From Shame-filled to Shame-Free
About the Guest
Is your love life a tragedy or a romantic comedy? Marian Jordan Ellis, founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, recalls the futile attempts she made in her youth to find the love she longed for. Marian tells how her sinful "sex and the city" lifestyle left her desperately empty and hopelessly filled with shame, until she met her real Prince Charming, Jesus Christ.
Marian Jordan Ellis recalls the futile attempts in her youth to find the love she longed for. Marian tells how her sinful lifestyle left her empty and filled with shame, till she met Jesus Christ.
From Shame-filled to Shame-Free
Bob: Starting in college and then continuing, as a young single woman, Marian Jordan Ellis was a self-described party girl.
Marian: I was really living what I would call the Sex in the City life—you know, if you’ve seen that show. I was living that worldview. As I tell women, across the nation, on college campuses, I was—I never felt more empty in my life. Bono said it best, “I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Marian Jordan Ellis joins us today and tells us what ultimately turned her world around—
—was when she realized she was more valuable than she knew she was. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I have a very distinct memory of sitting down and recording our very first FamilyLife Today radio program with you. You shared a story on that very first program about a fight that you and Barbara had had.
Dennis: Correct. And you were shocked that I was going to do that.
Bob: Well, at the end of the program, I said: “Do you want us to edit that out? I mean, do want to tell the whole world about the fact that you had a fight with your wife last week?” And you said: “Well, number one, it’s true. We did have that fight. And number two, I’ve learned that there’s great power in just being honest and transparent about the work that God is doing in your life.”
Dennis: And we have a story like that today. In fact, Bob, you could ask God why He had so many failures in the Bible because the Bible is chock-full of people who failed.
In fact, there are more lessons from their failures, I think, than from their successes.
Marian Jordan Ellis joins us on FamilyLife Today. She’s got a story our listeners need to hear. Marian, welcome to our broadcast.
Marian: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Dennis: She is married to Justin, lives in San Antonio—
Bob: Home of the world champion San Antonio Spurs!
Dennis: Go Spurs!
Bob: That’s right.
Marian: That’s right!
Dennis: —with their two sons. She is a graduate of Southwestern Seminary—that’s the other seminary in the Dallas/Fort Worth area—not to be confused with Dallas Theological Seminary. She’s the founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries. She’s a speaker, a writer, a podcaster, and the author of Sex and the Single Christian Girl.
I did a little research. You know who also wrote a book that had a very similar title to this—
Marian: I think I do.
Dennis: —back in the 1960s? Tell our listeners who.
Marian: Helen Gurley Brown.
Dennis: That’s right. And they made a movie of it.
Bob: That’s the Cosmo lady; right?—the woman who started Cosmo?
That’s right. And I think there is a giant contrast.
Marian: There is, hopefully, a giant contrast.
Dennis: Your book is subtitled, Fighting for Purity in a Rom-Com World. Now, I confess I did not know what “Rom-Com”—
Bob: Oh come on! You didn’t know what rom-com meant?
Marian: Come on, Dennis!
Dennis: I didn’t. I did not know what a “Rom-Com World” was.
Marian: Were you thinking sci-fi? Were you thinking, “Is this an alien abduction?” [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I thought it was some kind of new software program or something.
Marian: Yes; yes.
Dennis: No, I had a suspicion; but explain to our listeners what you mean by that.
Marian: Rom-Com is slang from romantic comedy.
Marian: So, the rom-com world is just that world that is influenced by the whole romantic comedy culture that we live in—you know, the one that you have Justin Timberlake comparing sex to tennis and saying: “It’s just sex. It’s no big deal,”—
Marian: —the one that every movie we, as women, watch—we are indoctrinated to believe that love is the new standard of purity, and that it’s really just no big deal.
As a single Christian woman, living in this culture, you literally can feel like an alien and God’s Word seems archaic. When you are in the battles, it seems like, “I’m the only one who believes this.” So, it’s really addressing those women in this culture.
Dennis: You mention in your book that you grew up in a Christian home; and yet, you would watch these movies. You would laugh your way through them as they fell or melted their way into bed and had sex—single people. This rom-com world makes fun of it or has comedy around sex and singles.
Marian: And I hate to use such a strong word as brainwashing, but there is something about film and media that you’re applauding these two people. Then, you step back and realize—they just met, and they are sleeping together!—and “How / why am I applauding this?”—that you get seduced into the storyline, and the music, and all of that stuff—and you just end up cheering for something that you don’t believe in.
