When you’ve been in the world of youth ministry as long as I have, it’s easy to look into the rearview mirror and notice that there are several things you’d do the same way all over again, and then there are those ministry efforts that you’d probably do a bit differently. . . perhaps QUITE a bit differently. That’s certainly the case for me. And to be clear, whichever of these two categories my evaluative hindsight would drop all those ministry efforts into, I can tell you that the one common thread among them all was good intentions.
For those of us who were meeting regularly back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with a group of kids we dearly loved, we most likely spent time praying that they would be spared from all the growing fallout from the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Our kids were coming of age in a culture that sent strong sexual messages. They were being encouraged to embrace a sexual ethic where you could do whatever, wherever, however, whenever, and with whomever.
We wanted to see our kids live counter-culturally when it came to their sexuality. We desired to see them embrace God’s order and design for their sexuality. So, we talked, taught, and talked some more. We made use of a host of youth ministry resources that were being churned out to help us points kids in the right sexual direction. There were books, movies, music, magazines, seminars, conferences, and all kinds of special events which we had our fingertips as youth ministry “ammo” we could use to steer kids in the right direction. It all became collectively known as “The Purity Movement.” I would emphasize again that our push for sexual purity was rooted in good intentions. We utilized these resources, again, all with a deep, deep desire to love and lead these precious young image-bearers into God’s order and design for sex and sexuality.
A few decades have passed since then. And when we look back in the rearview mirror, we have the benefit of evaluating our purity message “input” back then with the “output” of long-term results that we see now. Here at CPYU, our online Sexual Integrity Initiative uses “Initiative” rather than “Purity” for reasons that are described in this helpful handout for parents. And that’s what we discussed on this latest episode of our Youth Culture Matters podcast. Our guest was Rachel Joy Welcher, author of Taking Back Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality. Rachel looks at the good things that have come out of those early efforts, while helping us see how doing things differently moving forward will only help our kids live out God’s glorious design to His glory! If you want to revisit your own youth group experiences with purity culture. . . and learn how to effectively lead today’s kids into God’s order and design, you can listen here.
“Why can’t you just say, ‘Because I said so’ every once in a while? It’s a lot harder to watch kids that haven’t learned to be satisfied with that statement.”
I certainly never expected that reply when I asked how babysitting went.
But I could see it: as a young child my son was very inquisitive. Trying to satiate (let alone encourage!) his curiosity took a lot of intentionality. Intentionality that had been planned well before we had children, when it was easy to know exactly the right way to parent.
So when my friend made the comment of teaching my kids to be satisfied with “Because I said so,” I laughed. It made sense.
It’s an easy answer when you’re just too exhausted (physically or mentally) to press on in conversation about what the dog is thinking or why that thing works as it does.
However, as with most shortcuts in life, what is easier in the moment becomes a challenge in the long run.
That’s because the question about why a shark doesn’t sleep is really only partly about ocean creatures. The real question pressing through is “Do you see me? Am I worthy of your time and energy?”
When we dismiss one, we shut down the other.
When we are intentional with engagement, we develop a culture of communication within our homes. Listening (and answering) tells your little one that you see them, that they matter, that their words matter, and that you are always willing to hear what’s on their hearts.
It is this intentional engagement in the little moments of everyday life that opens the door to greater conversations surrounding faith, integrity, and sex.
Now, before I take all the credit, this idea of engaging with our kids in the daily moments to impart wisdom and teaching is not a new concept. Over 3400 years ago, as the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan and enter the much-awaited Promised Land, Moses took one last opportunity to remind the people where they had come from and what the Lord expected from them moving forward.
Moses taught the people that the greatest commandment ever given should be imparted upon our children in small moments of everyday life.
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Our faith should be deeply ingrained in our hearts and then put into action in how we parent. Conversations at home, on the go, in calm moments and in the busy moments – these are the times when we share what truly matters.
Through our consistent and intentional engagement, our faith can be moved from thought to direct obedience of Scripture. And if you ask me, that’s the best place for us to live as we parent our children.
So the next time you’re tempted to dismiss the endless questions, pause. Use the opportunity to connect with your child. Yes, it can be exhausting. But it is also the better way to lay a foundation for the future. It is the first step to creating a lasting culture of communication, and gives your kids permission to come to you even as the questions get heavier; questions of peer pressure, sex, faith, and more.
This post was released on Project Six19’s website on JANUARY 20, 2021.
Here we are, just a little over six months into 2020, and already we know that this will go down in our own histories as a year filled with unexpected challenges. The first half of the year has brought monumental lifestyle changes and interruptions thanks to a pandemic, along with the challenges of dealing with our culture’s long-standing inequalities. In addition, political divisions are widening. If you’re like me, you’re wondering what surprises the second half of 2020 will bring. It seems like we’re all already living in a thick and confusing fog.
As I’ve been thinking back to the late 1960s and my own years of early adolescence, I can’t help but notice how similar 2020 has been to what we experienced during those days of cultural change and unrest. Those years were challenging years through which to parent, and the same holds true for those of us raising kids today.
While the issues are complex, let me suggest just one very timely spiritual truth we must teach our kids in the midst of this time where our differences have occasioned discord and hate. It’s a lesson I believe can help us all as we live in a world where civility can so easily diminish when people disagree on how to understand and handle issues like the current pandemic, politics, and racism.
The spiritual truth we must teach is one that is foundational to who we all are as human beings. . . a commonality that exists in spite of our differences. It is a truth that was revealed at creation and the beginning of time. Take a minute to read the Creation account, paying special attention to Genesis 1:26-28. This is where we learn about how all humanity has been created in the image of God. To be created in the image of God means that He has endowed us all with dignity and significance. Not only does this matter for how we view ourselves, but it matters deeply for how we view and treat others. Theologian Gregg Allison tells us that the doctrine of the image of God means that “all people should be treated with respect, with appreciation for God’s excellent design. Racism, sexism, classism, and ageism are categorically excluded.”
As the summer unfolds, our temptation to see those who might disagree with us on the issues of the day as “less than” ourselves will continue. In response, here are four practical steps you can take to instill in yourself and your kids a view of all people that will derail hatred that comes when we dehumanize those who are different, while moving us in the direction of loving God by loving our neighbor.
First, pray to see all people through God’s eyes. Our vision is clouded by our sin, our histories, and our circumstances. Pray for clear vision.
Second, when you are tempted to diminish the value of another, remind yourself that he or she is, like you, an “image-bearer.” The father of lies wants us to deny the image of God in others.
Third, treat all others with Christ-like respect. While legitimate disagreements might exist, show the grace and kindness of Jesus Christ in all of your interactions.
And finally, denounce the diminished view of other human beings wherever you encounter it.
If it doesn’t happen, who is going to be more disappointed? You? Or your kids?
That question haunted me in a personal way as I rode past a high school football stadium during the last week of July. Coaches and players were assembled on the field for workouts in preparation for a season that might or might not happen due to our current pandemic. I rewound 17 years to my own son, and I began to wonder how he would have responded if his last year of high school football had been shut down. Then, I began to wonder how I would have responded as his dad. Truth be told, I don’t know that it would have been easy for me to take it all in stride. . . which I’m afraid reveals an aspect of my character that’s not very attractive.
The reality is that just about every extra-curricular activity in which our kids engage is in jeopardy. Sports, concerts, clubs, academic competitions, and other areas where our kids have a chance to shine might not happen. And what that means is that our parental opportunity to shine through our kids and their talents might disappear as well. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.
In his book Parenting: Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, Dr. Paul Tripp includes a chapter on the topic of “Identity.” Dr. Tripp states the “Identity Principle” this way: “If you are not resting as a parent in your identity in Christ, you will look for identity in your children.” While expecting our children to be successful and do their best is not a bad thing, far too many of us are harboring parental hearts that are more focused on our children achieving the kind of success that makes us look good, rather than on the child who is required to deliver it. The result is that we crush and embitter our children through the weight of our pressures and expectations. When that happens, God bless our sons and daughters.
