How Does One Keep a Vow of Chastity?
- Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18.
Sometimes people save sex for marriage because it affirms a commitment to God and consecrates their relationship. Others might see it as guaranteed protection from STD’s and unplanned pregnancy. I knew all the arguments supporting abstinence, and yet I chose to have sex long before I was ready for marriage–giving up the benefits of waiting and accepting the risks.
Chastity was a part of my Christian faith I dismissed as “dated” and counter to my personal growth in the modern world. Throughout my twenties, I considered it a radical religious practice similar to fasting. When I was told chastity is a sure path to love, I didn’t believe it. A sure way of staying single, I thought. I reached my late twenties and found myself in a two-year relationship, despite feeling marginally loved and never more insecure. “He must love me if we’re having sex,” I told myself, initiating it every chance I got. Living the “glamorous” life in Manhattan, I spent my free time shopping and going to parties, trying desperately to fill the emotional void. I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t being honest with myself, but it was so easy to let sex cover the lie.
Well, forgiveness for our mistakes is also a part of the Christian faith, and second chances are miracles, my mother always said. In my late twenties, searching for love, I decided to try a vow of chastity. I knew it wouldn't be easy. How do people do this? What convinces them? What keeps them strong? I needed examples. I wanted the right words, magic words, to make saying "no" to sex the easy choice.
I started with my church in Manhattan, asking the Bible Study Class I attended if anyone could talk to me about keeping a vow of chastity. All twenty or so Christians there, ranging in age from their twenties to their eighties, looked down at their Bibles in silence. I had thought that our eager group studying God’s word in the varnished reception room of the church would be a goldmine of testimony. After class, the minister pulled me aside. “Try St. Paul’s Church,” he suggested. “They’re more strict.”
I asked my New York City friends if they knew of anyone who had “waited” until marriage. They laughed.
I broadened my search. At the online Christian writers’ forum, American Christian Fiction Writers, I posted a plea: How does one keep a vow of chastity?
Within an hour, I had real life stories of chastity from across the country.
* * *
Betsy from Louisiana wrote about her experience with chastity. On a Saturday afternoon in April of 1996, she and her father Theodore, who goes by the nickname "Buddy," went out for dinner at Ralph & Kacoos, one of the fancier spots in their northern Louisiana town. Betsy had been anticipating this day since she was eight and her older sister Jenny had gone on her “daddy date.” Now Betsy was twelve. Her father, a computer technician for the local newspaper, was nervous. Tonight he would ask his “little” girl for a promise that would affect the rest of her life. Betsy knew from her sister what was coming and felt sophisticated and grown up, even though the situation was somewhat awkward.
“Betsy?” he began, taking a small velvet box out of the breast pocket of his sports jacket. She held her breath. “God wants the very best for you in life, and He wants you to give your very best as well. Most of all, He wants you to be safe, and so do I, which is why I’m asking you to promise me you’ll save yourself for marriage.” From the velvet box, he took a gold ring with two joined hearts. “Mommy and I waited for each other, and it means everything to us. We can only teach you what we know is right and what works.”
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