Saturday, March 18, 2006

Why I'm not saving my heart for my husband

"What?! I thought saving my heart was a good thing! " were my thoughts when I first read the headline to this article that my friend sent me. But as I read the article, I was very encouraged and challenged, and thus -- I share it with you.



Why I am not saving my heart for my husband

As a young girl growing up I had one dream of what I was going to be when I grew up, a wife and a mommy. Yes, I thought I might want to be everything from an actress to an FBI agent at one time or another, but all those things would either take place before or were somehow molded around my dreams of my own family. This dream, as I grew into my teens, was expanded upon to become the direction in which I lived my life. Skills were taught me that would assist me when I had my own family, my homeschooling was directed that way, and I read ‘young women who are going to be homemakers’ books and articles. It was during those early years of my adolescence that I was first introduced to the idea of ‘saving my heart for my husband’.

Saving my heart for my husband was to insure (as I understood it) that when I got married I would be able to lavish upon him all my love, all my emotions, all my commitment, since I had not previously given it to any other suitor. In the mean time, while waiting for Mr. Recipient Of My Heart to make his appearance, I was to have my heart resting with my parents. In other words, until the right guy came along, I was to not set my heart on (give my heart away to) anyone.

With all this information, allow me to create a picture of my future, while waiting for marriage. Here is a girl, 13, 14, 15, 16 years old, waiting for the right one to come along that I can give all my love to. I am not waiting passively either, but learning things that will benefit me when I am married and working my way towards this ‘goal of my life’. At a glance, this seems quite ideal. I mean, who would not want a girl who will love you with everything she has, who is trained to be a homemaker, with no history of other guys you have to compete with, whose first love is you? Like I said, it seems like a picture of what the ‘courtship movement’ talks about. At this point however, please allow me to tell you about a few things that God taught my about this ‘perfect picture’ in the past year.
It started about a year and a half ago in our living room. Dad was sitting on the couch, with Mom, my two brothers, and I around him. He told us that he had been praying that God would make Himself his (Dad’s) only desire, and he was talking about it like it was some sort of spiritual breakthrough. Dad challenged each of us to pray the same way, asking God to remove all other desires and to become our only desire, but at the time I thought, "Not right now". I was 16 years old and as I listened, it seemed to me like a very boring life, to want nothing but God.

My heart was a little different from the ‘perfect picture’ I described above. In my desire for a family of my own, a desire I truly believed was the best of all professions for women; I had been keeping my eyes open for Mr.-I-can-give-my-heart-to. Prompted by my parents, as well as magazines and such, I made a list of character qualities that I wanted in a husband and even started a notebook, occasionally writing letters to ‘my future husband’. All this was done in expectation that some day the right one would happen along. The serious problem for me lay in making sure he was the right one. Already I had experienced what emotions could do to me in how I could suddenly ‘like’ someone in a way I couldn’t explain. Thoughts of, "What is going on here?" would soon change to me wondering, "Is this the right one? Could it be that he is the one God picked out for me?"
This process of wondering if he could be the one was perfectly justified. I was in a sense taught to do this. Articles to girls my age seemed to point out that there was one for me, and that I needed to be prepared to be able to tell which one he was. My parents sometimes would ask me what I thought about different young men, what good/bad qualities I saw in them, trying to teach me to be observant. I soon realized though, that if I ‘liked’ someone, I really could not be very objective in my judgement of their character. This concerned me because I imagined a courtship scenario of me trying desperately to think and pray around my emotions so that I would be able to discern if this was Mr. Right.

Of course, I planned on my parents being a big help. They would be able to tell me if he was really a bad pick when emotions had obscured my vision, and if he really was a good guy, they would be able to note that as well. Still the idea of having to be the one to say "yes" really shook me up. What if I listened to my emotions by accident and I ended up with a bad choice and ruined my life? What if the nice young man I said yes to turned out to be uncommitted, fell away and became a drunkard, leaving me penniless and with a bunch of kids to raise by myself? I prayed many times that when the time came God would make it so clear that I would have no questions. Oh, and by the way, neither would he (Mr. Right), or my parents, or his parents, just so that we would be really sure.

By sixteen I was getting closer to the age when I was going to have to start deciding who the right guy was (or was not) and I already had a few candidates I was watching to see what they were made of. A family of my own was my deepest desire, and, of course, a major part of that was a husband. Into this heart of mine, set on marriage and as many children as I could have, came the challenge to ask God to become my only desire. Maybe you understand a little of why I balked. Not only was my heart full of desire for a husband, but I also wanted other, smaller ‘side things’ such as clothes, good looks, a ‘cool’ status, etc.. So, at first I said no to this challenge.

A few months later I found myself in California, sleeping on the living room floor of some friends of ours. We had gone on a trip and were visiting for a few days. I remember thinking hard during that stay about what was going on around me. What my eyes were seeing was what I wanted to have, a happy marriage, several young kids, and it all run smoothly with lots of love. At first I looked at the wife and thought to myself, "Yep, this is it, this is what I want. I want a man who will come in the door at night and kiss me hello. A man who will put the workday behind him and play with our kids. I want to answer to "Mommy" all day long. This is what I am living for."

