I remember the first time I heard author Joshua Harris on Focus on the Family. The topic was his successful book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I was shocked, elated and relieved all at once.
“Finally, someone gets it,” I thought.
Needless to say, I went right out and bought the book, and read through its pages about God having something better for us, that He never intended for us to go through all that needless pain, that keeping physical intimacy at bay till marriage is worth much more; and that Harris had been continually scrutinized in the mainstream media for presenting such ideas.
Memories of my past came back like shards of broken glass: The boy that I had met at sixteen, the one I thought I’d wanted to marry, the one I became too involved with too quickly; the one I’d never gotten over. A certain pain that had kept me from forming any other relationships with guys flooded my insides. This feeling, I could only keep at bay by distracting my mind, which had been clenched by hurt ever since the Christmas of 1995. That was when we’d broken up. It was very suddenly (though it had been brewing for months), it was three days before Christmas, and it was over the phone. I remembered my mom repeatedly saying to me that she needed to use the phone as we were discussing the stuff of mine that was still at his house. He assured me he would get it back to me. Not wanting this conversation to continue, I said, "My mother needs to use the phone"; voice choked up, and abruptly hung up on him. That phone call had opened the gates to a torrent of emotional pain that had been continuous for the past two years (and would go on for much longer).
I expected the pain to last a while, but when a little while became a long while, and then a long time, and then a longer time, and still a longer time, I began to panic. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I knew break-ups hurt, but this was much more. I tried to reason with myself that I simply had been with the wrong guy, and that if I tried it again, I’d find the right one… but I couldn’t try it again. The thought of being involved with another person sent waves of terror and grief through me. I believed I had wanted the boy that I’d been involved with forever—but that was no longer possible. I couldn’t have him back, but I couldn’t move on either. I was in much too much pain to date again, and normal was a word I no longer understood. I wasn’t me anymore—I had no idea who I was. I didn’t want to date, which I believed was unnatural; and to make matters worse, I suffered from a continual nagging sense of “infidelity”; odd, considering I had never been married.
There was one final piece of the puzzle that made my story extremely confusing; this is that I was still a virgin. I reasoned that if I’d lost my virginity to this boy, THEN I would’ve been in this much pain (after all, you can’t get it back). However, this is not what I was experiencing. I’d kept my virginity, but was going through intense hurt I couldn’t define anyway. Why…? When I read the book, I realized why I was feeling so strange. Harris explained that purity is something that the church doesn’t talk about much anymore, and that it’s more than just “not having sex.” He explained that too much physical intimacy too quickly will open doors into a person’s heart that God didn’t design to be opened (until marriage). This is a concept that I had been completely unfamiliar with. I knew about saving sex for marriage, but it hadn’t occurred to me that heavy physical contact (all the touching and kissing that can lead to sex) will blur a person’s boundaries (something we hadn’t bothered to set) and blur their ability to be objective. I could no longer see why this boy was either right or wrong for me; I just wanted his arms around me. I know now, that a little part of my inexperienced heart did love him, but I was too young to take on what I believed I wanted. More than that; being unmarried, and too young to change that, this boy and I were actually partaking in a blessing that we were not qualified to have. The immaturity of my teen years left me unable to see such realities that are now quite clear; but in the middle of all my grief I realized that God was preparing me for the one he desired me to have for a lifetime, and though I still hurt badly, I began to look at the process as a challenge: I grabbed up everything I could get my hands on dealing with purity, courtship and marriage; I listened to countless radio programs and waited eagerly for Mr. Right to come into my life. I prayed faithfully, believing that he was right around the corner... with one problem: Mr. Right never showed up.
I became confused, puzzled, even dumbfounded. What was I doing wrong? Why was God ignoring me? Why was my prayer going unanswered? Being a little older now (and hopefully a little wiser) I realize that all my anticipation and hope had rested on one thing: A relationship… with a man. This was my hope, my dream, my expected result, even my prize; but this wasn’t the prize God wanted me to have…. not yet. Philippians 3: 14 says “We press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NAS). God’s ultimate goal for me is that I know Him intimately, and that I trust Him fully. Over the next several years, He began teaching me that I hadn’t been seeking Him. What I was seeking, was a different relationship to fill up the empty place that the previous one had left inside. He wanted more for me then just another man that I was unknowingly pinning with the responsibility of salving a pain I couldn’t get rid of. My perspective then changed, though still not to the degree that the Lord desired.
I then became resigned to the fact that God wanted my whole heart, and my new goal became to hurry up and give it to Him so that after doing so, I could have Mr. Right. Thus began a period of many noble sounding prayers, quickly acknowledging God’s supposed place at the front of my life, followed by long, detailed descriptions of my Mr. Right, and all the hopes I had for us. Again, Mr. Right never showed up. My struggles continued, and the Lord revealed to me (after much kicking) that I still wasn’t getting it. My motivation was still to have a man, and not God. The truth was that I could not yet accept this reality. As a result, I began saying all the right words and acknowledging everything I believed God wanted, but much of it was “talk.” The next phase of my journey was trying to accept where God had me.
I was single, but did not want to be, and the desperate urge to have a man would not settle down. I acknowledged that singleness was a gift, but always with clenched teeth, and a strange indifference to my Heavenly Father. I then began to seriously doubt God. I wondered whether He’d given me a gift I wasn’t meant to have, and honestly believed He’d made a mistake. I believed that marriage would fulfill me, despite everything I knew to the contrary, and couldn’t understand why it couldn’t come to be.
Jump to present day: I am today, still a single woman, but no longer with the clenched teeth I once had. Reading Harris’s book has helped me to realize that the level of physical intimacy that I engaged in as a high school student so tainted my view of the way God saw me that it has delayed the precious blessing of a husband God so wants to give me. In His grace, He has turned me around, and helped me realize that He sees me as a priceless pearl that he is forming and shaping and cultivating just for my husband and life partner. Repeatedly giving pieces of my heart to men who were never meant to have them will damage the pearl, and cause me unnecessary grief.
Waiting on the Lord is difficult, and marriage is also. I know now that the process of me maturing as a Christian has taken longer than I had expected. This truth, in fact, has been no reason to panic, just evidence that God doesn’t use the same timetable I do, and that anything he would withhold from me is only for my protection. My husband is on his way, I firmly believe, and in God’s time, I will know him. However, His desire until then is that I enjoy life to the fullest, with a peace and a confidence that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6). Being single IS a blessing, and there are specific freedoms and liberties that a person can enjoy when they partake of this gift (1st. Corinth. Ch. 7). He doesn’t just want me healed; He wants me whole and complete. When this process has come to fruition, my husband I’ve been dreaming of will then be the icing on this wonderful cake that He’s been preparing for some time. I can’t wait!
If you are a single woman dreaming of the day your husband will enter your life (and perhaps seeing the flame of desire dimmed), please know that God has not forgotten you. We as His daughters have been bought with a price—and it was by no means cheap. He loves you, and will not allow just anyone to be your leader. Give him your emotions—the sorrow, the frustration, whatever it is, and know that there isn’t a pain He hasn’t felt. Let patience have its perfect work in you, and know that in time, you shall reap a harvest if you do not give up( James 1: 2-4 & Galat. 6:9).