I’ve already written a bit about the purity movement quite a bit, so I won’t go into it too much except to say that it’s interesting how with certain movements in Christian circles verses get captured and shanghaied to always be interpreted in a particular way for the rest of it’s life bouncing from one small group to the next. I wonder if I’m reading the Bible as it’s meant to be read or if I already know what I want/need it to say and I’m looking for that.
All that to say is that Hebrews 4:12 has been heavy on my mind recently:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The idea that the Bible is a living organism–that it breathes life and change and is every speaking to us–how could we assume to isolate parts of it to justify our pre-established mindsets?
All my life I’ve grown up knowing that I needed to be pure. Lustful thoughts are bad and wrong and like any good evangelical homeschooler who’s read ‘Every Young Woman’s Battle‘ I know exactly which verse to quote to myself and hold to when I’m in that certain type of mood:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
(Philippians 4:8, NLT)
See? The word pure is in there, so it clearly refers to my purity and how to maintain it. Whether it was always taught to me this way or it was once and I took it and ran from it, I’ve never deviated from this idea. It’s never occurred to me that it could mean anything other than what I’m familiar with.
My recent struggle is realizing how much I can ruin a good thing for myself by overthinking and living in fear. I’m the person who has a good relationship or a platform to influence others or good health and then immediately begins imagining all the ways I could lose the person I love, lose my good standing and become chronically ill over a hang nail or a cough. I’m sure everyone is not this way, but I am so here we are, learning how Jesus is present in this still and desires me to grow.
I can’t tell you how frustrating and humbling it is to realize that none of the demons I fear are real or have power over me and that I spend a huge chunk of time in my brain planning for them. For years Jesus has been trying to tell me that it’s not the circumstances, it’s not the location, it’s not the people, it’s my perspective on things that sets me free or tightens the noose around my neck.
I was reading Philippians 4 during one such bout of irrational fears and I felt Jesus quietly tell me to listen carefully and look at what He was about to show me.
Is it true that your future holds only heartbreak and disappointment?
Is it honorable to doubt the character of the man that you love when you know who he truly is and how he truly loves you?
Is it just to assume that you’ll forever be working within a broken system to try to help your girls at work?
Is it pure to doubt who I am and who I’ve been to you all these years?
Is it lovely to try to control situations and people because you’re afraid to lose your current position in life?
Is it excellent or worthy of praise to be dictated by fear and anxiety and other people’s perceptions? Do you want to think on these things? Your thoughts become your reality, your actions, your worldview.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these verses come right after Paul’s exhortation to bring everything to the Lord in prayer and to remove anxiety from our lives–or that they proceed Paul’s confidence to be content in all circumstances. Our thoughts can change the course of our lives–nothing has to change around us (and often change is slower than we want) and we can still be on the ride of our lives because we’re being jerked around by our unbridled, emotional thought life.
The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
I can literally ruin things for myself when nothing is even happening.
Does that scare anyone else besides me?
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)
This isn’t just a purity verse, or at least not in the sense of “don’t think about having sex as an unmarried youth” sense. That’s too small and narrow of a goal when Jesus is giving us words for entire life transformation. It’s a commission to live our lives with a high level of integrity and freedom–that’s what life with Jesus looks like. (If it doesn’t, what are we even doing with ourselves?) We cannot afford to allow whatever pops into our heads to have free reign in our lives. We don’t have to live that way anymore. It’s a commitment to have our eyes wide open and a heart fully awake, fully submitted to Christ. It’s work and it’s hard, but no harder than the alternative: living life like the victim for years refusing to take control of ourselves and to step into our position as children of God.
So open up my eyes to a new light
I wandered ’round your darkened land all night
But I lift up my eyes to a new high
And indeed there would be time