The remedy to this is to rest in our identity in Jesus Christ. If we are not finding our identity in Christ, we will to find our identity in something in the creation. . . possessions, vocation, accomplishments, and even our children. Simply stated, this is idolatry. As Dr. Tripp remind us, only Christ is able to give us the identity, peace, and meaning that our hearts seek.
So, how can you know if you are living to find your identity through your children rather than in Jesus Christ? What are the signs that your parenting is driven more by what you need from your children rather than by what God wants to do through you in your children? Dr. Tripp shares these five “sure indications”:
Too much focus on success. You want your children to succeed because you need them to succeed.
Too much concern about reputation. You rely on your children and their performance to polish your reputation as a parent.
Too great desire for control. You control situations and people to make sure your children succeed and enhance your reputation.
Too much emphasis on doing rather than being. You focus on your child’s physical, social, and educational accomplishments rather than on their heart.
Too much temptation to make it personal. You focus not on how their behavior is viewed by God, but on how their behavior affects you.
Parents, take stock of how you’re parenting. Are you putting undue, spirit-crushing pressure on your kids, or are you seeking to find your identity in Christ?
For me, my conscious first memories of engaging in the simplest of ways with the topic of love began in Kindergarten. Every year when I was in elementary school, I would spend the evening of February 13 punching out two-dozen Valentine’s Day cards from perforated sheets, signing them with my name, and stuffing them in envelopes. . . each one addressed to a different member of my class. Back then, we used those little dime-store cards to send the same message to everyone. . . male and female as I remember it. . . “Will you be my Valentine?”
Now that I’m grown-up, I often think back to those days and wonder if our willingness to throw our meager and meaningless little expressions of “love” around might have contributed in some way to the widespread confusion about the nature of romance that seems to have gone viral throughout our culture. When I look around at our cultural expressions (movies, TV, music, etc.) and personal practices (premarital sex, cohabitation, sexual identity issues, polyamory, etc.) I wonder if anyone even knows where to go to gain a clear understanding on matters of love, sex, and marriage.
Sadly, we’ve forgotten that love, sex, and marriage all have their origins in God’s good creation. We have to start with the Creator and His design. These days, the culture isn’t doing that. Sadly, many in the church aren’t doing that either. The Creator of humanity has given us love, sex, and marriage as a gift. In Genesis 2:24 we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” When understood in this light, we see that our current cultural beliefs and behaviors are not what they’re supposed to be.
We must take the time to teach the kids you and know and love God’s good truth about His order and design for marriage. Don’t wait. Whoever has the conversation with kids first sets the bar and owns the conversation. Will it be the culture? Will it be you?
Theologian John Stott reminds us that we need to see that Genesis 2:24 tells us that marriage is a relationship with 5 facets. Share each of these with your kids:
-Marriage is meant to be heterosexual. It is between a man and a woman. . . nothing more or nothing less.
-Marriage is meant to be monogamous. It is a relationship reserved for one man and one woman.
-Marriage is meant to be a commitment. A man is to leave his father and hold fast to his wife. What’s missing in a relationship where a couple simply chooses to live together is a commitment.
-Marriage is meant to be public. The leaving from parents is a social occasion where a couple commits themselves to each other in front of family and friends.
-Marriage is meant to be physical. A couple becomes one flesh by consummating their commitment to each other through the act of sexual intercourse, something God’s given them to indulge with each other exclusively!
The culture is educating our kids 24/7 on the nature of love, sex, and marriage. Are you telling them the truth?
The headline took me back a few years to some things we had written and recorded on this growing trend toward polyamory moving in our culture from vice to virtue. Specifically, we took at look at Polyamory back in the October 2014 edition of our monthly CPYU Parent Page. Here’s what I wrote. . .
The New Monogamy
Last March, an article in Rolling Stone magazine caught my eye. . . and made me grieve. Alex Morris reported on “Tales From the Millennials’ Sexual Revolution” and some troubling values, attitudes, and behaviors that are becoming normalized among our kids as they transition into adulthood.
Unlike the traditional understanding of monogamy where a man and woman are joined together and pledge their faithfulness to one another in marriage, this new monogamy exclusivity really isn’t about exclusivity or faithfulness at all. Rather, partners enter into a marriage, or even cohabitation (who gets married anymore?), with a “primary partner.” Then, they share and even celebrate the understanding that there will also be one or more “secondary partners” who are willingly and openly embraced and acknowledged. Why? Because the “primary partner” will not be able to meet all of one’s emotional or sexual needs. Sure, a version of this has been around for a long, long time. But it used to be called an “affair,” “cheating,” “adultery,” or just plain old “sneaking around.” Now, it’s being called “normal.”
Our culture is moving closer and closer to full-scale acceptance and normalization of what’s known as “polyamory.” The word combines the prefix “poly”- meaning “many or several” – with the Latin word for love, “amor.” In other words, those who embrace polyamory believe in having several emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationships at one time, and doing it all out in the open, with the approval of everyone involved. After all, if its no longer seen as a vice but now a virtue, there’s no reason to even consider hiding anything. This takes the commonly accepted practiced of premarital promiscuity and amps it up to new levels, where it’s not only something that’s expected and celebrated before marriage, but is now accepted and celebrated after marriage. In other words, your kids are now swimming in a cultural soup where relational and sexual faithfulness and exclusivity in marriage might soon be seen as an archaic throwback to a time that was . . . well. . . just plain old-fashioned.
Whether they call it polyamory or not, every one of your students will encounter this trend, and some will even embrace it. How can we equip our students to think about and respond to polyamory and the new monogamy to the glory of God through being faithful to God’s will and way?
First, you need to talk about the new monogamy. Don’t ignore it or hope it will go away. Engage with your kids as you label, define, and describe polyamory and the manner in which it is sneaking into our culture.
Second, set the bar high for marriage. As Christians, we must always return to God’s Word if we hope to understand his design and intent for the institution of marriage. Marriage is a an exclusive covenantal union between one man and one woman.
And finally, bring the light of God’s Word on marriage to bear on this new understanding of monogamy. Help them to critique the new monogamy to help them see how far it falls short of God’s design for love, sex, and marriage.
I’ll be sharing more perspective on marriage that we can teach our kids in coming days. Stay tuned.
Over and over again I learn how important a parent’s voice is when it comes to the conversations surrounding sex and sexuality. Parental involvement is critical in forming healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors. There are three areas I think parents can focus on this school year that will make a big difference in the years ahead.
Communication is KEY
Yes, peer and media influences impact youth and probably more than ever before. However, parents continue to be the largest influence of sexual attitude formation among adolescents. An important piece of parental involvement is communication between parents and children.
Parental expectations regarding sexual activity have significant impacts on young adult sexual activity, particularly regarding first sexual encounters. This can only happen though if the parent is communicating their value to their child. Parental attitudes and expectations have been found to be protective, and as parental disapproval and communication of sexual integrity messages are communicated over and over, the likelihood of your son and/or daughter living out these values increases dramatically.
It is worth noting though, how we communicate matters! While communicating messages of sexual integrity can contribute to delayed sexual experience, too much control or authoritarianism can lead to the opposite effect. Simply challenging your kids to wait and make it more about a rule than a change of heart can have just the opposite effect!
Children Need to Know YOU Care!
In addition to communication, general care is often correlated with timing of sexual initiation. Support, perceptions of closeness and connection all factor into an overall caring environment. A few years ago, I read about a Dutch study that found favorable perceptions of parental care, support and connection are correlated with delayed sexual experience. I think the Dutch were on to something!
