We, as Christians, miss the mark a lot of times when it comes to how we view the process of purity. For a whole generation, the idea of purity is almost exclusively a sexual term, something that speaks points to abstinence and little more.

For Christianity, the pursuit of purity certainly includes sexual purity. But it also includes a lot more: We can’t afford to ignore spiritual purity.

One night, I was thinking about how I am glad to be in a position where I never have to miss a shower. However, the thought spiraled (in proper shower-thought fashion), and I realized that this value of personal hygiene and that “fresh out of the shower” feel is something that is learned.

I have had experiences where I literally argued with a 3-year-old about why bathing was necessary; I have lovingly (but forcefully) convinced my best friend going through a break up to get out of bed and shower. It seems a little wild to think about why, or even how anyone would willingly avoid a shower once you’re taught about the value of hygiene and experience the benefits of showering daily, but I’m sure this is exactly how God feels when He deals with us in that good old difficult area of purity.

Now, I am definitely not writing this from a place of “absolute purity”—I am sure we could all agree that such a thing is not really possible on this side of Eternity. I have struggled, I still fight, I will struggle. I spent a lot of my baby Christian life fighting the “shower,” being careless of what the Word had to say about my purity, being too lazy to step into the shower of love that the Lord gives us as a means of becoming pure. We expect the process of purity to be too overwhelmingly difficult for us to obtain, too much effort for us to not grow weary, but this is where we get God wrong.

I think we often underestimate the absolute goodness of God when we fall into making these assumptions about His calls for us. Often, in the background of our hearts and minds that make these assumptions, is a view of God that is marked by works and performance—a God who loves us based on how successful we are at following His commands for our lives.

I can admit that I avoided purity for a long time, just for the fear that if I failed at it God would be mad at me, God would punish me, God would be disappointed in me. I’ve been learning, though, that this is not the kind of God  we serve. In Galatians, it is made clear to us as believers that it is impossible to be made right with the Lord by our works (by keeping the law, by “being pure” through our own efforts, by being “good” people), but that it is only Christ who can give us our salvation. Our obedience can never “earn” us our salvation, because it is Christ who has done all of the work (and thank God for that).

However, salvation is not the only thing that the Lord gives us. He does not expect us to just change and transform on our own without help and further guidance. He gives us the Holy Spirit as a guide. The Lord knows that we as humans will fail on our own, and He gives us the opportunity to ask for help and actually receive it. The Holy Spirit will give us desires of obedience, desires that go against the sinful motivations of our flesh, if we just ask for that help.

Growing up, I always thought that I was some no-good, flawed Christian because I couldn’t just make the whole purity thing happen by my own will, but the truth is, I was never meant to. I was meant to let the Holy Spirit lead my life, to for once yield the control that I had held onto so tightly, and give it to God. We are meant to let Him slowly (but surely) create that clean heart that we desire so much. After all, we are wholly His creation, not our own.

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