Things I’ve Learned in the First Year

August 19, 2010 at 10:34 am (Announcements, Attitudes, Mommy-isms) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

That’s right.  Elijah turned a year old at the beginning of this month.  It’s hard to believe.  Nathaniel and I have been so blessed by this little gift from the Lord.  I feel as though I have grown up faster in the past year than in any other year of my life so far!  And we have been delighted to watch Elijah grow up to become an energetic little boy who is about to take off running (once he figures out walking for more than 5 or 10 steps at a time).

I really have learned a TON in this past year.  Some lessons have been delightful and funny.  Others have been very difficult and perspective-changing.  All in all, I am beginning to see how God uses little people to make us adults more like Christ.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Parenting is a lot harder than I thought!
  • Babies need lots of attention.  And lots of love.
  • My mood affects my son.  If I have a bad attitude, his behavior will reflect it.
  • Likewise, if I am inconsistent in training him, his behavior will reflect it.
  • When friends (seasoned mothers) tell you to cherish every moment with a newborn, because the time will fly by, they’re absolutely right.
  • Resting is a major responsibility of a woman who has just had a baby.
  • Maternal illness does seem to affect the bonding experience with baby.  😦  Especially when the mother’s illness prevents her from holding her baby comfortably, or from even changing his diaper.
  • God doesn’t give us babies for us—as though they exist to fulfill us emotionally or to complete our checklist “What I need to do and/or have to be a godly woman”.  God gives us babies to love and train in His ways, and to show us that we need much more training in His ways as well.  He gives us children so that we will be made more like Jesus.  And so that we can train them to love and be like Jesus.
  • Most baby toys are overrated.  A nine month old will be very happy with paper, an empty raisin can, and a joyful mama.
  • Cloth diapering is so much fun!  Really!  It is!
  • Making sure your baby takes regular naps is very important.  When I wasn’t diligent to provide structure and consistent nap times, Elijah wasn’t getting the sleep he needed and it affected him.
  • Nursing a baby for the entire first year really is a hard milestone to reach.  I wanted to give up so many times!  A supportive husband makes a big difference!
  • Once you hit the one-year mark and are still nursing and your pre-toddler becomes less and less interested and you can see that your nursing relationship may not last much longer…you wonder why you ever thought of giving up early.
  • But once your one-year-old gets sick for the first time and you get to nurse him almost twice as much as usual that day, you think that maybe we can make it to two years… (OK, so I learned that this week, not technically within the first year…can we call that a bonus lesson?)
  • Making your own baby food is not that big of a deal.
  • Getting outside each day is so so important.  The sun, the rain, the heat, the cold…all gifts from God in His time.  All to be enjoyed and shared with a baby.  (Going out in severe weather not recommended.)
  • There is much more involved in training and caring for a young infant than getting them to sleep through the night.  Seriously.  Try to avoid having the tunnel vision that I did.
  • If you didn’t have any “motherly instincts” before having a baby, you may not have too many of them once baby arrives.  SPEND TIME WITH BABIES BEFORE YOURS COMES ALONG!!!  I had almost no baby experience at all.  Praise the Lord we’ve survived!
  • To Train Up a Child is a very good book.  One I think I will be reading often over the next 20 years or so.
  • Kisses from a baby are about the sweetest things ever.
  • Infant potty training works.  It goes really well until you have a pre-toddler.  Then it all goes down the drain.  (At least we’re at an impasse right now…)  Puns intended.
  • Laziness and motherhood do not go together.  Don’t even try it.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding as a form of birth control does not work for everyone.  Not even for a month.
  • My husband is an amazing man.  I knew this already, but I get to see it in so many more ways now that he is a papa—and husband to a scatter-brained mama.
  • Natural childbirth is hard but good.  Wouldn’t do it any other way, as the Lord allows.
  • Vaccinating in the first year wasn’t necessary for Elijah.  No vaccines yet.  No sickness yet (until a stomach bug this week…then again, it may have been that I mixed asparagus in with his re-fried beans…).  I’m going to guess that breastfeeding is better than any vaccine.  (We may consider some vaccines in the future.  But we are very happy to have held off for the first year.)
  • When the doctor expresses concern over something, don’t panic.  Especially if the area of concern is something you lived through (very small baby according to weight gain charts, heart murmur, etc).  Ask questions.  Ask lots of questions.  And don’t worry—trust the Lord.  Most tests come back negative.  And many doctors who know you have insurance don’t hesitate to recommend testing any little deviance from “normal” or “average”.  Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t a liability issue.  Just ask lots of questions.
  • It would be nice to have had a good understanding of health insurance and/or cost of procedures and services before having a baby.
  • Elijah is a little boy.  He is all-boy.  He loves things on wheels, throwing things, banging things, rough housing with his Papa, making noises, army crawling, climbing, chasing…but he is still a baby, still needs to be held and nursed and soothed when he’s hurt.  I love the mix of independence and dependence.  So sweet.
  • Elijah was fully capable of understanding and disregarding our basic instruction “No” by 8 months old.  And he has been testing us to see if we really mean it ever since.  😉  Babies are clever.
  • Having someone (a sister-in-law, perhaps) to stay with you and help you around the house during the first week or two after giving birth is absolutely invaluable!  And especially while you are waiting for the drugs to kick in to bring your auto-immune disease under control so that you can actually function.
  • Rice cereal may not be the best first food for baby.  Elijah apparently could have used something with a lot more calories!
  • Boppy pillows are great.
  • You don’t need a crib or a changing table.  A pack-n-play that you got for $40 at a garage sale (thank You, Lord!) will do just fine—and it can be moved easily.
  • Hand-me-downs and second-hand are the way to go for baby clothes.  Of course, when you’re given new clothes, that is perfectly acceptable, too.
  • Elijah was 7 lbs. 9 oz. when he was born.  He is 18 lbs. 9 oz. at one year.  Not all babies triple their birth weight by one year.  And just because they don’t doesn’t mean they are unhealthy.  Guidelines are only suggested norms.  They do not take into account that every baby is different.  My little guy is little, but he is very healthy.  Looking at his parents, we shouldn’t expect him to be big!
  • I am way more disciplined and diligent now that I have a baby.  I wish I had been this productive before he came along!  Imagine what I could have accomplished!
  • I have no idea how working moms manage.  No idea.
  • I’ve had many moments where I feel as though I really love my son for the first time.  It just grows…
  • It’s difficult to accept a debilitating illness as a blessing from the Lord.  Especially when it seems to taint what is supposed to be one of the most incredible moments of your life.  But God is calling me to trust Him.  I know I did not have the right attitude when we found out I had gestational pemphigoid.  And I honestly don’t know that I ever really had the right attitude.  I of course pray that it will not return in future pregnancies (though that is likely to happen), but I can see now that the Lord had a purpose in it, and He may still be seeking to accomplish that purpose with the same tool in the future.  And I will desperately need His grace, His word, His love, His Spirit to endure whatever trials may come and to entrust myself to the faithful Creator in doing what is right–indeed He does all things well!

