Roger Marsh: Hello, and thanks for taking time to listen to Family Talk today. I'm Roger Marsh and Family Talk is the listener-supported broadcast division of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. On today's program, Dr. Dobson will continue his conversation with Elisabeth Elliot, on the topic of sexuality and singles. On yesterday's program, Elisabeth emphasized the value of purity and how God's design for sex has been drastically distorted by culture and sin.
Just spend five minutes watching television or reading through some of the lyrics of the nation's most popular songs. You'll find that the world puts little value on purity and promotes promiscuity instead. Well, on today's broadcast, Dr. Dobson and Elisabeth Elliot will give some practical advice and tips on setting boundaries for people who may be struggling to stay pure. They'll also offer encouragement for those who have been dedicated to saving sex for marriage, but haven't yet been blessed with that special relationship. Let's listen now on this edition of Family Talk.
Dr. James Dobson: Let me role-play with you Elisabeth, if I can. Let's suppose you're speaking on a college campus and I'm a young lady and I come to you. I've heard you say these things which are so radical and so different from what I'm hearing everywhere else. I say, "I agree that the Bible seems to say those things, Ms. Elliot, but you don't understand. I've been going with my boyfriend for three years and we're going to get married. I mean, we're not engaged yet, but I really believe we're going to get married. He puts so much pressure on me and I don't know how to stop that. I mean, we've gone a long ways already, and I don't think you understand how difficult that is for me. I don't think I can live that standard." What do you say?
Elisabeth Elliot: I say, yes, I do understand how difficult that is. I had all the same feelings that you have. It was easier for me to keep the standard, because I had drawn the line way back where, nowadays, it would seem so foolish to draw the line. But, since you didn't draw the line there, let me say, at this point, that you can start over. You can recognize that you've made a mistake in getting in so deeply, in physical intimacy. You can say, "Look, I've learned something from here on in. We're going to cool it until the marriage bed." That is the place that God ordained and until that time, I do believe that, if before God, you're willing to make that kind of a commitment and willing to be obedient, He will help you.
Dr. James Dobson: Okay. Here's another individual that I'm projecting the thoughts of. "Ms. Elliot, I'm 30 years of age and I have wanted to be a wife and mother all my life. When I was four years of age, that's what I wanted. Coming through high school and college, the thing that I wanted most was to find somebody to love and I never found anybody. In fact, I didn't even date very much. There is nobody in my life and it's beginning to look like I'm going to spend my life alone.
That means that I will never experience the thrill of a sexual relationship that I hear so much about. When I see it on a movie screen, or when I read about it in a book, I long for that. Are you telling me that this is for everybody else and not for me? That I'm going to be deprived of this experience throughout my whole life, unless some knight on a white horse comes riding up? It doesn't look like he's on the horizon. Are you telling me that I have to sacrifice my whole life if that does not occur?"
Elisabeth Elliot: I'm speaking to you only as a Christian and within the context of the sovereignty of God. I couldn't tell anybody any of these things, except within that context. I can say that I know exactly where you are, because that was what it looked to me as though my life was going to be. I had committed to the Lord, committed my life to the Lord, to be a missionary. Which was not a great struggle, but it was a great struggle to say to the Lord, "If you want me to be a single missionary, yes, Lord, I'll take that too."
Dr. James Dobson: For a time, you thought that's what He was saying to you.
Elisabeth Elliot: That was certainly what I thought I was going to have to be. It didn't look as though there was any possibility on my horizon, either, before Jim Elliot came into the picture. Then, after he came into the picture, it still looked as though God was leading us in two different directions. That there wasn't much chance that we would come together. The book tells a story of how God did bring us together, but I can say, with all my heart, He loves you.
His plan for you is joy and bliss and fulfillment. He can't possibly want anything less than that for you. The fact that, to you, it looks as though there won't be any joy and bliss and fulfillment outside of marriage or sexual experience of some kind, is simply an indication that your thoughts are not God's thoughts. You need to risk your whole life, stake it on His promises.
One of the promises that held me, through those years of waiting, is Psalm 84:11. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." The world would tell you that God is cheating you. That's exactly what Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden, that there was one good thing in that garden that God did not want them to have. You and I know the story, it was not a good thing.
It was a very bad thing and God told them that if they took from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. But, Satan tempted them to, we might say, upgrade their lifestyle and become like God. That is the same temptation that comes to you and me every day of the world-
Dr. James Dobson: Sure does.
