Written By Noni Elina, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
Like many other girls, I have wished for a boyfriend since primary school. However, because I was a shy bookworm, I only ever played the part of secret admirer.
Then one day in high school, another student asked me out. Zainul* was tall and athletic, and his eyelashes were the envy of many girls. I had secretly been attracted to him since school started, and we began dating officially in 11th grade.
I was not a born-again Christian at the time, but I attended an annual youth camp that was organized by my church. God used the camp to change me—He changed my views about how I should live. I learned to reflect on God’s Word, and I experienced His beautiful love.
As I learned more about God through my daily devotions, I became uncomfortable about being with Zainul. The Holy Spirit repeatedly reminded me that my relationship with Zainul was not right. Zainul was a nice man and a good Muslim who attended weekly recitation. Though he did not do anything to hurt me, we became more distant because of our different faiths. I couldn’t discuss with him what I learned from God’s Word during my daily devotions, and was therefore bored with our conversations at times. I realized that we were not a suitable couple, and after explaining to him that we would never have a future together, we broke up.
To be honest, letting go of someone as sincere as Zainul was not easy. Most women like to be cared for and admired, and I liked it too. My affection for him did not disappear, and it hurt to be distant from Zainul. Though we had broken up, we still spent time together, and were in an unofficial relationship until we were in 12th grade. All that time I negotiated with God, saying, “I will be your daughter and fully obey you later on, God, but not now. Let me enjoy the time with Zainul, at least until we graduate.”
Attending youth camp and serving in church did not automatically turn my life around. I still made compromises and stayed close to Zainul because I thought I loved him.
One day, Zainul asked me to go shopping with him in a department store in our city. He wanted to buy a T-shirt, and we looked for a long time. Finally, he held up two T-shirts and asked me to help him choose one. I was tired from looking at so many shirts and wanted to leave. Without much thought, I chose the white T-shirt with colorful lettering. It formed a sentence in English, but I was too tired to read it.
The next day, Zainul came by my home as usual, wearing the white T-shirt we had bought together. In the middle of our conversation, I tried to read the letters on his shirt, and couldn’t believe my eyes. This is what was printed on his T-shirt:
For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16
I told Zainul what his T-shirt said, and Zainul was quiet for a moment. I had chosen the T-shirt because I liked the design, and had not read the words carefully. I would not have deliberately made Zainul wear that T-shirt. Of the hundreds of shirts at the store, how was it possible that we had chosen this very one?
Our meeting ended on a strange note. Zainul gave me the shirt the next day, thinking that it was more suitable for me. I accepted it, and spent time thinking about the situation.
That’s when I realized that the T-shirt was God’s way of reminding me that He loves me perfectly. He is the Lord that died on the cross to save me from my sins. He wants me to spend an eternity with Him, but I had hurt Him by choosing to love another person more than Him. That night, I cried in my room and asked God for forgiveness for all that I had done.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, I ended my unofficial relationship with Zainul. Though he kept sending me short messages, I completely ignored him. It was not that I didn’t want to be his friend anymore, but I knew my own weakness and I knew that to respond to him would only make me vulnerable again. I kept praying and found encouragement in God’s Word, as well as support from fellow believers. God changed my heart. When I focused on Him, my feelings for Zainul slowly disappeared. It is impossible to do anything without the help of the Holy Spirit. Only God can free us from the affection we have for someone if we depend on Him alone (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Attending university offered more opportunities to meet unbelieving male friends, but my principles of relationship have since changed. I do not even consider the possibility of falling in love with a man who does not love Jesus, much less anyone who does not even know Him. This principle has guided me till now, and I have enjoyed my beautiful time as a single—with God.
Spiritual growth only happens when we are obedient, and dating an unbeliever never helps us grow more rooted in the Lord. I need to be in a relationship that would point me to Jesus, helping me live for Him.
Today, I desire to obey God with all of my heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). To do so, I must get rid of all competing loves in my heart—including letting go of feelings of attraction towards those who do not love God (2 Corinthians 6:14).
*Not his real name.