[unmentionables 4.0] the dating game.

I haven’t always loved talking about dating. This is a relatively new thing for me. When I started leading girls at Disciple Now weekends, they started asking me about relationships and what college boys are like. Yes. That happened…real life. I had to get comfortable sharing my experiences pretty quickly. I also quickly learned that there are a lot of different opinions out there about whether Christians girls and guys should be dating.

And so the great debate is this: Is it okay for us to date?

First of all…yowza. You ask a circle of people this question and you’ll get a circle of different answers. My friends and [unmentionables] co-bloggers have lots of different experiences and opinions regarding this question.

One friend points out that every person and relationship have their own story, reactions, and consequences. Everyone is different. There are some relationships that have very positive outcomes and there are some instances where you have to learn lessons the hard way. This friend was in a relationship that left her incredibly insecure and she drags the baggage from that relationship into every other that she has. Not just romantic – these insecurities, regrets, and weights follow her into relationships with her friends and family, as well.

Another friend says that she has dating experience and she’s glad to have dated other guys. She says, “I’m definitely not glad I have dated every guy that I have, but there is one in particular that I really learned a lot from. And that was the first one. The first guy I dated was not the guy for me. He didn’t turn out to be husband material. That being said, I learned how important communication is in a relationship. I learned it from him and our relationship that failed because we could not communicate. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I learned that lesson before I met my boyfriend, who is absolutely husband material (we just aren’t there yet).”

It’s so easy to have regrets regarding past relationships and then let that regret follow you around. What’s hard to do is to let it go. It’s so difficult for us to let God have our struggles and live in the freedom that results. Why is that? Wouldn’t that seem easier?

If you’re new to the dating scene and you aren’t sure what you want or should want, know this: It’s your choice. You can choose to see guys as brothers in Christ and cultivate relationships with them that center on seeking God or you can choose to put your desires first. You can choose to enter into a relationship that honors God or you can choose to put yourself in a situation that may result in regret and baggage.

If you’re a seasoned, dating veteran, remember this: You may have made bad decisions in the past, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 34:18, “God is near to the brokenhearted.” You can let the burden go and make way for a Christ-driven relationship. You don’t have to live in the shadow of the past. 2 Samuel 22:29 says, “…my God lightens my darkness.” Then again, you may not have any regrets at all. You may have had a series of relationships that left you with happy memories, strong friendships, and plenty of positive life experiences…and there’s nothing wrong with that!

A guy friend says that dating just for the sake of dating isn’t healthy, whereas dating for marriage is. He says, “When we view dating through the lens of marriage, we see that it’s not just about finding a girlfriend, it’s about pursuing a bride.” Committing ourselves emotionally can be just as dangerous as committing ourselves physically outside the covenant of marriage. Some people have this false idea that when we date around and we’re not making physical commitments, then there’s no harm.

Another guy friend says, “Any dating relationship should have marriage as the goal. That’s not to say that asking someone out is a proposal, but it should be working toward that end. Otherwise both people are wasting their time.”

If a relationship isn’t on the path towards marriage, then what are we doing? Our culture says that guys need girls for sex and girls need guys for love. Where does marriage fit into that equation? It doesn’t.

We have a chance to end the idea that young people must constantly be in a relationship to be happy and fulfilled. What would our lives look like if we made the choice to be in love with and in full pursuit of the Savior? What would our hearts look like?

Dating is always a touchy subject in Christian circles. Some people are all for dating around and having life experiences, while others are really shut off to the idea of dating until you meeting your future spouse. While you can gain a lot of positive life experiences and make a lot of great memories in a relationship, when that courtship doesn’t follow God’s will or isn’t done in a biblical manner, problems can arise and sometimes regret can sink in. A guy told me that dating is really fun and that companionship is one of the greatest things that God has blessed us with. He’s so right! When we respect each other and honor God above all things in a relationship, it can be one of the greatest gifts.

Advice from an [unmentionables] collaborator:

I feel the best way to learn about successful marriages is to look at the examples of others who glorify God better together than apart. Proverbs 15:22 states “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Seeking the direction of an older married couple or woman even in your dating life helps you learn without tying yourself to emotional heartache that carries into your future marriage.

[next up: making the most of your single status.]

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[unmentionables 3.0] an unprotected heart.

