I had this crazy dream that I was in this “choose your own adventure” movie. It was a love story and the audience had to interact with the plot at certain points and tell me whether to settle or have faith, go on a date or wait for “the one”, give in to temptation or write (which was such an odd option but … ok).
So I am going through movie first time and they choose options and I settle for love that looks almost like everything I want but comes with a price: I always wonder if God would have provided better. So the movie ends with me happy but not truly fulfilled.
The second time, they had me give into temptation with someone but then repent and get back on right track and later I met someone else and they had me wait and then the right person came, but I was sad at the altar on my wedding day that I could not truly say I’d waited. I felt like I’d failed him in front of everyone and my wedding night felt like any other night. (Drastic but it was a dream).
The final time we went through the movie, they had me avoid temptation and write each time the urge hit. Poetry, books, classes. I was living out my ministry and helping people when the right guy came along and was everything I’d always wanted and more. I looked back at the end of the movie seeing all the decisions I was going to make but didn’t and was excited to see that the person they had me give into in the second version of the movie was now just a good friend and was happily married to perfect person for him.
The dream ended with me smiling as my husband and I took a stage together and spoke to thousands of youth about the reality of purity and that it isn’t an easy choice but it’s a worthy choice. The joy in my presence and the glow I had on that stage made me really think about the relationships I choose and how I need to address my commitment issues so I don’t fall for another person who it won’t go anywhere with.
I wrote that in my Notes on my phone about a year ago. But I didn’t actually go forward with evaluating my relationships. Instead I kept moving forward with what I knew would be a dead-end option. However, I recently figured out why and the reality of that realization is probably the foundation of something I will one day speak upon.
I live a life of celibacy. As such, sex is not an option for me. But it does not mean that I don’t have urges or sometimes want to say “I’m done” and just give in to some of the advances that come. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it tempting when that good-looking friend from high school texts and asks if I want to come over and chill. But I made a choice and I have to stick with it for my integrity and for my daughters. I want to be a positive role model and prove as women we are more than a body.
BUT when I had to get honest with myself about the last two years and how I have been hanging out with a specific individual and not protecting my heart, I had to finally admit that I am a Christian woman who lives a celibate life but enjoys side pieces. Yup. I typed that. Now, that may not seem right since a side piece typically is someone you have sex with and then send home. I don’t do that. But what I do – or did up until February when I had to get honest about this and the toll it was taking on my relationship with God and myself – is hang out with someone and allow them to be the person I enjoy going out with, hanging out with, and talking to. I let them take on a boyfriend role without the title because the title scares me and not having it makes me feel free. One day a week, we head out and enjoy dinner and talking and having fun without losing any integrity, and I don’t have to think about how the night will end because we both understand how I live my life. Except, when I finally realized this and had to come to terms with the fact I was over here praying that maybe someday I would get married and fall in love but I was blocking my own possibility by spending so much time with someone (to the point many assumed we were together) who would never actually go anywhere for a variety of reasons. I didn’t guard my heart and in the end it was I who ended up with a broken heart when I realized the reality of the situation – as it essentially means I used the person to avoid being lonely.
Do you do this with people in your life? I have a friend who tries to do it with me but I won’t allow him to. He texts quite a lot and asks me out quite a bit and I know from past experience it is because it makes him feel like he is in a relationship, except I know that I would NEVER consider a relationship with him so I don’t entertain the options and just say no each time to hanging out together unless the kids are with us. Funny how I will not allow myself to string someone else along but I am okay having a side piece who I know won’t go anywhere and will string myself along by not protecting my heart. Why is that? Once again, I care about someone else more than myself?
Before you judge me, understand that we all have our ways of doing this. I have a friend who has been engaged three times in the two years I have known her. I know another person through a friend who has been in love with at least three different men who she has known were “the one for her” in the past three years. I know a guy who still swears the lady who is meant for him made a mistake marrying her husband, despite the fact everyone knows they are amazing together (her and the husband, not her and the guy). As humans, our hearts lead us the wrong way often. We think we want something until something shinier comes along. We want someone until someone better comes along. We want and want and want, but then when we have, the thrill is gone. The chase is more exciting than the catch. Ha – we have a lot of folks doing catch and release dating.
