True Love Waits: An Awkward Retrospective

We fast and pray on Mondays for marriages to those who desire them, for men walk upright into relationship, and for women to be softened instead of becoming embittered. 

Want to know what is a strange feeling? Finding my old True Love Waits “pledge card” signed by my teenage self at a summer youth conference years ago.  Weird. Reminded me of all the Josh Harris books and creepy wedding-band-esque rings and overly dramatic skits about the dangers of having sex before marriage. Some part of it made me laugh, but I was a bit sad to think how much I had believed that life was as clear-cut as “sign an abstinence pledge, don’t have sex, find nice boy, get married, have kids, figure out the rest later.”

I’m not the only evangelical kid of the late-90s who got sad (and then angry) upon learning that real life was a bit more dicey than the formula. Finding the pledge card triggered some musings over the basic premise of TLW: save yourself for marriage. When I hear that now, I hear some messed-up assumptions:

  • It’s self-centered: the pledge was mostly about me and making sure I had the best shot at a good marriage with amazing sex (obvi) due to my abstinent teenage years.  To be fair, this was an excellent marketing point that meshed quite well with my culture’s overt worship of sexual indulgence. The church just said you can have all the indulgence – just make sure you’ve put a ring on it first. Sounds great – where do I sign?!
  • It’s self-reliant: The pledge said that I was the one who had to do the saving…it was up to me to bring my best self into marriage. The pledge was making a commitment to “God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children” that I would be sexually abstinent until marriage. Notice that God is the party to which I commit, not the strength by which I live out the pledge.
  • It’s a defensive posture: TLW language often made it sound like I (as a teen) had some magically sexually sinless heart and body.  And it was my job to protect that from other people aka boys. The idea that sexual sin was already alive and well inside my heart somehow got lost in the mix.
  • Marriage is the goal line: This has been, to my single celibate self, the most destructive lie. There was never any conversation in TLW about not getting married. The goal was to get the virginity football to the marriage end zone. That’s it. Game over. End of story. So not getting married caused some serious theological problems for me. What was the purpose of being abstinent if I wasn’t ever going to get married anyway? Where exactly is this mythical spouse for whom I’ve been “saving myself” (albeit poorly)? And do I miss out on “true love” if I don’t find that spouse?

Fast forward to today: my experience as a single, trying-to-date, celibate adult has often been awkward. Sometimes it feels like the realistic path is to get angry at how TLW misled me and instead jump into the culture’s hook-up-centric Tinder cesspool.  But I know that isn’t a better option…and it often ends badly. Sexual sin always leads to bondage. There isn’t life at the end of misused sexuality…no matter what shape it takes.

I don’t want to be enslaved to self-centered bitterness because I’m angry at and cynical toward “the church.” And I don’t want to be enslaved to my culture’s idol of selfish sexual consumption.

Maybe there’s a different path. A path of following a living God who gave us the gift of His Spirit to lead us, in real-time, toward freedom in truth.  A God who gave Himself to pay for all the lies and all the rebellious, entitled, consumer, selfish sexual sin of our individual choices and the consequences of others’ equally sinful choices toward us.

I think it is better to follow God’s design, just not for the reasons TLW said it was.  God does know what He’s talking about when it comes to our bodies and our souls and our loves – whether I get married or not. God knows all the lies I absorb on a daily basis, and He’s relentless at knocking them down so I can glimpse more of Him – which is the only thing that really changes me.

As we fast and pray together this week, think about places where you might have absorbed lies about sex or the body or romantic love from the church or the culture or elsewhere. And let’s enjoy the fact that those lies are absolutely no match for the truth and freedom of the Gospel.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. (Romans 8:1-3)

By His Grace,


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20 Responses to True Love Waits: An Awkward Retrospective

  1. Vicky says:

    Be encouraged everyone. He’s out there just waiting for someone like you. After 17 yrs. of being single (I was widowed young). I’ve meet a wonderful man who understands and respects my decision to wait until marriage. I can’t wait to give him my TLW’s card on our wedding night. He was worth the wait. And yes it was lonely and I thought I’d be alone forever, but prayers are answered. If it doesn’t respect your decision, he’s not the one for you. God Bless

