Standing in front of 50 teenagers at the One Girl Conference, I spouted, “I only have one thing to say: don’t date!”
They looked at me in stunned silence until I began to laugh, eliminating their fears that I was serious. After all, they chose this particular breakout to get the skinny on the who, what, when, where and why’s of this hot topic.
Not that I’m an expert by any means. After all, it has been approximately 1000 years ago since I had my first date. And, may I just say that I am more pleased than a child anticipating a trip to Disney World that I don’t have to repeat that process. The agony of all the going with and breaking up is akin to getting my teeth cleaned. Awkward, uncomfortable and painful.
What sort of advice beyond “avoid boys at all costs” could I give them? These girls had moved past the “boys are icky” stage. Too bad. Bright-eyed, ears open, young brains receptive, they eagerly awaited the magic formula to snag the perfect guy. Gee, I wish it were that easy. Relationships are com-pli-ca-ted! Hence, my plea to take.their.time. Don’t rush the process!
Along the way, I’ve amassed knowledge about this dating game. Lots of it after the fact—you know, after I made mistakes. After I had compromised, rationalized, justified why I should continue in a relationship not healthy, holy or heartening. The view on the other side seems much clearer than when I sported my bell bottoms and red swish Nikes back in the 80’s. Steering my own teens through the dating process has given me crystal clear vision, yet often my words of wisdom have fallen on deaf ears. How I desire to spare girls everywhere the consequences of life-changing poor choices!
So, when given the opportunity with a captive audience of enthusiastic girls, I shared from my own experiences as well as material from various sources. These are a few thoughts worthy of communicating to all girls and moms of tweens or teens:
1. You are a masterpiece, created by God and therefore, worth something! Don’t focus on trying to get someone else to like you; instead, focus on becoming who God created you to be. He has a purpose for you beyond catching a boy. Don’t get distracted or set your dreams aside just to find a boy. Trust God for that someone, and don’t rush the process. What if you went about your everyday life becoming the person God created you to be? In doing this, your inner beauty is growing, and believe me, you’ll attract the right kind of guy down the road—when you least expect it!
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
2. Don’t date because you are lonely or unhappy. Being in a relationship will not cure either one. It’s unfair to expect a guy to make you happy. They aren’t perfect and neither are you. All of us feel lonely at times, even those who are married. At some point, a guy will let you down. Settling for less, facing disrespect or staying in a dating relationship just so you won’t feel alone, is dangerous. Only God can satisfy the emptiness you feel or bring the joy you lack. If you struggle with loneliness, strengthen your relationship with God and with friends who will encourage you in your faith.
3. Date a guy who shares your same values. One of my parents’ rules when I began dating was that I couldn’t date a non-Christian. Some say this shouldn’t be a big deal because after all, you aren’t marrying the guy; you’re just dating. Aha! But, dating leads to marriage. You may not believe you’ll get married, but when you become emotionally attached and perhaps physically involved, voila, you end up staying with a person you should never have dated in the first place. So, why go there? Why take the chance? Set guidelines about the types of guys you’ll date ahead of time. When someone asks you out who doesn’t meet those standards, say no! Be picky.
Missionary dating doesn’t usually work either. Too often, the believer begins to compromise his or her values because of peer pressure. My daughter-in-law, Kyla, says her mom always told her if she couldn’t see herself married to the guy, she shouldn’t date him. So, if you don’t want to marry a guy that doesn’t respect you, doesn’t share your values, doesn’t make you a better you, doesn’t draw you closer to God, refuses to acknowledge and work through his own imperfections and isn’t honest, don’t start the relationship!
So, what if you’ve already made mistakes? What if you’ve crossed physical lines you shouldn’t have or are dating someone right now that doesn’t enhance your relationship with God? Perhaps you may need to consider breaking off the relationship! Know that God offers forgiveness when you make mistakes, and He gives us a do-over.
“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
How grateful I am for a God who wipes the slate clean when I mess up! No matter who you are, a young girl just becoming interested in boys, a teen who already has regrets involving dating, or a mom teaching your own daughters about dating, we can all experience God’s grace and forgiveness.
This is a short snippet of what I shared with tweens and teens at the conference. Entire books about dating line shelves, and I would encourage you to read more about this topic if you are in this phase of life as a teen or mom.
And, if you have a great piece of advice to share about dating or relationships, I’d love to hear it!