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?