I still remember the conversation. We were sitting in a coffee shop, three married women with zero kids between us, talking about purity. All of a sudden one of the women exclaimed, “Can you just imagine trying to teach your kids to be pure? Where would you even begin?” Three years later, another mom looked at me and said, “I had sex as a teenager. Honestly, I don’t even think it’s possible to raise sexually pure kids. If it is, I have no idea how to do it.” Both of these women were right about one thing: in and of ourselves we are incapable of raising pure kids. The Bible says God is sovereign (Ps 103:19), He has ordained all our children’s days (Ps 139:16), and they will be held accountable before Him for their own lives (2 Cor 5:10).
But does this mean we shrug and say, “Sounds like a lost cause to me!” As Paul would say, may it never be! We are still called to train, shepherd, and instruct our children. Let me pause and state the obvious here: my kids are 2 and 4. This is one article I’m not qualified to write as a parent. So let me write it as a child. It wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager, wrestling with sexual purity. By His grace, I believe my parents were the most influential tool God used in helping me stay sexually pure. These are the five most helpful things they did:
Raise them with a gospel-centered WORLDVIEW regarding sex and marriage. I think it’s tempting to take a spitball approach when it comes to teaching kids about purity. We present a list of isolated truths about babies, STDs, and future spouses. But they don’t need a handful of toppings; they need the whole pizza. Like every other issue, they need us to put it into the context of the gospel, teaching them who they are, who God is, what Christ did on the cross, and how it impacts sex, marriage, and His glory. All this to say…
Give them a GREATER appreciation for sex. Say what? Isn’t that like giving an Eskimo more snow? The truth is none of us want our sweet children to wind up pregnant with syphilis and a broken heart. So the temptation is to give them a lower view of sex, to emphasize its dangers and dampen the appeal. But what we actually need to do is give them a higher view of sex. We need to take their narrow perspective of this feel-good thing and STRETCH it to include the eternal design of a vast God. We need them to be awed by the fact that sex is a sacred gift, invented by God, to unite two people in worship of the Creator. When I was in high school a friend told me she thought open-marriage was no big deal. “You’re telling me, you wouldn’t mind if your husband had sex with other people?” I asked. I’ll never forget her response: “For you sex is this big, special thing. I don’t see it that way. For me, it’s just sex.” It was the first time I realized that Christians are more passionate about sex than non-Christians.
Help them see themselves as IMAGE-BEARERS of God. I once counseled a teenage girl with a laundry list of heartache: cutting, bulimia, bisexuality. You know what she sobbed the most over? Her father. She never believed he loved her. As we talked the strangest memory came to mind. I was a teenager, working on the computer with my feet on the desk. My dad walked by and said, “Look at those cute toes!” At the time it embarrassed me. Oh my gosh, Dad, I’m not 3 years old. But sitting with this girl I realized just how deeply I have always been assured of my father’s love. There’s never been a moment when I doubted that even my toes were precious to him. And without realizing it, I carried this confidence into my relationships with guys. I believed I was made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and worth respecting, because my father–the first man I ever knew–treated me as such.
Assure them of your UNCONDITIONAL love and forgiveness. Of all the times my parents talked with me about purity, the conversation that stands out the most wasn’t about staying pure, it was about failing to be pure. My mom said, “I want you to know that if you wind up pregnant, or make every mistake there is, I will always love you and be there for you.” Looking back, I realize she chose to motivate me the way Christ does, with a relationship, not with fear and the pressure to perform. Which brings me to my final point.
Let them know that NOTHING is off-limits when it comes to talking with you. Kids quickly learn to test the water before diving in. When he was in middle school, an old friend of mine asked his dad if he’d ever had “weird” dreams…you know, like about girls? At the time my friend was probably doing a whole lot more than just dreaming about girls, but he was lobbing a softball question at his dad. His father frowned, barked, “No!” and that was the first and last conversation they ever had about purity. Having a voice into the lives of our kids starts with having an ear into their world.
