The Gift of Purity

I used to bristle at the word pure. Amidst the #metoo movement, there has also been recent backlash against my passport country’s “purity culture,” even amongst believers, so I suppose I’m not the only one with mixed feelings about the word pure…when I forget where my purity comes from. I agree completely with biblical mandates to honor marriage and wait for good timing (i.e. taking Beyonce’s and St. Paul’s advice to put a ring on it instead of burning). But I also have longed to stand with the women wearing a Scarlet A on their chests, to let them know they are not alone nor forsaken in the midst of their impurity.

Purity, as both my host and passport culture sees it, can be lost in a plethora of ways. Seduction. Misspent youths. Abuse. Attacks. Both categories of loss (given or forced) and all the grey areas in between can cause similar results—shame, isolation, aggressive defensiveness, feelings of worthlessness. They leave one with a sense of loss. There is now no more pristine, powdery, serene, snowy purity. There is just the scarlet wound of the impure.

Secret or no secret, the shame attaches to one’s soul.

As an expat, this takes on a whole new dimension. We are sometimes in countries where abuse or harassment of women is rampant, even accepted. Women can even be blamed for “asking for it.” We may be judged to be women of immoral conduct just based on our skin tone, which can be triggering or upsetting no matter what our history. We may in fact feel a need to cover up both past or present abuses or sins in order to save face—face of the company, coworkers, the marriage, the ministry, or self. Crimes are swept under the rug, wounds are neatly bandaged not aired, and perseverance is the key to accepting hostility.

And yet, I have found, in the midst of humans who may or may not stretch out a hand of compassion, there is another who Sees. Like the used and discarded Hagar of the desert exulted, we too can find the God who sees.

He sees the scars, the secrets, the scarlet A, and yet He loves. An unfathomable, pursuing, safe powerhouse of love that longs to scoop up the broken pieces of impurity and wash them clean in His gentle, pure love.

“Come now, and let us reason together, sayeth the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” Isaiah 1:18 (KJV).

Whatever impurity may be a part of your story, and for whatever reason or however long or recently ago, it is not a part of your identity. Whatever secret or open scarlet A may have been placed on you—by passport or host culture, people or one person—it is not the Name by which He calls you. You are now Beloved, and Daughter.

You’re the one He sees as pure, and He loves you.

Cultures can divide women into pure and impure. But the Bible makes one distinction only: Jesus, and the rest of us. And because He is pure, and absolutely none of us on the planet are pure, only He can give purity, and be truly pure. With His love, He gives us our purity. We do not earn it, we cannot lose it, and no one can take it from us.

He loves us purely… and so we are pure.

What ways has your culture’s view of women (host or passport) affected your view of yourself? Your daily life? If you have felt very blessed and well treated in this area, how can you stand alongside sisters who may be struggling to receive their purity from God’s grace? In what ways are you thankful for the God who Sees you?

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash



  1. Michele April 2, 2018

    In my first host country (and it would likely be a similar story here in my third, if I were as young as I was in my first)… I learned to have my guard up always with men, particularly men I didn’t really know. During my language learning, a guy grabbed my notebook and wrote some English words he knew, words which made me feel violated. At different times I had men touch me inappropriately on the bus or on the street. When I instinctively slapped a guy who tried to put a hand down the front of my polyester teacher’s uniform, he literally looked shocked. I guess he just assumed all white girls were open to that on their way to school in the morning? I learned to avoid eye contact with men, and didn’t realize how affected I was till a couple of months into my first furlough when I began to remember that a guy smiling at me in Walmart, was genuinely just saying hello, and that my friends’ husbands hugging me was normal, brotherly affection.

    In my current country, it’s not just foreigners that get what we would call harassed on the streets and buses, but any woman under 30 (and some over). I’m not a mother, but at 48 with a 26 year old niece and a generation of students I knew as children now in their teens and twenties, I feel very ‘matronly’ and have been known to step between a leering young man and the girl who is trying to squirm away from him. I’m sure some of this protectiveness toward strangers on the street comes from my own experiences. I hate to see someone made to feel impure because of someone else’s impure thoughts toward her.

    1. E. Marilyn White April 2, 2018

      Thank you for sharing Michele! I’m so sorry those things happened to you… but wow, thanks for using that experience to turn it around and be proactive, empowered, and protective of other women in the same position. And I know what you mean; it can be reverse culture shock to realize that there are different social cues in our home countries (smiling and eye contact and hugs = okay! in general). You summed it up perfectly… we are not impure because of other’s impure thoughts [or actions] towards us. Amen sister! Thanks for helping the women in your world. May God continue to bless this calling in your life!

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