Loving Amidst the Wildness

A few years ago, if you’d asked me about the kind of love I dreamed about, I’d have told you about a love that was all-consuming. The kind that shattered the world I inhabited. “We will be very passionate,” I’d say to you, describing the dynamic my soulmate and I would share, “Our connection will intersect on multiple levels — physical, intellectual, and spiritual. He will be deep and wild, and the love we share will change me.”

I found exactly that with Andy.

Our connection was intense. Emily Bronte once wrote, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same,” and in our way of relating, I saw that play out. A romantic fling-turned-best friend, Finn, told me last month that I was the wildest girl he’s ever known. “Not in the personality sense that people often think of, but you have a wild spirit,” he said, “There’s a restlessness you have that seems to often threaten to overtake you.” He summed it up by labeling it a “quiet wildness,” yet all I could think on was how Andy and I were two souls made of the same stuff, deep and wild, quietly for me like an ocean and roaring for him like a raging river.

After Andy and I departed physically, the threads that had tied us together didn’t unravel. They remained weaved and entangled; the longing I continued to feel for him was exquisite. I would often lie awake at night, imagining what it would feel like to wake up from a deep slumber to find him there beside me.

My friend Nikita has always said that our relationship contains a looming, ever-present inevitability. In December of last year, I wrote about him and about how the threads that had tied our love together were knotted and weaved so tightly that even when I tried to sever them, they remained.

A few weeks ago, he and I stood on North Broad in front of my apartment building. It was pouring down tepid summer rain and I kissed the hell out of him while asking how we could have ever lost one another. The open umbrella rolled around on the wet pavement next to our feet and between breaths he said he wasn’t sure, that maybe we’d been too young, or maybe he just got scared to feel what he felt, or maybe it was just wrong timing.

What we had was passionate and intense and I’ll hear the echoes of our love story for the rest of my life. I have been in love with this man for almost ten years. But the truth is that I tried to force Andy to fit into a lofty ideal I held of him instead of giving him the grace to be and his spirit the room to breathe. I’d built him up in my head and embellished him so opulently that for him to be human would have been a violent arrival into reality. The fact is that he was broken, too broken for a relationship. In my love for him, I thought that if I held him tight enough, my pieces would melt together with his jagged edges and through this process I’d make him whole again.

I didn’t have this power and it was unhealthy for me to think so.

This was perhaps the real reason we would lose one another again and again. I recently told my spiritual counselor, Jacklyn, what I’ve started to realize about myself and the kind of men I love, “If I could tame a man and force him to morph into a being of my own making, I wouldn’t feel enough awe in his presence to choose to love him.” For me, love for a man comes only after an intense respect, never before and never without, and respect in my mind struggles to hold hands with “tamable.”

But I’ve also started to realize that you know you love someone when you choose to not try to change them, to avoid an instinct to tame them, an attempt to mold them until they fit into an ideal you’ve placed on them. You choose to take them as they are or even say, “no thanks,” but either way you honor who they are instead of forcing them to morph.

I have been on the receiving end. I have been with men who are attracted to my restless depths but make me into their project once they have me, trying to mold me into something neat and tidy instead of giving me the permission to exist freely.

Andy was too broken for me to tie my life with, but I chose to honor him, blessing him where he was before saying farewell, instead of staying and pruning him into a figure of my liking. Seeking to tame someone is not love and a relationship that you enter into with the intention of altering the other isn’t one worth having. 

I used to believe that I loved him because he was wild. The truth is that I know I loved him because I honored him where he was and allowed him to remain.

Helping my Boyfriend Guard his Purity

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV

There recently came a point when I started to ask God His plans for my love life. I told God how I was open to meeting someone within His perfect timing and really placed these desires at His feet and told Him, “Lord, I trust you to complete that which concerns me and bring about what’s perfect for me.” It wasn’t long before he brought me my boyfriend. I’m pretty lucky: Matt’s handsome, smart, thoughtful, hardworking, and initiates time for us to seek the Lord together.

One thing I never allow myself to forget is that before my boyfriend, he is first and foremost my brother in Christ. 

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1–2

This means that I’m supposed to be his partner in this crazy, fallen world we live in and walk with him towards Jesus. A big part of this is helping him guard his purity.

We know that in relationships, men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders. However, this sometimes leads to Christian women being passive in our relationships when we’re supposed to be partners in Christ, coheirs of salvation:

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7 ESV

When you’re dating, your romantic partner is supposed to be one of your main sources of accountability in your walk with God. Godly women are supposed to constantly point others to Jesus, not cause them to stumble, and we have so much influence when we’re dating. We can either worsen all the temptations that come at our boyfriends, or we can be invaluable allies in their fight for their purity.

Here are the things that I’ve started to do in my relationship to be his ally, not one of the many things he has to guard himself from…

1. Having High Standards

I’ve seen so many girlfriends stuck in relationships with guys who indulge in sexual sin on the regular and continue to do so even as their girlfriends try to convict them against it. The truth is that in all of those relationships, the girls would willingly take part in some of these activities (even though they’d feel guilty afterwards and try to stop) or at least turn a blind eye to them. How can we expect a guy to step into line and rise to a higher standard when we ourselves don’t see it as worthwhile? It makes us hypocrites at best.

It’s human nature to continue on with the same behavior when there’s no incentive for change or potential for negative consequences. People will treat you how you let them. They’ll continue to behave in a way that’s unacceptable simply because your willingness to stick around and tolerate it communicates that it is.