Married folks go off and get friends they talk with all hours of the night but they barely say hello to their husband or wife. Single folks go and enjoy time with one another and know it won’t go anywhere but enjoy the “dating” life without dating. We convince ourselves we are doing better than others because we aren’t having affairs or having sex, but we are lying to ourselves because this is NOT PURITY.
There is a huge difference between abstinence and purity. Abstinence is simply not doing something. Purity is a lifestyle in which you don’t even come close to the edge. Like in the book about the princess and the three princes – where the two princes try to bring her as close to the ledge as possible but the third one refuses to put the princess on the horse because he would never put her in danger by making her go close to the line. As I have processed my emotions and actions over the past two months (February and March), I had to admit that I wasn’t living in purity any longer – I was towing the line. I was enjoying what looked like a relationship and smelled like a relationship and acted like a relationship, knowing deep down it never would become a relationship because there were such drastic differences in what we believe, who we are, and where we are going in life. But after two years of my heart being invested with this person due to friendship and proximity and how much time we spent together, I was too far in. I had to make some drastic changes and hurtful ones because the only way to protect my heart (oh how we love to protect it after it is ready to break into a million pieces) was to separate myself completely and walk away.
Going back to the choose your own adventure dream, I had to made a decision in real life similar to this dream. Did I want to turn the page and continue to see what life could be like and if it would ever become something or did I want to turn to page 1 and start over, freeing this individual from being a character in my story? I had to make a choice between continuing to have a side piece who I very much enjoyed time with and who had become one of my closest friends (though looking back, I see it wasn’t mutual), or stopping the relationship (including friendship) altogether and allowing myself to address the root of this behavior. For me, I see loops and patterns. Every December I start to want someone in my life and usually find someone who fits the bill but isn’t what God wants for me. I hang out with the person and enjoy time through the winter and then by February am bored because I see the person’s true colors or realize that what I want in life is more than what the other person wants. So I stop hanging out with them as much until they are just another acquaintance. I was very proud of myself that I hadn’t been on that loop since 2013 and was doing very good. Though it wasn’t easy, I made it through without any relationships that were misleading. Except while I was celebrating, I allowed this person who was a friend become more in many ways and didn’t realize it until I was going through my heart one day and stumbled across a room in which there were love poems about him on the walls and I realized: I had caught feelings. Strong ones. I tried to rip all the paper down but since I had seen it was fully aware of it. Being aware of it scared me because I knew I wasn’t ready for any commitment due to some stuff I am working through and how I don’t have time in my life for anyone right now. And all these emotions and understandings started coming into life and I had to admit my confession about liking side pieces. I had gone from relationships to side pieces… no wonder I enjoy my singleness so much – I haven’t really been single the way you are supposed to be single. I have had someone occupying my time and emotions and mind, and didn’t even realize it for the first year and a half that I was doing it.
When we live in purity, we have to limit how we interact with others. Just as I don’t have female friends that I text with all hours of the day, I need to limit how much I associate with men because it opens the door for feelings to creep in. When we allow ourselves to get too involved with people and become their crutch or them to become ours, we risk losing ourselves in their world. There is a LOT more I can say about this and as I continue to process where things went left when they should have gone right, I will share what I learn. I have read all the books and I know all the ways you are supposed to protect yourself from this and yet I still fell into the trap because I am a person who as much as I gain my energy from being by myself loves to be around others and be in relationship with others. As I explore the middle ground between “Choosing God’s Best” which is drastic at 40 and being out there dating and doing whatever with whoever, I will share what I learn. I haven’t seen any books about the single life after 40 so perhaps as we explore this together, one of you or I will finally write that book for the few of us out here who are no longer in the young adults group yet walk this single life and want to do so with integrity.
Have you experienced any of what I have talked about above? Are you struggling with what life after 40 looks like when you aren’t in a relationship but maybe want one some day? What roots do you have to destroy so you don’t allow yourself to get caught not walking in integrity?
Until next time,
3 Comments Add yours
Thank you for sharing this post. I admire your honesty and vulnerability Shell. When I finished reading, it struck me that your decision is a great example of doing what Jesus advised: if your eye offends you pluck it out. If your right arm offends you cut it off (metaphorically of course!).
I pray April will be a victorious month for you as continue on your journey as a single parent.
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Thank you so much, Carol! I believe April will be a truly amazing month as a reward for my obedience!
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