Simply communicating is not enough if your children don’t know you really care about their overall well-being. Being connected to a parent functions as a tool that protects against early sexual involvement. Take time to be with your children, enter their world, and get to know the things they are involved with throughout the school year. This will have a tremendous impact on the way in which your words (communication) land on them during the school year.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be The Parent
The popular notion is to be a child’s best friend but this can undermine your authority. Being close to your child is important but don’t forget the role you play as their parent! Studies that have looked at parental control and sexual experience find that higher levels of control (less permissiveness, more supervision, and parents perceived as more strict) correlate with a delay of first sexual intercourse. It is worth noting that control alone may be counterproductive in reducing sexual activity, but is effective if coupled with care and communication.
Making a distinction between authoritative control (clear and fair demands) and authoritarian control (an arbitrary insistence on obedience), is important to isolating the most effective factors of encouraging sexual health. Again, this all works together, but when you engage in your child’s world you become more aware of what they are watching, listening to, and who their friends are. Higher levels of monitoring were associated with lower levels of sexual risk-taking, and delayed sexual initiation.
When a parent communicates effectively, shows they care, but also is not afraid to show their authority when it’s required, have youth that more often than not delay sexual activity and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. So as this school year begins take note of each and keep the dialogue moving forward!
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He is an internationally recognized seminar and conference speaker and published writer on issues surrounding sexuality and youth culture. He can be heard on Project Six19’s podcasts, “DriveTime” and “Mixtape” as well as the CPYU podcast, “Youth Culture Matters.”
This blog post was adapted from Episode 4 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.
There are several lies our culture communicates about sex. As a parent, you have the unique opportunity to help your children navigate the many lies they hear and set them on a path that points to God’s plan as the sex maker. But what are those lies?
Lie #1: Sex is only physical.
If this is the case, sex is merely casual and only there for our pleasure, nothing more. But this is a contradiction in terms. Sex – even sex that does not feel intense or meaningful, even sex with someone you don’t love – is never truly casual. Sex is a life-uniting act. Simple as that! This is why Jesus says “what God has joined together not let man separate!” in the gospel of Matthew. Often we can focus so much attention on the physical act of sex that we place a 100% of our energy on protecting against the physical consequences. But there are so many other consequences – emotional, social, spiritual, and even future consequences – all of which we’ve discussed in other blog posts.
Lie #2: Sex is the most important thing there is.
In a “do-anything,” hyper-sexualized world, we will do anything and everything as we allow our lives to revolve around the idol of sexuality. Honestly, we are surprised we’re not hearing more stories like this. I believe that over time and in the very near future, we will be hearing more and more stories as a generation of kids nurtured by a boundary-less and border-less ambient sexuality comes of age. Sadly, many of the stories will involve both victims and perpetrators who haven’t yet come of age. That’s called “age-compression.” Something the Center for Parent Youth Understanding (CPYU) always says, “culture is the soup that our kids swim and marinate in 24/7.” If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised at how they are flavored. Is it possible that we might even be moving from a world where that which is “secret sin” becomes an “open celebration?” Then there’s the wildly mixed messages our culture sends to our developmentally vulnerable and easily influenced kids… things like “Go ahead and look at this!” but “Don’t you ever do this!” This is where so much of the difficulty comes in. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong… people are ultimately responsible for themselves and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions, regardless of what culture may or may not be saying at any particular moment. But we are not sure we can stand and point accusing fingers without any blame at all when we’ve been part of the horribly flawed nurturing process through commission or omission. Our culture is talking about sexuality. We need to do the same. And in doing so, we must redeem this horribly misunderstood and mis-used good gift of God!
Lie #3: Sex is no one else’s business.
Dale Kuehne, author of the book Sex and the iWorld,states that only three taboos around sex exist in today’s culture. Those include: “One may not criticize someone’s life choices or behavior, one may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others, and finally one may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent.” Outside of these taboos all other sexual acts are permissible. Historically though, sex has always been something that held a place in the public discourse. It is also why there were probably several other taboos up until recently.
For most of human history, people of many different cultures have agreed that societies must order certain forms of exchange in order to survive. Communities have ordered language, practices, and division of labor that are agreed upon. And sex, as mentioned by novelist Wendell Berry says, like any other necessary, precious, and volatile power that is commonly held, is everybody’s business. But over the last several decades this reality has faded and “what I do in my bedroom is my business…plain and simple.” However, throughout scripture sex is spoken of as relational and as part of something bigger than ourselves. Christians have to work hard to overcome the pervasive message that my sexual behavior is none of your business. Scripture tells us to intrude into one another’s lives because of the work of Jesus… and as a brother or sister we are called to speak lovingly to one another and transform seemingly private matters into communal matters. Teaching this to your son or daughter will be an important task.
Lie #4: We can’t control sex, but rather it controls us.
“We can’t control sex, it controls us” is one of the most widely accepted lies in our culture. It’s this rumor that’s caused us to believe that we are slaves to our sex drive, and has reduced humans to hormone-driven, sexually motivated creatures that teach our children that if we want it, we hunt it…we stalk it.In this, we treat people as objects that are nothing more than prey, animals or pieces of meat. Or we simply starve this appetite, all the while holding up the same degrading view of humanity. However, God’s design for His grand and glorious gift of sex is this. . . that it be indulged by one man and one woman within the context of an exclusive, monogamous, covenantal, life-long marriage. That’s it, plain and simple. Sex is something God made, gave to us, and enthusiastically declared “VERY Good!” But like everything else, we can go and mess it up. And when the Bible commands us to “flee from sexual immorality,” the word that it uses is porneia, which means “to practice prostitution, sexual immorality, or fornication.” In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently used the word in reference to any kind of sinful and illegitimate sexual activity. Porneia is, in fact, the very thing from which followers of Jesus are commanded to “flee!”
Further, it’s by Gods grace we have everything we need to take charge of our sexual appetites by disciplining our mind, heart, and our body. And it doesn’t matter our relationship status. Because the very desires we are unable to control before marriage will be the very desires that haunt us after. That is unless we’ve taught ourselves how to come under the authority of the sex-maker.
DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.
Check out further discussions around “Lies The Culture Tells Us About Sex” on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.
This post originally appeared on Project Six19’s blog. Used by permission.
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.
My dad gave me The Talk in a Chinese restaurant when I was about 8 years old.
I was playing in a little league game and after our victory my dad took me to a Chinese restaurant and gave me The Talk. I have discovered that most of my students’ parents never gave them The Talk at all, and that breaks my heart.
Worse, many parents give such little preparation to their children that some experience sexual abuse and no one finds out until they’re in their 20’s and it finally explodes, all because their parents never opened up these channels of dialogue or created a space for their children to talk about these things. The girl in the article says she told no one because she didn’t even know what had happened, and no one asked her why she was acting differently.
If your role as a parent is to lead your kids into wisdom, to scaffold their transition into the real world, shouldn’t one of your most important duties be to explain the beauty of intimacy and the danger of unhealthy attachment? Danger doesn’t necessarily mean something is bad: Fire is both beautiful and dangerous.
Sex is beautiful and dangerous.
Like a stallion whinnying to run free, handing your child the reins involves built-up trust, and the willingness to say, “Wow! What a beauty! Be careful now. Control him and he will serve you well.”
I wonder if these parents think they’re doing their kids a favor by sheltering them from the dirty, dirty S-Word, and that their lives will be better if they never discover it.
The problem is, all kids will find out about sex. Parents are the ones who can decide how and when. If I ever have kids, I intend to get the first word in before the world has a chance to. When parents decide not to teach their kids about sex, the world is more than happy to.
I remember being in middle school at a friend’s house, watching MTV in his bedroom (which I was not allowed to do at home; nor could I, since we grew up cable-less). I vividly remember a commercial in which a famous rapper spoke directly to the camera: “Remember dudes, no matter how banging her body is, you gotta strap up. Don’t risk it.”
