So You Want to Date? Here is How.

So You Want to Date? Here is How.

How we date is just as important as who we date.

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about a couple of important principles when it comes to WHO we date…1) Character over characteristics, 2) Don’t settle, and 3) Focus on being the right person not finding the right person.

Today, we’re going to look at HOW we date. What does the process look like?

Note: This post is a summary of two pieces of curriculum that I can not take any credit for. One is an Orange Curriculum XP3 series called Obsessed, and the other is a talk on Dating from Ben Stuart of Breakaway Ministries. 

Ah, young love. There’s nothing like the first few days and weeks of a relationship when you’re figuring out things you have in common, creating inside jokes, and learning new things about each other. You fall asleep at night texting them and wake up the next morning with them on your mind. Guys, you start using emojis in your texts for the first time. You walk around with a goofy smile on your face because your head is in the clouds. You can’t think of anything else. Everything else around you is a blur. You find yourself wishing you could spend every moment of your life with them. It’s fun. It’s an emotional rush.

But then there’s a problem. And it happens when you actually do end up spending every moment with them.

Your friends drop off the face of the earth. You never hang with your family anymore. Your grades start to slip. Your performance on the team starts to suffer. Everything in your life starts to fall by the wayside because, let’s face it… YOU’RE IN LOVE!

Maybe this has been you before. Maybe it’s kind of embarrassing to remember those days. Or maybe that’s you right now, but you’re totally oblivious to it. But all your friends are hoping you’ll realize it. Or maybe you haven’t been in a relationship before, but you hear this and think, I want to feel that way.

But when the dating process becomes unhealthy, it doesn’t end up being a good thing. There are huge risks in making dating a bigger deal than it ought to be at this stage of your life (high school).

  • We miss out. There’s so much to do in high school that you will miss out on if you’re obsessed with a relationship or the idea of a relationship
  • We alienate people. Your friends aren’t stupid. They realize—even if you think they don’t—when your heart, time, energy, and thoughts are completely not in their world. They feel distance and separation, and eventually, that takes a toll on a relationship. All of a sudden, the people you used to care about the most don’t feel like you care about them at all, even if you do. People notice when they’ve fallen completely off your priority list. And eventually you will fall of their lists as well.

When dating becomes your whole world, you’re not really dating any more—you’re pretending to be married. You’ve begun to act like an old married couple in a teenage couple’s world. Some of you may think that sounds great! But it’s actually weird. And not healthy. And even if you do end up with this person forever, you’re missing out on the whole purpose of dating right now.

But this isn’t just my opinion. Look at a verse from the book of Proverbs. If you’ve never read the book of Proverbs, I highly recommend it. It’s full of practical and honest information—and it’s written by the wisest man to ever live—King Solomon.

Proverbs 25:16 says this, “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it and you will vomit.”

What did I tell you? It doesn’t get a lot more practical than that. Eat too much honey and you’ll barf. That’s just good advice. And it’s in the Bible.

Just like honey, just like sugar, dating is the same way. It’s good. It’s fun. And because we like dating—and it provides a lot of cool things—we’re tempted to over-indulge. There’s something appealing about getting caught up in a relationship, but too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. Dating might not make you literally vomit, but obsess over it too much, and you may end up equally miserable.

One of our college students, when asked what they would say to their high school selves about dating wrote to me:

I wish I would have known in high school to relax and not take dating so seriously. High school is a perfect time to build your foundation with Christ before you get thrown into college and there’s no rush to become serious with a specific person yet. High school is a great time to make friends and build a community instead of isolating yourself with one person.

We need some insight into what dating should actually look like.

How should we date in a way that glorifies God?

1. Date prayerfully.

Prayer takes the anxiety out of dating. Pray and then pursue that person with the Lord being the focus of YOUR life.

Trusting God through prayer will take the desperation out of dating. Being satisfied in Christ first means you have the contentment you need to say to God, “If he is not the One for me, I will be okay.” I trust God with my life.

