It’s Your Turn!

March 17, 2010 at 1:08 am (Announcements, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We’ve spent the last week or so sharing purity stories (in case you hadn’t noticed)…each of us has been walking a path that the Lord has used to teach us the price and value of purity.

Lauren shared that purity in our lives reflects our relationship with the Lord–we’re not supposed to daydream about other lovers, but we’re supposed to love the Lord purely!  She also shared that meeting the “perfect” man wasn’t a signal to lay down her arms and give in–it was actually just a stronger call to keep fighting the battle–even protecting her physical purity during her engagement so that she could give herself entirely to her husband on her wedding day!  And as a married woman, she shared that the same love that inspires “keeping” as a single woman, inspires “giving” as a married woman.

Megan shared the power of God’s redeeming love as the basis for all purity.  With that in mind, pride doesn’t lead us to true purity.  She expressed that purity is far more than physical boundaries–that it begins with a pure mind and heart and humility!  She also shared how God’s powerful love can redeem even our mistakes and sanctify them for our growth and use them for our blessing!  As a wife and mother (with a fifth on the way!), a pure mind and heart are no less important now!

Amy shared that an invaluable secret to protecting “chastity” is godly accountability–particularly parents!  Contentment is an act of trust and the foundation for trust is knowing and understanding God’s character–that He is good and gives good gifts.  Even when “Mr. Right” entered her life, the Lord still had growth planned for her!  And even after her marriage, she has learned that contentment is still an act of trust!  The day we trust the Lord is only the beginning of a life of trusting.

Sarah shared the struggle of learning to balance preparation and training to be a godly wife and mother with the commands to guard her heart and keep her daydreams focused on the Lord.  One day she came to her parents.  “For my entire life you have been grooming me to be a wife and mother.   What am I supposed to do, erase 16 years of brainwashing from my head?”  She also shared the struggle of balancing a godly friendship with the teasing of “helpful friends” and her own desires for a godly husband.  She also shared how we can tend to trust “good things” that the Lord provides, instead of simply trusting the Lord.

Ana Marie shared the importance of filling our lives with the right things–nature abhors a vacuum, and where there is nothing, usually there is plenty of room for stumbling!  She shared the value of a tender conscience and also the power of confessing even motives to her father.  She also shared how necessary it is to guard our brothers–hearts and eyes–in worship to the Lord.

Abigail shared the danger of creating “high ideals” that are often founded in pride instead of in scripture–since they set us up for failure!  God doesn’t promise us our ideal–no matter how we behave.  He just commands us to obey Him.  She also shared the importance of understanding that both marriage and singleness are pure–and glorify God when submitted to Him.   And she shared the the call never changes–regardless of circumstances, pressures or temptations.  Purity must start and end in love–love for the Lord first and then love for His people–all of them.

Now it’s your turn!  We want to hear how the Lord has convicted you and how you’ve responded to the call to purity!  Leave your thoughts and/or post a link(s) to your story in the comments below!

Blessings!

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Confessions of an Idealist

March 15, 2010 at 1:25 am (Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Abigail’s Story

My Papa calls me a precocious child—and dramatic.  Add to that an aura of idealism and you have a recipe for trauma.  At least I can keep a secret.  Few know that I was once engaged.  After that, I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Tell of My Engagement, Such as it Was

It lasted an entire afternoon.  I was three years old.  His name was Colby and he lived a couple of doors down.  We were engaged, he said, reaching out to hold my hand.  It seemed like an interesting game—whatever “engaged” meant.  When my older brother began teasing me, I discovered that PDA equals humiliation.

In Which I Came to Dread Being a Heart-breaker

Almost as soon as I could speak, my Papa taught me to recite Ephesians 6:1 and explained to me that pleasing my parents was pleasing the Lord.  I might have been six when we visited an elderly aunt.  “What a pretty little girl!” she exclaimed, in elderly-aunt fashion.  “She will be a heart-breaker!”  My parents hastened to say something like, “Oh, no, that’s not what we have in mind at all!”  Their exact words are long gone, but I understood that heart-breaker was not among their goals for me.

In Which I Explain Why Romance Is Embarrassing

I was the girl who closed her eyes during the movie kiss.  When another neighbor boy tried to coax a kiss from me, I declined.  If holding hands earned teasing, I wasn’t about to risk the song “Abi and Colin sitting in a tree…”

Since my early childhood, I have kept myself to myself—my thoughts, my hands, my struggles.  I was always distinctly aware of my privacy and personal space, often excluding my own family.  Secret-keeping, while often masquerading as purity, was simply my method of self-preservation.  I’m introverted.  Intimacy equals vulnerability.  I hate feeling vulnerable.  As I grew and matured, I began stuffing my drama and emotions into a mental closet—to save embarrassment.

My observations of “romance” are deeply engraved in my childhood memories.  Girls acted like giggling goof-balls, said stupid things, tripped over nothing, turned red constantly and whispered secrets to their friends—who announced them to the boy in question.  Boys stole my headband, pestered me, bumped into me, told dumb jokes, invaded my privacy and acted generally obnoxious.  I resented their “immaturity.”  When the preacher’s son made a big ruckus out of sitting by me in Sunday school every week, I took up the matter with his father.  Friends told me, “He likes you” and adults consoled “He’s just sweet on you.”  If that was “sweet” I’d just go sit in the corner with the lemons.

My favorite fairy tale was a version of the Little Mermaid that concluded with the poor mermaid alone, broken-hearted and voiceless after unsuccessfully seeking the prince at whom she’d flung her heart.  Given the circumstances and her disobedience to her father, it seemed a realistic and appropriate ending.  The moral?  Romance is the perfect way to ruin a perfectly good life.

In Which I Decide to Fight Back

I was nine when we attended a small-town barbeque.  My brothers and I joined a group of kids on a squeaky merry-go-round.  Suddenly the boy seated beside me asked my name.  Duly answered, he wanted my age, my grade, and where I was from.  This impromptu interrogation concluded, he turned to his friend and announced, “I got me a pretty lady.”  My ears pricked, curiously.  “I asked her name,” he continued, proudly, “her age, her grade, where she’s from and bingo!  I got me a pretty lady.”  “You ain’t got nothing,” I thought bitterly to myself.  Arrogance!  He hadn’t even asked me!  My brothers thought it was hilarious.  Pondering the event later, it seemed so ludicrous, so stupid, that was almost funny.  I made a decision: if boys were going to be stupid and drag me into it, then I would make them look as stupid as possible.

And I got very good at it.

By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I’d mastered the art of humiliation.  One day after church, a visiting boy began furiously flirting with my buddy and me.  “He’s hitting on your sister,” a friend whispered to my older brother, Nathaniel.  “Just watch,” Nathaniel chuckled.  “It will be funny.”  In an act of deceptive kindness, I boosted the boy onto a trash barrel and into a tree where he perched happily, blowing me kisses.  Then I grabbed the trash barrel and rolled it away, leaving him stranded.  The audience erupted in laughter.  I never paid attention to how he got himself down.

In Which I Accept a Challenge

Before I hit thirteen, my Papa introduced us to the “Bold Christian Youth” seminar by a father and teacher named Jonathan Lindvall.  Lindvall’s message sprang from Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to be an example to the believers—in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.  He spent three sessions on the topic of purity, delving far beyond the basics of sexual purity and into the issue of emotional purity.  He introduced me to the concept of defrauding: taking something that doesn’t belong to you.  He shared the simple story of how he had met and married his wife, Connie, with his parent’s guidance and her parent’s blessing.  The simplicity, the sincerity and the utter lack of gush appealed to me and I was sold, lock, stock and barrel.

The concept appealed to me for several reasons:  First, it was clearly pleasing to my parents and to the Lord. Second, it made sense.  It didn’t waste time and energy.  And people didn’t get hurt.  (Right?)  Third, it was rather non-threatening to my personality and comfort zone.

I now had a Biblical foundation for battlements to guard body, heart, mind and emotions.  But as I developed my battle-plan and the rules that would protect my borders, I discovered that not everyone was on my team.  In fact, most of the boys I knew seemed like traitorous spies, intent on crossing boundaries at every opportunity.  I remember feeling entirely invaded when one guy friend chased me down and picked me up.  Instead of coming to my aid, several others just laughed (probably because they thought the “smart-mouthed girl” was getting what she deserved.)  With renewed energy and a misplaced zeal, I responded with down-right cruelty.  You pinch my knee, I stab you with a safety pin.  You repeat the offense, I repeat the punishment.  You mess with my hair, I slug you.  You flirt with me, I verbally tear you into sniveling shreds.  I resented any intrusion into my place of concealment and looked suspiciously on any act of kindness.  If I were kind in return, people might think I returned the sentiment.  So I loaded up with sarcasm, cynicism and subtle insults and fired at will.

My parents pulled me aside one day and explained to my horrified ears that “picking on” boys could actually be interpreted as flirtation—it was giving them special attention.  All this time, my efforts to ward off the enemy might have been drawing fire?

I withdrew.  I quit teasing, quit talking to boys, quit making eye-contact.

Chuckling, my parents exhorted me to be kind, to be friendly, but to avoid teasing, insults and “singling out” and to be honest and straightforward about boundaries.

In Which I Discover that Boys Can Be Friends

My mid-teens found me and my brother and involved in a homeschool speech and debate league.  The environment stimulated my mind and brought me out of my shell to look around.  The guys I met behaved like men (well, for the most part) and treated me with respect and friendship.  Most of them were solid believers with strong convictions and when I expressed my convictions and boundaries, they responded with sensitivity and respect.  “I don’t give hugs,” I explained and they quickly apologized.  They became my brothers.  Soon I was developing many friendships that had depth and substance and seemed non-threatening.

Unwittingly, I dropped my guard.

But as my circle of “safe” boy friends grew, something horrible happened.

In Which “Safe” Becomes the Enemy

I had my first crush.

I’d never really liked a boy.  Sometimes, in my early teens, I’d admired a godly young man (usually much older than I), but there was little reason to like anyone.  I was a Papa’s girl with two brothers close to my age.  If there were to be any praises, teasing, affection, drama, conversation, competition, antagonism, attention or good advice, they had it covered.  I’ve heard it said that crushes are a natural part of a adolescence.  So are pimples, but they’re still disgusting.  So when the first crush came, I was aghast.  The world had fallen, my heart had betrayed me, I had lost all vestiges of purity.

As soon as I discovered my heart’s betrayal, I gathered together my forces and declared war on my unsuspecting crush.  Mentally, I shot slime balls into his person and character until he simply wasn’t worth liking.  I focused on his faults, his weaknesses, his annoyances.  Bingo.  He was history.

After all, I wasn’t getting married.  Which made liking a guy the token failure of my purity standard.

See, as the Biblical call to purity had echoed across my heart, I’d felt a powerful desire to be an example to the believers.  If I was to be an example of purity, wouldn’t the best and clearest way be to prove that a woman could be entirely devoted to Christ for her whole life?  Marriage had never been paramount among my desires (remember, I had an intimacy issue).  Now my dramatic side embraced the concept of singleness—serving the Lord perhaps in work with orphans or the inner city.  After all, in a situation like that, singleness could be a decided asset.

Between the conviction that I would stay single for the glory of God and my fault-finding tactic, I survived rather splendidly.

In Which I Finally Grasp Marriage

My family was holed up in a cabin at a family camp in the Ozarks the summer I turned seventeen.  I’d spent the week watching my parents as they waded through some rough issues.  One night, as they sat whispering on their bed, I lay in the bunk above them and finally understood.  Marriage was beautiful.  Across the wooden panels of the cabin ceiling paraded the powerful wooing of Christ toward His church and the picture that a godly marriage could portray of Christ’s love and the church’s obedience.  It was a picture so sadly lacking in the culture I’d witnessed (even the Christian culture) that I suddenly understood the divine calling to live it out.  Marriage had always seemed fine for those who desired it, but I’d reasoned that singleness was better.  As I lay there, sleepless, I grasped for the first time that a pure marriage was just as powerful an example as pure singleness.  Both were from the Lord and both brought Him glory.

In Which I Vow to Remain Single

This revelation did not negate the value I placed on singleness.  Paul’s teaching on the freedom a single woman has to single-mindedly serve the Lord still hangs prominently in my heart.  But the revelation did make the single-mindedness a bit more difficult and I felt like I was battling towering odds.  My grandmas had made bets with my brother that I would be married at 18 and I ranked top on friends lists of “who will marry first.”  My obstinate determination not to marry had guarded my heart for so long, but with my growing appreciation for marriage, I began to feel exposed.  I’d been convicted of my cruelty in tearing guys down to avoid liking them and abandoned it for a more Biblical approach of kindness.  As I approached the magical age of eighteen, the romantic suggestions increased exponentially.  Now I actually thought marriage was cool?  With all of my self-defense mechanisms crumbling and my ammo tossed to the winds of the past, how could I ever stand guard over my heart?

Feeling vulnerable, I dug a trench.  I took a vow of celibacy.

In Which I Learn to Focus

My “vow” was really just a year-long commitment.  I promised the Lord that I would devote myself entirely to His service, refusing to consider marriage, but focusing on knowing and loving Him passionately.

I don’t recommend taking vows like this, but the Lord mercifully used the promise for good in my life.  I developed disciplines of taking every thought captive, ignoring “boy attention” and refocusing my thoughts to the Lord.  My spirit flourished and I fell so entirely in love with the Lord that year that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I could be single forever—and He would be God Almighty, my Betrothed.

In Which I Lose My Last Defense

During this time of focus, I’d leaned heavily on one last defense:  the art of evasion.  Like a timid hare, a single threat of romantic interest would send me scampering to hiding.  “Um…Charlie’s here,” my Mom announced as a guy I’d been kind to in the library turned up on our doorstep.  “I’m not!” I cried, and fled out the back door.

