Dating. (What were YOU thinking?!)
There’s so much controversy associated with that word – in Christian circles, anyway. Do you date? Court? Should it be for many years or just a few months? When should you start? How do you know…?
I read an article a couple weeks ago that slammed the “courting” concept that gained popularity in the early 2000’s. Couples who followed it, this writer said, are divorcing now. They just married the first person they liked! That’s crazy. They should have “played the field” more, been more experienced, more sure of their choice.
Others, still firmly convinced of the courting model, argue that “dating is just practice for divorce”. Stay with someone until you’re bored, then move on?? Is that really the best idea? Where’s the commitment, the I Cor. 13 kind of love? And what about the poor choices involved in serial dating?
So how do you make sure you are making the right decisions with your future? What can you do now to prevent becoming a divorce statistic later?
First – stop looking for a formula!! Can we all agree that the formulas don’t work? People who courted get divorced. People who dated a lot get divorced. People who married their high school sweethearts get divorced, as do those who waited until they graduated college to find “the one”.
So what’s the answer?
I’m not trying to be simplistic. This is a complex issue with far-reaching ramifications. Still…Jesus is the answer.
Our most important relationship is our relationship with Jesus. He needs to be our primary focus – loving Him, knowing Him, serving Him. When our eyes are where they need to be and our heart is in HIS hands, we will have wisdom to know the answers to the rest of the questions. Dating? Courting? Young? Old? Ask Him! Seek His direction, His leading.
If you know you’re not where you need to be in your relationship with Jesus, then you are NOT ready to date. If you’re more interested in having your needs met than in serving someone else, then you are NOT ready to date! If you feel like you “need” to date in order to be “complete”, YOU ARE NOT READY TO DATE!!! It doesn’t matter how old you are.
Successful relationships aren’t built on a certain formula, but on the solid Rock. YOU seek Him, run after Him. “The one” for you will be running, also, and he will join you in the race.
So stop chasing start running.
“…Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you] heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
When my kids were younger, they were obsessed with the movie, “The Master of Disguise”. In this film, the title character is developing the “super” ability to disguise himself.
It’s a funny film. Dana Carvey is brilliant at mimicking accents and mannerisms, and this movie shows off that talent. There are lots of quotable lines that my kids would repeat over and over. And over…
Their favorite line happened when Carvey’s character was learning to harness the power of “energico” so he could go beyond just wearing a costume and make-up. He repeated the mantra, “become another person” until he did. Pistachio Disguisey was replaced with whatever character he needed to become.
I was thinking of that this week because of all the focus on costumes. Dressing up can be very fun. But too many people wear more than just a costume or mask, and they wear it far longer than just one day a year.
Did you know the word “hypocrite” has its roots in dressing up? In ancient Greek theater, actors wore huge masks with different faces – happy, sad, frightened, surprised – because the audience was too far away to see their actual faces. The masks were larger than life and allowed the audience to know the “mood” of the characters on stage. These actors were hypocrites.
I think a lot of people – adults AND teens – walk around like these actors. We wear “masks”, acting like everything is fine, or awful, or terrible, or funny, or whatever. We don’t let anyone see what’s really going on. We’re not honest, not transparent. We work hard to “become another person,” mostly because we’re unhappy or embarrassed by the person we actually are.
We are hypocrites.
People get so worked up about Halloween – is it okay or not okay to dress up on this holiday? And I recognize that debate is a serious one for many people. But I think visible costumes one day a year are far less dangerous than the invisible ones we wear the other 364 days.
Beware of the temptation to “become another person.” That’s fine for film. But the abundant life demands that we shed our masks and be honest – honest to God, above all, and then honest to others.
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” ~Proverbs 28:13
Yesterday, several members of my daughter’s 11th grade class climbed a mountain.
They were on the mountain for almost 3 hours. They returned exhausted, a little bruised, and incredibly hungry. But they loved it. They bonded as a class. They watched the sun set from the summit. They returned with inside jokes and funny stories and huge smiles.
Emma’s classmates talked about how tough the climb up was, how they almost quit. It took much longer than they expected! And they said the hike down was difficult because they were so tired, and they had accomplished their goal (reaching the top), so the “thrill” was gone. Emma said they might have quit, if not for their hiking leader – a young man who had hiked this mountain before and encouraged them the climb was worth the effort. She said she’d never have done it alone, but with friends, it was actually fun.