One way we have to trust God, prayerfully, is to understand that no one can complete you. We have bought into this lie that we aren’t complete until find this person out there that will bring fulfillment and satisfaction.

You don’t have to be anyone’s significant other to live a significant life. There isn’t a human being on the planet who has the capacity to complete you and make you whole. The more you search for fulfillment in others and not in Christ, the more miserable you will become.

There are many ways that God describes His relationship to us throughout the Bible. He is depicted as a King, and we are his subjects, or as a Father and we are His children, and even as a Builder and we are His building. One of my favorite metaphors, however, is the metaphor of marriage; He is the husband, we are His wife. This is all throughout the Bible, over and over God describes Himself as the groom, and us the expectant Bride.

Here is what Isaiah says,

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” – Isaiah 62:4-5

Every bride, as she walks down the aisle looks stunningly beautiful. I remember my wedding day, watching my bride Jen, turn the corner and walk down the aisle. It seemed natural that everyone stood from their seated positions – something like that just awakens that kind of response.

Now, Scripture is telling us is that is how God sees us. Which is crazy because he knows every part of us–the good, the bad, and the ugly. My wife had no idea what she was getting into with me! Yet, God in His grace, looks at us and rejoices over us.

Before we jump into a dating relationship, we need know that His love for us is enough.

2. Date with clarity

Trusting God in prayer helps bring clarity to relationships. You don’t have to play games. You can have the confidence in God to be clear with your intentions.

Ephesians 4:15 tells us to “speak truth to one another in love.”

Proverbs 24:26 says, “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”

Say what you mean and mean what you say. And guys take the initiative. Use the word date. Make your intentions clear. But you can only be honest and vulnerable if you are okay with the answer and content in your relationship Christ. If you realize know one person can complete you.

3. Date with autonomy.

The Bible acknowledges only two relationship statuses:

When you are single…brother and sister in Christ. When you are married…husband and wife. And there are a different verses about what this relationship should look like.

Here is the problem: in our culture we have created an intermediate category called “we’re dating”. With that status we think we have certain responsibilities and certain privileges and this is where all of our confusion lies.

“Hey, why didn’t you text me today? You’re my boyfriend, your supposed to text me and let me know what you are doing.”

“You are my girlfriend and so I have access to your body. I can put my hand where I want.”

The problem is the Bible doesn’t recognize this status. Here is where understanding you are brothers and sisters in Christ clears things up. For example, I get asked “How far is too far sexually when we are dating?” Well, look at 1 Timothy 5:1-2:

5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

How far is too far with your sister? Your mom?

We need to give people total autonomy, even while dating, to make their own decisions. I don’t care if you use the words boyfriend or girlfriend, but when you do, know there are not certain rights or privileges that come with it. Dating is a process of evaluation not a status that gives you certain rights and privileges.

3. Purity

And that is where we come to purity.

If dating is a process, sex sabotages the process.

Read 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. Sex was intended for marriage to unite and bond two people together.

Science has now discovered what the bible has taught all along–that you are chemically and emotionally connected to a person when you engage in sexual activity. They have discovered when you participate in sexual activity the brain releases a drug called dopamine. Sexual activity causes a dopamine brainstorm which one researcher compared to the effects of heroin on the brain. It is no wonder we can not be objective in evaluating a person when we are chemically addicted to the rush we fell when we are with them because of sex.

Love without friendship is infatuation.

4. Patience

Finally, we need to date with patience. Do not rush into forever. Give things time. Be patient and wait. Our Pastor, Dr. Carney, has told our high school seniors they should at least know someone for 5 seasons before marrying them. I believe he is very wise to tell us to observe someone’s behavior over time and see how their character holds up in good and bad, warm or cold, etc.

The best way to strengthen your future marriage is to patiently work on your friendship first. I agree with Tim Downs, from Family Life Today, who says:

People seem to have two sets of rules for relationships: One for friendship and the other for romance. We long for romance so we rush past friendship and hurl ourselves into romance. Then we wonder why romance doesn’t last.

