Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~I Timothy 4:12
My best friend, her sister, my daughter and I were sitting on the beach in Sarasota, Florida, when two men carrying surfboards strolled by.
They were in their late thirties or early forties, seemed respectable, or as respectable as one can appear in a wet suit.
And then—in the midst of eating our picnic lunch—we overheard the blond man commenting to his friend: “I love coming out here and seeing all these underage chicks in bikinis.”
I looked over at my own little girl—two years old, with a fountain ponytail—mixing blue Play-Doh into the sand. She was wearing a one-piece beneath her cover-up and sweater.
And yet I imagined her out there on the beach fourteen years from now.
I imagined some lecherous surfer eyeballing my daughter, and it was everything I could do not to chase after that blond-haired man, jerk the surfboard away from him, and use it to bonk him over the head.
However, where were these girls’ parents?
It was so cold on that beach, I was wearing a light sweater and rain jacket over my cotton dress.
And I could easily see the underage girls that man had been referring to–parading down the packed strip of sand in sparkly bikini tops that looked more like lingerie.
Two weeks after I returned from the beach, the ultrasound revealed that my husband and I are expecting another little girl this September.
Staring at the screen, I thought again about what that surfer had said and the flippant tone in which he’d said it.
You see, I feel the responsibility of raising these daughters of mine to become women who do not feel their value lies merely in physical beauty.
Do not get me wrong. I want my daughters to feel beautiful; I want them to embrace their femininity, but I also do not want some thirty-five-year-old, washed-up surfer to be ogling this beauty that should belong to them and to their future husbands alone.
I cannot tell you how ironic it feels to be typing this.
I attended a strict private school from the time I was in K-5 until twelfth grade, and for the majority of those thirteen years, I rebelled against the dress code.
My skirts came just a little above the knee when the hem was supposed to end in the middle. I wore heels that were three inches instead of the regulatory two.
There was not much I could do with uniform polo shirts, but if I could’ve made them more alluring, I would have.
I knew I wanted to remain a virgin until marriage, but I still rolled my eyes at the analogies regarding purity such as a Snickers bar that was scraped on the bottoms of our sneakers as we girls sat Indian-style on the gym floor.
“Now,” the woman said, “who would want to eat a piece of that?”
I want my daughters to perceive their purity as something far more precious than an unopened Snickers bar.
Purity is not just about virginity.
It is not just about keeping the hem of the skirt to the middle of the knee or wearing a one-piece bathing suit.
Purity is truly about the heart.
A synonym for purity is transparency, and I believe if we are truly pursuing God’s heart, if we are truly willing to reveal our weaknesses, He will be able to direct us—daughters and mothers—in these nebulous areas that we have to wade through in this modern age.
I pray that by the time my daughters are sixteen years old, they will have such a close relationship with God that He will be able to guide their steps and their standards without me having to do it for them.
The challenging part is that, in order for them to have such an intimate relationship with God the secular world does not hold its normal sway, I have to first set the example.
Mothers, sisters, daughters, how do you set the example in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity?
And, yes, the little girl in the bikini is me.