I'm 20, a Christian, and clearly unsure if I can make up for my possibly callous words.
I was in a relationship until a few days ago. She and I had been together for about a month. Early on in the relationship, I was feeling some pressure in that she isn't a Christian and that's really important for me to have in my significant other. Being an honest person, I didn't want to lead her on, so I told her about my hesitations to keep going. We'd discussed it and I eventually concluded that I'd wait to see how things work out. We ended up having that discussion about two more times and each time I know she felt upset because I was holding the fate of our relationship in my hands. She was all for the relationship and wanted me to say "yes."
Here's the problem. My issues with her not being Christian were tied into her past. She'd been with several long-term boyfriends, all of whom she had sex with and most of whom were abusive and ended up cheating on her. Her parents were physically abusive and weren't good role models in a Christian's sense of the word. She'd been involved in a group of girls who all lost their virginity by the age of 12 or 13 with her being the last in her group at the age of 14. I found out that she'd also had sex with a girl and it nearly broke my heart in half. She had a history with smoking and doing drugs, not heavily but with her boyfriends because they wanted her to. So the issue devolved into me feeling that if she's not a Christian, she can't reconcile any of her past away on her own. So where does it go? Nowhere. It's still on her shoulders and partially on mine when I tie myself emotionally to her. Which is why I began to question the whole thing. It was hard to swallow that pill. All the while, she felt like she was being judged because I spoke from a standpoint that I wished she were Christian though I know I can't make her one or ask her to be one for me.
Outside of this, when we weren't almost on the verge of breaking up or fighting, things were great. I was always good to her, but because of her chaotic past there were things she'd get upset about that most women wouldn't have. So to her, what may have been me mistreating her was something I chalked up to her past. I mean, trying to help vacuum and do dishes isn't a thing most women would complain about.
Regardless, I did right by her and apologized if I did wrong. I wanted to try talking things out, but it finally got to a breaking point when I realized she was so self-reliant that she'd never go to anyone else for advice on situations or to self-help books to help us improve our understanding of the opposite sex and to help us communicate better. This is a problem because I'll go to great lengths to work out issues; be it a class, counseling, relationship books, etc.
I ended up breaking it off with her, not because of any of the things I listed at the beginning. By the third discussion we had about her lack of faith, I officially swallowed it all and let it go. But rather it was because of her temper. Now that it's over she's even more disillusioned with God because of my words and actions toward her about her past. If I so much as mention that I hope she knows God loves her, she snaps at me and says that I was such a wonderful example of it.
I can't tell you how heavy this makes my heart. I feel so sorry for ever misrepresenting God's love. I never wanted to do that. I don't know what to do or say to her at this point. She said she still loves me, but I know we shouldn't be together. Unless she found herself at a place in life where she found God and He started to work in her, I'm devoted to finding someone else. But what can you say to ease my pain? I'm so desperate for any words of wisdom.
I just want to know that God can repair any damage I may have inadvertantly done while I was trying to figure out my own path with her. And if it isn't too much to ask, I want you to pray with me for her. I hope that God can move in her life in a way that she can't deny. This whole situation is just tearing my heart in half.
There is more here than I can do justice to in one note.
One of the fundamental traits built into men is a desire to the knight in shining armor. We want to rescue people and it strikes a cord deep in our hearts when we realize someone needs us. What we forget is that everyone doesn't want to be rescued.
As a result, men are particularly vulnerable to the plights of needy women. It was your desire to save this young lady from her past that got you interested in her and it is the same thing that keeps you hanging on. Solomon describes one type of immoral woman as:
"A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knows nothing. For she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the highest places of the city, to call to those who pass by, who go straight on their way: "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here"; and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, "Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell" (Proverbs 9:13-18).
This is not to say your ex-girlfriend was exactly the same way, but I want you to notice how this woman lured men into her bed. Women like this can be found anywhere from the regions of power to the lowest place on the streets. She pretends to be simple-minded and ignorant. She needs help because she doesn't understand. She appeals to men who don't necessarily think things all the way through and don't see where things are going. To add an extra dimension to the relationship, there is the appeal of risk in the relationship -- the possibility of doing things you know shouldn't be done, but they're too thrilling to stop.
I consider it fortunate that your reason dominated in this case. But it almost didn't. Despite the fact that you listed many dangers, you stated that you broke it off because of her temper. It is clear that you knew the other dangers existed, you wouldn't have talked about them if you thought they weren't significant, but you were willing to overlook them.
I want you to do an exercise for me. Try not to think of this young woman or any other woman in particular. Write down on a sheet of paper as many characteristics as you can about the woman you want to marry. On another sheet, write down characteristics that are distinctly deal breakers to a relationship. Then number them as to which are the most important and which would be nice, but not essential. When you get done, tell me what you learned.
Here is another exercise to do: Imagine what life would be like with this woman ten years from now if you stayed together. What would the house be like with a few bawling children running around? How well would the house be managed? What would happen if she got mad and there was an attractive man nearby? People tend to forget that while people do make radical shifts in behavior and personality, for the most part how they behave now is how they will continue to behave. It is the basis of the concept: "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10). If she is like this now when she is trying to impress you, what will she be like when she thinks it doesn't matter?
I think the key here is that her past behavior is not totally because of her environment, though it certainly encouraged her. Other people have bad upbringings and don't do as she has done. She made choices. But what is telling is that she doesn't regret those choices at this time. She sees no need to change her ways. She doesn't see that she sinned and needs salvation from those sins. That is why she isn't interested in Christianity.
