Friday, September 19, 2014

"This is so messed up," And Other Kind Words From An Anonymous Person

I received the following quote on my post, “How To Be Emotionally Pure In Courtship,
 “Hmmm. Maybe we should just have our pastor or parents pick out our "good match" spouses. That would make it a whole lot easier for everyone. *whew* besides we will just learn to love them later right? As long as they are a good match nothing else matters right? :) Wow, this is so messed up I'm appalled, I'm very sad that people still think that this thinking is ok. The only girl I know that went through this "perfect" scenario, and married her "godly" husband is the most miserable girl I know. You can "learn to love" someone, but I think that God factored in attraction for a reason.... Or wait is attraction a product of the fall? I can't remember anymore... im sure you have never experienced a real "courtship"/relationship. :/ this is exactly the thinking that pretty much ruined my poor brother and his wife's life.... Thankfully though they persevered and are married and boy am I glad that the religious nut with this thinking wasn't able to ruin their marriage.”

I normally wouldn’t spend so much time replying to such an uncivil post, but I get quite a few, so I feel a need to explain how such comments make me feel so that my critics might change their tactics…though I rather doubt they will.

What really frustrates me about comments such as the above, is that this person could be right. Perhaps they have a legitimate objection to something I wrote, or maybe I need to clarify something…but their comment is so unhelpful, I can’t be sure what she is even referring to. 

“Wow, this is so messed up,” she says. What is messed up? That parents should pick our spouses for us? Okay, maybe, but I didn’t say that in my post. But even if I did say that, how is it messed up? She doesn’t give any reasoning, but instead just throws out an unsupported statement. Does she expect me to take her at her word? Does she want me to listen to her with a blind faith? Is she a deity? If she wants to help me see things the way she does, then I need some reasoning. But, maybe this isn’t what she is saying is messed up.

Is it messed up that I argue being a good match should be the major determining factor when it comes to whether or not you should marry someone? Okay…how is that messed up? Surely she is not saying we should marry people we are not a good match with. Maybe she doesn't understand what I mean by a “good match?” Maybe she thinks what I mean by "good match" consists of merely having the same beliefs or something? (which I don't believe). It’s really hard to tell from such a comment.

I believe this commenter, hiding behind the alias “Wynd”, doesn't really want to help me. If she did want to help me, she would have followed the rules of civil debate. She lobs ad hominem attacks at me, inaccurately claims to have intimate knowledge of my personal life, says that I don’t have experience, and intentionally ignores large portions of my post.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How To Stay Emotionally Pure In Courtship

Okay, so you’ve been pure and now you are courting. What role does spiritual purity play in courtship? Most would agree you should still be physically pure, but should you still strive to be spiritually pure? I say, yes! This is because there is still a chance a courtship will not end in marriage, and should that happen, you still want to be free of baggage.

Whether or not you seek emotional intimacy in courtship, of course, depends heavily on your definition of courtship. When I refer to courtship, I am talking about a time to evaluate whether or not two people would make a good match for marriage; however, there shouldn’t be any pressure or expectation that the courtship MUST end in marriage. Even in a courtship, you should seek to remain faithful to your future spouse.

Courtship is discovering whether or not you have found your future spouse. Maybe you have found them, maybe you haven’t. Since there is a chance you haven’t, you can’t jump all in yet.  Your heart shouldn't be set on the presumption that you will marry this person, because the courtship could be stopped prior to marriage. You must still seek to be spiritually pure for your future spouse. If a courtship does not end in marriage, but those courting have both acted with purity, then the courtship is still a success.

That being said, it’s ideal to only have to court one person, so you still only want to court someone you strongly believe you should marry. But, you could still be wrong, so don’t think just because you are courting someone that you must marry them. All you are committing to in a courtship is to explore the possibility of marriage, and since this is as far as your level of commitment goes, you should not be emotionally or physically intimate in a way that requires more commitment.

But how can this be done? When you are pursuing the possibility of marrying someone, how can you possibly be spiritually/emotionally pure? How do the emotions not overwhelm you?

It is definitely possible, because Paul tells us it is (Phil. 4:8). How it’s done depends on how you go about a courtship, and it can be summed up in two guideposts.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why I No Longer Talk Privately to Girls Online

With my series on “emotional” purity drawing to a close, I think it would be helpful to talk about some practical solutions to maintaining emotional purity. Part 3 of this series—a guest post by Emily Long—I think provided some good tips, but I’d like to go a little bit more in depth, and also provide a couple of my own tips.