Yet, as I looked on, God opened my eyes to something. I realized that what I desired from their lives, the same thing I had always desired from watching my parents lives, had nothing to do with who they were with or what they were doing. It was joy. It was the joy that comes from serving the Lord with all your heart and living for Him. As I watched them, I realized that they lived that way, Jesus first, and the challenge that my dad had given came back to mind. Slowly I softened and gave in. I began, hesitantly at first, to pray that God would take away all my other desires and make Himself my only desire.

Now, imagine it being almost a year from that first day on the couch, and so many things have happened that I could fill a whole notebook and never be done. Now my heart is much different than it was when I first started to pray for God to become my one and only, and God has been true to His promise to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. The task of removing my desires has started, and although not complete, on its way. Now I am realizing more what it means to love God with all my heart, to be consumed with a desire for more of Him. God had shown me that I needed to gain my fulfillment from Him; that He is the One who never changes, who loves me like no one else could. (Psalm 18:31) As I asked God to become my one and only desire, He also became my one and only source of fulfillment in many ways. I discovered that His love was all that I really needed. It was for Him that I desired to live, His will that I desired to take place, His kingdom that I wanted to come.

One warm day I was out on a walk and started praying. "God," I said, "Something is bothering me and I need to talk to You about it. You see, all my life I have dreamed of getting married. I’ve planned for it, prepared for it, expected it. But now that I am trying to give You all my love and my heart, I am not really sure if I can even get married. You see, if I get married, then I will be pouring all my love into a man and living for him instead of You. Can someone who loves You with all their heart ever get married?"
As I stewed over this question, I could not make sense of it all. Yes, Paul seemed to agree with my conjunction that it was better not to marry (1 Corinthians 7) and I had often heard testimonies of people who served God single and were pleasing to Him and content. (At the time that I heard these, I had put singlehood as something I would do if I had to, but, well, I’d do my best not to get stuck there!) However, God was the One who invented marriage in the first place, and after all, if it were not for marriage, I would not be here. Even Paul in 1 Cor. 7 said that he who married did not sin, but he who did not did better than the one who did marry. Who would want second best? Yet, could marriage really be second best if God designed it? Could only non-Christians get married? As I pondered this, God opened my eyes to see that my first problem in understanding this was my idea of marriage.

My idea was two people pouring themselves into each other, working hard to make the other feel loved, needed, appreciated etc… I realized that this view of marriage put the emphasis on the wrong thing, on the people involved. The point of this type of marriage is to bring pleasure and fulfillment to the people who are taking part in it.

As a Christian, as someone who is seeking to love God with all their heart, our purpose in life is to further God’s kingdom, to bring His desires to pass, not our own. (Matthew 6:10, 33) Nothing we do should be done for our sake, but out of obedience to God. (John 15:4, 10) God’s view of marriage was vastly different than mine. While I had envisioned two people working to please each other, God showed me that His idea was two people working together to please God. God did not make Eve to make Adam feel good about himself or loved or wanted, God made Eve because Adam was better off with her than without her. God showed me that the best way for me to love someone is to love God first and foremost, and to love that person as an outpouring of my love for God. Having my eyes focused on God and living to please Him will lead me to obeying His command to love. (1 John 5:1-3, John 15:9-12)

Loving my husband would thus be an outpouring of my love for God; my love for God always coming first. It does not take away from the love (living 1 Corinthians 13) that I would give my husband by loving him out of a love for God, but rather adds to it. My love would be a godly love, directed by God’s Spirit rather than a love that I would work at in my own strength. Suddenly it started to make some sense to me. I envisioned two people, both fixing their eyes on God and living to give Him glory, working better together than alone.
Yes, God in His sovereign power could decide to make a person who could serve Him best alone. This person might be able to do things a married person could not, and would be better off without a mate. However, just as easily, God could make two people who could serve Him best if they were together. Together they would be able to pray towards the same end, work the same mission, encourage each other to keep pressing on, raise godly children for the glory of God. Their purpose in life would be the same as that of a single Christian, to obey God, only they would be working at it together. They could be ministry partners, obedience to the Lord partners, faith partners, helping each other along, and thus better than either would have been alone. (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10)

When I saw this, I was very excited! Yes, someone can love God with all their heart and be married! But, not if marriage is what I had originally thought; the purpose of marriage had to change in my mind first, for this to be true. Putting all these thoughts together, I realized that two things which had seemed separate actually brought me to a glorious conclusion. If my job in life was to obey God, and marriage was doing that same thing with a partner, and God knew what He wanted me to do to bring His plans about, then I only had one reason ever to marry. Out of obedience to His direction. Now I was free from my concern of "how will I know if I am getting a lemon or not?" I did not have to concern myself with it at all. I needed only to concern myself with obeying Jesus Christ, and if the time comes for me to marry, He can say, "That is the one, now is the time," to us both, and we only need to obey. God knows all things, and He has a plan for my life. I need to obey Him so that His kingdom will come.

