Back in January 2019, I was asked to do a rather terrifying thing. Friends of mine were putting together a youth conference in April about sexual integrity and relationships, and asked me to speak. I work in that field and happily agreed. There were teaching opportunities and a Q&A panel, either of which I was happy to participate in. But then they asked me if I would be willing to share my personal story instead.
God must have a sense of humor. Speaking at a conference about sex should be terrifying. But until they asked me this, I was sure it would be a piece of cake. I have a very large comfort zone, and it is rare that something fully pushes me out of it. My comfort zone just tends to expand to include everything new. But this . . . this was squarely outside of it. No way was my comfort zone expanding to include this.
You see, the title of my story was “Taking pride in my virginity rather than in Jesus.”
Because that’s just exactly what I wanted to share about. Ha. Not in a million years.
I actually didn’t write the title. The conference organizer did, and asked if my story might fit under that category. Truth be told, I couldn’t have written a more accurate title myself.
As I prayed and wrote, yep, that’s exactly what I’d been doing. All through high school, I was a good girl. Wore the ring. Read the books. Most definitely proud about it, though I wouldn’t have told you that. God, in His faithfulness, didn’t let me stay there. In my story, I told about the three main things God did to break my pride: didn’t let me get married young (so that I had to learn to obey because it was right, not for a reward), led me to work at Life Options (to teach me compassion and humility, seeing how little difference there was between me and the girl facing an unplanned pregnancy), and had me walk through a relationship that didn’t go as I had hoped (where I discovered the freedom of loving without expectations).
I wanted to talk about exactly none of that. At least not till it was all past history and the story was wrapped up with a nice bow – like a wedding, or at least an engagement ring.
God didn’t give me that option, though. So back in January, I wrote it out. Sent it to friends for feedback and edited accordingly. Then, with fear and trembling, sent it to the man whose story had intertwined with mine, asking for permission to share. He freed me to share. I prayed about it for 3 months, hoping that something might change, hoping I could add a bow. Nothing.
The day before I had to share, I was a bundle of nerves. Asking God why. Knowing that I had to be obedient and share it . . . but it was daunting.
We serve a gracious God.
I “happened” to be reading through 1 Timothy. Chapter 1, verses 12-17. About being the foremost of sinners, so that Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him. About being appointed to His service and being given His strength. All for the glory of God.
Could I really tell God no, that I wasn’t willing to go forward by His strength and let Him display His patience and mercy and grace in me?
And then I went back and read my journal from a year before. I had praying specifically that God would use my story to glorify Him, and that I would be able to share it with youth to point them to Him and His ways. I’d prayed, fully a year before, about that specific relationship I had then hoped would eventually head towards marriage, that He would allow me to live it out publicly and be vulnerable and point to Christ through it.
Oh, friends. God answers prayers. That was not an answer I had envisioned. Sharing my story while it was still being written? Yet how could I say no, in light of all that?
I dared to ask Him for one more thing. I hadn’t heard a word from my friend since January. I knew that in telling my story, I was in some ways telling our story. And I knew that it would steady me to know that he was praying for me as I shared. So . . . I asked. I got exactly the response I needed. I took a deep breath, and went forward.
I got the privilege of pointing students to Jesus. Challenging them to turn away from sin, look to Jesus, and run hard and fast after Him. I told them how He would make them radiant, free from fear and shame. We talked about our identity in Christ. It was such an honor.
After I shared, there was a short Q&A session. One of the questions struck me. “Would you say that you found the right person, and if so, and you guys didn’t get together . . . then how many right people are out there?”
I answered with the correct “there is no such thing as one soul-mate that you have to find; you could potentially have a good marriage with a number of people, but once you marry someone, they become ‘the one’.”
And then I added: “Whether or not this person was, is yet to be determined, because I am sharing my story very much in the middle of it. I don’t know how it ends. I am inviting you into my story in the midst of it, because I know that you too are in the middle of your own stories. What that story looks like is a choice that we all have to make: trust God, follow God, and do the next right thing.”
It struck me that God doesn’t need a finished story to use me. In fact, perhaps it could resonate better because it was unfinished. I wasn’t promising them a reward in marriage. I was promising them that we could keep following God regardless of results. That God was still good no matter what. That His forgiveness and mercy are available to all. That no matter our past, we can do the next right thing, starting today.
Perhaps your story is also unfinished, in ways that make it hard to share. It’s so very tempting to wait until we know the ending. Maybe not the whole ending, but at least the end of the chapter.
Would you trust Him enough to share now if He gives you the opportunity? Maybe you could whisper it to a friend who is going through something similar. Maybe you could talk about it with your children. Maybe you could share it from the stage.
I don’t know what that looks like for you. But God is challenging me that it’s not about me, not about displaying my abilities or accomplishments, not about how it’s all worked out. It’s about displaying His glory. With or without. Finished or unfinished.
He uses broken people. He uses messy pasts of sin and hurt and pride, we who are so undeserving, and offers us His lavish, overflowing grace. He gives us His strength. He displays His glory in us. He answers prayers.
Say yes to Him, friend. You’ll never regret it.
In case it interests you, here’s a video of my unfinished story, recorded April 2019 at the Quest Conference.