One day my dad gently explained to me that avoidance could also be a form of “singling out”—giving special treatment to certain guys.

In Which My Ideal Goes the Way of All Fairy Tales

I passed my eighteenth birthday, leaving my year-long vow behind, and my heart wavered again toward marriage.  I passionately desired to be a shining example of emotional purity and I pleaded with the Lord that I would be neither distracted nor a distraction.  I’d watched Nathaniel and Lauren struggle through four years of distractions and determined to guard myself well against a similar story.  My ideal had always been simple and practical—something that permitted me to be entirely oblivious until it suddenly became obvious that I could better serve the Lord married and married to Mr. X.  The end.  No drama.  No romance.  No struggle.  No distractions.  Let’s all just be sensible, can we?

But I’d overlooked a fundamental problem:  oblivion was never included in my many faults.

Over the next several years, my ideal broke into a thousand pieces.  You know how Cinderella wore glass slippers?  In real life, no one wears glass slippers.  My ideal was like a glass slipper—beautiful in theory, but unable to stand the pressures of real life.  Being pursued several times didn’t fit my ideal any better than struggling for four years—both were distractions.  We’re taught not to view every young man as a potential suitor, but what happens when it’s not my mindset I’m battling?  What happens when, like Amy or Sarah or Lauren, a girl thinks she might have met Mr. Right?  Or when a young man is pursuing in an upright manner?  Or when others are trying to “help”?  I wasn’t the only one lacking oblivion.  People asked nosey questions, made nosey suggestions, tried facilitate my “happily ever after,” pushed me, pulled me, poked me and prodded me until I felt like the weepy girl who’d been forced to center-stage.  I was anxious, nauseated, confused, disillusioned and battling resentment.  How was I supposed to guard my heart when it was constantly under attack?  I felt like my reputation was being dragged through the dirt as I was quizzed about one guy after another.  Did people think I just bounced from one guy to the next like that?  Did they think I didn’t uphold my own standards?  What was I supposed to say?  Or do?  I was convinced that to intentionally encourage, where I did not have the blessing of my parents as well as wisdom and my own conscience, was cheating!  As I struggled with distractions, I felt like I was failing my own purity ideals and I was haunted by the words “heart breaker.”  I just wanted the drama to stop!  This romance stuff wasn’t just embarrassing—it was a nightmare!  My dramatic, precocious nature was ready to build a tower with no door or vanish into a nunnery.

Slowly I understood that I couldn’t survive on my own—I was helpless, weak and confused.  I felt so stripped of my privacy and defenses that I was willing to open myself to intimacy with my parents.   And with my heart feeling as crushed as my ideals, I was driven to scripture to see what the Lord truly expected of me.  I’d always assumed distractions were bad, but “bad” things drove me to my parents and to the scriptures for anything to which I could cling.  I found that the purity battle is won, not on the defensive, but on the offensive.  I was trying not to “fall in love.”  Instead I should love.  The purity standard never changed, regardless of my circumstances.  I should love the Lord first, using everything that entered my mind to turn my thoughts toward Him.  When tempted to be distracted, to worry, to consider, I should springboard into praise, worship, truth, trust.  I should love my brothers—regardless of appearances or intentions.  I should seek my brother’s good, seek to turn their minds to the Lord, seek to treat them with kindness without showing favoritism, seek to encourage them.  I should love all my neighbors equally—even those who are prying into my heart.  I should extend grace to those who may not share or understand my ideals.  And I should seek my parent’s accountability and guidance.  I won’t pretend it wasn’t painful, but Christ’s sacrificial love drove Him to endure unfathomable suffering–trusting that He was doing right.  It is His love that controls us and enables us to lay down our lives for others.

From the ashes of my nightmare rose a powerful call to purity and love.

In Which I Share the Moral of the Story

This time you get the moral before the end of the story!  After all, I’m still living, and until I meet Jesus there is no “happily ever after.”

Looking back, I have no regrets regarding sexual purity—well, except perhaps holding hands during my “engagement.”  But until recently, I’d been ashamed of my emotional purity struggle as an overwhelming failure–a complete waste of time, energy and emotion.  I had completely failed all my own ideals.  What was the purpose?  I’d been intensely grateful to the Lord’s grace and to my parent’s wisdom in protecting me from any relationships, but it seemed like a battle I should never have had to fight.

Then I experienced a failed courtship—through the eyes of a friend.  As I wept with her over her broken heart and ideals, I understood God’s healing power.  Another friend recently married—the only guy who’d ever been interested in her.  “How nice,” I thought, but she shared that she had often felt discouraged and undesirable.  As I listened I understood that each person’s struggle will seem hard to them—“bad” to them.  “Hard things” are life and “bad things” happen, but God promises to redeem them for our good.    In fact, God never promises us our ideal—no matter how well we behave.  He just commands us to obey His word—to love Him and His people as worship.

Purity isn’t about ideals or rules that I make up—it’s about obedience to God’s word!  My actions and attitudes must flow, not from pride in my high ideals, but in recognition of my weakness!   I am forgiven for mistakes in my past, I am not to guess at the future and I am to live today in worship of Almighty God.  It’s encouraging to be reminded that I am not responsible for circumstances or results—I’m just responsible to obey the Lord and love my brothers. You don’t have to be strong to win the purity battle, you just have to depend fully on the Lord and His grace.  May the grace of our Lord be with you!

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“Lord Willing”

March 14, 2010 at 1:30 am (interviews, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ana Marie’s Story

Abigail writes:  When Lauren and Nathaniel started attending a church in Tulsa, they were attracted to the love of the brethren and the fellowship they found.  So was another family that started attending about the same time—Ana Marie’s.  Over the last several years, Lauren has gotten to know Ana Marie and in the few times I have visited, Ana Marie has reached out to me, as well.   We’ve both been encouraged by Ana Marie and her desire to use her single years for the glory of God.  Incidentally, a few months back I had one of those “aha” moments when I suddenly realized where I’d seen Ana Marie before.  On the chance that any of you were once readers of HopeChest magazine, so was I—and so was Ana Marie!

Pearls & Diamonds:  What do you say when someone asks “So, what kind of job do you have?”

Ana Marie: For the past 2+ years, I have worked as an assistant to my father who is the Director of Administration at Literacy & Evangelism International. I have the privilege of doing routine financial work to enable him to focus on various other tasks. My work also includes researching/purchasing office supplies. Another job I enjoy is teaching violin, currently at Saied Music Studios. Occasionally, I have the opportunity to work election polls and do some babysitting. Entrepreneurship is an interest of mine, and I hope to run my own businesses from home.

P & D:  How did the Lord woo you and bring you to Himself?

AM: When I was 6 years old, I would daily write things I was sorry for in a “Sorry Book”. On one of those days, my mom explained to me the need for forgiveness and that God was the only One Who could grant the forgiveness I sought. That day, I understood what Jesus had done to save me from my sins, and accepted His payment for them. Since then, doubts about my salvation have come and gone, but it is reassuring to know that God’s grasp on His children is greater than their faith, and nothing will snatch them out of His hand. As I consider the growth He has accomplished in my life, I know that He continually works in me to conform me more to His image. Realizing that His work in me will be carried on till completion is a great comfort when I am discouraged with my own failures.

P & D: What does it mean to you to be a sensible, pure worker at home?

AM: For me, this means contentedly embracing the sphere God has placed me in and not running from the difficulties in it. Home may be the hardest place to serve, but it is the place I must learn to be content in if I am ever to be content anywhere else. How should a grown daughter in her parents’ home live? Good question! It is one I am studying myself these days.

P & D: Do you hope to marry and keep a home someday?  What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home? How are you preparing for marriage now?

AM: Definitely! However, I must preface that by saying “Lord willing.” It is an issue I seek to leave in His hand. Over the years, my desire for marriage has progressed from immature fantasy to (I hope) more mature consideration of the topic (such as how to prepare myself for being a godly wife and mother). I must rein in my desires, knowing that God brings along the right seasons at the right time. I credit Him with growing the hope for a family someday in my heart. Over the years, He has increased my appreciation for godly homemaking. The greatest preparation for me is growing in character and trust in the Lord. As I spend time with Him and seek to glorify Him in my thoughts, actions, and relationships, I am preparing to glorify Him in a future marriage and family.

Books such as Female Piety by John Angell James and The Family by J.R. Miller have helped me understand God-honoring womanhood and family life, respectively. These are reading material I highly recommend!


P & D:  How does a single woman balance a desire for marriage and preparation for that with keeping focused on the Lord and keeping your heart pure?  What are some ways you recommend for finding encouragement and focus?

AM: A big part of living pure lives, especially in the season of singleness, is filling our time with the right things. Spending excessive amounts of time watching movies, reading novels, and talking with girlfriends about guys is a sure way to nurture inappropriate thoughts. I have made decisions to not watch certain movies or read certain books or listen to certain music based on romantic content that may have led my mind the wrong way. I have also limited my reading of material on purity and courtship. While commitment to a godly approach to marriage is important, much time spent reading courtship stories can foster discontentment and impure thinking. Not everyone struggles with the same things, so it is important to evaluate your own tendencies and struggles. Ruthlessly refrain from or eliminate from your life those things and activities that could lead you to wrong thoughts. This is not about rules and regulations. This is about guarding our hearts for the glory of the Lord and honor of our future husbands.

It isn’t enough just to decide what not to do. Fill your time with worthwhile pursuits. Learn as much as you can about valuable topics. Develop skills. Start businesses. Mentor and be mentored. Build relationships. Serve. Read books that can teach you important things. Think deeply about things and journal your ideas/thoughts/lessons. Memorize Scripture. I have made New Years Goals for many years, but then promptly forgot about them. This year, I wrote down specific things I want to accomplish and posted the list on my blog. This provides some accountability, and though I may not achieve everything, I most likely will accomplish more than I would have without a public list. Now, I have something I can review every month, and my blog readers see my progress. Consider what method for accountability would serve you best, and then go for it!


P & D: Did you have examples of godly women that you look up to? How influential were your parents in your life and life choices? Are they influential in your purity battle?

AM: I have been blessed by several friends who have motivated me to pursue God’s best for my singleness. One friend would, during my teen years, regularly (almost every time we met) ask what God was teaching me. This motivated me to keep studying His Word so that I would not be without an answer! Friends who ask important (and sometimes hard) questions are a great asset.

My parents have been valuable companions in my quest for purity. Though it is the hardest thing to do, I have found peace and strength in sharing my struggles with them. Knowing that my dad knows how to pray for me is a source of encouragement to me.



P & D: How are you spending your single years?  Do you have any regrets?  What would you encourage younger women to pursue during this time?

AM: I am by far not a great example of how to spend one’s single years! The ideals I have had in my mind have not been fully accomplished. However, when I am tempted to be discouraged, I need to remember that God has ordained my path. Walking with and growing in Him is the main thing. My “accomplishments” do not matter that much. When evaluating my previous years, I wish that I would have fought the battle for purity with more zeal. I wish that I would have studied Scripture and academics more earnestly. I wish that I would have persevered in a schedule that it became an almost unshakeable routine. These are some things I would urge other girls to make priorities in their single years. I am grateful that God never gives up on me and has given me more time to grow in these areas.

P & D: What does “purity” mean to you?  Have you ever felt like you failed your own standards?  How did you deal with feelings of “failure”?

AM: According to the Webster’s 1828 dictionary, purity is “freedom from guilt or the defilement of sin; innocence; as purity of heart or life” and “freedom from any sinister or improper views; as the purity of motives or designs” among other definitions. Truly, a life of purity is a life of true freedom – the freedom from enslavement to sin. Because Jesus Christ washed me clean from my sin, I can walk in freedom from sin and pursue a life of purity. If you have not been set free from sin by Christ’s payment for them, this is where you must start. You will never be able to live purely without His cleansing.

I have found my motives to be one place where the battle for purity must be zealously fought. A few times, I have felt really guilty for certain things I did which maybe didn’t look wrong to anyone else, but I knew my motives were impure. Confessing those instances to my dad brought freedom.

P & D: What does it mean to you to treat young men as brothers in Christ?  How does this practically work itself into relationships?  Have your relationships with your own brothers been encouraging in this area?  How do you seek to avoid “defrauding”?

AM: Another area for me to work on! I am so grateful that God gave me brothers. It is definitely a good idea to not see each young man you meet as a potential suitor :-). It is beneficial to see each young man as someone else’s future husband. Seek to eliminate stumbling blocks for them as much as you can.

We should be careful about what we expose young men to. Is there anything in that picture (that I would so much like to post on Facebook) that could cause a guy to stumble? Is there anything in the way I carry myself that could attract inappropriate attention? Is my speech liable to cause their thoughts to go in a direction they shouldn’t? It is better to be too cautious than to cause our brothers to stumble. (Note: I do not believe that girls are the only ones to blame for guy’s thoughts, but do think it is important that we not allow ourselves freedoms which could ensnare them. This is a way to demonstrate godly love and care for the souls of others. Romans 13:8-15:7)

I sometimes think about what I want to save for my future husband alone. I try to guard the thoughts and hopes that I share when in mixed company. I think emotional and mental purity are as (if not more) valuable as physical purity. Being too open about feelings, hopes, and dreams when in the company of young men could result in regret for not saving those secrets for your future husband. Sharing your heart results in a kind of attachment to the one’s you share it with.


P & D:  Anything else? Feel free to share anything that’s on your heart!

AM: The battle for purity is worth fighting! You will never reach perfection in this area, but you will not regret pursuing a pure heart, mind, and life. Make the most of every opportunity to love the Lord. Live life today in a way that would enable you to have a beautiful pure love story someday.

