“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:9-11.
I read this to my daughter the other evening as we sat down to “meditate” on scripture. By this I mean she draws while I read the bible to her. I don’t want to paint this grand picture of theological studies happening in our living room at night. This blog isn’t a Snap with a filter. It’s real life. Currently we are reading through the Psalms. She’s a deep thinker and a long-time processor so sometimes our “discussions” are a little (or a lot) one sided. It takes her a few days to think it through and come back with questions or applications or no mention of it at all until I bring it up again.
I asked her what comes to her mind when the word “purity” is mentioned. She got the look that every young teenager gets if they think their parent is about to drudge up the dreaded 3 letter word that they would rather be grounded than talk about. Such an awkward age!
She sat quiet for a long time followed by, “Ummmm, well….” Sometimes we have to throw them a line. Am I right parents? I ended her uncomfortable moment by asking, “You think the word purity is another way of talking about sex huh?” She froze, nodded, and then went back to drawing.
This concerns me a lot! I suspect it’s not just my teenage daughter who thinks the word purity is equal to not having sex until marriage. I think most of us define purity as sexual abstinence or sexual faithfulness inside of marriage. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all part of purity. But it’s certainly not where purity begins or ends.
I picked up my daughter’s hand and I pointed to an eternity symbol that she wears on her finger. I asked her why I had gotten her that specific ring. She shrugged and I sighed and we had one of those frustrating mom/daughter moments where she’s wanting to move on from the conversation and I’m wondering if she ever hears anything I say.
Knowing deep down that she does, I continued to remind her that it’s because purity is infinitely at stake in everything that we do. Every choice that we make impacts our purity. Every word that we speak, every action that we support from the point of premeditation to the carrying out in body, every thought, everything we chose to see, hear, and focus on directly impacts our purity. Our purity takes a hit with every prejudice we allow, every bitter root that we don’t pluck up, every choice we make to hate rather than pray for those who oppose us or are different than we are, and every time we compromise our conscience.
As parents we can’t just teach our kids about sexual purity and hope they make it to the altar without getting pregnant, or getting someone pregnant. Without a pornography addiction or without going all the way, or even to second or third. Purity is more than just this and I would argue that if we don’t recognize it in its entirety, none of us will be pure enough in heart and mind to completely fight off the sexual temptations that are all around us. Purity starts well before puberty and it goes far beyond sex and desire. Purity is a virtue that runs like a thread through every fiber of our beings. We have to teach our kids that it’s more, by making it more in our own lives.
As a kid I hated that many Christians walking in moral failure were deemed an outcast of the church but many other sins were looked over and not addressed. Gossip was not silenced or thought of as a direct threat to purity. Gluttony was gross but not because it hurt the body that God so lovingly created, rather because vanity made it off putting. I could go on but I’ll keep it reined in.
Today, I hate that the opposite seems to be the case. There’s an over emphasis on compassion and mercy and little call for believers to rise beyond being grace leaches. I think of the words of Paul, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!” This isn’t his design! He wants so much more for us. Not for a pedestal. There’s no purity in seeking goodness simply for the sake of putting ourselves on display. No! We seek purity because we are meant to long for the heart of our Father and his heart is the very definition of pure!
The heart of the Father is where all of these things get wrapped up into a giant blanket of redemption and hope and purpose. It’s in him alone and the blood of his son that we can pursue purity because apart from him there’s not an ounce of purity in us.
I love that David is the one speaking on this topic in the Psalms because he fell off the wagon so many times. Purity is something we chase after as we seek the heart of God. Sometimes we fall in the mud and he, thanks be to his grace, picks us up and puts us right back on the path. However, making a regular practice of playing in the puddles because we know there is grace, is to misunderstand grace all together.
So how do we keep our way pure? We dedicate ourselves to his words. They’re in a book that has survived for thousands of years for a reason. Know them! Teach them to your kids! When Jesus was being savagely beaten and hung on a cross to die as the crowds mocked him, he quoted scripture. If ever there was a time to curse those around him, that would have been it. But his heart was so pure and dedicated to his purpose because he knew the words and the heart of his father. That heart and those words are what flowed out of him with every lash, nail, thorn and mocking word.
Know him but also, know yourself. David said, “Do not let me stray from your commands.” He knew that if left to himself he would wander away from the God he so desperately sought. One of the verses in my favorite hymns says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it. Seal it for your courts above.” We make an epic mistake when we assume that we are standing strong on our own. We are one quick toe snag from totally face planting into the impurity that’s all around us. It’s him hemming us in behind and in front that keeps us upright and in pursuit of purity.
Only you can keep us Lord. We can’t stay on your path by ourselves, no matter how hard we try. May we commit ourselves to purity recognizing that like the figure eight, purity is a thread that runs through our entire being impacting every ounce of who we are and what we seek. May we seek you with a heart that longs to live according to your word!