Dennis: And the reason I wanted to highlight that, at the beginning of the broadcast, is—
—we have a lot of moms who listen to our broadcast, who are raising sons and daughters in the midst of this brainwash.
Dennis: They’ve got to understand what is taking place. One of the things that Barbara and I did—Bob, I know you and Mary Ann did as well—after we watched a movie—whether it be on TV or we went out to a movie—we would usually take our kids out to get a Coke or an ice cream cone, and we would debrief. Our kids grew weary of our movie critic analysis—
Bob: “Oh, Dad, do we have to analyze every piece of this movie?”
Dennis: I’m telling you, though—they now have our 20 grandkids. It is hilarious to listen to them grouse, and gripe, and complain about the values that are being perpetrated by Hollywood.
Bob: The truth is—I think I got more input / more of a roadmap for what a relationship should look like from watching movies and TV than I did from any other single source.
Marian: You know, as a little girl, I remember watching Grease and not having a clue what my mind was being filled with and thinking that Sandy had arrived when she shed the old purity robe and became the lady in black—and she became the seductress. That was such a powerful image, as a little girl, that it’s not cool to be this girl—but it’s really cool to be the girl in black.
Bob: So, growing up in a Christian home—but arriving in your adolescence and your later adolescence—high school / college—you took a very different path.
Marian: I sure did. I talk about purity from both standpoints. I believed every lie of the enemy and dove, head first, into the college party scene, and living in that hook-up environment, and barely living to tell about it—and coming to Christ after college—truly coming to my own saving relationship and knowledge of Jesus.
I had the foundation of a biblical worldview; but I ran from God and ran into the arms of the world, and God rescued me. Then, coming out of that and Jesus redeeming my life, I’ve lived on both sides of this battle.
Dennis: I want to read what you wrote in your book because I just thought this was so good. This is where a lot of young people are—a lot of singles are today. You write: “I grew up in a Christian home with Christian values. I knew sex was designed for marriage. Growing up, I believed the facts pertaining to Christianity, but I didn’t know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I knew rules and religion; and from both of these, I rebelled.”
“By the time my teenage years rolled around, I embraced the values of the world and threw myself into the college party scene. I fell into sexual sin and was sucked into the vortex of darkness.
“Satan’s lies kept me locked like a prisoner of war in a cell of shame and regret. I experienced freedom only when Jesus redeemed me.”
Marian: That’s right.
Dennis: How did He redeem you?
Marian: You know, I was—you know—living in the world that our culture says is what every single woman wants. I had money. I had the party scene. I had alcohol. I had all of that stuff—and coming to the end of myself—and recognizing that none of those things would fill the God-shaped hole in my soul.
I was in a bar, one night, desperately empty. I did what I’d never really honestly done before in my life. I prayed in a bar. I said, “God, if you are real, help.” A few weeks later, a friend invited me to what would become my home church in Houston. She said: “I’m going to this event. Would you come with me?” And I—at that time, I thought, “I can’t walk into that place.
“There was so much shame and baggage on me.” She said, “Come on,” and I went with her.
That night, I’m telling you—I’m so thankful for churches that preach the gospel because, that night, I heard for the very first time—really heard it—that the Light of the world—the God of the universe stepped into the darkness / my darkness to rescue me. I recognized that—not just that I needed Jesus to forgive my sin—I needed Jesus for life—and that everything I was searching for—in a guy’s bedroom, in an empty bottle, in success, and everything—I was searching in all the wrong places.
That night, I just surrendered my life to Jesus. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know that I was going to have to go through such a radical transformation of my mind. I did not know what lay ahead of me, but I knew that I could not continue one step without Him. So, I surrendered my life to Jesus.
Shortly, thereafter, I got plugged into a Bible study. I was with all these really good girls from Baylor.
I felt so different from these girls because they had this life of purity. I had this life of shame. I remember sitting in my car, after this Bible study. I was weeping, and weeping, and weeping. I just said: “God, here is the deal. I know You’ve saved me, but I am one step from going back to where I just came from. So, You’re going to have to give me a heart to love You more than anything else in this world.”
And God transformed everything about my life. I call myself a redeemed girl and my ministry Redeemed Girl because the word, redeemed, means to buy something back and to restore it to its original intent. Everything Satan had intended for me—through the brainwashing of culture, through my own sin, and through the darkness that I’d walked through—Jesus has rescued me from and redeemed. Everything I believe today and live today is based on—it’s based on that same gospel.
Dennis: And what happened to your shame?
