it works. Think of a seed.   When you plant it, the seed itself is absorbed by the earth.  It dies.  Yet out of that death springs forth a life so much greater, grander and broader than the seed could have ever been on its own.  But it had to make the ultimate sacrifice first. 

“Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  (Jn.12:24)

It is evening here in the top of the mitten, and the sun is completely gone now.  As I go to bed, I have to surrender my dreams once again to the Lord.  We all love our dreams, our hopes, our plans — but in order to bear fruit, we must allow them to die, for then the truest dreams, the highest hopes and God’s greatest plans can be fulfilled in us.  And His will is infinitely more fulfilling than our own.

Psalm 40

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.”  Ps. 40:1

This is one verse that I want read on my wedding day.  It is a verse that not only holds a promise, but a fulfillment; not only holds hope for the future, but comfort for today.  Someday I will be able to say that I “waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry”… but I can say that even now.  I am waiting patiently right now — and right now, my God inclines to me.  He always has an open ear.  Sometimes “waiting” rings of twiddling thumbs and long lonely years ahead.  But it doesn’t have to be that way…

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” (vs. 2)

I can definitely say that sometimes “waiting” sounds as appealing as a miry bog, and it feels like it too.  Dragging you down, holding you back — keeping you from what you long for so much.  But God doesn’t leave us there — he draws us up and out.  He sets our feet upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, and only then are our steps secure.  Why are they secure?  Because in Christ we are guided on our way.  On our own, we fall back into the bog.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (vs.3)

Have you ever tried to force joy in trial?  I have.  I willed myself to be joyful.  I walked around the house saying, “Be joyful!  Be nice!  Look happy!”  You can imagine the effectiveness of such a solution.  No, David says — “He put a new song in my mouth”.  He put it there.  Only through Christ can we have the joy in trial — in waiting.  He puts it in us.  It is not a part of us that can be willed into existence.  It overflows through Him.

“Blessed is the woman who makes the Lord her trust, who does not go after the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” (vs. 4)

I know what it is to be tempted to go after the proud; to follow those who are believing a lie.  But we must choose to trust God, and then we will be blessed.  Not only trust God; but make the Lord your trust.  He is the extent, the essence, the whole of our trust.  He is everything.

“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (vs. 8)

We want to obey Him when we love Him.  When His law is within our hearts it is in our core, it means everything to us.  We follow it because He is leading us and we have chosen the right way.  Those who love God’s Word will follow God’s Will, and it will be evident in their life.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”  As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.  You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” (vs. 16-17)

May all who seek Him rejoice and be glad in Him.  I am poor and needy, but the God of the universe, Creator of all, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, takes thought for me.