It was a warm, sunny afternoon as I breezed through the door of a friend’s apartment for an Easter lunch. I was arriving a little late so the room was full of faces. Most I knew, but one was unfamiliar. He was tall, attractive and he lit up the room with his warm humor. I was drawn to this stranger and when we found ourselves sitting next to each other, we connected over our shared interest in John MacArthur. His name was Ryan, and our story started here.
I began seeing Ryan in social settings; a group of late-twenty somethings spending the summer watching movies, playing putt putt and eating sushi. It was an instant attraction and four months later we were on our first date.
A few weeks before Ryan asked me out, he called me to share some very personal details about his life. He was 27 years old and divorced; not once, but twice. This is where I could live or die by that “list” I mentioned in my previous article. I could have seen the baggage and written him off, or I could see the man God had forged through trials and explore the possibilities.
He was a man with a tragic past, having lost both parents by the age of fifteen, who sought value in women who eventually left him. He had experienced being cheated on, living with someone with mental illness, and being unequally yoked. He didn’t deserve judgement, as I fear many divorcees experience in the Christian world; he was forgiven by Jesus and on a different path, and that was enough for me to consider him.
More than anything, I had that “peace” for the first time in my life. A lot of potential men came and went over the years, most without the baggage Ryan had, but never had I experienced a peace to enter into a relationship. Now here stood a man with a complicated past and it was there; that confidence I never had.
This is what that peace I talked about looked like for me. It was peace in the traditional meaning of not feeling anxious, but tranquil. It was peace in the personal sense that I felt this green light to move forward. Internally, my past and insecurities were overshadowed by the possibilities presented to me in Ryan. As I prayed for direction, I never sensed a hesitancy with him like I had with others.
The end of that summer was the best of my life: laughs shared over ballgames and concerts, deep conversations under the night sky, and a connection I had never experienced, with this guy who was unlike anyone I’d ever met. Fairly early on in the relationship, I just knew that I knew he was the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with.
For a few months it was like heaven on earth; I had never been happier and I thought nothing could change the way we were. However, something happened that would forever change me and us. This is something I’ve only shared with a few close people.
Two months into the relationship Ryan and I had sex. There is no excuse for the sin we committed and I went through all the proper restoration afterward, to the extent of completely stepping away from the ministry I was involved in at church. It’s been almost five years and I still regret having done it. I’m not in bondage to it, praise God, but it’s something I can never take back as much as I wish I could. Its effects on me and our relationship at the time were tremendous, to the point we eventually broke up. There is a reason sex is reserved for marriage, and it wasn’t ours to experience at that time.
I remember after it happened feeling like the most horrible person on the Earth. I felt like I had disappointed God, let down the people I care about most, and ruined my reputation. I felt like a hypocrite. For a while I would walk into church feeling like I had a scarlet letter on my arm everyone could see and judge me for. In some ways I was made to feel like I had done something inexcusable, however through my own experience so many other people came forward and shared their own moral failure in dating relationships as a Christian. It was here that I realized that sexual immorality is rampant in the Christian world. Nobody talks about it out of fear of what other Christians might say, so they tuck it in and struggle with purity instead of getting accountability to work through it.
When Ryan and I had sex, it did change our relationship so much. We lasted a little while longer, but soon we were no longer together. As sex tends to do, I formed that intimate bond with Ryan that only itimacy provides and without really knowing it, began pushing the relationship to go deeper too fast. We got an adorable puppy, traveled together over holidays and talked about marriage pretty quickly after that, and Ryan wasn’t ready. I tried holding onto him, yet the closer I leaned in the further he pulled away. So we broke up, and thus I entered the most difficult months of my life.
For seven months I cried every day, even sneaking away from my desk at work to get the cry out in an empty office or bathroom stall. I called out to God like never before; asking Him to take away the intense pain I felt. I actually ached in places I never knew existed as I watched my hopes and dreams with the man I loved slip through my fingers. It was like picking up the broken pieces of my life and trying to put them back the way they were.
But truth was, I wasn’t the same person as before. In fact, at times I went to dark places in my soul that I had never been before. So often I prayed for the Lord to return because I just wanted to be with Him. I was done here. One time, after I had found out Ryan went on a date with another girl, I even contemplated suicide. I’m not proud of how I handled myself at times, but I know that if it hadn’t been for the comfort I experienced with Jesus over and over again those seven months, I never would have made it.
Counseling, long runs, good friends and John 15 got me through this time in my life. I learned to remain connected to Jesus in every way possible. Only he could bare the weight of my brokenness and provide even the smallest amount of peace to get me through the day. Weekly, I participated in counseling with a godly therapist where I learned much about myself, such as how I tried to control situations by holding on too tightly, which is what I did with Ryan.
For singles, I know it’s hard to remain pure when the world and the enemy constantly pressure you with sex. Having gone through moral failure to the degree that I did, there is one practical thing I can safely say will help you in your own journey: Find accountability. Find that close, godly friend you can share anything with in confidence and let them know your struggles. Make sure it’s someone who won’t tell you what you want to hear, but disclose to you what you need to here. Ask them to ask you consistently about the temptation you feel in your relationship.
Having true accountability with a godly person will help you think twice about the decisions you make. I had a few close friends who came around me after my own failure that I knew would ask me how I was doing, and it helped me incredibly.
What I love about our God is that my story didn’t stop at my failure. In fact, God has done some of His greatest work in me after that failure, and when Ryan and I were separated. My story continues today and so will yours. In the final installment of this three part series, I’ll share with you God’s restoration of my life; when He took my ashes and made beauty out of them.