No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. —1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
I’ll never forget my first drive home with my soon-to-be first boyfriend—he was my work manager and much older, a musician by night, and I found him handsome and exotic, a mixture of sweet and sexy with his warm-as-butter voice, button-downs, and dreadlocks. I had a mad crush. So when he drove me home that day after work, I was excited for the time with him. As we rode with the windows down on the warm summer’s day, Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” came on the radio, and mad crush asked me the question, “Do you want to come over?”
As the song played—“Little red Corvette/baby you’re much too fast”—I knew I was entering the danger zone. I could feel it in the air. Mad crush exuded sexuality, my family was concerned about us dating, and I was a girl who wanted to not move fast, who wanted to have self-control, who believed in purity (though it had never been challenged), who still had so much to learn about herself and what she was really looking for in a partner.
In other words, slow down little baby Corvette. Slow down.
But as that song played, the sun warmed my arms, the breeze ruffled my hair, and his question hung in the air, my brain turned to mush and I said, “Sure, why not?”
Thus started a three-year relationship full of too-fast; full of late-night walks of shame down his fire escape; full of compromising who I was and what I wanted; full of worrying my father; full of second-best as I dated a man who while putting me on a pedestal was angry with God, was angry with the world, was prone to deep depression and red-hot temper that honestly scared me sometimes; a man whom I didn’t use my brain with; a man with a past physical life that it would take me many naïve years later to realize could have put my life in danger as I sat in a clinic getting tested. (Note: If you do things physically with your partner who has had other partners, even if you don’t go “all the way,” consider that you’re joining not only with them but also with all their previous partners and their partners. This is why it’s important to get tested if either of you has had sex before or has done anything close to it.)
But I don’t want to get into the birds and the bees here. What this post is really about is the power of what we put into our minds and the power we have to recognize the junk, turn it off, and make the right choice. To not be a little red Corvette much too fast, but to slow down, pull the car into park, and shut it off. And then, sometimes, to get out of the car completely (which I eventually did with many of my relationships).
There are moments of choice in every temptation.
When I prayed today about what to write about, God brought so clearly to mind specific moments of choice in which He gave me a way out of temptation but I chose the other, and in most of the cases, entered into relationships that while, yes, had good moments were mostly full of compromise and all led to heartbreak.
There was the artsy neighbor with the tie-dye blanket for a curtain who I knew after just a few conversations was not a Christ-follower but who was just so darn sweet. And that night I was sitting in my apartment stressed and feeling vulnerable and saw him outside, that night I decided to walk outside. Choice. Somehow we got the wild idea to jump into the apartment pool in our clothes. Choice. And then I invited him into my apartment, knowing full well I was tempted and vulnerable. Choice. And then I put on a song that made me feel like I was living in a romantic chick flick as we stood there in my apartment wearing sopping-wet clothes. Choice. And then I kissed him. Choice. And then we ended up dating for months, and while he was a sweet person, we both knew it wasn’t going to last because of our faith differences—there was literally a moment we were in each other’s arms when he told me he wasn’t looking forward to that day—and when I finally got the courage to leave, it took every ounce of strength I had, and I left heartbroken.
Then, there was the night I was frustrated because, yet again, the only Christian man I had ever had a chance with, whom I thought God had put into my life for a greater reason than friendship, again handed me the friend card—literally writing the word “friend” in a Christmas card after just a week or so ago having grabbed my hand at a concert. So when the cute guy from work whom I had gone on a few dates with but ended it because, again, we were of different faiths and I couldn’t be myself, called me upset and feeling lonely and would I come over?, me, also feeling upset and lonely and wanting to feel desired, got my car keys. Choice. And when cute coworker put on music and got out his art materials and asked if he could draw me (no, not Titanic Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio draw me but close enough to feel like I was beautiful and desired and in a movie), I said, “sure, why not?” Choice. “Will you stay over and we can just cuddle all night?” Choice. Going beyond cuddling? Choice.
And then there was the boy I was dating shortly after I lost my dad and shortly after I got inspired to write my book again, a book encouraging young adults in their faith. There was the night he first came over and was tired and had a 45-minute drive. There was the moment of pause. My neighbor was my former Sunday-school student, and I pondered the message this would send. My boyfriend had a big, yellow, retro car we called Big Bird, and when he left in the morning, it’d be clear to all that he had stayed overnight. But I wanted my new boyfriend to stay, wanted to cuddle all night. “But,” I asked him, “would you move your car to the side street?” Choice. He looked at me like I was nuts but did it. And the rest is history. Big Bird became a fixture on the street, day and night. And I stopped going to church. And I threw away my book idea because I felt like a big, fat hypocrite.
Then there was the guy who gave me his number shortly after God directed me to join Christian Mingle and try dating some Christians, slowly and with His guidance. This guy was exciting and came out of nowhere. He wasn’t on any Christian dating site. I met him the day of a hurricane in which I got stranded in his store. Are you noticing a pattern? Can you say girl watches too many chick flicks? Or, girl is a writer and seriously just can’t? Well, hurricane guy kissed me on the first date. And cooked me a delicious meal on the second date, and kissed me some more. And on the third date, my birthday, I was invited by this really cool couple to hang out and to bring hurricane guy. But when I, a girl who hadn’t been kissed in a long time before hurricane guy, a girl whose hormones were blaring at the level of all the summer country songs she had been blasting all over town about love and making out and beer, told hurricane guy about this invitation as he ordered her another round of beer (choice—even though he encouraged me to have a second and a third one—it was my choice), and when hurricane guy told me he was tired but did I want to go? I said, “Oh no, let’s just go back to your place” (choice), and then, full of more beer than usual, make-out lyrics rolling through my mind, I went over to his place (choice), made more bad choices, and while the next day, clear-minded, I told him of my desires to slow down and for purity and he said he understood—win!—it was not even a week before he stopped calling. But this time, I didn’t stay in condemnation (growth), confessed my sins to God and to my accountability partner (growth), and, while hurt, got back onto the path of healthy dating (growth) but not after having learned some difficult lessons—like how even though you think you’re past something, you can still stumble. But this time, let’s not pour shame on our heads for years but get back up, get clean, and try again. Shortly after, the cool couple moved away, and to this day, I think I missed out on what could have been an amazing friendship and partnership with them. But God restores and redeems.
