Is Purity Even Relevant Today?

There are many reasons to wait for sex –good reasons, lame reasons, and even churchy reasons.   But there aren’t many compelling reasons to actually deter most of us from the dirty deed. 

Sex feels good and life is hard enough, so goshdangdarnit, what kind of overbearing big brother meanie wants to take away all our fun any-who?

I never had to deal with all the Christian angst of dating the first time around.  I was just a big old sinner.  After a solid year in a sorority much of my anxiety swirling around sex dissipated.  I determined I was a decent person “morally,” compared to the other slutty coeds, because I reserved sex solely for relationships (which might have included friends with benefits too).

I picked up my ex-husband in a bar when I was twenty-one.  Three and a half years later we married and sometime in between meeting him and saying “I do,” I fell in love again and brought another guy into the relationship.

It was Jesus.

About a year into the whole Christian dealio, I tried to get on board with the fire and brimstone “purity” message I heard preached at my church –apparently to scare all the singles into behavior modification.  So I tentatively asked my (then) fiancé if we could cease having sex and wait until we were married to resume our intimacy. 

He vehemently said “no,” Ummmm.  Ok.

Ten years later when my ex-husband departed into the arms of another woman and left me with two small children I finally got my chance to try dating as a Christian.

But I don’t know if I was in any way more prepared despite the Christian sticker on my bumper.

Yes…I had given my heart and soul to Jesus.  I knew all the Bible verses, taught women’s Bible studies and was even enrolled in seminary.  And yet I still slipped up in the sex area.

I wanted to honor God.  I earnestly tried HARD in my dating relationships to avoid sex.  And it worked –once.  I was in one relationship where we were both committed to purity and didn’t compromise (and then I found out he was still “technically” married and that ended fast).  But the other five relationships, during my time as a single Christian woman were a little murkier.  We might not have had intercourse, but then again President Clinton redefined modern sex anyway, right?

When I met Tim Keller, now my darling hubby, I was living in this wishy-washy land of sexual compromise.  I wanted to be pure but I’m not sure I believed it was even possible.  I didn’t meet many men, even supposed good Christian men, who actually walked the talk. 

Pastor Tim Keller was an anomaly –an attractive single straight man of thirty-six years who didn’t grab my boobs on the second date.  And even though he wasn’t wealthy from a worldly perspective, usually a non-negotiable in my materialistic heart, he was hot, clearly loved Jesus and had CHARACTER (something lacking in most of the men I dated).

When Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, about five weeks after we started dating, he slipped a purity ring on my finger and fell to one knee.  He implored me, “to wait for him, to wait for God to bless our relationship, and to give “us” a chance to build true intimacy without sex complicating things.”

It sounded like a lot of waiting and I’m not that patient.

And so I freaked out (internally of course) and smiled and cried tears of sheer terror, thinking “How in the heck am I going to remain sexually pure when this man is so yummy?”

Tim also told me he had a zero tolerance policy for error.  If we messed this up: (A) he would not marry me, and (B) he would resign from the church for moral failure.

Now I didn’t want the poor man to lose his job, but dangling the condition of “sex=no wedding” really sealed the deal.   I was head over heels in love with Tim by then and I wanted to marry this man so bad I would wear a habit and chastity belt with a big lock impervious to his washboard abs if I had to.

But something drastic happened to me during our fifteen month courtship.  Something so radical it rocked me to the core.

First, I became aware of how often I pushed to be physical because I needed reassurance that Tim cared for me and was committed to the relationship.  I saw how I used my sexuality to manipulate, to hold power over and to get the attention I desperately craved.

Without sex I had to learn how to ask for what I needed.  I was able to see how Tim treated me even when I didn’t meet all his physical needs, what it meant to work out our problems with no “make-up sex” to gloss over the deeper issues, and I had to learn how to compromise –because I couldn’t hold out on the booty to get what I wanted.

Poor Tim!  I tempted him in the beginning.  I was so bad.  I wore a pink string bikini to a singles ski retreat we both attended and had the audacity to rock it at the hot tub –heathen temptress that I am.  But he held fast, kept his hands to himself and didn’t get out of the Jacuzzi for a very long time.

And slowly I realized by his not being physical, he was actually showing me he loved me.

Real love.  Not SEX/LOVE…the kind of love that holds your hand when you are losing the fight to cancer.   It’s love that sees beauty under the wrinkles and bald spots. It’s love that protects and heals and cherishes.  It’s the sort of love that doesn’t leave when it gets tough and its old people in the park holding hands kind of love.

And Tim was telling me by his behavior I was worth waiting for.  With every smile he told me I was a beautiful treasure and he would not steal from me until it was time to enjoy this gift from God –within a committed marriage relationship.

