To Date or Not To Date?

teenagers-dating-in-high-school1Whether we want to admit it or not, we are drawn to relationships. We desire to connect with other people. It is how God wired us. We desire to have friends, and we don’t want to be alone. We want to meet someone who understands us and cares for us. At the center of Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We also want the want to fulfill the dream of finding that special someone to be “the love of our life.” Guys want that girl who will take care of them…make them dinner, watch football with them, do their laundry, and tell them how awesome they are! Girls want that guy who will be there to spend time with them, watch “chick flicks” with them, listen to their emotional struggles, and go on long walks just to talk.

But take a simple stroll down the halls of our school system and look at the drama that is unfolding within the way relationships are currently done. Why do teenagers insist on taking relationships to the next level? Why cannot we all just be friends?

I had one teenager say this, “One reason we date is to have fun, go out, and do things as a couple…  Another, more useful purpose of dating is to learn.  We need some experience to learn what we want in a partner, how to communicate our needs, how to serve the other’s needs without disrespecting ourselves, and what it feels like to love, be loved, and even how to be strong enough to part when we know its time.”

Another teenager said, “The purpose of dating is to get to know someone well enough that you know you want to continue a relationship with them…  The purpose of dating is finding out, even at the early stages if you could marry this individual.”

A third teenager said, “The purpose teenagers date is to enjoy each others’ company and enjoy a fun activity together.”

I believe one of the biggest reasons teenagers date is because of peer pressure and a need to belong.

Although I know through Christ we can beat statistics, I am a firm believer of statistics when it comes to student ministry. I came across these percentages while doing research for a series on purity.

  • The average age for a person to begin dating is 12
  • It is estimated that 15-20% of teenage suicides are due to the breakup of an unhappy dating relationship
  • When on a date, 77% of teenagers say the first thing they notice about their date is connected to their outward appearance
  • About 71% of teenagers that have dated say their boyfriend/girlfriend has spread rumors about them through emails and social networking sites
  • 80% of the teenage population believe that verbal abuse is a serious issue in teenage dating
  • Almost 40% of teenagers today know or have heard of a teenage friend or relative who has been in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • By the age 19, 70% of teenagers have engaged in sexual intercourse
  • Only 5% of dating relationships between the ages of 13-16 end in marriage
  • Only 20% of dating relationships between the ages of 17-19 end in marriage
  • Almost 60% of marriages out of teenage relationships end in divorce within the first 15 years
  • Overall, less than 2% of high school sweethearts end up getting married and not getting divorced

So, why do teenagers put themselves through the drama of a dating relationship?

Dating relationships are a huge part of my past and testimony. They helped define who I was all through high school and college. I did not understand the purpose of relationships until I faced losing Autumn, my wife, while we were dating. I used every relationship I had to fulfill my desires. I was focused on what I wanted and what I needed, instead of the other person. God truly opened my eyes to making him the center of every relationship I was a part of. I have realized that almost every relationship I  ever had was not healthy, because Christ was not at the center.

Let me wrap things up with these verses out of Song of Solomon…

Song of Solomon 8:4-7 – “Daughter of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.  Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?  Under the apple tree I roused you; there your mother conceived you, there she who was in labor gave you birth.  Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy demanding as the grave.  It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.  Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.  If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”

Too often we get too emotionally and physically attached within relationships.  It will tear you down spiritually, separate you from friends and family, and will cause you to lose focus on Christ at the center of your life. To me those are not things we should be risking, especially if there is less than a 2% chance that guy or girl will be in your life for as long as you live!

I am not a fan of teenage dating relationships. The majority of the time, students are asking for disaster by entering into a dating relationship. But, if a teenager came to me and said, “We want to date, can you help us?”  I would be there to help walk them through every step, challenging them as individuals to keep Christ at the center of everything they do and say!

Steal the Milk or Buy the Cow?

keep-calm-and-walk-in-love-1Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

What is God’s plan for your life?  What is God’s plan for your relationships?  One of the greatest struggles in today’s society is realizing our purpose within relationships.  We struggle having a clear understanding of why God designed marriage, and a lack of respect for ourselves and for the opposite gender has caused us to make irresponsible decisions that damage relationships at all levels.

Are you willing to follow what God says or what society says when it comes to respect and relationships?

We first must go all the way back to the beginning of creation to understand the purpose in relationships.

Genesis 1:27-28 – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish and sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

Genesis 2:20-24 – “…But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

We were created in the image of God – designed to bring Him honor and glory with everything we do and say – this includes every relationship we are a part of.

Ultimately, there are two ways to do relationships – God’s way and the world’s way.

Think of how music, magazines, books, movies, and technology describe and define relationships.  They give us 4 simple steps that lead to deep, intimate, sizzling relationships.

