Throughout most of Tee Uzoigwe’s collegiate basketball career, his teammates teased him about being a virgin. But that all changed one day when the athletic trainer walked into the locker room, waving a sheet of paper.
“Guys, I want you to sit down right quick,” he said, “because we have a very serious incident going on here."
He explained that a girl who had HIV had been arrested. When asked about her sexual partners, she gave the names of more than 50 young men. "You need to come and check and see if your name is on this list,” the trainer announced.
Tee did not need to check the list.
"Everybody on the team went from teasing me to wanting to be me," he says, "And I remember thinking, God is so good."
Tee was grateful that day that he had decided as a young man to save his virginity for his wife. He remembered what his pastor had once told him: “Once you lose your virginity, you cannot get it back.”
He had seen friends and family members give away their virginity, as though it were a cheap party favor. And he had witnessed some difficult results: sexually transmitted diseases … children out of wedlock … abortions.
Yes, he could have made the same choices. That would have been the easy thing to do. But when he looked at all of the devastation in his family he said, “I want something different.” And that difference meant honoring God by following His design and abstaining from sex until marriage.
Wanting a better life
Tee’s mother was a young teenager when he was born. His father treated her like property and was seldom home. There wasn’t much food in their trailer, and they had little clothing. She wanted a better life for her children.
He remembers her snuggling him, his older brother, and younger sister together on the couch when he was about 5, and hearing her cry out, “God, if you are real, if You are out there, find some way to get to my kids.”
Within weeks of that prayer, a new church began in the mobile-home park where the Uzoigwe family lived. The church started helping with the family's food and clothing needs. Church members also started picking up Tee and his siblings for Sunday services.
“My family didn’t really follow Christ,” Tee says, “but the church played a part in helping us get introduced to Jesus.” And no one played a bigger part than Pastor John Hurd and his wife, Betty. For most of his life Tee has called them his grandparents.
“My grandparents paid attention to us,” Tee says, “and we never had anyone really pay attention to us before.” He wondered why they were so nice “because we were young black kids and they were a Caucasian older couple.”
The Hurds kept telling Tee about a man named Jesus. They told him, “This Jesus is the reason for what we are doing.” Tee wanted the same Jesus that the Hurds had. When he was 7 years old, he accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior.
“I want something different”
The more that Tee got to know the Hurds and the people at church, the more he realized something was not right in his home. “I longed for a family that was better than what I had.” He told his pastor that he wanted a godly wife. “Start praying for her right now,” Pastor Hurd told him, “and you be the right kind of person."
When Tee was about 11, at his mother's request, Pastor Hurd explained the facts of life to him. Not only did he teach Tee about the physical aspects of sexual intimacy, but he also told him about God’s design for sex between a husband and a wife. He explained why it was worth waiting for God’s best by saving himself for marriage.
Pastor Hurd also showed Tee real-life examples of what happens when someone has premarital sex. He pointed out people with AIDS, single women with children out of wedlock, and young men paying child support for a "one-night stand."
"Look at what happened to this guy who started having sex before marriage,” Pastor Hurd would say. And when Tee’s cousin got pregnant out of wedlock, he told him, “I know that’s a tough thing. God is not trying to keep you from having fun when He says ‘Don’t have sex before marriage.’ He is trying to protect you.”
And then he pointed Tee to 2 Timothy 2:22—“Now flee from youthful lusts.”
Pastor Hurd explained to Tee that it was important that he make up his mind beforehand about what to do in a situation where he might be tempted. So Tee made a rule for himself: He would not have any girls in his room except for his mother and sisters.
“My grandma [Mrs. Hurd] used to always say, ‘God knew how He created your body; you need to flee. You don’t need to sit there and try to say, “I can handle this.” You need to flee.’”
She also helped Tee appreciate modesty in young women. When she and Tee walked together, she might critique the dress of the young women who passed by. “That isn’t attractive when a girl has a low-cut blouse and her pants are too tight,” she’d say. Or, “That’s a good example. She is attractive but she is covered up well. She’s drawing attention to her face, not necessarily to her body.”
When Tee arrived on the college campus he was determined—with God's help—to abstain from sex before marriage. He was still praying for his future spouse and wanted to marry a virgin ... a girl who was modestly dressed ... who had a passion for Christ. He wanted to break the legacy of brokenness in his family and begin a new legacy. When he married, he wanted it to be for life.
While other guys were partying, Tee would often spend time in his dorm room with the Lord. He’d say, God, I’m making a stand here, and write in the margins of his worn Bible. On March 14, 2006, he wrote by Matthew 19:7-9, “I will wait for you, Mrs. Uzoigwe.”
“It ain’t happening”
Tee waited for Mrs. Uzoigwe throughout four years of college and during graduate school. When he finished school and began coaching at a junior high school, he was still waiting.
“I felt like I could support a wife,” Tee says, “and the passion [for a wife] kept growing.”
Tee recalls thinking, I am 27 years old—it ain’t happening. Despite his doubts, he kept reading the Scriptures and prayed, God, either send me a wife or take away this passion and give me the gift of chastity.”
In early 2009 Tee wondered if he would be single forever. He shared with Pastor Hurd how hard it was for him to maintain his purity. He and his “Grandpa” spent lots of time talking together around a table. “I felt like I could ask him anything,” Tee says, “that he wasn’t going to come down on my head it I had an impure thought. … He understood that I was going to have these feelings.”
