We are very lucky to be able to feature this popular author today! In today’s blog, Alyssa Joy Bethke opens up her heart and history as she recalls her personal journey towards love.
I didn’t begin my first real relationship with a guy (now my husband) until I was 22. Not that I would have chosen that! Oh no. See ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being married; I mean, I was a bride for Halloween when I was 5! I remember playing dress up and never being a schoolteacher or doctor, but a wife and mom. Oh how I longed to be married, to have someone to do life with, to pursue me and want me. I definitely fell head over heels for a boy in high school. Four years of me being in love with him, and even if he did know at one point that I liked him, he never acted on it. In college there were a few crushes, but nothing serious. Yes, I went on a few dates…a waterpark, frozen yogurt, Disneyland (epic!). The worst date ever consisted of me eating across from the guy while he watched me eat (apparently he had eaten before?) and have nothing in common down to the point where I asked him what his favorite food was, and he responded “milk”, which I was lactose-intolerant. All that to say, I definitely was no expert when it came to dating or relationships. Yes, I had read tons of books on the subject and prayed for years for my husband, but I had no opportunity to apply those truths until I met Jeff.
I don’t want to give our whole story away (you can read about it in Spoken For, a book I co-authored with Robin Jones Gunn), but I will tell you that when I met Jeff for the first time, there was something different about him that captured my heart. No, I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. We dated for a year, long-distance, when I ended it. Having never dated before, I ran from conflict and thought everything had to be perfect. When it wasn’t, I buried my feelings until I couldn’t take it anymore and called it off. I had some doubts, and instead of working through them together, I gave up. We both were heart broken, but instead of allowing myself to grieve and heal, I tried to be strong and move on. I had believed the lie that when you’re the one who breaks up with someone, you should be able to hold it together and be strong, when in fact both people hurt deeply no matter who calls things off.
Shortly after, I started dating another guy. It was only for a short period, but when he ended things, it left me broken and raw. Both relationships did really, but in different ways. When I ended things with Jeff, I grieved losing him. I thought I was going to marry him. I loved him, and yet I couldn’t see how our lives were going to come together and I doubted whether or not he really cherished me. With the second relationship, I grieved the loss of his friendship, yes, but more so I was hurt over how he broke up with me; the words that were said that dug so deeply into my heart.
Although I was left broken, it was not in vain. God had great plans. See, God does not write a tragedy. He is all about redemption and second chances. He allows things in our lives to make us more like Himself and to draw us close into His arms.
Throughout these two years of dating, breaking up, dating again, and being broken up with, the Lord led me on a journey showing me who I was. My identity was not based on guys or relationships; my worth didn’t come from whether I had a boyfriend or not, but rather on the fact that I was His. God created me, Jesus died and rose again for me, and He delights in me. He wants me – my mess and all. He pursues me – every moment of every day. He loves spending time with me. He loves to hear my heart and is with me always. Regardless of whether or not I had a guy pursuing me, or if someone broke up with me, God would never leave me. He was always for me. I have a sure relationship with Him that will never be broken or taken away!
I learned a lot about myself through dating. I don’t think you necessarily need to know who you are before you date – a lot of that comes throughout your twenties, and often through dating. You see what’s really important to you, what you won’t back down on, what your passions are, what your gifts are, what areas you need to change and grow in. I learned what real love was, what I wanted and needed in a husband, and areas that I needed to mature in.
However, if I had not known whose I was – that I belonged to God and was spoken for – I would have drowned in that season. When things didn’t work out, when it felt like my hopes and dreams were ripped out of my hands, I knew that I would be okay because I was His. Yes, it was painful. Yes, I was brought low and humbled. But I was safe in my Savior’s arms. He held me. He spoke over me. He healed me. And he renewed me.
And He wrote the most beautiful love story for me. Shortly after the other guy called things off with me, Jeff came knocking on my door, and we began to talk again. Through lots of emails, texts, phone calls, and us moving back to the same area, we began to date again. And this time was totally different. God had not only reminded me of who I was in Him, but I now knew what I was looking for in a husband–and Jeff was it. I didn’t want to be with anyone else. He understood me, and walked through life with me. I could be messy and know that he loved me still. I was open and honest with him. We worked through conflict. We shared our hopes and dreams, and sought the Lord together. He pointed me to Jesus and encouraged me to love Him so much more.
I don’t know what your dating story is, or where your heart is today. But know that if you are a believer, you are His. You are loved more than you will ever know and God’s love does not compare with anyone’s on earth. He is writing a beautiful story for you. Keep hoping, keep pressing into Him and wait for His perfect story to unfold. Know that you are spoken for – not up for grabs by just anyone.
Spoken For is popular blogger Alyssa Joy Bethke‘s first book. She serves with her husband—speaker, author and spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke—as they travel the world sharing God’s lavish grace. Alyssa lives in the Pacific Northwest and is expecting her first child.
Read more about embracing whose you are and who you are in Spoken For, written by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke (Multnomah Books).