  2. Melinda says:

    I’d love to hear from you if it encourages you, as a Christian single, to know that there are so many of us out there, or does it actually discourage you to see that there are so many of us praying and hoping for a husband, possibly in vain?
    In a similar vein, do you find it encouraging when someone you thought might be single forever finally finds a godly husband, or does it discourage you to see it happen to others but see no change in your lives?
    Just curious how you all react to such things…

    • Karina says:

      Personally, I find it discouraging that there are so many of us out there. But when I hear of other singles finally getting married in their mid 30s I also wonder, what about me?? So its a lose-lose situation haha! But its generally more encouraging to hear of success stories, rather than stories of people who have been waiting forever.

      But I would also be interested to hear how others feel about having a community of Christian singles.

      I feel like the community exists only in so far as we are still waiting, and once someone gets a boyfriend and graduates to being engaged and then married, they leave the group and we’re all kind of left hanging at the injustice of it all (kidding but you know what I mean).

      • fast. pray. says:

        You bring some interesting snippets…I will try to write about this soon! I get where you are coming from. The one thing I will say is that the community shouldn’t mainly be about being single…it may be the thing that brought us together in the first place (shared understanding / suffering) and it is the specific context in which we speak, but the bigger identity is hopefully in Christ which supercedes our marital status (or graduation status haha)…I want to say things that also resonate with Christian women who are married, divorced or widowed. Not sure it always works haha…but I hope maybe 🙂

        • Karina says:

          I think its ok to target a specific group and in this case its singles who want to be in marriages, whether they are divorced, never married or widowed or any other circumstances which resulted in that status.

          Things you say may as a by-product resonate with married women, but, lets be frank, the focus here seems to be on singles who desire to be married.

    • fast. pray. says:

      I think those are great questions and I think I’ll try to write a post about that…I’ve thought about some of those things but not written about it in an intentional way…thanks for asking good things and I’ll be writing. In the meantime, would love to hear your thoughts too…

    • Danielle says:

      On one hand, I do find it encouraging that I’m not alone as a Christian wrestling with the reality of my prolonged single status. On the other hand, it breaks my heart to know of so many people (particularly in their 30s and beyond) who struggle with their unmet desire of marriage. I’ve found that communities like Fast.Pray. along with other blogs I follow (by single-never-married Christians) are helpful because they vocalize the emotions I experience but am sometimes unable to put into words. I also learn a lot from reading other’s insights and musings as they so candidly hash out their own thoughts and share their very raw experiences. I won’t lie, it’s definitely hard to watch person after person (98% of which have been younger than I am) getting married and having children. It’s super hard. But at this point, I reconcile within myself that it’s just one of the *many* things I won’t understand on this side of eternity and I remind myself that there is soooooooo much more to this earthly life than ‘graduating’ to the next stage via the ring (ugh, can we just rebuke that ‘graduating’ lie and send it back to the pit from whence it came?! :P).
      So (to sum it all up) for me, I definitely teeter between frustration and encouragement, battered faith and renewed hope. I’m just glad God doesn’t waiver like I do and I’m thankful for the stability of that promise 🙂

    • Maria says:

      I have so many mixed responses to this.
      1. if it encourages you, as a Christian single, to know that there are so many of us out there, or does it actually discourage you to see that there are so many of us praying and hoping for a husband, possibly in vain? – It bothers me and saddens me not so much for myself but for those who long for it so much more than I do. But on the other hand the shared struggle encourages me on the journey because I used to think I was just undesirable and unwanted until my much more attractive sisters (in my eyes) came alongside me in the desert and I realized we are all trudging through this desert together and it truly seems at time a random luck of the draw thing who gets picked to go on to a different journey.

      2. do you find it encouraging when someone you thought might be single forever finally finds a godly husband – Oh yes yes! Especially if I know them and know their story, know how much they wanted it, prayed etc? I see it a testament of hope and answered prayers and for a while I too feel more uplifted and encouraged.

    • Jessica says:

      I have to admit it can be scary to see so many other Christian virgins in their mid thirties and beyond also struggling to deal with their unmet desires for marriage. I hope that God will bring me a husband. But so do all these other women and they’re still single too. There’s no guarantee that I will ever find a life partner, not even if I trust God with my desires.
      And the worst part is the desires have not been removed but they get stronger and stronger as I get older and older.

