Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Leslie Ludy's new book, Authentic Beauty: The Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman, (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 2007).
Your girlhood dreams of becoming a princess may have become grown up dreams of finding a prince to marry – a man who’ll make you blissfully happy. But no such man exists, because no human being has the power to make your dreams come true.
That doesn’t mean you need to stop dreaming, however. You do, indeed, have a prince waiting for you. And if you discover Him, you’ll experience the greatest love of all.
Here’s how you can devote your heart to your true prince, Jesus Christ:
Don’t settle for a broken heart and shattered dreams. Even though this fallen world is full of sin that can disappoint and even destroy you, it’s also full of hope. Don’t assume that you’ll never meet a man you can trust, who’ll treat you with dignity and respect. Pass untrustworthy men by while you wait for one who’ll treat you right. Refuse to lower your standards for relationships. Pursue only the best – all that God wants for you. Don’t sink into depression when your wait takes longer than you’d like. Instead, use your time to live to the fullest, growing as a person and enjoying all God has for you while you’re single.
Place your faith in Jesus alone. Realize that it’s futile to expect a man to fulfill your deepest desires. Don’t put pressure on any man to rescue you from your circumstances and make your dreams come true. Instead, make your relationship with Jesus your top priority, and expect to see everything else in your life fall into place as a result of that relationship. Trust Jesus alone with your hopes and dreams.
Make Jesus the foundation of your life. It’s not enough to try to fit Jesus into your life; you need to fit your life around Jesus. If you just utter some quick prayers occasionally and don’t hear any reply, that doesn’t mean you need to figure life out on your own. It means that you need to deepen your relationship with Jesus so you can discover His great plans for you. Commit to wholeheartedly pursuing a relationship with Jesus – the Prince who made the ultimate romantic gesture by giving up His life to save you. Just as He gave everything for you, decide to give your all for Him, out of love. Make Jesus the center of your existence.
Turn your heart into a sanctuary. Set your heart apart from the world and guard it to become a sanctuary for the Holy Spirit to reside. Ask God to show you the trash that’s lurking inside your heart and needs to be removed to prepare a proper place for your Prince to live. As He reveals the kind of trash you need to remove – from small lies and unhealthy compromises to traumatic memories and deep bitterness – write it all down and pray about each piece of trash specifically. Don’t allow any sin to clutter up your heart. Take action to remove it however God calls you to – from apologizing to people you’ve hurt or disrespected to throwing away items that fostered sin in your life (such as seductive clothes you wore to attract unhealthy attention from men, or CDs of music that celebrated impurity). Examine your heart again regularly, making trash removal an ongoing process in your life. Whenever you notice that you’ve allowed any wrong habits to creep back into your life, or whenever you encounter a situation or relationship that needs to be made right, take action as God leads you.
Kick out other lovers. Don’t allow any person or thing in your life to take away time, thoughts, energy, or devotion that you should be giving to Jesus. Take a hard look at what you’ve been pursuing – romantic relationships, popularity, comfort, material possessions, achievements, and more – and honestly consider how your pursuit of them may be keeping you from pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly. Then eliminate activities that distract you from growing closer to Jesus, and change your goals so that your life is truly focused on Him. Don’t worry about feeling deprived by cutting out unhealthy attachments from your life. Once you pursue intimacy with Jesus above all else, you’ll discover that your relationship with Him will actually enhance every part of your life.
Change your lifestyle. Ask God to show you what practical changes you can make to your life so you’ll be better able to develop a closer relationship with Jesus – from waking up earlier each day to pray more and watching less television, to tackling a service project and making more an effort to share your faith with others.
Embrace God’s dreams for you. Be willing to give up your personal agendas in order to embrace God’s better dreams for you. Trust that God, who created you, knows what plans are best for you. Pursue His dreams for your life rather than your own.
Set your heart apart for your future husband. Make a commitment to keep yourself sexually pure as a gift not only to God, but also to the man you may eventually marry. Ask yourself: “Am I truly set apart for my future husband? Or am I just doing the bare minimum for him by putting up a few physical and/or emotional boundaries in my life?”, “Do I seek male affirmation through flirting, hugging, touching, etc.?”, “Do I draw guys’ attention by showing off my body?”, “Do I casually offer my heart, mind, emotions, and body to guys by jumping into short-term flings?”, “Do I allow my mind to fantasize about guys I’m attracted to?”, “Do I offer too much of myself to guys, even in friendships?”, “Am I willing to sacrifice pleasure, attention, affirmation, and temporary fulfillment to live a lifestyle of lily whiteness for the man I will spend the rest of my life with?”, “Am I willing to allow my faithful Lord to bring a love story into my life in His own perfect time and way?”, and “Am I willing to hand over the pen of my love story to Jesus and trust Him completely?”. Write your future husband a letter to solidify your purity decisions, and read that letter whenever you struggle with purity. Ask God to forgive your previous sins of impurity, as well as to help you heal from whatever sexual sins have been committed against you (such as through abuse). Also ask God to help your future husband live a life a sexual purity himself.
