(To catch up on the story, read Chapter One here!)
May 11, 2007
“To the man God has made for me,
I wait for you everyday! I have saved myself in every way to completely give to you someday. You have my heart. Every time I wish I was with you, I will save that in the piggy bank in my heart to give to you on our wedding day!”
May 29, 2007
“To my Future Husband,
I sit here on the beach right now, welcoming the gifts God has given me. I am waiting for your tender love to embrace my life. I want you to know that I have been preparing my life for you. I can’t wait till the day when we will be united. I will give you every ounce of my being that I have saved for you to enjoy FOREVER!
I pray God is keeping you under the palm of His wings, as He is keeping me there to.
Until that day…
Your love, Gretchen”
Dateless, kiss-less, and boy-friend-less. I sometimes felt this was the label I wore on my head. I committed to the Lord that I would wait for Him to appoint a time for me to meet my future husband. Until that day, however, I would not date anyone unless I knew they would be the one I was to marry. That commitment left me without a boyfriend throughout high school, and eventually throughout college. I was convinced when I was young that the Lord would provide my husband earlier since I had committed to Him this dear and precious desire. That commitment took me on a journey of learning what it meant to be pure and to save myself for marriage. How could I become the woman that a godly man would want to marry? What does purity really even mean?
My dateless years led me to truly treasure my first kiss that I would someday give to my husband. A recurrent nightmare I frequently had always entailed a random guy coming up to me and kissing me. It was absolutely awful! He had stolen my first kiss that I had so patiently waited to give my husband someday! I would wake up disoriented and thankful it was not true. But, even in those crazy nightmares, I began to learn how sacred that kiss would one day be. The Lord was teaching me that any aspect of our physical being is a sacred gift from Him. He has a design for how we are to use our bodies. His plan, which is always best- read Isaiah 55:8-9, is for us to save our hearts and bodies for our husband in marriage because this brings Him glory. He designed purity to be attached to a promise. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (italics mine) The meaning of “pure” in this verse means to be tested by fire and free from blemish so that we can see with our eyes and mind and we will know the Lord our God. Purity is the avenue to a life that beholds Jesus in all things. Purity is an investment into the kingdom of God.
I was not great at saving money when I was younger. Honestly, I didn’t see the value of how it would pay off in the future because I immediately had in mind what I wanted to buy. In middle school, one of my best friends saved every penny she had while I spent every penny on new clothing. Needless to say, I thought she was crazy. Over time, her priority to save money “paid” off. When she got married, she and her husband were able to put a down payment on their house within their first years of marriage and without needless debt (which is why I deemed her the name “Wise Whitney”). Most girls live with debt that overflows into their future marriage and more importantly to their walk with the Lord. They give their best to the first man to come into their life and he eventually takes a part of their heart with him when he leaves. We quickly give ourselves away to those who aren’t worthy of the treasure. Over the years of waiting to meet my future husband, the Lord taught me that to save myself I must surrender all I am to Him. In Matthew 10:39, Jesus tells us “whoever finds his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (italics mine)
Save myself and lose myself? Those two statements seem to contradict each other. But it is in coming to Jesus with open hands and giving him every aspect of who we are that we find true life and invest in the only thing that lasts. True life leads us to actively pursue a life of holiness (purity before God made possible by the cross). This requires me “losing myself” for the cause of Christ so that He might “save me” from this world. In losing myself, I choose to devote my being to God as His beloved child. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, wrote a creed that marked her life’s work to share the gospel with those who had not heard of Jesus. Her creed said “Give up your right to yourself, take up the cross, follow.” This is what Jesus meant when he said to lose our lives. It was the extreme love of God that compelled Him to send His son, Jesus, to die an extreme death for us so we could have abundant life. All of that sounds, well, sort of…extreme. The truth is that God is an extreme God. He is not wishy washy, like we are. He does not change His mind and is not swayed by emotions and feelings, like we are. He is God and He is steadfast.
Have you ever realized that the Bible uses absolutes when it describes the Lord? “Your love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) “Not one of the good promises of the LORD failed the Israelites.” (Joshua 21:45) “I have loved them with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) And even more so, His Word says that once we are saved, we are engraved on the palm of His hand. (Isaiah 49:16) You become part of His fingerprint, His family, a daughter of the King. It is impossible to lose your fingerprint, and it is impossible for Him to lose you. You are saved out of this world and into His kingdom. Meaning, you no longer live for the values of earth, seeking success and comfort for yourself, with a heart full of pride and lusting after possessions, fame and beauty. You have traded your rags for the incorruptible riches of the Kingdom of God. He has saved you for His glory.