I read a book called, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” [IKDG] by Joshua Harris. One of the first things in this book is about going through life in a series of short-term relationships. There’s a girl who has a dream that all of her groom’s ex-girlfriends were lined up behind him on their wedding day. Think about having all of your past baggage and relationship mistakes with you at the altar. Imagine having all of your ex-boyfriends or girlfriends standing in a line next to you. Not only could that potentially be incredibly uncomfortable, but what would they have to say about you?

Would they mention all the promises you’d made to them about a future together? Would they stand there feeling betrayed and misled?

One of my guy friends thinks this idea is dumb. Ha! Isn’t it interesting how girls and guys view things? When I read this in IKDG, I thought, “Oh, man! That makes so much sense! How humiliating…oh wait…they’re not literally standing next to you…but still!”

One of my [unmentionables] collaborators says that she connects songs, restaurants, movies and places with past boyfriends. She assumes that it will be hard to create a life centered around joyful moments with her future husband when places they go to or things they do may bring up past hurts. She said her youth minster once told her that each thing you do with a boyfriend prior to your husband is one less thing you save for him. This is true not only with sexual boundaries but with other experiences as well.

Whether we want to admit it or not, each relationship, each kiss, each indulgence is like taking a piece of our heart and giving it to someone else. Then we stand there on our wedding day to give whatever is left to our future bride or groom. For some, there’s a lot to offer. For others, we have scraps of our hearts left to offer up. This can be caused by past relationships, physical abuse, emotional abuse, etc.

An [unmentionables] friend says, “My heart is full and I could right now, today get married to my boyfriend and he wouldn’t get some chipped-away-at heart. Sure, I’ve been hurt, I’ve had sex before, but thinking your heart is anything less than full and perfect because you have loved another is the work of the devil, who wants to make you feel worthless…God had forgiven me a long time ago. I just had to forgive myself. My heart has never been fuller.”

Later, we’ll talk about forgiveness and redemption – healing our hearts. We’ll talk about how Christ makes them whole again.

Another analogy that an [unmentionables] collaborator shared is that our hearts are like stickers. When we give our hearts to someone, it’s like taking that sticker and sticking it on them. When we want to take our sticker back, we have to peel it off and it leaves behind that sticky residue stuff – a piece of our heart. If we keep sticking and unsticking it on someone, it loses its stickiness. Dating before marriage does have its benefits in some situations; there are lessons to learn and relationships to build. However, not every relationship will have its benefits. Some can leave us bruised and broken. These relationships harden our hearts.

[next up: dating.]

Advice from an [unmentionables] friend:

Guard your heart. My friend mentions how men often give “love” to get sex and women tend to give sex because they want love. (This is something that is talked about a lot in Shannon Ethridge’s “Every Young Woman’s Battle.”) When a woman wants emotional support and attention, she tends to accept physical needs. As women, we have this intense desire to be loved. Sometimes that desire goes so far and is so intense that we’re willing to do just about anything to feel loved.

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[unmentionables 2.0] a bit about wedding season.

I’m at that stage in my life where I’ve seen every episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Wedding season is always an emotional roller-coaster for me. I’m also that girl at every wedding that’s crying. It’s amazing how easily I can cry. I’ve always said I’m not a “cry-er”…I’m more like a “weep-er.”

“Always a bridesmaid (or wedding guest) never a bride.” That’s so stupid. Whoever came up with that phrase should be…she should be…she’s the bane of my existence whoever she is. And we aaalll know it was a “she!”

Wedding season does have positives for us single ladies. For one, we get to see dozens of examples of weddings. We make note of all of the little things we like and copy and paste in our brains the things we don’t like.

Recently, I experienced a low point. One of those, “no one will ever want me or love me or want to marry me so I’ll never have children and always just be the cool aunt and teach other people’s kids and I’ll be a sad lonely old woman that has a bunch of cats and people pity” kind of days. Okay…more like weeks. Then I attended a wedding that was so very Christ-centered that it snapped me back to reality.

It really was an important moment in my journey down the path of self-pity. God’s timing is always better than mine. Why would I want to rush into a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship? If I’m not ready in God’s eyes, then I’d be a crap girlfriend. Been there, done that. If I’d be a crap girlfriend, then that can only lead to being a crap wife. We all deserve an awesome, Christ-centered relationship and marriage because we are children of the creator of the Universe. That’s something worth waiting for. When I’m busy feeling sorry for myself, I miss out on rejoicing with my friends in the love that they’ve found.

