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Consider this your first Christmas present of the year. (: I designed these high quality wallpapers to decorate every iPhone that belongs to a heart excited for December, winter, and this Christmas season. Celebrate just a little bit more by saving these right to your phone and trying them on for size!
One of my housemates, Destiny, and I used our Saturday to explore to the Oxford Exchange in Tampa. We took the morning to doll ourselves up and then traveled to Tampa, pretending all day that we were successful, prosperous, glamorous women -- as that is what we fully intend to one day become. We sipped cappuccinos and discussed our dreams, Vogue in the 20's, and the vitality of class.
For four years of my life I was a wedding photographer. I have been to countless weddings, encountered many white gowns, numerous ring exchanges, and too many dances to recall. However, there is one moment during this wedding-filled season of my life that I remember quite vividly: As I watched the bride twirl around the dance floor with her father, tiny drops fell from my eyes and into my camera's viewfinder. I tried to stop but those traitor tears would not cease to flow as I could not shake the overwhelming knowledge of just how great of a father I had. Always patient, always gentle, always concerned with the condition of my heart, my dad has fathered in a way that leaves me without words. Standing there in the middle of this wedding, I remember distinctly wondering how in the world a man could love me as much as I was loved by my dad.
Thank you, Dad, for not only always saying I could do anything and everything I wanted to do, but through supporting me you lived as if that was an obvious reality. Thank you for loving me even when I was extremely, absolutely unlovable. Thank you for every time I screamed, stomped up the stairs, slammed my door, and you followed me; never complaining you sat and listened to my feelings even if it took me 45 minutes to convey them. You never defined me by my feelings or actions but only ever as Elisabeth, your daughter, which that has been the greatest gift and one of the greatest honors and roles given to me.
You have taught me generosity. You have taught me endurance. You have taught me slow angering patience. You have taught me that life throws you a lot of things and to only worry about what's important, the rest can be cast aside. And now as a woman out in this world I will do everything I can to use everything you have given me, which has made me who I am, to try and in turn bless others.
"If only I was musical. I would give up all my beauty to be musical! Not my fortune, but yeah, my beauty." - Frits
"Come on, family! If we get just a little more dysfunctional, they'll give us our own TV show!"- Frits
"You can do anything you want, no matter what anyone says. It's stupid to listen to those people anyway; it shows they don't know what they want. You do. You just work hard and you can do whatever you want to do." - Frits
“A lot of girls were sold on a deal and not on a Savior.”
I first read this from a fellow blogger at Grace for the Road a year ago. I read it and conviction shook my core so intensely that my purity ring most likely fell off. Either way, I intentionally took it off afterward.
There is a breed of young women who decided that, sure, they could wait until their wedding night – as long as that meant in turn God would bring them the man. You know who I’m talking about, don’t even pretend. He loves Jesus with all his heart and has been going to church every Sunday of his life. He’s probably the pastor’s kid or a missionary’s son. He leads worship for every single service throughout the week (girl, you know he sings and plays guitar), walks with other guys in the Church, and has definitely been waiting sexually for his wife, living his whole life with his eyes on the prize, a.k.a. you. (Even though he has raging hormones and hasn’t even met you yet… That’s awkward.)
Because we can never meet God’s standards, I think He’d be gallant enough to avoid striking up deals like this with his children altogether. It would never turn out in our favor. We could never hold up our end of the deal. What breaks my heart the most about this is that we “take” this “deal” and claim it is us loving Jesus.
And I’ve done it.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good husband; not many of us pray for lousy ones. But let’s be honest here and confess why 98% of us wear the ring. It’s not always because being caught up in Jesus is making it easier to live a pure lifestyle. It’s more often than not because we think we can work God into giving us what we want. We’ll sacrifice the desire now to have an awesome later, all the while waving around our righteousness.
The happily ever after became the end-all.
I have many memories of a five year-old me sitting on the floor looking up at a television screen playing Disney movies. However, there is one instance I remember in particular: I was watching Ariel and Prince Eric kiss, and on the screen their first kiss magically faded into a shot of their victorious wedding kiss. There are two reasons as to why I recall this memory so vividly fourteen years later. One, I specifically remember wondering why in the world Eric’s lips were covering Ariel’s. That was not necessary to smooch. It just looked wrong and disgusting and I was never going to let a man do that to me. Two, I remember being so very excited to get married one day. They met, fell in love, kissed once, and got married. This was the first time. At five years old. I was roped in.