I find it sad that many of the arguments I’ve seen leveled against Emily’s post from a couple weeks ago are arguments that I used to make myself. Yes! The beliefs held by many of these critics were beliefs I used to hold; however, it took several difficult experiences for me to finally realize the danger of communicating privately online with the opposite gender, and not striving to be emotionally pure.

However, these experiences aren’t unique to me. In fact, I know a guy who has very similar experiences. I will call him Sam, and he has given me permission to use his story for this post.

Sam had had very little interaction with girls until he joined an online forum full of other homeschooling Christians.  The forum happened to have a girl:guy ratio of 5:1, so by default, most of his friends were female. In the past, Sam had been rather standoffish toward girls, and he regretted that. The Bible spoke of treating each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, so that’s what he would try and do on this forum.

Because of the similarities he shared with so many on that forum, he developed some very close friendships. He became very close with a particular girl who was struggling with boyfriend problems, specifically, her boyfriend was cheating on her. Sam, feeling bad for this girl (Jane), sought to comfort her and provide advice, like any good friend would do. Like a brother helping a sister, right?  Jane told Sam how much she appreciated him and his advice, and how much like a brother he was. Sam’s father warned him that his conversations with Jane could potentially be leading her on, or could lead to her becoming emotionally attached to him. Sam didn’t think so. After all, Jane had a boyfriend, and no one could fall in love merely though conversations online…right? That’s ridiculous. Plus, Sam figured, girls had never shown much interested in him in the past. How could a girl like him? They were just friends. Just a brother and sister in Christ.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Fear Landscapes

If you've read Veronica Roth’s  “Divergent” then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention “fear landscapes.” If you haven’t read the book, I’ll explain.

In the novel, those initiates who joined the “Dauntless” faction were forced to endure their individual fear landscape, a virtual reality simulation where they were exposed to their worst fears. To pass the test, they had to defeat their fears. Only the brave could join the Dauntless.

The Dauntless are a faction that pride themselves on bravery; however, they have a very warped understanding of it. For the Dauntless, bravery has come to mean engaging in dangerous and unnecessary challenges, such has jumping out of a moving train, or the idea that avoiding conflict makes you a coward. I think often times this an idea of courage that is perpetuated in our society as well—the idea that being brave means you have no fear, and participate in reckless activities.

This is not courage; this is stupidity. Courage is the quality of mind and spirit that enables you to act rightly in the face of uncertainty, difficulty, danger, pain, or fear. Courage is not the absence of uncertainly, difficulty, danger, pain, or fear…it’s doing good despite such terrors. The greater the danger, the greater the pain, the greater the fear, the greater the darkness…the greater the potential of courage!

Courage is something we are all capable of. It’s not reserved for just those few “brave” individuals.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Is Purity Finite? - Purity Part 6

Part 1: What Are Your Thoughts?
Part 2: What Is Emotional Purity? 
Part 3: The Struggle for Emotional Purity
Part 4: Is Emotional Purity Harmful?
Part 5: Is Emotional Purity Biblical?

Hold this bucket of water. It’s filled with your “purity”. Every time some water accidentally sloshes out, or you intentionally take some out, you can never get it back. Every bit of water you lose out of your bucket is purity that can never be reclaimed. You have a finite amount of water. I think this is how some people view purity, even those who have rejected the notion of being pure all together.

Often, we see purity portrayed as being finite. We all start out at full health, and as we go through life, whatever amount we lose, can never be reclaimed. There are no purity gas stations to refill. Every little bit of purity you lose from your bucket makes you just that much less pure.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to the issue of impurity, but to many areas of sin. We feel that we all start out good and innocent, and as our sins accumulate, we become less and less capable and deserving of the good life God has in mind for us. Indeed, we soon can begin to believe that we don’t deserve anything good, or that we have “messed up” too many times to be redeemable. This is a lie that Satan plants in our heads, not God.

I’ve talked a lot about the goodness of purity throughout this series, but what if you haven’t always been the most pure? Well, then it’s possible you’re feeling one of two things after reading this series. Either you think what I’m saying is ridiculous and you find yourself wishing strongly that I am hit by a bus for saying such things, or perhaps you feel guilty, depressed, or without hope. It is not my desire for this series to result in either of these two outcomes.

For those who wish to see me bleeding on asphalt, I don’t think there is much I can say to you, except don’t get your hopes up. There aren’t too many buses around where I live. But for those who may be feeling a bit depressed or guilty from what I’ve said, don’t be! This post is for you.

