By Lisa Rieck
I signed the “True Love Waits” card as a teenager. I wrote a letter to my future spouse explaining why I’d saved myself for him. I wore a purity ring in high school and college. I was committed to sexual purity.
Now, at thirty-three and single, I still am. Which is why, in my adult dating relationships, I’ve set strong physical boundaries and clearly communicated my commitments up-front. I like to think that, should I get engaged one day, my vision for sexual purity and my own self-awareness will be enough to carry me through that intense period when it’s often hardest to resist sexual temptation.
But in her new book, Sex and the Single Christian Girl: Fighting for Purity in a Rom-Com World, Marian Jordan Ellis makes me think I might be underestimating the strength of Satan’s craftiness and the depth of the spiritual battle that sexual temptation is.
“This battle is bigger than purity rings,” she writes. “Souls are at stake. And the Enemy [who, she points out earlier, ‘hates marriage, holiness, and God’s glory’] knows this full well.” In two of the most helpful chapters in the book, she highlights seven lies Satan commonly uses to tempt women toward premarital sex and then delineates the very intentional ways she used Scripture to combat sexual temptation in her own relationships, particularly her relationship with her husband when they were dating.
As someone who’s been a Christian my whole life, it can be easy to take Scripture for granted—to see it as the Word of God, certainly, and useful for personal revelation, conviction, and encouragement, but not necessarily the key to gaining victory over sin and temptation in my life. So I love how seriously Ellis takes Satan’s attempts to steer us from sexual purity and, even more, how deeply she believes in the power of God’s Word to defeat him. She effectively reminds me that the truth in the Bible is actually one of the main offensive tools God has given us for spiritual battle, and I would do well to use it that way more often.
I appreciate several other aspects of Ellis’s book. First, I love that she starts with Jesus, explaining that purity is “birthed out of a passionate love for Jesus” and “rooted in knowing and believing your identity in Christ” (p. 27). What is that identity? Being cherished by God, Ellis declares—and thus worthy of waiting for a man who is as committed to our sexual purity as we are.
Second, I love that Ellis offers a compelling vision for why sexual purity matters (something often lacking from “no sex before marriage” campaigns). Laying out God’s design for sex as well as the physical, emotional, and spiritual ties created by sexual intimacy (often lacking in the romantic comedies we females love to love), she creates an inspiring picture of the ways sexual purity honors our spouse (if we marry), ourselves as women cherished by God, and ultimately God himself, who made us and knows how our desires and emotions work.
And, in all this, I love the way Ellis communicates with so much grace and compassion for single women who have been sexually active, as she was before she became a Christian. Her description of the joy and freedom she felt on her wedding day from God’s total redemption of her past will, I imagine, greatly encourage those wrestling with temptation, sin, or shame and reassure them that they too can receive God’s full forgiveness and recommit themselves to purity.
While I do think the writing could be tighter and a few chapters could have been combined, overall Sex and the Single Christian Girl is a helpful, surprisingly practical resource for any single female, from teenagers on up, who desire to grow in sexual purity. Moms of teenagers, youth group volunteers, female mentors, and college ministers would all benefit from reading it as well and then discussing it with younger girls they know and love. Small-group questions in the back of the book make it easy to talk through with others.
I’m thankful for the fresh perspective Ellis gave to me. And, in a culture rife with lies about sex and what makes women valuable, I’m particularly grateful for her courage, her compassion, and her voice of truth that, above all, encourages us to grow in our love for Jesus, our Maker, Redeemer, and Lord.
For more on Sex and the Single Christian Girl – including a book excerpt and a video interview with the author – visit the Patheos Book Club here.
Lisa Rieck is a writer and editor on InterVarsity’s communications team. Previously she worked at InterVarsity Press for over nine years as a proofreader, copyeditor, and Bible study editor. She is continually inspired by the beauty of the sky and loves good conversation with family and friends over steaming-hot beverages.