Marian: Oh, my shame. You know what’s interesting? I got married at 38. I was single a very long time, as a Christian woman.
I walked down the aisle, on my wedding day, feeling the most clean I ever felt in my life—feeling absolutely pure, from the inside out. I lifted my bouquet to heaven. It was just such a worship service because it was all about the power of Jesus and what He is able to do to clean us and transform us. I’m telling you—I’d never ever felt that pure in my life, and it’s because of the work of God. Jesus makes us new creations.
I write a book about purity—not being someone who succeeded and then lived to tell about it—I wrote a book about purity from coming out of the enemy’s darkness, and coming to Christ, and Him transforming me from the inside out. What I realized is that purity is a response to the gospel. It’s not a means of salvation.
Because I had been—bought by Jesus, loved by Jesus, cleansed by Jesus—the life of purity flowed out of that, where I wanted to live for Jesus. I wanted to live for the One who redeemed me. So, the shame was gone, progressively, as I began to believe who He really made me.
Dennis: The promise of Scripture is that He will remove our sins as far as the east is from the west.
Marian: Amen; yes.
Dennis: I mean—He removes our shame.
Marian: He does.
Dennis: I have to believe, right now, there is a listener—maybe a young lady—it may be a guy—they may be single / married / parents / grandparent—who is listening to you and lived their whole lives maybe dabbling in religion—but they’ve never met the One who can cleanse them from their shame. What would you tell them to do?
Marian: I would tell them to look to the cross: “And the minute I trusted Jesus,” the Bible said, “I became a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come.”
Throughout the New Testament—what Paul continually does and the writers of the New Testament—they remind us who we are in Christ. They remind us of the truth of what was finished at the cross.
So, what I would challenge anyone, listening to this, is to look to Jesus and believe in His finished work, not in your performance—believe in what He has done, not in your track record—because the more I began to see myself in Christ, and to recognize who Jesus is, and what Jesus did, and believed that for myself—we behave how we believe. When I began to see myself as redeemed, I began to see myself as forgiven— I began to see myself as holy, even—I began to see myself as God’s daughter and cherished—the natural outworking of that belief system was behavior.
So, I would tell anyone that the enemy is coming with lies of shame that: “You have done this and you’ve fallen.” Go back to the cross. Go back to the place where we began and just take hold of the promises of God.
Allow Jesus to pour out His cleansing mercy and grace, and receive it—receive this gift of grace from God, and let Him bestow mercy on us.
Bob: You know what you are saying is—there’s a hymn we sing at church—and the lyric is: “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free for God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”
Marian: That’s right. That’s right.
Bob: That’s incredible news.
Marian: Right. It sounds cliché; but when I’m teaching purity, I’m teaching identity because the more we identify with who we are, as the beloved of God and the redeemed of Christ, the more we see ourselves rightly.
Purity is less of a battle because, really, what the enemy does, every single time, is attack who we believe we are.
And, you know, the girl I was before Jesus—I completely identified myself as a piece of trash—but coming to Christ—what Jesus did was radically alter my perception of myself because in 1 Peter, we see that God says that you were purchased—that you were bought with the precious blood of Christ. So, what the mental shift is—is going to see yourself from something that is unusable trash to begin to see yourself as someone that Jesus died to redeem.
And what changes in the mental part of me was that something is worth what someone is willing pay for it. If the God of the universe was willing to pay that for me, then, that meant I’m not trash. That means I’m a treasure. When that mental shift began to happen in my life—and I began to see myself as cherished / as a treasure—
—then, the whole scheme of the enemy to keep me in sexual sin and to keep me in that darkness—that began to break off because I began to recognize: “That’s not who I am. I can’t live in a way that’s outside of who God created me to be.” That’s when the battle began to be won in my life.
Dennis: And I have to believe, Marian—as that person is listening to you right now, who is identifying with your life—a life of shame, of guilt, of breaking God’s commands—that they are ready. They are ready right now. They may need to pull off the road, if they are driving. They may need to find a way to slip away from their children for a moment. They may need to, maybe, slip away from their place of work, where they are listening—or if they’re jogging—stop and surrender. Stop where you are, and get on with life, and make the greatest decision you will ever make in your life.
It’s going to affect you, not only in terms of where you spend eternity, but it’s also going to give you—as Marian just said—actually what the Scriptures promise us—you’re going to find life.
Bob: And I have to ask you about those years in college. Did you think you were happy?