I recall seeing that commercial through the filter of the wisdom my parents had already implanted in me. My dad gave me that first talk over Egg Drop Soup, but many more followed it. There were check-ins and updates and open communication about sexuality. Because of my parents, I could see a commercial like that and interpret the message as worldly more than biblical (or true), even if I wouldn’t have used those words.
I can’t imagine how many others in my generation saw the same commercial but without the preparation. Perhaps that commercial was the closest thing they ever had to The Talk, so to them, the only sexual ethic was to not get or give an STD and you’re good.
Strap up and you’ve done the right thing. Simple.
I was recently talking to someone about this and he said his parents never gave him the talk either. He’s my age.
“Why is it,” I asked, “that some parents don’t give that talk to their kids? If I ever have children, we’re going to be talking about it constantly!”
“Simple,” he said. “Shame. Their parents probably didn’t give them the talk, so the idea of bringing it up to their kids seems terrifying. Or they have some sort of trauma or sexual wound, so talking about it with their kids would be incredibly painful. So they just don’t.”
But you know what happens when those children grow up and pass through puberty with the internet as their primary sexual education? They go out and create their own sexual wounds, passing them down to their own children. The cycle continues from generation to generation as long as parents live by fear more than wisdom and love for their children.
If it seems like I’m being especially hard on such parents, it’s because I am. After being a youth pastor for three years, and now a teacher for one, I have seen that the majority of parents are failing. Whether they are drug addicts, abusive, apathetic, or simply not trying very hard, I have developed a thin patience for parents who don’t care for their own children. Sure, they all say they do, but where is the evidence?
It’s easy to tell when a student has loving parents. Not only are they far more well-behaved, but they seem to operate from a sort of comfortable confidence which can only come from a place of having received love. But when they don’t receive rich, quality love at home, and their sex education is Xzibit telling them to strap up (or worse: pornography), where do you think they’ll turn to find that love?
For this reason, I adamantly place “The Talk” with your children under the umbrella of loving them. You can’t say you love them and then shrug and say ‘they’ll figure it out for themselves.’
In the film Lady Bird, when the eponymous protagonist asks her mother about sex, her mom reluctantly shivers and falls silent. She wiggles her way out of the conversation as quickly as possible and as you can guess, the high schooler ends up losing her virginity to a jerk. “You’ll have plenty of un-special sex in your life,” he tells her immediately after revealing that she wasn’t, actually, his first.
Is this really what we want for our kids? To be throwing their bodies around to a plethora of suitors who may not even see them as special? Perhaps a scarier question to ask is, do most parents even care enough about the bodies and souls of their children to prepare them for these situations?
Teach your kids or the world will teach them.
Love your kids or the world will love them—and this love is hollow, foolish and destructive.
The original version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on April 27, 2019. Used by permission.
I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.
This blog post was adapted from Episode 2 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.
This generation is going to have to wait longer than any other if they choose to follow God’s standards for sex. For almost two thousand years young people only waited one or two years from the time of puberty (physical changes communicating readiness to create life) until they married. Today, because of nutrition and other factors, the onset of puberty is generally younger and most young adults are waiting until their late 20’s to marry. This means that if they are going to follow God’s standards for sex they might wait as long as 15 years (or more) from the time their body is ready for sex until they marry.
That is a long time!
This is why our message must resonate in ways that transcend rules and boundaries. Unfortunately, terms like purity and abstinence can be ripe with analogies that, if we are not careful, can cause harm. For example, Elizabeth Smart, the young woman who was kidnapped and held captive for nine months in 2002 near her home in Salt Lake City, UT, offered a similar thought, “I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about, well… about abstinence. And she said, ‘Imagine that you’re a stick of gum, and when you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who’s going to want you after that?’ For me, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum. Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’” Metaphors make a difference. They communicate meaning and significance; therefore, we must be careful in how they are used. Ms. Smart’s response to the abstinence and purity message rejects the following reality:
God is concerned with the heart.
Virginity, if not spoken of in the appropriate context, can be a source of pride rather than an opportunity to glorify the Creator. Virginity, as a stand-alone virtue, is not the opposite of sexual promiscuity – sexual integrity is.
Sexual integrity requires something more than self-willed behavior; it requires turning to the Lord with all our hearts and being empowered by the Holy Spirit to obey. Our identity in scripture is not found in our good works (like saving our virginity), but in the One in whom we find TRUE life, Jesus Christ. If we make a mistake (sin), our identity is not stolen from us because this identity is not based on what we do, but what has already been done.
There are always several challenges to talking about sexual integrity, but here are four thoughts to remember as you prepare to share with your children:
Recognize the truth found in Scripture
This is not a topic from which God hides. Over and over again Scripture highlights four key aspects about sex. First, we are meant for relationship with our Creator and with others (in that order). Second, we need to recognize that God is the sex maker. He created this wonderful act. Third, God gave us our sexual desire. That is why we need to talk about this with our youth – we are all sexually tempted. Finally, God created a time and place for us to enjoy sex; in marriage. This is repeated over and over again in Scripture (e.g. Genesis, Proverbs, Hebrews, and the list goes on).
Your voice DOES matter
Study after study shows that it’s not a teens peers who have the most in influence in their life. It’s YOU! Although that is not always what we hear or think, a parent’s voice is the most important. Sometimes we can underestimate the influence our voice has in a teen’s life because of the rolling of the eyes or their turning away while we are talking. However, what you say and how you live matters! Use your words and actions wisely because your kids are watching and listening.
Talking about sex doesn’t need to be a BIG talk
Discussing sexual integrity is more of a process than a confrontation. Remember that many of your children’s expectations surrounding sex will come from many of the other values you communicate every single day. Making sure your kids know you care and are there to answer any questions they might have will encourage them to approach you when they do have questions about sex. It is inevitable that your kids will hear from some other kid about sex. So, you need to be constantly talking with your kids and help separate fact from fiction. Which leads to our last thought…
You need to become the authority for all conversations surrounding sex in your child’s life!
Put another way – you need to be google to your kids. This means getting to your kids first. Your kids are going to hear about sex at some point. It’s important you talk to them early and tell them the truth – BEFORE they receive information from other places. This starts at a young age by identifying anatomy the same way they will learn in school. This continues all the way through the adolescent years.
DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.
Check out further discussions around ‘Setting The Stage for Talking About Sexual Integrity With Your Kids’ on our podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.
This post originally appeared on Project Six19’s blog, here. Used by permission.
Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
I often get asked, “what’s the next discussion that Christians need to have about sexuality and gender?” My immediate answer is: “polyamory,” though the morality of sex with robotsis a close second.
Polyamory is often confused with polygamy, but they are actually quite different. For one, polygamy is a type of marriagewhile polyamory is not necessarily marital. Also, Polygamy almost always entails a man taking more than one wife, while polyamory is much more egalitarian. “Polyamory is open to any mixture of numbers and genders so it is just as common for a man to be in a relationship with several women as it is for a woman to be in lovewith several men,” writes Mike Hatcher.
Polyamory is also different from swinging or open relationships, though these do overlap. Open relationships are polyamorous, but not every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship. Sex and relationship therapist Renee Divine says: “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexualrelationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, lovingrelationships with multiple people.” And that’s the key. Polyamory is not just about sex. It includes love, romance, and emotional commitment between more than 2 people.
For some Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. It’s wrong. It’s ridiculous. No need to defend why it’s wrong or think through pro-poly arguments. Just quote Genesis 2 and move on. But hopefully we’ve learned the hard way from our rather “late-to-the-discussion” approach with LGBTQ questions that it’s better to get ahead of the game and constructa view rather than just fall back into frantic reactive mode when the issue is in full bloom.
For other Christians, polyamory is only considered when being used in a “slippery slope” argument against same-sex relations—if we allow gay relationships, why not poly relationships? While I agree that the ethical logic used to defend same-sex relations cannot exclude poly relationships, merely using polyamory as a slippery slope argument is inadequate. We actually need to think through plural love, as it’s sometimes called, and do so in a gracious, thoughtful, and biblical manner.