Elisabeth Elliot: It comes to us in different forms, but always that question, "Is that what God said? Is that really what God wants for you? He is cheating you." Trust says, "Lord, I believe that what you want for me is the best. What you want for me is joy. Lord, I'll take it and I'll take it your way."
Dr. James Dobson: Boy, that is so good. That's good, and that is so needed today, because the pressures are greater than they were on you and me. When we were in college or when we were that age.
Elisabeth Elliot: Yes. Young people are being bludgeoned.
Dr. James Dobson: Can you imagine, Elisabeth, being on a secular campus and having boys and girls living side-by-side in the dormitory and at one point, and in some schools, using the same restrooms?
Elisabeth Elliot: Yes.
Dr. James Dobson: I had a young lady tell me that she was going to Cal Berkeley. She went up to visit the dormitory and the boys and girls used the same restroom and there was no shower curtain on the shower stall.
Elisabeth Elliot: It's just mind-boggling.
Dr. James Dobson: I mean, that absolutely overwhelms me. How do any of them stay moral under those circumstances?
Elisabeth Elliot: I can't understand it. I can't understand why any sane person wants that kind of thing. I visited my niece just last week. She's a student at Harvard. She was telling me exactly the same kind of thing. She lives in a suite with three girls, none of whom are Christians and she has to take a stand, all by herself, against the kind of lifestyle that they have chosen. It's a tough, tough thing and I am very acutely aware of it, because I'm in touch with several single nieces of mine who are in that age group.
Dr. James Dobson: So, if a young man or woman wished to follow the dictates of Christ and of Scripture and live this life of purity, it has to be on purpose and thought out in advance. You can't wait till you're in the backseat of a car to try to make that decision. It has to be an iron-clad decision of the will, early on in a relationship.
In fact, I've said this so many times, that if you choose to stay out of bed, if you choose to keep your virginity, if you choose not to become sexually intimate with a person that you're not married to, it begins with the early examples of familiarity.
Elisabeth Elliot: Absolutely.
Dr. James Dobson: Way back in the beginning of the relationship-
Elisabeth Elliot: That's right.
Dr. James Dobson: Because sex is progressive. It necessarily moves. The faster you hold hands, the faster you put your arm around the other person, the quicker you kiss, the more intimate the kiss, all of those things are moving in a direction. They're moving toward intercourse and you don't merely draw the line at the last step, you better draw it early or you're going to get to the last step and not be able to stop.
Elisabeth Elliot: I can't tell you how thankful I am, Jim, that you say these things. Because you do have a tremendous audience. But, when young people laugh when I tell them where I would draw the line, my question to them is, "Where would you draw it? Exactly where would you draw it?" They don't have an answer for that. Now, let me tell you about a girl, she's a dear friend. She has been corresponding with me. We have had several talks about this whole thing.
She went away to a secular college. She had made up her mind to remain sexually pure. She fell in love with a guy. She made the great mistake of moving to the city where he lived after she graduated. They were still not engaged. She rearranged her life, in other words, around a man to whom she did not have a commitment. But, she felt she was keeping her distance and she wrote me letters from time to time, telling me the progression of the thing.
Then, it seemed to be dissolving. The man was losing interest, et cetera. So, finally, in desperation, because she was still in love with him, she called him up. Well, that was a mistake. It's a reversal of what I believe was God's order. The man was created to be the initiator and the woman to be the responder. But, this girl decided to be the initiator and called up the man and said, "I need to talk to you."
So, that was the first mistake. The second mistake was that, instead of having him come to her, she went to his dormitory. The last letter I had from her, she said, "We prayed. We talked together. We cried a lot. We ended up in bed." The last page of her letter was just a cry. "What have I done? I have lost everything. Why did I do this? I feel cheated. I feel dirty. I feel that I've spoiled my life."
I thought, "What else could I have said to the girl?" She told me she'd read Passion and Purity five times. I don't know what to say to them, but I can only say, "Look, it works this way. It will work. God will help you. It is worth doing it this way. It Is worth saving yourself." You're saving yourself. First of all, for God, back to that verse in 1 Corinthians 6, "You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Glorify God in your body."
Dr. James Dobson: Let's offer some hope though, Elisabeth to the one who's lost it. God can forgive any sin.
Elisabeth Elliot: Yes.