When I was in early high school, I was feeling discouraged because all of my friends were dating and I felt like nobody wanted me. I remember talking to a friend about how I was feeling and she said that I should start dating. That way, I will know what I want in a husband and I’ll already have some relationship experience when I meet “him.”

I’m really old fashioned. I’m not the type to just walk up to any ol’ Joe and ask him to the sock hop. (Did I take the old fashioned theme too far?) Don’t date so that you can weed out the bad ones. There’s a great Gardener doing the weeding and upkeep for you. He’s handling the hard part. You just have to hold tight. I’m not saying its wrong to date…I’m just saying that there’s a lot of awesome things that come from waiting, which we’ll talk about more in future posts of this series.

Patiently wait for His best.

One of my friends says that she didn’t seek to glorify God in her past relationships. She also didn’t strive to guard her heart. These both taught her important lessons, but also cause her to bring a lot of emotional baggage into her future marriage. I hope my husband will love me for me and not for how much dating experience I’ve had.

Our Christian culture tends to lean towards teachings about finding the right person, when in reality we should be striving to be the right person.

“He’s the one…”

“She’s the one…”

What about you? Are YOU the one? Are you being the best version of yourself? A guy friend told me once, “Every girl wants Prince Charming right now, but they don’t realize that their prince may not be ready yet. Girls will chase after any guy who gives them attention hoping that they’ll somehow grow into the man they dreamed of, but not every frog turns out to be a prince.” Wouldn’t it be best if we entered into a relationship when God says we’re ready, when we know we’re ready, and when we know the other person is ready? Let’s just all be ready! Relationships can suffer when the timing isn’t right. This is especially true if friends become a romantic couple before the time is right. Some damages seem irreparable. Don’t worry. We’ll talk more next week about dating! My friends have given me a lot of different opinions! Exciting stuff!

I remember the first time I read Song of Solomon 8:4, “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (NIV). I also love the NLT version, “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.” I love the idea of making a covenant with God, promising Him that we won’t push the boundaries of ourselves and His will and that we will wait until the time is right.

I love this post by Michael Lawrence!

[next up: an unprotected heart.]

Advice from an [unmentionables] friend:

Get to know guys in groups. Develop friendships before anything else.┬áSure, you’ll have that chemistry right off the bat – in many cases. But take things slowly times a billion. Don’t be alone with a guy. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that regardless of how well you think you have self-control…you don’t.

You know I’ve always got a song to relate things to! This is one of my favorites by Christy Nockels, “Already All I Need.”

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[unmentionables 1.0] a new series on the things we don’t talk about.

Nobody likes to talk about the hard stuff. I think most of that comes from conflicting ideas about what Christians should and shouldn’t be doing regarding sex and relationships. Nobody wants to look like a “bad Christian” for having different ideas. Nobody wants to have people’s opinions of them changed.

I want to preface by saying I’m not writing to damn those who have already fallen to sexual temptation. And by “fallen”, I don’t mean beyond the reach of help. And by “help”, I don’t mean you are downtrodden and that I’m looking down my nose at you. Most of us are victims of sexual temptations, be it thoughts or actions. Those who aren’t are either really blessed or lying.

I’ve been reading a few books about sexual temptations and the Christian life. I’m not going to be one of those people who pretends that they don’t deal with sexual temptations. I’m a human being, after all. A 20-something college student human person. That’s a recipe for disaster.

One of the books I’ve been reading is called, “Every Young Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World” by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn. Whew…that’s a really long title! I didn’t realize it until I started typing it! I’m going to write a series on sexual temptations and the Christian life. Don’t know why…I just think I’m supposed to.

I also don’t think I’m supposed to do it alone.

That’s right! I’ve got a group of awesome ladies who have agreed to be guest bloggers and collaborators for this series. This new series about the “tough stuff” is going to be written using 7 brains. That’s a lot of information and a lot of life experiences. I really believe God will utilize this partnership for His glory and that together, we can encourage others. I’ve even managed to wrangle up some guys to give their perspective on a few things!

Be looking for posts in this new series: Unmentionables.

I’m really excited about this project. If you want to follow along with this series, make sure you’re subscribed so you’ll be notified when a new post is up! Email me your thoughts if you have something to say at a2911student@gmail.com

Some of the books I’ll be referencing are:

“Lady in Waiting” by Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris

“Every Young Woman’s Battle” by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn

“The Fantasy Fallacy” by Shannon Ethridge

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