When I thought of this series, this lovely lady was the first person I thought of to guest post. After reading her debut novel over a year ago A Passion Most Pure, I was so uplifted and encouraged. Not only was it a really good story, but I was inspired to continue on this journey of purity. I pray you are as uplifted in this post as I was when I read it. (Bold points are my emphases. :-))
It grieves me to admit it, but as a “wild child” of the 60s and 70s, purity was the very last thing I was concerned about. But … I am happy to say, the very thing God used to give me the desire of my heart—a man who would cherish me with all of his. In short, the kind of love born of … well, to coin a phrase … “a passion most pure.”
As number twelve of thirteen children in a pretty dysfunctional family, I was starved for love, so let me tell you—the “free love” era of the 60s and 70s sounded real good to me. Only guess what? It wasn’t free. Nope, it cost me a bundle in heartbreak, low self-esteem, depression and a few other things that impacted the rest of my life … and not in a good way.
But, oh, the pull of romance for a little girl who never felt loved! From the age of eight when I first sneaked downstairs to watch forbidden romantic movies while my parents were asleep, to the moment I turned the last page of Gone With the Wind at the age of twelve, I knew I wanted to be loved like that. To have a man think I was beautiful and to be loved, cherished and protected as the most important thing in his life. To be special to someone who was special to me.
It wasn’t until I was 23 years old and gave my heart to Christ that I finally understood that I was “special” to someone. Maybe not to the boyfriend who dumped me or the boys who told me they loved me to coax me into loving them, but to a God who said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness,” —Jeremiah 31:3. And oh my, how my life changed on a dime!!
I went from being heartbroken, used and abused in my quest for love to channeling all that passion for romance into loving God, drinking in His love, submerging myself in His Word and basking in the glow of being “special to Someone who was special to me.” I finally understood that the kind of love my heart longed—and the kind of love He longed for me to have—was rooted in Him, in His Word and in application of His precepts.
You see, I like to think of God as Milton Bradley. He made the game of “Life” and wants us to win (reap His blessings), so he gave us the rules to follow (His precepts). In fact, this is the key message in A Passion Most Pure—Deuteronomy 30, choosing life or death, blessing or curse. It’s really quite simple. If you choose life (doing things God’s way), you will be blessed. If you choose death (doing things your own way), you will be cursed. God didn’t set it up like this to “lord” it over us, no pun intended, but so He could bless us with good things simply because He LOVES us!
So many young girls today equate strong sexual feelings with love, so they move in with their boyfriends for a while, may or may not get married and then wonder why the marriage or relationship doesn’t work. Because although sexual attraction is nice, it doesn’t sustain a marriage or a relationship and will eventually fade when the marriage or relationship does. Not only that, but I truly believe young women cut themselves off from God’s blessings in a relationship when they go against God’s precepts (the Deuteronomy 30 principal mentioned above).
I believe this so strongly, in fact, that I drummed it into my kid’s heads from little on. Imagine my joy and shock when my college-age son told me what he said to his roommate, a Christian young man who was sleeping with his Christian girlfriend. “But I thought you loved her?” my son told his friend, and the friend answered, “I do, which is why it’s so hard to stop.” My son’s response? “No, because if you really loved her, you’d want God’s best for her instead of cutting off His blessings by giving in to your own lust.”
Let me tell you—that was a “proud mom” moment, for sure!
Now for anyone who says, “That’s all good and fine for you, Julie, but it’s just too difficult to stay pure in today’s amoral society where everyone is doing it and morality is considered odd. As mentioned above, one of the key Scriptures in A Passion Most Pure is Deuteronomy 30, and Vs. 11 comes right out and says “it’s not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” Why? Because Vs. 14 says “it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Notice it says “mouth” first, “heart” second. I believe that speaking and praying God’s Word over and over helps to put it in your heart so you can obey it.
|Keith and Julie Lessman|
And for those who call purity prudish? I hope you all agree there’s nothing prudish about my heroine, Faith O’Connor in A Passion Most Pure, just as there was nothing prudish or unrealistic about me as a new Christian in my twenties. We’re talking real women with real desires trusting God’s Word to lead them to His best. Easy? No. Doable? Yes, with God’s grace! Before I was a Christian, I was honest enough to know that doing things my way had never yielded me any happiness, only heartbreak. But, WOW, once I started applying God’s precepts, the blessings started to flow and heartbreak took a hike.
