The winner from last Friday’s “Fill Me Up” pack is Cheri who posted at 7:56 a.m. on 6/21. Congratulations, Cheri! Please be sure to send me your full name and address to Lynn@LynnCowell.com and I’ll get that right out to you!
I’m so excited to have as my guest poster today, Bekah Hamrick Martin. Bekah’s new book, The Bare Naked Truth; Dating, Waiting and God’s Purity Plan, is an amazing new resource for you to share with your girl!
Repulsed by the Word “Purity”
I was four years old when a friend of the family molested me, not once, but multiple times. Withdrawing, I suffered in silence–believing this man would make good on the promise to harm me more if I spoke to anyone about it.
In the years that followed, I sat up straight in my seat while youth group leaders talked about “purity” and “saving yourself”, but mentally I was curled up in the corner with my fingers jammed in my ears. My mind had repressed most of the horrific memories, but I knew enough to feel I wasn’t “pure”. Even more, the word repulsed me.
Not long ago Elizabeth Smart revealed in her book, My Story, how the Mormon concept of purity affected her decision to stay with her kidnapper and rapist. She writes about a lecture on abstinence which compared girls who weren’t virgins to a used piece of chewing gum:
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
While Elizabeth’s family would never have wanted her to come to this faulty conclusion, as a young child she could only draw on fragments of information during a traumatic situation.
I’m Not Elizabeth, but Part of Me Understands
I cringed when the marketing world recently branded my book as a “purity” book. There was no way around it; without that popular word, parents wouldn’t know the book was about grace-driven abstinence, and bookstore owners wouldn’t know where to place the manuscript on the shelf. But as I checked “okay” on the last draft of the book, I couldn’t help but think about the girl I used to be–curled up in the corner, despising that word.
My goal was to help my readers out of that place, not drive them into it.
Richard Beck, in a recent article titled Elizabeth Smart and the Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture, compares our concept of purity to an experiment in which water is contaminated and then
purified. He says, “The judgment appears to be ‘once contaminated, always contaminated.’ The implication here is that contamination–a loss of purity–is a catastrophic judgment creating a state that cannot be rehabilitated. The foodstuff is, as we say, ruined. And if ruined it’s only fit for the trash.”
To tell a girl she is impure may unintentionally make her believe she cannot be rehabilitated. While “purity” is a scriptural term, I believe our Americanized version of the word carries a different
connotation. When food was contaminated in Biblical times, I believe because resources were scarce, every effort was probably made to rehabilitate the item (unless it was “ceremonially unclean”). In America today, when food is contaminated, we replace it.
You Are Irreplaceable and Valuable
The excerpt from Smart’s book definitely made me reconsider my wordage while talking with teen girls even further. If we want to reach women with a positive message about sexual decisions, we need to be careful about the words we choose. In the words of Madison, a contributor to The Bare Naked Truth,
“It is imperative that girls know their worth and their value is not derived from their innocence. That it is not earned from anything they do or refrain from doing. We are valuable because God says we are. He loved us, created us, and called us His children.”
As the church, how do you feel we are doing in communicating their worth to today’s young women? I am giving away a copy of Bekah’s new book today. To be entered, please share your thoughts or simply say, “I’m in” in the comments below.
Bekah Hamrick Martin is a childhood abuse survivor and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan, 2013), the book that takes a stab at the lies teen girls believe about sex and relationships. She lives in North Carolina with her tall Swedish husband of six years, Ethan, and their Tiny Human, Zoey Bree. You can join Bekah for her Facebook launch party of the book tonight here.