Polyamory is much more common than some people think. According to one estimate“as many as 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships involving consensual nonmonogamy” which is about the same as those who identify as LGBTQ. Another recent study, published in a peer reviewed journal, found that 1 in 5 Americans have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship at least some point in their life. Another survey showed that nearly 70% of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24-35 believe that consensual polyamory is okay—even if it’s not theircup of tea. What about church going folks of the same age? Roughly 24% said they were fine (Regnerus, Cheap Sex, 186).
Why would anyone engage in polyamory? Doesn’t it foster jealousy? Can these relationships really last? Aren’t children who grow up in poly families bound to face relational harm? These are all valid questions, ones which have been addressedby advocates of polyamory. At least one argument says that people pursue polyamorous relationships because it’s their sexual orientation. They really have no other valid option, they say. They’re not monogamously oriented. They’re poly.
I’ll never forget watching Dan Savage, a well-known sex columnist, swat the hornet’s nest when he made the audacious claim that “poly is not an orientation.” Savage is no bastion for conservative ideals, and he himself admitsto having 9 different extra-marital affairs with his husband’s consent. This is why it was fascinating to see him get chastised for making such an outlandish statement—that polyamory is not a sexual orientation.
Is there any merit to the claim that polyamory is a sexual orientation? It all depends on our understanding of sexual orientation. How do you define it? Measure it? Prove it? Disprove it? What exactly issexual orientation? (Stay tuned for a later blog on this.) It’s not as if we take a blood sample to determine whether somebody is gay, straight, or poly. Sexual orientation is much, much messier than most people realize.
Celebrities, of course, have suggested that polyamory is an orientation when they talk about monogamy being “unnatural,” or that some people are just wired for more love than one partner can provide. Pop culture isn’t the only advocate, though. Scholars are also starting to argue that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. As early as 2011, Ann Tweedy, Assistant Professor at Hamline University School of Law, wrote a lengthy 50-page articlein a peer reviewed journal where she argued that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. Tweedy writes: “polyamory shares some of the important attributes of sexual orientation as traditionally understood, so it makes conceptual sense for polyamory to be viewed as part of sexual orientation” (“Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation,” 1514).
The logic is familiar: Those who pursue polyamorous relationships can’t help it. It’s who they are. It’s how God has created them. And it would be wrong to pursue a relationship, like a monogamous one, that goes against their orientation.No, I’m not retorting to the age-old slippery slope argument (e.g. this is where gay relationships will lead). I’m simply summarizing a growing opinion expressed in both pop culture and academia.
Polyamory might be, as a Newsweek article suggested 10 years ago, “The Next Sexual Revolution.”And several of my pastor friends tell me that it’s becoming more common to have people who identify as poly asking about the church’s view on the matter and if they will be accepted and affirmed. These are not abstract questions, and yet the discussion is still young enough so that Christian pastors and leaders have some time to construct a robust, compassionate, thoughtful response to the question—“what’s your church’s stance on people who are poly?” Put more positively, we have time to construct a truly Christian vision for monogamy, if indeed that is the only truly Christian vision.
My purpose of this blog is to put this topic on your radar, not to answer all the questions that you might have. With that in view, here are a few more questions that Christian leaders should wrestle with:
What are the relevant biblical passages and themes that mandate monogamy for those who are called to marriage?
How would you respond to someone who says that Genesis 2, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5 and others are just a few “clobber passages” that are used to beat down poly people?
How do you know that “one man, one woman” statements in the Bible apply to contemporary poly relationships? Perhaps they only prohibit abusive, misogynistic polygamous relationships.
If God’s love for us is plural, and our love for (a Triune) God is plural, then why can’t human love for each other be plural?
Is polyamory a sexual orientation? Why, or why not?
And what is sexual orientation, and should it play a role in determining (or at least shaping) our sexual ethic?
Is it helpful to talk about poly people or should we talk about poly relationships? (And can you pinpoint the important difference?)
Since the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn plural marriages that are polygamous (or does it?), could we say that monogamy is the ideal while still allowing for polyamorous relationships as less than ideal but still accepted in the church? Why, or why not?
If sexual expression is only permitted if it is faithful, consensual, and marital (which is what most Christians would say), then why can’t it be plural? That is, what is the moral logic that drives your view that monogamy is the only way? Is it just “God says so? Or is there some rationale why plural love is immoral?
Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell(with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence(David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited(IVP, 2013), Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us(David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue(Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.
This is Part Two in Nathaniel Arroyo’s blog series, “Love, Love.” Read part one here.
When God created man, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and every non-married single person in the Church resounded with, “Have you forgotten about me, God?”
Being single and Christian can summon a kaleidoscope of emotions, thoughts, and various responses (did I just hear an amen?). In this cultural moment, our craving for intimacy is posted publicly in our status updates and Instagram posts. Could it be that we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that intimacy is best found in romantic and sexual relationships? While I can elaborate more on how we’ve developed a false binary scheme of the two, I really want to tackle singleness in the next 700 words. Our cultural understanding of singleness has led to a sense of loneliness that is only remedied in the communion of Christ.
Men and women are experiencing their first marriage, on average, between ages 27-30; this proves to be a significant departure from the median age for marriage in previous generations, when individuals would wed between the ages of 20-24. This fact alone may explain why your grandmother has been asking for great grandchildren. Christians are no exception, as this median age applies to those within the Church as well. For this reason, we have far more singles in the Church than at any other time in history. And while I don’t think it’s safe to call the rise of this median age a problem, I do think it proposes a different challenge for Christian singles. Love is harder to find today, and it begs the question worth answering:
Is “true love” available for singles?
Whether you’re single, dating, married, celibate, or “it’s complicated,” I hope you find solace and Christ in the following words.
Singleness isn’t a curse.
In fact, it’s a gift to receive joyfully. As reluctant I was to write the previous sentence, I can’t help but trust that it is true. Many grow up with the notion that marriage is the epitome of the Christian lifestyle; it’s the Creme Brûlée of Christian delicacies. I did not grow up in a Christian household, yet, growing up, there was an agreed notion in the air that marriage was one most substantial relationships to enter into. To find “the one” was to live your best life. Ideally, the dream would play out like this: the two of us would get married, teasingly argue about the number of kids we were to have and what their names would be, and drive off into every sunset we could find. This would be the relationship in which true love is found. This is where love would be enough. All I needed to do was endure my singleness.
How I wish that I understood sooner that singleness is a gift. There is real intimacy available to us singles that brings lasting joy and satisfaction; and it’s found in Jesus. Yes, the classic Sunday School answer is the remedy to loneliness (notice how I didn’t say singleness), but it’s far more in-depth than proclaiming Jesus as your boyfriend at your local Galentines. When I say Jesus is the pathway to intimacy, we need to understand what it means to bravely enter into a relationship with Him and what He offers.
When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, we enter into a relationship with True Love. God is love. Jesus is God. The logic follows. Yet, despite having a theological understanding of who God is and how He relates to us, we still find ourselves wrestling with loneliness. Our craving for intimacy still feels starved when we don’t experience physical acts of love. Tim Keller exposes our desire for intimacy in his book, “The Meaning Of Marriage:”
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Trusting Keller’s wisdom, then, means being fully knownand truly lovedis already a reality because Jesus created you and He died for you.
I love how David, the Psalmist, puts it, “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God knows you. Your hands, feet, the curvature of your nose, the roundness of your shoulders, the hue of your iris — He knitted you together in your mother’s womb. You are fully known, and His love extends just as deep. John, one of Jesus’s apostles, records Jesus’s words as His imminent death is around the corner, and Jesus says this, “…Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus laid down His life for you. In bringing to fulfillment the redemption story, Jesus valued His relationship with you to the extent that He would do anything to make that relationship permanent… even if it meant giving up His own life.
