It’s that time of year again, when hearts and love abound on Facebook and in the news. I remember so many Valentine’s Days when I felt such loneliness. Especially seeing couples hold hands and looking so happy. Now that I’m over-the-moon in love and married, I thought it might be helpful to share the struggles, fears, surrender and ultimate refinement I experienced during my journey as a single woman.
THIS IS PART ONE OF PERSONAL SERIES THAT WILL SHOW US THE PATH ATHENA TOOK FROM ATHENA DEAN TO ATHENA DEAN HOLTZ — THE DIFFICULTIES, THE FEARS, AND THE LORD’S LESSONS.
THE FEAR THAT KEPT ME A SINGLE WOMAN
So let’s start with the fears. I’ve heard the stats, and they are alarming. 1-in-2 men in the church are addicted to pornography. Over the last 25 years, I’ve worked with a few ministries who specialize in this issue, helping them create curriculum and resources for those battling this crippling addiction and the wives betrayed and destroyed by the behavior of their husbands. I have to admit that experience left me fearful that, if I ever married again, I would end up with a Christian man who struggled with and gave in to the sinful draw of internet pornography, and kept it hidden.
I’ve also had some close relationships with women whose husbands chose a fantasy over the intimacy they could have had with the woman God had given them as a wife. I’ve seen the devastation, the rejection, the shame in the faces of those women. I didn’t want to go there.
So, truth be told, my willingness to wait and stay single for as long as I did wasn’t exactly based on my saintly spiritual depth. Nope. Far from it. I was scared to death that I’d be duped once again, and make another bad choice.
FUELED BY SELF-PROTECTION
So to say that I waited 15 years to finally have my first kiss and first date in all that time (with the man I ended up marrying) isn’t quite as noble as it sounds. Yes, I was willing to wait, but my motive was fueled by self-protection…and don’t think I didn’t whine and complain along the way. I did that. A lot.
After walking away from my 12 year detour into deception, I began counseling with a professional to un-indoctrinate me from the faulty, legalistic, and heretical doctrine I’d swallowed hook, line and sinker. We agreed early on, if I was going to heal in an authentic manner, I needed to guard myself against the types of distraction that would easily lead me off the path back to intimacy with Jesus. The three things we determined would be deal breakers in my healing were these: work, a cause, and a man.
If you’ve read my post entitled, “Be Still and Know Our God is Faithful,” you know that a strong pattern in my life has been to use work as a form of self-medicating, to numb the emotional pain of my wounded heart. I’ve also been easily drawn into counterfeit causes in my adult life that have taken me down some pretty dark paths. I’ve also made some pretty bad choices in men, both as mates and as leaders. So avoiding any major commitments in these three areas was important if I was going to grow and heal. Thankfully, I was able to borrow some money from my brother so I didn’t have to work for three months and could focus totally on my recovery.
FIRST THINGS FIRST — GET HEALTHY
So, I guess my first good choice was to commit myself to getting healthy, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally. Until I had myself on level ground, growing in spiritual and emotional maturity, I really had no business even thinking about dating or marriage. I must admit, this good choice was bathed and undergirded by the Lord gently and persistently reminding me to be still and know that He was God.
Right at the end of that three months of counseling, I attended the Florida Christian Writers’ Conferenceto teach a few classes, and afterwards spent some down time alone in a rustic little bungalow on the beach at Anna Maria Island. I was so conflicted at that time. I so enjoyed my time alone with the lover of my soul, but it seemed everywhere I looked an image sent me reeling. Walking through the marina early one morning, I passed a boat with twin bikes on the deck, lovingly leaned up against the railing. My short lived praises for the One I lived for turned to discontent in a split second. My emotions plummeted into the depths of despair. Would I ever find a godly man to spend the rest of my days with?
The good choice I made to avoid men and the encouragement from the Lord to be still kept me on an even keel much of the time, but I still came to a place of impatience in my heart, over and over and over again. About eight months into my healing journey, after making major headway, I determined I must be ready. Notice “I” determined that…it certainly wasn’t something that came out of a quiet time with the Lord!
I found someone on Facebook who had been a widower for 15 years. He looked like “my type” and it looked as though he was a strong Christian. Because I liked what I saw, I went on to convince myself that God had orchestrated my finding him and spent the next six months thinking he was the one God had been saving me for. As I look back at my journal during this time, I would go back and forth with God, trying to convince Him that it seemed like such a perfect match. All the while, way down deep I could tell that I was trying to sell God on what I wanted. On what my eyes could see. On what “looked good” to me.
BLIND SPOTS REVEALED
The Lord reminded me of something my dad used to say about me. “Athena wants, and she wants hard.” A pretty good description of a strong willed child. Hmmmm. Thank You, Lord, for helping me to see my blind spot. I realized that I’d just seen something that looked good, and tried to spiritualize it, tagging God’s name onto it, when it really had nothing at all to do with Him. Ugh. I’m so sorry, Lord!
It wasn’t long before I headed off to Texas to help my brother care for my 90-year-old momma. What was going to be a short visit turned into what I thought was my new home. I loved San Antonio and had great anticipation as to how the Lord would work all things together for good and bring Mr. Right into my life.
I was invited to a singles group at one of the large churches in the area, but didn’t really meet anyone I was interested in. So my next resort was an online dating site for Christians. I even got sucked into a few Facebook messages from men I didn’t know who sounded like they were authentic and looking for a serious relationship. I admit it, I was vulnerable and easily persuaded by words of affirmation. More than once God convicted me to close down my accounts on the dating sites. More than once I opened them up again.