Once again, I have read an inspiring Ludy book and want to write about it. In fact, you may be reading many of these Ludy posts in the near future, as I'm currently working my way through many of their books. This past week, I completed Authentic Beauty: The Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman by Leslie Ludy.
One of Eric and Leslie's main themes is living a set-apart life. That is, a life primarily set-apart for God, and also for your future spouse. They offer no form of casual, comfortable, or compromising Christianity because truly the Christian life has much more substance than that. What they offer is far from easy, but if you search Scripture, you will see that it is nothing short of what Christ Himself put forth.
What does it mean to live a life that is set-apart? I don't think there's a short, one sentence answer for this question, and to be quite honest, I'm not sure exactly how to accurately define it. It's a life all about truly knowing your Prince, not just knowing about Him. It's about cultivating a deep and intimate relationship with the Lover of your soul. It's not about fitting Jesus into your life, but building your entire life around Him, where He is at the very core of every aspect of your life. It's about creating an inner sanctuary for Him and protecting it. It's about a lifestyle that is lily white.
Creating that inner sanctuary, that place for intimacy with your Prince, can be a painful cleansing process. It means taking out a lot of trash and removing anything and everything that hinders that deep relationship with God. And sometimes, you may find it has to be done on a regular basis. All sinful habits and activities have to go. Anything that demands our time, love and attention above God and takes our focus off of Christ must be rooted out. This is part of what it means to live a life set-apart for God.
Yes, cultivating a more intimate relationship with our Prince can be difficult and it takes time (I'm speaking from experience), but it is so worth it. Take adequate time on a daily basis to spend in the Word and in prayer. Take delight in Him by maintaining a quiet heart and a spirit of worship, communing with God even while accomplishing your everyday tasks. You don't have to limit your relationship with God to your quiet time in the morning.
This life is also about being set apart for your future husband. As young women, it is so easy to be consumed with being noticed by the opposite sex and it's easy to strive for that attention we long for. But God has a much greater plan for our lives, and if we give Him the pen, He will write a love story far beyond what we could ever dream.
Part of His amazing plan for our lives is keeping ourselves for our future spouse and that means so much more than the simple "save-sex-for-marriage" mentality that many Christians put forth. It means keeping our hearts, minds, emotions, and body for the man you marry. It means living a life that honours him, even if you haven't even met him yet. And yes, this is often very hard to do, but it will save us a lot of pain and heartache and make it so much more beautiful in the end.
For me, one of the most difficult aspects of this is maintaining pure thoughts. It's so easy to allow ourselves to entertain fantasies that may seem perfectly harmless, especially since nobody has to know that they're there. (I'm also almost certain that if there was one aspect of your life that you were most afraid of being exposed, it would be your thought life.) It's easy to leave unchecked, but it is something we must strive to keep pure. When temptations or impure thoughts come to mind, we must choose to shut them out immediately. Even in this, we can do a lot to honour our future spouses.
Even if you haven't kept yourself pure, or maybe you have suffered from sexual abuse, know that God is forgiving and can bring healing to your life. He can take your broken life, your shattered heart and create something beautiful out of it. He can give you a fresh, lily white start and you too can experience a beautiful God-written love story.
If you haven't read Authentic Beauty, I would strongly encourage you to do so. I would however, advise caution with younger girls (as Leslie also does in her introduction) because of a lot of mature content and details. I have the updated and expanded edition, which is really great because it includes a "Studying Manhood" portion by Eric where he talks about the making of Warrior Poets and it is fantastic! I would also recommend Leslie's book Set-Apart Femininity, which I have previously read.
My desire is that you too would be challenged to be a set-apart young woman and live for the glory of the Lord.