After meeting Jake and Jackie last fall and hearing their love story, I was so encouraged to wait to pursue marriage until God's timing. I wrote about the two of them in my reaction paper to Song of Songs for Old Testament last fall, and decided to e-mail it to them and thank them again for their encouragement. Well, last Thursday I was talking to a friend of mine about the way God was calling me to be single and that I was wondering what he would have me do with this time. "Maybe He wants me to talk to younger singles about it and encourage them," I told her. Just ten minutes later, my mom called me and asked me if I wanted to speak to a Bible study of middle school girls that her friend was leading. We set it up for me to come visit them over my spring break. And LITERALLY ten more minutes after that, I got a Facebook message from Jackie, telling me that their youth group was going through a series on purity, and that she and Jake would like me to come share my story with the group the next Wednesday. I was ECSTATIC!!! I knew I had to say yes!!
But Satan started using reality to bring me down. How can I get down to Cincinnati? I don't have a car; can I borrow a car? But most of my friends' parents won't let others drive their cars; can I get a ride? But who would want to drive me all the way to Cinci and back? That is so much time, and oh my goodness I'm giving up so much practice time and homework time for this! Should I just tell them I can't make it and let them read my paper to the group instead? When we came back from tour on Sunday night, I was feeling very discouraged about a lot of things, and trying to find a ride for Wednesday was one of them. My roommate Rachel sat with me while I cried about these things and prayed for me, that God would give me peace and a good night's sleep. She also prayed that I would find a ride for Wednesday night, but at that point I was really thinking I wouldn't be able to make it. I thought, wouldn't it be so great if God answered this prayer with a yes?
Tuesday I got a reply e-mail from Jessie, my RA from last year, who said she got permission from her dad to lend me her car! And within the next 24 hours, I got two other car offers from some other friends! Who am I to turn my back on God's will? I knew last Thursday that I HAD to do this, but by Sunday I was so sure I couldn't, then a few days later God confirmed that this was His will; he was calling me again. I had to respond! I got the key from Jessie Wednesday morning and left right after my last class to get gas and head out to Cinci!
About an hour and a half later, I saw the church yard covered with snow. At Calvary on Wednesdays, they have dinner & fellowship time followed by song time, and then they break up by age, the youth group and the adult prayer group. By the time I got there everyone had finished dinner, but Jake had saved me a plate of food, and I ate during song time. Their pastor introduced me to everyone, calling me a "special guest speaker from HeartSong" who was here to speak to the youth group. I was so excited to be there and couldn't believe how excited everyone else was, too! After that I took my dessert with me to the youth room. There were about 8 kids there and 4 or 5 youth leaders, and Jake and Jackie taught about the difference between dating and courtship. I ended up having to alter my talk a little bit because they covered a lot of what I was going to say. The two of them talked about the mistakes they had made before they had committed not to date, and that once they met each other they pursued courtship instead of cultural dating. They encouraged the kids to pursue courtship and to learn from the mistakes the two of them had made. When they were done, they introduced me as someone who had committed to living a lifestyle free of dating, waiting until the right guy comes along and pursuing courtship at that point. I looked over Jake's shoulder and saw my Song of Songs reaction paper on his clipboard. He shared that I had been struggling with singleness and that Jackie had encouraged me last fall, and told the kids about my paper. He finished the introduction with: "The man who marries her will be a very special man and will be so blessed to have her." I was very close to tearing up when he gave me the floor to share my story.
Here is a little bit of what I shared:
When I was in 5th grade, I started to have an interest in boys. But I heard stories and advice from my mom and other great youth mentors and camp counselors about waiting to date until the right time and not dating too soon to avoid a broken heart. All the past relationships these women told me about were from high school and were full of regret. I decided I wasn't going to let that happen to me! The summer before the 7th grade, I told my dad that I had done a lot of thinking and had determined something. I promised that I would not date until I got to college, when I was the right age to pursue marriage; I also promised that I would not kiss until I was engaged and not have sex until my wedding night. He took me out to dinner and told me that he was very proud of me; that's when he gave me my purity ring. I was excited to be counter-cultural and wait until I was old enough for marriage to start dating.