Any other young moms out there?  What has the Lord been teaching you?

*Any opinions shared on medical issues (vaccines, testing, etc) are not intended to tell you what you ought to do.  They are simply my own musings over my own experience (as is most of this list).  Use your best judgment to care for your own baby.
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Keeping “Godly Homemaking” in Perspective

August 11, 2010 at 6:29 am (A Slice of Life, Attitudes, Homemaking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Lauren

Last night Nathaniel and I (along with Elijah) attended a Bible study where a man named Titus from Nigeria shared about what the Lord is doing in his country and the need for literacy so that people can read God’s word for themselves.  It was a wonderful presentation, and a great wake-up call to consider how we can be supporting the suffering body of Christ around the world–through prayer and giving.

During Titus’s presentation, he took a small portion of time to discuss the problem of finding clean water that is an everyday reality for most rural people in Nigeria (and all over Africa).  A picture popped up on the screen of a woman carrying a very large pot on her head–so that her family would have some to drink and some with which to wash clothes.  This of course had an impact on my heart, realizing how incredibly blessed we are to have clean, running water, and how important it is to consider the needs of others, but it also made me think of how foolish we can be sometimes over here in the West, trying to paint an elusive picture of the perfect homemaker…of the “godly” homemaker.

The women in the picture had to walk miles for the water they needed, carrying a large pot and sometimes a little baby the whole way.  This could take HOURS.  Imagine if three or four hours of your day were spent walking and gathering water.  Would you have time to pursue “godly” hobbies like sewing or knitting or baking cookies?  Would you have the time to attend a ladies brunch and Bible study?  Would you have the time to post to your blog (assuming you do not have a smart phone)?  Would you have time to teach your kids Latin?  Make all of your own clothing?  Prepare every meal from scratch?  Would you have the money to buy only organic produce (because, of course, that is the most “godly” thing to do)?

How can a Christian woman in Africa be “godly” when she cannot do all the things that many conservative Christians in the West say a “godly” homemaker should be doing?

These thoughts only added to a lesson my Father has been teaching me lately.  Being a godly wife and mother isn’t about being the best housewife on the street, it’s about being godly in the role God has given me as a wife and mother.  It’s not about the outward stuff, as though the kingdom of God consisted in eating and drinking…or frugal shopping or an 1800’s-like lifestyle or wearing nice clothes.

The kingdom of God is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

I’m afraid we can get all too consumed with outward tasks and outward adornment (modest, of course), and outward actions, that we forget about the fruit of the Spirit.  That we fail to be godly because God is barely in the equation anymore.

Being godly starts with God.  It starts with His work in humble hearts.  Seeking Him is of far greater value than making your own bread or using cloth diapers or growing your own organic vegetable garden.

The point here is not that any of these things is wrong.  The point is that they do not make you godly.  Nor are you ungodly if your house doesn’t look or function just like Susie Homemaker’s.   Godliness is seeking Yahweh, being empowered by the Spirit and motivated by love to obey God and joyfully serve Him in whatever life-situation or role you find yourself in.  It speaks more to attitudes than to actual tasks.

So let’s revisit our Christian wife and mother in Nigeria.  How can she be godly?  She undoubtedly rises early to prepare food for her household.  She praises God for His provision.  She cares for the needs of her husband and children–her heart is grateful to God for them and compassionate towards them.  She walks however long it takes to find water for her family.  And along the way she is perhaps meditating on what little bit of Scripture she has access to this week.  Or maybe she sings praises.  Or maybe she delights in the sunshine or rain that her Father has given her that day.  She lovingly nurses her infant, and shares what she knows about Jesus with other women along her path.

She may be very godly.  And all you would see is a woman walking a long way to get water.  And then working hard when she returned home.  A woman who, at the end of the day, may have nothing more to show for all of her labor than this:  she, her husband, and her children … are still alive.

(Assuming they were not attacked by Muslims that day because of their faith in Jesus–another reality of the Christian life in Nigeria).

She is godly because she is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and manifests the fruit of His work in her heart.  She may not know as much as you and I about theology.  She may not even be able to read the Bible for herself–only clinging to the slivers of light that came through the teaching she heard at the small gathering of believers that she attended earlier that week.  But every word of God that she finds, she devours.  And she trusts in Him to provide and protect, and to keep His promises.

May we consider that our Western, task-driven, formulaic, and sometimes legalistic view of what it means to be a godly woman might just crumple when held up to the light of God’s word.  We are not to compare ourselves with each other or with a cultural ideal.  We are to seek the Living God.  May we be Spirit-filled believers who put the skills and gifts God has given us to good use in the roles that He has placed us in.

More to come on this subject…

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Commitment…then Intimacy

July 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm (Attitudes, Food for Thought, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

Commitment produces intimate relationships, in that God-given order.  The order God established is not an intimate relationship then commitment.  God shows Himself to you in different ways and allows you to choose Him.  Before there is a solid commitment you do not enter the Holy of holies, into the most sacred dwelling place with our Savior, into communion with His Spirit.  You are not intimate with Him until that most significant step is taken: commitment.

