Monday, November 25, 2013

A Worthwhile, if not Imperative Read

I knew nothing of Gerald Heistand before I followed some links to a free book offer for “Raising Purity,” in exchange for book reviews. For this reader with few resources, a free book was too good to ignore. Besides, the book summary sounded like a worthwhile read. I was somewhere amid courtship and figured I could learn a few things despite it being directed to parents. But my mom began reading it before I found time and I didn’t see much of it for a year or two. Finally after marrying and moving and with much more time on my hands than I have had in a long time, my conscience caught up with me. Gerald is long overdue a review. I collected the book from mom and sat down to read. I thought I was reading to produce a review, not expecting to be so deeply impacted. Now, finally too long after I read the book, I’m ready to try and express the repentance God has worked into my heart through what I have learned.

Through his elevation of the gospel in purity, my acceptance of the importance of purity was raised in my heart from being defensive against sin to being proactive for the gospel. Being pure isn’t just about being acceptable in God’s eyes, it’s about promoting and demonstrating the gospel. Gerald clearly explains how immediately in the first chapter of this book and provided me the key motivation to greater commitment to purity. Prior to reading this book, I understood that marriage represented the relationship between Christ and His church, but I failed to extend the symbolism and its implications into courtship. Now, my greatest regret looking back on my courtship is not so much for specific actions, but that I contradicted Christ’s devotion to the church by communicating my attachment outside of commitment. I misrepresented the gospel and knowing this cuts me to the core.

With the gospel solidly in place as the purpose for God’s chosen guidelines for our sexuality, Gerald advances into a discussion on the categories of relationships as presented in the Bible. He describes the confusing rationale used to determine relational status because our culture has diverged from these categories, attempting to create a new category for dating which the Bible does not acknowledge. I found this discussion interesting and perhaps more philosophical than powerful in my own experience. The categories of relationship alone still leave some room for confusion in courtship standards because they are subjective to societal and family culture. Subjective standards for dating are confusing and difficult to implement because they are formed around our desires, whether pushing back against them or giving in to them.

Yet, as Gerald moves into discussing desire, the path clears. Second to the application of the image of the gospel in purity, the chapter on sexual desire impacted me profoundly. Had I read the book while still dating, I may have found clarity for what I found confusing in the details of physical interaction. My husband and I had high standards during our courtship. As advised, I had made my personal line in the sand but felt my own strengths and weaknesses used to form it were an unreliable guide to deciding my interactions. Through Gerald's thorough dissection of desire I finally identified lust and how it is manifested in a woman. I had always heard lust explained from the perspective of a man's battle and had trouble relating to it. But as he pinpointed lust at the level of desire rather than the mind and emotions, I recognized the struggles I was familiar with long before dating, for what they were, a battle with lust. This was a clarifying and convicting revelation. I now see that it was lust the made keeping my courtship standards difficult. And, beneath the line I had drawn for myself was lust, a desire for our relationship to be and appear affectionate, appropriately so, of course. Had I aimed to portray the gospel, this desire would have been less important and the struggle to maintain standards less burdensome. I particularly appreciate how Gerald highlights the influence of our perception, or in other words, our beliefs on desire. We do not need to be victims of desire, but can be set free by believing the truth about where true satisfaction lies and what is the biggest threat to that satisfaction.

The remainder of the book focuses on parental guidance, which I found much less applicable, not having children of my own. But with the amount of highlighting I continued with throughout the whole book, I know I will be referring back to it for years to come. I have received a priceless gift in “Raising Purity”, and this review is scarcely an adequate appreciation for it, but I trust God to sufficiently reward Gerald.    

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