Monday, September 1, 2014

What Makes You An Adult?

How do you know when you’re an adult? There seems to be a lot of confusion today. Is it simply when you reach a certain age? When you can support yourself with a job?  Get your own place?

If so, then why do so many “adults” who have these things still act like children? 

I’ve been listening to an awesome song lately by Mikky Ekko (along with its stellar remixes by The Chainsmokers  and Monsieur Adi). This song is called “Kids.” There is a line in the song that goes, “Kids, kids, kids are gunna do what they want.”

Well, if kids are going to do what they want…and an adult is the opposite of a kid, then according to Ekko, this must mean adults don’t do want they want.

That’s pretty depressing. To be an adult, I can’t do what I want. It’s also interesting that this is the exact opposite of what the culture is teaching. The culture tells us to “follow our hearts,” and therefore follow our desires. Do what we want. Be perpetual kids.

But is Mikky Ekko correct? Is the difference between kids and adults the fact that “kids are gunna do what they want,” and adults are not gunna do what they want? While perhaps over-simplified, I think this is true.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Is Emotional Purity Biblical? - Purity Part 5

So far in this series, I have introduced the topic of “emotional purity”, defined what it is, we’ve looked at emotional purity from a girl’s perspective, and I have shown how many of the common arguments against emotional purity are poor or inaccurate. Now I’m going to address emotional purity from a purely Biblical perspective. Is emotional purity biblical?

Emotional purity is frequently vilified (even by many Christians) and I find this pretty sad. Why would you want to turn down something so good? God created us to be pure, and He knows what is best for us, which is why there are so many verses and passages in the Bible instructing us to be pure. It’s for our good and the good of others.

There seem to be many Christians who think that the idea of emotional purity is not Biblical, and that physical purity is all that matters (and there is a spectrum of belief along that front as well).  I disagree. There are many passages in the Bible that make a distinction from physical purity and purity of the heart.

For example, Colossians 3:5,

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Sexual immorality is distinguished from “impurity.” They apparently aren’t the same thing...or maybe Paul is being redundant? Redundancy doesn’t seem to be the answer, since this same language comes up multiple times.

Ephesians 5:5,

“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” – ESV

Here, the word “or” clearly makes a distinction between sexually immoral (physical impurity) versus being “impure.” Well, the only other part of us that isn't physical is the spiritual part of us. So Paul is demonstrating that purity extends into both physical and spiritual purity, or “emotional purity,” as some call it.

Other translations substitute out “sexual” and simply make a distinction between “immoral” and “impure.” The King James translation reads, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Again, there is a distinction, this time between “whoremonger” and “unclean”.

But we’re not done. Galatians 5:19-21 also makes a distinction between physical and spiritual purity:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Emotional Purity Harmful? - Purity Part 4

Part 1 - Emotional Purity: What Are Your Thoughts?
Part 2 - What is Emotional Purity?
Part 3 - The Struggle For Emotional Purity: A Guest Post By Emily Long

“All the broken hearts in the world still beat/Let's not make it harder than it has to be/Ohh, it's all the same thing/Girls chase boys chase girls” – Ingrid Michaelson

I think many people take the approach Ingrid Michaelson does in her song, “Girls Chase Boys.” What’s the big deal with emotional purity? All the broken hearts in the world still beat, let’s not make it harder than it has to be. That makes sense, right?  Emotional purity just over complicates things.

Others would go on to say that there are serious problems with the idea of emotional purity. Some mock emotional purity as unrealistic or a fantasy. “Surely emotional purity isn’t even possible in this day and age.” Others claim it is downright harmful, while still more insist that to have emotional purity you must “invent a sin” such as this article argues.

Do these critics have a point? 

While I believe that—like all good things—the concept of emotional purity can be twisted or abused, we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The idea that we are to be pure in more than just our physical actions is good, Biblical, and very possible to maintain. As I said in part 2 of this series, I believe “emotional purity” is an unfortunate term to use, since people infer it is all about controlling emotions, when it’s actually about directing our thoughts, and being wise with our actions. This spiritual purity is rooted in self-control and love, both of which the Bible advocates.

But, there are some concerns.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Struggle For Emotional Purity: Guest Post - Purity Part 3

Part 1 - Emotional Purity: What Are Your Thoughts?
Part 2 - What is Emotional Purity?