Heather Arnel Paulsen, Emotional Purity: An Affair of the Heart, 2001

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

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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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A Chaste Bride

March 12, 2010 at 1:21 am (Family, Friends & Ministry, Homemaking, interviews, Marriage, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Amy’s Story

Abigail says: When I was nine or ten, my family began attending a small, Bible church half an hour away from us.  It was the fellowship and the precious people who drew us there.  My father had always encouraged me to learn wisdom from watching those around me, and he quickly pointed out to me three young ladies at the church whom he recommended as virtuous girls, worthy of imitation.  One of them was a young woman named Amy.  She seemed old to me at the time (about my current age ;)), but as I watched her cheerfully serve, teach, reach out to the younger children, I began to understand how powerful a woman’s single years could be, when devoted to the Lord.  I remember  Steve visiting our church with Amy’s family and watching their story unfold was like peeking over the top of the candy counter to see something exciting.  I think I might have been twelve when I sat in a cushioned pew at their wedding and watched Amy’s father give her away with a promise that has echoed in my mind ever since:  he promised Steve that she was a chaste bride.  When Lauren and I decided we wanted to share the testimonies of women who are seeking to live out the command to be sensible, pure workers at home, those words haunted me until I sent Amy a message.  Below is her story!

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

Amy W: I LOVE this question! I will share a typical scenario of how this conversation goes:

ME: (Enthusiastically) “Oh, I LOVE my job! I work with INVESTMENTS!” (Then I look them in the eyes, and SMILE !

THEM: “REALLY? Wow!” (They usually look very satisfied or impressed with my answer.)

ME: “YES! My top investment is my husband, and next to him, are our four beautiful girls!” And the compensation is really good too – actually incomparable! I know it will pay huge dividends in the end! It is a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun, too, and very rewarding!

THEM: (With a positive look of new revelation) Oh! Wow! That is GREAT! You know, that is REALLY TRUE!!

ME: I wouldn’t trade it for anything else! You know, I’ve never yet heard a woman regretfully say, “Yes, I’m afraid I spent too much time with my husband and children! I wish I‘d done more for myself!” But I’ve heard plenty of them regret that they missed so much because of other priorities.” (Then again, I look them in the eye and give them my warmest smile so they (Lord willing) know that I don‘t share the enthusiasm for my “job“ with any criticism toward their choices!)

THEM: Wow! That is really great that you ARE ABLE to do that!

ME: It does require sacrifices to live on one income, but the reward is definitely worth it!

P & D:  Have you always desired to be a homemaker? What inspired your desire to marry and keep a home? How did you prepare for marriage before it was an option?

Amy: Undoubtedly the little seeds of love for making a home were planted in my heart from my most tender years and onward by watching and adoring my own mother and father; desiring to be like my mama, and dreaming of marrying a man just like my daddy! Our home was very close and loving. In my mind, who would not want to make the same when they grew up? We were also encouraged to play with baby dolls, make mud pies, and develop our maternal qualities! My father wisely began training my mind and heart regarding young men while I was still very young, so as to help me not give my heart or emotions away before the appropriate time. I still remember sitting at the table as a family (the place where so many good memories and training took place) and my father looking at my sister and me and asking, “Girls, what will you do some day when a young man asks you to go out on a date with him? What will you say?” There were giggles and a few smirks from older brothers, but my dad instructed us that we should refer the young man to him. As we got older, this was not a command, but rather, through training and prayer there was instilled in my heart the desire to do what was right. So one way I prepared for marriage was by keeping my heart with all diligence; by not practicing divorcing relationship after relationship through dating.

Additionally, we memorized much Scripture during our schooling years, and this instructed my heart greatly! Just a small example: I remember reading Prov. 31 when I was about 14 and taking it very seriously. “…She will do him (her husband) good and not evil ALL the days of her life”. WOW! I thought ALL the days of her life? Does that mean today? I am not even married! I likely haven’t even met my husband-to-be. Yet I realized, as I pondered this question, that what I did today was not only a reflection on my father and my Heavenly Father, but also on the possible man who would ask me to take his hand in life. And how I invested my time now would also have eternal consequences. Another example I recall as a young teen was when I was memorizing Ex. 20:5. I remember thinking, “Oh, WOE is me! Any sin I choose to engage in (whether outwardly or in my heart) will have consequences on my own posterity!” So when tempted to do questionable activities, scripture instructed me, influenced me, and gratefully kept me from much sin!

Lastly, I was better prepared for marriage before it was an option by learning many skills that would be useful as a wife and homemaker. I was taught a sense of duty to our family. My sister and I both learned early to work hard, and enjoy working and serving others. We learned to garden, can and freeze produce, milk our cow and goats, care for animals, cut up meat for the freezer, manicure the yard, work along side our father to carry in firewood or help build a project, or work along side our mother to clean, organize, and decorate our home, sew and mend clothing, bake and cook nutritious meals, show hospitality, cut and trim hair, run errands, care for younger siblings and others’ children as well. We were also taught a sense of duty to our country. We learned to serve our community and country in love and care for the less fortunate, serve in-depth in political campaigns, teach children in various public schools, serve as interns at the state house and understand the world in the whole vs. our own tiny world of friends that surround us. And most notably, we were taught a sense of duty to God, the One who gave us life and breath itself! To serve and obey Him, and give Him our desires and our cares, to be a wise steward of money and other resources He has given us, and to live according to His design. Through building these skills, the Lord also built much-needed character into me to the same end.

Now as a married woman of 10 yrs on Feb. 5, 2010, I am so glad I did not wander aimlessly about on a bed of ease, or fill my time, heart, and mind with romance novels, frilly dreams, or frivolous short-term relationships. I have needed and used every single one of these skills I formerly learned, to serve my husband and family. I am so very, very grateful to the Lord for His Word and Spirit guiding me, and for my parents who trained , encouraged, and prayed for me in the way that I should go, as well as for others who influenced me toward more godliness!

P & D:  Did you have examples of godly women that you looked up to? How influential were your parents in your life and life choices? Were you close with your father? Were you close with your mother?

Amy: Yes, I had examples of godly women that I looked up to, but truly none even came close to comparing to what I saw in my own mother! I KNEW her! I lived with her! I saw and felt (to a greater or lesser degree) many of the struggles and challenges she faced through the years – which were nothing to scorn! I’ve heard many women come to my mother and pour out their aching hearts to her, and she always gave wisdom from the struggles and successes of her own life and walk with the Lord (which usually left them speechless and without excuse). Today she still supports and serves my father and youngest sister with sacrificial faithfulness! She is a prayer warrior! She taught me feminine virtues and the skills of womanhood! She has been a great comfort and inspiration to me over and over! Although she is not perfect, I cannot say enough! With the Lord’s help, I can only hope, pray, and strive to be half the woman she is! I was very close to my mother! I was also very close to my father! I felt I could share anything with them anytime! And I did! If ever I felt like I needed help or counsel for anything, they were there! Sometimes I had to wait my turn when another sibling was in line ahead of me, but they would always stay up as late as needed to talk and share with me! As I approached my later teen years and beyond, I would share with them everything about my relationships with others – particularly sharing with my dad my relating to young men. Any gentleman that became even a little extra friendly, I would share with my dad what I sensed from him. And I would also share with dad where I was with any young man.