That also tells me of the danger you were in. If she sees sex as a "normal" part of a long term relationship, guess what she would be insisting on from you? And if you didn't climb into bed with her, she would claim that it was because you didn't love her.
Now, people don't like to think bad about themselves. She doesn't want to face her sins and she certainly doesn't want to think about rejecting God. So she follows the usual pattern of her life -- she's a victim, so it is your fault that she isn't interested in God. That is so much more convenient than admitting that she doesn't want to change.
So stop blaming yourself for the bad decisions other people make.
All I can say is that I'll definitely want to keep in contact. There aren't many men in my life who can give me such solid advice. My dad doesn't go to church, so I've only had my mom to go to for the most part. But she doesn't understand the dynamic of dating from my point of view like a guy does.
If I won't end up being a bother always coming to you for advice that is. Haha.
Seriously, thank you. It means a lot to know that you're willing to write up an email to some kid like me.
I offer because I'm willing to invest the time. I try to help everyone who asks, so don't ever think of it as bothering me. Call, email, chat, or drop by; I'll be happy to offer what I have expereienced and know.
And stop thinking of yourself as a kid. :-) You're a young man now and you are taking on adult responsibilities. Unlike a child your decisions will impact your whole life, so you're wise to be careful.
Ok, I want to mention something so I can see how you'd change your opinion on the subject. We were definitely having sex during the relationship. She was my first and we started quite soon. It was never the intention, but the infatuation stage can be so crafty to work these things in when you aren't paying attention.
We've since had our arguments and it's all water under the bridge at this point. There's no going back. At best we're friends who probably won't see each other except for blue moons. Breaking up means our priorities are no longer with that person, so I don't expect any time from her.
This all being said, I know where I went wrong in the relationship and it's the one area I never wanted to see myself fail; loving someone where they are. I came off very judgmental because I wasn't particularly careful at the moments I mentioned things or how I mentioned them at all. And I see how different we are and that it just won't work unless she'd made some big change in her life.
So there's that. But also...
I was debating this point with my mom and I want to hear from someone more wise and insightful. What is the point in prayer? In the grand scheme of things, God wants us all to come home to Him. He's knocking at all of our doors. He knows all of us, and He sees all of us. I understand that. But the problem I have is here: if He is doing all He can to grab our attention, what does it serve me to pray that He'll do whatever it takes to get her attention? I mean, ideally, He's been working on that with her since before I showed up. So what does my prayer mean in the big picture? Does it mean He knocks extra hard because He knows it's something I want to see in her (rhetorical question mostly)? What gives? I know He wants to hear our desires, but He should already be working on that area since before I asked, so doesn't that make my asking for it a moot point? I don't know. It's always bothered me with things like this.
There's the two things: does us having had sex change your views on why it's so hard for me to let her go, and what good is prayer? [Trust me, I've made my amends to God on the matter of sex. I see why it's so bad outside of marriage.]
Oh, I'll accept that you've made amends with God, but it doesn't mean I won't reinforce the lessons.
I suspected sex was involved when you wrote the first note, but you didn't say enough to make me certain. You already told me she didn't see fornication as a sin and had no desire to change her ways. You keep blaming yourself for driving her away, but you are missing the point that she already was away from God. Your desire was to pull her toward God, but you are overlooking the simple fact that Satan was using her to pull you away from God.
Fornication is an interesting sin because it doesn't behave quite the way you expect. When someone steals, who is harmed? It is the person who had his property stolen. When someone lies, who is harmed? It is the person who was deceived. But when someone has consensual sex outside of marriage, who is harmed? "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (I Corinthians 6:18). Each partner in fornication is harming themselves, not the other person because the other person is consenting to this sin.
One of the reasons you were not successful in persuading this woman to be a Christian is because you were being a hypocrite. You were acting just like every other man she had known, telling her to do things she didn't really care for all the while using her body for your pleasure. It isn't that you drove her away. You didn't offer her anything different from what she already had. You played the role of a false teacher. "For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage" (II Peter 2:18-19).
The appeal of Christianity is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.
Now, putting things in better perspective, tell me why you thought God would answer the prayer of a sinner? "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:3-4). On one level you wanted this woman to become a Christian, but below that you wanted a reason to continue to crawl into her bed. You weren't really as concerned for her soul as you thought. I suspect she saw that on some level, and I guess it was the foundation for many of your arguments. God certainly did see the disconnect in yourself. To answer your prayer would be to lose two people: the woman who was already lost and the man who was losing himself in corruption. The breakup was needed to rescue a young man's soul. Prayers were answered, but not the ones you were focusing on.
Your own guilt over your sin probably also impacted how you dealt with her. I'm sure you came across harsher because you were not just speaking to her but yourself as well. Remember Jesus' warning? "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5). You can't persuade someone to leave her sins behind while taking your pants off so you can have sex with her.
The point of all this isn't to make you feel bad, but to get your view back in line with reality. You're on the edge of blaming God for not answering your prayers, but the problem wasn't on God's side.
But back to your question about letting go. Yes, the fact that you had sex and that she is your first and only does play a big role in your emotions. That is why Paul also said, "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh"" (I Corinthians 6:15-16). I want you to read through an article I wrote trying to explain this to another young man. See "Marriage's Glue" and tell me what you learn.