One of the best parts of Todd’s job is our getting to spend every summer with the college students that work for him. It is both a privilege and an eye-opening experience. A person can assume all day what is going on in the heads and hearts of college kids these days by watching the media, but to listen to them talk candidly with each other, to watch them serve and interact with people of all ages, and to read their Facebook posts and Twitter feeds is to have a finger, at least lightly, on the pulse of this generation.
I could be wrong, but I sense in them a longing to push through the noise and embrace what is real, to matter in the grand scope of things, to be accepted and loved for who they are, and to figure out who that actually is–now that I think about it, they sound just like the rest of us. Somewhere in the middle of it all, they want to find love, the kind that will last, and they worry that it will never happen because it hasn’t happened to them yet and because it seems to happen less and less these days. Many have grown discouraged and are becoming skeptical of love and marriage in general.
As a mother of two teenagers, this bothers me. I don’t want my kids to burn up all their optimism and enthusiasm treading water in a sea of wounded cynics. We’ve worked too hard to set a good example for them, talked too much about marriage, love, and commitment, spent too much energy building their self-esteem and helping them find their worth in Christ for the enemy to come along and choke out on the other end a relationship that might have had potential.
But what’s to be done?I don’t know other than to offer the same encouragement and advice to other young people that I offer my own kids.For what it’s worth, here it goes.
1. Stop watching romantic comedies (and reading them), or at least stop holding them up as the standard by which you judge your own relationships. Movies aren’t real. They aren’t even realistic. For instance, how often do the characters in your favorite movie take time out to blow their nose, balance their checkbook, go to the grocery store for milk, or take a potty break like real people? Not often. Movie people leave the boring and yucky stuff out, but real life is full of ordinary stuff like that. The real test of a relationship is not whether or not they do things for you that are Twitter and/or Facebook worthy, but whether they are content to be with you and be there for you in the mundane moments and yuck of life.
Also, it’s not fair to expect real people to always know what to say and do and when to say and do it, even if they get it right a lot of the time. Movie actors are just running lines written by someone else—lying, essentially—and odds are, it took the writer(s) more than a handful of drafts to get the words just right and the actors several takes to deliver them in a way that melts your heart and jerks your tears.
Lastly, very few people look like, act like, dress like, and/or kiss (etc.) like people in the movies. You shouldn’t hold out for one of those unless you are one of those, and—hate to break it to you—you probably aren’t. The actors themselves, in real life, probably aren’t either.
2. Put the past behind you. Just because something has been doesn’t mean it will be. That goes for bad relationships, mistakes that you have made, and a lack of relationships all together.
Most of us have a bad relationship or two under our belt and wish that they had never happened. Don’t let fear of being hurt or hurting someone without meaning to keep you from what could be a very positive experience in the future. Fear is never of God. Wisdom, yes. Fear, no.
We all make mistakes. Some of us make the kind of mistakes that drive us to our knees in confession, the kind that convince us that we don’t deserve God’s best anymore. Don’t you believe the devil’s lie. God forgives. God restores.And those who know Him have the capacity to love as He does. Sure, sin has consequences, and no, they aren’t pleasant and aren’t usually over quickly, but God will sustain you, and you are still lovable because He loves you.
Never having had a relationship can cause you to question whether or not something is wrong with you. It isn’t.God is sparing you. Believe me when I say that you would rather not have had any relationship at all than go through a bad relationship or make mistakes that the devil will forever play over and over in your head. My guess is that most of us, had we actually heeded God’s warning and leading, would know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but we got antsy and took things into our own hands, making a mess of them. Who knows? God may need the time that you are spending alone to work in the heart of your future beloved and arrange circumstances to His liking.
3. Relax and have fun! I don’t even pretend to understand the new dating rules that young people go by these days, but I do know that whoever created them should not be given the authority to dictate how you live your life. Having to constantly clarify whether you are “hanging out” or on a date? Friend zone?Huh? What ever happened to going out on a date—which is a just a boy and girl who are at least friends hanging out for a while, by the way—and just seeing if it goes anywhere? These “rules” are nonsense, and I think the enemy is using them to confuse what God may be doing in your life.
Girls, by agreeing to go on a first date you are not asking for or saying “yes” to a marriage proposal, nor do guys assume that you are. How are they supposed to know if they want to marry you if you’ve never been out on a date? Stop overthinking things. If you think that you would have fun going out with someone and they meet the standards God has set for you, then go out with them. See what happens. If it doesn’t work out, you will both recover (if that is even necessary, and it usually isn’t unless you’ve let your imagination run away from you), and you will both learn something from the process. If he wants to pay for the date, let him. You are not making any promises by letting him spend his money, but you are probably denying him some measure of pleasure that he would get by spoiling you and being the guy he wants to be if you don’t. Oh, and stop worrying so much about how you look! Boys are much more forgiving of a bad hair day, water retention, or a booger in the nose than we are, and honestly, very few of them know a whole lot about women’s fashion.
Guys, take every date as an opportunity to practice being a gentleman, but don’t let any girl’s preconceived ideas of how they should be treated dictate your behavior or spook you. Be yourself. Be polite, thoughtful, and genuine, just as you should be on any given day at any given time. If that isn’t enough for a girl you go out with, then you are better off knowing that from the start. Honestly, a girl with hoops needs to get herself a poodle or tiny little pony to jump through them. She also needs to see tip #1 above. Also, please take the lead in the relationship. Prayerfully, set the pace.Girls tend to steer the ship because they’ve read all the manuals, but don’t let that intimidate you. No matter what they say, girls respect confident (but not domineering) men. Don’t you? Besides, once the framework is up, it’s hard to move what you’ve built to a new foundation. Begin every relationship the way you intend to live it out in the long run.
4. Trust God.God created you. He knows your needs better than you do, and He is already meeting them. You just can’t see it. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Of course, trusting Him means leaving it up to Him to decide whether or not you actually need a mate, something society tells us incessantly that we must have. Psalm 37:4 tells us to “take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that if you love God He will give you what you want.Personally, I think it means that if you find contentment in God, He will cause your heart to want what He wants.If you let that happen, then whatever He decides will be okay with you.
Now, I know this doesn’t even begin to cover all that needs to be said, but these are the words that rattle around in my head and beg to be spoken, the thoughts that make me want to interrupt perfect strangers having coffee at the next table and add my two cents to their conversation…in my defense, that has only happened once! I don’t, for a second, claim to be an expert on relationships or have all the answers, but I do believe in real love that lasts one ordinary day at a time.
And…I want you to be happy!
On that note, I am so glad that Todd and I were too young to know any better when we met and married.If either of us had spent too much time analyzing our relationship or waiting for the other to live up to some impossible standard, we wouldn’t be together now, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are as happy as any couple I’ve ever met. More and more, I think God brought us together just because we let Him.