Do you ever have a question in your head that just won’t go away? This past year I’ve had many questions! But one question kept eating away at me. I wrestled with the reason I turned away from God even after growing up in a wonderful Christian home and having a fairly strong relationship with Christ going into my freshman year of college. In a very short amount of time, I made a conscious decision to turn away from God. Why?! How? !
As I mentioned in my last post, I had the God-given opportunity to talk at a weekend retreat for teen girls. My talk was a breakout session called “Dating and Purity” and through this talk, God answered my question.
Maybe you’re dealing with a similar question. I’ve included my talk for those of you who would like to read it. At the end, I will reveal what God revealed to me.
Hand out pieces of paper. Ask the girls to write down characteristics and personality traits they don’t want in a date. Ask them to do the same for someone they do want to date. Ask girls to share their lists. Discuss.
Looking at the lists we’ve come up with, who should you choose? You probably know who you should choose, but if this were a real scenario, who would you really choose? Let’s compare with what the Bible says.
What Does God’s Word Say?
Let me throw out a couple more things to help you make your decision. Open your Bibles to:
Titus 2:2, 6
New International Version (NIV)
2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.
These two verses mentioned a couple personality traits. What were they?
Self-control is mentioned twice. What does it mean to be self-controlled?
The dictionary says: restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires. It can also be defined as one of the fruits of the Spirit. Basically, it’s what you do or don’t do with the temptations you face.
How can you have self-control in dating? Allow time for girls to respond.
Let’s continue in verse 7:
7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
So what traits should your date have?
Temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and endurance. Have godly mentors or men in their lives.
Now, I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do on your dates. I want you to make your own conclusions after listening to my story.
So now we know what type of guys we should be dating. I know that’s easier said than done cuz I’m not that much older than some of you. I want to share something from my journal when I was in H.S.:
Sept. 26th, 1995 (I was in 10th grade): “I’ve really been thinking about guys. I need a boyfriend already! Seriously, I’m 15 and I’ve never even gone out with anyone or kissed anyone yet.”
Oct. 28th, 1995: (I was writing about a guy who liked me). “He’s all I ever think about. I think about my first kiss and actually going out on a date. I’m 15 – well I’m going to be 16 in 4 months – and I haven’t ever gone out with anyone yet. It’s really depressing!”
Nov. 7th, 1995: “ All I can think about is how bad I need a boyfriend right now!”
Feb. 7th, 1997 (I was in 11th grade): “I’ve been feeling pretty low about myself. I want a boyfriend so bad. It seems like everyone else but me has one. Even my brother has gone farther with his girlfriend than I have. I guess I could try going out with Ryan, but I don’t really like him and he kind of freaks me out. At least I could go out with someone though…”.
I was obsessed with guys! I knew who I should be dating, but I just wanted to date anyone. At the time, I didn’t care if he was a Christian or not.
Lemme tell you a little more about myself…
I’m the oldest of 3 kids and grew up in a wonderful, Christian home. My parents were very passionate that we knew about Jesus. We attended a Lutheran Christian school when I was in 2nd-8th grades. During my time there, we did a lot of Scripture memorization and had a Christian curriculum, so I knew more about Jesus and the Bible than most of my peers. In 9th grade, since the Christian school only went up through 8th grade, I transferred to the public H.S. I had a relationship with Jesus and read my Bible and did devotions all throughout H.S. I went out on a few dates in H.S., but for the most part, I didn’t really date, even though I wanted to in the worst way. I hung out with a good group of girls, so we didn’t drink or do anything “bad”. On the outside, I looked like a good Christian girl. And, I can honestly say, I did have a relationship with Christ. I can tell you I was actively going to church, reading my devotions and the Bible, praying and walking with the Lord all the way up through my H.S. graduation.
When you graduate from H.S., you’re excited to venture out on your own and experience the adventures life has to offer. Many of you are at this point in your lives. I couldn’t wait to graduate and go to college at UW-River Falls. I was going to graduate from college and have a glamorous job traveling the world. My priorities had changed, since my H.S. journals, I didn’t want to get married, so dating wasn’t really on my scope of things to do. Sure, if I was asked out, I’d maybe go on a few dates, but at that point I decided I didn’t feel like wasting my time when I wanted to focus on my career. Just like in H.S., I still wanted to date guys, but not seriously. Basically, I had no intentions of getting married, so I figured I would just casually date, which by the way, is a very dangerous road to go down.
