I like to think of the journey towards greater purity in the same way that perhaps one would become a professional bowler…
BUMPER RAILS: When some of us first started bowling we probably had the staff put up the bumper rails so that every ball we heaved down the lane didn’t immediately end up in the gutter. Unfortunately, many of us dreaded the bumper rails because it let everyone know that we were a beginner. But, having bumper rails up not only kept our ball out of the gutter; it also allowed us to gain confidence as we learned proper bowling techniques.
I think the same idea can be applied to boundaries and our walk with purity. It’s true – boundaries are not the “secret” to living a pure life just as bumper rails do not turn us into PBA level bowlers. For many who are first starting out on their purity journey, they probably have instance after instance where they have wanted to do the right thing, but for one reason or another ended up succumbing to temptation. Putting up boundaries as we initially embark on our journey to greater purity will help us develop new techniques and patterns in life. In turn, that will help us see that living a life of purity is possible, not just as a once-in-a-blue-moon event, but as a consistent lifestyle.
LESSONS: After a while of bowling with bumper rails, you begin to get the hang of how to throw the ball with periodic accuracy. You might even get the occasional strike or spare pick up and when that happens you get excited, right? In fact, you begin to see your success and you want more. You want to learn how to throw strikes consistently and you want to have the confidence that you can pick up almost any spare. So, to get to that point, you recognize that it’s time to get a coach who can teach you, guide you, and correct the bad habits of your beginning stages. Someone who can show you how to take your skill to a new level – a level that perhaps you never thought was possible.
The same analogy applies to our purity journey. We all need our own coaches. We all need someone who can share with us how to live a greater lifestyle of purity, and keep us focused on that path when we want to veer off. You don’t ask another beginner to show you how to become a better bowler, you ask someone who has already developed the skill set you want. If you want your life to reflect growth in the area of purity, you will need to invite someone who is already living that lifestyle, not someone who is currently at the same level as you are. Find your coach, your mentor, and your example and let them show you that while the journey to greater purity may be hard sometimes, it is possible.
LEARNING HOW TO SPIN: One may have graduated from bumper rails to finding their own coach, but the learning process is not over. You see, for an individual to become a really good bowler, someone who can consistently throw strikes and pick up spares – they are going to need to depend on their ability to spin the ball. Spinning the ball allows you to “hit the pocket”, which means more strikes and consistent spares. You don’t get to be a professional bowler by throwing the ball between your legs. I see our pursuit of purity in a similar way. When we first started out on our purity journey our relationship with Jesus was most likely not as healthy as it should have been. No one develops a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him when engaged in a lifestyle of blatant and unrepentant sin. Any purity journey that tries to exist without relationship with Him will eventually lead you right off the cliff. In your own strength you will fail; I have failed, others have failed and even more will fail if they try. Just like no professional bowler can ever truly compete at a tournament level without the know-how of spinning/hooking the ball, the same is true for your journey to greater purity. Your relationship with Him is the most important factor that will determine its long-term success.
PROFESSIONAL EVENTS: After the ridicule of your friends for using bumper rails, the hours and hours of practice, the repetitive teachings of your coach and finally nailing down the art of the spin, it is time for your first professional event. It’s an exciting time! You go out there, you compete and you do well. In fact, you even win! It’s hard to imagine that only a few years ago you wanted to give up because you kept throwing gutter balls. It was easier to tell yourself to quit than it was to press in. But you didn’t quit and today you can celebrate that the victory is yours! Pretty cool, right? Everyone likes to win. The same scenario can be so easily applied to our purity journey.
When we first started out it was so easy to fall into temptation and repeat the cycle every few days. It was depressing, frustrating, and pretty much hopeless. But, we took our journey and broke it down into small steps. First, we put up some boundaries to help us make initial right choices. After that we found someone to mentor us and show us how to walk that path without veering all over the place. This person we invited into our life then encouraged us to go back and rebuild that relationship with Jesus. We started spending more time with Him, letting His grace and love overwhelm us. Our identity in Him began to transform our very hearts and minds. And pretty soon we began to change; not because of our strength but because of His goodness and faithfulness to us. Soon we were faced with familiar temptations but the choices made now are vastly different than the choices of the past. We begin to live out His work in us and that work has equipped us to live a life of purity in a world that is full of temptation. You are now walking on the path of victory!
CONSISTENT STRIKES WITH THE OCCASIONAL MISSED SPARE: Every bowler remembers the first event they won, whether on ESPN or at the local bowling alley. It’s a momentous achievement beating your peers under the pressure of competition. It is a memory that will forever stay with you. Sadly, you won’t win every event. In some events you may actually miss the easiest spare by the widest of margins. Does that missed spare take away all the hours you put into practice? No. Does that missed spare mean that you forgot all the advice of your coach? No. Does that missed spare mean that you are now resigned to bowling with bumper rails again? No. You are still a professional bowler with many victories under your belt. You still have a great coach and you are still equipped with some amazing skills. But you are human and sometimes, even if you don’t want to, you miss the occasional spare. The same thing happens to us on our purity journey.
There will be times where we try to bore through a moment of temptation in our own strength; in those moments we are likely to fail. Does that mean that Jesus has given up on us? No. Does that mean that His work in us did not truly transform us? No. Even though the enemy will tell you to give up, press into Him. Even though the enemy will try to condemn you for your past, or your missed spare, He is your hope. As you get ready to embark or continue on your journey to greater purity, remember that you are redeemed, you are being transformed and you will forever be stamped NEW in His sight!
End of article.