1. Find the right person

The key to love is finding that special person who was made just for you.  He or she is out there.  You just have to find them.  You might have to drive around, hang out, and be on the lookout when you are at the mall, waiting at Starbucks, or walking down the hallways at school.  You must dress, look, and act in a way that will attract the attention of that special someone.  The moment will come!  You just have to keep looking.

2. Fall in love

When you find the right person, something will click and you will know it.  Maybe that person is so “hot” you just feel this undeniable attraction.  You may not even know his or hew name, but you will know that you are in love.  According to society love is based on chemistry – not character or knowledge.  You will be overtaken by “mushy feelings.”  But “falling in love” will cause you to spend money you don’t have, spend time doing ridiculous things, and will cause your IQ to drop about 30 points.  This type of “love” will literally make you crazy!  But according to society, it is all that matters and the only choice seems to be to move on to the next step. 

3. Place your hopes and dreams in this person for your future fulfillment

In movies, love overrides every other decision.  A young girl is willing to give herself completely to another person because she has found “true love.”  Brides and grooms are left at the altar because their future mates have decided to run off with someone else with whom they are “in love.”  This person must become the object of your life, your future, your dreams, and your satisfaction.  The world says it is the only way you can find true meaning and purpose to life.

You begin to believe you cannot make it without him or her – almost as if you were living in the middle of a fairytale story!  But society also provides a convenient Plan B for when “true love” gets shaky.  We tell ourselves… “It’s just not the same anymore.”  We are led to believe that falling out of love is just as natural as falling in love.  Which then leads us to step four.

4. If failure occurs, repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 as often as needed

Society says it is fine to just move onto the next relationship whenever, however, and with whomever we desire!  If something begins to break down, just start over.

God has designed relationships to be realistic, but most importantly God honoring.  Not every person you’re attracted to will become your future spouseHiding out and waiting for your Prince or Prince Charming to show up at your doorstep isn’t very realistic either.  At the same time, we must flip the chart and make our spiritual lives the most important aspect of every relationship!

Ephesians 5:1-2 – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and life a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

So how do we live a life of love for God within our relationships?

1. Become the right person

Instead of looking for love, we must realize that love has already found us.  God loves us as no one else can.  We must learn to imitate Christ in the way we treat others.

Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”

We must look out for the needs and interests of others at all times!  Love is more than feelings.  It is about character and actions.  Loving someone is not easy.  The idea of just finding the right person in order to have a great relationship is a lie.

One author says this, “If you attempt to find intimacy with a person before you’ve done the hard work of becoming a whole and healthy person, every relationship will be an attempt to complete the hole in your heart and the lack of what you don’t have.  That relationship will end in disaster.”

Too often we seek an intimate relationship with someone to fill the void that we have in our own lives.  God designed sex and intimacy as a way to bring him honor and glory – not to fill our own voids.  He designed sex and intimacy within the boundaries of marriage only – we are to join together as one husband and one wife.

I Corinthians 6:18-20 – “Flee from sexual immorality…Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…Therefore honor God with your body.”

So then… How far is too far?  I believe it is more important to stay pure than to remain a virgin!  In other words, staying pure involves everything you are and everything you do – there is no limit or boundary to staying pure.  It involves your thought life, your words, your actions, and everything surrounding every relationship.  Do not attempt to define “how far is too far.”  Instead remain pure by focusing on your relationship with Jesus in and through everything you do and say…

2. Walk in Love

This is so much deeper than taking long strolls on the beach or wandering hand-in-hand through the mall.  Walking in love means that we love others the exact way Christ loves us – full of grace, mercy, and compassionIt must not be about you or about what you can get.  Instead, it must be about how you can serve the other personIt is a sacrificial, other-centered action that provides what is biblically best for the other personI challenge you to not fall in love, but to walk in love

3. Place your hope in God and seek to please him through all relationships

God must take the lead.  Everything you do must be centered around a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Our goal, purpose, and mission in life must be to please God.  We must ask Him to make us who He wants us to be.

4. If failure occurs (and it will) we must repeat steps 1, 2, and 3.

I am not saying yes or no to relationships, dating, courting, or any of the sorts.  Instead, we must place the focus on Jesus Christ within every relationship we are a part of!

Why buy the cow when you can steal the milk for free?

This phrase is used to refer to those who don’t want to get married, especially when they can get all the benefits of marriage without getting married.  In other words, often times, we don’t want to work towards Godly relationships.  We simply want to steal a little bit of love here, move on, and steal a little more love there.

We never get the complete concept of love or what it means to love someone.  We must desire to walk in love, understanding what God’s design and desire is for our relationships.  It will cost us our pride, our selfish desires, time, and energy.  But there is nothing greater than to fully understand what it means to walk in love!