Growing up I had this perception that when I turned 18, there would be a line of suitors down my sidewalk.
Then I went to college, the Mecca of Christian manhood – and expected the same thing.
Well, surprise, surprise! Not every man in Michigan and Virginia got word I was on the market. There were a few dates; a few going-out-for-coffees… but definitely no receiving line.
I’m hoping you’ve read enough of my other posts to understand my views on purity, dating, and sexuality, but if not, I’ll give you a bullet point list:
- Purity is not about standards; it’s about pleasing God.
- Standards of dating behavior come from our desire to please and honor God. When you want to please God, you won’t go ‘too far’.
- God designed sex for within marriage for our protection and our glory.
- Women who respect themselves and understand their God-given value will have the most successful relationships (we’ll talk about this in this post).
- We should place higher priority on God’s approval than on man’s, and always be willing to give up man’s approval in order to keep God’s.
Christian girls are bombarded with messages of ‘guard your heart’ and ‘true love waits’: all good missions with great intentions. But are we issuing these commands out of fear, or out of love for God and His holiness?
Let’s be honest: parents are afraid. And I don’t blame you. With Miley Cyrus wagging around on stage, porn sites popping up on Google and hormonal teen boys leaning on your daughter’s locker, I’d be scared too.
But fear-motivated rules are not effective.
The purity movement is fantastic and I wholeheartedly support its mission. But there is a spectrum that has been heavily influenced by fear, and messages of purity now come with an unspoken addendum:
If I date more than one person before the one I marry, I didn’t guard my heart appropriately.
I’m only half a person until I meet the person I need to marry.
I can’t go out with him/ask her out because if I do, I’m basically marrying them.
We think these things because we’re afraid. We’re afraid that if we let our girls open their hearts to someone, they might get hurt. We’re afraid if their emotions are unfolded, they’ll go too far physically. We’re afraid that if we date a few people we’ll be perceived as a player, or our husband will think less of us, or we’ll have ‘half a heart’ on our wedding day.
GIRLS! We can’t keep living pure lives motivated by fear! Rules without relationship – or a relationship based on fear of punishment – equals rebellion.
Yes, God’s guidelines for dating are BE PURE. Why? So we can approach His holy hill with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:4) and hear His will for our lives with unmistakable clarity. God takes purity seriously because He is completely and utterly holy. He commands us to be the same (1 Pet. 1:16), but not just for kicks and giggles. We must be holy so we can hear His will for our lives.
But God’s mission for purity does not mean we go through life afraid of feeling emotion.
‘Guard Your Heart’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Pretend You Don’t Have Feelings’
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” This is the mantra of many well-meaning purity speakers, and in many ways their messages ring true. But when interpreting Scripture, we can’t just pull pieces out and plug it into our topic. We have to look at the context and determine what the author was trying to say.
Proverbs 4 is written from a father to his son. The theme of this passage is ‘words and wisdom’. Over and over the father says, “pay attention to my words!”. And right before 4:23, he says:
Reread that verse again, please.
So: before we ‘keep our heart with all vigilance’, what are we supposed to keep IN our hearts?
Words of wisdom!
The writer’s point was not “keep your heart guarded” but “keep the WORDS OF WISDOM guarded within your heart”, because the words are our source of abundant life.
It’s not about ceasing to feel. We should recognize our God-given desires for marriage and relationship! Embrace them, endorse them – and commit them to Christ. This guardianship is about keeping God’s word as the HIGHEST priority in our hearts, which will in turn guide every decision we make in life – including our decisions about dating.
God Never Said You’d Marry the First Person You Date
I realize that ‘Dating and Relationships’ wasn’t a subseries in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus didn’t have a session on how to DTR.
Yet in God’s silence on the subject, we have somehow constructed an 11th Commandment reading: “Thou shalt marry the first person you date.” Years ago, I believed it. But looking back, I have a different perspective.
God created us for relationships. He created us to feel emotion just as He feels emotion: compassion, delight, satisfaction, righteous anger, sadness, and affection. Just because our fallen world has corrupted relationships does NOT mean we reject God-given emotions. We learn how to use them in a God-honoring manner.
Here’s a personal example. For my entire high school education, I was infatuated with one boy after another. I could not wait to have a boyfriend and was repeatedly disappointed when boys I liked ended up with other girls. My emotions completely controlled my life.
When I turned 21, a light bulb went off. I still desired a relationship. I longed to be a bride, a wife, and a mother someday. On my knees one morning, Bible open, I read Psalm 113:9:
“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.”
