Set Apart: Redeem by Meghan Gates

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My entire college experience was a series of dysfunctional romantic relationships.  I dated a boy that would wait until I was drunk enough to take advantage of me, then do whatever he felt he “needed” that night.  Then, there was one that was so controlling, I could hardly make my own clothing choices, let alone choose how long I was to stay out at night or who I was allowed to talk to.  And who could forget the one that liked to rough me up at the bar and then make threats, the one that left me fearing for my safety?  Oh yes, I chose them all and those were some very poor decisions not in any way directed by God.  Those choices led me into the most painful and damaging four plus years of my life.

Sometimes I wonder what my 17-year-old self would’ve thought about those relationships.  I’d assume the girl that was shopping for her purity ring, writing letters to her future husband, and unashamedly on fire for Jesus wouldn’t even believe it.  She’d stand strong in her faith and shake her head defiantly, fully knowing that she would never put herself in those positions.  But that same girl, just two years later would be knees-deep in the college hype.  What happened?  Why was there such a dramatic change in such a short period of time?  The only way I can explain it best, is that I had the passion for Christ, but not the knowledge.  I was a baby Christian and had never gotten into the Word.  Hosea tells us that God’s people perish by their lack of knowledge and I did just that.

Fast forward a year post-grad, and I was a new creation, on fire again for Jesus, but with the knowledge to back it up.  I finally found my fulfillment in Christ instead of men.  I became content by myself and stopped dating altogether.  I started writing letters to my future husband again.  I started fervently praying for my future husband.  When the men came knocking, I would simply turn them away and refuse to even entertain a dinner date because I was in a fully committed relationship with God.  I didn’t have time to flirt, I was helping expand God’s kingdom…and then Cody came along.  I remembered Cody as the goofy, but terribly sweet and lanky cowboy that I occasionally ran into my freshman year in college.  I remembered how I never got any uneasy feelings from him, never felt on edge with him.  Which at that point in my life was a feat because I was always weary of men.  I remembered his kind eyes and his sweet laugh.  Then there he was, catching up with me after all of those years apart.

Innocent snap chats and texts turned into dates and late night phone calls.  We talked about God and I tried my best to hide my past.  I didn’t want him to see me as damaged goods, especially because he was so godly.  Dates turned into spending more time together and meeting each other’s families.  Pretty soon, we had the talk.  The talk where you draw a stiff line in the dirt that you decide not to cross until marriage.  The talk where you aren’t quite close enough to feel completely comfortable yet, but know that you need to have the talk regardless.  The talk that solidifies the possibility of marriage one day.  The talk about dating pure.  We had that talk…and then another talk, and then another, and continued to talk about it for the remainder of our dating and engagement.

After the first talk, I battled with my flesh.  I tried my best to reason with God that maybe I could get out of this, maybe I could find a loophole in the system.  And it went about as good as trying to reason with God ever goes. 

But lots of good Christians don’t remain pure until marriage.

I didn’t call you to follow other Christians; I called you to follow me. 

But how will I know if we have good physical chemistry? 

If you’re going to trust me with your relationship, you need to trust me with the whole thing. 

But what about my past and everything that I’ve already done?

I’ve redeemed you from that and already set you free.

But what if things go terribly wrong and I’m in a marriage with someone that won’t know how to satisfy me?

Are you going to look out for yourself, or honor me and trust my promise?

And that was that.  My heart was committed to remaining pure until marriage.  I made a promise to God and to Cody that I was determined to keep.

I didn’t want to tell some of my friends.  I wanted to keep something that was so intimate…well, intimate.  I knew the majority of them wouldn’t understand and I knew that almost none of them would believe in the same relationship.  However, I didn’t expect to receive shame from some of them.  People I had grown close to were telling me that I was making a terrible mistake, that I would wind up unsatisfied for the rest of my life if I didn’t “test drive." I was talked down to, as if I didn’t have a clue about relationships and the real world, like I was trying to dredge up a century-old tradition that was better left buried.  I felt isolated.  I felt like no one else was dating the way that I was, until a good friend and I started getting real and close with each other.

My friend and I were dating our now husbands around the same time, and we got to talking one day about dating pure.  Having a friend that was going through the same process as Cody and I was my saving grace.  God knew that we could’ve used the support during a difficult and tempting time.  We shared a lot with each other, and I will forever be thankful that the Lord blessed me and continues to bless me with her friendship and listening ear.  Cody was my biggest support, but having a girl friend that I could talk to outside of my relationship was a game changer.

Cody and I dated for a little over a year before we got engaged, and boy was I ready to be married.  I just knew that once the ring was on my finger, I would be so excited and busy with planning, the temptations would slow down and it would be easy sailing until our wedding night.  That truth bomb hit me like a ton of bricks when I started realizing how much harder it got.  The temptation was stronger.  The emotional intimacy grew as we realized that we were planning the rest of our lives together.  It was NOT easy.  But this was our time of growing.  Our late nights together consisted of bearing our pasts to each other and truly getting to know one another.  Our connection grew deeper and with more meaning as I realized he was seeking me for my heart, not my body.  The ties that I had to his spirit continued to be sown closer, and we saw each other in an emotional nakedness.

I didn’t realize how many couples wait for the longest time.  Many women, like myself, are afraid of rejection or isolation for their choice.  So they don’t talk about it, and dating purely becomes wrapped up in heavy stigma.  There are so many couples out there that still do it the good old-fashioned way.  There is never a time that’s “too late” to turn around.  There is no past too rugged that isn’t covered by the blood of Christ.  There is still a powerful and redeeming God to give you the strength to resist any temptation thrown your way.

Sitting here next to my husband and realizing that we were obedient made everything worth it.  Our marriage is flourishing and I’m so grateful that we made the decision together to wait.  We can confidently say that we did it God’s way.  We crossed the finish line with a solid foundation built on the Word.  Anyone can do the same, as long as they’re willing to trust in and pull their strength from Christ.