I also remember, because of my sound Christian up-bringing, I prayed that God would bring me godly friends at college and prayed for wisdom when choosing the college I would attend. He made it very clear that He wanted me at River Falls and he also sent me Christian friends. During the first semester of my freshman year of college, I met a group of wonderful, Christian girls. But, I also started hanging out with another group. For most of my freshman year, I lived a split lifestyle. I acted one way with my Christian friends and acted another with my friends who didn’t act so Christian. I was at a crossroads in my life! About three fourths into my freshman year, I rarely did anything with my Christian friends. By the end of my freshman year, I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want anything to do with God. Do you know that song by Casting Crowns, “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white turn to gray. And thoughts invade, choices are made. A price will be paid. When you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. It’s slow fade!” I slowly started to make poor choices and little by little I gave myself away in so many areas of my life. By the end of my freshman year, I had completely turned away from God. How could’ve that happened when I was walking with Him only nine months earlier?!
The remainder of my college years was spent living a very spiritually reckless lifestyle. I wanted to do whatever I wanted and have fun while I was at college. I was sick of being the “perfect” firstborn, the high-achiever, a people-pleaser. Since God had all of His rules and none of them would allow me to live the party-lifestyle at college, I reasoned that I wanted nothing to do with Him.
Because I turned away from God, my life was a mess. Sure, at the time, if you would’ve asked me, I would’ve told you I was having the time of my life. And, on the surface, I looked like I had everything put together. I had good grades, my peers and professors like me, and I worked just about every day of my college career. But deep down, I was miserable. I knew what I was doing was wrong, so I dealt with a lot of guilt. I started drinking a lot. When I was drinking, I did a lot of things that weren’t good. I crossed the line many times with guys. My college drinking turned into a drinking problem that followed me into my adult life. I had to drink every day and it wasn’t just a little bit. Dabbling a little bit at the start of college led me down a path that caused me to need more and more. That’s how it always works –remember, it’s a slow fade.
During these years away from God, not only did I struggle with a drinking problem, but I struggled mildly with anorexia and bulimia. I had a horrible self-image and because I wanted attention from guys, I put my health at risk to be “pretty”. Sometimes I dressed inappropriately. I talked very dirty and swore all the time. I smoked here and there. I did crazy things when I was drinking and sometimes even when I wasn’t.
I ended up graduating from college early in just 3 ½ years due to my internships. One internship extended even after I graduated. There’s an annual national beef cow show that’s held every Jan. Because it’s such a huge show, my company asked me if I would come to Denver with them. So, in Jan. 2002, I went to Denver for 10 days. Before heading out to Denver, I went to Kansas City early to meet up with my co-workers to help them get ready for the show. We decided to head out to Denver a couple days early to meet up with some of their friends before we had to work. The second day we were out there would impact my life more than I ever knew…
My friends and I went out and drank a huge amount of alcohol. At some point, we ended up meeting up with one of my co-worker’s friends. Eventually we ended up in their hotel room. Since we were all so drunk, I really don’t remember much about this part of the night. What I do remember is that I had either fallen asleep and woke up or had gone to the bathroom and came out to find no one was in the room except for me and one of my co-worker’s friend’s friend. I remember asking where everyone went, but I don’t remember what he said. That’s when my life changed forever. At that moment, I was raped. I-was-raped! I was thrown on the bed and, because I was so intoxicated, I couldn’t move or do anything about what was happening to me. After this guy was done, he threw my clothes at me, barely let me get dressed and literally shoved me out the door. Here I was in my early 20’s, I was fairly successful and I was lying on the floor in a heap as a rape victim. He got what he wanted. He used me. He shoved me out. It was such an intimate violation and it left me in complete shock.
By the grace of God, I made it back to our hotel across town. The next morning, I woke up still in denial. Have you ever woken up and been all happy and then that feeling hits? You know the one… That bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. I woke up that morning, happy to find I was in my hotel room. I reminisced saying, “Wow – what a night!”. But something didn’t seem right. I thought a little longer. And then it hit. Oh, THAT. I decided there was no way I was going to mess everything up by telling everyone I was raped. I took the blame and decided because I was so drunk it was my fault. I decided I would just pretend like it never happened and I’d be o.k. For the most part, that theory worked. At first I’d think about the incident here and there, but honestly I just shoved the whole memory down and pretended like it never happened. I didn’t even shed one tear! I didn’t tell my co-workers, I didn’t any of my college or H.S. friends, I didn’t tell my family, I didn’t tell my husband - I didn’t tell anyone! The problem with that theory is you can’t just pretend like nothing happened! It doesn’t work that way…
During H.S., my parents told me about my aunt being raped at a cattle show. Only a year or so before I was raped, my cousin, who is only 2 weeks younger than me, was raped by multiple men at a party because she was so drunk. Both times I remembered thinking something like that would never happen to me. Now I wear the same title – “RAPE VICTIM”. NEVER in my wildest dreams did I EVER think I would be saying that I am a rape victim, but I am… Maybe you’re thinking you’d never let anything like that ever happen to you. That’s what I said and look at what happened.
