I grew up in the ‘90s purity culture’ – a mixed-results effort by the Church to teach sexual purity. I experienced ‘purity culture’ in my teen years through messages that I should be pure because it was the right thing to do. I should carefully consider my conduct around guys, because they can’t help themselves and I must not cause them to stumble by wearing a tanktop. I should not date, I should only “court” (i.e. only be in a relationship with someone I was planning to marry), so obviously dating in highschool was wrong. Guys have a strong sex drive, girls have zero to minimal sex drive (they are only motivated by the emotional side of relationships) so be careful when I’m kissing someone because the guy will want sex. The Church seemed hyper-focused on sexual sin above all sin (similar to the Pharisees’ preoccupation with keeping the Sabbath above all else). Through these messages I inadvertently learned that God is disgusted by sexual impurity more than any other sin.
These notions failed to ring true for me and sufficiently prove to me why I should be counter-cultural in the area of my sexuality. What about my sex drive? Sometimes my sex drive was as strong as the guy’s! What about the benefits of sex – the connection, the affirmation, the sense of love… These were needs in my heart, and sex showed itself as a way to meet those needs, and I wasn’t aware of other comparable options. “Just don’t!” was just not enough of a reason for me. In those days, it seemed that the sex topic didn’t belong in church; it was a secret mystery reserved for the marital bedroom only. On account of that, rarely did anyone talk with me on my level about God’s heart on sex. And, because I was born into a Christian family, I took God for granted in a lot of ways: aware He wasn’t pleased with me (and likely disgusted with me), but I felt entitled to a free pass with Him for some reason. “I’m born into Your family, so You’ll tolerate my rebellion at least for a time.”
Sex with my boyfriend gradually turned into promiscuity and with that naturally followed a disconnect between me and God. I disconnected myself from Him because I knew I couldn’t be His buddy while living this way, but I wanted to live this way because what could Church offer me that could compare? But I had disconnected myself from the Source of Life (John 1:4). I had become deadened in my sin (Ephesians 2:5).
Miraculously, through the answered prayers of my parents, I heard Him call to my heart. I heard Him say that He had wonderful plans for my life that were far beyond what I was doing. I heard Him call me up to purity. It wasn’t an oppressive list of rules piled onto my back like a yoke of slavery. It was a beckoning, an invitation. To walk with Him, to know Him, to be known by Him. To understand His love, demonstrated on the Cross.
It was a long and winding journey. Like Eustace (Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis), I experienced the loving and painful peeling off of the scales that sin had encrusted onto me. It took time for me to understand the Gospel. I followed Him, as the disciples did when he first called them from their fishing nets, but I was yet to LOVE Him and know His love in my heart. The pull toward how I had learned to meet my needs was strong. I couldn’t just cut it out of my life, I needed to find another way to meet these needs (for connection, affirmation, love). As a woman with a God-given sex drive and a yearning for a companion, the tension between waiting and my desire to be married was strong. Faulty messages still hung over my life: “My sin makes me disgusting to God. His arm is too short, His love too abstract for what I need.” Other things temporarily satisfied my heart in faster, tangible ways. I was lured towards them again, and found myself not in the arms of a lover, but in chains and a prison of my own making. I cried out for help, and Jesus came on a rescue mission to break me out. He saved me.
It was here that I finally began to step into the depths of His heart and His love. He showed me that His love is sufficient for me and that He is fully capable to provide for all of my needs. I learned that His instructions to flee from all sin, and especially sexual sin because it hurts us the most, WERE His love. How I heard Him changed from “Obey Me because I know best” to “Obey Me because I want you to have the best”. I discovered that there were so many secrets hidden in plain sight in His Word. How to stand in the face of temptation. How to have a strong, secure heart in the face of whatever trials come your way. How to drink from His well and never thirst again.
God called me up from sexual sin specifically, because this was my primary struggle. (What is the primary sin struggle in your life that God is calling you up from?) The call to sexual purity was actually a call to KNOW HIM for myself. Not to know Him merely through an image the Church projects of Him. Not to know Him based merely on what others say of Him. But to know Him in a direct, unencumbered, intimate relationship. He and me. After encountering His love, that initial call to “Follow Me” led to the second, deeper call He made also to Peter: “Do you love Me? Follow Me” (John 21:15-19). The call to purity was actually a call to holiness: to what it truly means to follow Him. To receive Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and walk as people who have entered by the blood of the Lamb. To be holy because He is holy. I found that the core message of the Gospel was not “Do not sin” but rather “How to Live”.
I cannot ‘teach’ this, because it is not a set of rules, but I can share my story of what He taught me. Follow Him, and never give up following Him. Follow Him into His love and see what He has for you. He has everything you need. He will never fail you.