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

Amy: I already shared briefly how I spent my single years: learning to rejoice in serving my family, gaining skills needed for the future, memorizing and studying scripture, watching and training children, volunteering time at church, kid’s camp, and neighborhood Bible clubs, tutoring or counseling juvenile delinquents in the inner city, working in my brother’s race for public office, serving as an intern for him at the Statehouse, teaching in the public schools, visiting godly widows, gaining artistic and secretarial skills and more.

My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time helping the younger families in our church and community! I had no idea how tremendously big a blessing and encouragement a single, godly, young woman could be to a very tired young mother who is convicted to only have excellent role models for her children until I found myself in these shoes! There are so many silly young girls who waste a lot of time on vanity, movies, dating, novels, etc… who influence young children in such a way that after she leaves, it takes more work (several days of consistent training) for the already tired mother to bring her children back to where they were before the single woman came, actually turning any help she gave into far more work instead! There are so few singles who offer to help, and much fewer excellent, godly role models that a young mother CAN accept genuine help from! By far the most help I have ever received was from those who influenced my children toward godliness through their own life example!

P & D:  Was purity a large part of your upbringing? What kind of standards did you have for relationships as you were growing up? Did they change or become more personal convictions as your matured?

Amy: Maintaining purity in thought and action was taught very early in our home, but it very soon became a personal conviction (again through the guidance and instruction of the living Word). It was my personal conviction to be with male friends in a group or public setting only, rather than alone. And I may have seemed a bit stiff to male friends if they were the continuously-huggy type with girls, but it was not what I felt I could express or portray. My father also helped me understand how very differently young men think! (I Thes. 4:4-7) An occasional little hug at a graduation or some other “occasion” was okay, but beyond that – no thanks! And a beautiful outpouring from these convictions was the pure joy of true fellowship with many young ladies and gentlemen without a trace of jealousy or envy intermingled in these relationships! Because of this freedom from jealousy, envy, and the like, we (friends and I) were able to focus on studying the Bible together, prayer, and many ministry projects we did together for fellowship! This also resulted in more joy from being a blessing to others! These single years were truly so rich and full of growth and joy, despite the inner struggles of desiring a husband and home!

P & D:  How did you and Steve meet and marry? What drew you to Steve? How did you approach purity in your pre-marriage relationship?

Amy: Whenever a gentlemen would request to go out, or spend time getting to know me in a singled out fashion or purpose, I always referred them to my dad. Often that was enough to send mediocre guys out the door for good, and I was very grateful for a father who cared enough for me to spend the time necessary to respond to the guys who had enough backbone to actually go to him. This definitely kept a heavy load off my shoulders as there was never a better filter for any girl than for her father to screen the young man and keep all but “Mr. Right” at bay. But one day something unusual happened. I was house-sitting with my older brother for a few months at the home of a godly, elderly couple who visited many churches during their travels. Eventually they returned to their home with a list of all the “wonderful young men” from which I was expected to pick.. They were confident that one young man in particular was THE man for me, and so Ramona commenced repeatedly to request my permission to give him my address. As you all know, for singles there is never-ending help to find Mr. Right. I was usually able to dampen folks’ enthusiasm, but all my experience was to no avail with Ramona! Finally out of desperation, I told her she could call my dad and ask him. Without a moment’s hesitation she turned and called his number! After talking with my dad, he thoughtfully gave his consent to give the young man my contact information. I was floored! My jaw HIT the floor! And Ramona laughed triumphantly at my shock and prepared to send my address. I couldn’t believe this new response from my dad. Previously he had always graciously said no! Later I inquired of him his reasoning. He said, “Well, honey, you never know how the Lord might work.” That was it!

Thankfully, nothing much ever came of Ramona’s gentlemen for me. But a short time later I was helping at a Bible Memory camp when an unusually godly older couple whom I greatly respected and admired, and whom I’d known since childhood came and talked to me and (much like Ramona) asked permission to give my phone number to a “godly young man” that they had gotten to know through their home church. I began to thank them but defer their offer when I remembered what dad had said. “Well, Honey, you never know how the Lord might work”. This was a very similar situation, so instead, I told them I would go home and ask my dad, and if it was NOT okay, he would give them a call. Otherwise, they could give it. They mentioned he was shy, so he might not call anyway. Regardless, I talked to my dad first thing upon arriving home. I don’t think he thought much of it either. But a few weeks later I got a call from “Steve… who???” He said the Clarks had given him our phone number and he wondered if he might come down (a 3 ½ hr. drive) and meet our family. Thus began a casual friendship with Steve. That first day he visited, we all (he and our family) went to a picnic fellowship outing with our Bible study group at a nearby lake. There we were able to get to know each other better and share how we came to know Christ, how the Lord had grown us in Him, and how He was presently working on us. By the time Steve returned home I felt I had another brother in Christ with whom to fellowship; a new edifying friend in the Lord.

(There are a lot of details that time and room won’t allow me to share here, so I am leaving out a lot of unusual details and just sharing the more pertinent parts.)

