I became a teenager when the “Purity Culture” in the height of its intensity. I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris and When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy. God was going to send me my Prince Charming on a dazzling unicorn and we would be swept up in a magnificent love story that we would later tell our children as we tuck them into bed at night.
Then, I heard that one of the girls I looked up to was dating. I was horrified.
“Didn’t she kiss dating goodbye?” I remarked to her sister, my best friend.
“Well, she’s dating,” my best friend stated matter-of-factly with a shrug so typical of her practical self.
My best friend’s sister had learned something that I would soon learn. Love is messy. Life is messy. Many of the Biblical characters didn’t have glamorous love stories. In fact, my parents love story isn’t exactly a story that could be told to children at bedtime.
Today, the landscape is very different. Joshua Harris and his wife are getting a divorce. In fact, Joshua isn’t a Christian anymore. Yet, I am thankful for some of the principles I learned from that frenzy about purity. Things like waiting until you are ready to get married to engage in romantic relationships have made this season all the more magical. I am not jaded and I am a lot more mature so the adventures have been intriguing. Here are 4 little things that I have learned so far.
My wardrobe was on point. I was getting the hang of the makeup game. I had money in my retirement fund. I had just scored my dream job. I was ready to tackle this terrifying beast called romantic relationships. Granted there were quite a few pep talks from my sister, my uncle and my best friend because I was very petrified.
I determined that I would say yes to the next decent man that asked. I imagined that it would be someone from church. Possibly, a new med student at a Saturday evening social. Just as long as he wasn’t creepy and exuded kindness.
I met him. However, he wasn’t a med student. He wasn’t even at church. He was in the grocery store. I was just a little bit taken aback. Usually, I immediately reject guys in the store, but this one fit the bill. He was gentle and kind. I rationalized that if he didn’t work out I wouldn’t have to see him again (what were the chances that it would work out? None. Right?). Oh, I also had the most basic outfit and not a shred of makeup on.
I met him again. He was an “old” friend with whom sparks suddenly flew while walking around in an exhibition hall in a convention center. Not as kind, but still quite intriguing.
Guys need that little “come up hither” to boost their confidence. It might be a flashing a smile or a little wave. For the dashing gentleman buying iceberg lettuce, it was holding a conversation. For the handsome old friend, it was cheeky texts that didn’t match my quiet seemly conservative persona.
The little invitations are probably the hardest for me. At least it’s hard to send them when I am very invested. Yet, I am learning.
Respect the Pursuit
I have always been that girl that ignores guys and until I see one that I like. At that point, I have no qualms about pronouncing my feelings. This has never worked well for me so I have effectively suppressed this instinct.
While I still hold that the key to a good love story is all about a godly man treasuring a gift from God (neither Adam nor Isaac pursued their wives and they have some of the most beautiful love stories in the Bible), it can be fun to be pursued. Dashing gentleman initiated dates and was the first to text once he got home. Yes, I called him once, but then he happily initiated phone calls from then on. Handsome friend, on the other hand, was another story. It felt like whenever I looked at my phone and thought about him he would call or text. I hate phone calls, but he completely charmed me when he called the first time.
Investigate the Red Flag
“There’s a bar,” dashing iceberg gentleman said.
“I don’t drink,” I said firmly sort of hoping to scare him off.
“I don’t know if this is okay, but can I take you out to dinner then?”
I knew I couldn’t assume that he drank regularly or even more than socially. The only way to find out would be to engage with him and he seemed nice enough to risk it. My gut was right. He was very much the gentleman. He would always respect my preferences and convictions.
Inevitably more red flags popped up. I stayed and engaged with them about the issues. I heard their side of the story. They listen to my point of view. I want to have a strong spiritual leader. I don’t want to have sex before marriage. Can you give up drinking for me? Will you partner with me to raise our children in a Christian home? I want someone who is on my level intellectually. One man ghosted. The other courteously broke things off.
These relationships didn’t have forever potential, but I learned from them. There are some things that you can only learn from engaging with a person. The biggest thing I am learning is to have fun and let life be messy. You can only treasure the good times and learn from the mistakes. Watch my next relationship go and contradict everything I have just learned.
As I texted to a close friend of mine:
…This requires an intricate balance of heart and head. It’s difficult to master it.
What are you learning from your relationships? Give a girl some advice.