The Purity Movement, similar to Disney movies, puts all of the focus and emphasis on the happily ever after, the wedding day, the wedding night. It painted, at least for me, a picture where the wedding will be the pinnacle of life. Save yourself for your wedding night, the Movement says, save yourself, and all your dreams will come true. Your husband will be perfect, your marriage, though “hard” (whatever that means), will be perfect, and you will be perfectly happy and fulfilled. I realize this is not what the Purity Movement verbalizes word-for-word, but mix the legalistic deal with a prowling lion and our flesh, and this is the cancer that will stem through minds everywhere.
It took too many broken hearts, too many dreams dead, and too many hopes buried before I realized that any union with a human should not and will not be the pinnacle of my existence. While mourning – literally on the floor of my room mourning – the death of my pinnacle-marriage fantasy, Jesus, the ever flowing well of hope and dreams, pulled me in tight and whispered new hopes and dreams into my heart. They were His hopes for my future and, if married, for my husband. They were dreams that put the stories that fairy tales told me to shame in comparison.
These dreams are not picture perfect. Because of the world in which we live, the story will actually hold a great deal of sin and pain. It is the love Jesus is calling me to that makes His dreams for me so much better than the ones I dreamt at five years old. It’s a love that covers every past and every pain and is strong enough to look someone in the face and say, “I see only who God saw when He made you, it has captivated me; and I’m going to be your teammate always, no matter what comes our way.” That is the love I desire to give and receive, far more than a fleeting, seemingly perfect passion because some mermaid-chick serenaded a man on the beach. Despite the spotlight that the Purity Movement shines on it, the wedding night (though beautiful and precious) is not the end-all; it is severely and wonderfully the beginning.
Purity became a synonym for virginity.
I know many people who are not virgins and are still living purer lifestyles than those who are saving sex for marriage. Purity and virginity are not interchangeable. How could they be if we believe in a Savior who looks not at the past but at our hearts kneeled before Him? Do we truly believe that grace could be that radical? It breaks us from our past’s chains and unveils to us who we really are.
Who is more pure: one who “lacks” virginity but now lives a lifestyle to abstain from sexual immorality or one who is a virgin but is pushing the limits of how far can we go. The former, friends, it’s the former.
There is no room for grace to dwell if we equate virginity with purity. If the two were the same, this would mean that hope would be lost forever after a mistake was made. This would mean one would live under a label, defined by something other than one’s identity in Christ. This would mean that there would be something under the sun that Jesus’ blood could not completely restore.
Praise God that two people with the right hearts, regardless of past, can both be pure on their wedding night. Praise God that we do not live under a three-strikes-you’re-out judgment but under grace, upon grace, upon grace which calls us out of death and lets us try again. Praise God that He gently brings close and cries over the forgiven until His tears wash away our flesh, heal our wounds, and frees us to be who He imagined us to be.
The goal became perfection not grace.
For so many who don the ring, eyes get distracted from looking into Jesus’ face to scrutinize behavior. Every time we take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on our actions, either pride or insecurity is guaranteed to follow. What human thinks he or she can make a vow to be perfect and that it is going to turn out well? The goal to be perfectly pure because of a promise one made is a trap to bind oneself up in guilt and shame.
Our real crime occurs after we slip up. When we get caught up in this world and sin, really trip up behind our "purity" label – our worlds fall apart. Because of the intense pressure from the Movement, guilt consumes us, tears shower our faces, and our hearts break. We cry out apologizing again and again to Jesus. We think of those whom we let down. We worry about the hypocrisy of our ring.
The crime is found in our anxiety over our slip up. We’re told to repent and ask for forgiveness. But we cannot forget that it also says we were set free by Jesus Christ for the sake of freedom, not because we made it through another day in purity. The crime is found in the laws that we create and plug into our lives. The crime is found in the forgetting that Jesus knew and felt our sins when they were poured out onto Him while Heaven looked away and He hung on the cross. The crime is letting our sin over shadow the powerful truth that He still pursues our hearts daily.
Not only do we abuse ourselves after mistakes are made, but we will point fingers (even with the hand bearing the ring) at others who are not reaching the perfectly pure standard that we are trying (and also failing) to fulfill.
Children of God are called to freedom – to be adventurous, strong, loving beings – despite any perversion, shameful act, or addiction. We are free of all chains, assumptions, expectations, and labels. We are invited to enter an overwhelmingly grand story with God filled with joy, victory, and yes, even passion.
I am set free. I am pure. So are you.
And we don’t need the ring to tell us this.
We have the Cross.