The last time I was in a relationship was the month before I sold everything and set out on this grand 18-month nomadic travel adventure of writing, speaking and spending 3 months in Togo.
The break-up was an amicable ending to a less-than-serious relationship, and I’ve continued to be friends with that guy.
After that, I measured how long I went without being kissed by weeks. Then months. Now it’s been more than a year.
“I don’t think I even remember how,” I told my friend a few weeks ago.
“It’ll come back to you,” she assured me. “Kissing’s just like riding a bicycle.”
Last week I was staying at a hotel when a very handsome gentleman approached me in the lobby. We started chatting. Then he asked if I’d meet him later for dinner. I said sure. For three magical hours we sat in a dimly-lit restaurant, talking about our stories and our families and our occupations.
I learned that he was a Marine, spoke fluent French, and was now an investment banker in NYC. He had sophisticated tastes and incredibly good looks. To put it simply, he was my dream man. Except for one thing: he didn’t love Jesus.
We left the restaurant and took the elevator to the floor our rooms were on. When we got off the elevator, he gave me a kiss and whispered, “Come back to my room with me….”
I knew I needed to be immediately decisive, otherwise the offer would seem more and more tempting and I’d come up with more and more rationalizations for why it wasn’t such a bad idea.
“I want to, but I’m not going to,” I said firmly.
He pulled me close to him. “Why?” he whispered, his lips resting on my ear.
He was a good 6 inches taller than me, so I had to stand on my tip-toes to reach his ear. “Because,” I whispered back. “I like you a lot, but I love Jesus more.”
I kissed him on the cheek. And then I walked away.
When I got back to my room, I locked the door. And then I cried.
Because sometimes life as a single person — especially a single person who lives on the road — is intensely lonely, and waking up next to someone seems like such a comforting thing. Because I keep praying for God to bring someone just like that (plus loves Jesus) into my life –and God hasn’t. At least not yet.
I cried because it would have been so easy, and no one would have known.
I cried for all the other places of my life where I say I love Jesus more than anything and yet, sometimes the choices I make don’t reflect that.
I cried for how easy it is to doubt that God’s best really is best, and how hard it sometimes is to trust that God doesn’t willingly withhold good gifts from us — and if he is withholding something (in my case, a husband), it’s because he has a plan that’s better than mine.
And I cried with relief because I would wake up the following morning with confidence and integrity instead of shame and regret.
I dried my tears. I made some tea. I took a bath. And then I watched Netflix for a while.
Sitting in a hotel room in a bathrobe watching Season 7 of The Office alone on a Friday night isn’t the stuff RomComs are made of. I don’t think Nora Ephron ever wrote a screenplay that ends with the heroine sitting by herself in a half-empty bed drinking peppermint tea. And, as far as I know, the great poets never wrote an ode to the woman who whispered, “I want to, but I’m not going to” to the man of her dreams.
With each choice I make, I’m telling a story. It’s not always a glamorous story. It doesn’t have nearly as much romance as I’d like. It entails making sacrifices that only God and I know about.
It’s a hard story to write sometimes, but by God’s grace, I hope it’s a good one. And if my dreams don’t come true — if I never get married, if I never get to write another book, if my name is never up in lights, if my writing doesn’t make it to a New York Times list, it’ll be enough for me to be known for one simple thing.
Sarah Thebarge: the girl who loved Jesus more.