We encourage you to visit Ana Marie’s personal blog and the family blog she updates!  In fact, here’s a couple of places you might like to start:

Pondering Death

Valentine’s Day is coming up on Thursday.  While the world focuses on an imitation of true love and pleasures which soon fade away, what should Christians focus on?  This week, I will be pondering death.

Pondering Love

What is love?  Is it a feeling?  Is it deeply caring for someone?  Is it knowing you can’t live without someone?  Is it being willing to die for someone?  Is it something indescribeable?

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Sarah’s Paradox

March 13, 2010 at 1:23 am (interviews, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sarah’s Story
Lauren gives some history:  Sarah is a dear friend whom I met nearly 11 years ago when I first started attending a wonderful little Bible church back in my home state of Texas.  It was the beginning of high school, and I was a one-year-old believer.  I didn’t fit in all that well with churched kids, since I was mostly Bible-illiterate.  But Sarah was one of the first people to welcome me and made me feel right at home (dispelling any stereotypes I may have held about homeschoolers).  Eight years later my then-fiance Nathaniel and I attended her wedding to Evan, and a few months after that, she was one of my bridesmaids.  Nathaniel and I still try to get together with our wonderful friends whenever we’re in the same state!  It’s always a great time of fellowship, sharing what the Lord is doing in our lives.  I hope you’ll enjoy as Sarah shares her story.
P.S.  You might happen to recognize her husband, Evan…he played the evil reporter on “The Widow’s Might.”

Have you always desired to be a homemaker? What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home?

I have the blessing of being the daughter of a very godly woman, an amazing teacher, and a homemaker extraordinaire!  From as early as I can remember she poured her life into teaching me to love our Lord and others and to live to serve.  The older I get, the more I realize how she threw her intelligence, creativity, energy, diligence, and love into every task, even the most mundane, and how she shaped and guided my development as a young woman through her example and through her teaching.  By living in her home, I never saw homemaking as an inferior choice or something to be done in half measures.  It always seemed such a high calling, to be a teacher, chef, interior decorator, advisor, accountant, and so much more…just like my mother.  Now I am even more amazed at all she did and how her love for the Lord permeated her life at home.  I still want to be just like her when I grow up…

Was it difficult desiring a godly husband and home before the Lord brought it about? How did you guard your heart and keep focused on the Lord?

One day when I was about 17, I realized the paradox of wanting to be a homemaker.  I sat down with my parents and said “Ok…so, for my entire life you have been grooming me to be a wife and mother.  When I help Mama in the kitchen it is “so that you can be a good wife.”  When I am playing with a neighbor’s child, you say “You’ll be such a good mom!”  When I am in charge of preparing meals one day a week, it’s so that I can be ready to run a home of my own.  When I work in the garage with Daddy, it’s “your husband will love working with you if you…”  When I get ready to teach the younger kids at our church, you say “Here’s something that you can do someday with your kids!”  Everything you taught me aims toward a husband and a home!  Then, as soon as I am close to the age to be able to actually think about having a husband and a home, all I hear is “Don’t think about it!  Don’t pursue it!”  What am I supposed to do, erase 16 years of brainwashing from my head?”  (As you can tell from this conversation, I am still learning the whole gentle and quiet thing!)

My parents have hearts that are captive to the Word of God, so they understood my dilemma and gave me godly advice for the next years of my life.  They told me, “You are right…there is a paradox there.  You (rightfully so!) desire something that you cannot actively pursue.  But here is what you need to do: Pursue serving the Lord.  Cultivate the gifts that He has given you to the best of your ability, and prepare to spend your life serving Him – either alone or with a husband.  That is what He has called you to do.”

We talked about my goal of going to school and earning a teacher’s credential lest I ever need one in order to homeschool my kids.  We talked about the love and facility that the Lord had given me for language.  We talked about some options that I should pursue with my life.  But I was still struggling.  “So you mean that you want me to just go on blissfully planning my life as a single woman and then just drop the things that I am pursuing if a man walks into my life?”

Their answer: “Quite possibly!”  Of course, my independent spirit rankled at the thought of having to set aside my own plans.  I would much rather have just married before I had plans I would have to give up!  Why go to all the trouble of making plans only to drop them like a hot potato?  Wouldn’t that mean that my plans were not really a part of God’s will for my life?  Was I being rebellious to pursue something other than being a wife and mother?

Then my mom gave me an analogy I have never forgotten.  “Sarah, when is it easiest to steer a car?  Can you steer a parked car?  No!  But when a car is moving at an appropriate speed, it is no problem to direct it wherever you need to go.  Think of your life like a car.  If you sit there, you are making it more difficult for God to steer you.  Just start moving!  He’ll guide the course of your life, sometimes in directions opposite from your plans.  But if you are willing to submit to His “steering”, you are not sinning when you start moving.”

How did you spend your single years? What were the blessings of this time period? Do you have any regrets?

With this advice from my parents, I went to college at Oklahoma Baptist University and earned a degree in Spanish Education, allowing me to be credentialed to teach K-12.  During this time, the Lord blessed me, taught me more that I could ever imagine, and prepared me for where He has placed me now.  My first year away from home I learned that all my life I had been saying that I trusted and depended on God, but when I was removed from all my “props” – my family, friends and church – He showed me that I had really been trusting in those good things rather than solely on Him.  It was a difficult but sweet time of drawing near to the Lord in dependence, realizing my desperate need for His grace and strength each day.  Through those four years, He blessed me with some wonderful, godly friends, and allowed me to learn how to be an excellent teacher through the classes I took.

How did you and Evan meet and marry? What drew you to Evan? How did you approach purity in your pre-marriage relationship?

Evan and I had actually known each other since junior high.  We had been quite good friends as young teenagers.  I loved the way he would sit and talk with me about things that mattered!  As we grew to be good friends, people started teasing us about liking each other.  I was so concerned that our friendship would be ruined that I didn’t even consider romantic attraction an option.  (Evidently Evan’s view differs here – he was just biding his time…)  As Evan started college and then I went away to school as well, we gradually stopped seeing each other as much at church and with our families, who were good friends as well.

As I finished my sophomore year of college, I spent a month in Venezuela with some missionaries, came home, and prepared for my junior year.  I felt that it was a point at which I needed to decide what I wanted to pursue after college.  If I wanted to be a missionary or a teacher, it would take planning to be ready as soon as I graduated.  I was very worried, and once again had a long conversation with my mother about what to pursue as a young single woman who wanted to serve the Lord.  Oh, and I should mention that the winter before I had developed a very bad crush on Evan…

Lo and behold, the very week that I finally stopped worrying about my future and trusted the Lord to continue guiding my life as I pursued Him, Evan asked me to start courting him!  We enjoyed a year and a half of deepening our already-existent friendship, thinking and praying about our futures, and spending time together without being teased incessantly by our friends.  We were careful to be together only in our families’ homes or in public places during this time.  Physically, we moved along slowly, only progressing to hand-holding after a year of going out together.  Looking back, we chuckle about the awkwardness of a relationship where you are aiming toward marriage but must be careful to remain pure.  Thanks to the Lord and to being surrounded by friends and family with high standards, we do not feel that we were overly tempted to be impure during our courtship.  Following our parents’ advice, and due to the Lord’s timing, we were only engaged for a short period of time (3 months), which was a great aid in maintaining purity.  Even those three months almost seemed too long to wait!  We were happily married in July 2007…after approximately 8 years of friendship and 2 years of courting.

How has God sovereignly worked in your life to prepare you for serving Him with Evan?

It has been so wonderful to see the small ways in which the Lord prepared me to be Evan’s helper.  My mom loved music, so I grew up in a home where it was always played and where I was encouraged to play and sing to the Lord.  Evan is a very skilled musician and a choir teacher, so now I can relate to the things he loves the most.  Also, while I am not the most spontaneous and flexible person, my father was, and my husband also is.  In learning to submit to and serve my father, I learned many little lessons that have helped me submit to and serve my husband.

What have been some of the challenges and rewards of making a home for your husband?

I think my favorite part of making a home for Evan is that he loves having people over to visit and fellowship.  It is so rewarding to prepare my home to be an inviting place where he can carry out his ministry of hospitality.  Ministering at his side in our home, at church, and with unbelievers in our community is such a privilege!

As a married woman, are there struggles to be content? Is the purity struggle still alive?

Um, yes!  It is SO important to realize that home, husband, job, child, and circumstance have NOTHING to do with being content!  Contentment is resting in God and delighting in His provision, no matter what is in my life at the moment.  The sad thing is, no matter how He blesses, my sinful heart still finds something to complain about.  It is my daily battle to find joy in the moments and the circumstances that God sovereignly places in my life.

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Part Six: Love and Today

March 8, 2010 at 1:00 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I can look back on the past 20 years of my life with entire confidence that, when it comes to love, I’ve been an overwhelming failure.  Praise the Lord, His love never fails, and it stretches to mercifully cover my short-comings.

God’s commands for purity are not for yesterday.  Certainly there are consequences to our poor choices and we should do our best to rectify our mistakes, but the past is a part of something the Lord has bought back and promised to redeem for our good.  He is in the business of using even bad things for His glory and our good.  That is the power of God’s redeeming agape love.

Today we are commanded to seek to love purely—the Lord first and our neighbor as our self.  It’s not something that just happens–it’s a battle.  The command to “keep” our heart bears connotations of surviving a siege.  As long as we are fighting, we can overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  A purity battle fought is not a purity battle lost.  We lose the battles when we stop seeking the Lord, when we give up, when we sit down and give in to temptation or greed or discontentment—in any form or appearance.

I don’t intend to impose law, but to lift up the Lord.  “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)  My challenge to you is the same I extend to myself:  Pursue the Lord!  Flee youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with those that call on God from a pure heart.  This is worship.

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Part Five: Love and Matchmaking

March 7, 2010 at 1:34 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Nathaniel and Lauren each arrived at college quite certain that they would not meet their future spouse there.  Two weeks into the semester they had met and both were beginning to have second thoughts.  Long before the first semester of her freshman year was over, Lauren had measured Nathaniel by her list of character qualities and found him to be exactly what she’d hoped for.

Thus began an epic four-year purity battle.

And when she should have had friends rallying behind her, helping her “keep” her heart and focus on the Lord and serving others, many were traitors, firing cupid’s love-darts behind her back, making suggestions, asking questions, “helping” her to snatch the pen from the Lord’s hand and write her own love-story.

Sometimes I wanted to grab shirt collars, knock heads together and shout the rebuke that these well-meaning friends needed to hear.  Perhaps I’m a little over-dramatic, but few heard Lauren’s heart weeping and bleeding as she struggled to gain control over her desires.  Few saw her weariness and tears the way I did as she struggled to tie each dream to the altar and burn it in worship to Almighty God.  Few knelt beside her on the battlefield, as she bowed her head, too tired to get up and keep fighting for focus.  It seems like a pretty story, reading of her four-year struggle and final triumph in giving up at the marriage altar, but the struggle wasn’t pretty.

In fact, as I watched, I made a solemn promise to myself.  “That is never going to happen to me!”

Ladies, never make a promise concerning something that is entirely out of your control.  You will assuredly break it.

I thought that if I was careful enough, guarded enough, chaste enough, no one would ever have anything to question, tease, prod or poke me about.  Apparently there is no such thing as enough.  I gave it my level best, but found myself harried at every step.  Everything from questions, teasing and “help” regarding particular guys, to unsought “sympathy” and “encouraging” prophecies of coming marital bliss were flung at me under a cover of smiles and nods.  Much of the time I felt entirely bewildered.  What in the world was I doing to make people say such nonsense?

The greatest part of the difficulty lay in treating my brothers with love—while being questioned or teased about them.  The self-protection in me wanted to push them all away as harshly as possible and save the remaining scraps of my focus.  Ah, but to do so would not be loving.

What was awkward has proved for my good in forcing me to search out godly responses (at which I don’t always succeed).  Perhaps you’ll appreciate the results of my dilemma.  *

Love your enemies

The fact is, sometimes when you’re fighting a purity battle, those well-meaning matchmakers feel like enemy forces.  “Friendly fire” they call it when your team is shooting you up, but the bullets whistling around your head hardly feel friendly.  Friend or foe, God’s call is for you to love them.  (Luke 6:27)  The fact is, most people who seem intimately interested in your romantic status probably are interested because they appreciate you.  They want to see you happy (which they’ve decided means married—or at least hopelessly in love).  And sometimes, they honestly just don’t know what else to talk about.  A gracious woman attains honor.  (Proverbs 11:16)  Learn to think and answer graciously because, I promise, the situations never end.

Accept what is said as intended in love.

1 Corinthians 13 says that love believes all things.  Commentaries suggest this means “believes the best.”  Giving folks the benefit of the doubt will hardly harm them, and will actually protect your heart from frustration and bitterness.

They say:  “I don’t know what all the guys are thinking.  If I had a son, I’d be sending him to talk to your dad.”

I think:  “Since you don’t, how pointless is that to suggest?  Besides, I’m glad you don’t have a son.  I wouldn’t marry any son of yours anyway.”

A proper response:  Recognize that this person just expressed confidence in me as a person of character as well as someone they would appreciate joining their family.  That is the Lord’s grace on my life and I should be encouraged that His hand is evident in me.  Probably no verbal response is necessary and no mental reflection should be enacted.

Turn sympathy into a chance to praise the Lord.

Paul told the Thessalonians “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all things.  This is God’s will for you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  As women who want to do God’s will and bring Him glory, we should take every opportunity to proclaim the Lord’s goodness.