You see, when you turn away from God, whether you make a conscious decision like I did, or just dabble outside the boundaries that God sets up for us, you put yourself in harm’s way. Ten years ago I was raped and I’m still dealing with the pain from that 5 min. part of my life. In order to cover up the pain, I developed a serious drinking problem. That drinking problem affected my first job out of college. Being raped and making poor choices affected my marriage. At several points, we weren’t sure we were going to survive our marriage! The hours and hours I’ve spent crying are more than I can count. The money and time I’ve spent at a counselor’s office is way more than we can really afford. I haven’t mentally been there for my kids. The pain this has caused my family has been huge. My parents feel like they were failures. Poor choices affect more people than just you! The choices you make now and into your early adulthood WILL affect others. They will affect your family, your friends, your spouse, your kids.
This is the part I want you to really pay extra close attention to…
Remember, I grew up in a Christian home and I had a strong walk with God when I went to college. My parents were wonderful and they taught my siblings and I well. They were very open with us and we had a lot of really good conversations about sex. I knew about all the risks – STD’s, unwanted pregnancies, that depression and suicide is 12 times higher in sexually active girls, and about the risk of getting raped or something worse. It’s really hard in a moment of passion to stop. There isn’t a statistic in the world that’s going to scare you enough when you’re to that point. And then when you throw alcohol in the mix, it’s even harder. Something clicked in me and I listened to Satan. ‘Have fun! Everyone’s doing it! You already screwed up, so there’s no point in stopping now!’ When you listen to Satan’s lies, you ALWAYS lose. Not sometimes, ALWAYS. When you sin, no matter what that sin is, there’s always a consequence. The little bit of fun you’ll have is NOT worth the pain, regret, shame, guilt and consequences you’ll have to deal with as a result of crossing outside of God’s boundaries.
So where do we go from here? I had a strong relationship with Jesus Christ and I made some really bad choices. How do you make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did?
It’s actually very simple: Everything starts with your relationship with Jesus Christ!
Again, I had a good relationship with Jesus leading up to my six years away from Him. But, I wasn’t pure in every area of my life. My heart wasn’t pure because I was dabbling too much in what the world says was o.k. When you dabble, you become desensitized. Things that seemed shocking at the beginning don’t seem so bad after a while and you slowly start to do more and more of it. Let me explain:
Look at your life. What type of music are you listening to? Who are your friends? What words come out of your mouth? What T.V. shows and movies are you watching? What magazines or books are you reading? What websites do you look at? How are you dressing?
You’re in the Dating and Purity session. This isn’t just sexual purity we’re talking about. If your only goal is to be a virgin on your wedding night, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great goal to have, but it isn’t the only goal you should have. There are lots of teen out there who are doing everything but having full sexual intercourse. They’re having oral sex, making out naked, and fondling each other and who knows what else. They’re listening very sensual music. They’re watching very graphic movies. They’re reading smutty books. Purity is way more than just sexual purity.
What does the Bible teach us about Purity?
A lot of this info I’ve gotten from Dannah Gresh’s “Pure Freedom” videos:
Please turn to Psalms 51:5.
Ps. 51:5 – New International Version (NIV)
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
So how were we born? Sinful.
So are we pure when we’re born? No.
We were born sinful or in other words we weren’t pure at birth. So obtaining purity is something we have to work towards.
Now turn to Luke 17:1.
Luke 17:1 - 1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come…
So what’s this verse talking about? Temptations.
Temptations will come. We will be tempted!
So what do you do when you’re faced with a temptation?
· Get out of there! Physically leave or mentally leave.
· Talk to the Lord. Ask for help. Recite scripture out loud.
· Identify the issue as an actual temptation.
· Tell a friend and be held accountable for future temptations in that area.
If you walk away from a temptation with God’s help, you’re learning how to live a pure life. Purity is a process of saying no. It’s not a sin unless you act on it.
What will ensure you to a life of purity?
You can determine in your head all you want that you’re going to lead a pure life, but you’ll never be able to accomplish that goal. You can listen to your parents, your youth pastor, read Christian books, look at Christian websites, attend events just like this one, and you still won’t be fully pure. Think back to what I said: YOU can determine all YOU want that YOU’RE going to lead a pure life… Did you catch that? YOU, YOU, YOU! YOU can’t do anything on your own. You need God’s help to be pure and blameless before His sight. Only He can teach you!
Let’s look at Titus 2:11-14.
Titus 2:11-14 says:
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (NIV)
New Living Translation (NLT)
11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed (another word for taught/teach) to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
English Standard Version (ESV)
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
So what ensures us to live pure lives? God’s Grace! God’s grace purifies us. God’s grace teaches, instructs, or trains us!
