Christian rapper-singer Natalie Lauren (former stage name Suzy Rock) released a track a few days ago called “Bad” a remake of rapper Wale‘s recent hit. Lauren’s message, however, was about one of purity, what we yearn for and what we settle for instead. Some of us may not think we are settling for less, but we think we’ll get what we want when we do things our way instead of God’s way. The one and only perfect way. The following is the rough copy of an essay I wrote for my creative writing course during my last semester as an undergrad. It was the first time I had ever really given a “testimony” if you will to a group of mixed company, believers and/or non-believers. I later revised the copy, as the professor wished it had some dialogue, and so I gave it some. However, what I added didn’t exist. So what you’re about to read is 100% of true events and true thoughts. And I hope it encourages any and everyone.
True Love Waits. This was a ring I bought when I was fifteen containing the slogan known by all Christian girls who aspire to rewarded by living sexually “pure” for God. The ring, sold in Christian bookstores and church gift shops, can also be sold with a contract – a cute little certificate printed with Old English text or what-have-you in which you promise your commitment of chastity to God with your signature. This came along with my ring and when I got home, I read the declaration statement on the certificate and felt a twinge of fear, hesitation, and disbelief. The declaration outlined exactly what the “promise” entailed, and I knew with every fiber of my being that I wasn’t going to wait for having sex. Yet I still signed the thing. Why did I buy the ring in the first place if I knew I wasn’t going to keep the promise? That’s something I still don’t have a concrete answer for, so you can make your best speculation. Love was on my mind, and in the gift shop of my grandmother’s large pink church in Charlotte, a sterling silver ring with “love” engraved behind “true” and “waits,” just looked so, lovely – and on my ring finger no less.
The only thing I knew of true love at the time was that if you felt so much passion for another person that you would deny everything else just to be near him or her, then it was real. Now, I wasn’t one of those boy-crazy fourteen year old girls that needed attention from any and all willing – I was one of those girls that craved something deep. Deeper than, I don’t know, deep. I thought “I don’t know. But I certainly know I won’t wait to wait until I get married. I don’t think I’ll even get married like that.”
I ended up leaving that ring at my Nana’s condo, whom I was staying with during the summer when I bought the ring. On a conference trip in New York City Nana called to tell me she had my ring in her purse but took it out and left it in someone’s bathroom (what made her take that ring such a far distance is still a mystery to me). Months later, I moved to South Carolina with my mother and Nana bought and sent another True Love Waits ring for me – very identical to the first, sans certificate. I ended up losing that one to the bathroom sink. Where was the certificate from the first ring? Long lost and forgotten somewhere with the original “forms” Plato once asserted were infinitely elusive to mankind.
(I kind of didn’t want to see this as a sign but couldn’t ignore or resist acknowledging the significance of it all.)
The woman I was becoming was more aware, open-minded and adventurous. And I believed in experiencing my desires and fulfilling any and all pleasures that they yearned for. Who the hell was I kidding telling anyone (including myself) that I wasn’t going to have sex until my wedding night? God knew the truth, and so did I. I told myself until I really fell in love. And I was right.
November 9, 2006 the 11th and 12th graders at my high school were going to a college fair held in the University of South Carolina’s coliseum. As one of those nerds who loved field trips, I literally ran out my class so I wouldn’t miss the bus. I stopped in the hallway and asked a couple of students walking if there was an announcement for seniors to board the buses. They said yes – I was like ‘O man!’ and started down the stairs. But when I looked out the window of that stairway, I saw that all the buses were still parked and decided to calm my panicking soul. The two people I asked about the announcement walked behind me, I told them something along the lines of “Thank God, I thought I was late” between breaths. One of them, a nice tall-dark-and-handsome dude put his hand on my back and said “You’re all right (or something patronizing like that). Then we started talking…
The buses were arranged for students to board alphabetically by their last names. My name was Dara-Lynn Baker, his was Allen Bryson. Perfect. We rode on the same bus and didn’t have to end our conversation.We sat next to each other and talked. We walked around the coliseum talking to admissions officers from different schools, together. When the fair was over, we got back on our bus, sat next to each other and talked ourselves all the way back to school, about everything. I wish could recall every single word of our conversation for you reader, but you’ll just have to bear with me and believe it was amazing.
He was intelligent, funny, down-to-earth, friendly, cool, and fine. And we connected, for the rest of that day and the weeks following. As in, there weren’t “sparks” between us – more like dynamite, grenades and a few 9/11 demolitions. It was stronger than any bond I’ve ever formed with any other human being. Seven months after we met, we made love. It was the one act ( yoking with an unbeliever – he was atheist) that may warrant my hell-bound arrest; this free-spirited, passionate young woman would’ve happily plead no contest. But I plead guilty for disrespecting and disobeying my Lord and Savior.
This was a time when I only believed in God enough to be certain of his existence. I didn’t believe in him enough to trust him with my heart, to obey his instruction to keep myself sexually and mentally pure – because to do this I had to let go of my desires, and Allen. This required discipline, something I hadn’t grasped yet.
It has always been one those words that I cringed at as a child. It was what I saw whenever my father would come home in his navy uniform. What I would hear whenever he or my mother spoke to me. And pretty much whatever I would get when I got out of line. And I hated it. But you know what word I hated more?
Obedience. The word still makes me cringe, wrinkle my nose, curl my lip and cheek up into the most stank look you can ever imagine. It makes me feel owned, insecure and dependent. And I’ve always liked to believe that I’m a free agent, even as a child. (Cause who thinks my thoughts and controls my heart, soul and behavior? Certainly not you! So why should I? AND what???)
Furthermore, obedience was something I reserved for myself more than God. We are told as kids to obey our parents – and if you were in the company of church-going adults, you had to have been within earshot of a paraphrased Ephesians 6:1 which states “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Obedience was only something I did when the adults in my life were right, which they so often weren’t. Obedience on my behalf was conditional for all authority in my life, and ultimately (as much as it pains me to admit it now) conditional for God. I had been exposed to so much rebellion, inconsistency and lifestyles that I wanted my freedom, my own agency to make decisions about how to love and when I would do so. I felt smart and confident enough to do both. But not disciplined enough to do both on my own.
Obedience might still be a struggle for me, but discipline has become one of my crutches.
I like the patience that I give myself because of it. I like how thorough I can be when I execute it. And I like the clarity, focus and relief that comes when I simply have it.
Discipline has helped save me from engaging in pointless disputes, frivolous spending, wasted time, wasted effort, wasted breath, burning out, cheating, lying, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, and any other ailing conditions occurring as a result of.. uh….disobedience.
Okay obedience isn’t so bad either. As long as I obey God. And as I’m “coming of age,” I don’t feel as insecure knowing that I’m owned by him, because I am his child. I’m learning more to depend on him with each step and breath I take, and with every move I make.
This essay can’t be wrapped up in a nice bow of religious conviction in a hope to change hearts and minds – that’s not the point. I’m very grateful because a couple of years ago there began a process in me where I had to seriously reconsider where true love actually came from, or rather whom it came from. And as I’m learning more about whom true love came from, the more I’m learning to love that whom better everyday.
To check out Natalie Lauren’s “Bad,” click this.