>Passion and Purity

>Two weeks ago I reached the point of being willing and able to accept my ex-boyfriend as a part of my past, and myself as a “girl with a past” in terms of relationships. (Yes, it took two years, but I’m a slow learner. So sue me.) Almost immediately weird little things started happening to test the depth of my acceptance of singleness, and I had a slight allergic reaction to the universe as a result.

Emotionally hungover and theologically perplexed, I holed up yesterday with Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity and was promptly kicked in the face for about five hours, but felt incredibly refreshed when I was done. I can’t begin to say enough about this woman, married thrice and widowed twice, except that she is, of all people, qualified to write a book on love. She and her first husband Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed in South America, waited five years for God to make His will clear about their singleness, and in that time they didn’t even really have a “relationship” as we might understand it today. She argued the idea of “going steady” was actually a form of impatience:

The couple are not ready for marriage or even for the public commitment that engagement ought to entail, but neither are they ready to leave each other in God’s hands…each clutches at the other, fearful lest he “get away.”

My mom actually questioned me on this when I said my first boyfriend and I were “committed.” She did not understand the use of the intermediate extra step of pseudocommitment, and Elliot cautions women against giving any man reason to presume she belongs to him. Beyonce has a point: “If you like it, then you should put a ring on it!”

I am always all too willing to throw myself at people, or worse, try to entice them. To borrow from Captivating, women should be inviting but not clinging.

If you should marry ________ in the end, would you want to live with the knowledge that you went after him? He might resent you for snaring him. You might despise him for allowing you to….[for] we prize what we cannot easily get. We take for granted, we even come to despise, that which costs us no effort.

The book’s biggest challenge to me was the idea of waiting for a husband–not a boyfriend, a significant other, whatever.

…when you get to the point where you can’t keep your hands off each other, it’s time to get married…[her father counseled his sons] never say ‘I love you’ to a woman until they were ready to follow immediately with “Will you marry me?” Nor should they think of saying, “Will you marry me?” unless they had first said, “I love you.”

Could I wait for this? It may be what I need most, actually, because over the years, so many boys and men have liked me, but only one, perhaps, has wanted me, and he not enough to pay the full price, though I am choosing to give him credit for knowing (eventually) that he couldn’t pay it and still treating me honorably. That is a deep, deep wound that has yet to be healed, perhaps only through relationship.

Of course, as my friend asked pointedly, am I willing to go through another failed relationship just to learn that lesson? Truthfully, I don’t know. My greatest fear at this point is not the pain but the emotional capital and time I would invariably waste in the process. (Remember, it took almost two years to get the first one through my system!) I don’t know if that’s theologically sound, but I’m no theologian anyway and that’s what scares me. But at least I am more at peace with what I should be doing now, and that’s something else I’m constantly learning, to trust God from one moment to the next.

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