I thought, “This is so much like the Christian life!” We are constantly “hiking”. Some of us are on the way up a mountain, some are on the summit, others are coming down off the mountain, and still others are returning to a particularly challenging mountain to guide others across.
While the climb isn’t always enjoyable, it IS worth it. But we can’t do it alone! We need guides who can tell us where to go, and we need friends to help us when we fall. Independence has its place, but not in the Christian life. We were created for fellowship, we are commanded to love each other and bear our brothers’ burdens.
Do you have “hiking buddies”? If not, why not?
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” ~ Ecc. 4:9-10
In my day, it was called “boy crazy”. Today, teens use the word “thirsty” to describe a girl who is seeking the attention of the opposite sex.
I think it’s normal and natural that teenage girls are “thirsty”. God has given girls (and all of us, really) a desire to be known, loved, and appreciated. But that thirst CANNOT be quenched by a boy. Not even a really, really cute boy!
When girls seek to quench their “thirst” by getting the attention of a young man, they often find themselves, when that attention has played out, even less satisfied than they were when they started out. So they keep searching, keep “drinking”. They sacrifice what is precious, and they remain discontent.
But there is a solution! Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Mt. 5:6)
There is a blessing in being thirsty – when we are thirsty for what is right. God wants us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Later in the gospels, Jesus tells the woman at the well He came to offer Living Water: the gift of salvation that forever quenches the thirst we all have.
God made us “thirsty” so we would seek Him. Don’t miss out on the Living Water by seeking what is “dead”. Thirst for Jesus – His is the love you are longing for. Don’t settle for anything less.
I was on a search committee at church a few years ago. A group of us were tasked with finding a young man who could work with both the worship ministry and with youth – the list of his responsibilities were pretty long. We prayed before every meeting, asking God to direct us to His choice for this position.
Early on in the process, the supervising pastor told us, “We need to make sure the man we choose has been ‘broken’.” It sounded a bit harsh, but we knew what he was saying: Brokenness in ministry is inevitable. Recovering from that brokenness marks the difference between a mature believer and a baby.
I was reminded of that this morning as I studied the book of Job. Job was broken in every way possible – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally…In a few short verses, he went from being an incredibly wealthy father of ten to a man bereft of everything he held dear – children killed, livestock and home destroyed, body devastated.
Yet, the scripture tells us in all this Job did not sin. He did not curse God (even though his wife encouraged him to do just that!). In fact, in his brokenness, Job worshiped God.
I thought, then, of the many people I have known and encountered and heard about, who experienced difficulties in this life and did not respond the way Job responded. People who did curse God. Some turned from the one true God to other “gods” who promise a more comfortable life, or away from God entirely because they “tried” God and He didn’t “work” for them.
Far too often, we choose to believe in a God we have crafted in our own minds – a God who makes life easy for us, who constantly blesses us, who protects us from everything bad, everything negative. And when that God doesn’t behave in the way we believe He should behave, we walk away.
We need to be reminded of the lesson Job learned. After three dozen chapters of Job’s friends trying to explain God and make sense of Job’s situation, God shows up. He rebukes those well-meaning (?) friends and responds to Job’s longing for an answer to the “why”?
In the final chapters of the book of Job, God explains that He is God. He doesn’t offer Job a “reason” for his difficulties, He doesn’t apologize for Job’s trial, He doesn’t promise to make everything better. He doesn’t have to!
He is GOD. We are not. Period.
That is the lesson Job learns in his brokenness. And he worships the holy, perfect God, repenting for daring to ask that this almighty, sovereign Creator God “defend” Himself to His creation.
Brokenness in the Christian life leads to strength and peace and joy. When we understand God is not a genie, not a “Santa”, not a Divine Butler who gives us what we want when we want it, when we fall to our knees and recognize God is God, worthy of our complete devotion and obedience and worship, we are set free.
If you’ve never heard comedian Michael Jr.’s testimony – watch this. It’s funny and inspiring and so God-honoring. In it, he explains how some difficulties in his past really worked out to be blessings. God used struggles to mold him into the man he was meant to be.
But Micheal Jr isn’t alone. God works in all of our lives, bringing beauty from ashes and making sense of the senseless. We don’t get to see the “why” all the time. But God often gives us what a former pastor called “glimpses of the Kingdom” – insight into how God is working to fulfill His purposes through His people.
I can see these Kingdom glimpses most clearly in our moves. Every move (EVERY move) was tough. I hate moving! But every move (EVERY move) was good. God taught me lessons I wouldn’t have learned had I stayed where I was. He gave me friends I never would have had otherwise. He gave me opportunities to minister to people I never would have met had I gotten what I wanted and just stayed in one place forever.
