White Horse, Love Story and All Too Well. You've read Captivating and Wild at Heart by John and Stasi Elderedge. You've taken every Disney princess quiz. You can't stand Jane Austen's Elinor. You want love, love that lasts, love without excuses, love that is friendship set on fire. Your qualifications are someone that is hot and Catholic - is that really so much to ask?
Hopeless romantics do not want for vision; we lack a bridle. The cure for hopeless romantics like me is really simple, even if it is hard. See, we dream of white horses but we sometimes forget that wild stallions only leave us broken but imperfect knights are still worth waiting for. We don't have the time to accept that even white horses, well... they still poop in the middle of the street.
"Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny."
Author unknown (Chinese Proverb)
What does chastity look like on a daily basis?
1 | Choose a Coach.
Saints have finished the race and chosen God as their champion. Their lives show us that it's possible to wait, to live and die for heaven. They are proof you can do it - and they'll show you how. As great as your youth minister or parents might be, choose a heavenly guide as your patron saint for your walk in chastity, too. Tell people about her, post stories about Him. Attribute all your faithfulness to the grace made possible through their intercession. St. John Paul the Great, St. Claire and St. Agnes are all great examples. Choose someone whose story is one you can identify with and will want to share.
2 | Choose your Team.
You are who you hang out with. If you're trying to be pure of heart for the first time in your life, you may need to take a break from anyone who isn't consciously trying to cleanse their mind and heart of impurity. This sounds drastic, but it can be temporary, and you should of course still be charitable. When you feel like you are stronger about prayerfully untwisting your thoughts, ease back into your friend group. If you're dating, take time to only hang out with your significant other amongst a group of friends. The only person's behavior you can control is yourself, so find the way you are going to remove yourself from situations that tempt you to think and act in a way that isn't who you want to be. This might lead to you choosing a curfew. 10pm is always the time I would leave my friends and, especially, my boyfriend. I would get tired and make poor choices, and I also wouldn't make time to pray if I got home closer to midnight. Hardly anyone makes fun of athletes who leave early because of practice the next morning; you just might gain the good opinion of people who will admire you, and who cares if you lose the admiration of those who only want to have a good time? When you've decided to do what is right, you'll be surprised who will follow you.
3 | Choose to Lead.
Chastity is living differently. If you haven't fully let that sink in yet, it's going to affect your Tuesday mornings and your Saturday nights. You must live differently. This means that what you receive will be different from what other people have. It's like that friend who has celiac disease and you have to help them stay Gluten Free. Care about your friends enough to invite them to the alternative life you've chosen. Even with good friends around you, you have to commit to always choosing what's best for you and sometimes leading them to the higher ground, too. This means when everyone is going to 50 Shades of Grey, you not only say No - you invite them to do something better, with you. Host a marathon of your favorite TV show at your house instead and make themed cupcakes if you have to. You can't control what other people do. But you can invite them to something better with a smile on your face. You can show them that regret-free weekends are infinitely more fun than partying, hook-ups and one night stands. You know the peace of mind that only a pure conscience brings; share it.
I recently watched the History Channel series, "Mankind: The Story of all of Us." In Episode 1, they talk about how war was invented over hunger. People lost their morals and began to steal what was not theirs simply because they didn't have enough to eat. Coming from a faith tradition that includes fasting, we know that God will give us strength so that even when we're starving, we have the ability to - you know - not hurt anybody over a cookie, steal their car... or their wife. But we also are wise enough to know that jealousy, anger and sadness are emotions. Negative feelings are a bodyguard to a hurt soul. Humanity, plagued by original sin, is manipulated by emotion. Emotions can only be controlled through daily prayer. Grace is the power to do something beyond human strength. A rich sacramental life, daily soaking your heart in scripture and frequent surrender of your behavior to God give us not only the ability to survive a fast but to let the spirit show what it can do over the flesh. God is most glorified when the spiritual will defeats biological instinct. Just look at the cross. You are more than hormones and flesh; grace works in the Spirit in ways you can't imagine. Self control always trumps biological instinct.
5 | Choose Hope.
Our struggles only become easier as we strength-train, so we must pray for a back that is capable of carrying God's call. The pure of heart shall see God only because they want to. All of your waiting is for heaven, and if you lose sight of heaven then it will be difficult to keep going. Hope is the virtue that is needed for chastity. Keep section 1804 marked in your Catechism and near your bed. Reread it every night if you must. It will help you remember that chastity is letting go of what is fleeting in order to have what is eternal. It isn't the denial of happiness. It is the acceptance of joy.
6 | Choose Joy.
Chastity isn't a diet! Gaining virtue isn't about losing your desires. It's healthy, natural and hurts in a way that is good. Think about eating your birthday cake. It's for you, it's delicious and hopefully includes every bit of butter, sugar or high-fructose syrup that you want. It's about celebrating your life, after all. If you blow out your candles every day of the year, your birthday wouldn't mean a thing. God wants everything you ever wanted... in His time. So choose the joy that one day God will give you cause for rejoicing, for enjoying. And there won't be a bitter after taste. Let your face be radiant with joy because what you have in God's time is infinitely better than what you take in yours.
7 | Choose Worship over Shame.
Imperfection is an opportunity to worship God. Our sinfulness is meant to humble us, but not humiliate us into shame. God calls us to perfection never expecting us to be perfect. We can model Him, emulate Him and try to love like Him, knowing that it brings Him the worship He deserves. Don't punish yourself for not being perfect. Worship the God who Is. You're not perfect, and that's okay with God. It's okay with the people who love you. God's plan cannot be thwarted and He will have your joy fulfilled. Is that okay with you?
For me, the hardest part of chastity has been holding out for the white horse on the horizon when there's a black stallion in view. As Jackie Francois sings, it's much "harder to wait on love that to grasp what's in sight" (Jack Francois.) We often fall for the Alpha male, the one who doesn't seem to care about what people think, a guy who challenges the rules that give us so much hell, someone who is attractive, or available, or "liberating." In short - someone who is here. But you don't care about here - remember? You want to get there. My number one prayer for your chastity is to know the difference.
Don't lose your love for the Lord no matter what He sends you. When you want to get angry with Him, or get angry with yourself, remember to let grace permeate your thoughts. Let God forgive you. Forgive yourself. Never underestimate the power of one little thought, one little image, one little night. It's okay to look back and realize you wiggled around the straight path, that you didn't follow as ought; it's not okay to punish yourself and give up. Our thoughts guide our feet; our thoughts, decide our destiny. Know that you deserve heaven no matter what the nasty voices in your head tell you before and after sin. Your body deserves a faithful spouse who promises to protect your heart. Allow God's life-giving love to guide your thoughts, and He will guide you to your destiny.