As I went through high school, I had a couple opportunities to go on dates, but I made it clear that I would not date at all. Soon I began to regret my promise not to date; seeing so many of my friends in relationships and seeing so many couples at school made me want to be in a relationship, too. By God's grace, I am a very stubborn person and was not going to break my purity ring promises. There were good days and bad days; a bad day was when I got set up for the Homecoming dance, turned the boy down, and regretted it later, and a good day was when I realized that this boy wasn't my type and was involved in an ungodly relationship. As I got to the end of my senior year, I realized that after seeing so much bad come out of the dating system in general, I did not want to be a part of it at all. I wanted an alternative to dating that focused first on friendship, only seeking intimate romance when it was coupled with full, unconditional commitment. That's when I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye for the first time and committed myself not to date at all, even when I graduated, and to wait until I meet the one I will marry before pursuing a dating relationship. I was excited again to be counter-cultural, but I didn't realize how much harder it was going to be.
Seeing so many friends in good, God-honoring dating relationships that lead to engagements can be very difficult. A system that in high school seemed so flawed and noncommittal was turning into a beautiful system that could help a person find The One. But I still didn't want to be a part of it! I didn't want to give parts of my heart to several different guys; I wanted to find The One. But The One hasn't showed up yet. I was struggling with how to live my life in this waiting stage, wondering how I was supposed to meet him and then find out that I was meant to be with him for the rest of my life. As in high school, I had good days and bad days; a good day was when I talked to Jackie last fall and she encouraged me to stay single, and a bad day was during my freshman year when my unitmate told me she had a boyfriend. My best high point was at Freeze Out, when I realized that in my ministry, it is better if I am single. I committed to stay single as long as my ministry needs me to be, and I know I will find The One as I am serving my God. Until then, I am blessed to have no ties to anyone and a free and willing heart to serve God with everything that I am, and that includes going to youth groups and telling my story. Committing to remain single until God says it's time for marriage is not always easy; there are always going to be times when it's really, really hard. But I need to trust people like Jake and Jackie that this struggle will be worth it. When I commit to serving God, everything will fall into place.
When I was done, I realized that I had talked for a lot longer than I thought and apologized for going over. But Jackie told me it was okay, because it was worth it. I handed out some HeartSong postcards and talked with some of the kids and youth leaders at the end. Jake surprised me with a gas card to fill up Jessie's car and also gave me a "LivePure" bracelet that he would be giving to the kids in a couple weeks at the end of their purity series. The other youth leaders thanked me for my story and Jake told me again that the man I marry will be so lucky and so blessed to have me because of the woman I am. I'm pretty sure that I was blessed so much more that night than I could have blessed the youth group; Jake and Jackie are so encouraging and I love that I was able to keep in touch with them. I caravan-ed back to I 71 with Jackie and called her to tell her I got home safe later that night.
What a story I have to share! And what opportunities I have to share it! But how can I take any credit? By God's grace I was smart enough and stubborn enough in junior high to decide not to date at all, and by His wisdom I was able to promise again that I wouldn't pursue romantic intimacy without lifelong commitment. This is a story I love to tell. I want to share about my decision and include every single struggle I've had with it; I want to encourage the next generation that it IS worth it to wait, and it IS possible! I want others who commit in this way to know that they are not alone.
Whether there are leaves on the ground or snow, whether the sun is out or it's storming, I know that God is in control of my life and that He has everything planned perfectly. He knew HeartSong would bring me to Jake and Jackie; He knew that I would find a ride to go back there and share; He knew just what encouragement I needed both times I saw the two of them and put it in their hearts to encourage me. When I am in the sun or in the storm, I will stay true to my promise and my service to my God and follow Him through the leaves and the snow.