One of the ways I’m helping my boyfriend guard his purity is through guarding mine fiercely and being clear about what I find unacceptable, along with following through when he falls short of them. He recently told me that because of this, he has a high level of respect for me and also has a desire to rise to the occasion.

2. Being Mindful of What I Expose Him To

Last week, he texted me, “Hey, how about I take you to the movies? You pick.” I watched trailers for all of the movies listed as “Now Showing”, but the most important thing I did was research how each movie ranked in terms of explicit content.

So many of us are unwilling to participate in sexual activity outside of God’s plan for it, yet are willing to expose ourselves and significant others to temptations. I have heard of Christian girls who ask their boyfriends to watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with them and who hold up magazines of half-naked women to their husbands, innocently commenting, “I wish I had a body like this.”

To help him guard his purity, I don’t watch movies or TV shows with him that feature sexually explicit content, I don’t encourage him to read books that feature much of the same, and I dress in a way that’s modest. In other words, through my behavior, I show respect to him, to God (and His commandments to him), and to the very real battle I know he has to face as a young man living in a fallen world with a very real enemy who wants to see him lose everything.

3. Being His (Loving) Accountability

It’s important to have high standards, but too many Christian girls move into the sphere of shaming their boyfriends for sinning differently than they do. The enemy loves shame because shame takes struggles underground, where they can grow and worsen. Even though you should have high standards, you should communicate them in such a way that a guy feels like he can come to you for support in his areas of struggle.

You should be his accountability, not a fellow accuser. There’s an important balance to strike between speaking the truth in love and making a fellow believer feel the shame that Jesus died to free them from. 

I’ve made it clear to my boyfriend that he can come to me to confess any sin under the sun and that I would support him and help him fight it. If he came to me to confess a sin that I promised myself I wouldn’t be yoked to, I would distance myself from him and leave him, but I wouldn’t sever all ties. I’d support him and be open to reconciliation if I saw true repentance and change.

***

Many of us are so focused on our OWN walks and guarding our own purity that we forget about our significant others and how we’re supposed to support them. A Godly woman doesn’t just guard her own walk; she leads her brothers and sisters to the same place and consistently points them to the cross. You are supposed to be your boyfriend’s most important accountability and most important earthly source of spiritual strength. You have the potential to be an invaluable ally in this fight he has to take part in every single moment of his life.

There’s a battle cry. Can you hear it? Rise to it.

Brothers Speak: The Person You Date Represents You

Last night, I skyped with my friend (and our founder), Nina, and she said something that stuck out to me, “Who we date says a lot about us and where God falls on our list of priorities.”

In my first year of college, at the age of nineteen, I started dating my second girlfriend, *Becca. Becca was smart, fun, and worshipped at the same church. We were also in the same campus bible study where I could tell that we had chemistry. All systems pointed to “Go.”

But here’s where things got tricky with Becca.

Becca disagreed with me about even the most basic aspects of following Christ. I took the lead spiritually and initiated the purity talk where I told her about my commitment to save myself for my future wife. She respected that and never tried to pressure me. But to be honest, she wasn’t on the same page and if it weren’t up to me, we would have been having sex. Also, even though she went to church and we got to know each other in a bible study, if I’d been honest with myself, I would have admitted that God wasn’t a priority in her life.

Church was two hours each week. Bible study was usually the same. Outside of that small percentage of our lives, I can say that God wasn’t on her mind or high up on her list of priorities. I don’t want to demonize her. She was a nice girl and an incredible friend to me, and what we had was real. But all the red flags, such as her jokingly saying how she just wanted to “get drunk this weekend, just once,” as she bought beers or how she’d always choose to miss church if the opportunity to go out of town with her friends presented itself, weren’t all signs of problems with just her. Truth be told, they pointed to problems with ME at the end of the day.

The biggest red flag in this situation wasn’t to do with her jokingly saying that she was going to sin by getting drunk or how she pursued God very rarely outside of Sunday morning and bible study. The biggest red flag was that I heard and saw these things, and I chose to stay yoked up to it.

When I tell this story to the kids in the youth ministry I lead, they’re always shocked. They look at me and my walk today and wonder how I could have been in that situation. The answer is simple: My walk did not have the same priority then as it does today. That’s the answer for how I was in that situation. Even though I was NEVER the kind of guy who’d talk about wanting to get drunk like it was something to laugh about and I kept myself celibate, my relationship with God had taken a back seat to popularity, sports, and Harvard Medical School applications.

Becca’s worldliness was not a dealbreaker to me because God was not the true leader of my life. I may have believed that Jesus died for my sins. I may have sung the words “Christ is Lord, Lord of all” on Sunday mornings, but I didn’t have Him in his rightful place in my life. I would say that He was Lord, but faith without works is dead and actions speak louder than words. And my actions spoke loud and clear, “Jesus is NOT the Lord of my life.”

The person you date represents you and your walk with God.

Where God falls on their list of priorities accurately represents where God falls on YOUR list of priorities. I know Becca was an accurate representation of mine.

Once I put Jesus back into His rightful place as Lord and leader of my life, that was when I ended things with Becca. I knew she wouldn’t be a good partner for me in my walk. Not only that, but I also became less and less attracted to her and more frustrated. It became obvious that she was a spiritual deadweight in my life, and not a Partner-in-Christ who would represent my values and Christ’s standing in my life the way I’d want to be represented.

The person you date says a lot about your walk with God. Choose someone who’ll represent your relationship with Him well.