Years ago I discovered that there’s only one set of rules–the rules of friendship. I met a woman and said to her, ‘I just want to be good friends,’ and now we are married and have kids. I fell in love with my best friend. It’s the only way to go. 

 

I am looking forward to continuing more blog posts weekly on rhbcyouth.wordpress.com Hope you will find it helpful!

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3 Dating Mistakes You Might Be Making

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Dating is a complex, confusing, and sometimes painful process. How do you go from “Oh, she’s cute” to “You are the one I want to marry”?

One of the key points in scripture about dating is the fact that the Bible doesn’t ever talk about dating at all. There are no words in the original languages that can be translated girlfriend/boyfriend or “boo” or “bae”. There are no verses that say, “And Moses took Zipporah to Chilis on a date…they shared fajitas and talked about their feelings.”

Dating as our culture knows it is never mentioned in scripture because it is a fairly modern invention. There has always been a process of evaluation that leads to marriage, but different cultures and time periods have had different ways of doing it. And there is a lot of confusion about what that is supposed to look like. What is even worse is our culture has turned a process into a status. We are going to talk about that next week.

I would define dating as the process of evaluating who you want to spend the rest of your life with. What are you evaluating in dating? You are evaluating a person, and even though scripture doesn’t use the word dating, it has a ton to say about WHO we should date. Next week we will cover HOW we should date.

The biggest mistake we make in determining WHO we should date is this: We look for characteristics not character.

Mistake #1: We look for characteristics not character. 

We look at features and they are not a bad thing to notice, however, they are a terrible foundation for a future marriage. Ask someone what they are looking for in a girl or a guy and what do you get? More often than not, you get a list of features: tall, not tall, funny, serious, fit, or smart. The list is different for everyone. But this sets us up for some real disappointment: Why? Because NO ONE can measure up!

In the age of the Tinder app,  we have distilled dating to a swipe left or right. We evaluate people solely on two characteristics: Do they have something witty/funny to say? Are they hot? Every potential mate is simplified into what scripture calls charm and beauty.

Proverbs 31:30 warns us about evaluating a person on charm and beauty alone. The verse says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” In other words, charm can deceive us into thinking someone is who they are not. Charm can hide true character. And beauty–it is vain, empty. Beauty fades, it doesn’t last.

We must run away from this consumer mentality of dating because it is toxic. We have turned people into products. You are not an assembly of features, you are a person. And you need someone who is going to see you that way.

How do you evaluate whether you are being treated as a person or an assembly of features? What do they compliment you on? What are their texts to you like? Do they pressure you sexually?

Character is greater than characteristics. Chemistry and attraction have merit, but they cannot hold up the weight of a marriage. In his book, Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler writes, “our physical attraction should always be held in check by the character of the person to whom we are attracted.”

The other mistake we tend to make in the dating game is:  We settle. What should be the non-negotiables of who you date?

Mistake #2: We settle.

Well, the first thing is they need to be a believer in Jesus Christ. You have to be aligned with them on the most important thing about life.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

What does that mean? What does an egg yolk have to do with dating, as one student asked me? Well, to be yoked is actually a farming term. You don’t want to hitch together (with a yoke) an ox and a donkey to plow a field—it won’t work.

The passage is not saying we should not associate with non-believers, the bible clearly doesn’t teach that. But why shouldn’t a believer and a non-believer get married? Think about it. If you are a follower of Jesus, your faith and view of God’s Word defines your worldview, allegiance, and direction in life. For the non-believer, self-actualization or fulfillment or some other intrinsic motivation determine direction in life. These two systems may not clash on a date to the movie theater, but when you are wrestling with some of the big questions in life–how you are going to raise your kids, how you spend your time or money–there will be tension. Either the follower of Christ will be constantly nagging their spouse to come to church or follow Christ, which they are not interested in doing, or you will be pulled in a direction of compromising your faith.