Dr. James Dobson: That sense of uncleanness can be forgiven, even though you can't roll back the clock, right?
Elisabeth Elliot: That is absolutely right and I hope we can emphasize that sufficiently. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. His grace is greater than all our sin. There is no sin that we could commit that could exhaust that ocean, the grace of God. So, I say to these young people, who very often feel that, "Well, since I've blown it, what difference does it make from here on in? I can never get my virginity back." That's true. You can no more get your virginity back than you can pound a nail into a board and pull the nail out and not have a hole. You can't pull the hole out, but, God will cleanse you. The blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse.
Dr. James Dobson: And remember it against you no more.
Elisabeth Elliot: That's right. I love what Corrie Ten Boom used to say, "When God forgives you, He buries your sins in the sea and He puts up a sign, 'No fishing.'" I love that.
Dr. James Dobson: The sea of forgetfulness. It's gold.
Elisabeth Elliot: That's right. Let me say that you can never retrieve your virginity, but you can retrieve your chastity-
Dr. James Dobson: That's good.
Elisabeth Elliot: Your purity before God.
Dr. James Dobson: That's good. Let me give you yet another example of role-playing here, because I'm getting mail from a lot of young people and they ask these very practical questions. This is one of them. "Mrs. Elliot, I'm engaged to be married, just three months from now, we're going to be married. I love this man more than anything in the world. You don't know how I love this man. We've been going together for a couple of years and because we're going to be married anyway, it doesn't seem quite so bad to go ahead and enjoy the ultimate sexual experience just a few months early. Why not?"
Elisabeth Elliot: Again, I have to answer the question in the context of what the Bible tells me. I know that consummation belongs only to marriage, according to Scripture. For me, one of the most important things is just, you might call it sentimental, which would seem like a very weak reason for not doing something. But, why is it that we like to save the dessert till last? Why is it that we don't want to open the Christmas presents until Christmas?
There's a particular kind of excitement. There's a particular intensifying of passion, when it is restrained. I might use the example of a river. When a river flows into a narrow canyon, the power is not lost. The power is enormously increased by the narrow restraint. Our sexual power is not by any means dissipated by being controlled. It is quite the opposite. It is intensified and glorified. Let's say it's more fun when it has been saved.
Dr. James Dobson: You're stealing from the intensity and the wonder of that early marriage sexuality. You're taking from it and reducing its meaning in your lives together as husbands and wives. Obviously, there are those who think they're going to get married, who don't. Then, they have that to think about for the rest of their lives.
Elisabeth Elliot: Happens all the time, doesn't it? Yes. Wait till the knot has been tied publicly before God and witnesses.
Dr. James Dobson: I'd like to offer a little word of advice, a little secret. Especially to the women who are listening to us on this subject as well. Because, while a man will say to you that he will drop you if you don't allow him to have the complete sexual experience with him, there is excitement in the unattainable for a man. There is increased desire in that which is out of reach, where there is the challenge. Respect is increased by the self-respect that allows a person to say 'no'. Would you agree with that? Rather than lose the other person, you often intensify the desire for you.
Elisabeth Elliot: Yes. God knew that that is the propensity of the human heart. When He put that tree in the garden, that was the one thing that they just had to have. Adam and Eve made up their minds that they had to have that one thing. Which was forbidden. The analogy breaks down, like all other analogies. But ,there is this important fact when we're speaking of sexual purity, the girl who is sexually unattainable is going to come at a much higher price.
I'm, if I may say, a case in point, I have never gone after a man. People say to me, "How did you manage to get three husbands? I have never even had one." So many women have said something like that to me. My answer is, "I didn't get any of them. I gave myself wholly and unconditionally to Jesus Christ and I said, 'Lord, you give me whatever you know is good for me.'"
When I got married the first time, to Jim Elliott, I thought it was a miracle, Jim. I could not imagine any man of Jim Elliot's caliber wanting a woman like me. God gave me that man. Well, when he died 27 months after we were married, I thought, "Well, that's it. So much for marriage." For the rest of my life, there would never be a second man. Number one, there'd never be anybody I could love as I loved Jim. Number two, who would ever come along that would want to marry me?
Then, God brought the second miracle. That man died and God brought along number three. In each case, it was a matter of my absolutely leaving it in God's hands. He has given me three godly husbands. They're gifts. I didn't go after them. I didn't have to, in any way, become the initiator or the aggressor.