After Steve’s initial visit (which I learned by the way, he does not have a shy bone in him) he occasionally visited our family and attended our Bible study or church fellowship with us, and he kept me updated through email about the Christian group he led on campus at the secular college he attended. About a year later I realized that I was beginning to grow in my respect for Steve, and later began to struggle with my own emotions toward him. This was not a result of any infatuation or emotional dwelling on him. Looking back I see even more clearly, that it was the Lord who placed him on my heart. Truly, HE drew me to Steve as I saw in Steve a sincere heart to do the Lord’s will unconditionally, and live 100% for Him! At this time I began to feel inwardly vexed because I knew a few other young men whose hearts were also very fervent toward God, but I was not drawn to them with quite this same respect. I fervently wanted to be certain that I was not deceiving myself, becoming infatuated, or playing foolish emotional games. But I also knew I was genuinely doing all I could (focusing on the Lord, His word, quoting scripture during times I struggled to get Steve out of my mind, praying and crying outloud to the Lord, sharing my heart of hearts with Him, asking Him for help and strength, and truly desiring to be obedient even if it meant I never married.) Still yet I knew I was very human and realized that it was quite possible to fool myself. To be sure, I went to my parents and asked them if they thought I was infatuated or was deceiving myself. They encouraged me as they shared that they did not believe so. I also asked them if I should cease any emails or contact with him. (This would not have been easy at this point, but I was determined to guard and save every bit of my heart for my future husband alone.) There was a long silence as my dad thought through the question and slowly (to my surprise) said he didn’t think I should cease the contact, but that I should continue emailing and do my best to guard my heart. And so together we began praying that the Lord would either remove Steve from my mind and heart, or show us whether or not he was the man I would someday join in life’s journey as my husband. So Steve and I occasionally wrote and he continued his visits of fellowship with our family and church and was a very encouraging brother in Christ, but made no sign of any additional interest. And I was increasingly careful NOT to give him any indication of my inward struggle or growing respect for him because I wanted to know for sure that it was not ME, and that it was the LORD that would bring the right man as my future husband at the right time!

Then guess what? Yep, that is right! As the Lord would have it, after Steve finished college he bought a one-way ticket to ALASKA and began flying as a bush pilot/mechanic!! So I was sure I had my answer from the Lord! No more emailing, out of sight, out of mind, right? Uhmmm! Well, okay, maybe not quite! The no more emailing and out of sight part was accurate. But the rest….! No way! In fact this was definitely the most difficult time of all! I yearned to have a husband and home, and now I knew THIS godly young man, whose respect for him seemingly would not leave my heart no matter how I tried to keep it from being there, and yet there was SILENCE from him! It just did not add up in my mind. Was I somehow making it more difficult than it really was? More than anything else, I wanted to keep my heart, focus, and energy on living for the LORD! I did not want any distractions! If I was to be Steve’s bride, I wanted the Lord to show me so I could move in that direction knowingly. If not, I did not want to lose the struggle in guarding my heart. But there were many nights I went to sleep on a wet pillow after crying my heart out to the Lord!

P & D:  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?

Amy: Difficult??? Yes, ALL of difficult! Sometimes the struggle was incredibly intense! Sometimes it was so difficult I didn’t even want to have the desire for a husband and home at all because it was heart-wrenching to desire a godly thing but not be the one to actively bring it about. All I could do was to pray, be content with where God had me, and work hard to guard my thoughts and heart! (It has always been my personal conviction and belief that God created the man to be the head of the home, [Eph. 5:23] therefore he bears the greater responsibility before God for the home, and likewise, he should be the one to initiate any relationship with the intent to marry, rather than the woman initiating.) I couldn’t count the times I told the Lord I really DID want HIS plan and timing, but it was very difficult to wait on Him and His timing! I recall asking the Lord if it was his will for me to remain single, would He PLEASE take the desire for a husband and home AWAY! But the desire only grew, which caused me to lean on the Lord all the more, and in time made my walk with Him even deeper and more precious!

Eventually I came to the place (while Steve was in Alaska) where I desired a godly husband and home more than ever, yet I could truly say from my heart of hearts, that I was content and totally joyful in Jesus Christ alone! If I never married, I was Christ’s! I know this was none of my own doing, but was completely a work of the Lord, alone!

Interestingly, it was only AFTER coming to grips with giving Him my desires, CHOOSING to be content and trusting GOD and His timing that the Lord opened the relationship with Steve beyond casual friendship. Waiting on the Lord, and trusting in Him became a choice I learned to praise the Lord for…praising Him for all the things He was teaching me in this struggle that I would not have learned any other way. Just for the record, I sure did not FEEL like being content and joyful at times. Initially it was an act of TRUST and OBEDIENCE, but eventually the emotions followed! And, ahh, so sweet was the rest in yielding my spirit!

One August morning, after Steve had been gone a little over 1 year, I received a call from him. He was back for a time with an Alaskan missionary’s airplane! He had brought it back from Alaska to completely refurbish it with new avionics, an engine overhaul, and other repairs, and complete it with a new paint job.

Now Steve resumed his occasional visits. However they became more and more frequent! He invited my dad to go on a three day road trip with him to get the airplane engine overhauled in another state. Steve had worked with my dad on several of Steve’s family visits, but this one-on-one time was especially growing for dad and Steve’s relationship. They were able to talk a lot! Dad wisely took the opportunity to impart practical wisdom with which any father would want to bless a young man!

In early October, unknown to me, Steve made an appointment with my dad for a private dinner at a nearby restaurant. There Steve asked for permission to ask me more pertinent questions relating to marriage and life. My dad granted him permission. During the next few weeks we spent a lot of time talking. (Again, time will not allow as much detail here as I wish.) Then Oct. 25th, Steve flew to my parent’s home (without my knowledge) and asked my dad for permission to marry me. Again, dad granted him his permission and blessing.

It was now October 28th, and I was about to complete my work day at the local home-care office when Steve appeared at the front desk with a beautiful bouquet of 12 red roses! I was shocked! His visit was very much a surprise, as well as red roses! He asked if I was ready to go! He said he had called my employer (in another city) and had gotten permission for me to leave work early! Once outside, Steve offered to take me flying. We went home, changed clothes, put the roses in a vase of water, and set out for the airport. An hour later we were flying near a well known lake in Missouri where we landed and walked quite a distance before arriving on the lake shore. It was a beautiful evening as the sun was just lowering behind the horizon. The pink and yellow from the sun was reflected in the water, and the waves swept gently against the rocky shore. Steve and I looked out over the water and I was taking in the awe of God’s creation when Steve turned and faced me. He took my hand and knelt down. I thought since he took my hand we must be going to pray, so I too knelt down beside him. Steve gave me a puzzled look as I knelt down beside him. Then his eyes looked deep into my own as he paused, smiled, and said, “Amy Joy, you are the love of my life! I believe the Lord can use us to serve Him better together than apart for the rest of our lives! Will you marry me?!!! It was only then I realized I was not necessarily supposed to be keeling down beside him. But no matter! I returned his smile, paused momentarily to choose my words carefully to reflect my true heart, and said, “Steve, I would be honored to be your wife! Yes, I will marry you!!!” His look of an eager question in full anticipation was replaced with extreme joy and relief! At first we were too joyful to speak. Just sat smiling and living in the moment! Then Steve stood up and worked his masculine fingers deep into his jeans pocket and brought out a soft, small wrapping. He knelt back down beside me on the shore and carefully unwrapped it to reveal a beautiful engagement ring with a single, brilliant diamond on the top! I loved it! (Of course!) How had he known? I was secretly hoping we would not go ring shopping together, but that STEVE would pick out a ring HE liked for me. If he liked it, I would love it! He slipped it onto my finger and exclaimed how much more beautiful the ring looked on my hand! The sun was quickly retiring, casting long shadows over the road as we walked quickly now, to return to the plane before darkness fell completely. On the way, Steve explained the significance of the ring he had chosen. There were four strong prongs surrounding a very pure diamond. Whenever I looked at my ring, he asked me to think of two of the prongs as representing Steve’s arms, the other two prongs, the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. He asked me to think of myself as the diamond with him and the Lord surrounding me, holding me secure!

