It’s easy to be excited about purity when you’re just starting out.
Those hopeful days of youth camps and February rallies, the heady feeling that anything was possible (remember that?) – it’s all so promising. The church feeds its youngsters a dream of saving themselves sexually for a spouse they “deserve”, promises them a “beautiful, amazing, radiant” marriage of their dreams someday if they do. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say it’s part of the spiritual foundation of my generation.
Never mind the fact that it sounds disturbingly like prosperity gospel applied to dating (“obey and you get X”) and that we “deserve” precisely squat from God. It still works like a charm to motivate young believers. At least during the first few years.
I’m here to tell you that a number of Christian singles are now older, wiser, and looking around for something more.
We thought we could wait through our mid-twenties just fine. That’s how most singleness books seem to define “waiting”. Finishing college first seems smarter anyway. But our thirties? Nobody really tells you about that. How regrettably few are the Christian books written for those who are asked by God to really wait. Even fewer are the books than offer us more than just how to stay busy – like how to shepherd our hearts, to stay nourished through the disappointment of a “hope deferred” (Prov. 13:12).
And one of the biggest casualties is our purity. After fifteen years, it doesn’t look so hot. Don’t get me wrong – purity is still crucial, and it’s still commandment. I have my purity. I’m not giving it up. But that purity ring of yours has long since become merely a reminder of your present singleness, not your promises to God. The wait, the whispers of the world, and the lies of the kingdom of darkness – they say that you’re no longer cool for avoiding the party; you’re just missing out. If Satan can’t beat your purity, he’ll try to use it against you. He’ll twist it into a tripwire for your joy and contentment, in a variety of ways.
Ever wish we could just…go back to our younger days and get that fire back?
I’m praying for tired singles tonight, that God will “renew your youth like an eagle” (Psalm 103:5). We must be on guard against our opponents, who seek the faltering or distortion of our purity. Here are three of them.
“It’s easy to be a virgin when nobody wants you.”
Have you heard this one?
I have. I’ll admit I haven’t had a lot of prospects, and I’m certainly no physical specimen. I’m skinny and bespectacled, with a bit of a Mountain Dew paunch.
But my obedience still glorifies God. I fight to remember this every day. He is immensely pleased with me – and with you.
How typical of the enemy, how insidious, to diminish the eternal weight of our purity – one of our greatest comforts during the long wait. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 10:10, the thief who comes “only to steal and kill and destroy”. To be sapped of the joy of obedience is theft and destruction indeed.
Satan isn’t wrong when he points out that some of us aren’t exactly getting our doors beaten down by hungry sexual partners. He’s mixing a little truth into his lie, trying to take away the glory of our choices. On quiet Friday nights, it can be hard to repel.
But it’s still a lie. Most of us could still seek out sex if we wanted, for a price. You’ve probably turned down opportunities, if not amazing ones. Those count with God. I’ve been pursued by a couple women whom I sensed weren’t chaste or good spiritual fits. I walked away. It was a sore temptation – this is your only shot, Urkel, are you nuts? – and I still instinctively felt bad to be doing the rejecting. But I wasn’t going to take even one step down that path. The temptation would only get harder.
So your purity does matter to God. That holds true even if you’re not a GQ model.
It’s striking: in the last few weeks, I’ve read several single bloggers who have written about their purity becoming a…disadvantage in dating. All is going well through the first few dates, hope is rising, but then they have to tell that person across from them in the shawarma restaurant that they’re saving themselves for marriage. It’s a “clutch” moment, like the deep breath before leaping off the bridge and trusting a thin bungee cord (what are those maniacs thinking?).
And sometimes the relationship ends there; the other person cannot agree. The heart sinks; there’s a foul on the play. The touchdown is coming back.
I pray that we will cling to the passionate knowledge we have: that anyone who can’t handle our commitment to virginity until marriage is obviously not “the one” for us, and their departure should not be mourned. Easier said than done. When it feels like you were this close to escaping the “prison” of singleness but were tripped up by…your commitment to God? The enemy is there in a flash. You’re weird. You’re uncool. You’re uptight and behind the times. Just chase him down and tell him you’ve re-thought it, that you don’t want to look like you’re rejecting him by rejecting sex, or something.
Don’t fall for it.
The old promises are still true, friend. They may have been sloppy, but at their core, they remain true. You can still be greatly wounded by poor choices with your sexuality – and you can still be greatly rewarded by God when you honor him. Even if the reward is simply freedom from devastating consequences and loss of heart, it’s still a reward. Just ask someone who missed out on it.
You have fought so hard, dear single. Don’t surrender now. And don’t fear rejection! Most adults will respect and even secretly admire your convictions; those who don’t, well, Jesus said the world would mock us. Blessed are those who weird out their dates for his sake.
There are some singles who manage the wait for a while, then hit age 31, panic, and marry the next vaguely compatible person they find. And there are some who are tempted to skip the marrying part.
After many years without a significant other, it’s easy to second-guess whether marriage is in God’s plan for you. It’s also theologically reasonable. Nowhere in the Bible does guarantee you a spouse (and no, Psalm 37:4 doesn’t count). Our flesh whispers, “If I’ve been saving myself for a future spouse who might not exist, why not try sex? It’s only once in eighty years.”
This is where our sinking sand is revealed.
The church has discovered – let’s just be honest here – that it’s easier to get teens to care about their future spouse than to care about God. I was seriously tempted to just cop out and go “don’t give up, she’s still out there” as a way to rile you up for purity again. That would have been way easier. The vast majority of our heart-tweaking “virginity theology” – like the David and Anna story from I Kissed Dating Goodbye – is like that. We’re urged not to rob our future mate by giving away what should eventually be theirs. And we forget to mention the small truth that God is the one who is offended and cheated the most when we sin, and God is the one to whom we will give our account. (My church has been much, much better than most in this regard.)
How many singles wring their hands over “the talk” they’ll have to give our future fiance about their sexual past, but barely give God a thought? Is it because they know his grace? Or is their future spouse just more real to them?
Or, if we realize that marriage may not be in the cards for us after all, what motivation is left for purity? Whatever is left is guaranteed to be weaker against the rushing winds of lust, because it’s atrophied. We haven’t been exercising the right motives.
If we want to be shielded against fatigue, we need love for God to be the driver of our holiness. No other motive will persevere. God will reward you for your travails, though it might not take the form of a spouse. He does see your efforts. And he knows how to make his servant feel rewarded.
Trust him on that. You’re deepening your knowledge of him – your life’s greatest purpose – when you do.
Your joy is a big deal to God, enduring single. He wants you to have it. He is fiercely committed to preserving your joy by guarding your purity. Don’t sacrifice it on the altar of one fun night, or even a few. You won’t find life down that path.
God also wants the steadfastly obedient to have joy. Did you know that? He doesn’t ask us to stumble exhaustedly through our wait, remaining obedient but losing heart. I know a corner of your heart is irritated at the constant cross-carrying. Crucify that corner. Don’t let fatigue or rejection seep into your obedience and snatch away its joy. There might still be a spouse in your future, and nothing can stop God from bringing you together. For certain, you have a great reward waiting in heaven, and you will find it better than a mere consolation prize.
And you have God’s delight today.