A different kind of purity.

This is the story of how I broke up with my purity ring.

I realized only after editing this picture that this totally looks weddingy. Rest assured, dear readers, I have not run away to the midlands to be married off to a farmer at age eighteen.

I’ll start at the beginning.

My parents were never purity-pushers. Wait, that sounds bad. Not like that. My parents are great parents, and one of the great things they did was /not/give 2586542864206 boundaries and regulations that were “for later” when Jake and I were little. I vaguely remember us reading a book about what sex was, which I promptly forgot the details of, but besides that, we didn’t talk about what we were and weren’t allowed to do in that area. My father never sat me down, bestowed me a promise ring, and told me to save my heart for my husband. My mom never bought me I Kissed Dating Goodbye or any of the other semi-heinous, semi-screwy purity books for tweens. (That’s another blog post, though. Opinions, opinions.) 

In terms of relationships and purity, I sort of came to my own conclusions through a relatively harmless relationship my freshman year and lots of independent study of Christian books. And, without any cajoling whatsoever from my father, I decided to get myself my very own purity ring. I paid $25 dollars for it on Etsy, and it’s a claddagh ring (pictured above, on the left).

Now. Here’s the tradition behind claddagh rings. It’s this Irish thing where you’re supposed to wear the crown turned inside to your hand until you get murried, and then you turn the crown out so you can show everyone…that you’re…in love…yay?…(I’m getting to my point a little ahead of time whoops.) The crown is supposed to symbolize royalty, the hands service, and the heart love.

It’s a lovely tradition, but I got it all twisted.

The purity thing, I had down. I really did. I can honestly say that I have never been in a situation where I’ve needed to look down at my ring finger and say “WAIT HOLD UP I’M WAITING FOR MY HUSBAND FOR THIS.” It wasn’t a guard against my having sex before marriage. I wasn’t going to do that anyway. (If you’re thinking, well, you never know, sometimes these situations can happen, then I can honestly say that YOU DO NOT KNOW ME.) Seriously. Not in this lifetime, girlfriend.

Where a purity ring is supposed to mean that you’re waiting until marriage specifically to be intimate with another person, my purity was a waiting for marriage ring – waiting for marriage with way too much anticipation for a sixteen-year-old girl to actually be having. My physical purity became rather irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, because I didn’t (and still don’t) need a guard for that, but my emotional purity started to get all skewed and messy. And the claddagh thing did NOT help at all. If my ring had been something of a “my heart belongs to Jesus” or a “Faith love something something” thing, then I may have been reminded that, you know, maybe THIS IS FOR GOD’S GLORY, AND NOT AS A DEAL WITH GOD TO HAVE THE PERFECT HUSBAND, but no, I would just gaze at my pretty ring and fantasize about the day that THE ONE would turn the stupid little crown from the inside to the outside.

(Yes, I am very very lame as a romantic person.)

At some point, I started wearing the crown on the outside even though I was very much unmarried, because I came to the conclusion that true love does not wait and Jesus didn’t wait for us. (He didn’t wait for us! Especially because us – the bride of Christ – would never be perfect and never be ready for him – but he CAME ANYWAY!! Isn’t that exciting?!) But then someone told me that I was not allowed to wear the crown on the outside until I was married, so I put it away for good.

I don’t like the idea of purity rings, unless it’s to be used as a true and real reminder to abstain physically/mentally/emotionally. (Which is their original purpose. And it’s a good purpose, by George. But I see too many girls wearing them for Husband instead of for God and it’s wrong.) I don’t like how Christian romance advice books boil down the work and glory of God and his will for your life into your relationship with your future spouse.

Here’s why, guys and gals: Marriage should never be an ulterior motive for holiness.

I remember reading one of those books, and it addressed the question, “What should I do while I’m single and waiting to get married?” Once you’re done throwing up at the notion that marriage is the only goal a person can have in their lives, here’s what the book said: Practice being a good steward, practice holiness, serve your family and friends, and it will prepare you to serve your husband one day.

Now, that sounds fine. I thought it sounded fine too, when I read it and started practicing holiness. Yay, holiness!

Holiness for my future husband, who I may have never even met before.

