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more: why i turned down the man of my dreams

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.

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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.

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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.

And yet.

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.

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Thanks for sharing!

29 thoughts on “more: why i turned down the man of my dreams

  1. Sarah, thank you so much for this post! I am experiencing similar struggles myself and I am so comforted by strong women like you who are proud to be serving Jesus in a single lifestyle. I am a strong supporter of you and your book The Invisible Girls, having grown up in the Portland area! Please keep being everything God has created you for. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” -Matthew 6:33

  2. Oh Sarah….
    this month.
    every post.
    every. single. post.
    it is like a balm in my heart. to know i am not alone in my feelings.
    you are writing such brave, raw, and beautiful things.
    and making me love Jesus and trust him just a wee bit more.
    thank you.

  3. Wow. This is so powerful. This spoke directly to me as I navigate being a divorced woman traveling alone for an extended time. Thank you for sharing something so vulnerable Sarah.

  4. I am single again after a marriage that was destined to fail (Long story. I was an idiot for marrying him). I could share so much about being single at 54.

    1. I think the church, in general, is NOT good at creating community. I think America is terrible at community. Americans are all about individualism; take care of yourself; if you need help, there is something wrong with you; sharing is a no-no…

    2. Too many people stick with those who are like them – marrieds socialize with marrieds (NO I don’t want your husband – how could I explain that when I get to heaven?), high school friends stick with each other; college friends stick with each other…I’ve actually been TOLD by locals that the residents in this area are not good at including outsiders. WOW.

    3. There are not enough discussions in the church on and off the platform about singleness. We celebrate the idea of being married (especially if it is a long marriage, which is GREAT), but we rarely, if ever, celebrate someone’s singleness. Marriage is NOT the prize.

    4. Single adults (in their 50s and early 60s) don’t want to spend much time with other singles. I’ve tried for 5 years to get Christian singles in my age group to spend time together. Are they too focused on finding a spouse or someone to date? Do they prefer to spend time alone? I don’t know.

    I could go on…
    As Christians, we are COMMANDED to be in community. Why are we so afraid of it?

    1. Caroline, I SO resonate with everything you said. Like you, I have never seen singleness celebrated in the church. And most of the time, what churches call “community” is mere programming to try to make individualistic Americans feel like they’re interacting in an authentic way…which ends up being very inauthentic because it’s not true interaction/interdependence, and it’s very forced.

      I don’t know the “why’s” of the problem. But I’m firmly committed to finding community and celebration/support of singleness, whether it’s inside of — or outside of — organized religion. For Christians to claim to follow Jesus (a single, unmarried, childless man) and shut those very people out of their groups is utterly hypocritical, hurtful and ridiculous.

      Let me know what helpful solutions and communities you find in your journey!

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