Believe me, I know because I’ve lived it, proved it. Whenever I went out on date, I would set moral boundaries (just like Faith did with Mitch in A Passion Most Pure). I soon discovered when guys realized I meant what I said, most of them didn’t take me out past four dates. This happened once with a guy I particularly liked and had a lot of fun with, so I actually phoned to ask him why he’d stopped calling. He basically told me that yeah, he’d had a great time, too, but that he could “find a girl who would give him a great time and sex as well.” I was stunned, but soon realized that what God’s morality was actually doing for me was keeping the wrong guys away (along with the hurt) and saving me for the right one AND the right time (my honeymoon). In fact, setting moral boundaries was such a part of my single Christian life I actually told my husband on our fourth date I really had enjoyed dating him and wished him well. “What are you talking about?” he asked, and I told him about my four-date experiences. God bless that man because he promptly asked me out for the fifth time, and the rest is beautiful history! This year I am celebrating 33 years of wedded bliss to a man who makes me feel as if I am living my own personal romance novel.
Seven years into my marriage, the realization of what God had done for me came full circle one morning when I was still half asleep and feeling down about a nightmare I had. In the dream, I’d been single and depressed about the fact that no one would ever love me. Trust me, as the only unmarried one in a family of thirteen kids until I was 28 years old, the loneliness and despair in that dream felt more than real! All of a sudden my husband moved in the bed beside me, and the following Scripture drifted in my mind as gently as a whisper from God: “God honors those who honor Him.” I remember lying there with tears in my eyes because once again, God had proven His Word true. And since He is “no respecter of persons,” what He did for me, He can do for you!
In closing, I’d like to include a scene from A Heart Revealed where Emma Malloy discusses this very subject with her young neighbor, Casey Herringshaw, named for the owner of this blog who knocked herself out in my newsletter contest to have a character named after her in my next book. I want to thank Casey, not only for inviting me to speak about purity before marriage today, but for being one of the sweetest, kindest, most encouraging human beings I have ever been privileged to meet. Thank you, Casey, for the gift of your friendship. I have no doubt whatsoever that God will “honor you for honoring Him.” Without further ado, I give you Emma and Casey in a scene from my upcoming book that will release September 1st, A Heart Revealed.
Exhaling quietly, Emma made her way to the kitchen where Casey washed dishes at the sink. Arms folded, she tried to look stern. “How many times have I told you that you’re my guest, Casey—I don’t invite you to work.”
Casey shot a grin over her shoulder, one blond curl obscuring one eye. “Just say ‘thank you,’ Emma, because we both know Mama would tan my hide if I didn’t.”
Emma sighed. “Thank you, Casey, I appreciate it, and your mother would be proud.”
The young girl paused, her smile pensive as she dried her hands. “So, why do you do it?”
“Do what?” Emma gathered the soiled tablecloth and placed it on the counter before retrieving the domino set from the bottom drawer of her cupboard.
Casey studied her, gaze narrowed in thought. “Give extra money to Mrs. Peek.”
Emma rose and turned, the wooden box clutched to her chest. “What do you mean?”
Tossing the towel over a rack, Casey ambled to her seat to and settled in, arms folded on the table and lips bent in a wry smile. “Come on, Emma, I know you give money to Mrs. Peek, just like you give money to me and heaven knows how many others. And as if that isn’t enough, you insist on fixing us dinners and lending me clothes. You keep Mama posted on my progress and you watch me like a hawk—” One side of mouth hooked up. “A ‘mother’ hawk, to be exact, hovering over me, taking care of me. I’ve seen you bake brownies for people at work, kids in the neighborhood and just yesterday, Margaret Latham told me you’ve been tutoring her in math.” She cocked her head. “So, tell me because I really want to know—why do you do it?”
Emma blinked, Casey’s question catching her off-guard. She laid the box on the table and thought about all the dinners they’d shared, all the conversations about movies or fashion or love. Sure, Emma had given advice here and there, even referring to prayer or her deep faith occasionally on their strolls to church. Her pulse quickened. But for Casey to ask such a question outright meant the door was open for more. More of Emma’s heart.
And more of God's?
She swallowed her hesitation and sat down, scooting close to the table to upend the box. Dominoes spilled across the lemon-polished wood with a clatter while Emma peered up, her heart spilling with love. “Because I have to, Casey, I can’t help it.” She cocked her head and gave her a mischievous smile. “You know how you feel when you’re with Johnny, as if you’re going to bubble over for the love he brings into your life?”
Casey nodded, a blush blooming on her face as she released a lovesick sigh.
“Well, it’s the same with me,” Emma said in a matter-of-fact tone, fingers flitting across the sea of tiles to turn each of them face down.
