This morning on Facebook a friend posted a link to an article by Steve DeWitt. Steve is the 44 year-old pastor and he is getting married for the FIRST time (gasp!) this Saturday. The article, blogpost really, is called The Bachelor Pastor and actually has some excellent points and encouraging content. I had planned to share it on Facebook until I got near the end.
It is there that he recounts his battle to remain celibate until marriage, an admirable quality, indeed. Don't get me wrong. I am sure that such an accomplishment takes a tremendous amount of commitment, self-control, and prayer, if not a padlock on the zipper, and I know people who have maintained their virginity for decades. I salute them and admire them for this. For those of us who married at a younger age and at a different time and in a less sex saturated culture, the need for such vigilance and endurance was not quite as acute. It just seemed to me the author was congratulating himself and his fiance for their success and I couldn't help but feel for so many out there who have tried to remain pure but, in this area, have failed.
My husband says that there is nothing the world talks about more and the church talks about less than sex. I mean REALLY talk about sex. Most young people get the message, "There is this thing out there called sex. Don't do it." And they are never given the skills or the information to maneuver in a world saturated and drowning in sexual images, desires, and opportunities.
Before I went rafting down the Nantahala River we were given some safety tips. One of those tips was IF you are thrown from the boat and find yourself in the river, DO NOT PUT YOUR FEET DOWN! If you do and a foot gets stuck in the rocks, you could drown. You keep your feet up and yourself as much as possible on top of the water until you can make it to the side and/or someone can get to you. The intention was not to tell us this so that we go diving in to the water for the sheer fun of it, but things happen. Rocks jut up, other rafts ram in behind, the right current and the wrong angle and you can go flying and get very, very wet. Knowing what to do in the event of the swim made for a more relaxing and confident and safer raft ride.
The analogy is by no means perfect but I hope the point is clear enough. Some people are able to navigate the sexual vats of our culture without getting wet. Others fly, splash, and may even drown, some so much so that their shame prevents them from coming to Jesus. Purity becomes a black and white issue. All or nothing. Some struggle with feeling like second class citizens while others hang their heads, walk away and assume the pearly white kingdom doors are shut to the likes of them. They quit trying and get carried away by the Class VI rapids of our culture and of despair.
The truth is that we ALL need the gospel and we all need the gospel equally all the time for every choice and every breath. Sexual sin is like every other sin. You turn from your sin to God. You run TO Jesus. You are cleansed. You are made pure. A wise young woman said to me that purity is not a quantity to be used up, it is a lifestyle. A choice. You do not have to have a perfect track record to get into the good graces of God, as the woman at the well found out in John 4 and King David confessed in Psalm 51. What God desires is a broken and contrite heart.
Life is so much more than succeeding and failing. It is sinning and repenting. It is keeping our feet up and grabbing hold of Jesus if we get thrown into the rapids. It is reaching for Jesus over and over and over again, for he alone can create in us clean hearts and godly lives.