They say:  “You’re not married yet?  Well, you’re so (insert flattering comment) I’m sure there’s an amazing man just around the corner for you.”

I think:  “People have been telling me that for years.  How do you know what’s just around the corner for me?  It could be ten more years of singleness.  Besides, what does (insert flattering comment) have to do with deserving an amazing man?”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is meaning to be kind, then declare the Lord’s goodness.  “The Lord has been really blessing me with opportunities to serve Him as a single woman.  I know He’ll do what is right and good.  He has always been good to me.”

Refocus the conversation on the Lord.

Paul wrote to the believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, making the most of the time, teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  (Ephesians 5:15-21)  Sometimes a conversation simply needs to be nudged back in the right direction.

They say:  “So, is there a special man in your life?”

I think:  “Define special.  When there’s someone special enough to be considered special, I’ll let you know.  You’re not special enough to be privy to special information.”

A proper response:  Accept that this person is interested in my life and doesn’t want to miss anything exciting that’s happening.  *without the eye roll, Abigail*  “You know, I’ve really been learning a lot lately about what the Lord wants from me as a godly woman…”

As you trail on about the encouraging things you’ve been learning and how you’ve been learning to love the Lord and keep your eyes on Him, your interrogator may do one of two things:  be encouraged and uplifted or sink down in a chair with their chin sagging on the floor—never to ask you questions like that again (we hope).

Answer a fool according to his folly.

Proverbs says to “answer a fool according to his folly.”  (Proverbs 26:5)  Some questions aren’t anyone’s business.  Some don’t deserve the dignity of an answer.  Some don’t have an answer.  Just because it was asked, doesn’t mean it requires your reply.  Indiscretion on another’s part doesn’t require indiscretion on your part.  Impertinence needn’t be satisfied.  I recommend the shrug as a very effective tool for expressing “that’s none of your business, but you don’t know any better, I suppose.”

They say:  “You know what?  Something’s missing from your house today.  Where are all your suitors?”

A proper response:  *shrug*

Some suggestions don’t even deserve a serious response.  You can pass them off and move on to other topics.

They say:  “You don’t have a boyfriend?  I have a very handsome grandson you should meet.”

A proper response:  “I’m sure you’re proud of your grandson.  How long have you lived in AR?”

Some can simply be made light of to relieve embarrassment.

They say:  “So, Abigail, when are you getting married?”

A proper response:  “Oh, I’m thinking next May.  Of course there are some minor details to work out before then.”

Sometimes you should pass the buck.

They say:  “So, how many of these young men are head-over-heals in love with you?”

A proper response:  “Maybe you should survey them and find out.”

Like water off a duck’s back

After you’ve answered, you should refocus on the Lord and forget about it.  My biggest weakness is a festering frustration due to the “helpful” people in my life.  I over-evaluate everything, assuming their nosiness is caused by something I’m doing wrong.  Do I look like I’m pining away for a husband?  Am I acting like I’m “in love” with so-and-so?  Do they really just think I’m like that—from one guy to the next?  It doesn’t matter.  Be pure before the Lord.  That’s well-pleasing to Him.

Are you the enemy?

From the other side, if you’re the nosey matchmaker, I’d like to challenge you with a few thoughts.  You may think you are expressing love, encouragement or care for a person.  Beware lest you are actually adding to a load of frustration.  You may be aiding and abetting the enemy.  Anything that you do which encourages another person to become distracted from whole-hearted devotion to the Lord and from selfless and unselfconscious love for their neighbor is actually fighting against their best interests and the Lord’s glory.

What is she supposed to do about it?

What are your motives in the questions you’re asking or the suggestions you’re making?  Remember that if you’re speaking to a young lady, there’s not a lot she can do when it comes to taking initiative.  Nor should she be particularly encouraging attention from a young man who has not been approved by her parents.  You may be usurping her parents when you appear to offer your blessing to something they have not blessed.

On the flip-side, if you think she may be too forward or is encouraging attention, you may have reason for questioning.  Encouraging attention without intent or without parental blessing is false advertising.  If your questions are intended as a gentle rebuke, you should be clear in explaining your perceptions and concerns—please don’t leave her to her own deductions.  If you aren’t clearly encouraging her to keep her heart pure you may appear to condone a “defrauding” situation.

What are you encouraging?

Scripture tells us to encourage one another and build each other up and to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:24)  If you’re encouraging distraction from the Lord, you’re actually tearing down the very things you should be building up.  If you’re encouraging young ladies to be discontented, you are like Aaron, who knew better even as he built a golden calf from the Israelites’ most prized possessions.  (Exodus 32)  Love is encouraging each other to worship the Lord.

Are you usurping?

If you know something she doesn’t, you may be usurping another’s place to tell her.  Perhaps her parents want to talk to her about a situation and know her heart.  Perhaps a young man is pursuing, but she doesn’t know—to protect her in undistracted devotion to the Lord.  If your desire is to “be the first one to know,” check your attitude for selfish motives.  Be very careful that you do not reveal secrets.  The would-be bride in Song of Solomon warns the town maidens not to question her about her admirer.  “Do not arouse or awaken love before its time!”  (Song 2:7)

Are you gossiping?

Scripture warns against being busybodies and gossips.  When you’re playing the “matchmaking” game, are you being a gossip?  Why is the information you’re asking important to you?  What do you hope to accomplish by it?  Are you going to tell others?  Why would you tell others?  How will it build you up and encourage you to focus on the Lord?  How will it encourage a young lady to focus?  Does it build up the body of Christ?

Love extends through every relationship at every time.  Whoever you are, whatever your situation in life, you should be practicing love—sacrificial love.  Your words and actions should be guarded by love—love for the Lord and love for your neighbor.  Jesus says if you cause one of His little ones to stumble, it’s a grave offense!  Purity isn’t a check-list of dos and don’ts—it even includes what we encourage in others!  We’re to be examples in purity and love.  We’re to think on things that are pure.  We’re to love from pure hearts.  Keep the Lord first.  Love your neighbor.  That guards purity.  That is worship.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  The examples I shared are all  things that have been frequently said to me.  I’m not advocating the thoughts I expressed as being either pure or loving, I’m just being honest.  I still need to work on accepting what is meant in kindness.  If these don’t represent your responses, you may appreciate hearing how someone else thinks—especially if these are the kinds of things you have said to others.  If these examples are expressive of things you’ve said or done, I’m not trying to pick on you—just trying to give you another perspective on what you may be (unintentionally) accomplishing and challenge you to consider your motives—are they pure?  Are they bringing the focus and glory to God?

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Part Four: Love and Marriage

March 6, 2010 at 1:33 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Once upon a time I found myself in the middle of a conversation with a young woman.  The topic?  Romantic relationships.  She was aghast when she discovered that I “don’t date.”  “But—but—but,” she spluttered.  “How will you ever get married if you don’t date?”  “Hmmm,” I stroked my chin, enjoying her perplexity.  “I’ll have to think about that one.  How many guys have you dated?”  She thought for a few minutes before answering something close to a dozen.  “And you’re still not married?” I opened my eyes wide, pretending shock and horror before smiling.  “Well, if a dozen attempts haven’t found you hitched, it doesn’t really seem to me that dating is making marriage happen for you.”

Created to be his help-meet?

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he commanded them to go about “romance” in a set-apart way—not in lustful passion like those who don’t know God, and to be careful of defrauding.  In so-called “conservative” circles, we recognized the devaluation and pollution of marriage and the entirely impure routes many take to get there.  Often we denounce dating as “lustful passion” and “defrauding.”  We also see the rejection of God’s wisdom in creating men and women with unique roles.  And soon we are creating models and stereotypes of how a romance must progress and preaching slogans like “I’m saving my heart for my husband” and “Biblical courtship” and talking about being maidens in waiting. *  We proclaim the importance of marriage and the beauty of being wives and mothers, but sometimes I think we get caught up in the means and forget the end.  I think we’re confusing ourselves when we insist that we were created for marriage and child-bearing.  Before you stone me and throw me out of the synagogue, hear me out.  I counsel crisis clients at a pregnancy center, and every time I go over the information about conception, baby development and birth, I’m overwhelmed by God’s genius in creating women with the unique ability to sustain another human life.  You’ll never catch me devaluing that as a woman’s “saving” service. **  And yet, there’s a bigger picture.  You weren’t born married.  You could have been, but you weren’t.

Let me explain.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And He created a man to care for the earth.  But the man needed a helper.  So God created a woman and brought her to the man.  Eve might as well have been born married.  Adam had to have a wife to help him fulfill God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.  Eve was created to be his helper.  No questions asked.  That was the role God gave her when he brought her to the man.

But there was a bigger purpose.  Turn to the end of the Book—the Revelation given to John—for the unveiling of why God created the world, why He created man and woman.  “You created all things,” the saints proclaim the worthiness of the Lamb “and for Your pleasure they existed and were created.”  (Revelation 4:11)

Role vs. Purpose

The revelation is that you and I were created for God’s pleasure.  For His glory.  To do His will.  And we weren’t created married, which means that His pleasure, His will and His glory are more far-reaching than simply being married.

See, when an actress performs in a play, her purpose can’t be simply to play her role.  Her role will fall flat and empty if she focuses only on her character.  Why?  Because she’s missing the bigger picture.  The purpose of a play is to tell a story.  In order to tell the story, a play incorporates individual characters.  So the actress must make her purpose to tell the story, to express the story by playing her role.  She must make her role serve the story.  She is a part of a whole.

My concern is that, all too often, we miss the bigger picture.  By holding up marriage and motherhood as our purpose, we are actually stealing from the story.  What I see seeping through the cracks in the marriage goal are a few subtle lies:  that marriage will fulfill my needs; that I serve God through marriage, so, in the meantime, I am being prevented from really serving God as I was created to do; that single years are wasted years; that if I am not married, I must not be godly/mature enough; that my reward (of marriage) is based upon my performance (contentedness/purity/domestic skills/etc); that unmarried people are incomplete—just waiting on a spouse so they can truly be useful; that I would be more useful to God if I were married (I know better than He does). As we swallow these lies like our daily vitamins, we come to be self-obsessed.  Instead of looking at the bigger picture, the story that God wants to tell of His power, His love and His glory, we’re focused on our role.  Instead of making our role serve the story, we just want God to hurry up and write our lines.  When will it be my turn to come on stage?  How does my costume look?  Is this the guy for me?  I’m content now…Lord, where is my husband?  Soon we are pursuing our role instead of our purpose.  We’re obsessed with being wives and mothers, when we should be obsessed with God’s glory.

Ladies, even a pagan can be a wife and mother.

Am I against marriage?

Absolutely not!  Godly marriages glorify God.  But discontentment does not.

Our purpose is to glorify God.  We do this by seeking to understand our role—learning to be obedient women.  Being submissive wives and loving mothers is not the end.  It’s the means to the end—glorifying God.  And it only brings God glory if it springs from submission to God and love for His people.

What does God want from women?

For several years now, I’ve been searching the scriptures to see what God commands me to do.  I found an interesting omission.  God never commands me to marry.  He doesn’t command me to save my heart for my husband.  He doesn’t command me to court.

He commands me to love Him with my entire heart.  He commands me to love my neighbor as myself.  He commands me to view my body as His temple and abstain from sexual immorality.  He lays out the blessings and responsibilities of marriage.  In fact, He holds forth marriage as a picture of Christ and the church—that’s a pretty glorious role to play—picturing here on earth a spiritual truth as large as God’s eternal plan of divine love and redemption.  He also lays out the blessings and responsibilities of singleness.  Those whose roles find them unmarried or who have chosen to audition for unmarried roles are to be single-minded.  And Paul insists that singleness presents more freedom for service to God.  Neither is to covet the role of another.  “If you have a wife, do not seek to be free.  If you are not married, do not seek a wife.”  (1 Corinthians 7:27)  He lays out guidelines for relationships—single and married and in-between.

We are not commanded to have a mindset of marriage.  We are commanded to have a mindset of love.

Godly women are to love

Love, Biblically speaking begins with Christ’s love for us which enables us to have agape (sacrificial) love for all men, which progresses to phileo (affection) toward Christian brothers and sisters and finally (if God so wills) to romantic love—the deepest human fellowship, reserved in the Lord for one person.  When we divorce romance from agape, we have what Paul calls “lustful passion.”  Which is impurity.  For each of us, it must be agape that inspires phileo and controls romance—within the pure bounds of marriage.

The commands to believers over and over and over again are to love.  We are to love Yahweh with all our heart.  We are to love our neighbor as our self.  Your neighbor always begins with the one closest to you.  Married women are to love their neighbors, as well—their husbands and their children.  (Titus 2:4)  We are to look out for the interests of others, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor.  Our mindset shouldn’t be marriage, but love.

Love Yahweh with all your heart.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

This is obedient womanhood.  This is worship.

It is also the foundation for a marriage that mirrors Christ and the Church.

One day it may be these two loves that lead you into a godly marriage.  What is marriage if not complete and sacrificial giving of oneself—love?  When you understand your purpose is God’s glory, then you can joyfully accept a role of singleness or marriage—for however long the Lord prolongs it.  You can understand that God must always claim first place in your affections and that you must always love others as you love yourself.  Married or single.  This is obedient womanhood.  This is worship.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  I’m not trying to attack the goals or purposes of phrases like this, but none of these terms is actually found in scripture.  I’d encourage us to be careful to lift the actual scriptural principles higher than our extra-Biblical models and phrases and to be sure our models and phrases are supporting and fitting into the grid-work of scriptural principles.  I’ve seen each of these terms pasted on rather varying explanations.  Those who advocate these ideals certainly can be/often are upholding Biblical goals, but its not subscribing to a “courtship approach” or claiming to be a “maiden in waiting” or to “saving my heart for my husband” that makes us pure.

