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Thursday, October 11, 2007

No Dating- Are You Crazy???

I started to leave the world's longest comment in response to the excellent discussion and questions raised on my last post here about "True Love Waits", and then remembered...this is my blog. I could just start a new post!
I know I've opened a door here with the no-dating thing...Obviously, I don't have all the answers to this question! If I did, I wouldn't have posted the question on my blog!!! But here are our thoughts.
It's not a topic I think is easily tackled. It's one that we have been thinking about for a couple of years, and really examining in the scriptures and in my own life. I've also heard some amazingly wise things from people at my church who have been thinking about this longer than me. It's hard to summarize here, but here's a few questions.
Really and truly, honestly, are you glad that you dated anyone besides your husband? That you gave your heart to them? Kissed them? Were intimate with them in any way (emotionally or physically)?
Obviously, as many have shared, those who were sexually intimate, even with their own husbands before marriage, have shared that they wish they hadn't been.

Why do we allow high schoolers to date? What's the purpose? To find a mate? Well, we wouldn't allow them to get married in high school, so that's silly. To learn how to form relationships?

I fully believe they can develop those skills within the context of good friendships, like we had in our youth group.
My husband never had a serious girlfriend before me. He was in no way ill-equipped to be a husband. He had never given his heart to any other girl, and his dating experience was very casual. He came to our relationship with almost 0 baggage.
I, on the other hand, had bounced from one serious relationship to another. I had a super-serious relationship in college that was incredibly damaging to me emotionally. I came to our marriage with TONS of that baggage. My sexual purity was intact, but I had been way too close to the many boyfriends, and that produced consequences for me emtotionally, and also for Rusty.
I WISH I HAD NEVER HAD A BOYFRIEND BEFORE RUSTY!!!
Even though when I first started thinking about this, I wanted to quickly run to bat for this idea of American, Christian dating, when I stopped to examine my reasons, they were faulty. I truly do regret all of it. I think having friendships with guys before marriage would have equipped me fine to relate to my husband when I met him.
Also, every time I had a boyfriend, and then later a break-up, it was ALL a distraction from my relationship with the Lord. It did NOT draw me closer to the Lord, it pulled me away every time. EVERY TIME.
And the time I wasted!!! I should have been focusing on God wholeheartedly, and spending all my free time with my girlfriends, like you Laurie, going to Taco Bell and the $2 movies in Tomball!!! (ha!) I regret that I wasted time on boys in high school and college that were distracting, temptations to sin, and that's it.
I didn't learn anything valuable from those relationships, because I continued to make the same mistakes over and over. I was not lost. I was saved, and I truly, truly had a passion for the Lord. But I was not wise. I did not make wise decisions. And I regret how hurt I was, how I hurt others, and when I think of holding hands or kissing a boy that wasn't my husband, I want to throw-up! I shouldn't have done that! Seriously, it turns my stomach. Where in scripture do we get the idea that trying other people on first is okay? It's so totally acceptable to the world, and we clean it up a bit for the Christian version, but I think the results are often tragic. Again and again, I hear stories like these lovely ladies have shared about being a Christian couple, who fully intended to wait for marriage, had the ring and everything, but were given the freedom to date, and they were sucked in by the powerful tornado that is sexual sin.
As for me, I just felt like I had been beated down my tornado winds by the emotional damage and various forms of sin dating produced in my life.
We could allow our high schoolers to date within certain confines, but why? If dating is to find a mate, they can't do that in high school, and I don't think they need the practice.
I want them to develop real friendships with guys and girls alike, go out in groups and have fun, and be free when they are a little older to find their mate without the baggage.
Should we trust high school guys and girls to be alone together?
No. I think everyone knows that is probably a temptation too great for them, whether we like that truth or not.
I don't want to communicate distrust to my wonderful kids, but I want them to know that dating was altogether unwise and we are going to protect them the best way we know how.
We counsel couple after couple in Countdown who are struggling physically, and the bottom line is they just can't be alone together, and they can't kiss without it progressing.
So Rusty and I HAVE TO listen to this, and look at the scripture about running, fleeing, having nothing to do with sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6, 2 Tim. 2), and practically applying that for our kids, as well as guarding their hearts (Proverbs 4:23), and not arousing love before it so desires. (SOS) High School is not the right time. It's arousing love before the appropriate time. I truly believe all physical intimacy should be kept for marriage, and that is part of keeping the marriage bed pure. (1 Cor. 6)
Emotionally I want to protect my sons and daughter from giving their hearts away to anyone before God brings them their mate.
Of course, I know that if my kids are not on board with this, they could rebel, they could hide relationships from us, they could be sneaky. We don't want that. But I'm encouraged by the fact that I see families like our pastor's family who has teenagers who have just known all along there would be no high school or casual dating. I can't attest to their every feeling about it, but they seemed to have accepted that fine and those kids are serving the Lord and the church wholeheartedly, making great friends, and waiting for the right time in their lives.
My sister has survived her high school years without any boyfriends, and I'm SO GLAD@