Not holiness for my infinitely holy God, who knows me more than the greatest man in the world ever will, and who is worthy of my holiness and living sacrifice.

Something is wrong with this picture.

I’m honestly disgusted with myself for throwing my heart and soul into this “future husband” promise (which is NOT A PROMISE, by the way) and not simply resting on the promises God has already made for me and written for me, like:

I will love you forever. (Romans 8:37-39)
I will make you more holy. (Philippians 2:13)
I will never leave you or reject you. (Hebrews 13:5)
I will lift your burdens and troubles off your shoulders. (Matthew 11:28-30)
I will sing over you, rejoice in you, delight in you. (Zephaniah 3:17) (this one makes me so happy oh my goodness)
I will be enough for you. (Lamentations 3:24, Matthew 6:33)

And, instead of listening and living by these words that have been spoken to me, I was living for a husband that 1) may not actually exist, 2) granted he does exist, will most definitely let me down sometimes because – gasp! – humans are humans, or 3) might make all of the aforementioned promises to me and then break them all. 

That wouldn’t be okay if I were hoping in his being perfect. That would be a disaster.

It would be okay – all things would be – if I hoped in the perfection of a perfect God to satisfy me.

Now, purity rings have value for varieties of abstinence. They most definitely do. And there is nothing wrong with marriage and family being a big dream of yours. That’s admirable, and that’s your dream, and I love it when God’s plans and our dreams end up being the same thing. If you just really want to get married and have lots of kids, I hope that comes to pass for you.

But the prospect of marriage should never be an ulterior motive for holiness, and I want you to understand that there is a truer love than the earthly man you’re waiting to take the ring off for. And this truer Love deserves our holiness.

And here’s where it’s up to you to listen to what’s inside your heart. Who is your God right now? If it’s your future husband, it’s time to take the ring off and put God back on the throne where he belongs.

“But wait! That looks like another purity ring!” Sort of. This is a reminder to me: 1) that Jesus deserves the throne in my life, not any guy or any other idol, and 2) to walk in holiness. Also, now when people ask about it, I can share the Gospel with them instead of explaining the claddagh thing! YES!




8 thoughts on “A different kind of purity.

  1. Dear Ellie, I just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog quite a lot. I honestly do not remember how I found it but it was such a God thing. Because It is so encouraging and whatever you have to say is a struggle or question usually going on in my own life. I am usually a silent blog reader, but I just had to speak out because this post was so awesome. I remember being inundated with the whole idea that one can only finally do great things for the Lord once they step into marriage. I was always pinning my hopes on that one day when I met that guy, but wasting all the time that I could have been using to actually serve. So thank you so much for your honesty, I feel so much better knowing there are other girls out there dealing with said issues!

    1. Thank you so much, Hannah! (I’m a pretty silent blog-reader too, so you aren’t alone there. 😉 ) Thanks for speaking up – it means so much to me that there are others going through the same thought processes as me, and that I was able to encourage you! Yes for serving Him while we’re single!

  2. Ellie, that was so well thought out and beautifully stated. I count it a blessing to have met you this year with NVP. You are wise beyond your years. I hope you don’t mind, but I would love to share what you have written. Even this older person learned something from what you expressed from your heart.

    1. Thank you so much, Mrs. Porter! Your encouragement really means the world to me. And yes, you can share – I don’t mind at all! Thanks so much, again. ❤

  3. I had a claddaugh ring as my purity ring, given to me by my Mom and not for that reason, she actually encouraged me to be impure, she and my father are not believers and I told her what the ring meant to me while I was wearing it and she said ok, she didn’t get it. But, after 10 years of marriage I am glad to have had a reminder so I was pure before marriage. What a great perspective you have! God Bless you

  4. Ellie, once again, God has used you to say to me exactly what He wanted to say and exactly when He wanted to say it. It is too easy to get off-centered and strive for holiness for the wrong reasons. I love you very much and will talk to you soon!

  5. This is FANTASTIC. In fact, I was just thinking, and talking with Sam this afternoon about how the Purity Culture idolizes “that future someone” above God and how wrong that is. Lovely, lovely post. *applause*

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