**  I use the term “saving” role in reference to 1 Timothy 2:15, which speaks of the woman being “saved” or “preserved” through bearing children.  It is not her eternal salvation in view here—as though salvation were by works, especially a work over which she actually has little control—but the salvation of her importance in human society.  Modern women think they must compete with men to establish their importance, but men cannot compete with women in the thing God considers their most important task.  What will become of the human race if women cease to raise children?

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Part Three: Love and My Brother

March 5, 2010 at 1:18 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

I grew up guarded.  By my late teens, I’d apparently developed a reputation for distance.  One spring, I arrived at Lauren’s dorm room for a week-long visit, to be greeted by an enormous mirror scrawled with survival tips—from a couple of my brother’s friends.  “Be more friendly to guys,” came one sage command.  But my careful aloofness was shattered shortly after moving to Arkansas.  Our home was suddenly full of young men, eager to be part of a family, unwilling to permit me to live a hermit’s existence.  And what was I to do?  When a boy lives in your house overnight…or for a week…or a month…all pretense of distance and limits on interaction die a slow and painful death.  He becomes your brother.  Except that he’s not.

I found myself up late at night, with my brother and a few “extras,” working through life issues, studying the scriptures, playing games, singing praises, praying and offering advice.  Then suddenly one day I made a horrible discovery.

All these guys that were hanging around?  I loved them.  Not just an “oh I would serve them because Jesus says to” love, but a genuine, sisterly affection.  I wanted their good.  I missed them when they were out of town.  I hurt when they hurt.  I cared what was happening in their lives.  I appreciated hearing their thoughts.  I wanted to encourage them and see them cheerfully serving the Lord.

Oh no.

As I wrestled with guilt, feeling that I’d somehow lost my “kept” heart, I began to search the scriptures to see what the Lord had to say to me.  And I found three basic principles to guide and guard my actions.

Love your neighbor

“What is the greatest commandment?” a lawyer asked Jesus, and the Lord’s response was two-fold.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.”  He dealt with the heart of worship.  Love God.  But then He added, “And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”  He explained that on these two commands hang the entire Law and Prophets.  (Matthew 22:35-40)  “By this will all men know that you are mine,” Jesus taught His disciples, “If you have love for one another.  A new commandment I give you—love one another as I have loved you.”  (John 13:34-35)

God is calling us to love our fellow believers.  *  In fact, it’s the natural result of fellowship—brotherly affection.  We begin with sacrificial love—as Christ has loved us, we lay down our lives for the brethren, and the return is an emotional response.  (1 John 3:16)  Paul writes in many of his letters that he has a fond affection for the believers.  Never does he discriminate between the men and the women.  In Christ, they are unified in spirit.  In Christ, they are his beloved brothers and sisters.

Don’t be a cheater

To the specific topic of purity, Paul speaks a severe warning.  “Do not go farther and defraud your brother in the matter, for God is the avenger.”  Simply stated, Paul warns us not to take what doesn’t belong to us in a relationship.  This, too is guided by love.  First, love for the Lord, then love for your brother.  What rightly belongs to another person?  To God belongs your heart.  To your Christian brothers and sisters belongs sacrificial love (as worship to God) and brotherly affection.  Only to a spouse belongs ahab— romantic love.  This is what must be carefully guarded—by sacrificial love—as worship to God.

Be a sister

“Treat the younger women as sisters, in all purity,” Paul told his disciple, Timothy.  (1 Timothy 5:2)  Sisters, in all purity.  “What does this look like?” I’ve had girls ask me.  “I’m really close with my brothers—it just doesn’t seem like it would be pure for me to treat other guys the way I treat them.”  Growing up with two close brothers myself, I wrestled this question until I was exhausted.  And then, one day, I understood.

Purity is a heart attitude.  What is your heart attitude toward your brothers?  Are you trying to impress them by your beauty, your talents or even your godliness?  Are you constantly placing them in the balance with your husband checklist?  Do you watch them constantly for some little sign of interest?  Hardly.  You love your brothers and you want what’s best for them.  What is best for them?  To serve the Lord whole-heartedly.  To seek Him first.  To grow and mature.

“Let love of the brethren continue,” the writer of Hebrews encourages.  Brotherly love is pure.  It flows from a heart that is “kept” by God and it encourages our brothers to worship with us.  Here’s a snapshot of what brotherly love looks like.

Brotherly love is pure because it is honest

“Love without hypocrisy,” Paul wrote in Romans chapter twelve and then he spelled out a particular description of “true love.”  Abhor evil, cling to good, be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor, diligent, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering, devoted to prayer, contributing to the saints needs, practicing hospitality, don’t be haughty but associate with the lowly.  We’re not talking about blurting out “I love you.”  We’re talking about sacrifice without any pretending.  “Little children, let’s not just love in word,” John wrote in his affectionate letter.  “But in action and in truth.”  (1 John 3:18)  There is no pretense in brotherly love.  Honest love meets purity when your goal is not to capture a heart, but simply to serve the Lord and His saints.

Brotherly love is pure because it is not self-seeking

What is your goal?  1 Corinthians 13 proclaims that love does not seek its own.  It’s not looking to promote itself or its own agenda.  That certainly tosses actions like flirtation and innuendo right into the “hypocrisy” basket.  “Do not merely look out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  (Philippians 2:4)  What would edify my brother?  What would encourage my brother?  What would bring my brother’s focus to the Lord?  Sacrificial love meets purity when your goals are to promote the interests of the Lord and His saints.

Brotherly love is pure because it does not show favoritism

James delivered a stout rebuke to those who picked favorites.  “Do not treat your faith in our Lord with an attitude of personal favoritism.”  (James 2:1) We’re commanded to love the brethren—that’s all of them.  Honest love leads us to associate with the lowly.  (Romans 12:16)  When you serve, you must serve all indiscriminately—the young man you might marry some day and the old woman that you wish would wear matching socks.  You are not to give or withhold love or service on the basis of age, ethnicity, background, beauty or gender.  Christ certainly did not.  All must be treated as Christ, that all may know you are His.  Indiscriminate love meets purity when you treat every person in Christ’s body as Christ Himself.

Brotherly love is pure because it expects no return

“When you give a feast,” came Jesus’ directions on hospitality, “Invite the poor…who can’t pay you back.”  (Luke 14:7-15)  Remember that “freely you received, so freely you must give.”  (Matthew 10:8)  God poured out His love and grace on you, showering you with a mercy you can never possibly return.  He commands you to “give preference to one another in honor.”  (Romans 12:10)  “He who gives to the poor is lending to the Lord…and the Lord will repay Him.”  (Proverbs 19:17)  God has blessed you richly.  To freely pour out the same love you have freely received is worship.  Prodigal love meets purity when you are loving without thought of the love being returned.

Brotherly love is pure because it is eternal

Faith, hope and love are the cornerstones of the Christian faith.  “But the greatest of these,” Paul writes, “is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13)  Faith will one day become sight.  Hope will one day be realized.  Love will continue.  Romance, as we know it, will last only this lifetime.  Jesus said there will be no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven.  (Matthew 22:30)  But brotherly love will still unite us at the throne of Christ.  Eternal love meets purity when it recognizes that everything must have an eternal perspective—what does not bear fruit in eternity is of little value.

Brotherly love is pure because it points toward Christ

Because we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, we recognize that this is the highest call on the heart, soul and mind of every person.  To love the Lord first and then to love our neighbor as our self, we must consciously strive to point every person to the cross, the grave, the sky.  The love that worships beside another person is pure.  We must be controlled by love, walking in love, pure in Christ.  “The love of Christ controls us having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.  And He died for all so that those who live may no longer live for themselves but for Him who died.”  (2 Corinthians 5:14)  Christ-centered love meets purity when you keep Jesus the center of every relationship.

The world doesn’t understand brotherly love—it’s something unique to Christ’s disciples.  “This is how they’ll know that you’re mine,” the Lord said.  It doesn’t fit the grid for the world’s definitions:  on the one hand, take whatever you can get.  On the other:  protect yourself.

We recently shared with you the results of a survey on purity.  The purpose of this survey was to instruct us so that we can love in wisdom—understanding more clearly what our actions suggest.  But no set of rules or boundaries can entirely protect—ourselves or our brothers.  Keep in mind that love for the Lord and love for your neighbor should always be the guiding influence.  Had the Good Samaritan been a woman, I think they Lord would have still desired her to show love by helping her “neighbor.”

The kind of love God requires isn’t self-protection.  It’s risky.  It’s dangerous.  It can be painful.  But it is second only to loving God.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  The pure heart loves the Lord and seeks to encourage others to do the same.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*  A few commands to love our brothers:

(agape—sacrificial):  John 13:34; John 15: 12; Romans 13:8; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:12; 1 Thess. 3:12; Heb. 10:24; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:16; 2 John 1:5;

(phileo—brotherly affection):  Romans 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13: 1; 1 Pet. 3:8;

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Part Two: Love and My Heart

March 4, 2010 at 1:46 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

The Valentine’s Day just past left me with plenty of fodder for the mental camel I’ve been feeding. Over and over again were the expressions of devotion “You have my heart!” or the pleas “Be mine.” Giving and exchanging of heart-shaped candy and heart-covered cards left impressions of hearts popping out of the heads of every couple I passed. Modern music speaks much of the heart, but the father in Proverbs had some thoughts on the issue, as well. He warned his son of the dangers of impurity, encouraged him to be faithful to the wife of his youth and exhorted “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Proverbs describes temptations not unlike our own and speaks of the wisdom of “keeping” what the world would tempt us to give.

>Keep:

The Hebrew word translated “keep” has a lot more depth to it than four letters might imply. It means a conglomeration of watching, maintaining, guarding, protecting, preserving, even concealing or surviving a siege (mostly negative connotation). The word is nearly identical in purpose to the command given in the Garden of Eden, when Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate and “keep” it. (Genesis 2:15) *

Just what was Adam’s task? To keep the soil soft, healthy, bearing good fruit. To protect it from weeds. To cultivate healthy, fruit-bearing plants. Why? To bring God glory.

The Creation story tells us that man and woman were created in God’s image and when we skip to the end we see God’s purpose. “Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) God created you a unique woman, in His image, to bring Him glory. You belong to Him, heart, soul, mind and body.

The heart of the matter

To keep, to guard, to maintain, to protect our heart, we’ve got to understand to Whom it belongs. The answer is not “to ourselves.” The answer is not “to our husband (wherever he is and whenever God wills to reveal him to us, etc, etc).” When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…” (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) Over and over, Yahweh complained of Israel’s unfaithfulness. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Isaiah 29:13) He described the worship issue in graphic language as adultery. In the New Testament, Paul describes our bodies as God’s temples and explains that purity is a worship issue. (1 Corinthians 6:19) “Lust, covetousness, impurity, greed…which amounts to idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

God commanded us to love Him. We failed. We chose other gods, other lovers, other things. That’s the story of scripture. Adam and Eve failed to love the Lord with their hearts, minds and souls—instead they sought to know good and evil experientially, they sought knowledge elsewhere and the fellowship between man and God was destroyed. This was the relationship that you and I inherited at birth: enmity with God. But God was never surprised and He was willing to offer His redeeming love to buy us back from slavery to the other things we had pursued. Hosea pictures for us the power of redemption as he buys back his adulterous wife. God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners—enemies of God—He gave His own precious Son to buy us back.

Why am I recounting the gospel story for you? Because when God bought you back, He made you a new creature, able to have intimate fellowship with Him. By the Holy Spirit’s power you are able to love God. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) God created you once, and you belong to Him. Then He bought you back by redeeming love. Is there any question that you belong to Him?

You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart. The world will never have an accurate view of love because the world does not know God.

The Idols We Serve

Why did Hosea’s wife keep fleeing him and returning to her life of sin and degradation? Didn’t she have exactly what so many Christian girls long for today? A godly, compassionate husband and several beautiful children? Still her heart wandered to fields that did not belong to her, and where her heart wandered, her feet followed. Discontentment, we call it.

Lust. Greed. Covetousness.

God calls it “idolatry.”

The idols of Israel’s unfaithfulness were made of wood, gold and stone—materials that God had created, that were good, that served a purpose–in fact, materials that were used to build His own temple. It wasn’t the materials that caused the idolatry. It was the hearts of the people that sought for something they could touch and feel to complete them. In a similar way, romance, marriage and motherhood are not evil. They have been created by God and are holy—when surrendered to Him. But whenever we pursue, worship or serve our desires—even godly desires—we allow them to usurp the place that only Yahweh can fill.

Discontentment, we call it.

God calls it “idolatry.”

Pursue the dream-giver

You’ve seen the young woman everyone says is “glowing.” She’s the one “in love,” the one everyone watches with whispers and chuckles. Her every thought is to please her lover. She talks about him constantly. She talks to him every chance she gets. She can’t wait to be with him and when she is, her eyes are fixed on his face. She’s like a garden soaking up the spring rain and flourishing. Hosea, the faithful husband, proclaims the Lord’s faithfulness and the refreshment found in His presence. “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn and He will come to us like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)

Your heart is like a parched garden—it longs for fulfillment. Your Divine Lover created you to respond to His offer of divine love. Scripture says He jealously desires the spirit that He has made to dwell within us. (James 4:5) The Father in Proverbs says the heart must be diligently kept for from it flows the springs of life. The Father seeks worshipers, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, and He promised her springs of living water—welling up inside of her to eternal life. (John 4:14) Press on to know the Lord and He will come to you—bringing refreshment, bringing life.