With that foundation set, think with me about what it means to save yourself for your future husband, but more importantly, as the future bride of Christ. Did you know that when you become a Christian, you are a part of the bride of Christ as a member of His church, meaning we will one day be married to Christ? As His bride, we are responsible to remain pure and spotless, just like we are to remain pure and spotless for our earthly husband if His will is for us to marry. Isn’t that beautiful? The entire purpose of marriage is to display a picture of Christ and His church. In “This Momentary Marriage,” John Piper describes marriage as “displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.” The husband is a representation of Christ, and the wife is a representation of the church. The husband is to be the head of the wife, and the wife is to respect and submit to her husband. This is why we live a life of purity- to honor our Fiancé, Christ. Purity is an act of love and submission to Him. In Revelation 19 the scene of the marriage supper of the Lamb, Jesus and His bride are described. The bride is clothed with the “righteous acts of the saints.” Someday, the purity that Christ has graced us with by the shedding of His blood on the cross will be the wedding dress of Christ. This picture is unbelievably meaningful to us girls desiring to wear a white dress someday for our husband. The meaning of white is to live purely in a world of pollution and sin.
For years, I thought that abiding by rules and boundaries was the formula to keep myself spotless and unstained from the world. The problem with that thinking is it depended all on me and my self-control and my righteous acts. Jesus was missing from the equation. You are not pure because you have abstained from sex, drinking, drugs, cussing, gossiping and lying. You are pure by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus that has washed your soul and cleansed the unwashable. Purity is not something we obtain or attain, it is a gift of God.
For example, you can live a life abstaining from all things, but without a recognition of your sin and need for Jesus as your Savior, your life will still be filthy before the eyes of God. Even more so, if you have repented and turned to God, He washes your soul white as snow. As I write this I am gazing outside at a blanket of snow. The sun reflecting on it can almost make me have to squint because of the whiteness of the snow. Imagine what your life looks like when the Son of God shines on your blood-washed soul. It shines in the brilliance of His love and sacrifice. Your sins and mistakes are remembered no more! That is the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is all about Him and what He did to save us from the pit of destruction.
Purity is also for God. He is holy and perfect, and the only way we could ever even approach Him is because of the blood of the Lamb that was shed. In the Old Testament, the priests would offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. There were five types of offerings; the sin offering, the grain offering, the guilt offering, the burnt offering and the peace offering. (Read all of Leviticus for more details on the sacrificial system. You will be amazed at the detailed lists of the requirements the people had to perform for atonement). All of these offerings were necessary for the cleansing of God’s people. Without the shedding of blood, there was no purity (Leviticus 17:11). No matter how hard the people tried to be pure, they still required a sacrifice. No good deed they did would wipe away their sin from the eyes of God without sacrifice. The shedding of blood was necessary that they might have God’s favor and presence.
The Day of Atonement was a set-apart day where all things and people were cleansed. Have you ever set aside a day completely for cleaning the house, inside and out, and for going through all of your clothing and possessions and getting rid of what you don’t need. When my sister and I were little, we would get in cleaning moods and completely make the house spotless. Actually, my sister would and I would just tag along. I am sure these were my mom’s favorite times. We would even go so far as to “rake” the carpet, using this contraption looking like a plastic indoor rake, making every fiber of carpet go in straight lines. We felt so clean and good after that! We would usually celebrate with a pizza or a bag of Doritos! The Day of Atonement was like a deep clean of the people’s souls and entire lives, inside and out.
This day was also one for mourning, repentance and humbling the people’s hearts. I am sure our cleaning spree didn’t humble us or cause us to recognize our need for the shedding of blood like this day did. The word “atonement” is kaphar, meaning “to be covered, to pacify, and be forgiven.” The deliberate actions of the people to mourn over their sinful state and for the priest to abide by all the rules to offer the atoning sacrifice would cancel the sins of the people. Just like that, God remembered them no more.
