But it was close….
I remember in the fourth grade when Valentine’s day held an embarrassing kind of surprise for me as we all went to the blackboard tray to retrieve our little brown decorated bags full of tiny brightly colored paper cliche’ poems…the egg ones with the word “egg-cited” in them,”…the turtle ones that were all about “SLOWLY falling for you”…the elephant ones that were about “never forgetting my favorite valentine,”…and the ever- popular “nuts about you” ones. This year there was candy and a big regular store-shelf kind of card in my bag… from William Rotty. Now William Rotty was older than everyone else because he’d failed a grade or two and I think he failed because he was too busy being obnoxious and thinking of devious ways to be disrespectful. It was the worst day of the fourth grade to have that big candy heart sticking up out of the top of my bag and have the whole class (including me) excitedly waiting for the revelation of its origin…only to find out that it was from William Rotty.
Some love letters are like that…the tender little expressions of relationships that are never meant to be. And we all got over the awkwardness of the moments that came in decorated class Valentine bags in the sixties. I got over the good and the bad of William Rotty, Jeff McCaleb, Mark Wolfe, Steve Cicero, Jimmy Hood, and Robert Bowman–all little boys from whom I, at one time or another, in elementary school received “special” Valentines.
And then we grew up. And so did our love letters. And so did the pain and the angst. And sometimes the awkwardness got really big and the ending of relationships was so much more traumatic than if they’d only involved a big red candy box sticking out of a brown bag taped to a black board tray.
And you know…whether you court or date, whether you live in a Christian home or not, I think there will be relationships that will change you, mature you, help to make you the woman, the mother and wife, after you finally make it to the altar of marriage, that you will be.
One day you will be telling your little girls about Valentines, about dress-up dates, about awkward moments and situations that made you laugh and cry through the dating years. That’s why I’m about dating purity. That’s why I wanted to help my daughter, in tangible ways, make it down the aisle as a woman who could give her husband the wonderful gift of exclusivity. I know what marriage can be like if there are no sexual comparisons (comparing my partner to someone else with whom I’ve been intimate or vice-versa) on the part of either partner–ever. I wanted that for her and I want it for you. It solves a lot of potential problems, not the least of which is guilt over sexual sin…a ghost that, because of His forgiveness, is sometimes not even real; but it still haunts in ways that are painful and sometimes destructive.
I may not know all the reasons for God’s very strong fences around the sexual relationship of marriage, but I do know that He is very serious about abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. And I know that it’s because He wants what’s ultimately going to fill our lives with contentment and give us eternity with Him. He gives us His very best when we purposefully do life His way.
I recognize that abstinence and purity through the teen years is a purposeful choice. It doesn’t just happen. It takes the development of a relationship with God that makes a young heart pliable and submissive. It takes the rare ability, in a world of instant gratification, to wait for the time and circumstance when I can have the best He has to offer (and His best is THE best!). It takes an amazing amount of “turning down” the influences around you and “turning up” the influence of the Word. It even takes a lot of wisdom to decipher through a lot of psycho-theo-babble today from some youth ministers and religious leaders who would try and convince you to “not worry so much about keeping lists of dos and don’ts and worry just about loving God.” (Of course, loving God is about keeping his list of commandments[John 14:15; John 15:10]. The works of the flesh are listed…LISTED…in Galatians 5.) It takes, in short, your steel will to do His real will in a world that’s forsaken Him and His system of morality. Today, for the most part, you cannot look to your peers, your teachers at school, those who are touted as “good” in the media or the leader of the free world on Pennsylvania Avenue as any sort of moral compass. Some of you cannot look to parents and some cannot even look to religious leaders.
But you can look to God. Your relationship with Him is not contingent on your family situation, your educational circumstance, or the spiritual veracity of your elders or youth group. Your relationship with Him is settled in your willingness to get into His Word and apply it, to the best of your ability, in every relationship and decision. There is great power, beyond what you have asked or imagined, when you let the power of His Word live in you(Eph. 3:20)!
May I encourage you to help yourself to happiness? There are some teen materials at www.thecolleyhouse.org that might help you as you try to be light in a dark world through the teen years. Let me know if you need them, will use them, and can’t afford them.
That’s all for now. Except here’s my short list of practical tools for your walk in purity through the teen years. Some of these sound terribly old-fashioned for those influenced by 2017 culture. But I believe this list in strongly influenced by examples and statutes from the Word.
- Decide now that you will not be truly alone for long periods of time with any other young person of the opposite sex. This will, unfortunately, automatically mark lots of guys off your radar.
- Decide now that you will choose movies and television and music and internet sites that you’d be comfortable enjoying if Jesus were physically in your presence. This will significantly narrow your scope of entertainment, so keep in mind that entertainment is not all the world makes it out to be.
- Decide now that you will abstain from alcohol and drugs and from being present when others are drinking or doing drugs. This will be prohibitive of many parties.
- Decide now that you will never dress in a way that might be provocative or cause others to think sexual thoughts. Remember, especially for guys, the struggle is real. If this involves a wardrobe re-do, get on that. This decision will also automatically mark some extra-curricular activities off your list.
- Decide now which areas of your body are off-limits to the hands of others and never, ever compromise that promise to yourself and God. This will prohibit some activities that are a part of the 2017 teen world.
- Decide now that you will get in the word and spend some time in prayer every day. Every day. Ask for His help to be pure in your heart, dress, words and actions. This will open up some unbelievable doors of opportunity for you.
- Memorize Philippians 4:8 and decide now to let it saturate every decision and purpose. This will bring contentment and peace as the context of the verse clearly states.
- Decide now what you are looking for in a marriage partner. Make a list off “must-haves”, a list of “would-likes” and a list of “can’t-handles” based a lot in the Word and a little in your own tastes and then just stick with the list. Be patient.
- Decide now that, once you marry, you’re all in…forever. This should prompt some very careful thought and meticulous elimination of people who can’t be spiritual leaders. Believe me, you WANT a spiritual leader.
- Pay particular attention to the word “now” in all of the above. It’s the most important word. (If past decisions have already messed up your “now” you can still fix your eternal future. You will, almost always, face negative consequences to sinful past actions. But “now” is still the operative word.) Start now to be what He wants you to be and you will be surprised how He can work through His will in your life to give you victory and heaven!