There is nothing that can separate you from His love. Jesus is committed to you. He was purposefully single because of you. Jesus, our Bridegroom, looks at His bride, we the Church, and He marvels at her because He is the perfect husband. He did not commit to an earthly wife during His ministry. He sought union with us. He invited us to be one in Him just like in marriage when two flesh become one. His lack of an earthly marital status hinged upon His covenant relationship with His Bride.
Whether you like it or not, Christian, you have a husband, companion, helper, redeemer, lover, and savior in Jesus. There will be a day when you face your Bridegroom face-to-face. You are looking forward to, yet, mysteriously already in, the most intimate relationship you will ever experience.
Nathaniel Arroyo is a poet, photographer, and coffee aficionado located in Spokane, Washington. Being from Chicago, IL, he has a passion for the Church’s engagement with culture through mediums of art, community, and rich theology. He attended Moody Bible Institute – Spokane and studied Biblical Exposition.
“I know she wanted to fall in love. I just hope she fell in love with the right guy.”
I was looking at an acquaintance’s engagement photos on social media recently, and found myself thinking that very thought.
If you follow my blog posts or my relationship podcast, you’ll know that I’m not an fan of the philosophy that says there is “just one person” out there for each of us to marry. I don’t believe in finding “the one“, but I do believe that once you choose someone to marry – they become “the one“.
So, when I say “I hope she fell in love with the right guy”, I’m not referring to the theoretical needle-in-the-haystack. I’m not hoping that she stumbled across, “the one and only one” for her life. No, that’s not what I mean at all.
When I say that I hope she fell in love with the right guy, what I mean is that I hope she fell in love with someone who’s a right match for her life. Someone who is a goodmatch for her life.
Finding someone who is a good match for our lives is something people don’t often think about, especially in the wake of the hangover of “feeling in love”.
But when we follow our feelings into love, we can also follow our feelings right back out of love.
There’s got to be more keeping us than feelings.
Do you believe it’s possible to fall in love with the wrong person?
I get that question thrown at me often. So, I will go ahead and wholeheartedly say, YES – I do believe it’s possible to fall in love with the wrong person. In fact, I think it happens all the time, every single day.
As a professional counselor, I work with many couples who come to me with major problems and issues that have surfaced through marriage.
They might have differences in their communication abilities, problems with how they manage conflict, deep seated issues or traumatic experiences they’ve never dealt with, personality differences, etc. But other times, there are much bigger problems. Honesty issues. Trust issues. Addictive behaviors. Character problems. Power struggles.
There are so many red flags that get ignored or shoved under the table in the name of “falling in love”. Yet if we’re actively looking for them, the red flags of marriage often trace back to the red flags in dating.
So many times, we look to chemistry to tell us what works in a marriage rather than looking at compatibility.
But when chemistry wanes, all that’s left is a lack of compatibility that brings people to the harsh reality that maybe, just maybe, they fell in love with the wrong person. That maybe, just maybe, they didn’t make the wisest marital choice when it came to finding the things that really matter in a relationship: character, connection, and compatibility.(READ MORE: 5 People You Should Never Marry).
The majority of my audience at TrueLoveDates.com are Christian singles, looking ahead at marriage. I write this article primarily for you. I want you to realize that it is possible to “fall in love” with the wrong person, and when you let feelings lead the way you will end up getting hurt every single time.
Feelings have got to be part of the equation, but there’s got to be more than feelings. Because there’s so much more to a healthy, life-long marriagethan how we feel about someone in the moment. Take a few steps back by understanding who you are, so that you know the type of person who fits into your story from the type of person who doesn’t.
But even as I write these words, I am fully aware that there are those of you reading this who feel like you’ve made a bad marital choice. You ignored all the red flags and warning signs, and married the “wrong person”. You committed your life to someone who wasn’t the best match for your life – worse yet, someone who wasn’t a match at all.
You rushed into love on the wave of feelings, and now the wave has crashed and you find yourself drowning in its midst.
My encouragement to you is this: even if you didn’t choose a good match, you can still become a good match. There are choices that you can make TODAY, to build a better marriage for TOMORROW. Choices to get you healthy, and move your relationship toward healthy as well. It’s possible. It’s achievable. And it’s absolutely worth the process.
I have seen God take two people, so far from my expectation of a good match, and weave their broken lives together in a remarkable way. He is the Healer of all things, and as He begins to heal you from the inside out, He can also heal your relationship. The process won’t be easy, and it won’t be without it’s fair share of work. But the outcome will be worth it.
If you’re struggling to know what makes a good match in dating or how to become a good match in marriage, pick up a copy of Choosing Marriage: Why IT Has To Start With We > Me, and start making the choices that will change your life and in turn, your love life. Because a huge part to marrying the right person, is becoming the right person.
A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on December 5th, 2018. Used by permission.
The phrase pops up every now and again Christian culture. It highlights the idea that the purpose of going on dates should be to find a spouse. This idea has been popular in Christian circles given the movements over the last twenty years that have criticized casual dating and urged singles to focus their romantic activities on marriage.
The problem is that going on dates and thinking about whether you’re going to marry the person on the other side of the table is a bad idea.
Don’t Overthink Dates
In his book How To Get A Date Worth Keeping, Dr. Henry Cloud shares a story about a woman who never seemed to get asked out on any second dates. The longer she went without a second date, the more anxious she got about it. She tried to do everything right on her first dates so the guys she saw would ask her out again. As it turned out, trying to do everything right was what she was doing wrong.
She was so worried about getting a second date that her anxiety got in the way of being relaxed and fun on her first dates. It was when she stopped worrying about getting a second date that her natural personality was able to shine through. That made her more attractive to the men she saw, which resulted in her getting second dates.
This story is a good example of how overthinking dates can quickly short-circuit your dating life. It also illustrates why thinking about marriage on dates is a bad idea. It’s usually impossible to know on an early date whether you will or won’t marry the person sitting across from you. And being preoccupied with thoughts of how far a relationship with your date could go easily distracts from getting to know your date in that moment. Not to mention how being preoccupied with a distant, possible, future marriage adds a lot of stress to going on dates. That stress can show through and make your date feel like you’re a high-strung person.
This is why it’s much better simply to enjoy a date while you’re on it and not worry about the future or marriage. Living in the moment of a date allows you to get to know your date in a much more fun and relaxed manner. And that allows both people to see each other’s natural personalities without anxiety getting in the way.
Besides, worrying about marriage on a date isn’t how to be intentional about marriage anyway.
Marriage Will Worry About Itself
In my post “How To Be Intentional (Without Even Trying,)” I talked about how it’s who you are at heart that determines whether you’re intentional about marriage, not what happens on a first date. A person who is interested in one day committing to marriage rather than in immediate self-gratification will naturally pursue dating in a way that leads toward finding a spouse. When that’s your attitude, you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll marry the person across the table. That question always answers itself with time.
See, as you get to know a person better, you’ll naturally discover more and more whether you want to spend your life with that person. Worrying about that process of discovery doesn’t make it happen any quicker. In Matthew 6:34a, Jesus said, “don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.” Maybe we should reapply that principle and tell ourselves this:
Don’t worry about marriage while on a date, because marriage will worry about itself.
I like a passage by Jefferson Bethke in the book he coauthored with his wife Alyssa, Love That Lasts. I think Jeff summarizes well how we shouldn’t be anxious about going on dates and relax along the journey toward marriage. Jeff writes,
I don’t necessarily think you should date every person with the goal of marriage. I think that’s the problem sometimes with Christian culture, especially at Christian universities, where girls are terrified to go out for coffee with guys because the next day the whole campus will think they are getting married by the end of next week.