In God’s economy, giving is keeping. If you lose your life for Christ, you will gain it for eternity. If you give to the poor, the Lord will repay you. If you want to keep your heart, you must pour it before the Lord. Paul wrote to the Philippians not to be anxious, but to pour everything with prayer and petition and thanksgiving at the feet of Christ. “And,” he promised, “the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) If you pour your heart, your grief, your struggles, your pain, yourself out in extravagant worship, you will find it guarded, protected and healed. You will find it softened, growing with good things. You will keep your heart. For God’s glory.

Purity and worship

Whenever anxiety enters, when other things vie for your attention, when your biological clock is ticking so loudly it is waking the neighbors or when that godly young man gives a good answer at Bible study, you must keep your heart. You must know it, you must guard it, you must conceal it, you must cultivate it. It’s not that desires are ungodly, but even godly desires must find a place in the kingdom of God. Jesus encouraged His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-34) The Father knows what you need before you ask. Above all else, He knows you need Him.

Seize every distraction as a redirection to focus on the Lord. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Seek the Lord.

Jesus blessed the pure in heart. “They shall see God,” He said. (Matthew 5:18) He accepted into His service women at whom others looked askance. Others saw only the scars of the past. Jesus probed into hearts and found them washed clean, restored and redeemed through the prodigal grace of God. ** When a woman of shady reputation poured a vial of expensive perfume over the feet of the Lord, she was pouring out her heart, despite the cold condemnation of those witnessing the act. But Jesus accepted this extravagant worship with the words, “he who is forgiven much, loves much.” (Luke 7:36-50) As forgiven women, let us never forget to love much. Purity is a heart attitude that springs from devotion to Christ.

A “kept” heart is a heart that has chosen the best part—the place at Jesus’ feet.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

* A few interesting uses of the Hebrew words translated “keep/guard”: Gen. 3:24; Gen. 17:10; Gen. 28:15; Gen. 30:31; Ex. 12:25; Ex. 15:26; Ex. 20:6; Ex. 23:20; Lev. 18:26; Num. 6:24; Deu. 5:1; Ps. 12:7; Ps. 25:10; Ps. 34:13; Ps. 78:7; Ps. 89:28; Ps. 91:11; Ps. 105:41 (contains both words); Ps. 119 (uses both interchangeably, repeatedly); Ps. 127:1 (same word used for “keep” and “watchman”); Proverbs; Ecc. 3:6; Is. 26:3; Is. 27:3; Jer. 3:5; Ez. 20:19; Dan. 9:4; Hos. 12:6; Mic. 7:5; Nah. 2:11; Mal. 2:7

** Prodigal (adjective): 1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant. 2. giving or yielding profusely; lavishly abundant. The “prodigal son” was wastefully and recklessly extravagant with his inheritance—an evil thing. Mary of Bethany was lavishly abundant with her worship—a pure thing. God is prodigal with the grace He bestows on us—extravagant, profuse and lavishly abundant. Praise Him!

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Part One: Love and Purity

March 3, 2010 at 1:43 am (Articles, Attitudes, Godly Living, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

Several years ago, I received a Facebook invitation to take a “purity quiz” and see how I rated.  Curious, I clicked over.  Not surprisingly, I ranked something like “angelic”—entirely due to activities I had or hadn’t participated in–including marriage.  I shook my head and blinked—had Lauren been taking this quiz, she’d have lost “purity points” simply by virtue of being married.  In fact, her reputation would have been severely tarnished by the fact that she kissed her husband—never mind that it wasn’t until their wedding day.  Girls I know who are now shining examples of purity would have been ranked something like akin to purity’s pond-scum due to pre-Christ actions—forgiven actions.  Oh, friends, a girl could obsess about boys, flirt with boys, read romance novels, fantasize—even look at pornography and still come out “angelic.”  But she couldn’t be married.  She couldn’t have kissed her husband on her wedding day.

It wasn’t that long ago that Britney Spears was held up as an icon—a “good girl”–a “virgin.”  Now her name conjures up shudders of horror.  Something happened.  What went wrong?

As I clicked the browser closed I thought, “Something is terribly skewed with our perception of purity.”

For what is “True Love” waiting?

Swimming against the current is never easy, and when it comes to the issue of purity, sometimes it feels like we’ll be swept away in the filth of modern “love.”

We easily recognize the destruction of “love” by a society so devoid of anything holy.  In the name of love, God’s commands are broken, vows are broken, marriages are broken, hearts are broken.  The world surrounding us has a broken image of love glorified in the public unveiling of sex and the rampant cheapening of romance.  Both have become a commodity sold on billboards on every highway, advertised by every form of media and sported on a million living models.  To the world “love” is a multi-million dollar industry—a never ceasing effort to capture in a tangible way the elusive spark of intimacy.

In the midst of the madness, some say purity is coming back into style.  In an effort to swim against the “Love is Sex” current, the “True Love Waits” campaign has spawned a fad of rings and t-shirts and banquets and merchandise to encourage “purity pledges.”  But the statistics surrounding the “True Love Waits” movement are hardly encouraging.*

As godly young women see the “True Love Waits” advocates being swept into an ocean of temptation and technicality, they wring their hands and cry for answers.  In the effort to protect “true love” the boundaries are often pushed back, one step at a time.  “True Love Waits” preaches purity as “saving sex for marriage.”  A boundary of “saving sex for marriage” is like starting down a water slide thinking you won’t get to the bottom.  So, where do we draw the line?  Well, kissing leads to sex, I won’t kiss.  Holding hands leads to kissing, I won’t hold hands.  Dating leads to holding hands, I won’t date.  Emotional attachment leads to dating, I won’t get emotionally attached.  Friendship leads to emotional attachment, I won’t be friends with boys.  Talking leads to friendship, I won’t talk to boys.  Eye contact leads to talking, I won’t make eye contact with boys.  Being in the same room with boys leads to eye contact, I won’t be in the same room with boys.  HELP!  There are boys everywhere tempting me to break my purity pledge!  They keep walking into the room!

From our fogged understanding another skewed perception of purity is formed.  Subconsciously we are accepting the word’s definitions and understandings—“falling in love” leads to sex and purity is saving sex for marriage, so if we are really going to accomplish purity, we’re going to have to protect ourselves from “falling in love.”  At least until we marry, at which time suddenly we will fall in love and ta-da!  Everything will be perfect and pure.  Essentially, we’re not supposed to love boys.  Which breaks down, in so many words, to a horrible lie:  that love is impure and purity is unloving.  If we want to be pure, we can’t risk loving.  So we create rules:  no dating, no best guy friends, no talking to guys, no looking at guys period!  And no matter how pure our intentions are, how well we keep our own rules, they simply don’t work.  I promise.  Suddenly one morning, we wake up and realize that we’re crushing on a guy we’ve never even looked at.  (He sure gives good answers at Bible study, though.)  In anguish and frustration, we tear out our hair crying “How did this happen?  I did everything right!”

Be an example—in love and purity!

Paul left his son in the faith—his protégé–Timothy, in Ephesus, strengthening the church, establishing order as Paul’s apostle and wrote him some guidelines for his conduct as a younger Christian.  “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”  (1 Timothy 4:12)  He charged Timothy to be an example—in love and purity!

An example in love and purity—to those who believe.  Love and purity not only do coexist, but must coexist!  Scripturally, love is not something a person can “fall into.”  Neither is impurity.  Both are choices that we make, often one tiny moment at a time.  To understand just what the Lord wants of us, let’s get back to the Bible for our definitions of love and purity.

>Purity

The Bible uses the word “purity” to refer to doctrine, wisdom, thoughts, religion, hearts, devotion—and in its most simple form it means: undefiled. **

>Love

Scripture commands two kinds of love:  phileo (Greek–brotherly affection) and agape (Greek–sacrificial love).  It also speaks of several forms of romantic love (various Hebrew variants of ahab).  All are created by God and intended to be pure.  And all must flow first and foremost from devotion to God.  ***

The world has a terribly skewed perception of purity for a simple reason:  purity is not a set of rules.  It’s not a have or have not check-list.  In many cases acts are, of themselves, not impure, but motives direct whether our actions are pure or impure.  Jesus said “out of the heart proceeds…impurity.”  And “he who looks at a woman to lust has committed adultery already in his heart.”

Purity is a heart issue.  And rather than denying love, it is actually empowered, guided and guarded by love.

If you want to be pure, you must love.

Because love is pure and purity is loving.

Part One:  Love and Purity

Part Two:  Love and My Heart

Part Three:  Love and My Brother

Part Four:  Love and Marriage

Part Five:  Love and Matchmaking

Part Six:  Love and Today

*READ WITH CARE:  A study done by the New York Times reveals that, of teens who take the “True Love Waits” pledge, the majority break them.   Many Christian girls perceive purity as a “technical virginity”

**A few appearances of purity:  Job 11:4; Psalm 12:6; Psalm 18:26; Psalm 24:4; Proverbs 15:26; Proverbs 20:11; Zeph. 3:9; Matt. 5:8; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; Tit. 1:15; Jas. 1:27; Jas. 3:17; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 3:1.

** *A few appearances of agape:  Matt. 5:43; Matt. 6:24; Matt. 19:19; Matt. 22:37; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:33; Luke 6:27; Luke 7:42; Luke 10:27; Luke 16:13; John 5:42; John 8:42; John 10:17; John 13:34; John 14:15; John 15:9; John 15:12&13; Rom. 5:8; Rom. 8:28; Rom. 8:35; Rom. 12:9; Rom. 13:8; Rom. 13:10; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:14; 2 Cor. 12:15; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:2; Eph. 5:2; Eph. 5:25; Phil. 1:9; Col. 3:19; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:19; 1 John 4:21; 2 John 1:6.

A few appearances of phileo:  John 21:15; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Tit. 3:15; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 3:19;

A few appearances of romantic love:  Gen. 29:20; Judg. 16:15; 2 Sam. 1:26; 2 Sam. 13:4; 1 Kin. 11:2; Pro. 4:6; Pro. 5:19; Ecc. 3:8; Song of Solomon; Ez. 16:8; Ez. 23:11; Hos. 3:1.

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My Heart in a Field of Dreams

February 26, 2010 at 1:00 am (Attitudes, Poetry, Singleness) (, , , , )

I wonder why my heart does wander
Upon fields of dreams yet to be
Taking along a scythe to harvest
What yet does not belong to me,

When riches all divinely given
Offer now a precious find.
Certainly I would embrace them
If my heart were not so blind.

Across the field I see a light
I gasp-it is a fire!
Sent by One jealous for my heart
To destroy my untimely desire.

“These dreams must be forgotten now
Their ashes will nourish the soil.
My rain and sun will produce in time
The right crops without your toil.

“Simply follow after this Lamb of Mine;
Love Him and do not depart.
Trust Me,” my Gardener and Guardian said,
“Allow Me to keep your heart.”

Done mourning over the barren field
Taking the hand of Love so tender,
My anxious heart finds its rest
At last in humble surrender.

Chasing now this spotless Lamb
I am overcome with glee,
That running through the blossoming field
He is all I see.

A lesson learned now becomes
A message I must deliver:
Fix not your heart upon the dreams-
But on the dream Giver.

Copyright 2006 by Lauren

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What Makes a Husband Jealous?

February 17, 2010 at 1:20 am (His Perspective, Love, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, soul and mind,” Yahweh charged Israel in His greatest commandment, but the hearts of the people turned away to foreign gods and their minds strayed to sin and self.  “You have committed adultery against Me,” Yahweh warned.  “I am a jealous God.”  Through the prophet Ezekiel, Yahweh graphically described Israel’s adultery, painting a revolting picture of lewdness and impurity.

To the church of Corinth, Paul wrote as God’s emissary, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.”  (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The adultery Yahweh charged Israel with was in giving to another god what rightly belonged to Him—heart, soul and mind in worship.  Paul’s jealous guard over the purity of the bride of Christ was to preserve their minds in the purity and simplicity of devotion to Christ.  Devotion–the minds of believers rightly belong to Christ.  We tend to think of jealousy as an evil, but Paul speaks of a godly jealousy.  God’s jealousy was over what rightly belonged to Him.  Paul was jealous on behalf of Christ, over what rightly belonged to Him.

As I worked over the post dealing with God’s Will: Your Sanctification, I came head to head with the issue of defrauding—cheating, taking what rightly belongs to another.  With the words “The Lord is the avenger,” I was reminded of the jealous husband’s test in Numbers 5—and the curse upon the woman who had “gone astray into uncleanness.” As I pondered, I began to wonder what would be rightly considered a husband’s?  Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that the wife’s body belongs to her husband, and his body belongs to her.  Wouldn’t it be godly then for a husband and wife to be jealous over each other’s bodies?  What else might they be jealous over?  Each other’s emotions?  Devotion?  Time?  Affection?  Attention?  I’d often considered purity in relationships, but I’d never before thought of it in terms of what would make a husband jealous.  The traditional wedding vows proclaim to “forsake all others, clinging only to you.”  I began to consider the implications of Paul’s words to the churches of his day regarding purity and marriage.  Marriage should not be sought in lustful passion, as the pagans, but in set-apartness and honor.  He warned us not to go beyond and defraud—because God is the avenger.  This warning suggests that, even if no one else ever knows that we have “cheated”—gone beyond what was rightly ours—God knows and we will reap the consequences in our lives and hearts.

Ladies, what I’m proposing is that we carefully consider what rightfully belongs to God as the first step in purity.  “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Worship and serve Yahweh only.”  And we carefully guard and preserve that for Yahweh only.  That we consider what rightfully belongs to those around us.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  A sacrificial love, based on Christ’s love for us, offered without thought of gain.  This, too, is worship of God.  And, in purity, that we consider what rightfully belongs only to a husband.  Even if we never marry, there are some things that no one is authorized to claim outside of a marriage covenant.  I propose that we jealously protect and preserve this until such a time as, covenanted in marriage, we can freely and purely pour it out in worship to God.  God is the avenger, because our purity is an integral part of our worship of Him.

