It’s Valentine’s Day. I am wearing my favorite blue dress and sparkly earrings. The sun is setting behind the hills. A handsome gentleman is engaging me in conversation over dinner at an elegant restaurant. He puts a ring on my finger, and my stomach does flips.
The year is 1997. I am 14 years old. The handsome gentleman is my father. The ring is a purity ring.
When I was a teenager, the True Love Waits movement swept through churches like a wildfire. Youth group kids everywhere were wearing rings and pledging that they would remain sexually pure until they were married. I asked my parents to buy me the ring, because I, too, wanted to take the pledge: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.” I signed the card.
So that’s how I found myself on the outdoor patio of the Hungry Hunter in Anaheim on a balmy February night, sitting across the table from my mom and dad, talking about sexual purity.
I’ve worn my ring ever since.
As of this Valentine’s Day, that was 18 years ago.
They were eventful years. Being 32 is a lot different from being 14. There’s a lot of growing and shaping and learning and changing that happen in 18 years. I enjoyed incredible experiences. I suffered through horrible loss. I got hired and laid off. I graduated high school and college. I started my career. Bought a car. Had my car totaled. Changed jobs. Bought another car. Lived on my own. Moved back in with my folks.
Nearly all of this time was spent single. With a few, brief exceptions, I stood on the sidelines while I watched most of my friends date, get married, and have babies. I was the “Last Man Standing” in many a social group. 3rd Wheel, 5th Wheel, 9th Wheel; I was the Odd Man Out.
And I ached. I yelled at God. I ugly cried more tears than I thought a body could produce. In many a dark moment, I lost hope that God could hear and see me. I thought so many times that I must have done something to anger God, must have some pervasive sin I was unaware of in my life that disqualified me. In more rational moments, I told myself that I had made this pledge not because I wanted something out of it, but because I wanted to please God. I reminded myself that God understood. I read Scriptures about how He would bind up the brokenhearted. I became intimately familiar with the Bible stories of Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth; women who waited a LONG time for God to fulfill the desires of their hearts. I bristled when well-meaning people encouraged me to “just fall in love with Jesus.” I came up with clever bon mots for the inevitable question, “Why are you still single?” I went about the business of ministry and life, put my head down, and tried to honor God. But mostly I ached, a dull ache that was always there, just underneath the surface. Unbeknownst to most, I was constantly near tears (if you knew what to say) for most of 2005-2012. In the midst of this, though, I knew with absolute certainty that living a life of purity was the only right way. I knew that by doing this, even if God never answered my prayers the way I wanted Him to, that He was still God and He was still good, and that I was honoring Him by surrendering even this part of my life to His sovereign control. It was a constant exercise in laying down my desires to Him. In the process I learned who God was. I learned about His comfort. I learned about His sovereignty. I learned about Him. I learned what it meant to be in constant communion with Him. God met me in my every ache, and, despite my pain and genuine belief that I would never get married or have kids, I knew He was still faithful.
It’s New Years’ Eve, 2012. I am sitting at a table in a cabin in Lake Arrowhead working on church projects on my laptop. I am in my pajamas. Match.com, Christian Mingle, and eHarmony are spending their entire yearly advertising budget on this single evening, on every channel. After several hours of this, I have had enough. I begin to have a conversation with God. “This is the last time. If this doesn’t work, I’m done.” I re-activate my dormant eHarmony account, ring in the new year, and go to bed. The next day I receive an email telling me that someone named John wants to communicate with me. He has fantastic blue eyes, likes Disneyland and spicy foods, and loves Jesus. A tiny ember of hope springs to life.
It’s February 7th, 2015. I am standing on an outlook on the Cliffs in La Jolla, California on a gorgeous early afternoon. John is standing next to me, and says he has something for me. He pulls out a cherry wood box, opens it to reveal a beautiful diamond ring, and asks me to marry him.
In the 10 days since I said, “YES!” I have thought a lot about God’s faithfulness. As the plans for our wedding begin to fall into place, both John and I have remarked repeatedly about how God has seemed to bless the whole thing. There has been an overwhelming sense that God has ordained our steps so that HE will receive glory. Since I’ve already written so much in this post, the details about why John is incredible will have to wait for another time. Sufficed to say, God has blessed me with a man who has loved me for far longer than he’s known me. John returns to me the same love that I pledged to him and God all those years ago.
God never promises that we’ll get what we want. And no pledge will guarantee that you’ll find a great spouse and have an amazing sex life and the perfect marriage. But when you choose God, you are choosing the far better option. C.S. Lewis wrote, “He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.” It’s true. When you have God, you have it all. And if God chooses to bless you with the desires of your heart, there will be a sweetness to His provision that is overwhelming. But if God chooses to bless you in a different way than you anticipate, there will still be a sweetness to His provision that draws you in and sustains you in every season.
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.