She just lost me.

A blonde country music star that shall go unnamed, that is. She’s gorgeous, gifted, bright… and is losing her grip on the purity that characterized her early career. I bumped into her in the checkout line this morning, splashed across the latest cover of Cosmopolitan… wearing less of a dress than I’ve ever seen her in (or not in) before. I knew she’d crossed the line when I realized I had to avert my eyes from her picture. I don’t recall ever having to do that before today. And I’m sad.

When she started out, she seemed so… chaste. And tasteful. The kinda gal that still loved to curl up with a denim blanket with her daddy on the couch while watching “A Walk To Remember.” Over the last few years, I’ve noticed her neckline sinking to match a rising midriff. And I would whisper (and pray), “Careful. You’re approaching the line.” The career that began with “Jesus Take the Wheel” has now spawned “Before he cheats,” while offering men a peek at her cleavage to get them started. Sigh…

I need to pause here and say that I’m not a prude, a narrow fundamentalist who condemns every expression and celebration of beauty in the female form. Not at all. I have the freedom to notice, enjoy, and praise beauty where I find it (above I described said music star as gorgeous, and I mean it). But to me, people who think it’s acceptable for people to over-expose themselves as an expression of God’s design are kinda like the folks who need a second and third and fourth drink to have a good time. Alcohol is a gift from God. Nothing wrong with it. But it’s all too easy to have one too many. Indulging in (vs enjoying) beauty (or alcohol, or anything else, for that matter) degrades a person. It’s wrong.

Paul is speaking to music stars right along with you and me in I Peter 4:4: “They (the pagans and libertines of Paul’s day) think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation…”

Dissipation refers to “Excessive squandering, unbridled wastefulness, scandalous excess, consumption disproportionate to the need, lack of restraint, libertine abandon.” Eventually, it came to refer to immoral living. But there are two word I want to point out from Paul’s snippet. The first one is PLUNGE.

When it comes to sin, most of us know how to avoid black in favour of white. Would you jump right in to sin? Have you ever woke up in the morning and thought, “I think I’ll trash my life today”? Most of us wouldn’t dream of it.

But there is another word here, far more insidious: FLOOD. A flood is about water levels slowly rising. A growing and progressive danger. The message is clear: In a society where evil is running wild, all you have to do to be enveloped in dissipation is stand still. God calls us to increasingly higher ground to avoid the rising tide. I hate to break it to you, but if you’re not growing today, dissipation is gaining on you. It’s already lapping at your toes.

Part of my personal story involves a long journey out of lustful addiction. Just saying no to porn was a huge victory back then. But that wouldn’t be enough today. God’s invitation to purity is far more specific now than it was a decade ago. The second glances and wandering thoughts that God convicts me about today are now my “edge,” even though I used to be tempted with far worse. “Impure” then was not ogling porn and masturbating. “Impure” for me now is letting my heart cross the line from appreciation to lust in any way, shape, or form. Even for a moment.

In a couple of days I’ll pick up the discussion from here. Because we need to understand the rising tide, how to resist it, and what to do if we’ve lost our footing and want to get it back.

* By the way, I’m not judging this young sister’s heart or positing myself as a better person than she is. Not at all. She and Jesus may be doing just fine, taken as a whole. The bizarre thing about dissipation: It creeps up on healthy hearts and corrupted ones alike.