These thoughts in mind, Lauren and I constructed a survey to try and help us understand what things would make a husband jealous.  We created a series of hypothetical questions, based on many of the debates/teachings we’d heard regarding “purity” boundaries, placed those situations into a marriage scenario and surveyed 50 men from very different backgrounds and denominations–single men, dating men, courting men, engaged men, married men and men with daughters our ages—without giving an explanation for our questions.  We wanted unbiased feelings from a range of perspectives.  We reasoned that those things which provoked jealousy in a husband are likely to be good indicators of what rightly belongs to a husband only—and therefore what we should be jealously guarding from any man to whom we are not married.

We’ll admit that we were surprised by the clarity the results seemed to cast on “grey areas.”  We’re talking about activities that many youth pastors would advocate as still “chaste” and would leave a “True Love Waits” pledge unbroken.  Many of the men expressed that they were deeply disturbed in considering their wife engaging in many of these activities—few thought “jealous” even covered their feelings on the topic.  God used graphic word-imagery to express Israel’s adultery–to inspire our horror and disgust.  We’ve tried to be as discreet as possible in dealing with these issues, but this is a serious affair.  Impurity should provoke our horror and disgust.  We’re sharing the results with you and we encourage you to consider carefully guarding what these men express as provoking jealousy.  In the areas that are expressed as depending on circumstances, prayerfully, carefully let your actions be guarded by love—focus on the Lord first and what will bring Him glory and then pursue sacrificial love toward your neighbor–what will cause them to focus on the Lord.  The excellent wife does her husband good and not evil all the days of her life, and his heart trusts in her.

See the survey results here:

What Makes a Husband Jealous:  The Survey

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Someday

March 5, 2009 at 10:55 am (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Singleness, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

someday

I was sixteen years old when my Grandma took me driving and told me I needed to be more aggressive. Five years have passed and this weekend found me pondering her words as I navigated Kansas City to visit her. She’s eighty-two and as far back as I can remember she’s been running a hundred miles and hour serving other people. She spent most of her younger days in a cult one step removed from Mormonism, but she met the Lord not long before my birth. A short time later, she lost her husband. She’s been a widow as long as I’ve been living.

At sixteen or twenty-one, it’s easy to rush forward, hurrying toward the next thing, dreamily planning the future. Marriage, children. How many of us look beyond marriage to a time of being single again? We think of our wedding day as signifying the day in which we have finally arrived, the day when our life is fulfilled. For those newly married brides, a baby is the next thing—the completion to fulfilled life.

When that dream ends, what comes next? When the nest is empty and we’re back to sleeping in a twin bed, then what?

I watch my grandma with pride and amazement. She lives simply, but always busily. She went to a ladies Bible study at a retirement home and took cupcakes and fruit salad. I’m willing to guess that most of the ladies present were younger than she is. She’s held more dying people than I can count, pouring love and tenderness into their last days. She’s sent parts of her carefully stewarded retirement overseas for the spread of the gospel. She studies God’s word and shares it with everyone she can find. She’s helped out young mothers. She eats lunch once a week with a troubled little elementary school girl. She keeps tabs on a destitute nephew. Prays daily for her large family: some know the Lord and some don’t. Offers smiles, encouragement and even rebukes to those she comes into contact with. Shares Jesus when she can.

From the other room I heard her answer the phone when a neighbor lady, another widow, called. After a few minutes, she gently said, “I’d rather not talk about other people like that. It doesn’t really do anyone any good.”

She’s about to have her knee replaced. “That’s just what happens when you get old and your body wears out,” she shrugged. “And I have to make an appointment to get my batteries checked,” she joked about her pacemaker. No bitterness. She laughs easily, teases lovingly and trusts the Lord in everything.

I think of my grandma and I think of Paul’s requirements to Timothy for widows “indeed.” The wife of one man, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality, served the saints, assisted those in distress and devoted herself to every good work. His greatest warning was that they be wary of becoming gossips. When he wrote to Titus he said that older women should be teachers of what is good—to the younger women.

It’s natural for young women to think and dream and plan for marriage, to strive to become godly wives and mothers, to look forward to that time. But being a godly wife and mother is not the end in itself. Being a wife and mother is not what fulfills a woman. Even a pagan can be a wife and mother. Serving the Lord, being obedient to Him, loving Him and serving His people—that’s what fulfills a woman, in whatever circumstances she finds herself.

My mind goes back two thousand years to another widow who lived her life serving the Lord. Anna, the daughter of Phanuel grew up in Israel and married, but her happily ever after ended seven years later with the death of her husband. Being a widow in Israel was especially difficult, yet Anna spent her days in the temple, serving the Lord with fasting and prayers, waiting for the Messiah. Then one day, when Anna was eighty-four, a young woman entered the temple with her husband and newborn son and Anna knew that the Lord had finally sent redemption. When I look into my grandma’s smiling eyes, I think I might know what Anna looked like.

Sisters, your whole life will be filled with someday. Someday you will likely be sixteen and driving. Someday you will likely marry. Someday you will likely have a baby. Someday your children will likely grow up and fly away. And then someday, someday you will likely be a widow. Through each someday the Lord wants you to recognize today—this is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.

For twenty-one years I’ve lived as a single woman on one side of marriage. For twenty-one years my grandma has lived as a single woman on the other side of marriage. The call to both of us is the same—serve the Lord.

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What Are You Waiting For?

September 26, 2008 at 8:11 am (Articles, Godly Living, Marriage, Purity, Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

what-are-you-waiting-for“It is not good for man to be alone,” God said, surveying His highest creation. “I will make a helper suitable for him.” Putting Adam to sleep, He took a rib from his side and fashioned a woman. Truly a match made in heaven.

But in a world filled with more than one man, how can we know whose helper we are meant to be? In the tale of the Three Weavers, Huberta flirted with many and ultimately fell short of the standard for a prince. Hertha settled for a handsome page until she discovered him to be less than perfect. How did Hildegarde keep her heart pure, control her emotions and wait patiently for her true prince? She kept ever before her the silver yardstick which her father had given.

Many Christian girls seem all too willing to “settle” and cast a critical eye over their choice only after taking the plunge. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” seems the only standard in scripture-a pitifully low standard for manhood, though slightly higher than that of paganism. If you were created to be a suitable helper, are you willing to wait for a suitable husband? It wasn’t until Adam had been placed in the middle of God’s garden (his work field) that God brought Eve to him. Wisdom and scripture stand witness to the powerful service that a suitable husband/wife team may have. Priscilla and Aquila trained Apollos in the truth of Jesus Christ. Francis and Edith Schaeffer opened their home to scores of wounded souls. The sphere of a godly single man and a godly single woman combine to create manifold sphere of ministry. A husband and wife together may enter the house of a single woman, adopt orphaned children or open their door to a drunk man. Do you desire to serve the Living God as a married woman? Marry a man who is serving God. Do you desire to raise a family that glorifies God? Settle for nothing less in choosing the leader of your family than God’s standard for those who will one day lead in His family.

Paul gave his disciple, Timothy, some clear qualifications for the men who lead God’s household. “He must be above reproach, married once…not a new convert…he must have a good reputation with those outside the church…holding to the faith with a clear conscience.” (Please take a look at 1 Timothy 3:1-10 to put the rest of this article in context.) The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 had a husband who was known in the gates-as he sat among the elders of the land. The virtuous young woman is willing to wait for the man who will prove himself qualified to serve the Lord. Measured by the silver yardstick, her husband must measure up to every last inch demanded by scripture:

  • Reputation: He should be above reproach. No accusation will stick because he lives his life with such purity that everyone knows his high morals. Those who work with him and around him can speak no evil of him unless it concerns his love for God (as Daniel experienced). Don’t be afraid to ask! Many men tell dirty jokes or flirt on the job. I know women who have discovered, after marriage, the pornography, drug or alcohol addictions that others could have told them before. Wait for the man who has been tested and has proven his character.
  • Purity: His sins are as far removed as East is from West and yet the Lord is clear that a divorced man commits adultery when he remarries. A godly man’s current state should be radical purity-fornication in the past may be cleansed, adultery in the present (by remarriage) becomes a guilt you share. Wait for the man who asks you to be his only wife.
  • Faith: He should be rooted and grounded in Jesus, having proven his obedience, his stability through time and his understanding of the commands of Christ. Many fiery young Christians swing back and forth between legalism and lawlessness in the course of their early conversion. Some are too quickly elevated and fall into sin or pride. Wait for the man who has slowed the pendulum to a right division of God’s word and an accurate understanding of God’s ways.
  • Leadership: He should have learned to discover and become able to teach truth, demonstrating a love for God’s Word and a lifestyle of obedience to it. For the health of your relationship with him and with other believers he should understand Biblical discipline and accountability, and embrace Biblical roles. God commands husbands to wash their wives with the water of the Word. Wait for the man who will take your hand and lead you in pursuit of the Holy One.
  • Hospitality: He should be willing to open his home to believers for fellowship and unbelievers for outreach. He must understand that he is to imitate Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, not to the healthy, but to the sick, not to invite those who could repay, but those who couldn’t and who is preparing His home for us above. The home is the epic center of ministry-a haven for all who enter, a rest for strangers, a hospital for the broken. Wait for the man who will open his door and heart to those whom Jesus loves and who will take up the basin and towel to serve his guests.
  • Generosity: The man of God is not driven by money. Instead, he is a diligent worker, joyfully serving the Lord in whatever he does and eager to share whatever the Lord provides. Remember that he who gives to the poor lends to the Lord, and the Lord repays with great interest! Wait for the man who stretches out his hand to the poor and shares his bread with the hungry.
  • Self-control: Evidence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is an essential. He should not be easily angered or offended, given to conceit, wasteful of time, money or other resources, given to addiction or gluttony. He seeks to be at peace with those around him, keeps his emotions from ruling his tongue. Wait for the man whose every action and word demonstrates his sense of responsibility as God’s steward.
  • Humility: Does he accept correction from God’s word? Does he shun glory for himself? Is he slow to consider his opinion or feelings weighty? Does he admire and defer to older men? God gives grace to the humble. He dwells with the humble. He commands us to associate with the lowly. The conceited understands nothing. Pride goes before destruction. Wait for the man who owns his complete dependency on God for everything-his character, his life, his livelihood.
  • Commitment: When you marry, you marry for life and you promise to honor and obey, to joyfully join in your husband’s decisions and visions. He should not be hasty to make decisions or commitments, but careful, wise and willing to stand by his word, even if it hurts him. Wait for the man who has demonstrated that his word is good-the man you can trust to keep his vows to you forever.

Wisdom and scripture speak also of the blessing in honoring your parents, in seeking their counsel, their wisdom. Run to your father and share with him your desires, your goals, and your standards. If he loves the Lord, he will be delighted to encourage and uphold you. With revelation comes accountability. Is he not obedient to the Lord? Does he seem to discard your convictions? Still he should know for whom you wait. And perhaps your silver yardstick may become a standard to which he will aspire. Or one which he can respect. One which he can recognize as a wise choice for you. At least you will have offered him the responsibility he should accept. If the Lord can turn a king’s heart like water, can turn the Red Sea to dry land and turn the tide of history for His glory and for the good of those who love Him, He can work through your parents, no matter who they are. Wait for the man who has gained your parent’s full confidence.

Do you find the yardstick so tall that you think you could never measure up to be the partner of such a man? My sisters, may I remind you that your faithful waiting is the very tool by which the Lord can fashion you into a woman of worth. All too often I have seen a young woman eagerly clutching the silver yardstick in her youth only to lay it aside when the waiting became irksome. Trust the Father who has never yet deceived you. Your faithfulness while waiting will prove you faithful in marriage. Your commitment in singleness is honoring your wedding day vows. You are worth the price you place on your forehead. Set it high and accept no lower offers. In the meanwhile, seek the Father’s training to teach you to weave a mantle suitable.

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The Three Weavers

September 9, 2008 at 8:19 am (Singleness) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

…in days of old there lived three men who made their living by weaving cloth for the mantles of others. Their small-but-tidy houses stood side by side on the pebbled street of a flourishing city and their fortunes had been so intertwined that whatever took place under the roof of one, happened under the roofs of all. But though trained in the same art they were as different in character as three close friends could be.

“I always weave my webs the same length,” Herthold confided to the other two. “There is no use wasting time measuring each man, when I know the size which a perfect mantle should be.”

“Don’t you get weary with always weaving the same size? What if you run out of the proper color of warp or woof? It is much more convenient just to end the web there.” Insisted Hubert, for it was well-known that he wove his whims into his fabric and then stretched or cut afterward to fit whoever would buy.

Hildgardmar shook his head sorrowfully and returned to his work. Carefully and painstakingly, he measured first the man and then the web by the inches and ells of his carefully marked yardstick. He knew the stature of those around him and his reward was his own satisfaction at the perfection with which each cloak fit the shoulders of the man for whom it had been made.

In this pattern of similar fortunes, each man took a wife and later each became the father of a tiny daughter. Thus were born Hertha, Huberta and Hildegarde.

One evening a short time later, the three friends sat together under the sparkling stars discussing the future. There was a lull in the conversation as each father mulled over the mysterious message he’d received a few days before.

Finally, Herthold spoke up: “Friends, rejoice with me! Wonderful fortune has befallen me and mine. Perhaps you know that the fairy of all the weavers was present today for my Hertha’s christening? she left a beautiful gift beside the cradle: a tiny loom, fashioned of the purest gold. And a wonderful promise, to boot!”