When emotional purity is discussed, I find it interesting that the focus is always on ourselves. We consider whether or not a given situation would be beneficial or detrimental to us. I think this is a very poor way of looking at the topic of emotional purity.

I hardly hear anyone talk about looking out for the best interests of others. I believe that we should be seeking to help one another, and as men, we should especially seek what is best for women.

Speaking to young men, rather than merely considering whether or not a given situation or interaction might harm us, we should instead consider how it might negatively impact a young woman. For example, perhaps a hug or communicating deeply in private would hold no emotional sway over you, but it might for the young woman.

Instead of trying to communicate myself how, in general, women are different from men when it comes to the area of emotional vulnerability, I decided to seek help from those who would know better than I what it's like to be a woman. A friend of mine, Emily Long, was gracious enough to write me a letter detailing the struggle for emotional purity from a young woman's perspective, and it is copied below. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did:
Dear Reagan,

You have asked for my opinion on the issue of emotional purity. I would like to do just that by illustrating it a little.

          First, let me introduce you to our characters. The main individual is a girl just 20 years old. She has not been very emotionally pure up to this point, but has not exactly had a solid emotional relationship yet. Just a crush here and there. Perfectly normal, wouldn’t you say? We shall call her Krystal. Because I like that name.

To continue…

          Joseph is our unassuming male counterpart, who is the same age as Krystal. Although he has never had girl friends or crushes, he can’t deny that he has noticed the female population, as they seem to be everywhere. Joseph also has no sisters, and therefore does not exactly know the interworkings of a female mind. To be honest, neither do females, but we won’t get into that.

          Krystal has a good relationship with Christ (as long as He doesn't ruin her fun, and she can still be popular). She has a heart for discipling young girls, she loves children, helping moms, serves the elderly, singing for the glory of the Lord, waiting (physically at least), for her prince charming, and keeping constructively busy being a stay-at-home-daughter. On the outside, she is doing everything right. But inside Krystal’s heart are longings. A desire to be loved, to feel beautiful, cared for, protected, safe. Her father is away a lot working to provide for her family, and Krystal just feels disconnected from him and doesn’t exactly know how to share her heart with him. She hasn’t grasped the concept that in Christ alone can all these longings be fulfilled.

          Now that you understand Krystal a little, let us introduce Joseph into her life. Here is young Joseph, noticing a pretty girl who is quite talented, popular with all the people who know her, and really seems to have a heart for God. Interested, he spends a little time with her. He is not in love, has not stated anything, and is possibly not even entertaining thoughts of that sort. She has noticed him as well, and believes that perhaps he is also interested. Their families spend more time together, giving Joseph and Krystal ample opportunities to talk, form opinions, and seek each other’s attention. In Krystal’s mind, thing are getting serious, especially since “the families are involved”. Joseph has never said anything, but he genuinely seems to be seeking her out. She finds him funny, kind, diligent, caring, protective; every girl's dream boat, right? He also happens to be handsome, which of course, doesn’t exactly matter, but it…matters. Another female thing.

          Moving on…

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Is "Emotional Purity"? - Purity Part 2

Click here for part 1

So before we can say whether or not emotional purity is good or bad, we first have to know what we’re talking about. What is emotional purity? Where did it come from?

I did a lot of research on the origins of the term “emotional purity,” and my research suggested that the term is actually fairly new. The vast majority of articles I found discussing emotional purity portrayed it in a negative light. It seems there are very few people who think emotional purity is a good thing.

After reading so many negative articles, it has caused me to rethink the whole issue quite a bit, and it has led me to conclude two things.

“Emotional Purity” is an unfortunate term. “Spiritual Purity” would be a better term to use.

Spiritual Purity is—in fact—Biblical.

Before I get to how I arrived at those conclusions, what is “emotional purity”? Most people just assume everyone already knows what it is, but based on how I’ve seen some people talk about emotional purity, it is clear they are talking about something completely different than what I have come to understand as “emotional purity.”

Some have the idea that emotional purity means suppressing any feelings of attraction for someone. Shutting down emotions.

Others describe emotional purity as “saving your heart” for the person you eventually marry.

And still others believe that emotional purity is rooted in fear, and simply a means to cope with the fear of getting hurt, a fear of “loving and losing.”

I think the easiest way to define emotional purity is to compare it to physical purity (though they certainly are distinct from one another).  Most Christians seem to believe at least some form of physical boundaries should exist before marriage.  We refer to physical purity as abstaining from intimate physical acts with someone outside of marriage. I’m going to define emotional purity within this same terminology.