God’s timing could not be more perfect. His grace saved me from making the biggest mistake of my life. Although I was living with the man I thought I would marry and our wedding was basically planned, I began to see that God promised much more for a relationship than I was setting myself up for in marrying a non-believer. At the point I called off our wedding, I had no idea if I would ever actually get married, but I was truly content being loved by the Lord.

Then, on the very day that I was supposed to marry someone else, the next chapter of my life began to unfold. While I was out of town visiting my best friend and trying to take my mind off things, I ran into a guy I had met at a church function a couple of months earlier. Through our initial communication, I was able to get a few important questions answered: he had a heart for God, he was around my age, and he was single.

The courting took off from there, and as our connection began to deepen through many lengthy conversations, I realized that he truly understood the Lord’s call to be a spiritual leader. Months went by as we continued to visit, meet one another’s families, and get to know each other on a deeper level. From our obsession with neatness to our feisty personalities (two areas where we constantly seek God’s grace), we were as compatible as any two people could be. Eventually he told me he loved me, and we knew we had to figure out a way to interweave our lives.

Then came a major roadblock. Although we had agreed to be celibate before marriage, my colored past of sexual sin had to be confronted. When he finally got up the courage to ask about it, I laid it all out there. Before I had a relationship with Jesus, I believed one of the world’s unfortunate lies: that I had to have sex with a guy if I was ever going to find someone to marry me. What I hadn’t planned for was the soul-tearing damage of layered sexual experiences that yielded a slew of disappointments. Over time, I became a severely damaged and broken soul.

Reading Sex and the Soul of a Woman by Paula Rinehart gave me hope to believe that God would follow through on his promises. “The freedom that comes from [the awareness of Jesus’ love] makes real love at the right time with the right man such a beautiful possibility,” she writes. “When the soil of your heart is primed to receive love, the courting dance is a clean and beautiful thing.”

And for me, it truly was. Through the healing redemption of the cross, I was set free and forgiven for my transgressions. Now this man who was trying to love me had to do the same. And since he had made the personal commitment to wait until marriage, it was an even tougher pill to swallow. But it was a perfect stage for God to reveal his grace. And he did.

Greater Meaning

When I think back to how our relationship began, I can see how the Lord was guarding my heart. His hand was at work—not only in the miraculous way he healed my heart, but also in how he brought true love into my life. Through this experience, I truly realized the depth of his love and began to trust in his ultimate plan for my life rather than my own. And through this suffering I was able to see things in new and different ways, learning to rely on him all the more.

During the time I was single, I got more involved in my church by joining the women’s ministry team, volunteering at Sunday service, and hosting a book club at my house, which afforded many opportunities to share my story. The more I shared, the more opportunities there were to help others struggling emotionally and relationally. In short, my story opened the door to meaningful conversations with people who had lost hope: single women who couldn’t seem to find love, people who were married to unbelievers, and those who were struggling to make their relationships work. At that point, it became clear that my suffering had much greater meaning. Through these interactions, others saw the possibility of another road—that healing and restoration were available to them through the grace of God and obedience to Christ.

Clothed with Joy

Today, by the grace of God, we join together as man and wife. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, and I wasn’t sure if I ever would, I never doubted that the Lord had a greater purpose and was at work through it all. We still have no idea what’s coming next (literally, we’re not even sure where we’re going to live), but we trust that God has a plan for us. And as we pick up our crosses and follow him, it will surely be revealed.

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Psalm 30:11-12