Love That Lasts: How We Discovered God's Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex
Love That Lasts is the upcoming book from Jeff and Alyssa Bethke. Jeff is the author of Jesus > Religion and It's Not What You Think, and Alyssa is the co-author of Spoken For, but this is the first book that they have written together. After being part of all three of their previous launch teams, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this one, too. The Bethkes have been teachers to me from the very beginning of my walk as a Christian, and as they grow and create more work, they seem to say exactly what I need at that time. They have been such blessings in my life, and I'm so thankful to be able to help them out.
This book walks through Jeff and Alyssa's stories, from their childhoods, to their meeting, dating, engagement, and marriage. They came from polar opposite backgrounds pretty much, so from the get-go, the book gives you the feeling of no matter where you come from or what you've been through, there's something here for you, because they get it. Jeff is admirably raw about the darkness of his childhood, the mistakes he made, the ways he objectified and mistreated women, and Alyssa gives an inside look to the "purity culture" and shows that those "good Christian kids" that you think have it all together and know how to follow the rules are just as broken and hurting as the "outsiders" by confessing an eating disorder she struggled with for years. These two waste no time in telling the ugly truth, in showing you where they started so they can take you on the journey of how far God has brought them.
The chapter that stood out to me the most was Chapter 4, "Riding Solo," because, well, I am currently riding solo and have been my entire life. Honestly, before I read this chapter, it always baffled me to know that Alyssa had been single her whole life until she met Jeff. She's beautiful (seriously), kind, smart, funny, I didn't get how she had never dated anyone before Jeff...Then, I read the first few sentences of Chapter 4:
"I've often heard it said that there are girls boys date, and there are girls boys marry. Well, growing up, I fell into the "girls boys marry category" - the non-flirty girls who like to have fun but are the deeper, quieter, more stable types. Which, looking back, was a good thing, but at the time, I thought it sucked. Guys, I just wanted to go on a date...But I was the kind of girl you only got involved with if you were ready to get down on one knee. And that ruled out most - or all - guys."
And I was like ohhhhh, I get it. I'm the stable one, the one who always ends up in the friend zone, the sister. I'm not quiet (by any means), and I like to have fun, but not the kind of fun that screams "date me!", at least, not in this age. I went on a few dates when I was in New York, but I either got "friend zoned," or the guy decided he wanted a casual thing and it never turned into anything. So I've basically lived with this feeling of "when is it going to be my turn?!" as I watch all of my friends find their person, get engaged, get married. But as I read through Chapter 4, it felt like Alyssa was speaking straight to me.
God is giving you what is best in this very moment. You can trust His good work in your life. God is writing a good story just for you. It's your story. It doesn't look like anyone else's story. It's unique and set apart and beautiful. Even if it doesn't feel beautiful or is not what you would have written, it's good, and if you let Him, He will bring you into joy that you never thought possible.
I know some are still longing, though. Still waiting. As you hope in God, as you fight to believe His promises, you can pray. Run to God with everything. Roll your every burden to the Lord. Tell Him your ache. Your pain. Your longing. Your hopes and dreams. Your deep desires. Cry out to Him. Give thanks to Him. Lift your potential husband up to Him. Ask Him to make you into the person that He wants you to be. Pray for your future spouse. Pray faithfully. Pray for their heart, their character, their mind, their hopes, for healing and wholeness. You get the opportunity to join God in the work that He's doing in their life! It's not in vain.
Sometimes, I forget the fact that I've said countless times that I want God to have control of my story. It's like I've said it about every aspect of my life except this. This chapter, and these quotes in particular, reminded me that there is a purpose in this season, and that I don't have to just sit and wait impatiently. I can actually do something, and maybe while doing that, not only will I grow closer to God, I'll find the peace I desperately want.
The other section of the book that spoke to me the most were Alyssa and Jeff's chapters on sex. (Each chapter in the book is written by one of them rotating between them.) Let's face it, your sex drive doesn't wait to show up until you're married. (Life would be a lot less complicated if it did!) And it's something that I've been struggling with, especially in the past year or so, but honestly, my view of sex has been twisted since I was a young teenager. I had decided I was going to wait until I was married to have sex, and my mom told me she thought I shouldn't do that.
As Alyssa says in Chapter 14:
"While everyone's experience with sex is different, I would argue that regardless of where you fall on the spectrum - multiple partners, living with your boyfriend or girlfriend, abuse, porn, going to third base, or falling on the other side of the spectrum as a virgin, never have kissed someone, wearing a purity ring - we all need healing in some way in this area."
I couldn't agree more. It feels like either sex is seen as some taboo thing not to be discussed, or it's casual and meaningless, and there's no in-between. And it ends up being the thing a lot of us get in our heads as the way to get the intimacy we want, because we don't know how to get it any other way. When I was in New York, I went further with a guy, basically just short of sex, than I should have, and I regret it now, basically because I wanted him to want me. (You can imagine how well that worked out.)
While Alyssa came from the purity culture, Jeff came from the world of casual sex and talks about how that damaged his view on women.
Sex, girls, and the chase consumed me. I can say that now, after looking back, but when I was nineteen, I know for a fact I wouldn't have admitted - or even known - that was why I woke up every morning. But it was what made me tick. Ultimately it was about gratification. Satisfaction. That brief moment in time when pain, shame, and guilt seem to be a distant memory. Euphoria. That moment of connectedness. A hollow one, though. A cheaper one. A bastard stepchild version of true nakedness.
In Chapter 5, he tells in detail how his porn addiction started, grew, and created "monster-like qualities" in him.
I became incredibly selfish. Fast tempered. Had a horrible view of women that played itself out in every single relationship before Alyssa.
But, as only God could pull off, his YouTube career started when he wrote his first poem, a poem called "Sexual Healing," for an open mic night and people actually loved it and related to it. In Chapter 15, he writes:
I realized just how hungry we all are - for intimacy, for connection, for life. And how we know deep in our hearts that the current promise of sex isn't cutting it, no matter how hard we fake it. There is a better way. And Jesus is inviting us into it with open arms.
While I couldn't relate to everything they said right now, because I'm not dating, engaged, or married, there is wisdom in this book that I know I can save and use for years to come, when I am in a relationship and marriage. There truly is something in this book for everyone. For married couples, to help you through issues you may not even realize you have. For engaged couples, to give you tools and help prepare you for marriage. For dating couples, to give you wisdom about your relationship, your future, and whether this is the relationship/person God intends you to be in/with for life. For single people like me, who may have made an idol out of marriage and relationships and need to remember that God is here, and He is first, even when we feel forgotten or ignored.
And for couples, there are also Love That Lasts workbooks, one For Him, one For Her, written individually by Jeff and Alyssa, with exercises to help strengthen your relationship and help you learn how to love and serve your partner better.
I truly believe that this is a book that will impact your life and your heart. We are creatures that desire love. We all want relationship and intimacy. We want to love and be loved. I believe this book will help us learn how to seek, find, grow, and keep the kind of love that God has wanted for us all along. The tools and wisdom in this book can help each of us find Love That Lasts.
Love That Lasts: How We Discovered God's Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex by Jefferson "Jeff" and Alyssa Bethke releases on October 10, 2017. You can pre-order it at their website here, on Amazon here, or at Barnes & Noble here.