Dr. James Dobson: I can hear some frustration, though, coming back through these microphones from those who are listening to us, who have waited patiently and have left it in God's hands. He hasn't given them that gift. Both men and women, I hear from a lot of them who want, more than anything, else to find that special person to love. He doesn't meet everyone's needs in exactly the same way, does he?
Elisabeth Elliot: That's right. One of my good friends is Margaret Clarkson, who has written an excellent book called, So You're Single. It was ironic that she had just sent me the manuscript of that book for comment at the same time that I was writing to tell her that I was about to be married for the third time. She wrote me a very amusing letter. She said, "I didn't miss the irony of that." She said, "If you and I didn't believe in the sovereignty of God, we might have a quarrel with Him about His distribution of gifts."
And Margaret is a woman who has been single all her life. I have just finished writing the biography of another woman who was single all her life, Amy Carmichael, of India. She faced the question that you've just raised, "What about the possibility of permanent celibacy?" She wrote a beautiful poem in which she said this. "If thy dear home be fuller, Lord, because a little emptier my house on earth, what rich reward."
She herself, because she gave herself totally to the Lord for His purposes, became the mother of about, well, several hundred, maybe several thousand Indian children in her missionary work. She did a work that she could not have done if she hadn't been single. I say to single people, read Isaiah 58, verse 10. It says in there, "If you pour yourself out for the hungry and meet their needs, then the Lord will satisfy your desire and He will make you like a watered garden, whose springs fail not."
Dr. James Dobson: Can't improve on that, can you?
Elisabeth Elliot: There is a spiritual principle that goes into operation when we totally give ourselves to the Lord. It is out of loss that we receive gain. It is out of loneliness that we receive joy. That is the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. He doesn't guarantee exemption from the ordinary woes and sorrows of human life. What the cross says to me, is that my loneliness, my singleness, is transformable into something glorious for His purposes.
Dr. James Dobson: Elisabeth, I know you know how out of step with the Western culture that philosophy is. I mean, that's ancient. It just doesn't fit anymore and yet, it is still absolutely true, because it came from the mind of God Himself.
Elisabeth Elliot: That's right. Jesus said, "If you will lose your life for my sake, you will find it." I challenge young people, single people, be willing to lose your life. Be willing to lose sexual satisfaction for the sake of Jesus Christ. Try him, taste and see that the Lord is good. He does know how to make something beautiful, if all you have to offer Him is brokenness and strife.
Dr. James Dobson: Speak, finally, to the 17-year-old boy or girl who is a Christian, raised in a Christian home, in the church, are still virgins, but are hearing all these other messages, seeing all this rottenness in the movies and on television. They're not sure that they're going to stay that way. What do you have to say to them?
Elisabeth Elliot: God made your body. He has given you, in that body, a gift of virginity, which is a priceless one. You can only give it away once. Keep it for the one whom God may give to you as husband or wife. Believe that God's purpose for you is joy and fulfillment. I promise you, from years of experience, He is faithful to His promises. Trust Him. Take the risk. That's my message to young people today.
Roger Marsh: A fitting, encouraging finale to Dr. Dobson's classic interview with the late Elisabeth Elliot, on the topic of sexuality and singles here on Family Talk. Psalm 27, verses 13 and 14 reads, "I remain confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Maybe you're one of those individuals that Dr. Dobson and Elisabeth Elliot were addressing at the end of their conversation today.
You've committed to staying sexually pure until marriage, but that special someone hasn't come along yet and you aren't getting any younger. Well, that can be a very disheartening place to be. But, what Elisabeth said is true. God's purpose for you is joy and fulfillment and obedience to Him, despite the circumstances, is always worth it. I hope you've been encouraged today, by the broadcast. If you'd like to learn more about the ministry of Elisabeth Elliott and her books, visit our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org/broadcast. That's drjamesdobson.org/broadcast.
Now, if today's program really spoke to you and you'd like to discuss it more, or if you'd like to request a CD copy of this two-day interview with Elisabeth Elliott, call us at (877) 732-6825. We're standing by waiting to answer your call and your questions about the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute and the broadcast ministry of Family Talk. We're also here to take your prayer requests and to pray with you. So again, don't hesitate to call us at (877) 732-6825.
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Thanks for making time to be part of today's edition of Family Talk. God's richest blessings to you and your family, as you continue to grow in relationship with Him. We'll see you again next time.
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