Marian: No, I knew I wasn’t happy. You don’t go seeking fulfillment at the end of a bottle if you’re a happy person. I could put on a happy face. I could—but it was all very temporary. There was never joy. And I would say I did battle depression, and I battled self-hatred, and all of those things; but, you know, the world has a fix for all those things, but—
Bob: Party. That’s the fix; right?
Marian: Party more, self-esteem help, self-improvement—all of those things were just empty avenues. So, really, by the time I came to “the end of myself,” I recognized that Jesus is better and He is glorious.
He is the all-fulfilling One, and He is the One that will never leave you nor forsake you.
So, I know, for a lot of people, who are listening—who are maybe still stuck in that pattern of sin that one of the lies of the enemy is—they can’t change and that they are always going to be that way. I would just like to testify and say that the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead can rescue any life, and He can transform any life. I’m living proof of that.
Dennis: He can take a prisoner and set him free.
Dennis: That’s what you’re describing occurred in your life.
Marian: Right. And those are the tools I really want to give to women, of all ages, because the same schemes—the same lies, the same temptations, the same insecurities—he is using on them; but they have not been equipped to live in this because they’ve been told to just say, “No,” but they don’t know how to do it. They—and we’ve lived in a culture that is an on-demand culture. You get everything you want in 30 seconds or less.
So, to wait to satisfy desire is not something that we’ve equipped a generation to do. And the other women I’m talking to are women, who have been married—and then, they are now divorced or widowed. Now, they are immersed in this dating scene in a culture that says: “It’s just sex. It’s no big deal. You’re not a virgin anyway. Why would you wait?”
I’m seeing God’s daughters—these cherished women—who are being broken, who are falling, left and right, on what I would call a serious battlefield because they don’t know how to stand. And it’s not just the non-believers. Yes, I was a non-believer who lived in that darkness, and Jesus rescued me; but I had to learn how to walk in purity, as a Christian.
Dennis: You quoted a mutual friend of Bob and mine. His name is Stu Weber. You quoted him in your book.
Dennis: You said, “Every Christian is a walking spiritual battlefield.”
Marian: That’s right.
Dennis: And we are. If you know Jesus Christ, there is still a battle taking place.
And I want to read this verse here as we conclude our broadcast. Titus, Chapter 3, verse 4: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us and righteousness, but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
There are a lot of people, listening, who need to embrace the reality that they—if they are not a believer, they need to become one and follow Christ—but secondly, if they are, they need to recognize their identity, and who they are, and whose they are, and get with the program.
Bob: And that’s really what’s central to what you’re writing about in the book, Sex and the Single Christian Girl. This is not about adjusting your behavior. It’s about embracing your identity and the impact that will have on your behavior. That’s where all of us have got to start—with the issues we deal with in our life.
We do have copies of Marian Jordan Ellis’s book, Sex and the Single Christian Girl, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Our listeners can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. In the upper left-hand corner of the screen, you’ll see a link that says, “GO DEEPER.” When you click that link, there is information about how to order Marian’s book. Other resources that we have on the subject of purity are available, online, as well—FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” And you can order resources from us, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329.
That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, when you get right down to it, what we’re talking about here is: “How does the message of the gospel affect how we live and our behavior—not just our behavior—but the motivation for our behavior?” because that’s what’s at the core of all of this. Here, at FamilyLife, our conviction is that when somebody’s life is radically transformed, because of God’s grace, it’s going to pour out into every aspect of marriage and family—human relationships. And that’s our focus—to try to apply the principles of the gospel so that our marriages are stronger, our parenting is in alignment with what God would have us do, and our relationships reflect the reality of the gospel in our lives.
And we appreciate those of you who share our conviction / our passion to see marriage and families transformed by the gospel. Those of you who help support this ministry / keep this radio program on this station—on our network of stations, all across the country—we are thrilled every time you get in touch with us and make a donation, as a Legacy Partner or a one-time gift.
We’d like to say, “Thank you,” today when you make a donation by sending you a copy of a message from Dennis Rainey that focuses on the importance of your marriage being built on a spiritual foundation. This is a message that he presented at an I Still Do™ event. We’ll send you that CD when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner that says, “I Care,” and make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone, and request the CD from Dennis Rainey. Or you can write a check and mail it to FamilyLife Today at P O
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Our zip code is 72223. Ask for the CD from Dennis Rainey when you mail the check to us. Again, thank you for partnering with us, here, in the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We do appreciate you.
And we hope you can be back here again tomorrow. Marian Jordan Ellis is going to be here again. We’re going to continue our conversation about the priority of purity in the life of a single young woman. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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