These sacrifices continued until Jesus came. When He was crucified on the cross, He canceled our sins forever. There was nothing we could do to save ourselves. No one before or after Him has lived a sinless life and conquered the sting of death. I once traveled to Israel on a mission trip and went to Golgotha, the place of the Skull, where it is believed Jesus’ cross was hung. Our tour guide said something remarkable to us. When we were gazing at that hill, where the side of the rock resembles the shape of a skill, he said “It wasn’t the Jews or the Romans that crucified Jesus on the cross. It was you and I and our sins.” My first thought was, Me, really? I didn’t drive the nails into His hands and feet. I didn’t mock Him or condemn Him. But then I realized I did. It was my sin that held him there. I had forgotten my need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that He bore the weight of all sin, including mine. The word “Gospel” means “good news” and the greatest news your ears will ever hear is that He sacrificed His life for you and me. He did it to please His Father that He might be glorified in our salvation. Do we live lives of purity that honor our Lord and the sacrifice Jesus made?
Psalm 45:10-11 tells us, as women of God, a great and mighty call:
“Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.”
Sacred surrender and purity begins on our knees, when we are low and see how God is high above us. Leaving everything in this world behind, including the desire of beauty and acceptance as well as the longing for a husband, we run to the cross where our King shed His blood so we might be His daughters. Living a life of purity honors God. You are to save yourself for marriage because that is the absolutely best that God intended. Anything less minimizes the beautiful plan God set in place from the beginning. One man for one woman within marriage. Sisters, this is not a call to a life of boredom, it is a call to a life of adventure and beautiful holiness. We are to obey God’s instruction, not out of obligation, but out of love. Obedience with love produces a life of satisfaction and fullness.
Do not throw away to the world what God has bought for us with Jesus’ blood. We no longer have to offer blood sacrifices and follow the rituals in Leviticus, but we are required to live a life that honors Jesus’ atonement of our sins. When I became a believer and was learning what it meant to walk with God, I quickly saw tendencies in my life to worry, fear, compare myself to others and let my emotions lead my actions, all of which were sins I let rule over me. (Psalm 19:12-13 and Psalm 139:24-25 are both prayers that we can pray to the Lord, recognizing the sin in our hearts that He must show us to free us from.) I saw that to give myself to those things is to allow a precious gift to be trampled on by the feet of men. We were never meant to be stepped on, precious ones. God saves us, but we daily choose whether we will follow Him or wander off on a winding road to destruction. God’s ways lead to life, the world’s leads to death. There is no middle ground.
Unfortunately, you will never hear the world tell you to save yourself for marriage, or to live a life of purity. Instead, you will only hear messages to find joy in an earthly love, a human being who will no doubt fail you. You are told that you are only beautiful if you wear a certain size and have a certain body shape. The Bible never mentions hair color, height or weight in the list of qualifications for a beautiful woman. By middle school, if you haven’t kissed a boy or at least held his hand, you are just plain weird. I was that girl. I watched many friends give away small parts of themselves, each a precious gift from the Lord intended for the man they will marry.
Take a piece of paper. Rip off a tiny bit of it. Now rip off a few more pieces. This page will never be the same. You can never repair it or make it what it was intended to be. No tape or glue will make it the way the creator originally intended it. Our God created us to be whole. Every part of you is precious to present to Him. Romans 12:1 tells us to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, pure and pleasing to Him.” How can I offer my body as acceptable and blameless when I have shared it with the world? Or with a man who is not my husband? By the grace of God, no matter what your past looks like or how many “pieces” have been torn from you, God can restore anything. He can restore your heart. He can give you a new life. He can make you clean. He is that good of a God. We all need that cleansing!
God has saved us for Himself, not for us to giveaway to others. To protect your body and your heart, you must take measures to live a set apart life. Live with the end in mind. I long to stand before the throne of God someday, and to hear my King say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Saving yourself starts now, no matter what your past. It starts with a recognition that on our own we cannot be pure, but because of God’s great love we can stand complete and flawless.
- Read Leviticus 16 and write down all that was necessary for the Day of Atonement. The sacrifices and rituals the priests and the Israelites were required to do were because of their sin. Read Matthew 27:32-56. The blood Jesus shed completely canceled the sin of all mankind. Take time to think on these truths.
- We no longer practice the Day of Atonement, but we are still required to ask for forgiveness and live humbly before God. How can you implement ways to remind yourself that only by the blood of Jesus are we clean? What verses can you memorize for the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind?
- Like that piece of paper, have you allowed the world to tear off small bits, making you feel you have lost a part of yourself? God is our Redeemer and has bought you for His glory. Read Psalm 23, and meditate on the promise that “He restores your soul, for His name sake.”
by His grace,