No, I am not giving my heart to any young man that may come after it, but I am not saving it for my husband either. I am giving it all to God, because it is with Him that my heart belongs.
Emily Hipps

16 comments:

Kristin said...

Thank you SO much for sharing this. I too was fooled at first by the title, but boy the article was awesome :)

~Kristin

Hannah Michelle said...

Bethany, thanks for sharing this! What an excellent article...I think this is exactly what I've been coming to understand myself, so how great to read this now!. :-)

Anonymous said...

to love that person as an outpouring of my love for God.
says it all

All things are given from God

DA-friend

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this,Bethany,thank-you for putting it on here for others to enjoy.This is something God has just been revealing to me only I couldn't have put it all on paper so nicely.It's sort of a hard lesson to learn,it's so different from what most people tell you.It's something Daddy has always tried to explain to uschildren. Amanda

Anonymous said...

Very good article. It's been something weighing on my heart, too.

~Marissa

DelightinginHim said...

I have heard of this perspective before, I find it refreshing and agreeable. God must always be first in my life, whether or not a husband comes along. =)

Samantha said...

Thank you for sharing this with us!
This article really got me thinking... I had never looked at Marriage like that before but it's sooo true! That's what it should be like and I agree wholeheartedly. Now to put it into practice. Truly giving my whole heart up to the Lord!

BTW, someone shared the link to this article and I noticed your name right away- Wissman! I remember seeing you in the Kings Daughter several years ago. =) It's always neat to see names I recognize. I've been to your family's website too.

~Samantha R.

Abigail @ Pearls and Diamonds said...

Excellent article! So perfectly mirrors some of my own thoughts and convictions, so perfectly expresses the truth! I have seen so many girls reach a "marriageable age" and wilt and mourn because Mr. Right does not appear on the horizon and they don't know what to do with themselves. Marriage IS a godly desire...but we are to love God with all our being! I mourn when I hear some say, "You're not married yet because either you're not ready or he's not ready." As if marriage is the end goal. No! I cry. You're not married yet because the Lord has something else ...something important!...for you to be doing right now. And always, always I am preaching to myself. Because I tend to try to hold my heart much to close to myself instead of giving it wholly to the Lord and laying it on the altar of sacrifice--service to Him. Ah, but only He can fully delight it.

May we link to this article among our recommended articles at Pearls and Diamonds?

Blessings,

Abigail @ Pearls and Diamonds

Bethany said...

Abigail --

Yes! Please feel free to link to the article. :)

Jeshua said...

“It is God’s will that some of his children should learn this deep union with himself through the perfect flowering of natural human love in marriage. For others it is equally his will that the same perfect union should be learned through the experience of learning to lay down completely this natural and instinctive desire for marriage and parenthood, and accept the circumstances of life which deny them this experience.”

Hinds’ Feet on High Places
Hannah Hurnard

Lauren said...

Bethany,

Thank you SO SO much for posting this wonderful article! It really speaks to me, where I've been at with these thoughts, and it is encouraging to know that others feel the same way!

Is there anymore information you could give about the author? I'd love to post this on my blog, with a link back to you, would that be alright?

In Christ,
~Lauren

Heather "Paulsen" Patenaude said...

Well said! Great Article!

Sarah said...

wow. thats all i can say! thank you so much for sharing this article! it was a HUGE benefit to me. I know this post was back in '07 but I wanted to see when you started your blog and sure am glad I did. this post is awesome.
thank you!
blessings,
sarah from south carolina

Sarah said...

I know this comment comes really late...like six years, but because the words are true...they are still relevant! :D

I found this just at the right time! I just turned 16 last year and I've been following your blog a for a year or two, too. I've been so blessed to watch your married you life blossom too. Thank you for being a 'big' sister in Christ to me!

Reading this article really spoke to me. Thank you!

Shane Mara said...

This has really been a blessing to me! Thank you for posting this. I've felt that this article is so relevant in my life, esp. with serving God and loving Him foremost. I have been praying and preparing for a husband since I was 13,14..(even prayed for the date of my wedding)..I know-and God made me realize-that to be the woman that God wants me to be is the woman who loves the Lord with all her heart- to be a submissive wife and a loving mother. God is so good! He delighted to answer my prayer! Now, I'm getting married to my future-husband on the 12th of December of 2012!(12.12.12)...My prayer will always be for God to help me become exactly that woman..
This article "Why I'm not saving my heart for my husband" will always be a blessing to me! Thank you! :)

Flame of Jah said...

I know that this is a very old post, but, I just wanted to say, "thank you" I am a man, but it still applies to us guys too,

Thanks and God Bless you,

Flame of Jah