So quick word of advice to the fellas. Have purpose and have vision, but don’t make it weird. [It’s] just friendly conversation over a cup of coffee. Be normalare probably the best words of advice I could ever give to a guy in his twenties who wants to date.1
By ‘be normal,’ Jeff means, ‘be a person who isn’t trying to figure out if someone he or she hardly knows is his or her future spouse.’ Normal people don’t attempt something so absurd. Instead, be a person who enjoys living in the moment of having fun while getting to know someone. While it’s good for the process of dating to lead to marriage, individual dates shouldn’t be about marriage.
So the next time you head out on a date, be sure to leave the worries about marriage at home.
What do you think? Have you found it wise not to worry about marriage when going on dates? Is there a way you’ve found thinking about marriage beneficial? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
And please help others learn not to overthink their dates by sharing the post! Just use the buttons below.
1: Bethke, Jefferson & Alyssa. Love That Lasts. Nelson 2017. p. 134
Justin Megna is the creator of That Crazy Christian Romance, a blog dedicated to sharing biblical wisdom for romance with Christian young people. He completed a BA in Pastoral Ministry at University of Valley Forge.
Get Justin’s free Christian Love Life Essentials Checklist by clicking here.
A recent poll I did on TrueLoveDates.comrevealed that more than ⅓ of voters believed in “Love at First Sight”.
According to some of the people I’d spoken with, they knew they fell in love within a few moments of making eye contact. Their feelings were undeniable.
The heart-fluttering, brow-sweating, stomach-knotting emotions that were simply out of their control. There was chemistry, there was connection, there was immediate attraction. They were struck by love, and there was nothing they could do to get over it. So, how can one explain this instant connection other than saying that it’s pure love?
The premise of this show is to “do-away” with the concept of modern-day dating, offering 6 individuals a chance to be paired to their “perfect match” at the altar. Psychologists and Sociologists work hard to evaluate the candidates with psychological testing, interviews, and assessments in order to match them with their most compatible counter-part.
Eventually, the “experts” pair up two individuals and they meet for the first time on their wedding day. After they get married, they have 6 weeks to live together and make their marriage work before deciding whether or not they want to stay together, or get a divorce.
Essentially, it’s a modern day arranged marriage (minus the option for divorce, of course), and it’s an interesting premise, which is why I decided to tune-in when the show first came out.
But as the season unfolded, I couldn’t help but make some interesting observations about the three couples who participated.
What People Get Wrong About Love
For one thing, I observed that the couples who had the most “chemistry” at first sight were, ironically, the ones who ended up having the most unhealthy relationship and getting divorced in the end.
In the first episode, you watch them glance at each other and you can see the instant attraction flying off the television screen. One of the women described that initial moment as a “fairy tale” experience. In the past two seasons of the show, 3 out of 4 of the couples who had that instant experience of “love at first sight” ended up filing for a divorce only 6 short weeks after that moment. You know what that tells me? “Love at first sight” – isn’t really love, is it?
The second observation I made was that any couple who is considering whether or not to get a divorce at the 6-week mark, can’t be a couple who is really after life-long love.
Because true love in any relationship is ONLY defined within the context of commitment.
So how can you talk about love, or even marriage, outside of that context? I have a hard time swallowing the idea of love at first sight, because by the very nature of the definition, it describes love as a feeling.
But here’s the thing you need to know about feelings: they can’t be trusted. They’re fickle, up and down, and oftentimes even deceitful. Feelings come, and just as fast, feelings go. One minute you can feel defeated by sadness, and then in a blink of an eye, happiness follows. Confusion turns to assurance. Excitement into fear. I fully believe that feelings should influence us, but they should never lead the way.
On the other hand, feelings shouldn’t be repressed or ignored. They are meaningful, when kept in proper perspective. They have an important place in our lives and can be a powerful influence in the choices we make.
When it comes to understanding love in it’s proper context, it’s crucial to distinguish between the feelings of love, and the actions of love. Though we might feel the feeling of love upon first glance (which I prefer to call attraction or chemistry), those feelings are not love because they don’t display the actions of love.
And real love is something we do, not something we feel. <– TWEET IT!
You know what’s interesting? My husband, John, describes his first encounter with me as an instant attraction. He says he walked into the room and was “overwhelmingly struck” by my beauty (Yah, baby! I’ll take it!). He says he couldn’t take his eyes off of me. Something inexplicable drew him to me. But though his emotions were a first step toward getting to know me, they were not love in and of themselves.
The greatest definition of love ever written is found in the pages of the Bible.The Bible reveals love as a choice that is based not entirely on feeling, but on the commitment of one person to another. Love is giving of self with no expectation to receive- a decision made every moment of every day. It’s unconditional.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Love at first sight is never complete love, because it’s based on emotion rather than commitment; a feeling, rather than a choice. It can’t accurately represent love because it’s only the beginning. True love is born when two people commit to offer themselves for the sake of the other person. It’s a process of growth that deepens a couple’s bond over time.
That’s exactly what happened with me and John. The instant attractionslowly grew into something more meaningful. We chose to connect, to give, to serve and to honor one another in the friendship and relationship that formed thereafter. We watered the seed of love by our choices. Attraction may have opened the door- but action kept it open. And love was born. True Love. Real love. Lasting love.
Because stronger than love at first sight, is choosing love thereafter. Every. Single. Day.
How Important Is Physical Attractionin a Relationship? How do you know if you have healthy expectations for what physical and sexual chemistry should feel like in a dating relationship? What about in marriage? Find out in this candid conversation all about sexual and physical attraction. Click the image below to listen to this eye-opening podcast episode!
A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on September 8th, 2018. Used by permission.
In her book Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey shares how one poll found that almost half of all millennials have given up the hope and perhaps even the desire for a monogamous relationship. Pearcey writes, “The hookup culture is unraveling the social fabric. It produces isolated, alienated adults who come together temporarily for physiological release. By repeatedly breaking up or never connecting in the first place, many people fail to learn how to form the strong, resilient bonds needed to create happy, fulfilling, long term marriages and families.” Nancy Pearcey’s words remind us that the church and family must work together to communicate God’s good and gracious plan for marriage, sex, and sexuality. The future of marriage and marriages hangs in the balance.
Have you ever taken the time to ask your kids what they think about marriage? Chances are, they think about it quite a bit differently than you did when you were their age. Today’s young people are getting married later, and getting divorced more frequently. With cohabitation increasing at breakneck speed, a growing number of young people are opting out of marriage. Because of cultural negativity about marriage, bad examples, and experiencing the brokenness of their parents’ marriage, marriage is something many kids never consider. The boundaries regarding who can marry are changing as well, with conversations, debates, and legislation all addressing the growing reality of same-sex marriages. All in all, biblical marriage – as an institution – is in decline.
Perhaps the negative old marriage clichés have stuck enough to serve as a deterrent. You remember these clichés don’t you? “Marriage is a great institution! But who wants to spend the rest of their life in an institution!?!” Or how about this one: “Marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.”
It’s time that we send our kids a different message about the meaning of marriage. No, there aren’t any perfect marriages. The coming together of one broken person with another broken person can be pretty difficult at times. All of us married folks know that far too well. That’s certainly a realistic marriage message that we need to communicate to our kids. And while we’re together, it will at times be hard. It will be so hard, in fact, that there will be times when we feel like giving up. And, we will wonder about the decision we made to even get married in the first place. To make marriage work it takes work. Love is a commitment.
But even more important is our task to define just what marriage is. While God does indeed call and gift some to the single life, He also said that it is not good for us to be alone. God made marriage and gave it to us as a gift. It’s a good thing! God also defined the parameters for His gift of marriage. It’s to be a life-long, covenantal, monogamous, exclusive heterosexual union between one man and one woman. Our kids need us to continually engage in show and tell when it comes to marriage. We need to tell them that marriage is not some kind of human invention. Instead, God made it for us and gave it to us.
Whether you are a youth worker or parent who’s married, or single by choice or circumstance, you can and must talk to your kids about the goodness of God’s design for marriage. Our culture never stops talking to our kids about marriage. Neither should you.