You never know what God is going to use – circumstances that are difficult or confusing can be just the ones that bring you where you need to go or prepare you for how He wants to use you. He is the Redeemer. And He is in control of everything.
By the end of this week, we will have been in California for three months.
You regulars know that this move was major for our family. When I first blogged about it, I was still somewhat in shock….California?? Wha…?? But as we began packing and saying painful goodbyes, the shock turned to sadness, tinged with confusion. Why, God? Why move us all the way across the country, where we know NO ONE?
But we kept packing, we said those painful goodbyes, we loaded up the Penske truck and our old van, and we started driving — away from the familiar into – as the old Steven Curtis Chapman song goes – the Great Unknown.
The first month was a little rough – though we were warmly and graciously received by our new administrators, we struggled to get settled in: everything is different in CA!!
School started July 21. As all beginnings are, it was awkward. The kids weren’t sure they’d fit in; Dave and I weren’t sure we’d fit in. So. Much. New.
Let me fast forward through those first awkward weeks, though…we are at the end of the first quarter, and we’re thriving. God has given each of my kids great friends. And, to the delight of this mother’s heart – my girls have many of the same friends. Most are fellow volleyball players (CCA Lady Knights are 4-0, thank you very much!). They are a fun group and, to be around them, you’d think they’d known each other for years.
Thomas is enjoying school, as well – when he’s not getting Demerits for talking (those of you who know him are not at all surprised at that!), he’s playing his ukulele and singing in the middle school worship team, and playing flag football with his new buddies.
God has given Dave and me amazing coworkers who have treated us like family. We are so blessed. I feel like we see confirmation, weekly, that this is exactly where God wants us.
Of course, we still miss “home”, we miss our friends, we miss rain! But we are adjusting well, and we are experiencing the blessings of obedience. We still sometimes wonder “why”? But we trust in a God who is far wiser than we could ever be. He knows what is best for us – even when it seems crazy, scary, and confusing.
God is good. ALL the time.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jer. 29:11
Over the last couple weeks, I have heard from several students that they are staying up until 2am or later to complete homework.
First, I blame the parent — who lets their child stay up that late?? Seriously!
Then, I blame the parent again — who is telling that student that an “A” is so important it’s worth losing sleep over?
Finally, I blame the student. Because they are either WAY too busy, way too perfectionistic, or simply have priorities that are way too out of whack.
(Why don’t I blame the teachers, you ask? Because students and parents choose the kids’ classes – they don’t have to take a course-load full of AP and Honors’ classes. You CAN tell the Guidance Counselor “no”.)
Sure, these are the kids who grow up to be “successful” – but they do it by staying up until 2am in college, in grad school, in post-grad school…then they’re staying up until 2am to keep their job, to move up in their job, to get a better job. These are the kids whose marriages fall apart, whose children never see them, whose doctors are on speed dial, and whose pharmacist is their best friend.
Why? Because we need sleep! And free time. And friends. And exercise.
People, God placed each of us here for a purpose. He desires for us to be successful. But He does not define success the way we do. He desires us to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. He desires us to do OUR best, but He never asks us to be THE best. In fact, sometimes, striving to be THE best is downright sin.
So, kids, go to bed! Parents, make your kids go to bed. If the only way to get an A is to stay up until 2am studying — DON’T GET AN A!
Let God’s word be your ultimate rubric, let His “report card” be the one you’re most concerned about. Let’s show our success, not by GPA or SAT scores, but by character, integrity, and passion for the Savior.
Before I start, please hear me when I say this isn’t a rant against public education. I am a product of America’s public education system. I am proud of what I learned and where I attended. My character was shaped by Christian teachers who invested in me and even by non-Christian teachers who challenged me to to examine what I believed.
But God has called me (ME – not everyone) to be a teacher in a Christian school. I think we should all be passionate about what God has called us to do, and I am quite passionate about my calling. I love teaching in an environment where I’m not just “allowed” to talk about my faith, I’m required to.
Christian schools – like Christian churches, Christian families, and Christian organizations – aren’t perfect. You can find those schools who are only Christian in name, schools where academics are pitifully weak, schools where rules trump everything else…But, as someone who has been in and around Christian schools for almost a decade, now, I can tell you there are many Christian schools that are fabulous.
