On any given Sunday, you can find film producer DeVon Franklin and actress Meagan Good just about anywhere. The set of one of their film projects, a church where DeVon preaches the word or the red carpet during awards season are just few of their regular stops.
On a sunny Sunday last November, the couple go over 2015, their best year yet, while sitting in DeVon’s Los Angeles office on the Sony lot. “Franklin Entertainment” is scrawled on the wall behind them. It’s his first year as CEO of his own venture after stepping down as senior vice-president of production for Columbia Pictures. In his inaugural 11 months, he has produced the new film Miracles from Heaven, featuring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, and a pilot for the FYI network in which he counsels couples. Meagan, who stars in Fox’s Minority Report, has just returned from Canada, where the series is filmed. Her prayers to do a sci-fi action project were answered with the TV adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s international blockbuster.
The couple, who’ve been married for three years, attribute their professional success, solid union and inner peace to one major decision: waiting to have sex until after they married.
Their story made headlines and many articles covering their personal choice followed. Now they are offering all the details of their experience and encouraging others to consider celibacy before marriage in their new book, The Wait: A Powerful Practice for Finding the Love of Your Life and the Life You Love (Howard), due out February 2. In the tome, the two are honest about their undertaking. “Everything has changed dramatically since I stopped picking and choosing which parts of the Bible I would follow,” Meagan writes. “When I stopped and focused on the hardest thing, which is sex, I watched my life and career change.”
In our on-demand, express-delivery and microwave-meal society, waiting for anything, especially sex, can seem inconvenient. Yet growing discipline could be the key to unlocking lasting love and joy. DeVon, 37, and Meagan, 34, both credit their waiting season as pivotal in their journey and in strengthening their ability to be patient. For Meagan, it was a chance to know herself in new ways. “I learned self-control and loved myself in a more meaningful way,” she says. “If I could give God one of the most tempting areas of life, anything else is possible.”
The couple hope more singles consider saving sex until marriage, especially in the Black community. “We need to start looking at how we date. We need to start talking about sex in our community,” DeVon says. “We can start to consider another way to do this that will produce more peace and better health— spiritually, mentally and emotionally. We can put ourselves on a path to healing and reconciling relationships.” Though The Wait centers on celibacy, mastering delayed gratification has an impact on every area of life from finances to family relationships.
GET GOD’S BEST
Growing up in Oakland, DeVon knew he loved the Lord. He also wanted a career in entertainment and, at 18, got the first taste of the high life while interning for Will Smith’s management team. During that time, he struggled to remain true to his religious beliefs. In his early twenties, he committed to celibacy. “The decision to wait was one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever made in my life,” he shares in the book. “I asked myself, ‘What if what I was doing disqualified me for the full manifestation of the call God has on my life? Would it be worth it?’ ” For DeVon, short-term pleasure outside of a commitment before God wasn’t worth missing his blessings. “I couldn’t reconcile the idea that at the end of my life, God might say, ‘Here’s what I had planned for you, but because you showed yourself unworthy, I couldn’t do all I wanted to do in your life.’ I wasn’t prepared to take that risk.” So DeVon waited for God to reveal his wife.
Inside the producer’s office hang framed posters featuring his theatrical projects with their opening week box office earnings next to them. The Pursuit of Happyness boasted $109 million, and Heaven Is for Real grossed more than $29 million. Perched on his bookshelf are scripts he’s helped bring to the big screen. Alongside the remakes of The Karate Kid and Annie rests Jumping the Broom, the film that jump-started his own marriage.
In 2010 Meagan arrived on the set of the romantic film unsure of what the future held for love. “I was in the fourth year of a relationship that had become destructive,” she notes. “I would see DeVon on set and think, That’s the type of guy I wish I could be with.” After the shoot wrapped, Meagan went home and ended things with the man she’d been dating. “My next assignment was to work on myself.”