Protect your intimacy with God on a daily basis. Be alert to any and every sin that tries to encroach upon your inner sanctuary and lessen your intimacy with God. Every day, pay attention to what you’re thinking, saying, and doing, and consider whether or not that pleases God. Repent immediately of whatever doesn’t reflect the love you should have toward your true Prince.
Overcome temptation. Although you’ll often be tempted to sin, you can always resist temptation if you don’t give it an opportunity to grow in your mind. At every crucial moment of making a decision about how to respond to temptation, say “no” to it. Then the temptation will have no chance to grow, causing it to lose its power over you. Read the Bible often, and study, memorize, and meditate on its words so you can absorb its truths into your mind. Whenever you encounter temptation, the Holy Spirit will then remind you of biblical truths that will help you overcome the lies temptation tries to tell you. Don’t hesitate to pray against all forms of evil that are enticing you to cave into temptation. Identify the areas of your life where you’re most vulnerable to temptation, then use the spiritual authority you have as a Christian to pray for deliverance from evil that’s trying to harm you in those areas. Create boundaries for your behavior to protect yourself from unnecessary temptation, such as refusing to watch movies that tempt you to engage in sexual impurity or avoiding nightclubs where impure behavior surrounds you. Ask yourself: “Are there voices I need to start ignoring?”, “Are there shows or movies I need to stop watching?”, “Are there places I need to stop going?”, “Are there people I need to stop spending time with?”, “Are there certain clothes I need to stop wearing?” and “Are there songs I need to stop listening to?”. If any friendship, activity, or influence tends to draw you away from Jesus or keeps you from reflecting His purity, create a boundary around it. Guard your relationship with your true Prince, no matter what the cost, knowing that it’s always worthwhile to do so.
Don’t compromise your standards in romantic relationships. Value the high standards to which God has called you (for your own good) more than you value romance itself. Ask God to help you be willing to live a set-apart life out of love for Him, even if you never find a man who’s worth marrying. Set yourself apart for your true Prince no matter what happens in your future. Making that decision will give you the confidence and strength you need for every circumstance you’ll ever encounter. It’s better to remain single than to settle for a romantic relationship with a man who doesn’t treat you as God wants you to be treated. But be assured that many worthwhile men do exist. Look for men who enjoy intimate relationships with Jesus and show integrity, compassion, courage, and selfless love – men who will help you protect your inner sanctuary. Pursue a romantic relationship that draws you closer to Jesus, while avoiding those that draw you farther away from Jesus.
Cultivate ongoing intimacy with God. Your relationship with God doesn’t have limits. There’s always more you can learn about Him, always more to worship in Him, and always more to experience with Him. Develop a lifestyle that helps you constantly grow closer to God. Study the Bible often. Write your prayers down in a journal, like personal letters to your true Prince, and write down His responses to your prayers. Read great Christian literature to learn how to deepen your relationship with God. View every challenge as an opportunity to grow closer to God and every triumph as an opportunity to praise God.
Delight in God. Learn how to notice God’s constant presence with you, and delight in Him moment by moment. Ask Him to help you speak and listen to Him no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Develop a quiet mind. Cultivate a heart of worship. Meditate on the Bible. As you walk through each day with God rather than just representing Him, you’ll experience unshakable peace and strength in every situation.
Pursue healing if you’ve had your heart broken. It’s crucial to heal from a broken heart before you can be ready for true intimacy – both with God and with your future spouse. Ask God to reveal what mistakes you made in the broken relationship, and to help you learn from them. Forgive yourself and the person who hurt you. Ask God to give you His perspective on what you’ve gone through, and to help you see yourself as He sees you – someone who is extremely valuable and deeply loved. Find some people you can trust to talk through issues and encourage you as you deal with pain while going through the healing process.
Build spiritual oneness with a potential romantic partner. Don’t rush into romance with any man, no matter how promising he seems. First, savor a season of friendship, getting to know each other well without the pressure of romance. Keep an open hand, refusing to hold on to the relationship too tightly. Trust God to do whatever He sees fit with the relationship, remembering that He wants the absolute best for both of you.
Adapted from Authentic Beauty: The Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman, copyright 2007 by Leslie Ludy. Published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., www.randomhouse.com/waterbrook.
Leslie Ludy and her husband, Eric, are internationally known speakers and the bestselling authors of 10 books, including When God Writes Your Love Story and When Dreams Come True. Leslie and Eric’s passion is to challenge young adults to pursue a life completely devoted to God. The Ludys live in Windsor, Colorado with their son Hudson.