Here are just a few of the reasons why I love Christian education:
- Every subject is taught in light of God’s word. As a firm believer in the supremacy of scripture, I want my children to learn everything from a biblical perspective. I don’t believe “faith” has one place and “education” has another. Nor do I believe that ‘intelligent Christian’ is an oxymoron. I believe that intelligent Christians examine what they see, what they learn, and what has been presented to them through the lens of scripture. If my purpose on earth is to glorify God and make Him known, then that should color everything. Especially my education. My goal as a Christian educator is to challenge my students to know God better, to love Him more, and to use the Spirit-enhanced brain they have to go into the world and accomplish great things for God’s glory.
- Christ-Centered service is valued. I was part of one Christian school that took a week out of every year to take students on missions trips. Our group went to an orphanage in Honduras. Another group stayed local and served a women’s shelter. Others went to cities in and out of the US. At my current school, we take a day off every quarter to serve somewhere in our community: groups feed the homeless, help at the Ronald McDonald House…our group went to a local church and blessed the staff by cleaning it, top to bottom. The purpose is not just to “do good things” – it’s to be obedient to the commands of scripture to love others, care for the hurting, provide for those in need — for God’s glory.
- Opportunities abound. Christian schools tend to be small. Admittedly, there are some disadvantages to a smaller school. But there are also advantages — small schools need more participation. Kids who play sports are also often in the school plays and participate in
the Science Fairs and are on the Homecoming Court. While those might not be as competitive as in larger schools, students in Christian schools can graduate with far more experiences than a students at a huge school. My daughters have done everything from playing volleyball, tennis, and basketball, to playing leads in plays, running lights and sound for shows, competing in choral and drama events, and tutoring younger kids.
- The community is huge. Though the majority of Christian schools are small, they are typically PreK-12th grade. This means younger students interact regularly with older students, and vice-versa. A few years ago, when my son was in 4th grade, he was “friends” with several of the Senior boys. These boys were kind, fun, and “cool”. They’d pass Thomas in the hall and ask how he was doing, they’d throw a football with him after school. One even invited Thomas and a friend over to tube in his lake (he still talks about that day!). The boys didn’t know the impact they had on Thomas, but I did. And I was thrilled to have him look up to boys who loved Jesus and loved others so well. They mentored Thomas without even realizing it was happening.
I could on, but you get the idea. I love Christian education, love teaching at a Christian school, love that my kids get to attend a Christian school. I love doing what God has called me to do where He has called me to do it.
Getting into college is important. I know – I am a high school English teacher and a parent of three. My oldest, a junior, is starting to look at colleges – which means my husband and I are looking at college tuition. Yikes!! We are encouraging Emma to do her best in school, in her extracurricular activities, and on her SATs so she can qualify for as many scholarships as possible.
But as I think through that – the importance of getting a college degree and being prepared for life as an adult – I am realizing far too many of us parents and educators are missing out on preparing our kids for what is most important. We stress grades and college and scholarships – the “head” – but we are neglecting the heart.
As parents, my husband and my primary goal is not to see our children get into college, make a lot of money, and be successful.
Our goal is to see our children passionately follow Christ – no matter what. We want them to love Jesus, to love others, to obey God’s calling on their lives. We want them to seek Him in every aspect of their lives – schooling, career, dating, and marriage. Everything.
With that goal in mind, we have made intentional choices along the way. Not perfect. Not even close. But with the goal – always – to help point our kids to Christ and His purposes for their lives.
One way we try to help our kids grow is that we make church a priority. We don’t allow the kids to be on sports teams that consistently practice on Sundays and Wednesdays. As a result, they’ve “missed out” on some great teams, some opportunities to go to the next level in a sport. But what they have gotten is mentoring by godly men and women who have loved them and encouraged them to know Jesus better. They have developed deep friendships with young people who are seeking after Christ. For us, that is far more valuable than being on “that” team and advancing in “that” sport.
Another way we try to help our kids grow is that we say “no” to casual dating. Dating should be a preparation for marriage, not practice for divorce. We want our kids to have successful marriages: marriages that point people to Christ. We want passion and romance and deep, abiding love for our kids. We want them to be committed “till death do us part” to the person God has chosen for them. We want our kids to have strong relationships with Jesus first, to know He meets their needs and the longings of their hearts. Because of that, we don’t allow them to “just date”.
SATs are important. College is important. Being productive in society is important. But knowing Christ and serving Him with our whole hearts – that is the MOST important. So, parents, let’s push our kids to excel in what matters most. Teens – keep your eyes on the TRUE prize – “of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)