I have grown up in church all of my life. Every Sunday morning and evening, every Wednesday night, and any other times that my parents entered those doors, so did I. All of my friends growing up were from the church, many of my childhood memories were made in the church.
My schooling was done at home until 6th grade. Because of this, my family has a very unusual strength to it. We have spent so much time in homeschool we had no choice but to like each other. This was my childhood.
In the midst of that strong love I learned to have and hold, was a life sheltered and protected from the outside world.
There are many wonderful things to learn from this lifestyle though. Drugs and getting drunk on alcohol don’t really appeal to me. My relationship with God has remained firm despite the difficulties of life. I am who I am because of the strength of my family, and the relationship with God I found in church. These two institutions, family and church, have played a crucial role in forming my positive outlook in life.
There are other things though, things that have been very difficult for me, personal issues that I am still trying to overcome. Homeschooling and church didn’t cause them directly. Indirectly though, a mindset of protection and shelter was implied. I have been struggling with this mindset even into my adulthood. I don’t believe that church and homeschool are a wrong way to raise your kids, but nothing is perfect.
Thankfully, Jesus is.
In the early to late 90s there was a movement in the protestant churches to do away with dating. Joshua Harris’ book I kissed Dating Goodbye was popular fair at the time. Many youth pastors took up his flag of “don’t date but wait” and ran with it. The concept was simple, beautiful, and fatefully romantic. Do away with dating and pursue God. If the right girl enters your life, court her—that is, date her with the intent of marriage—and allow God to bring it to pass.
Sounds like the perfect movie premise. A man does away with romance until fate brings along the perfect woman.
Despite the problems with this premise, my young mind ate it up. It fit right along with the sheltered mindset I had. Protect yourself from the wily ways of dating and give it over to God. I treated God as a fateful cupid with an arrow of love waiting to pierce my bosom.
I have always been a hopeless romantic you see. Even before the hormones hit, I dreamt of the perfect fairytale marriage to that certain special someone. Watching love stories in movies was a window into these dreams, an archetype that spoke deeply to my longing, romantic heart.
Disney’s Robin Hood was a favorite of my childhood.
Every time my family entered the video store I went to the children’s section and grabbed it. My brother’s groaned as mother rented it yet again, hiding a smile.
After watching, countless times, the fox save the princess and then marry her, I remember wondering to myself, much like the rabbit in the beginning, what happens next?
As the carriage drove away with the sign “Just Married!” tied to the back, I saw the two newlyweds kissing in the window. It seemed like something special and wonderful was in store for them. I wanted it with all my heart.
Fast-forward through my awkward tween years and into high school, and you have a very nervous teenager who has finally “arrived” ready to make such romantic dreams a reality.
I was a sophomore when it happened… not speaking of dreams fulfilled now, but rather delayed for more than a decade (and hopefully no longer). It was my brother who introduced me to the book, I kissed Dating Goodbye. He was of that pious sort that stuck to an idea and ran with it to its very end, no matter what. I was much the same and I strongly looked up to his simplistic ideals. I had seen the pain dating had caused my older brothers. I didn’t want that.
When he spoke of a college group he attended called Bachelors ‘Till the Rapture, I was all ears. It seemed so smart, so wise. Chase after God and let him bring her into your life. I made myself an unofficial member.
That night, I made a very solemn promise to Jesus, sealing the deal. “I won’t date anyone until You show me the girl I’m supposed to marry.”
My brother eventually gave up these ideals. Now he is married with three beautiful children. I, on the other hand, was a bit more stubborn.
Fast-forward, once again, twelve years later. I’m 28, unmarried, single, and have no idea how to relate to women in a dating situation. It isn’t for lack of trying. I’ve long since given up the stubborn promise I unwittingly made to Jesus.
There are several glaring problems to the premise of the book. How can you kiss dating goodbye, after all, and still “date” in your courtship? Perhaps the title should have been, Dating Responsibly. Even still, how do you find out who the “right one” is to court, how do you get to know her without dating her first? With a mature mind I have realized my mistake in trusting my decisions to a brother and a book. Still what is left is a mature adult with an adolescent understanding of relationships.
Any girl I meet is going to automatically assume that I’ve done this before countless times. I’m 28 after all and rather handsome if I do say so myself.
When women see that a connection isn’t being made, they move on, secure in the knowledge that he’s a good guy but isn’t the right one. Little do they know, I haven’t been playing this game for very long; the reason any connections might be missing may be because I have no idea what I’m doing.
A few frustrating days later it hits me though, my maturity catches up and smacks me square in the forehead. I get it. When she said she had no one to talk to about such and such, she was testing me. She wanted to see if I would be the person that she could talk to. I could have given her that response in spades if given the time to figure it out and make it happen, but I’m 28 years old. I should know better by now right?
It was all for romance that I made such a harmful promise of waiting instead of dating. I wanted the best that God had for me, the only one girl worthy to receive my affections. I also had an extreme fear of being hurt. So, skipping the whole dating thing and getting on to the courtship seemed an easy way to also skip my fear of rejection. Ironically, this one little promise has caused me worlds of pain, more so, I wager, than simply opening my heart to a good girl.
Instead of giving me that romance I desperately long for, the ideals of my lofty promise have squandered it, making me a dunce on the subject. Women from afar may see me in a rather handsome way, but up close they find a distant man. I’ve been protecting my heart for so long, it’s very hard to open up to them in that way.
What was I protecting my hear form though? What monsters where out to get me? It was all an illusion, fabricated by Joshua Harris and those youth pastors who themselves dated in order to marry. I heard so many stories by them, stories of men that had fallen victim to their lusts. I didn’t trust myself to make it, so I abstained from dating entirely. I protected and sheltered myself from it. Out of fear I said no!
To put it bluntly what I had really meant with the promise was, “God I am afraid that if I date I will have sex with women. So instead of dating I’m going to pursue after you.”
The result? I have been coming to God out of fear for twelve years, putting his views of romance in a box of my own creation. Only when he pointed and said, “Pursue her” would I then go and pursue her. But what if God wished for me to meet the one through different means, like perhaps actually dating one?
There were many great young women that came across my path, many wonderful matches that I turned my heart from because it didn’t fit the fearful promise I had made to God.
Instead of making me a godly person, these ideals made me picky and hard to please. Instead of helping me love others, it made me selfish. Instead of drawing me closer to God it drew me further away. When he didn’t answer my prayers in the way that I wanted them, I became frighteningly angry at him. Behind my pious outlook and façade of godliness was a demanding brutal resolve, “I want a women exactly like this God, this way and no other.”
I am eating my own words now. Even after being free from that strange sheltered mindset, there are women I have met with the same ideals I had entertained for so long. Instead of giving me a chance to love, they turn their backs when I don’t meet up to their picky standards. I want to shake them out of it, tell them and warn them, that they will regret this. I too walked the fearful path they now tread.
I can’t tell them though, and I can’t take those twelve lonesome years back. It’s gone like the wind, past memories of regret. All I can do is blog about it in the fervent hope that someone out there will listen and take my warnings to heart.
Even today there are teenagers who see things as I did, they protect and shelter their hearts and minds too closely, running away from any chance of a relationship. You should be protective of what God has blessed you with, but not so much that you never take any chances, not so much that you live in fear.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2Timothy 1:7
Come to Jesus out of love not fear. Trust him to help you grow. Be free to live your lives in pursuit of the opposite sex. Be touchable and open to commitment, you never know what can happen.
Check out I Have Two Question’s for Romance.