I prayed: “Lord, you know I want to be a wife and mother. I believe, from your Word, that these are godly, good desires. I believe they are from you. So I am trusting that you will settle me – a currently childless woman – in a home someday, somewhere, with some man. And if not, I pray you would remove that desire from me and give me the strength to go on alone. Until then, I’m trusting you to fulfill my dream.”
For once in my life, the rollercoaster calmed down. I had confidence in my relationships with girls, guys, parents, and coworkers. I wasn’t desperate for attention anymore – I could turn a date down because I wasn’t afraid that guy was my ‘only shot’. And I went on plenty of dates.
I began to view a date as a privilege to get to know a man who risked money, time, and the answer ‘no’ to take me out. I gave guys who weren’t my type the time of day. I took the emotional risk and stopped fearing what could happen.
As I got to know these gentlemen both on dates and as friends, I began to determine what I was looking for in my husband. Sure, I had a list of qualities in my desk drawer – but now I could see it in action. I made mistakes, and I even got hurt a few times, but other times I ended up with a great friend.
As long as God’s word was guiding my heart, I was free to feel emotion in my relationships without being crushed when it didn’t work out. I allowed myself to think through these relationships honestly with the guidance of God’s Spirit. I didn’t invest my whole being in one date or one man because God was my investment. That heavenly investment made me almost immune to earthly disappointment. God’s grace protected me, and eventually God’s grace guided me to my sweet Mr. M!
(P.S. – some of us WILL marry the first man we date. There is nothing wrong with that! But don’t feel ‘tarnished’ if a relationship does not work out. Every relationship is part of the journey of life and can be redeemed for God’s glory.)
Stop Kissing Frogs
Now, there’s a very specific reason I had such a great experience, and some of you aren’t going to like this very much.
I didn’t kiss any of the guys who asked me out.
I didn’t do this because Josh Harris said so. I didn’t do it for parents, for popularity or even for PURITY at first. I did it as a test of a man’s character.
If a man had a burr under his saddle to plant his lips on mine, I wasn’t interested. There’s a lot more to me than these Loreal lips! I wanted to talk about my career, his education, my interests, and his family. If all he was interested in was making out – peace out, homey.
The result? Every guy I went out with treated me like a lady. Doors opened, chair pulled out, everything paid for, dropped off on time, “Can I see you again?”
Now before you get your panties in a bunch and email me for being ‘condescending’ or ‘arrogant’ – I’m not. I did kiss a guy before I was married, and the consequences of that compromise were astronomical. There’s posts about that. I don’t look down on those who HAVE kissed before marriage, but if you wonder why your relationships keep tanking, think about what I’m saying here.
By withholding any hope of physical gratification, a man was forced to respect me. He was forced to prove himself in other ways. He couldn’t win me with his mad kissing skills; so he had to ‘up the ante’ in every other way! That is exactly what won me to my husband. He outperformed every other man I’d ever met. Our first date was as fancy as a marriage proposal!
Don’t bother kissing frogs to find a prince – leave the scummy pond and head toward the castle! Respect yourself and see the VALUE in yourself and it will command the respect of men around you. You might get asked out less; it might take more patience – but do you want lasting love or temporary thrill? That’s our choice.
While purity wasn’t my initial motivator, once in a relationship I refrained from kissing to protect myself from going too far (read more about this story in Does God Forgive Sexual Sin?). Remember that purity is about being in a place to hear God’s will. If you have doubts about your relationship, think about the status of the physical behavior. Hearing God’s will while tangled up on the couch with a schmuck dulls the voice of God and keeps us living below our calling.
Also see: 5 Myths About Saving Your Kiss for the Wedding Day.
Guard the Place of God in Your Heart
Girls, you can never guard your heart completely. Only God can do that.
“But you, Oh Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the Lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3)
“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” (2 Chron. 16:9)
He is your shield, and your faith in Him holds it up (Eph. 6:10-18). Remember what Proverbs 4 teaches: the supremacy of God’s word and wisdom over every other priority of life. When God is supreme in our hearts, He guards them. We don’t have to.
If you want to know how to live life, how to choose the right man, whether to go on a date with a guy – God’s word is the answer. I know: there’s no Dating section. But God talks a lot about true love, respect, honor, and purity. How are these reflected in your dating relationship?
Don’t let your own physical desires and the desires of a noncommittal man dictate your decisions. Remind yourself of your value and wait for a man who treats you the way you deserve. They’re out there!
Don’t let emotions control your heart and mind. Entrust your desires to God and trust, trust, trust!
And most of all, don’t guard your heart from the freedom of knowing others, even with the risk. Risk love, and guard the place of God in your heart. If He is first, you will always make decisions of wisdom.
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Other posts by this author:
That Day I Wore White: Our Wedding
I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and It Was the Best Thing I Ever Did
Countering the Christian Fear of Sex