Soon after our engagement, I remember thinking, “What if Steve really wants to show more physical affection as the wedding draws closer. How far is okay?” Immediately I prayed and asked the Lord. And just as immediately, the answer came to my mind. If Steve wanted to link fingers, or at most, hold my hand, that would be okay, but I would most prefer nothing at all until our wedding day. Not because the desire was not there to be more affectionate, because it was, but rather because our relationship had developed, first becoming one in spirit, and secondly, becoming one in soul (mind, will, and emotions). I did not want the focus to be on the physical aspect (which would be a natural outcome of becoming one in spirit and soul) until after our wedding.

Only a few short days later when visiting his parents’ home, Steve asked if we could talk about physical expression (or the lack thereof) before our wedding. He said the most physical he was willing to be was to link fingers or hold my hand if I wished, but that his first preference would be to save all physical affection until our wedding day so that our focus and priorities would remain on the Lord! My heart rejoiced as I heard him speak the words! The Lord had laid on both of our hearts the EXACT same desire; HIS desire for us! And although there were all the normal desires to express our love for each other through hugs and holding, we were grateful to have the support of each other and conviction and confirmation from the Lord that carried us in purity to our wedding day! The only exception to this was on the occasion that we prayed together. Steve always took my hand in his in prayer.

Since Steve wanted me to return to Alaska with him, and the missionary organization was needing their plane back as soon as possible, our wedding date was planned for Feb. 5th, barely 3 months away! I was now 24. After keeping my thoughts and body under submission for so long, and with everything now happening so quickly, the fact that I was now engaged to be married very soon did not even seem real. It was a very joyous and busy time, wrapping up my life there with so many, preparing for our wedding, and preparing to accompany my new husband to Alaska!

P & D:  At your wedding, your father promised Steve that you were a chaste bride. How could he say this with confidence?

Amy: My dad KNEW me, and we had an extremely close and excellent relationship! He knew my convictions and saw me live with the Word as my guide. He didn’t just know WHAT I did, but I also frequently shared my thoughts and motives with him and went to him for counsel and advice. From my youngest memories I can recall, there was a growing relationship with growing trust that was not unfounded. I trusted my dad, that he truly had my very best interest and welfare at heart. I strove to be as transparent as possible, realizing he would be best equipped to protect and provide for me in this way. And he trusted me as well! As I look back, I am still amazed how much he really did trust me, yet I knew it, and always wanted his trust to be backed with a genuine reality that I was worthy of such trust, not giving any false front, or sneaking anything behind his back. Again Scriptures such as Prov. Instructed and influenced my life. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” So, this is MY answer. But I thought rather than assume why he could say this, I would just call my dad and ask him why he could promise Steve, with confidence, that I was a chaste bride. Following are his words he shared with me:

“Why could I , with confidence, promise Steve that you were a chaste bride? Well, whatever I said to you, Amy, you listened to; what I had to say was important to you, whether it was regarding your car, or work, or your friends, or relationships. It did not matter. In all areas I could tell that you were paying attention to what I said. I knew you paid attention in many little ways. I knew there were no unusual responses that would have occurred if your relationships had not been completely pure. There was no rebellion. I never did sense rebellion in you, which was a tremendous sense of blessing to me. You were not afraid to ask some hard questions. You did at times. It was not like our relationship was superficial. Rather, it was very heartfelt! We were (and still are) VERY close! This made a tremendous difference! Even as you are asking me this question before writing Abigail back, you are not assuming my thoughts. You are willing to take my perspective on it! I appreciate that! I also knew the people that you associated with. And (with good reason) I trusted the people you roomed with. I knew the music you listened to, the services you went to and listened to… everything all figured in pretty well, so that I was confident that you were the person that I thought you were. Our relationship, and my trust was nothing that we cooked up over the last few days or years, but was longstanding since you were a very little girl! It was not a short-term thing. I had had some opportunities to counsel and instruct, pray and teach and work with other young ladies and young men in various situations in the past, and so I felt that it was not my own “think so”, but there was enough experience with others, that I was confident with what I was doing with my own family. This was not a brash, foolish, prideful confidence, but a confidence born out of ministry and experience from working with people for some years previous to your marriage. I believe the confidence that I had was born in our relationship and the understanding that I had of you, your situation, and your life.”

P & D:  You’ve moved around a bit–sometimes rather far from “home.” Has it been difficult and how have you worked to make a “home” for your husband?

Amy: LOL! Yes, as I write, I am 3700 miles from our folks and family! And if we excluded our last 2 moves, we have averaged moving about every 6 months. It was a lot easier the first couple of times with few to no children! I am glad I can laugh about it now because there was a time in our marriage that I would not have. I think this is so, because I was so deathly sick with pregnancies and Steve was gone working as a pilot so much of the time, (often days or weeks and occasionally months at a time!) It was extremely difficult for me! When single, I was VERY active in our church and community. It was not unusual for me to put 100+ miles on my car in one day. I love people, and I knew and interacted with many people! So to get married, and 10 days later move away from EVERY one and everything familiar to me, and arrive in the bush of Alaska, with the only way in and out by airplane or dog sled, with ice and blowing snow or dark clouds of mosquitos outside (depending on the season), this was hardly peaches and cream to a now pregnant and sick, outdoor-loving, tom-boy, country girl who had to stay inside, alone, day after day!