What does the right time look like?
Now granted, again, if I had all the answers to these questions, I wouldn't have posted the question on my blog. So these are just the thoughts of Rusty and I, what we've observed among some wise families and college students we know, and how we are applying the Word to the idea of courtship.
But dating for the purpose of finding a mate, when you are of the right age and stage in life, is intentional. It is incredibly purposeful. There should be a lot of observing and getting to know one another before a guy even pursues a girl for the purpose of marriage. I see college students at our church hang out together, serve the church together, go to movies, go to dinner, watch the Office together, WHATEVER, in groups and really get to know one another before a relationship is pursued. (Instead of starting a dating relationship and THEN getting to know the person.) And then they are purposeful, and wise about not spending alone time together, watching movies in their apartments with the lights out and no roommates home. STUPID!!! They are careful not to treat the relationship like a mini-marriage, which is how I treated just about every relationship I had, so that if they determine they are not right for one another, they don't have to go through a mini-divorce. I've actually seen this! When they decide not to date anymore, despite the disappointment, I've seen them remain friends, and still be able to stay in the same church and circle of friends, because they haven't been physically entangled, and they haven't named their kids together, and put down a deposit on the church.
I don't know all the answers to this.
What if you meet and live in different cities? I don't know.
What if, what if, what if? I don't know.
I just know there is great wisdom being exhibited by these young people that I desperately wish I'd had an ounce of when I was their age.
It's so encouraging! And I want that for my kids! There's no reason for them to make the same mistakes we made. That would be foolish.
I do think that training their minds about dating, marriage, and the wonderful gift of sex, needs to start super early, so I want to hear from more women who have thoughts on this now.
Thanks everyone, for engaging in this discussion! Let's keep it going!!!

12 comments:

brickmomma said...

thank you!
i am loving this....seriously!!
i am stinky from mowing the lawn and need a shower, and will write more later. i so appreciate your honesty and thoughts and time!

Lesa said...

Jenn,
In your previous post you asked if many think about this subject - yes, I do nearly every day. This is due in part to the fact that our oldest daughter just turned 18, and has dated. I admit that when I think of dating and all that is involved, I think more of my daughters (ages 18 and 6), than my sons (ages 16 and 8). I must admit that I've spent most of our conversation talking about sexual purity, vs intimacy. For her birthday, we bought her a "true love waits" ring. She writes about her plan freely on her blog. But her blog is on "my space", which is another thorn in my side. I have seen inappropriate pictures that she has taken and posted, and tons of stuff I wouldn't allow to be posted on their walls, yet I'm powerless over what "my space" advertises, which are questions about kissing so you are rated, and they must be advertising Victoria's secret on there. When I voice my concerns, I'm met with, "Mom, I don't even see that stuff". That tells me that she's seen it so much in life that it doesn't jump out at her like it does to me... Oh, I wish we had the days of Andy and Lucy back. Even without cable, the kids see and hear too much.

If anyone reads to the bottom of this, my question has always been for those who have stayed sexually pure until marriage - how did you abstain? where were your lines drawn? How did you stop there?

As a foster parent through New Life, we have had a few birth moms, and the teen age ones have made an impact on Rachel - perhaps more than anything I could say or do. She knows she does not want to risk getting pregnant before marriage. But next year she's on her own, and she could certainly buy the pill if she wanted to. I just want her not to want to --- I feel I've done more than what I was brought up with, which was nothing. I think my parents somehow thought either I wouldn't or was just supposed to know I shouldn't. I really needed them to set that standard for me...

Lesa

Jennifer Bacak said...

