Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Thrill is Boundless

Focus on the Family's online magazine Boundless today offers "The Thrill of Hope for Now and Not Yet," an article by the magazine's founder, Candice Z. Watters, on three new books on single womanhood and marriage issues, including my own Thrill of the Chaste.

Never having had personal contact with Watters, I'm highly honored and impressed with the way she really gets my book. She writes:

Eden masterfully sells chastity. She makes it desirable; a prize better than the short-term thrills of sex outside of marriage. She dares to hope for marriage — and that's the high point of her book. This is exactly the kind of inspiration I longed for when I was single. Back then it was hard to find. I did read Elisabeth Elliott's Passion and Purity. My copy is full of underlining and notes in the margin. But now that I'm married, I no longer recommend that book to my single friends. Although Elliott's exhortation to remain sexually pure is good, beyond that, the book provides little encouragement and even less practical advice for getting married in our post-marriage culture. Such books may have been sufficient when they were written, but no longer. Back then, marriages happened far more easily and early, and the cultural expectation was that chaste is best. Today women are widely expected to sleep around and they're marrying later than ever despite their expectations.

Lots of books accurately assess the problem. But what's the solution?

Eden's book hints at it. Of all the books I've read on the issue of extended singleness, hers is the one that most esteems marriage. She dares to hope for it. "If you want to receive the love for which you hunger," she writes, "the first step is to admit to yourself that you have that hunger, with everything it entails -- weaknesses, vulnerability, the feeling of an empty space inside. To tell yourself simply, 'I'll be happy once I have a boyfriend,' is to deny the depth and seriousness of your longing. It turns the hunger into a superficial desire for flesh and blood when what we really want is someone to share divine love with us -- to be for us God with skin on."
Watters goes on to chide Lauren Winner for criticizing my bringing my hope of marriage to the forefront. In defense of Winner, her Christianity Today review gave me food for thought. Since writing The Thrill, I had already done more thinking on chastity for its own sake, and put some of my thoughts in a magazine article. Still, I like Watters' points; one shouldn't have to apologize for longing for the vocation of marriage.