  3. Monica says:

    In the last few years I have also discovered how harmful some of the Christian rebranding of the culture’s lies or worldview has been to my heart and mind while waiting on the Lord for a godly husband. Although I was never in the “True Love Waits” spheres (because of my age), there has been plenty of seemingly godly propaganda that slowly I have to had to dismantle to stay sane, keep the course and trust God. This past weekend I listened to an EXCELLENT series of talks on singleness that was held at Redeemer Presbyterian church in NYC this past spring, which I recommend highly for a truthful, moving and redemptive view of singleness:

  4. Thanks, I think your idea about failing if we didn’t get to the end goal is good. I struggle so much with bitterness because I made the pledge thinking it would erase past mistakes and give me a great husband to pounce on. INstead it kindof turned “off” my sexuality and made even flirting sinful. And made me very passive waiting for a guy that had some power and personality just appear, but I have learned the hard way that I have to speak up to men to attract them, not be so passive and over spiritualize teen pledges.

    • fast. pray. says:

      Those are good points…the lies affected each of us differently…and it’s a different road to the truth for each of us. Thanks for the sharing, though…I appreciate hearing this snippet of your story 🙂

  5. Ray says:

    Thanks for this Filled-with-wisdom post. I teach high school juniors and seniors and this is a “keeper.” They grapple with both how and why to remain celibate in a sex centered culture. As Christians, they need to understand in practical terms how there is power in the law, only condemnation. What you hav learned needs to be passed on to those coming behind. Thank you.

  6. Maria says:

    I recently reminisced with my sister about our childhood around this issue, the message of waiting, of how fabulous things would be and how entitled we all felt, how superior, how Mr. amazing was only a heart breath away. We were better than “those” girls, those girls with the boyfriends that did those dirty things in cars. Oh yes we were the righteous the redeemed the blessed and we were going to marry the Brad Pitt-Moses equivalent and having rocking chandelier sex. *cue the gut busting mocking laughter*
    Because we must laugh or we would cry.
    See they should have told us that waiting did not mean you would get married, did not mean you were entitled to be married, did not even mean that you were going to get the cream of the crop to date either LOL. It just meant doing what was right in the eyes of God for no other sake than it was right. That there would be no benefits other than lack of pregnancy scares and that itch probably just a heat rash. They also should have told us that we would be OK, that we could have full lives, should have full lives, should seek out full lives and not sit around waiting for life to start when that man came around. That we should travel, have careers, buy houses, use the good dishes all the time, etc. Yeah they sold us a fairy tale

    • R says:

      I think that we will be OK too, but not necessarily have full lives. All those things that you listed do not necessarily happen. We might not get to travel, have a career, or buy a house. I do think that fasting sexually will reap us benefits (see the link below). “It just meant doing what was right in the eyes of God for no other sake than it was right.” – I could not agree more with that statement.

      • fast. pray. says:

        Hi R….thanks for your thoughts…I agree completely. I think being able to stop negotiating with God (as if that were possible!) about what benefits/perks I get since, of course, I had to give up my “right” to legitimate sex. God is faithful, He is actually the boss of me and He’s good…beyond that, no guarantees…thanks again, R 🙂

    • fast. pray. says:

      Ok, I literally laughed out loud reading this…Brad-Pitt-Moses….YES. It’s true that some life wasn’t lived because I was waiting to jump into “real life” aka married life….so glad for you sharing this perspective and for sharing the laughter!

    • Danielle says:

      I had a good, hearty laugh while reading your comment, Maria! I couldn’t have put it better myself! What you stated, and what Amy shared in her blogpost, were spot on. I pray that as we’ve gradually come to realize the lies we’ve grown up believing (of entitlement, putting our lives on hold, etc.) that we can move forward in freedom in Christ and, as Ray said (in the comment above), pass on what we’ve now learned to the next generation of young people who are still figuring life out. Not only do we have the opportunity to plant seeds of truth in them, but it also offers redemption in our “waiting” because God can use us in *any* of life’s circumstances to touch the lives of others for His glory if we allow Him to.

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