This is not the story of two untouchables who managed to do everything right all the time (no one can relate to that kind of story!), but of two, real, God-loving people who, even through mistakes, sought to listen to and honor God as best they could in their daily decisions as a couple and as individuals.
It was hard, and not without struggle, pain, and I’m sure tremendous temptations. But the point is they did what they felt God was leading them to do to protect their purity and to establish the best possible foundation for their marriage together. And in the end, that is what has made all the difference.
Let me tell you about Mark and Aletha. They’re not famous, and their romance will not be lauded by modern society. But theirs is a story worth sharing; it is one of true affection built upon sacrificial love.
Mark was a 32-year-old Controller (Finance) at a large engineering and manufacturing company in central Georgia. Aletha was a 28-year-old mother of one. She was employed as a Respiratory Therapist at a local hospital. Both had been married previously, and as divorcees, they were each longing for something stronger and better for their marital futures: a lifelong love founded on God’s timing, direction, and unity.
Mark and Aletha met and fell in love, and after dating for nine months, Mark proposed to Aletha (she said, YES!”), and they set their wedding date for seven months later.
Though ecstatic about her impending nuptials, the timing posed a significant logistical problem for Aletha and her son: the lease on Aletha’s apartment was ending soon. She either needed to renew her lease for another year or move out, and she and Mark were now saving money for their wedding. She and her son needed a new, inexpensive place to live for the last six months of her engagement.
Mark owned his own fully-furnished three-bedroom house in a quiet, safe neighborhood in the city where they would begin their married life together. Both he and Aletha were mature adults around the age of 30. Both had been previously married. No one would have balked at the idea of them moving in together to solve Aletha’s housing dilemma prior to their wedding. Besides that, with three bedrooms, they could have even committed to sleeping apart in their house until the Big Day.
But they did not move in together. They did not do what everyone assumed they would. What they did do is nearly unheard-of in contemporary culture: after much prayer and wise counsel, Mark decided to temporarily move out of his own house, so that Aletha and her son could move in! Mark spent the next six months living in the guest room of another family from their church.
Brief Aside: Lest we think chastity is just for naive, prudish, religious fundamentalists with long braids and floor-length denim skirts, Mark and Aletha are smart, trendy, good-looking people with fun, charismatic personalities. They are cool, popular, highly-skilled, and successful professionals in their (now) mid-30s. Seriously, they could both be models, and they’re the kind of people you’re naturally drawn to – and then you find you like and respect them more and more the better you get to know them!
I’ve felt a strong compulsion to write about the role of chastity in the 21st-Century, and to this day, I am still amazed at how these two lovebirds made significant and costly efforts not to live together prior to their wedding. It is such an inspiring and (sadly) rare thing to have happen – but what a tremendous example of faithfulness to God, to each other, and to their future together!
Mark’s own words regarding his and Aletha’s pre-marital journey are so real, rich, and inspiring:
“Although it was a hard decision, and it certainly prevented in great part premarital relations, we did not have a spotless record. But I think there’s a deeper story of the heart there. For me, I know not having been brought up to know God as my first love had me looking for it in a wife. I realized this when I moved out of my house prior to the marriage. It should have been easier a task to allow my heart to be settled strongly in God apart from another – but it was not. Most days were an emotional drudgery because I felt like I was giving Aletha up, even though we were getting closer to our wedding date.
In God’s mercy, He presents opportunities for obedience in order that we would no longer be slaves to other things, things that we learned, things that we gave ourselves to – as a result of our own choices and others’ choices. But, God allows these opportunities to draw us into Him, to accept His amazing love and live in it – to be sanctified. But, these opportunities are not without pain. The choice Aletha and I made to live apart was difficult. I feel like I held on more than let go of my future wife, although she has been the Lord’s from the beginning. I am a grateful recipient of her as a gift, and feel great responsibility for her, to love and cherish her, as Christ loves and cherishes her.
The grace in it all is that though I may not also respond to full surrender of heart (though I try), God keeps after me, giving me opportunities to become secure in His love. Thanks be to God that he pursues us unto purity in Him, so that our hearts are truly His. He shakes that which can be shaken, all the places we are blind to because we are unaware of our supposed security in other things – but when we allow our lives to be shaken, what remains is the most important thing: Jesus Christ, in us.
Faith is valid when it has been tested. My shortcomings are numerous, but I know that following Him each step, denying my flesh, facing my fears, becoming less, is the response that allows the Holy Spirit to produce fruit.” –Mark
I continue to be more amazed – not less – by the humility and transparency with which Mark and Aletha live their lives. There is no presumption in them of perfection or of having this faith-and-following-Jesus-thing all figured out. They both live faithful, authentic lives of listening to and obeying God, and they admit their faults and weaknesses. Their loyalty to Jesus is awesome, and the fact that they don’t pretend their past was perfect only further elevates Jesus, His grace, and the ongoing transformation they both are experiencing with Jesus as they continue to walk with Him into each new day!