I grew up on princesses, imagination, Saturday morning cartoons and the mantra that if you did everything right and played by the rules, you’d eventually make your dreams come true and get everything you wanted in life. Also, God would answer every prayer you had and he’d do it quick.
So, that’s what I did. I never rebelled against my parents, I was always home on time, I worked hard outside, all for the hope of getting my wishes granted. I also went to church as much as I could and tithed what l had to tithe.
As a kid, I almost always got every Christmas and birthday gift I asked for. My prayer to heal up scabby knees and old scars were always answered. I always thanked God.
It was good, it was great and it was working. The formula, the rules were in place, and if I had it my way, this formula would work until I died. Work hard, play hard, follow the rules = you get what you want. Always.
And then reality set in. My dad walked out when I was 13 and somehow, someway, that stupid formula remained to mess up most of my teenage years.
See, I’d done everything “right”. Church, hard work, no cheating, stealing, lying, being jealous, and yet, this was happening! My parents weren’t supposed to get divorced because my sisters and I were good kids. I never blamed myself for them splitting up. I was upset because it happened and because the magical life formula had failed me for the first time.
Deep down inside, I know I was giving God a “What do you think you’re doing? This isn’t how it works!” face, but I never full out blamed him for my father’s actions.
Then entered adolescence and a newfound appreciation for boys. There also was a certain fad popping up in the homeschool circles I ran in.
After all the boys started to “Kiss Dating Goodbye”, all the girls began to adopt purity rings and start to giggle and prattle on about courtship and dating or courtship vs dating and how “True Love Waits”. The parents who’d run around like crazy in the ‘70s and the churches were all for the idea of course. Give your daughters a purity ring to remind them to stay abstinent until they got married so they don’t get pregnant and go crazy like their peers and make the same mistakes “we” (the parents) did. Make the boys kiss dating goodbye so they don’t date and then you don’t have to worry about having grandchildren before you turn 40! Make all the kids court! It was a plan, a formula . It was also very popular, and everybody and the Jonas Brothers had either a purity ring, a copy of that book or a True Love Waits themed Bible.
I’m not sure if it was something the church said or something I misheard/misread but, the message 14 year old Becky got was “Follow the rules, get a purity ring and you’ll have prince charming knocking at your doorstep within a few years.”
Being the princess story loving (Married at 16? Oh yes please!), daydreaming, hopeless romantic I was, this was too perfect.
When I was 15, I got a purity ring. I was so excited. People complimented me on it, asked me about it, I used it as a witness tool. It was great! Until I began to notice something unsettling during that year. my friends were DATING here and there. And none of them had a PURITY RING. They weren’t following the formula. And yet… they were getting romance?! For another thing, I was turning 16 in a week and the only guys I knew were my step brother and few crazy kids at church whom I caught frogs with.
“Um.. hello God? You see me? I’m right here! I’ve got my purity ring on and I’m obeying all the rules! Where is mine? Did you forget about ME? What are you doing? WHERE IS MINE?!” -Becky, age 16. Then, my mom met my stepdad online and I was mega jealous. “Where’s mine?! I’m doing it right too!”
Then my friends started meeting other teenagers, dating (or courting) and getting engaged. Getting MARRIED at 17, 18, 19. People younger than I , people who weren’t following the “rules”, disobedient (in my perspective) people were getting REWARDED with MY PRIZE.
Now, I was mad at God, and I may have ranted here and there, but I never out right told him I was mad at him. My dream of meeting Mr. Right on my 16th birthday came and then was shattered by life. No one told me that my formula was faulty. I was quietly fuming at God because this prayer wasn’t being answered. Because there was this romance hole in me that couldn’t be filled by anything but a man. Because I felt that God wasn’t listening. That if he loved me and if I was as attractive as everyone said, I’d be in a relationship, and I’d be happy!
Even church people perpetuated the formula by telling me that I was a “good girl” and that “my time was next.” So, I kept waiting, praying, and quietly being irate at a supernatural Being who could give me everything I needed but would ignore the main thing I wanted.
The years went on. When I was 18, we moved to Minnesota. I started working retail. By 20 I’d met my “dream” guy and started awkwardly pining after him and anyone else who was cute and appeared single.
Not hard core mind you, but little, subtle things like going out of my way to greet them, compliment their shirt, stuff like that. I thought “Well hey, maybe God helps those who help themselves, so I’m just going to go talk to guys! Yeah! That’ll work.”
Fast forward. I’m 24. I’ve been on one date, if you can call it a date, I bought my own food. I’ve had about 2 flirty flings that never developed into anything and I’ve been hit on by creeps on a regular basis for a few years. My childhood pals are all either married, engaged or perfecting their cookie baking skills and don’t care for romance. And they’re all happy. I’m still not. Still feeling like the forgotten yet faithful. Still feeling sorry for myself. Still feeling that God somehow lied to me. Still hoping, still dreaming, still feeling like this “waiting” stuff is useless. Still thinking that my life doesn’t start until I get into some sort of romantic relationship.