Not only do you want to date a believer in Christ, but you want someone who is pursuing Christ. Don’t settle. Just because he/she goes to church and claims to know Jesus doesn’t mean you are equally yoked. Make sure they don’t just say the right things, make sure they do the right thing. I knew plenty of guys who would dial up the religious talk when they were around girls who were pursuing Christ just so they could get a date. We have to be more cautious and set a higher standard.

McKenna Best, one of our college students I reached out to about what dating advice she would give herself in high school wrote this:

Hey Bart, my advice would be to never, ever settle for someone who isn’t pushing you towards the Lord. It’s so easy to neglect our faith when it comes to who we date especially when that person has a lot of good qualities. I typically found myself asking, “Am I being too picky?” when it came to a guy who wasn’t a Christ-follower. I thought, “At least he goes to church, has a bible verse in his Instagram bio, etc…” I would tell high school me, “You are being picky and that’s okay! Do not settle!”

When you are evaluating a person to date, you need to ask yourself, is this person pushing me toward the Lord? Am I more effective and challenged in my walk with Christ as a result of being around this person? They are not going to be perfect, but are they pursuing Christ? Are they running with you toward Jesus?

I remember the first time I noticed Jen. She was giving a testimony for our campus ministry during our weekly meeting.  She was dating someone at the time but I prayed that night, “God, I want a wife like her! It doesn’t have to be her, but someone like her. Who talks about you like she talks about you. Who takes risks for her faith like she does. Who loves people and invests in people like she does.” Little did I know that a few years later, God would answer that prayer at our wedding.

Which brings me to my last point and then we will continue our discussion next week. The third mistake we make in dating is worrying about finding the right woman instead of  concentrating on being the right man. Or, the other way around, ladies.

Mistake #3: We worry about finding the right person not being the right person. 

Another student, Erin Underwood, who responded to my question about dating advice wrote this:

Hey! In regards to your message: I was literally obsessed with the idea of having a boyfriend because all of my friends did and I always wondered what was wrong with me and why I was (seemingly) the only person to not be in a relationship. Saying that, I wish I wouldn’t have been so preoccupied with the idea of having a boyfriend and would’ve used that energy to pursue the Lord and see what he had for me during that time. Because in reality, the Lord isn’t ever going to give me someone if I’m looking for him, because that shows I’m not ready.

When it comes to WHO you are dating, don’t forget:

  1. Character over characteristics.
  2. Don’t settle.
  3. Work on being the right person not finding the right person.

Volunteer Longevity…

I noticed something a couple of months ago that made Zakk and I just go “wow, that is awesome”.  Every D-now, we take our band and speaker around to some of the different homes our students are staying in and let them meet our students and hang out.  We usually get a lot of response from our students because of the “cool factor” of the band/speaker, etc., but this year and in some of the year’s past it was different.  See, riding along with us this year was Tim, one of our faithful volunteers who has been serving in the youth ministry for a long time.  He had moved away for a year for grad school and so the students haven’t seen him for a while.  Every house we stopped at, they yelled, “Tim!”, and greeted him with a big hug and lots of questions.  It wasn’t about the band, it wasn’t about me, they were so excited that one of our faithful, long-term volunteers was back.  It was a beautiful and appropriate response to someone who has given of themselves to invest in the lives of our students.

There is definitely something to be said for longevity–especially in ministry.  It has been amazing to have been a part of this student ministry for over 4 years, but that is just a drop in the bucket compared to some of our volunteers.  There are countless stories I have where our students have responded in similar ways to our volunteers.  They know youth minister’s come and go, but they know there is a core group of parents and leaders who are here to stay, year in and year out who love and care for them.  That is why our students, every retreat, pick with, laugh with, and listen to Jimmy G, one of our longest serving youth volunteers.  They know him, know that he is here to stay, and they love him.

I firmly believe that it is the longevity of our youth volunteers that has made all the difference in our student ministry. There are countless other volunteers I would love to be able to list on this post who have invested in and served our students faithfully over several years.  You know who you are.  You are a priceless treasure to this youth ministry, you are all so appreciated, and you are all making an eternal impact!  Thank you all!

Bart