And somewhere along the way I started to buy into it.  (Not so easy when you have abandonment issues) And I saw, really saw, for the first time in my life the way God sees me.

Valuable.  Treasured.  Worth dying for.

And I believed it –because someone showed me a glimpse of the divine.

Purity isn’t just about being a good Christian and playing by the rules.  It’s about treating another human being with dignity and respect, even when they don’t deserve it.

Purity restored me. 

I am a different person because of my husband. Tim Keller walked the talk. 

And maybe God tells us to wait for sex not because he’s mean, but because he loves us more than we love ourselves.

Sounds like a compelling reason to me.


  1. I’m not even of the Christian faith and don’t have the ‘wait until marriage’ mentality given to me, but honestly, you’re the first person to give me an excellent reason to wait. I’m glad you found your true love, and thanks for the inspirational story. 🙂

    • Kate,
      Thank you. I learned a lot about myself by waiting. Much of it-not so pretty, but I’m better off for it. Even religion isn’t a good enough reason. I had to first believe who God says I am…someone worth waiting for.

  2. I think this is your best posting yet and that you are really onto something here…please keep it up and thank you 🙂


  3. Sam, I admire you for writing this article, even if it was hard in parts to read due to my own personal failures. I pray that Faith, our beautiful and lovely daughter, will be able to understand how much God loves her and values her.
    Thank you for being courageous and honest enough to write something so relevant. BTW…Tim is a great man and an awesome step-dad to Kyle and Faith. I love and appreciate the two of you!!!

    • Thanks but there is no judgement. Please hear that from my heart. I was young immature and stupid too. And thankfully there is grace for both of us. BTW, you are a great dad too!

  4. I never felt judged…everything you wrote was true and I have accepted the Lord’s grace. Without it, I would still be a lost soul!

  5. Knocked another one out of the park Sam. so raw. So honest. So brave..

  6. Thank you for writing this. I really loved reading it and it moved me deeply! I know your story (as you have shared it with the “Rooted” group) but to read the words has made me realize how special we (all women) are in His eyes. To wait is to honor Him and why He has created intimacy and marriage…Bravo!!

    You are an inspiration. I think you have really found your niche here with this whole sexuality subject. I know how passionate you are about it and I believe you have a lot to share from the perspective of dating, marriage, and motherhood…especially the challenge of raising teenagers. If anyone has been blessed with the gift of compassion and communication it is you – Sam Keller! Thank you for sharing your gift.

    Keep ’em coming!! …er…the articles that is…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dating couples must realize tht whn sexual activity is involved in dating tht the other issues r swept under the rug so to speak because their focus is on fulfilling a forbidden emotion at the dating stage in life. Whn sex is going on the real issues that r involved in finding the right mate r only based on emotions and too little practicality which is breeding grounds for divorce. There are issues which are smothered tht need to b discussed before marriage, such as sharing core beliefs in finances, child-rearing, church and church doctrine, and all the other marriage aspects for having a successful marriage. Also, if u have sex with several partners then there is a great tendency to compare sexual experiences that a mate might be expecting that the other partner does not care for or lacked the knowledge and experience on the other partners level. Whn sex is left out of dating and all the other marital issues are discussed and agreed on sex will usually not be an issue because u believe in each other and support each other in the same shared goals and values. This society is forever getting the cart before the horse which leads nowhere except to frustration-draining and sapping our joy and many times ultimately leading to divorce which ravishes our children. These marriages can work with much patience and counseling and a whole lot Godly knowledge and above all else a mighty mental maturity to do whatever to save the personal institution of a marriage hoping childrens lives will not suffer lifetime emotional damage. The best weapon for creating a healthy marriage is going for premarital counseling which deals with the reality iof married life. U would b surprised to know how many couples do not make it through a thorough pre-marital counseling program. Married life is having romantic times during a realistic life-dating in our society on the other hand becomes all romance avoiding or either not accepting the fact reality is for sure going to show up which thn leads to familiarity which can become deadly if u are not prepared for it.

    • I agree with you. pre-marital counseling is a great idea! Tim and I did a great program at Rock Harbor Church and it helped immeasurably. I would reccomend that for everyone.


  8. Amber Felis says:

    Oh, I love love love this! Thank you for sharing and being so transparent…….I will definately pass this on to my friends……XO

  9. brucecarlaronson says:

    Sam, you have lifted this issue from the standard pure Pharisee-ism (thou shalt not, thou shouldst…) to where it belongs. I hope you consider a book on the Why wait? issue. You are on to something big, important, and mostly unaddressed.


  1. […] so I explain why we chose purity and a bit of our story (see “Is Purity Relevant Today” for an explanation).  But then the inevitable happens.  The sex questions […]

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