Freshman year of high school is filled with many different life changes, uncertainties and surprises, but one that they could have never imagined would be meeting their future spouse…
Erikah met Eric while he was signing up students at a high school booth for people wanting to pray at the flag poll in the mornings. Over time they began a friendship, similarly both had a strong faith and they wanted to be with someone who shared the same convictions. They began their friendship at the age of 13 and 14 year olds. They enjoyed time together and became really good friends. Within getting to know each other that year, their attraction became evident and later in the same year they officially became boyfriend and girlfriend.
They dated each other all throughout their time in high school and where voted Homecoming King and Queen their senior year as many admired their relationship from afar. Their classmates knew they were different. They weren’t having sex like many others were. They saw that Eric and Erikah were waiting until marriage. They were even featured in a city newspaper article which covered Lane Tech’s Homecoming Dance, it read, “Eric Rivera and Erikah Combs, your homecoming king and queen, born-again Christians from Logan Square who’ve been together for two and a half years cling to each other on the dance floor.” They were also voted Cutest Couple in their senior year. It was not just the adorableness of their names (Eric and Erikah) that brought attention to their relationship, but their outspoken walks and faith in Jesus Christ.
Throughout their time in high school they both were active in various Christian clubs and choose to live lives that made people interested in their decisions on purity and abstinence.
One day when Eric was in the locker room with some of guys, they asked him, “Have you hit that yet?” When he said, “No, and I don’t plan to until were married.” He ridiculed. This happened a lot, but it didn’t move him. Many girls would tell Erikah, “I wish I had the same kind of relationship you have Eric…”
From the time they began their relationship the winter of their freshman year to the time they graduated High School, they never took a break or broke up; but continued to grow closer to each other and to Jesus with the support and blessing of both their families. Early in their relationship they established boundaries. They had made it a habit from the beginning to never be alone in a home together to prevent overstepping boundaries they knew they didn’t want to cross. It wasn’t always easy or convenient as they spent many collective hours on front steps waiting for family members to arrive home, but never entering the home because they didn’t want to be alone. Although it would be super inconvenient, they wouldn’t trade those uncomfortable moments for the reward that would come in their future because of the commitment to purity. They also realized early on in their relationship that there are ways that even in their speech they can awaken things that aren’t profitable to wake until the right time and so their first conversation about marriage didn’t happen until they were nearing graduation. They professed their commitment to one another and their desire to marry one day, but Eric and Erikah were determined to seek the Lord patiently as to when that time would come for marriage.
When it came time for college, they both saw Moody Bible Institute as the place for further spiritual growth and to prepare for their futures. Eric soon realized his call to pastoral ministry and Erikah’s desire to pour into women the truths of the Word brought her to study Bible Theology as well. College was a bit of an adjustment for them both as they lived on campus and were learning to navigate the new freedoms of adulthood. Eric quickly flourished in gaining friendships while Erikah struggled in that area and thus placed most of her need for relationship and friendship in Eric.
This put stress on the relationship and it quickly became evident to Erikah that she needed to figure out how to pursue friendships with women and grow in that area and felt the only way to do that would be to “take a break” from Eric. When she shared with Eric that they maybe needed a break, he gently said, “We don’t need to break up, instead we just need to focus on intentional time with others and make sure neither of us made an idol of the other by the amount of time spent with each other.” This was not easy, but Erikah pushed through. They determined to grow in fellowship with others and focused less quantity time with each other but made sure they were spending quality time together.
They are so grateful as they look back for the way Eric led their relationship during this season, seeing God’s hand in preserving them and growing them to work through difficult times rather than ignore or be passive about them.It was in their second year of college when they both sensed separately an urging from the Lord to increase their standards of purity. God used different avenues to speak this into them. For Eric it was a story from the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye of a couple who after being married for years, acted so affectionately with one another, and upon being asked why after so many years they still looked like newlyweds, they responded by saying they had saved their first kiss for the altar, but since then haven’t stopped.
Erikah read, And the Bride Wore White and came to realize that purity was a process rather than a specific point. After coming to this understanding through their own personal walks with Jesus they made a commitment to one another before the Lord in prayer to no longer kiss, but to save their next kiss for their wedding day. At this time they had been dating for almost 5 years now. They sensed that they shouldn’t marry until they graduated college first. This was definitely a challenge, but they wanted to honor each other and honor the LORD in how He was leading them.
Eric and Erikah worked hard to graduate early. They spent summers taking classes with the hopes that they would be able to finish quickly and be able to marry with college under their belt.
On their sixth anniversary, Eric had a surprise special night planned out for Erikah…It was March 27th 2002, and they both were required to attend mandatory meetings as Resident Assistants and so the thought of being able to celebrate their anniversary didn’t seem possible to Erikah. But she soon would come to see Eric’s elaborate plans unfold. Erikah was in her meeting amongst other female RAs when her Resident Supervisor posed a question for everyone to answer. “In this season of life, which animal would best describe you and why: a frog, an eagle or a horse?” Her answer was easy
“In this season of life, having dated Eric for six years and living in a bible college where couples date for much shorter time periods & get engaged and married what seems like every few minutes…I feel like a horse! I just want to be taken for a ride and be free, but instead felt stuck in the stable waiting for ‘my’ turn.”
As soon as she shared her answer, her RS said, “That’s interesting you say that Erikah I have something to show you.” She pressed play on her TV and Eric appeared in a prerecorded video. All the girls began to have cheesy excited smiles…Eric proceed to say in the video:
“I have a special night planned out tonight. So go put on something pretty and meet me outside in the campus plaza.” Needless to say, Erikah was VERY EAGER to find out if tonight would be the night Eric would propose to her.
When she arrived outside, there was a horse and carriage waiting there for her with Eric patiently waiting. After, a carriage ride in downtown Chicago, an intimate dinner for two, and dessert… Eric got down on one knee and professed love and desire for her and asked for her hand in marriage.
A year later, April 13, 2003, they met at the altar and kissed for the first time in 2 and a half years as husband and wife. Many times they’ve been asked how they were able to keep their relationship pure and their answer has always been two fold.
First, God was gracious in sparing them and therefore they cannot take ANY glory for it and secondly, boundaries! They had determined early on in their relationship that being home alone would never be a wise decision and that choice protected them in many ways. The commitment they made later on in their relationship to preserve kissing till marriage also preserved them as they drew closer to engagement. The time they spent not kissing and spending time together actually helped them deepen their friendship in ways that still bless their marriage to this day.
They were able to enjoy their wedding night and awaken desires that had been kept dormant for so long; but now in marriage they could fully enjoy themselves with blessing of God. The security that Eric built into their relationship because of his protection and honor of Erikah’s body still blesses their marriage to this day and they get to experience intimacy in an unhindered way. They love sharing their story with others of God’s gracious blessing in their lives and the joy of marriage. It's possible to wait and it's so worth it!
They have been married now for 11 years and have three great kids. They are still very much committed to one another in love and their friendship is one of the greatest aspects of their marriage.