Ridges formed in Casey’s brow. “I don’t understand. Rory hurt you and now you’re alone.” She squinted, as if trying to comprehend. “Do you mean love for friends?”
“Yes, affection for you, Mrs. Peep and others, certainly, but that’s not the love I mean.”
“What, then?” Casey asked, the innocence in her face plucking at Emma’s heart.
Emma paused, fingers lingering on a tile. She glanced up with a tentative smile. “The kind of love that has the passion of a lover and the faithfulness of a friend, Casey—God’s love.”
Casey’s eyelids lowered as she shifted in her seat. “But we can’t see or feel God, Emma, so how can you feel his love? I need more than prayers to a God I can’t touch, see or hear—I want to hear words of love, see kind actions, feel hugs and kisses …”
“We all do, Casey, because yes, we’re human beings. But we were made in God’s image.” Drawing in a deep breath, Emma leaned back in her chair, her eyes tender. “Which means, like Father, like daughter. You want to be loved? So does he. You want to be touched? So does he. You want to feel the rush of a kiss or the warmth of a hug?” Tears pricked Emma’s eyes. “So does he, Casey. Which is why I rushed to him when Rory hurt me and my family betrayed me. And you know what? I found a God whose arms were open wide and whose heart leapt with joy when I called his name. As protective as a mother and as jealous as a lover, this was a God who wanted me for his very own. Me—Emma Malloy! To touch, to bless, to fill with his pleasure.” She swallowed hard, her gaze locked on Casey’s. “Until I overflow, spilling his love on all those around me—treasured possessions of a passionate God.”
Casey stared, wide-eyed. “But I don’t feel that way about God, Emma, and I don’t know how to change that.”
“No, but he does.” Emma squeezed her hand. “Pray, Casey, for him to be the center and source of your life, for a passion for him that’s so strong, you feel him, touch him, hear him, just like he wants you to. And when you do, the love he pours in your heart will wash over everything in your life, making it the very best it can be.” Emma smiled. “Especially romantic love with someone who weakens your knees.”
The glow returned to Casey’s eyes. “Oh, Emma, I hope so, because I really do think Johnny may be the one.” She hugged her arms to her waist with a whimsical smile as if she were hugging Johnny himself, and then in a soft huff of another sigh, a bit of trepidation clouded the stars in her eyes. She chewed on her lip. “I just wish there was a way I could know for sure.”
With a sweep of her palm, Emma shuffled the dominoes and peered up. “There is.”
“How?” Casey asked with a kink of her brows.
Emma commenced selecting her dominoes, the smile on her lips at odds with the concern in her heart. She leaned forward, her voice tender and low. “Emotions are a powerful force, Casey. They can cloud our judgment and lead us into things that can hurt us, especially when we think we’re in love. But … not if you do it God’s way. It’s the only way to remain unscathed in a relationship.” Emma straightened and drew in a deep breath, determined to protect Casey like she wished someone had protected her. Absently brushing the scars on her face, she released a weary sigh. “Trust me, Casey—my life would be very different if I’d heeded what I’m telling you.” Emma reached to graze Casey’s hand. “Which means a good-night kiss at the door is fine, but anything more will only muddy the waters.” She drew in a deep breath and withdrew her hand, her gaze fused to Casey’s. “And never, and I repeat—never—allow Johnny into your apartment alone. It’s too dangerous.”
A hint of rose crept into the girl’s cheeks as she quickly selected her tiles. “But I don’t understand, Emma—how will that help to make sure that he’s the man for me?”
Emma picked her own tiles slowly, carefully, as if their import were as critical as what she was about to say. “Because the right man will love and respect you more for your strength of commitment, while the wrong man will only push to have his own way, all the while professing a love to sweep you away.”
Her thoughts trailed back to Rory as her voice faded to a whisper. She stared blankly at her tiles, sick with regret that it had been Rory’s “love” that had shaped her future rather than God’s. She shivered, suddenly aware of Casey’s probing stare. Drawing in a cleansing breath, she lifted her chin, never surer of the truth of her words. “Trust me, Casey, if I had followed God’s will and remained pure, I wouldn’t be bound to Rory today. Because when it comes to true love, there’s no better safety net than God’s precepts to protect you from hurt and heartbreak. Because you see, when the wrong men come face-to-face with a woman who follows God laws, they will leave. But the right one?” She smiled, her words infused with the same sense of peace and certainty she felt in God’s presence every day of her life. “Now he, my friend, will stay.”
**Reminder that all comments left this week are elligable to win any of Julie's books. I am also offering a copy of A Passion Most Pure to one winner. A total of 5 this week**