She is clothed with strength and dignity, and can laugh without fear at the future. Proverbs 31:25
Last year I became single and unattached for the first time since I was 20. More years than I want to admit to, I’m afraid. I was overconfident, thinking I would NEVER want to date again. I had survived the hurricane of divorce, supported by my family and my Sistahs, picked up much of the debris and was starting to enjoy the peace and quiet of being an empty-nester. I loved my job as a hospice nurse, my church family, and getting my snuggles holding babies in the nursery every other Sunday. Who needs a man with a life that good?
Then a handsome guy drove up in a Cadillac one day and shocked me by asking me out. After fumbling over my words, I put him off, but he called a few months later and asked again. I surprised myself by really wanting to spend time with him. Was I that shallow to let a cute guy in a nice car change my plans?
Come to find out, I guess I am. I enjoy having a go-to guy to ask questions like how to keep your pipes from freezing and where to get your car aligned. I like baking for someone who isn’t counting calories. I especially like compliments given about being “pretty inside and out.” Taking walks, watching football, and even working out at the gym became more fun when shared.
What I noticed over time was that dating surfaced some things in me that I didn’t like – temptation to look to a man for affirmation, to hide parts of myself to feel approval, even to get more involved physically than the depth of relationship warranted. I shared those temptations with God and with my trusted Sistahs. I struggled to know whether I had made a bad choice. After all, hadn’t I stated with confidence my intention to wait more than a year to date?
One thing I lost as my marriage crumbled was my dignity. The hard work of healing my heart began to reclaim that. I long to be like the woman in Proverbs 31 who was so strong and dignified that she wasn’t afraid of the future. I am learning how my choices impact the ways I am treated. Dressing modestly, for example, is not something I should do just to keep from being a distraction to men. Modesty gives me dignity – so I am taken seriously, not seen as an object, and so I don’t attract the wrong kind of man. Lauren Winner, in writing about chastity, tell us “it really is God’s best for us, the best from the one who wants to protect us from objectification, who wants us to be cherished, who wants us to know the joy of living dignified, holy lives and the true joy of desire.”
God wants me to be cherished. Wow. I haven’t felt cherished for a long time, not consistently.
Last week I realized that I did make a bad choice – I wasn’t ready to date. I should have waited. But I can say, “Okay…now I learned something”. God allowed me to learn some good lessons from a bad decision. I learned to keep seeking affirmation and approval from God. I learned that being honest with My Sistahs about my struggles protected me from falling to temptation. I learned (again) that God is the one who will always cherish me.
What good lessons have you learned lately? What disappointments or failures can you look at differently, to say “Okay…now I learned something” and take knowledge to move toward success?
PS You can read more about dignity in Unseduced and Unshaken by Rosalie de Rosset.