While there’s much more to these stories (and even more stories—I know, scary, right?), and I fear they sound too simplified and churchy and judgmental, each of these guys I knew almost from the beginning were not going to be good for me or were not going to be God’s best for me. Of course, they had some good qualities, and I’m not trying to put them down.
But I knew enough about each of them to either steer clear or proceed with caution, yet I jumped into the little red Corvette and decided to keep going, disregarding all the signs popping up telling me what to do.
But, slowly, oh so slowly, I learned. I learned how to stop. How to HOLD!—a word my friend Becca gave me the other day that represents what soldiers do in battle before charging. The pause.
To illustrate, right before I met my current boyfriend, who values, respects, and shares my desires for purity, I had another moment of choice with another sweet guy in my life (the sweet ones have gotten me more than the bad boys, I must admit). Not having anybody else in the wings but not quite feeling 100 percent about this person, I called a friend from church, a woman who seemed cool and authentic enough, plus trustworthy enough, for me to share my dilemma. I was struggling, lonely, and knew that I might make a mistake tonight. “Could we talk and pray?” She let me share and then said, “Just don’t let him into your apartment. Keep it public.” While my hormones were raging—hello, I’m human!!!—I didn’t let him in, and we had a fun night together under the watchful eyes of LOTS and LOTS of people. I know myself, knew I was attracted to this person but knew there were some red flags there, some caution signs, some things I still needed to pray through before I opened myself up to a relationship and especially to any sort of physical action because for me, kissing equals attachment. I can’t do the friends-with-benefits thing.
And shortly after I made this healthy choice, I met Justin—tall and handsome, funny and smart, and Christian. Like the legit kind. The kind of person who it actually seemed knew Jesus for real, who prayed for us and listened to sermons before he went to sleep. Who couldn’t wait to show me his church. Wait, what? And he was fun and normal and yeah, I like him. And I was SO glad I waited. Still, I worried about “the talk.”
The night we finally had the talk about physical boundaries, I was shaking in my heels. I had never met a man—ever—who shared this value at the level I did, and I was prepared for rejection. We were both staying at his brother’s house, had come to his hometown for a funeral, and were cuddling in the guest room where I was sleeping. As we lay there, I knew it was probably a good time for “the talk.” Gosh, I was shaking. But when I finally told him my thoughts, that I wasn’t perfect, that I had made mistakes but wanted to wait for marriage, he said, “Me too. Didn’t you know? I thought I told you.” Wha—my brain processed these words that I had never before heard from a boy’s mouth. Wait, what?
And as we lay there, my man turned to me and said word-for-word, “Well, now I’m going to go back to the couch.” He paused. “For three reasons. Number 1) I want to honor God, number 2) I want to honor how we look to my family, and number 3) I want to honor the privilege of dating you.”
A more beautiful sentence had never before been spoken (and the writer in me wrote it down as soon as I could find a pen!).
And though everything in me at that moment wanted to counter with, “Don’t go! Let’s just cuddle here all night!” I knew I had met someone who truly respected me, who truly saw me as a treasure, who truly had a heart for God and a desire to follow His ways. Neither of us were perfect, we both had pasts, but we also both had a second chance, a choice, to do things right this time.
And this sentence was uttered after—get this—the night of our first kiss, a night that rivaled any date on The Bachelorette or in a rom-com, one I will always remember. (P.S. Not every date is gonna be like The Bachelorette, but this night just happened to be one as we danced under the stars on an empty stage after having just shared a piece of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake with two forks.) And this date rivaled any of the previous rom-com dates that turned into compromise and heartbreak. I thank you, Jesus, for this most perfect night.
There are still guys and girls out there who value the wait.
Some takeaways and room for reflection:
- Getting past the Christianese of “purity,” what are your boundaries? What does purity mean to you? What makes you feel respected?
- What does honoring your body, or the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18–20) mean to you?
- What puts you into temptation? Do you have patterns?
- Are there things you’re allowing into your life that are making you more vulnerable to temptation? For me, the more and more I listened to the make-out and beer lyrics of those summer country songs, the more I found myself wanting to reenact the scenes with hurricane guy. While I’m not advocating throwing out all your “non-Christian” music (I like my classic rock), if something is causing you to stumble, it may be time for at least a little break from it. Me? I should have turned the dial! Pray about it.
- What can you do if you find yourself in a place of temptation? How can you slow down or stop your little red Corvette? (Red-face. You know what I mean.)
There is always a choice when faced with temptation. We can learn to recognize those moments of choice and what circumstances and triggers might bring them on. We can have safety nets in place to help us through them.
Don’t settle! You are worth patience. You are worth being treasured. You are worth more than rubies and diamonds. You are worth waiting for! You are worth being respected.
And God redeems and restores. Make the next right choice.