If I employed every one of these principles, would it guarantee that my kids are protected from the pain of impurity? Of course not. We’re called to faithfully shepherd our children, but the results are always in God’s hand…which is really the best part. If God could turn the greatest persecutor of the church into the greatest missionary for the church, He can use the most sexually active teenager to one day impact the world for Christ. And He can use an imperfect mom with a painful past to begin a legacy of godliness in her family. We serve a God who delights in using foolish, weak, and lowly things for His great glory, so together we may boast in Christ alone (1 Cor 1:27-31).
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11 thoughts on “Raising Pure Kids in an Impure World”
Thank you so much for this! As a wife, mother, and teacher who is constantly terrified by this subject, I really appreciate this post. My husband struggled with pornography and sexual impurity through most of his life and into our first year of marriage. I have had to forgive and let go of anger that plagued our relationship, and only recently have I begun to understand that it is not my doing, but God’s unbelievable grace that allows me to love him completely. Our son is three and I often think about the day he sits down with us to discuss purity; reading this relieved some fears and worry for me. May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family. And keep up the wonderful words of wisdom and encouragement! THANK YOU!!
I am so glad God used this to relieve some of those fears. When I think about my kids, this whole subject terrifies me too…which is a lot of why I wrote about it. Thank God for His sovereignty & grace! I’m touched by your testimony of forgiveness and love toward your husband. I recently heard someone say that unforgiveness is the poison we drink, hoping somebody else will die. Really stuck with me. Forgiveness is so hard, but so freeing. Thanks for sharing, Michelle–may God honor and reward your gracious & humble heart!
Thank you so much for this post. I am a sixteen year old girl and my parents have raised me the same way. I have already decided not to have sex until I marry and your post made me want to wait even more. Keep up the amazing blogging! 🙂
Kire, this MAKES MY DAY!
Great post! Even though my kids are little, I’ve thought a lot about this topic and am passionate about helping them choosing purity. I remember my parents saying that we needed to talk about the birds and the bees, but when they found out that the public school had already covered it, they said “Whew! Glad that’s taken care of.” And that was it. We didn’t go to church or read the Bible, either. So I was pretty naive when I went off to a big secular university for college. I take full responsibility for my sinful choices and don’t blame my parents for everything, but I can’t help wishing they had been more open and helpful in this area.
I did repent and trust in Jesus my sophomore year, and I know that God used my impurity to convict me that I wasn’t a good person, that I had a heart of darkness, and that I needed his light, needed Jesus’ blood to cover my sins and give me a new heart. After that I “kissed dating good-bye” (yes, this was not long after the Joshua Harris book had come out) and began living for the Lord. I married my wonderful husband after my senior year of college and we kissed each other for the first time at the altar. God is good and his grace is amazing!
Love this testimony!! My husband has a very similar story…in fact, it even includes I Kissed Dating Good-Bye too! Praise God that He uses all different backgrounds, stories, and journeys to demonstrate His glory.
This is so well written! I have three teenagers and have learned that there’s no such thing as a sex talk – there are many small investments made into their lives; talks about choices, purity, value, dreams, desire,etc. where I am listening as much as talking. It has meant that I cannot respond big, in a positive or negative way, or they will shut me down immediately. Most of all I talk with them with respect, and so far all three have been very open about their struggles and temptations. Honestly sometimes it feels like it would be easier for me not to know, but this isn’t about me or my comfort. Thanks for writing this!
Wow–I will try to remember that. I love getting insight from moms like you who are a step ahead. Sounds like you are doing an incredible job. I love that you say there’s no such thing as a “sex talk”–it’s about a lifestyle & relationship, a hundred small investments. Amen!
This is really a wonderful post – thank you. As a mom who didn’t follow Christ until into my 30’s I am still learning this stuff! Now I have something to offer our daughter as she grows up.
Thank you for this! Very thoughtful and full of grace and as the mother of two daughters it is very helpful! Although, I think I could say this for all your posts!