I have three adult children who are either dating or of dating age and after 25 years of marriage and lots of exposure to teenagers who are in the “throws” of dating, I’ve learned one thing that I want my teens to know about dating:
Dating, done right, is a an outgrowth of worship done right.
In other words, God has to be your First Love before you can date with wisdom.
It takes two people to date and get married, but only one to walk away. (Or to check out, which is the same as separating emotionally.) Divorce statistics are pretty staggering in the Christian community, don’t you think? Over 50%?
I know careful dating doesn’t guarantee that a marriage will last, but knowing that you are on the same page “worship-wise” from the get-go is so important because worship determines direction.
I’m sure you’ve seen newly dating couples who can’t seem to function without one another. At first it just seems cute, like “young love” and all dreamy-filtered-Instagram-my, but at it’s core, this obsession can be really unhealthy.
If one person has become an idol, that’s not love at all. It’s co-dependence–like a wood tick on a cat—a parasite on a host. Not a sustainable relationship because you suck the life out of each other.
I’m the kind of mom who points to the prison almost every time we pass by and tell my kids, “That’s where people who disobey the law end up.” I’m kind of a harper like that.
So when it comes to love and marriage, I’ve told me kids that love is doing the best for people when they are at their worst. Go into the relationship planning for the poorer, the sicker, the hard and unlovely and being thankful for the good.
Maybe our wedding vows should be more honest. (My wheels are turning, but I’ll spare you my sarcastic side.)
Suffice it to say, you are promising to love in the HARD. If an accident leaves him a quadriplegic or if the girl you were so attracted to ends up bed ridden and can do nothing for you, this is the “forever” mindset you are signing up for and pledging before God and these witnesses. *
THIS IS LOVE.
Love is my grandfather caring for my grandmother in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and never wanting to leave her side.
Anything that resembles “for richer”, good health, and mountaintop moments are all just the gravy on top.
When your desires are first met in God alone, this changes your focus completely. Dating is no longer about what I need from you but becomes what can we do together to serve this amazing God we have. This changes and informs and puts limits on our earthly interactions with each other.
Dating (and eventually marriage) is about you and me on mission to worship God properly, as equals, side by side, joint heirs of Jesus Christ. This overarching world view keeps Christ focal and my wants and whims and whining at bay.
Everything I do for my spouse, every interaction, every kind word when I don’t feel like being kind, every respectful answer when I feel like snapping back, is because my FIRST LOVE has commanded it to be so.
Christ is the True North in the dating then marriage commitment. We go off course when our “love” for this person becomes twisted and all about my needs being met. Self centered love exposes worship disorder.
In dating, worship disorder says:
- “You’ll finally complete me!”
- “He understands me better than anyone else I know.”
- “I can’t live without him.”
- “I’d do anything for him.”
- “With him, I’ll finally be happy.”
In marriage, worship disorder says:
- my husband needs to meet all of my need
- my husband needs to make sure I feel loved
- my husband needs to learn to communicate more
- my husband needs to appreciate me more
Like a tick on a cat. You do for me. You perform for me. You live to make me happy.
What if we returned to true worship, even in our relationships? What if we expected more of God and less of our spouse? What if we found our fulfillment in God alone? If we relied more on the unfailing promises of God and gave our spouse grace to be human?
Gary Thomson in A Lifelong Love says it this way:
“Isn’t it true that many marital arguments result from disappointment with our spouses? We want them to be something of do something or catch something and they aren’t or they don’t, and we feel sorry for ourselves. We really do want them to love us like God loves us…
Do you recognize that’s an impossible burden for a human spouse, right?
But what if I sought a “monk’s marriage”? What if I decided that I would depend on God alone, expecting nothing from my spouse but depending entirely on God for all my needs, including my emotional and relational needs.” pg.99
When God calls us into a dating or marriage relationship, there are certainly perks and blessings, but it’s not ultimately about our happiness. As Christians, our marriage is a picture, a metaphor, of Christ’s irresistible love for the church. Our love for our spouse shows the world a Kingdom picture.
This can only be done with the Lord’s help, through daily “dying” to our flesh, and by putting others first as an act of worship to the Lord.
In marriage, the way upward is downward. The way to unity is via humility, supernatural humility, in response to all we have and owe to our First Love.
I want my kids to know that a lasting marriage is not because two people just clicked while 50% of others didn’t. Marriage is hard work because the flesh is strong and sin is always with us. Pride and misplaced worship drives us to demand that my needs be met or else. That you praise me, appreciate me, notice me, etc… or else all bets are off.
I have one of the easiest husbands to get along with on the planet. Peter is really just the nicest guy ever. We were high school sweet hearts. I’ve always been crazy about him and I can honestly say that he has kissed me and told me he loves me every morning before work for the last 25 years. He is thoughtful and generous and makes sacrifices so that I will not only have what I “need” but anything he thinks will make me happy. (Hello, he’s taking me to LONDON for our 25th Wedding Anniversary!! Such a great surprise!)
This doesn’t mean that our marriage has been trial-free. No, we are both lively, driven, and selfish. (Him especially! JK) And to my shame, there have been many times when I’ve been argumentative, selfish, and disrespectful in marriage. I’ve insisted on my own way, pouted when disagreements arose, expected Peter to read my mind and meet needs that only God can meet. Every time I acted this way, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I was in the midst of a worship-disorder.
If I had known this truth earlier on, that my marriage is an outpouring of my worship, I might not have struggled as much as I did.
A passion for God will keep your own passions in check. You’ll not so easily desire anything outside of His will. “If you love me, keep my word.”
Christ has an undeniable claim on your life AND on the life of your spouse/fiancee/boyfriend/girlfriend because God is their father and cares about how they are treated. It’s a crazy thought that God is my “father-in-law” because I married His redeemed and loved child, Peter. And God cares about every interaction I have with Peter and vice versa.
PURITY in dating becomes easier: “I’m dealing with God’s child and He cares and knows if I violate His will.” “I am not going to ask him/her to sin for my “benefit” when my First Love is CENTRAL in my heart and mind.
And Purity is not just a dating issue. The misplaced worship of self in dating only multiplies the struggle in marriage. This is why it’s mandatory that our heart’s affection is firmly attached to the God who claims our first love, allegiance, our life, and our all.
Why not focus on this first love and find your fulfillment in Him? He’s is THE SOURCE of all happiness. This frees you to love others well.
*NOT talking about enduring abuse here. If you are being abused, separate and get help. Be safe for you and your kids. It’s not Christian to be someone’s punching bag, verbally or physically.
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