She pulled into the parking lot and looked at me in love and said "I'm not making any promises." This was the third store we had driven to, walked in, and caroused the swimsuit aisles of. Each store more frustrating than the other. There were hundreds of cute suits to choose from, and even though my eyes were drawn to the cute little bikinis, my mom beelined it straight to the one pieces on the back rack.
There was no way to be thrilled about this. You see, this was the early 2000's and everyone of my friends were wearing two pieces, crop tops, and make-up. This teenager was not allowed to wear or even think about asking for such items. She'd learned her lesson the hard way in trying to get around it. There was that one time, I spent the night at my cousins house and didn't have clothes for the next day, so my aunt let me wear a hand me down outfit which was a crop top and shorts. I remember putting that outfit on and feeling like I was finally cool. Riding to go watch a parade our family always gathered at my aunts house annually for, I was beaming with excitement but also terrified of what my parents were about to say. Sure enough, my dad looked at me for .000000002 seconds and told my mom "Get her a real shirt or take her home." That was the end of it. I remember trying not to cry as my mom held my hand and walked me to our car to get me changed.
"Beautiful, that's all I wanted to be."
Looking back on both of these incidents, I remember my mom fumbling through trying to explain why I couldn't wear those things. "You need to protect your purity, Amber." Protect it for what? And what was my purity anyways? Beautiful, that's all I wanted to be. My cousin was beautiful, the other girls who wore two piece bathing suits, crop tops, and make-up were all beautiful. Then there was me, the girl who had to wear things to protect my purity.
As I grew older and walked less with my parents guiding hands, I began to chose what I wanted to wear. The freedom and liberties I took were relentless. Wearing low-cut tops, tons of make-up, and even bikinis my mentality wasn't focused on purity, it was focused on attention and being beautiful or what guys were seeking: 'sexy'.
The first time I wore a bikini out in public I remember thinking "What would my parents say if they saw me in this?" I remember being overly excited to cover up my guilt/shame with a towel. I remembered there was one girl in high school who was always getting in trouble for wearing shirts that were too revealing. She was also unafraid of doing anything that we were cautioned as Christians not to do. I asked her how she dealt with guilt. Her response was "The first time, you're always going to have that knot in your stomach, but after awhile you don't feel it anymore. It all becomes worth it then because the way you feel each time you do something they tell you you're not supposed to, you get a rush. It's exciting." And those words have stuck with me.
"I numbed every bit of that knot in my stomach, and silenced every thought of opposition..."
At first I didn't believe her. I didn't think I'd ever be able to mute or numb my conscience. As time went on, I found myself taking it step by step to a place where I numbed every bit of that knot in my stomach, and silenced every thought of opposition. I wore whatever I wanted and if people didn't agree they could look away. The crazy thing is silencing my conscience was costing me and I was blind to the cost. Compromising your conviction is never free and you will always spend more than you ever wanted to.
You may have never had a discussion about purity in your life, so let me break it down a little more. My parents weren't just trying to control my wardrobe choices, they were trying to protect my values. They were convicted and knew they needed to hold me to a standard that they themselves didn't create, but our Heavenly Father. My mom used the term purity because my views of God and the world weren't tainted. Ever since I was young, I had this naive mindset that the world in and of itself was perfect. That people in and of themselves were naturally good. My parent's knew the truth. The earth was fallen, imperfect, full of broken people bent toward sin. Don't believe me? Scroll through world news. Have you ever lied? Have you ever made a mistake? No one is perfect. We are born as messy, demanding, and selfish beings. It doesn't take long after talking to even a 5 year old to hear how natural pride and ego are to us. Did you know that the cause of the fall of man was just that? A pride and ego boost.
5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
God had created man in his image and yet "the created" silenced the conscience and desired to be like God in another way. I sometimes wonder why they didn't just think to ask for wisdom. It blows my mind that over and over again we see people look to things and people for that of which only God can give us. God created the tree in the garden, God produced the fruit on the tree, God gave the power to the tree, and it was God's tree. It says that God gave Adam and Eve everything in the garden except that tree and it's fruit. The first thing Eve did when sinning wasn't eating the actual fruit, it was taking it from God. God gave them everything, but when we live in selfish ambition and desires we'll never have enough. When we seek our fulfillment from everything but God, it is never enough and we'll never be fulfilled.
..."We are born impure."
Because of sin entering the world, we are born now with a sinful nature. We are born with souls which lean toward the power of sin. To being selfish and prideful. To looking toward self-desire over the desires God has. We are born impure.
Both of my parents are believers. They came to Christ later in their lives and knew the repercussions of sinful desire. I'm so grateful they didn't mute their conscience and proceeded raised my siblings and I in a Christian home. The Lord knew I needed them in my life to show me how to focus and not just align myself with Christ but surrender my life completely to his will.
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3
With purity, it is all the more important in this day and age to be mindful of it. The less I protected my purity from a wardrobe standpoint, the more I received attention from people who didn't respect my purity from a sexual standpoint, which lead me to leave my conscience at the door and compromise my purity found in my faith. Being beautiful doesn't rely on your wardrobe choices or even how you wear your hair and makeup. Beauty is defined by the focus of your heart. What your heart focuses on will be where you place your identity. Your identity will determine your value. Your value will show your conscience. Your conscience will manifest your worship. You will either worship yourself, or God, never both. When we compromise our hearts, and worship anything other than God, we become tainted. Purity is lost. That is the cost of compromise.
15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
The best thing about purity, and this is where I get excited, is that it can be gained. The moment you accept God's best and live in His will for your life, you are covered by His grace and refined. You are reconciled by love and found blameless and pure. You are cleansed from sin. It no longer is about you and your mess but about that which God is and wants to do.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
"Purity promises perfect love."
Parents are people and they make mistakes. They aren't perfect and they'll never parent perfectly. Don't believe me? Not even Jesus' earthly parents were perfect. They lacked trust at times. And although parents aren't perfect, I'm genuinely grateful that my parents followed through with their convictions on purity. Without their desire to remove all distractions and focus on God's best for me, I don't know where I would be on this journey of faith. I doubt I would be as close to Jesus as I am now. With that being my ultimate desire (knowing God and trusting in all that He is), I know now that He desires my purity and through it promises I will be able to see more clearly how much He loves everyone. Purity promises perfect love.
5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.
2 Peter 1:5-7
Purity allows us to focus on God without the presence of guilt. The closer we are to God the less we fear, and the more we love. Purity not only removes our selfish desires, it produces the opposite effect of pride. Purity brings us closer to God and naturally that drives us to love others.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
19 We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:7-11, 18-19