Heart of the Matter: Dating
Having looked into the tearful eyes of parents whose children have abandoned the Faith, I have learned there are a million miles between our children “going through the motions” in reference to their spiritual lives versus our children possessing hearts that dictate their actions. In this column, I plan to share with you what I hope to instill in the hearts of my own children and those whom I love.
It can come in the form of a song, the name of a city, or a neighborhood. It can even sprout from a particular food, restaurant, or the smell of familiar perfume.
Having given your heart to a high school sweetheart, those memories of young love come crashing back in a single instant without a moment’s notice. And sadly, the memory they bring is a reminder that our husband or wife is not the only person who has possessed a portion of our hearts.
In the church we occasionally teach on the importance of abstinence before marriage. We wrongly assume that by avoiding sexual relations before marriage we have completely obeyed God’s will regarding dating and relationships. However, that’s only part of the equation. We often neglect the importance of guarding our hearts and remaining pure.
There is an enormous difference in Biblical purity vs. technical virginity—one that is rarely taught or spoken about. Many parents view it a “success” if their children are not caught “in bed” with someone before marriage. We think nothing of our children dating dozens of individuals, as long as they can walk down the aisle a “technical virgin” on their wedding day (or given today’s standard, at least without a baby on the way). But do we ever really teach our children how or why they should guard their hearts?
Here’s what I intend on teaching my children about protecting their hearts.
Hopefully by now you’ve learned that I am a big proponent of not blaming your parents for every “issue” that you struggle with when you are older (remember this when you are out of our house!). At some point you must “rise above your raising.”
Having said that, there is an area in which I wish my parents had been more diligent (read that “meaner”) during my teenage years. I hope to do a better job in this area with you as you mature and start looking for a mate. My parents were like the vast majority of parents during the 1980-90s.
They allowed me to date young ladies and thought nothing of me having a different girlfriend every few months. As I grew older I would date the same person for months or even years—going to restaurants, watching movies, taking hikes, going fishing, playing tennis, or just watching television. All of this seemed rather innocent and harmless— and for the most part it was. But there was a by-product that no one warned me of. That by-product was that I had given small pieces of my heart to many different people on many different occasions.
With each anniversary, I can honestly say that your mother is more beautiful to me today than the day we stood before God and both said, “I do!” She is an incredible woman for whom I will always be thankful. She is a model Christian wife and a spectacular mother. And that’s why it hurts a little knowing she will never completely have my entire heart. Oh, physically speaking she is the only one for me. I have been faithful to your mother every single day since we said our vows.
But those memories from past dating experiences linger. It’s not that I’m interested in these other individuals—because your mom completes me. It’s is just that the one gift that I wish I could give your mother— my entire heart—I’ll never be able to. I wish I could simply flip a switch and completely erase the past from the old neuronal hard-drive. But the fact of the matter is I can’t.
We don’t speak of this often in the church, because past memories leave a bitter taste in our mouths. The Bible speaks clearly on the importance of guarding your heart. Solomon shared this wisdom noting, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Notice this is in the form of a commandment, and rightly so, as the heart is under attack (see Jeremiah 17:9-10; Matthew 15:19). Do not rush into a relationship just because it is new and exciting. Solomon wrote, “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7; see also 8:4).
Guard your heart and do not be quick to give it away. Consider the long-term consequences of giving even a small portion to someone who will eventually fade out of your life. Just because others around you are quick to “date” or “go with” someone of the opposite sex, hold yourself to a higher—more Biblical—standard. The modern dating scene in America is not a healthy environment in which one can guard his heart. I would argue instead that it is “divorce practice,” as young people give their hearts away only to later dispose of that relationship for someone else.
Not many adults will openly admit to you the sorrow of not guarding your heart— but I pray you learn from my folly (Proverbs 4:1 and Proverbs 13:1). God has a beautiful plan for man and woman to be married for life (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6). Strive to remain pure for your future mate so that one day you can give that future spouse your entire heart when you say, “I do.”