Thursday, August 11, 2011

From Purity to Promiscuity: A Cautionary Tale

Don’t you just hate getting inappropriate songs stuck in your head? Without warning, you suddenly find yourself mindlessly singing some nasty lyric under your breath while going about your normal (and normally pure) day. On a recent mall excursion, I caught myself in the act…

Scanning through the rack of peep-toe pumps (shoes deemed “acceptable” according to the extremely detailed list of what I can and cannot wear on stage as part of the church worship team), I was taken aback at the realization that I was singing along to the Top 40 radio playing in the store. While my public crooning didn’t bother me, that particular tune did. The unexpected pick of the moment? Rihanna’s “S&M.”

Oh my gosh, where did THAT come from? I thought, as a wave of guilt washed over me. That was sooooo NOT intentional! Nervously scanning to make sure no one else witnessed the girl in ministry singing about being perfectly good at being bad, I sought to deduce how such behavior could slip in so subtly. It was then that I noticed that little Miss Rihanna had actually been stalking me with her trashy confessions. Okay, not actually stalking me, but she might as well have been, as her voice was resounding from every corner of the mall that day. I realized that in a mere two hours, I had heard “S&M” three times in three different stores. Damn you catchy songs with terrible morals! Stop compelling me to sing along to your smut!

Blame it on my inner American Idol, but I must admit that when it comes to this innocent habit (consciously, anyway), I am a repeat offender. Just the other day, it happened again while washing dishes. This time is was Avril Lavigne. While Rihanna’s lyrics might be blatantly raunchy, Avril’s tactic is slightly more smooth. Maybe because it appears to be aimed at a younger audience. Which, of course, is all the more scary. Saturated in bubble-gum poppy-ness “What the Hell?” sounds like it came straight from a teen movie soundtrack. Well, isn’t that nice?  Convincing 13-year old girls (with peppy proclamation) all the fun there is to be had in ditching purity for promiscuity.

A bit of Avril’s anthem if you’re unfamiliar…

“All my life, I’ve been good, but now
Whoa, I’m thinkin what the hell
All I want is to mess around
And I, I, I don’t really care…”

Somewhere along the way, us church kids (Avril Lavigne was one) start believing a lie: The church has nothing on the world. Purity is boring; experimenting is fun.  Who wants to go to heaven when clearly hell is the top pick when it comes to party destinations.

By God’s grace, I didn’t act on the lie, but I can’t deny that there were some days that I definitely believed it. For a few years as a teenager, I secretly savored this image of how bad-ass it would be to take off my purity ring and fling it across the room just before losing my virginity to my boyfriend. It was soooo Hollywood. And so disgusting…

I truly am embarrassed to admit that now, but I share it to make a point: Isn’t that the kind of image and attitude that is constantly glorified in our society? What the hell? Might as well. Not only are adults confidently making careless choices, but kids and teenagers are now being taught to embrace the ” fun” of apathy as well. With so many kids having been sexually abused, it is tragic to think that the “damaged goods” label starts to sink in early. Girls start thinking: Sure, why not hook up with that guy? Maybe it will make me feel normal. Maybe it will make me feel loved. Maybe it will be fun this time...

Eleven year olds are telling themselves this!!!! Sorry, I get really worked up about this sort of thing. Because truly, I wish someone had told me that carelessly tossing a purity ring into the trash is, in fact, trashy. There is absolutely no semblance of “sexy” in it. All it does is lead you to depression, desperately wishing you could take back the foolishness of your youth.

Like I said, I never acted on that image, but I do know what it’s like to make mistakes. And I know those feelings, because I’ve felt them...even after pushing boundaries that the world considers “nothing." Why don’t you sing about those feelings, Avril?  I guess nobody wants to hear about the shame that comes with promiscuity. Let’s just sing about the power we feel being the object of a man’s lust…that manipulative sense of control we mistakenly confuse for confidence.

Years ahead of the game, I’m already praying for the purity of the daughters (Lord-willing) I will one day have. I just want to take my little girl, whether she’s four or fourteen, put my hands on her shoulders and set her straight: “Sweetie, don’t believe the lie! Your purity is so precious and you need to put it into the hands of Jesus. Just trust Him and His way of doing things! It will be worth the wait, I promise!”

I once heard this incredible story in youth group that I’m almost positive is not actually true. Even still, the power of it continues to haunt me to this day. It’s about giving up on purity, and it goes like this: There is a man in his late 30’s who has been faithfully serving God on the mission field for years. He has also faithfully saved himself for his future wife. Finally, he finds Miss Right and is so excited to get married. Unfortunately, however, nameless missionary man decides for whatever reason that he simply cannot continue his life of celibacy anymore. It’s been too long and it’s been too difficult. So, he decides to go to a prostitute, and there, he loses his virginity. This, after 30 some-odd years of waiting and a mere three weeks until his wedding night! Just when you’re about to cry, the story gets worse: This man later learns that he contracted AIDS from the prostitute. And because of his careless lack of self-control, his new bride now has AIDS as well.

Regardless of whether this particular story is based on factual events, the basic premise is real. In the face of loneliness, depression or simple opportunity, Christians are not immune to becoming cavalier about their sexuality (and their pledges for purity). After one too many sleazy sing-alongs or seductive movie scenes tempting us into thinking that casual sex will bring us love, we start to believe the lie again. It’s easy to get apathetic when we’re not on guard. Without soaking in the Word, we quickly turn to the world: “All my life, I’ve been good, but now…what the hell.”

But HOLD ON, my single friends! Just like the missionary, matrimony is just around the corner! I’m gonna go out on a limb and just boldly speak that in faith because life is too short to be one of those Debbie-Downer types who’s like: “Well, not everyone gets married. Sorry…” I’m going to be the optimistic one who says that God gives us sex drives for a reason and I’m pretty sure he’s not trying to trick us by blessing us with 'em without giving us a chance to express them in a healthy way. (And p.s., I’ve seen heaps of my Christian friends in their late 20’s, late 30’s and even early forties get engaged in the last couple months. All the while, God’s ridiculously redemptive work in their lives is shoving me out of Cynicism-Land…).

The lesson to be learned from this cautionary tale is this: Don’t give in to's counterfeit and it sucks. And don’t for a second believe that after repentance and God's grace, there is such thing as “damaged goods." When Christ is Lord of our lives, there is no excuse for not turning around and seeking something that is truly worth the wait.

The longer I’m single, the less I’m convinced that promiscuity has any perks at all. Purity, on the other hand, always holds promise…

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