Let’s review what grace is:
This info comes from (http://www.bibletimelines.org/framedgrace.html)
Grace is much different than Justice and Mercy:
- Justice is getting exactly what we deserve (which when you’re talking about sin, our just punishment is death).
- Mercy is not getting the bad that we deserve.
- Grace is getting the good that we do not deserve.
Simply put, Grace can be defined as God's unmerited favor. God's grace is something God does for the benefit of His people just because He loves them. Grace can never be earned, it's totally free.
So, God gives us something good we don’t deserve. He gives us wisdom from His Word on how to live a pure life. Remember, He teaches, instructs or trains us. Get into the Word and presence of God through prayer every day. Ask Him to show you His ways. He promises He will! And, find an accountability partner to help you along the way. That’s so important!
If you nurture your relationship with Christ, then, and only then, will you be ready for a relationship with someone here on earth. EVERYthing must be sacrificed to love Christ. Even if that means giving up a relationship, an activity, a hobby, cleaning out your closet, or who knows what else. Start with your relationship with Christ and leading a pure life. Then let God bring you a date when He knows you’re ready.
If you’ve already crossed the line in regard to dating and sexual purity, it’s not too late. Don’t accept the lie that I did and say since you already screwed up, there’s no point in trying. TODAY you can start fresh. You can start over! Confess your sins and ask God to help you start over. He loves you more than you can even comprehend and the second you ask Him, you’ll be pure and blameless in His sight. You see, purity has nothing to do with your feelings. Even if you don’t feel pure, God sees you as pure and He loves you.
If there’s something you need to confess – a secret, a sin, something you’re struggling with - first and foremost tell God. Then find a trusted friend or family member, a counselor, a youth group leader or whoever and tell them. Don’t do what I did! Don’t shove it down and try to forget about it, because that never works. You can’t have the relationships that God intended for you to have unless you deal with your past, your hurts, your struggles, your sins. Once you finally verbalize the issue, the devil has no power over you! He can’t use it as blackmail against you. Then, and only then, can you begin to heal!
Look at James 5:16:
New International Version (NIV)
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
Take a few moments to reflect. Analyze your life and ask God to show you the impurities. Ask Him to forgive you and to teach you how to live a pure life. The wonderful thing is that no matter what you’ve done, the second you ask for forgiveness, you’re pure! God looks at you and you’re as white as snow to Him.
So did you catch the answer? Only a week before my talk, God surrounded me with His presence and His answers. I spent a night praying, watching Dannah Gresh’s purity videos, and searching the Word. At the end of my time with the Lord, He reigned down the answer to my question and the direction He wanted me to take my talk. It was that tingly, warm-all-over feeling that left me wanting to dance around. I started praising God and thanking Him that He made it so crystal clear.
The reason I decided to deny God after 18 years of walking with Him, is because I wasn’t pure deep within my heart. Prior to getting to college, I was doing everything I was supposed to do – reading my Bible, doing my devotions, going to church. I stayed away from the things I was supposed to – drinking, drugs, and sex. But, in the core of my heart, I wasn’t right with God. Really, all I was doing was using Him to keep me out of hell. I went through the motions and used God when I needed Him. When it came to the temptations I was facing, I relied on myself instead of calling out to God for help. Even though I seemed to be going in the right direction, I wasn’t. I had a heart condition – I wasn’t pure.
Remember what I said in my talk? Becoming pure is a process, only possible because of God’s grace and through His instruction. He purifies us from the inside out. Once we’re purified, we’ll be able to have the relationships God intended us to have and to live out His will for our lives. Praise God!
1 John 1:8-9
New International Version (NIV)
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I still have a long ways to go with my healing process. The last year has been a journey in regard to my rape experience and one that I will continue on for years to come. As for my quest to purity...obviously none of us will ever become fully pure until Jesus brings us home. Until then, we can lean on God and ask him to teach us.
It’s my hope through my Blog, Break Forth Like the Dawn, you’ll find healing. Not only is this blog very therapeutic and healing for me, I pray you’ll break free from your past hurts and be healed from your current conditions. Ultimately, I pray God would give me words that would encourage you and help you break out of darkness into the light. "Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear..." Isaiah 58:8.
Great places to begin on your road to healing:
Celebrate Recovery: Celebrate Recovery is a program designed to help those struggling with hurts, hang-ups, and habits by showing them the loving power of Jesus Christ through the recovery process. http://www.celebraterecovery.com/
Advocacy for Abuse Victims (AVA) http://www.covchurch.org/abuse/
Focus on the Family: Find a Christian Counselor Near You http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/articles/consider_counseling.aspx
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network http://rainn.org/
Hope for Healing: Where Abuse and Rape Survivors Find Hope http://www.hopeforhealing.org/