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I gave my youngest daughter, Bethany, a promise ring for her 13th birthday, but it’s probably not what you think.

A promise ring is usually given to a child to remind them of their promise to remain sexually pure until marriage. This isn’t a story about one of those rings.

I have deep respect for those promises (and pray with all my heart that the youth making them endeavor to respect and keep them), but for my children I have felt led to be the one making the promise.

I prayerfully hope my love will inspire my children’s obedience, as Christ’s love inspires my own.

I desire my faithfulness to set an example for them, as I endeavor to follow Christ’s example.

Whether I am faithful or not, the Father always sets the example for his children. It’s quite sobering. As it should be.

I previously shared my promises after I made them to my eldest daughter, Claire. You can read them for yourself at this link, but in this post I want to touch on just the first promise I make.

First, I personally promise to you that I will keep the vows I made to your mother, setting an example of the kind of man you would want for a husband.

When I made my wedding vows before God and our family and friends (many witnesses), none of our children existed.

But now we have five of them, and I want each of them to know, in no uncertain terms, that the promise I made to their Mom over 20 years ago is not only still good, but that if I fail to keep it, I acknowledge that I will be failing my children as much as I will my wife.

This is called accountability. And it’s something I believe should work both ways between me and my children.

In my conversation over dinner when I gave Bethany my ring, I asked her, “Would you like me to keep the vows I made to your mom? Would you mind if I decided to cheat on your her? Would you be OK if I wanted to enjoy other women?”

As you could imagine, a child’s heart turns at the thought of their Father cheating on their Mother, (If you are the child of a cheating parent, you don’t have to imagine.)

My dear daughter, Bethany, seem to feel the same way.

In that moment, I clarified to her that I would share similar sentiments about her cheating on her future husband. It would make me sick. It would disgust me the same way she would be disgusted to find out I had been unfaithful to her Mom. You see, there is no difference.

Whether you cheat before, during or after the test. Cheating is cheating.

Dear one, who is not my child, do you understand the same is true for you? I know you may truly be “in love” with your significant other. That the two of you couldn’t imagine ever parting, and that you couldn’t conceive anything more wonderful than becoming one in every sense of the word. Indeed, the two of you may very well be a match made in heaven.

But if that is true, please wait for heaven’s blessing in marriage before engaging in sexual intercourse. Determine to exercise the same self-control you would wish for your own parents; the same faithfulness; the same commitment; the same purity.

It means just as much before marriage as after. It will require not only keeping your hands to yourself, but keeping your relationship out in the open and your mind clean. Just like you would wish for your parents.

You may fail. I might too. However, that very possibility drives me not to resign myself to the inevitability of lust, but to surrender to the warnings of scripture.

I pray you will let it do the same for you. Even if you don’t have an earthly Father who has promised his faithfulness to you, know by faith you have a Heavenly Father who has. Indeed, hear these words now, which He spoke to his beloved children of Israel, and know His love and care for you is just as real:

“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 16:8-14 (ESV)

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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better?  And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!