Even as Herthold spoke, his two friends exchanged knowing glances, for, you must know, that what had happened under the roof of one had happened under the roofs of all. The fairy had made her appearance at the christenings of the three wee maidens, and left beside each cradle a tiny, golden loom with the same foretelling for each: that a prince would come to seek her hand.

“Think of it!” Hubert laughed, boisterously. “I, the father of a queen!”

Herthold added, “It’s a good thing children provide for their parents in old age. I should have a comfortable retirement.”

“Gently now, friends,” Hildgardmar reminded them. “What if our daughters cannot fulfill the required conditions?”

The three men fell silent thought, the fairy’s parting words echoing in the halls of each man’s memory. “One thing is necessary: Your daughter must weave upon this loom a mantle fit for the prince’s wearing. It must be ample and fine, cloth of gold and woven in rainbow hues, and of princely size and shape. Many will come to claim it, for your daughter will be fair and charming, but if it is woven rightly, it shall be the guide by which she may measure her suitors. And when the prince comes, it will fit him in all faultlessness, as the falcon’s feathers fit the falcon. But if it should not be ample and fine, worthy of royalty, the prince will refuse to don it and the maiden’s heart will break.”

Herthold sighed heavily. “It is a grievous task to give a small girl. Mine shall know naught of the loom until she is old enough to weave with skill and style. I’ll not waste my time with a child who will be constantly distracted by childish fancies. Until then, I’ll lock it away where she cannot destroy such good fortune with her folly.”

“What an old worrywart you are!” Hubert scoffed. “It is not as if the fairy has asked her to weave straw into gold. Besides, I am sure it is all a joke—you saw the loom. It could never make a mantle large enough to cover a man’s head, much less his shoulders. It is only a toy. Besides, what is written is written and I can’t change the outcome of fate. I have good fortune coming and I plan on celebrating!”

Hildegardmar said little, but his mind was busy long afterward. Often as his wife would come to bring him his lunch, she would hear him speaking to himself over the clacking of his wooden shuttle. “Upon the correct weaving of this mantle lies my precious daughter’s whole future.” Clackety, clack. “I must teach her to weave with care and give her a standard to measure by.”

…and the girls grew like the summer wildflowers. One day as they strung daisies together, Huberta said to the other two, “I have a loom made of solid gold in a little tower off of my room.”

“Don’t be silly,” Hertha retorted. “A loom of gold would belong to a princess.”

Undaunted, Huberta continued. “I have one and you do too. So does Hildegarde. A fairy gave them to the three of us at our christening and said a prince will come to wed us if we weave a mantle for him.”

“I don’t believe you,” Hertha snapped. “I never heard of such a loom, and I don’t believe it is true, or else my father would surely have told me.”

Hildegarde interposed, “If it is true, Huberta, just show us the loom.”

Silently the three girls stole into the weaver’s house and through Huberta’s room until they stood beside a doorway, standing half-open. Entering the room they saw, against the wall, a small loom of pure gold that had grown with Huberta’s growth and fit her as if made only for her. The golden warp was the fairy’s gift, but the thread of the shuttle was of her own spinning—from the airy dreams of a maiden’s fancy. Huberta ran her fingers over the smooth gold, and motioned to the beginning of a mantle. “See? Already I have begun.” She seized the shuttle as she spoke and crossed the threads of a rosy-daydream with the golden warp.

Hertha and Hildegarde watched in silent envy, their eyes following the glowing threads as they crossed in and out of the beautiful pattern, bounding and leaping like summer clouds. But soon they were drawn to a new wonder: in front of the loom so as to reflect through the window, hung an exquisite mirror in which the shadows of the world passed by. As they watched a curly-headed shepherd lad passed by in the street, his knobby staff held aloft like the a scepter.

“See that shepherd lad?” Huberta laughed. “Doesn’t he look a prince with his head held high and his crook in his hand like a scepter? Are you surprised that I am at my loom both sunrise and sunset to see him passing by?”

Hertha shook her head and pointed. “That long-haired page is more my style. He looks almost noble dressed in velvet with a feathered cap! I wonder why my father has said nothing to me of the angel’s marvelous gift. I too, should be at my loom and weaving. I’m as old as you are!”

Hildegarde clapped her hands. “I too!”

Huberta shrugged her shoulders. “Why don’t you ask your father? Perhaps he has forgotten.”

Hertha was not long in reaching her home, and sought her father as he busily weaved the same pattern he always used. Timidly she crept to his side and stood with downcast eyes until he paused. “Father, where is my loom? Huberta has already begun and I, too, would like to be weaving for my prince.”

Herthold leaped from his stool, sending the shuttle clattering. “Hertha, listen to me! Never again must you listen to such idle fairy tales. When you are grown, I will call you and then I will teach you the art of weaving, but not a moment sooner. I am ashamed that my daughter would indulge in such foolish fantasies.” He turned stormily back to his weaving, leaving a confused Hertha to creep away to her room, where she threw herself on her bed and wept violently. “My father must not love me,” she whimpered into her blankets. “But someday my prince will.” Suddenly she stood and walked resolutely to the wall, feeling behind a rich tapestry that adorned it until her fingers closed around the doorknob of a secret room. Inside she found a golden loom filled with shining thread and a mirror in which the shadows of the world passed by. Smiling through her tears, Hertha took hold of the shuttle to send the first woof thread shimmering through the warp, and as she did so the long-haired page hurried past, clutching his velvet cap. “How like a prince he is! My father is a tyrant to forbid me such a simple pleasure as weaving. How can it harm me?”

At the same time, little Hildegarde stood before her father patiently measured a web by the silver yardstick he kept near him. “Is it true, dear father, what Huberta says about our looms? After I saw her loom, I pushed back the bolt to an inner room from mine and there I found such a loom as hers, and a fascinating mirror. I want badly begin my mantle, but I crave your permission and your advice, since you are a more experienced weaver than I.”

Hildegarde’s father laid down his yardstick and placed his hands on his small daughter’s shoulders. Smiling tenderly he answered, “I have often looked foreword to this day, my little one, although I did not think you would come so soon with your questions. It’s true. On the right weaving of this web depends the happiness of you as well as your descendents. It’s a dangerous gift the fairy left you, for that mirror will tempt you to weave to fit the shifting shadows. But listen to your father who has never yet deceived you: keep always by your side this silver yardstick for it marks the inches and ells to which the stature of a prince must measure. Not until the web cloth fully equals it can it be safely taken from the loom. You are young and the loom small, but it is a marvelous gift that lengthens with your growth until you can hold it up against the yardstick and find that it measures to the last inch the size demanded by a prince’s noble stature. You will often be dazzled by the mirror’s sights, and youths will come to you begging, ‘Give me the royal mantle, Hildegarde–I am your prince.’ Do not be persuaded to cut it loose and give it him. Weave patientlyuntil you have fashioned a web that will fit your prince faultlessly.”

With a quick impulse, Hildegarde threw her arms around her father’s neck. Then Hildegardmar took up the yardstick in one hand, and his daughter by the other and led her into the inner chamber where her golden loom awaited. He hung the sterling yardstick next to the tempting mirror, laid her hands on the shuttle and left her with his blessing, to weave.

Hertha grew tall and lovely, treading the house with the airy grace of youth, yet fearing her father’s disapproval she fled more and more often to the inner chamber where she worked in secret, hoping for a glimpse of “her” page. She called him a prince in her thoughts and was sure that, clothed in the mantle she wove he would soon appear as royal as she perceived him.

Huberta laughed brazenly about her web and the prince she hoped to capture with it. Her father often teased her while she sat by him at his weaving. “Is that your prince?” But he never went with her into the inner room so he never knew that she cut the strands of one year’s weaving and gave the cloak to the curly-headed shepherd lad. But Huberta saw other figures in her mirror which pleased her fickle fancy and she began another web.

Years passed by, Huberta scattering favors to whoever would call her “darling” and Hertha, faithful to the page. Hildegarde worked carefully under her father’s guidance, weaving intricate patterns of rose and gold. One day a face flashed across her mirror, so noble and earnest that she started back, her heart fluttering in her bosom. “Father! Surely it’s him!”

“My daughter,” old Hildgarmar said gently. “He only measures as an ordinary man. You are still young. Weave on and you shall fashion a royal web. This is not the one for you.”

Obediently Hildegarde went back to her weaving, and watched in silence as the man disappeared from her mirror. Again time swept over the figures of the weaving maidens, and spring came bringing restlessness to Hildegarde’s heart. The face that crossed her mirror this time was bold and brave, decked with plumes and glittering with a silver helmet. She knew how lovely her mantle would look spread across his broad, mail-clad shoulders and hastened to her father to plead his blessing. “Father, a knight in shining armor has come to me and asked me for the mantle. Measured by your yardstick it would fit him faultlessly.”

Hildgardemar followed his daughter into the inner room and stood for a long time looking into the mirror at the shining stranger. Then he held up the yardstick and shook his head. “It fits only because you are not yet ready to wed a prince. See? Your mantle reaches only to the size of a knight. A knight may seem noble, my daughter, but he lacks a handbreadth of full stature and you must weave that handbreadth for the wearing of a prince.”

Tears sprang to Hildegarde’s eyes. “But father, suppose the prince should never come? Suppose I should give up the one destined for me and be left forever to weave in solitude?”

Tenderly, Hildgardmar took his daughter in his arms. “I am an old man, Hildegarde, knowing far more of the world than you, my daughter. Better to weave forever, than to settle for a man who does not measure up. Have patience just a little longer. In another year, think of the mantle you will have made!”

With a bowed head Hildegarde returned to her work. As the tempting images rose before her in the mirror, she turned her eyes to the yardstick and wove on.

…when the maidens had all three grown into tall and beautiful women that a prince came riding into the village and, stopping before the house of Hubert, asked him for the hand of his daughter. With a bow and a flourish, Hubert vanished to seek her in the garden. “Well, Huberta, your prince has finally come. Run and get your royal mantle. It must be splendid after weaving all these years!” When she returned with a small, shimmering cloth over one arm, Hubert was startled by its pigmy size. “Is this a jest?”

Hanging her head, Huberta answered, “I—I have already given a few mantles away.

I have no more of the golden thread the fairy left me.”

Hubert rubbed his chin, his brow knit in thought. “Surely it is no worse than what many another has done. No doubt you were only passing time and meant nothing serious by your favors. Besides, it’s still a mantle. Only an unreasonable prince would expect a beautiful girl to wait forever for him.”

Together Hubert and his daughter bore the small out to where the prince stood waiting. When he saw them approaching, he bounded eagerly forward to receive from the maiden’s hand his cloak, but his face fell as she held it up before him. He gazed deeply into Huberta’s beautiful eyes and sadly shook his head. Turning his back on her, he mounted his horse and rode from that house forever. The dwarf mantle fell from the shocked Huberta’s hands and she covered her face and sank to her knees and wept until her heart broke.

The same day a prince approached the house of Herthold and dismounted. Entering, he found Herthold studiously at work, and requested his daughter’s hand in marriage. Herthold rose abruptly and answered, “Have you come at last? Excellent. My daughter is as rare a jewel as you could desire. Wait one moment.” He walked briskly to the doorway leading to the garden and called for his daughter. When she did not answer, he ascended the stairs toward her room and met her halfway, her face downcast and blushing. “Your prince has come!” Herthold explained, seizing her hand and leading his unwilling daughter into the room from which she’d just come. “We must make haste!” But even as he said this his eye fell on the loom, standing empty by the far wall. “What is the meaning of this?”

Defiantly, Hertha raised her head. “If you mean to teach me to weave, you’re too late. Since you scorned me as foolish I wove in secret, and when my prince came long ago, I gave him the mantle. Look! See him?”

The astonished Herthold turned his eyes from the loom to the window, where he saw the long-haired page standing eagerly, clothed in the mantle which Hertha had woven for him. In a rage, Herthold tore the mantle from the lad’s shoulders and dragged his daughter downstairs. But the prince looked contemptuously on the mantle, the angry father and the resistant daughter. Without a word, he left the house, mounted his horse and left the town at a gallop. Standing brokenly in the doorway, Hertha saw her adored page, now stripped of the princely robe which her fond imagining had woven around him. She saw his unworthy shoulders against those of the retreating prince and with a cry she flung her mantle at her father’s feet, screaming in agony as her heart broke.

Then came a gallant prince to the humble abode of Hildgardemar, and entered the house to seek permission to claim his bride. Hildgardmar looked long and carefully at the young prince, then nodded to his daughter who sat by his side. With a pounding heart she dashed up the stairs to her room and clipped the golden threads that held her now-finished mantle in the loom. For a brief instant she gazed at herself in the mirror, her eyes running over the silver yardstick as she held her web before her. “It measures!” she breathed in a tone of awe. “So perfect!” With the mantle in her hand she returned to offer her gift to the prince. He knelt at once so that she could spread it across his shoulders and, glancing shyly into his face, she observed with wonder that her weaving fit him faultlessly. The prince took her hand in his and led her outside to his waiting horse. As her father assisted her to mount behind her prince he whispered, “Farewell, my daughter. Because you kept in view the silver yardstick which I gave you, even in childhood, because not even one golden thread of the golden thread was squandered on another, because you waited cheerfully and patiently until your womanly fingers had woven the best that lay in your womanly heart, may all happiness be yours! Receive it as your fitting crown!” Then Hildegarde stooped to kiss her father, and with his blessing crowning her lovely brow, she rode away behind the prince. With tears in his eyes, Hildgardemar watched, knowing that her life would be filled with joy and love as it had been written.

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