Seeing her mother’s anguish after her parents split taught Meagan to guard her heart at an early age. “I avoided failure and heartbreak. Choices I thought I was making out of strength were actually out of weakness and fear,” she writes. “I decided to slow down and become celibate. God had let me make my mistakes. Now it was time to do it God’s way.” While actively spending time in prayer, journaling and stepping up her self-care, Meagan felt God reveal to her DeVon was her husband. It would be almost a year before he asked her out, after their paths continued to cross while promot- ing Jumping the Broom. “ ‘The wait’ is first about my time with God, time I needed to grow and begin the healing process,” Meagan writes. “Those nine months between God telling me that DeVon was my husband and his asking me out on our first date was one of the toughest times of my life.”
DATE WHILE YOU WAIT
Sex is a gift from God in which you are one with another person. The Franklins don’t shy away from its power. “There is nothing wrong with sex and sexuality. God created both for the enjoyment of married couples,” the duo share. In our society, waiting for marriage to have sex is often considered a practice of the past. Yet the effect of sex on our spirits is unchanging. “When you have sex with someone, you are leaving them a piece of yourself and taking a part of them with you,” they add.
Abstaining while you date allows for a clear assessment of another person without sex clouding your judgment. Choosing to date while you wait requires planning and much communication between couples. DeVon and Meagan had to learn each other’s triggers while dating to avoid temptation.
“I had been celibate for longer when we started to date, so my resolve was stronger than hers. We would hug and she would say, “That’s enough,” DeVon shares. After learning to master their natural urges while dating, the couple hope to help singles and other couples gain greater clarity and strength in their relationships. “Waiting is an act of power,” Meagan writes. “It’s declaring that you know and accept yourself, love yourself and trust God.”
Deciding not to have sex before marriage has unique considerations for men and women. In the book, Meagan tackles common concerns for women from whether men are willing to wait to how to deal with meddling friends. DeVon breaks down society’s expectation of the hypersexualized male. “Think about how many men who used to be on top of the world who can’t even get a job because they had no discipline in their personal lives. God gave men their sex drive, but he also gifted them with restraint, wisdom and the ability to inspire,” DeVon writes. “As a man, if you can be disciplined in your sexual life, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
DeVon and Meagan began dating in May 2011. That September they decided to go on a Daniel-style fast, giving up meat, bread and sweets for 40 days. “We wanted God to bring us closer together, as we believed we were moving toward getting engaged.” They also began four months of pre-engagement couples counseling. They put their relationship counselor Bishop T.D. Jakes’s advice on choosing a spouse like you buy a house into action: Do your research and examine everything before making a decision.
“Counseling was a tremendous blessing to our marriage,” Meagan says. “It made us think and see each other’s baggage. What can you live with?”
For the Franklins, “the wait” is not punishment. It is a season of denying your immediate urge in search of a priceless gift: authentic love. After ten months of dating and actively getting to know each other, DeVon dropped to one knee and asked Meagan to marry him. The couple tied the knot in 2012. Of course, if everyone knows you have waited, there will be plenty of comments on your wedding day about the night ahead. “One of his cousins had a dirty joke for us during his speech,” Meagan recalls. “My family was nervous since his family was so rooted in the church. That joke let us know they are free-spirited, funny and good-natured.” The couple offer never-before-seen photos of their wedding as a special bonus for those who preorder The Wait.
HAVE DISCIPLINE FOR THE JOURNEY
Three years after the two were married, the blessings for their sacrifice are still coming in. “There has been nothing about this walk that has been easy, yet the rewards that have been reaped because of the sacrifice are irreplaceable,” DeVon says. “Any great relationship takes time. The more you try to rush it, the more you risk damaging it and yourself in the process. When you are used to delaying gratification, you can be patient to allow potential to manifest.”
At the core of The Wait is trust. “God has a destiny set up for you, but you get to choose whether to follow,” the couple imparts. “You decide how to express God’s vision for you.”
For Meagan, the fruit of their waiting season includes more confidence in herself and her marriage. “Because God sent us to each other and ordained our marriage, and the clarity I received through my wait, I know there’s nothing we can’t do. I don’t worry about him cheating or other things that plague other relationships. We have a lot of peace.” The couple are also clear that marriage is more than a good time and a calling on their lives. “The person you marry is your partner in life and purpose. God has given you help to do what he wants.”
This feature was originally published in February 2016 issue of ESSENCE.