And God seemed to tell Tee not to give up. Tee would pray, God, please protect her wherever she is. Just keep her safe and God, if this is not something You want in my life, change the desire in my heart and help me have the gift of singleness.
Sometimes Tee would think about a girl who he knew in college, Erica Smith. “She was the coolest girl I hung around and I couldn’t find her anymore.”
Unbeknownst to him, Erica was teaching in a nearby school. One of her former fourth-grade students, a girl named Cydney, was in Tee’s sixth-grade P.E. class.
Cydney and Erica had kept in touch, and one day Cydney asked Erica if she happened to know Coach Tee. Surprised, Erica said, “He was only my best bud in college.”
Erica decided to play a trick on Tee. She wrote just two words, “Guess Who?” in funny little letters on a piece of paper and asked Cydney to give it to him.
A few days later Cydney handed Tee the unsigned note. He says that the way the words were written reminded him of the notes that Erica Smith gave him in college. They had not seen one another in three years.
Tee answered, “Erica.”
“I looked at the little girl.” Tee recalls, “and she was like How did you know it was her? … And we started having a conversation about how Erica was doing.”
Erica’s parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have all been followers of Jesus Christ. She says her mom and dad, who have been married for more than three decades, have been her example for how to build a good marriage. She watched the way they sacrificed for one another, the way their eyes met, the words they spoke. "I just knew they genuinely loved each other."
Her parents helped her understand that God designed sex for marriage. Erica says, “Love is respecting you enough to say, ‘I’m going to wait.’” And unlike many of the girls she knew in high school and college, Erica was willing to wait for a godly spouse.
One day Erica asked a sorority sister, who had a reputation for loose morals, why she constantly made fun of her. "Because you are a virgin," she answered. " ... I'd give anything to go back and be a virgin."
Erica became a student of marriages: the good and the bad. She noticed that the marriages she valued were centered on Jesus Christ. Above all, she says, she wanted her future husband “to be God-fearing because I knew if he wasn’t God-fearing, we wouldn’t make it.” And she often prayed for her future husband. “God protect him and keep him. Whatever it is, God, let him know that You are still there and still in his life."
She also started praying that God would let her future spouse know that she was still out there, and not to give up. And she asked God to prepare her for him.
More than friends
After getting the note from Erica, Tee called her in March 2009. They began to rekindle their longtime friendship by texting one another and hanging out together. This quickly blossomed into steady dating and Tee wondered if Erica would be more than a good friend. Was she God’s choice for his wife?
Tee was attracted to Erica because of her character and passion to follow Jesus Christ. He also noticed that she was a frugal spender. The first day he went to her house, he recalls, she said she wanted to show him what she had bought that day. Tee expected to see all sorts of expensive purchases. But instead she showed him a shirt and announced that she had only paid $9 for it.
Tee says that he could see that Erica was not only a beautiful godly woman, but also sensible about her buying habits. He thought, This is a good candidate [for marriage].
He also recalls thinking, as he watched Erica interact with her father, Oh, man … if she respects her dad like that, I know that she will respect me [if we marry].
Erica says that Tee’s heart is what attracted her to him. She was looking for a Christian man whose life would say to her, “I genuinely am going to love you and I genuinely want to take care of you and I genuinely want to respect you.”
In April 2009 Tee asked for Erica's hand in marriage. Six weeks later, she became Mrs. Tarvoris Uzoigwe.
“I remember coming down [the aisle] and seeing that Tee was acting like a kid in the candy store,” Erica says. At that moment “I finally got to see why I was so happy to wait on God.”
Tee thought that day about family, friends, teammates, acquaintances, professors, and many others who had told him that it was unlikely that he would find a girl with “the entire package.” Some had suggested that he choose a girl with a bit of a tainted past. Tee remembered a trusted friend advising him, “Your time is running out. You are too picky.”
But Pastor Hurd had told Tee to wait for God's best for him.
As his bride walked towards him that day, Tee looked at God's best for him. He says he felt the presence of the Lord. “It was as if God gave me one of his angels to marry. I felt like someone gave me the gift of all gifts. She was more than beautiful, she was captivating. ... She was what I had waited for my entire life.”
Because they were sexually pure before marriage, Erica and Tee say they never "have to worry about who [the other has] been with. You don't have to question who was better [sexually]." They say that they feel more secure knowing that when they married, sexual experiences were new to both of them. "And this makes us ... even closer,” says Tee.
When Tee was a little boy, he wanted something different for his family. Now married for more than five years and the father of a little girl, he and Erica are living that different life. "I trusted God to be faithful," he says. "He did above what I could have imagined."
Copyright © 2010, 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Editor’s note: Tee is now a campus minister at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He and Erica continue to invest in their relationship. Since they married, they have attended two Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and The Art of Marriage® video event. Tee has also participated in FamilyLife’s video event for men, Stepping Up®.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.
1. If you are considering marriage, read “6 Characteristics for a Potential Spouse” and apply it to your situation.
2. Read “Why Get Married,” and then hear what Jessica and Lance Miller told FamilyLife Today radio listeners about living together before marriage.
3. Listen to authors Dr. Joe McIlhaney and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush explain the link between sex and attachment.