Nevermind that I’m on the verge of graduating college. Nevermind that I’ve written 2 novels, have been on a road trip, have never had an accident or been fired. Oh no.
Somehow it’d been engrained in me that I was less of a person due to my relationship status. And that God loved me less because he didn’t answer the prayers of my achy breaky lonely heart.
It’d been nine long, weird, heartbreaking yet hopeful, easy and yet traumatic years since I put that purity ring on my finger. Nine years since I’d begun praying for a man. Nine years since I thought all of my dreams would come true.
Things really blew up when my 18 year old sister started dating someone this fall. She’s got a big rebellious streak. And there I was, obedient and single. And hurting.
I was so mad at God. This was one of the times that my anger actually showed. Our relationship had (well, has) been rocky at best. I’m prone to wander off in all sorts of places, come back with my tail between my legs and then get distracted again. I’m obedient, but I’ve also got a really bad case of Spiritual A.D.D.
As I tried to work through my feelings, I blamed God for my unhappiness, for my lack of a man, for my looks and every flaw. I reminded Him that he could have made me more this and that, less this and that, He could give me what I wanted so why didn’t He?
Then there was the part of my processing that involved many sad tears of “What did I do wrong? I followed all the rules, why why why?! WHY NOT ME, GOD? You forgot about me, didn’t you? I’ve waited and waited and waited and waited…” I bemoaned my existence, twirling that ring on my finger. That promise of a soon husband. That vow to wait, because true love supposedly waits. I was sick of just “waiting” for God to magically drop a hunk into my arms. Sick of feeling like I was doing my “part” of the formula without getting the expected result.
Something prompted me to “break” the formula. Something stirred inside, reminding me that God is bigger than a formula, a phrase, a purity phenomenon. God can’t be put into a box, and isn’t required to follow mortal plans or formulas for happiness.
A little piece of hammered gold, size 6 with Hebrews 12:1 ( the reference only) inscribed on the back, and a Cross signet that I once dipped in wax to seal a little envelope containing my pledge of purity ruined my relationship with God. I let a plan wreck my relationship. I let a magic formula wreck my relationship. I let JEWELRY ruin the most beautiful gift that I’ve ever received.
Two weeks ago I took the ring off and put it in a jewelry box. No more just “waiting” for God to bring someone to me. No more just focusing on the promise that has yet to be realized. By taking that ring off, I realized all the other ways God has been faithful. He restored my little broken family. He blessed me with a car when I needed it. He’s provided for my needs in and out all throughout my life and I was sitting there, raging, fuming at him because he didn’t give me one thing I wanted.
It made me see that I wasn’t so great because of my obedience. By taking off that ring and shifting my focus, I was able to see the flaws of my wicked little heart. I went from hating God to being humbled by his ever-present love and grace.
True Love, God’s love has always been there for me. It’s not something I had to wait for. It has been patiently waiting on me to turn around and realize its presence and value. Waiting on ME, not I on it.
Now that the ring is off, I’m working on repairing my relationship with God. I spend more time meditating on His truth and in prayer, and less time crying about my relationship status. I spend more time quieting my mind so I can hear His voice and feel his peace. I pay more attention in church. The lover of my soul communicates with me in many ways and I don’t want to miss a single one of them! (Now if I just could get back into reading the Bible again…)
I wish to be clear about something. That pledge I made about retaining my virginity until I enter wedlock? That still stands. My vow is intact and will remain intact, no matter the circumstances. The Bible is pretty clear about what activities are for everyone and what activities belong in the confines of a marriage relationship. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with “waiting” and wearing a purity ring or making a commitment, unless the wait/ring/commitment becomes a source of idolatry for you, a way to “control” God’s blessings, or a source of contention between you and the Lord.
As far as purity goes, I’m certainly waiting. However, in all other aspects of my life, I’m not “waiting” any longer. I’m learning. I’m learning how to be still and know that He is God. How to be committed. How to be dedicated. How to listen. How to take care of my mind and soul. How to be resolute. How to say no. How to take no as an answer. I’m learning, and re-learning how to be God’s daughter. I wasted too many years focused on myself and my feelings and my broken dreams. It’s time to get real, to do something. Time is ticking and I’m not going to waste it away by wallowing in my singleness. Life is too short to make romance the number one priority.
If I meet someone before I die, great. If not, well, hey, I’ve got a loving Heavenly Father. I have a tight circle of friends. I also have money and access to Chipotle, so I will be a-ok!
And so will you.