In August of 2010, I packed my bags and headed down to the Rio Grande Bible Institute for a year of intensive Spanish studies at the missionary language school. Those of you who follow my blog may remember that my year at RGBI was one of the best of of my life. However, what many of you probably don't know is that it was also a season of testing in an area of life in which I had never been tested before: relationships with young men.
I had exhorted teenage girls in areas of purity, how to deal with premature attractions/crushes, the importance of waiting for the right guy, and many such similar topics. But as I was about to find out, I was really quite naïve and untried when it came to actually living out these principles.
For a girl who's never had anyone "like" her in a special way before (at least, that she knew about) it's a very powerful and flattering feeling to have a handsome, Godly young man come along and sweep her off her feet with attention, compliments, and the obvious desire to marry her as soon as possible. But just because this happens, doesn't mean that it's God's will.
I can say with all honesty that I wanted God's will and sought for it carefully. Nevertheless, infatuation can have many blind spots. Such was the case in my life when a fellow student at school made his interests known.
He was a seminary student from South America, saved from a troublesome past and walking closely with the Lord in a bright present, with future plans to be a pastor back in his home country. His kindness caught my eye and his immediate attentions made me dizzy with hope at the possibility that maybe this was the man I had been waiting for!
To keep the story somewhat brief, it wasn't long before we entered the beginning stages of a get-to-know-you relationship with serious intentions. My parents had come down to meet him, and while they gave me their approval to continue forward, they had legitimate concerns in a number of areas. I valued their counsel, but after a week of prayer and fasting and feeling like God had given a green light to proceed forward, I blissfully assumed all would work itself out in time.
However, as he and I engaged in more discussions (all in Spanish mind you, so sometimes the help of a translator was necessary for my faltering language abilities) it became evident that we were very different in several key areas of belief. At the beginning, it had seemed we were similar enough to make things work, but as time passed and I asked more specific questions, I grew more and more uncomfortable with what I was learning about him. It became obvious that if I were to marry this guy one day, I would have to compromise convictions in areas of theology, worship, and family life.
Around the time I began to notice the growing discomfort and unrest in my soul over this relationship, counsel was given by a number of trusted advisors, including my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and close friends. Some of this counsel I sought out and some of it was voluntarily given to me at their own initiation. All of it was the same and included major red flags.
Despite everything, I still wrestled. A battle raged between my emotions and my logic. Questions flooded my mind all the time. What are convictions vs. preferences? What are factors that are unreconcilable and what are differences that can be worked through? Am I being too close-minded about various issues? Would he be willing to change his mind on certain things? Wasn't it God who had led into this relationship? Why would He now be leading out of it? What if we do call things off and nobody ever wants to marry me again? Is it better to go forward with this guy and make things work or stay single forever?
On and on the whirlwind continued. I barely slept for a week and ate very little. The knots in my stomach increased in intensity and the unrest in my soul mounted.
Finally, at the end of that miserable week, after a lot of time spent talking to the Lord and to my parents and thinking about the multitude of counsel I had received, I knew what I had to do. I had to surrender this man and this relationship and all the hopes and dreams attached to it. Even though I didn't know what the future would hold, it was a matter of trusting God. He was undoubtedly leading this relationship to an end and testing my willingness to make a sacrifice out of obedience. The story of Abraham and Isaac was on my mind a lot that week.
Calling things off with this young man was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, yet I knew it was the right one. And afterward, the peace and relief that flooded my soul was indescribable!
One of my worries when things started to get rocky in our relationship was the pain that was sure to come if we broke things off. I had developed this idea that pain and hurt was to be avoided at all costs and that guarding your heart and waiting for the right guy was the way to live pain-free in the relationship department. What I failed to understand is that even while getting to know someone with the purpose of discovering if he is the right guy, one's heart/emotions inevitably become involved to a certain degree, and that pain is not an evil to run from.
Yes, there was pain. But there was also much, much growth. And wisdom gleaned. And a need to be healed that drove me closer to the Lord. So in this case, pain produced good things.
As for my heart, it was sad but not broken. It had been touched by a kind man but not trampled.
And so life moved on. My studies continued. Friendships abounded. Wonderful memories were made. And I learned a new degree of contentment as a single girl continuing to trust the Lord with my future.
However, the tests were not over.
Throughout the year 2011, I crossed paths with a number of fine young men who came forward expressing *interest.* While I did not enter into relationships with any of them beyond friendship, and while my dad was involved as much as possible in every situation, it was still emotionally taxing to go through the excitement-because-he-likes-me/now-I-need-to-evaluate-him/never-mind-this-is-not-the-guy-for-me process.
After several closed doors, I was growing discouraged and even a bit disillusioned with the whole relationship department of life. It was much more complicated than I had envisioned as an idealistic teenager! I really started to doubt if there was anyone out there who shared my passion for Jesus Christ, who was likeminded in beliefs and convictions, who had a testimony of moral uprightness, and who was committed to the same family dreams I held dear.
In the wake of another closed door and dashed hope this past September, I knew the Lord was once again asking me to surrender to His plan for my life. I didn't know if it included marriage or not, but I had reached the point like never before where I just wanted what He wanted and nothing else. I let go of my dreams for a Godly husband and children of my own. I told the Lord I was willing to never get married. I just wanted to love Him and live for Him and walk with Him in single-hearted devotion.
If only I could have seen the Divine smile that must have lit up heaven in that moment. Because what I didn't know is that the Author of Romance was busy at work in ways I never could have imagined scripting a story that would take my breath away with its beauty.
(To be continued...)