He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments. Revelation 3:5 (NKJV)
There are no shortcuts to character. Character is hammered out on the anvil of a disciplined resistance to substitute immediate gratification for the promise of a future reward. Maturing adult believers learn to live this way.
Six years ago last month my son Cole married his high school sweetheart in a beautiful stained glass church. They began dating when they were fifteen until about seventeen. During that time they signed a “True Love Waits” covenant to remain chaste.
Ashley told me this week:
We broke up at age seventeen for a lot of reasons: immaturity on both of our parts and we were arguing a lot. There were many outside factors that were taking a toll on our relationship, but mainly we had reached a point emotionally where we would either need to progress physically in sin or get married. Neither were viable options at age seventeen. So breaking up was hard but necessary, and it hurt both of us deeply; so deeply that we never talked again.
My brother, sister and I threw a high school graduation party for our triumvirate of children, Cole, Garet and Jayme who happened to be Ashley’s best friend. So….Ashley came to the party. Cole and her spoke for the first time in eighteen months. In the next day or two they went out for coffee. Those coffee dates began to string together like a strand of pearls.
After one of their dates, Cole came to my office and asked, “Hey, Dad, you got a minute?” I said, “Sure.” He shut the door behind him. That looked serious. I braced for this conversation because this is the same son who asked when he was fourteen and dating, “Dad, when it comes to physical affection, how far is toooooo far?”
Want to know what I said? I told him, “Only do physically with your girlfriend what you would do in my presence.” A look of disappointment played across his young face.
So now these years later with this adult relationship, I was more than a little concerned with what he wanted to talk to me about. He fumbled for the words but then he finally asked, “Dad, what do I do to not blow this relationship this time. She is the best girl in the world and I don’t want to do anything stupid to lose her.”
Relieved I said, “Step away from it for a few days. Let a week pass without talking to her and to pray and ask God if she was the right girl for you.” He thought about it and agreed. We prayed together and he stepped out of my office. I turned back to my studies and smiled at the beauty of my son and his heart.
They allowed several days go by without talking or texting to pray about the decision and then they began dating steadily. Nine months later they were engaged and then nine more months later they were married.
With help from my brothers-in-law and friends, I prepared the rehearsal dinner for everyone and after dinner we all sat around elegantly appointed tables for the traditional toasts and speeches. I don’t remember what Cole, my son, said. But I remember what I said and what Ashley said.
I said how proud I was to be able to stand before family and friends and say that when my son gives his word about sexual purity, it is as good as the gold that will be on his finger tomorrow.
But then it was Ashley’s turn to speak and she stood up with her red hair cascading down her shoulders, skin alabaster white and a little flushed from the thought of what she was about to share in front of thirty-five people . She looked at her Daddy and put her left hand on the table to steady herself, smiled, blushed some more and said,
“I have loved Cole for a very long time. I will be honored to be called his wife. It has been a difficult road to get here, but it was worth it, I don’t regret a thing. I love you Cole.”
I wonder if you have ever done anything you regret. Imagine never doing that again. Imagine going year after year and never saying the wrong thing. Think of going decade after decade never doing anything that would make you want to hide. Imagine millennia after millennia where there would be no self-serving actions, no deceit, no more guilt, no more shame, no more remorse, no more staring at the ceiling at 2:00 in the morning thinking, “Oh God, I wish I had that to do over again!”
Imagine people in heaven saying of you as you walk by; their life was an unending stream of beauty and moral excellence. Would you want that? Then determine that you will fall so in love with Jesus that perhaps you quarrel with Him, maybe you will pout for a time, but you will be true to him so that one day you will stand before those gathered at His marriage banquet and say, “I have loved Jesus for a very long time.”
It can be done.
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7 (NKJV)