I am going to ask some people with more experience than I to address this topic of My Space.
And I have to surrender my computer to my husband for work for the afternoon, so I will comment more later.
These are excellent questions, and I hope the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us clearly!!!
I want to say I am so grateful that Heather pushed me into thinking through this and filtering dating through His Word a few years ago, and for our staff speaking out on this. Heather is asking our college girls some tough questions that no one else seems to be asking them, and is teaching straight scripture.
Praise the Lord for her!
Okay, more later...
jenn

Hendrick Family said...

Jenn,

This is such beautiful stuff.

Amen to all of it.

We laugh when our oldest son talks about girls right now.

When I say we've told him we're not going to trust him with a relationship while he is young enough to be in our house, non-marriageble age..this is a fun time for us also to bring in the whole "sex is good" idea. When we say we're not going to trust them, I want to teach it in a way that makes them understand that sexual sin is one of the only sins in scripture that God warns us to "flee from." Joseph fled...and God says some AMAZING things about him and his maturity in the Lord.

This means that no matter who we are...this is a struggle for us...and I want my kids to know the depth of that struggle. In many different ways, we've already begun to address this with Anson, but approaching it like...relationships with the opposite sex ARE exciting...ARE fantastic...ARE wonderful...and that if I'm alone with his dad, the natural thing for me to want to do is kiss his face off.

That makes Anson almost throw up when I say it..

But I want him to understand that when we say we're not going to trust Him in this one area, that God is really saying, "Don't trust YOURSELF with sexual sins and temptation...RUN for your life." We wouldn't really be modeling God's heart for Anson if we allowed much of what goes on today between males and females. I never want to be found saying, "God doesn't trust you...but I do."

I'm glad that some people may have had a good experience by being trusted in relationships with males...so this may not be as big of a deal for them. Experiences though are not how I want to decide things for my kids though. God's Word and trying to understand His heart for marriage, for intimacy between a husband and wife is the only place I want to look, and the only standard I want in their lives.

Brickmomma...I'm with Jenn...I don't know what this looks like in real life...but that's because it's probably NOTHING like the real life most people (including myself) have experienced while "dating." I know I don't have the answers, because my son is only 8...but I do know that I work for a church in a town that has the largest university in the United States...so wow...do we get to see the pain, heart ache and disaster that comes when kids are not protected in this area. But praise God...we also get to see a HUGE picture of what it can look like when it's done differently, and in a God-honoring way. What these college students are doing at our church is wonderful and also giving me such hope!

Today, I was driving home from the grocery store and thought, "I'm tired Lord of feeling like I would ever be teaching my kids to "stop doing all the bad stuff...or keep away from the bad stuff." That's all good and true...but I was begging the Lord today to turn their hearts and their eyes towards HIM...serving Him, pleasing Him, loving Him...that our family would be so busy obeying the Lord, not having a lot of time for My Space and IMing...whatever all that stuff is...but that we were BUSY teaching our kids to be diligent...to be His Hands, His feet to our neighborhood...to our church...that they would not be easily distracted by anything foolish or worthless...pursuing girls they are spritually unable to lead, being only ONE of those things.

We are raising boys, so another thing Aaron and I have talked over and over again about is our job to raise up leaders. We need our sons to understand from an early age God's call on their lives as men...in their church, in the community and in their future homes.

It's serious to us that our sons understand that from the moment they enter into a relationship with the opposite sex, God sees them as the leader...and will judge them accordingly...that's a big deal...and unless they are ready, it's not okay.

Sorry...I know this is already long...but..

I'm reading Revolution in World Missions right now...and God has broken my heart over a lot of things...but this topic of dating came up in my soul.

I am praying that by the time my kids are "that age" that they would already know how to live purposefully...not living to please themselves...not living thinking their world revolves around them. The truth is, there are people dying and going to hell all around us...all around them...and a lot of things we do and invest our hearts, our lives in is forgetting that God has a mission here for believers...and it's far from what we've made it a lot of times.

Dear God help us to have trained them by then that there is more to life than going to parties, than being on the phone all day, than trying to be cool, than trying to impress a girl they can't lead, than wanting more and more self-serving relationships...God, I want them to see that there is ministry that needs to be done all around them...there's no time for most of that stuff...there's not time to sit on the computer forever, to watch TV all day..shows that make teens think their only contribution to this world is SHALLOW. I want God using my sons by then.

I'm praying God shows me how to make THAT true.

Stephanee said...