The Lord blessed me with severe sickness in pregnancy and unhealthy outdoor weather as it forced me to come to a complete STOP from the pace I was so used to. This was vital to my ability to be a successful wife and mother as I needed to learn to stop focusing on ministering to others all around me as I had done before, and to refocus on the Lord and my husband alone! This refocus also enabled me to keep my priorities right, and kept me from engaging in outside activities. This was very healthy and bonding in our marriage relationship. All my energy and creativity went into knowing, loving, serving, pleasing, and praying for Steve, keeping our home as a tidy and orderly haven for him and a center of hospitality and ministry, and reading and preparing for our coming baby!

Additionally, some of the greatest things I did to make a home for Steve were actually simple things that I learned in our home growing up; things that were strengthened in my single adult years as well, and applied on a more intense level within our own home and marriage. These were, to take great delight in my husband, focus on Steve’s strengths and overlook any weaknesses, strengthen my communication skills with him, find joy, contentment, and a grateful spirit in every thing (both the good and joyful times, and the very challenging and difficult times) and learn to take my cares to the Lord and TRUST HIM, rather than being a nag or striving to change things outside my jurisdiction.

P & D:  As a married woman, are there struggles to be content?

Amy: There is always the fleshly pull from the world we live in to lower myself to its illusion of what a woman should be. We get pressure from the news, through magazines, the beauty salon, schools, institutions of work, at the grocery store, on billboards, and from the next door neighbor. But in our many moves, I often found one of the most intense influences toward DIScontentment was surprisingly the church! It is easy to let my guard down at church when I am talking with a brother or sister in Christ, and suddenly feel great pressure from them to conform to the world‘s mold. I find that I NEED the influence and power of the Word and Spirit daily! It is Jesus Christ who renews my mind and spirit, cleanses my heart, keeps me pure, guides my way, restores my soul, and keeps my affections set on things above! It is His Word hidden in my heart that keeps me from sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). When I am not in His Word, then it is very easy to be discontent and even complain when there are so many blessings to focus on and for which to be grateful! When I am in the Word and living in the Spirit, I find I am truly grateful for everything – even the most painful, heart-wrenching or near death times, though they are very difficult.

P & D:  Is the purity struggle still alive?

Amy: Gratefully, the purity struggle for me was over at our wedding altar! Although not completely perfect, my wonderful, godly, masculine, self-sacrificing, loving, handsome, best friend, husband, and hero, Steve, truly has my heart! Absolutely, ALL of it! He was and is my only lover and I am so very grateful I never dated anyone else or gave them a single kiss or even a fraction of my heart! Steve is mine, and I am his!!! (SONG 2:16)

P & D:  You have how many little girls? Paul commands older women to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home. How has this affected your raising of your daughters?

Amy: Steve and I have been richly blessed with four beautiful daughters! (I had 1 miscarriage and do not know if this baby was another daughter or a son.) I have always loved kids and enjoyed and interacted with them a great deal when single, but I never realized just how deeply the joy could flow in having four daughters of our own! I am learning over and over again that children are often the very best at keeping us accountable to do what we say because all training of children is far more caught than taught! They see and know who we are by watching us more than by what we verbally articulate to them. They are true immulators. They also often show others who we really are behind closed doors by what they say and do when the doors are open! So Paul’s command to train the younger to be sensible, pure workers at home has influenced me to be all the more transparent, and live my life within my home for the Lord and for my husband with joy, and openly share my life with my daughters as I live it. I intentionally teach them the skills my mother taught me, and as we home educate our daughters and so spend each school day close together, I strive to view the “interruptions” of each day as teachable moments that God divinely appointed, and try to utilize them rather than hurry over them. I also strive to portray before them the joy I have in serving my Lord, my husband and my family, and express to them the love and delight I have for their father, and exemplify honor to him! Further, we are teaching them the Word of God so that they will recognize error from sound doctrine, so it will reprove them, correct them, and instruct them in righteousness. (II Tim. 3:16) They are also learning to hide God’s Word in their hearts so that they will be sensible and not silly women led away by man‘s “wisdom“, and so the Word will purify their hearts and minds and keep them from sin.

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

Amy: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I believe a sensible, pure worker at home is one who fears God rather than man, whose focus is on the Word of God rather than the ways of others. A woman who truly fears God launches into her work as a wife and mother with a passion, and uses her home as a base to minister the life of God to others. From there she can assist, encourage, and pray for her husband in a way that no one else could; she can train and disciple her children; she can use her talents to encourage, bless, and refresh other believers, help the needy and model the life of Christ. Her home/family is a reflection of her diligent work and faithful stewardship, seen both in her husband and children, as well as the home itself (as orderly and efficient as possible).

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

Amy:  * When God gives you a standard or conviction based on His Word, do not allow others to influence you to lower it in any way!!! MANY times I was told by many people that my “standard” was too high, especially at it related to a marriage partner. As my heart was tender to receive wisdom from older godly people, this was very difficult because I heard this from them as well! But I am SO, VERY grateful that I did not lower anything! And God (in numerous ways, over and over, too many to write here) confirmed that Steve was the right man at the right time, and I, as a married woman now, am truly eternally grateful to the Lord for HIS wisdom and guidance!

* I want to encourage all young ladies that feel like they don’t have the “perfect” father or situation, to seek counsel and help from a godly father figure – someone who can “screen” potential young men for you. A godly “father” will be able to see things that women cannot see in young men. They will be able to protect and help guide you and save you from substantial grief as a married woman!

* Write down your convictions as God reveals them to you. If they are written down, you can read over them and strengthen them in your own mind and heart so that when a young, handsome man tries to woo you, you will not deceive yourself or become emotionally charged and unable to see clearly, but can go back and look at your list, and think sensibly about him.

* Memorize God’s Word! It will reprove, correct, and instruct, you as needed! Surrender YOUR will, dreams, desires, and hopes to the Lord! Determine to obey the Lord no matter the cost! (It is really an invaluable investment!) I love what John Quincy Adams said. “Duty is ours. Results are God’s” You will never have regrets with God at the controls!

