I sat on the edge of my bed and tried to quiet my mind. There had been tons of flirting going on for several weeks now, but still nothing concrete enough to show me he had intentions. I had been warned about this guy, but still, I couldn’t help it: I was crazy about him. I was filled with frustration, confusion and worry because I didn’t want to get into something that would only end up hurting me.
I spent some time in total silence, asking God to direct my thoughts and give me some sort of guidance.
One single phrase popped into my mind: “I am not a God of confusion, but of peace.”
Instantly, I knew what this meant. I knew I had zero peace in the situation; that the whole thing was fraught with ambiguity, frustration and fear, and this was no foundation for a God-breathed romance. You’d think I would have heeded the warning. But instead, I flirted with the danger for nearly another year. Then the relationship ended in a fiery, flaming disaster and killed what had been a very meaningful friendship up to that point.
You’d think I would have learned from that experience. But a year later, another man walked into my life, whom I shall call Steve.
Steve was attractive to me in every possible way. He was brilliant, ambitious, spiritual, and had biceps bigger than my head. He unequivocally supported my career goals and pushed me to dream even bigger. He challenged me to grow spiritually and get more involved serving the community. He would talk about all the various ministries he wanted to start, and the difference we could make together as a couple. And when he prayed, I would practically swoon.
I was raised with the traditional view of “no sex before marriage,” but I didn’t really need much convincing. Seeing how much heartache premature sexual activity had brought into friends’ lives, and how much it blinded them from making good choices about long-term compatibility, I saw the wisdom in it. I was rock solid on this one. I communicated that standard to Steve early on in our relationship, and he respected it, although he didn’t particularly embrace that standard himself. He would sometimes ask me, “Doesn’t God have better things to worry about?”
Still, he respected me. Things got serious very quickly, and I was pretty sure this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Until he broke up with me. Because I wouldn’t sleep with him.
I saw it coming, but it didn’t lessen the impact. One evening he told me he didn’t plan on getting married anytime in the next few years, and he wasn’t going to wait that long.
That night, for the first time in my life, I questioned whether abstinence till marriage was really all that important to God. What if this one technicality prevented me from being with the guy I was meant to be with? I went home and pored over books and articles till the early hours of the morning. It would take a long time to share all that I read that night, but suffice it to say—by 2 am, I knew in my gut what God was asking of me.
One week after the breakup, I found out from mutual friends that Steve had been dating someone else simultaneously, and that when he was gone on “business trips” he was actually spending the night at his ex-wife’s house.
Though I could now see what this seemingly arbitrary standard had protected me from, I was bitterly angry at God. In the months of heartache that followed, I asked God “Why?” Why did you allow such a thing? Why didn’t you warn me? Why didn’t you answer my continual pleas for guidance? I stayed faithful to you, so why did you remove your hand of protection and let me walk blindly into such a devastating situation?
I probably spent another year and a half feeling broken, rejected, generally insecure, and spiritually off.
Until one night in February of 2013. As I lay awake asking God to heal me, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. With such gentleness, he showed me that he had warned me…“I am not a God of confusion, but of peace.”
That he had cautioned me…“How can you be yoked to someone who doesn’t share your deeply-held convictions?”
Up until that point, I had blamed Steve and the previous guy as well. They had severely mistreated me, wronged me; they had ruined my life. JERKS. But now with such tenderness, God showed me so clearly that he’d put a check in my spirit, and I’d ignored it in both cases. I had chosen to be in those unhealthy situations. I wanted so badly to be in those relationships that I had chosen those men over God. This was, plain and simple, idolatry.
I lay there as one epiphany after another smote me. And lucky for me, I was actually low enough to listen this time around. Instead of getting defensive and arguing with God, I thanked him over and over. That night I asked for forgiveness, and promised God that with his help I would never put a man before him again.
When I was five years old, my mom and dad sat down with me and asked if I wanted to invite Jesus into my heart. I said yes, and they led me in that most simple and foundational of prayers. It is one of my earliest childhood memories. From that time forward, I had such an intimate connection with God and active prayer life, even as a kid. That sense of intimacy, pure love for God and awe for his beauty continued into my adulthood. I spoke to him and he spoke back. I could honestly say I was deeply in love with God, and nothing thrilled me more than to see him at work in my life.
But during that two year period when I was disobeying his Spirit, that all changed. I couldn’t hear him. I kept asking why he was so silent. If I uttered the words “I love you, Lord,” in a song at church, it was with a strange hesitancy. “Why won’t you answer me?! Why won’t you give me that intuition about these situations like you used to? Why won’t you speak to me like you used to?”
This particular night in February as I repented of loving a man more than I loved God, that sense of intimacy returned almost instantly. It was like the lines of communication flew open again. And as time went on I started to fall back in love with God as I saw how, far from depriving me of what I wanted most, he was showing me the path back to health and God-inspired romance.
This all points to one of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn in my adult Christian life, and that is this: When we say God isn’t answering our prayers, it’s often because he’s saying something we’re not willing to hear. There is a fog that comes from disobedience; it clouds our judgment and leads us to question not only God’s goodness, but his existence as well.
I kept tabs on Steve via mutual friends, and watched as he spiraled into depression and through his sexual irresponsibility continued to wreak havoc in his own life and that of many, many women. I’m still haunted by the irony of his question—”Doesn’t God have better things to worry about?”
I still have to work to keep relationships from turning into an idol in my life. It’s a daily discipline to keep God first, to love and cherish and pursue him above all else. And to trust him with this all-important area of my life. Writing this story is just one sinner’s attempt to grapple with the terrifying and devastating yet enthralling and glorious discovery of a God who demands nothing less than our absolute devotion. That kind of submission goes far beyond keeping ourselves physically pure, to keeping ourselves devoted to God above every other earthly desire.
One night after working a particularly draining 18-hour day, I remember thinking to myself how awesome it would be just to have someone around to give me a hug and tell me they were proud of me. I remember asking God if he could really be “enough” for me, the way all the songs suggest. It was as if he whispered back—”Will you let me?”
I decided I should read a quick chapter in Psalms before I went to bed, but as I sat down my Bible fell open to Isaiah 54 and my eye went straight to verse 5:
“For your Maker is your husband— The Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected’ says your God. ‘For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you.”
This is the living, breathing, terrifyingly intimate God we serve.
N E W S
EP Marilyn Beaubien and I begin work on the budget this month. The script just became a semi-finalist in the KAIROS competition for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays! Many, many thanks for your support and prayers! Please continue to pray that this project will help train churches to empower young adults to make mature, Godly, healthy relationship choices.