I am loving this discussion - keep writing - I am learning a great deal. These are serious concerns and thoughts that is time to have some clear decisions on how we will raise our kids in this area b/c they are getting way too close to that "age". My daughter is 9 and it is time now to talk about what "dating" will or will not be like. While her heart is so soft and willing and trusting to us and to the Lord. While peer influences have not been an issue yet. Just like you referred to your pastor talking with his kids about not dating in high school when they were young and now they embrace that and trust their parents. BUT before we can talk with our kids we have to seek the LORD for wisdom and have clear direction and convictions from Him. So this discussion is great to remind us of the urgency to seek His will and learn from other godly families!
Stephanee

Adrienne said...

to Lesa,
I recently got married to my college boyfriend and truthfully what kept us both out of sexual sin was that both of us admitted to ourselves that we were in no way ABOVE sinning sexually. My mother has always told me that the minute Satan convinces you that you cannot fall, then you will. Once we reached a serious/engagement point in our relationship, we personally benefited from talking about our sexual temptations. That way we both knew that we both really wanted to and that neither of us could rely on the other one to "stop if it got close to a line." I hope this helps even a little bit. My mother always always instilled in me to 1. Know you are above NOTHING/immune just because y ou're a good christian. and 2. don't ever get in a situation that could even allow you to contemplate sexual sin.

Laurie said...

Thanks for the honest and thoughtful response, Jenn. Again,I think this discussion is really valuable, and I appreciate your (and your readers') investment here. It's been good for me to think through all of this further.

I would so love to be eating Taco Bell discussing all of this with you in person--(I have many more thoughts and questions and not a lot of time to write tonight). But, I will say that I especially appreciate what you say in regards to "not treating relationships like a mini-marriage."--that is SO true and important, and because I have girls to try to protect, and I know firsthand that women are especially susceptible to emotional vulnerabilities, I will add that to my list of things that my daughters absolutely must know one day :)

Again, thanks for sharing!

Jennifer Bacak said...

I know Laurie, it would be so great to get together and talk in person! I miss you! I'm so glad you contributed here, thanks!
Your girls are beautiful, and I would love to see them in person.
jenn

Cindy Seay said...

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to comment on these topics. I have worked too many hours this week with no time for blogging when I get home.

I would love to say that I have all the answers when it comes to raising sexually pure and emotionally healing children, but I know that whatever we did, we did one day at a time with the Lord walking us through.

As for dating - I regret some dating experiences and I wish that we had looked at this issue with greater scrutiny when all my kids were in high school. There was a time when we thought the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" thing was overkill. Today I feel completely different.

As for MySpace - I totally believe that parents must take control of this part of teens lives. When we found inappropriate content on our daughter's page we closed the page completely. She was only allowed to work on her computer downstairs when we were home. What we determined was that she was not mature enough to monitor her page, the friends and the content. Kids cannot be responsible for what other kids attach to their page. We explained to our daughter that it didn't matter that those things were placed there by other people. As long as they were on her page it was a reflection of her and it ruined her testimony.
Our daughter simply enjoyed having friends on her page and found it hard to delete friends when they posted inappropriate items. Kids are not ready to manage this. The norm is to post pictures of themselves looking sexy. The dangers of MySpace are much deeper than I have even begun to speak of. Raising spiritually strong kids means that we must stand firm on these kinds of issues regardless of the fact that "everyone is doing it".
Even though our daughter was 18 when we shut down her MySpace page, we determined that we were going to use every minute that she was in our home, under our care to teach her how to manage herself as a Christian in the world.
I believe that many parents don't even know what is happening on their kids MySpace. At the very least all parents should have access to their kids pages.

Because I have much to say on dating and sexual purity you can find my complete thoughts on my blog this weekend at cindyseay.blogspot.com

I love that all of you are truly seeking God for wisdom in knowing how to raise godly kids.
May God bless you all!
Cindy

Halei said...

I've never dated anyone and I can say I am SO excited to be able to(hopefully) share all everything with one person!
I've learned so much from you and Heather and I am so thankful. I'm not ashamed of never having a boyfriend anymore :o)
I think it all makes PERFECT sense.
You are such an inspiration!
Thank you!

Jennifer Bacak said...

Halei,
Thank you! What a blessing that you haven't been entangled in this dating mess! You will never be sorry! Thanks for sharing!
jenn

Amanda said...

I just want to ditto Halei! It is good!! And, of course, I love you!