Steve and Amy just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary!  They are back in Alaska and about to move again…

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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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Love Means a Cross

March 2, 2010 at 1:51 am (Attitudes, Love, W.O.W.) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

When you are not yet married, or when your marriage is over and you look back on those years with longing, it is without doubt quite possible to idealize it.  But there is one thing which enters into all of life, one thing which will keep us from idealizing life’s best and will make bearable life’s worst, and that is the Cross.  The Cross must enter into marriage.  “Who loveth suffereth too.”

The Cross enters the moment you recognize a relationship as a gift.  The One who gives it may withdraw it at any time, and knowing this, you give thanks in the receiving.  Desiring above all else to do the will of God, you offer back to Him this greatest of all earthly gifts as an oblation, lifted up in worship and praise, with faith that in the offering it will be transformed for the good of others.

This is what sacrifice means.  This is why the Cross of Christ “towers o’er the wrecks of time.”  Love is sacrificial.  Sacrifice is giving, and offering up, and the meaning of sacrifice in the Bible is the giving of life to another.

~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman, 1976

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

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Lust is the Problem

February 19, 2010 at 1:46 am (Purity, The Book Shelf) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) by Joshua Harris
Original Title: Not Even a Hint
Multnomah Publishers, Inc. 2003

Book Type: Christian Living, Purity

Rating: 10 out of 10

Recommended? Absolutely, with parental guidance

Overview: Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, tackles the tough subject of lust in this concise and practical book. Mr. Harris helps his readers to understand the way God has made them as men and women, and how they can fight temptation and seek to live pure lives according to God’s standard. Full of insight and advice, this book is a must read for anyone who struggles with lust, offering encouragement and pointing to God’s word to find strength for the battle.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The only thing really ugly about this book is the subject matter: lust. That may be an uncomfortable subject for some, but it is handled in a very godly manner.

Praises: This book really does help. If taken to heart, it can provide a biblical perspective on lust (and sin in general), as well as give guidance to those willing to put that sin to death. Mr. Harris challenges us to examine our hearts and submit our thoughts in obedience to Christ, with the goal of there being “not even a hint” of sexual immorality in our lives.

Concerns: I liked the original title better. It was a bit more delicate and brought Ephesians 5:3 to mind. That said, this book is excellent no matter what you call it.

Tips for getting the most out of this book: Be prepared for serious heart-searching and confession. Sin is not to be dealt with lightly and this book will challenge you to fight it full-force. Have index cards ready to write out Scriptures to memorize, and journal about your struggles and victories if that helps. Above all, yield to the Holy Spirit’s prompting as He calls you to “put off” your former lusts and “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ.


Buy the book on Amazon.com

Visit Josh Harris’ Blog

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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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Beginning in Jerusalem

November 11, 2009 at 1:32 am (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

beginning in Jerusalem

Posted by Abigail

Shortly after writing “Gulping Raw Eggs,” April and I stopped to get gas at the Wal-mart station. Who do you suppose was manning the late night counter but the Wal-mart greeter who had stopped me and asked me so many questions about the Lord so long ago? And she had something to tell me. “My Christian birthday is October 23rd!” And she bounced up and down. As we talked, I could tell that, Christian or not, she still needed a lot of truth! For an hour she pelted us with hard questions and we left feeling overwhelmed. At least we know, now, where to find her and we know her mind is still on eternity. Making disciples doesn’t stop with handing out tracts or a quick testimony, or even a great conversation!

Just like modern Christianity encourages lifestyle evangelism, it also encourages relationship evangelism. Relationship evangelism defined as becoming friends with unbelievers and spending time with them “hanging out” and hopefully an opportunity will arise for you to invite them to church. Do we ever consider how our unsaved friends may feel the day they discover they are our “projects?” All this time they thought we were just good ol’ pals and now this new element? And what if they just aren’t interested in spiritual things? Then what happens to the relationship?

The truth is, both thoughts are rooted in powerful truth, but the truth is often lost in the fear of offense. Lifestyle evangelism is important if it means that our lives reflect the gospel and give us opportunity to share it. Live in obedience and be ready to give an explanation for it! Relationship evangelism is important if we recognize that we ought to seek opportunities to develop eternal relationships. Share the gospel with those closest to us and be ready to develop a relationship if there is a response.

When Jesus gathered His followers together before His ascension to the Father, He told them, “All authority has been given to Me. Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I’ve commanded you, and I am with you!” He reminded them that the authority came from Him. That as they went out from Him, they were to make disciples—not just share the gospel, but teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. To accomplish this, we must add both lifestyle and relationship into the equation.

It’s a bit daunting to consider, but Christ Himself laid down a battle plan for us. He told His group of faithful followers, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” If you draw a map of this battle plan, you’ll discover something of a target, with Jerusalem in the center. Fanning out from that is the next area of target: Judea. Then Samaria. Then the remotest parts of the earth. Jesus had gathered His followers together in Jerusalem and told them this simple strategy: “Begin where you are.”

When Lauren and Nathaniel first moved to Tulsa, the neighborhood in which they landed wasn’t their ideal location. But as Lauren settled in and began to meet her neighbors, she discovered something: it was her perfect Jerusalem. She had several Hispanic neighbors who were eager to work on their English and help her with her Spanish. And a widow lady next door was a huge encouragement and blessing! Then came the Jehovah’s Witnesses to her door. With a huge grin on her face, she invited them in and began to share the gospel. Without even leaving home, she had a perfect opportunity for evangelism—lifestyle, relationship and simply sharing the gospel. She shared with me recently the exciting story of a neighbor who had moved away. Recently the man contacted Nathaniel to meet him for lunch—and shared how he had met the Lord. “I didn’t even feel like we were good neighbors,” Lauren told me, but this man had wanted them to know because of their outreach to him and his family.

As godly women, I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be heading up missionary journeys like Paul and Silas. He doesn’t expect us to dive into safaris at the furthest corners of the earth—at least not yet. Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Wherever you are, that’s your Jerusalem.

Keith Green, who stirred up the church with songs before I was born, wrote, “The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can’t fight ‘cuz it’s asleep in the light! How can you be so dead, when you’ve been so well-fed? Jesus rose from the dead! And you? You can’t even get out of bed!”

As I challenge you, I challenge myself. Begin in your Jerusalem. Live in light of Christ, yes. Love in light of Christ, absolutely. And be Christ’s witnesses. As I look around me, I know I am surrounded by needy unbelievers–asleep in the darkness. I must live a life that shines like a beacon in the night. And I must stretch out my hands to offer them love and care. And I must tell them why.

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