What I Had Wished I Had Known About Purity
Eight Lessons Learned Forty Years Later
(article by Adrien Segal) 2 part article
I tested the waters. More than once. I dove into previously forbidden pleasures expecting joy and fulfillment. And for a short time, it sometimes felt like my choices delivered. Ultimately, I was left feeling lonely, ashamed, and used.
By the time I graduated from college, now forty years ago, birth control and abortion had helped to banish the taboos on extramarital sex, falsely promising the opportunity for “power” and “safe” experimentation and indulgence. “If it feels good, do it” was the mantra of the day. Just at the moment when my interest in boys was reaching its peak, the sexual freedom of the day threw open new doors and invited me in.
The little voice of my conscience whispered that I was treading in dangerous waters, but the voices of the world mocked those concerns. I had no idea that some of the choices I was making then would create dark memories that continue to rise to the surface of my thoughts, compromising intimate moments and stirring regrets and shame.
Forty Years Later
Fast-forward and we see the fruits of the sexual revolution in present-day lifestyles, movies, television shows, and advertisements, which ubiquitously glorify sex of all kinds. Few seem to see any danger in this at all. Sex has become a “right” and a means of expressing personal “identity.” People “hook up” without any intention of a deep relationship. And far more sinister, we see consequences of this moral shift in the deaths of millions of children who, through no choice of their own, are sacrificed on the altar of our sexual freedom.
I regularly pray in deep grief for our society, which has exalted sexual freedom for decades, and created a climate in which men and women use sex as a form of power — a culture in which everyone is encouraged to fulfill every sexual desire. God did not design sex for selfishness or as a “right” or a means of power over one another. He hates to see that it has become the false god that it has, and he abhors the sacrifice of precious children at its feet (Jeremiah 32:35).
To Young Women Today
I had learned about Jesus as a child, but when I was 23 he broke into my broken life, in transforming radiance and glory. I encountered a person more beautiful than my imagination could hold. I fell in love with him in a way that showed me I had never understood what falling in love really meant. I wanted most to live in his presence forever, and that new desire changed the way I understood the gift of sex and all of its riches.
My new “sight” caused me to feel even greater shame about my past choices, but that shame was eclipsed by inexpressible gratitude for the forgiveness I received through the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Because God forgave me in Christ, I finally was able to forgive myself — and to walk, with his strength and help, in greater purity.
I am writing now so that maybe some of the young women of our day, and one day my granddaughters, might avoid the mistakes I made and know that God has made a better way. He means for his daughters to experience the gift of sex in the safety of the covenant of marriage to one man. In this context, this gift points to glories and ecstasies of an eternity spent with a loving, sacrificing, covenant-keeping God.
Eight Lessons About Purity
Sex is not a right, nor did God design it to define our “identity.” Our identity is in being children of God. It is not meant to be a way to gain power or acceptance. Men and women of God do not use sex as a means of gratifying selfish desires, but instead, lovingly as a means of serving one another in genuine intimacy and love in marriage. Valuing and pursuing purity will honor God and heighten the joy we experience in this wonderful gift.
Over the years, God has been so gracious to teach me about his design and purposes for sexual intimacy. This gift is packed with profound wonder and grace and truth. For any woman secretly wanting to test the waters like I did, here are eight beautiful truths I wish I had known sooner.
1. Sexual purity will become beautiful to the one who treasures God above all.
When we give our heart to Jesus, he gives us new eyes to see him and to see the world in new ways. He also changes our desires. Our urge for self-gratification diminishes more and more, and our desire to serve God and others increases, leading to far greater satisfaction and joy.
We join with John the Baptist in saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), and with the apostle Peter when he says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace . . . in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10–11). A grateful, servant heart taps into the deep riches of the gifts of sexual intimacy.
2. Sexual purity protects a glorious mystery.
God created Adam and Eve in his own image (Genesis 1:27), and Eve from Adam because God knew “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God wanted his created likenesses to have the joys of relationship. He made the man and the woman as gifts to each other.
He created their bodies to join in sex, certainly for pleasure, no doubt for procreation, but also in a mysterious way that the two “become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). For the sake of this beautiful mystery, God has given sexual interaction remarkable power to etch memories and images into the brain that will impact, for good or for evil, future emotional and sexual health.
Men and women bring not only physical connection, but also supernaturally designed qualities of masculinity and femininity and emotional and spiritual intimacy that bind them deeply to each other, and, when rightly experienced in committed marriage, to God. Violating this connection has grievous consequences in the deepest reaches of the human soul, which is one reason Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). (Lessons 3-8 con’t tomorrow).
Adrien Segal lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Rick. They attend Bethlehem Baptist Church and work with Bethlehem College & Seminary. They have four sons and five prized grandchildren.