I’m not sure he’d get away with it in today’s cultural climate, but Flip Wilson had a generation of us middle school kids laughing awfully doggone hard back when he was transforming himself into his in-your-face female character, Geraldine, on his Flip Wilson Show.
Regardless of what you think of Wilson’s Geraldine, there was something “she” was known to say back then that’s been normalized into our thinking about love, sex, and marriage today: “Love is a feeling you feel when you’re about to feel a feeling you never felt before! Whooooo!” Back then, it made my childish self laugh. Today, those words make me shudder.
In an age that celebrates the self and encourages us to idolize and pursue the satisfaction of any and every personal desire, feelings have become something that we act on, rather than something that we should manage and even distrust. And when feelings become the foundation on which we make decisions about love, sex, and marriage. . . well. . . nothing is permanent.
Geraldine was reflecting what’s become a cultural narrative that is diametrically opposed to the biblical narrative. Yes, God has given us the gift of emotions. And, as such, we need to manage that gift to His glory in ways that corral our emotions within the boundaries of His authority, rather than vice-versa.
This week I read these powerful words from Tim Keller in his daily devotional on Proverbs, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: “Traditional vows don’t mention feelings at all. In marriage vows we do not merely express present love – we promise future love. We promise not to always feel loving but rather to be loving, faithful, tender, and compassionate no matter how we feel at the time. Marriage is a covenant; it requires lifelong endurance, strengthened by our vows.”
Youth workers and parents. . . we can’t speak and example this truth enough. Remember, Geraldine’s words are being preached to our kids 24/7 through the cultural script. They’ve got to be seeing and hearing something different. Geraldine used to tell us, “Don’t fight the feeling!” Well, perhaps there are times when we should.
Here’s something to think about and talk about with each other and with your kids. It comes from Tim Keller and his devotional book, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs. If you spend any time at all paying attention to and deconstructing today’s culture, Keller’s words are provocative, insightful, and appropriate.
Keller offers commentary on Proverbs 11:22. . . “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” Keller writes, Men especially tend to evaluate women on their looks, hence this verse’s metaphor. Today we consider how this harms everyone. It damages relationships between the genders. Women see clearly how men react to beauty and it rightly lowers their respect for men. Also, it distorts women’s self-images and lives. It is difficult for them not to overvalue thinness and shapeliness, high cheekbones and great skin. It’s a huge temptation for women to say, ‘Why should I care about my character when everyone else – men and women – is evaluating me on my looks?’
Addiction to beauty fuels the pornography industry, which confirms men in their delusion that only young and beautiful women are sexually alluring. Pornography also gives men a way to get quick sexual pleasure with out the messy, frightening work or building a real relationship with someone. Finally, many men fail to see wonderful prospective spouses – women who would be absolutely terrific partners – right under their noses. They are ‘screened out’ for not being as good-looking as the pictures in porn. The idolatry of beauty is ruining us individually and as a society.
Can you think of any other ways that our culture’s overvaluing of physical attractiveness is harmful?
My 7-year-old daughter had just come home from her time at summer camp, and we were processing a situation that came up involving a couple girls that just didn’t want to be her friend. She had tried talking to them, complimenting them, sitting with them, and involving them in what she was doing.
But every attempt was failing. They would move away, ask her to mind her own business, and blatantly ignore her throughout the day.
“I know!! Maybe I’ll make them friendship bracelets, so that they’ll like me. I am just determined to make them my friend!”
Her persistence gives you a look into the type of girl she is – she doesn’t quit and she doesn’t give up easily. But in this case, it was time to give up. My best advice to my sweet daughter was, “child…it’s time to let go. People like this are not worth your time.”
It was interesting processing this situation with her, because as a parent – I saw the situation so clearly. She was giving, investing, trying…and getting nothing in return. She was trying so hard to make this relationship work, because she wanted to succeed! She wanted to be liked!
But in the end, she was investing so much energy into a relationship that would eventually get nowhere. A one-way relationship, where she would be doing all the work, and getting little to nothing in return.
Sometimes, I need that lesson myself.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Because it’s a problem that we all face at different points in our lives with the many relationships we engage in.
Getting Over The Need To Be Liked
We want to be liked so badly, that sometimes we allow ourselves to be in relationships where we’re doing all the work.
We value being liked by others over loving and respecting ourselves.
And that’s exactly where it has to start. In order for us to move away from these type of relationships, we’ve got to begin by recognizing our value and worth standing alone.
We’re not valued because of the people who like us, we’re valued by the One who created us.
And that truth, when it’s finally sunk deep, deep down, has completely revolutionized my life. Over the past decade, I’ve been learning this lesson in many ways, shapes, and forms. From friendships where I had to set major boundaries, to dealing with misunderstanding without feeling the need to defend myself.
One crash course in particular came with my becoming a writer and teacher in the public domain. On an almost daily basis, I had to deal with some kind of critique, disagreement, negative comment, scathing hate mail, or hateful review.
One of those hateful reviews actually came from a “friend” in ministry, who in an anonymous review (well, she thought it was anonymous – but it really wasn’t, yikes!) publicly wrote that I had nothing of value to add to this conversation and add to that – my personal love story was so ridiculous that it made her nauseous. Gee, thanks, “friend”.
Welcome to the reality that no matter who you are or what you do, you can’t get everyone to like you…and to the more important reality that you SHOULDN’T EVEN TRY. STOP TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO LIKE YOU.
Part of becoming a healthy person is learning to recognize early on which relationships are worth investing in, and which aren’t. I get that every now and again someone will be so good at pretending that they’re a good friend, that you won’t recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing right away. But to be honest, those times are more rare than not. Usually the signs are there, we just aren’t willing to look for them, or when we see them, we’re not ready to let the relationship go until we end up hurt, drained, and betrayed.
Overcoming The Need to Be Liked
I feel like I’m finally at a place where I have gotten over my need to be liked. Part of this has come in realizing that I only have so much emotional margin. I only have so much room to invest in relationships, and so I want to (no, NEED TO) save my emotional energy for friendships and relationships in which I am valued, loved, and respected. Relationships in which I’m giving as much as I’m taking. Relationships in which I am not doing all the work.
If you listened to the most recent episode of my new Love + Relationships Podcast (if you haven’t listened, go give this episode a listen right now!!), you heard me tell our caller who was struggling in one-sided relationships:
“You attract the type of relationship you think you deserve.” – (Tweet it!)
I said that to my daughter a few days ago, I say it to myself on a regular basis, and I say it to you today.
It’s time to get over your need to be liked, believe in what you deserve, and free yourself from relationships that are holding you back. Because oftentimes, by closing your heart to the wrong relationships, you open your heart to the right ones.
Marry someone who is all grown up. Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer to you. I mean, when you think of marriage you automatically associate it with adulthood.
But the reality is that so many people are getting into marriage even though they haven’t yet grown up.
I’m not necessarily talking about age here, because there’s no magic number that can determine your emotional intelligence, social skills, and level of responsibility. I’ve met 60-year-olds who are still living life like they’re 16.
In fact, our current generation seems to be one of the most reluctant to actually “grow up”. It’s almost as though there is a fear of becoming an adult. Look around and you’ll find a generation of men and women who have little to no direction in life, afraid to take any “permanent” steps or make any final decisions over their life. It’s some sort of commitment phobia, that impacts their career, their goals, and even their relationships.
Generations ago, the average twenty-something was half-way through living their lives. They were typically married, with jobs in tact, providing for or taking care of their family. They knew what it meant to take responsibility and grow up.
Today, life looks a little different. Twenty-somethings are taking much longer to finish school, pay off debts, get on their feet financially, leave their parent’s home and start a family.
I’m not saying that getting married and having kids is the recipe for responsibility, because it’s absolutely not. But what I am saying is that today, life looks a little different. It’s often hard to know what it means to “grow up”.
To me, the idea of being all grown up has less to do with getting your career in line, or having a padded bank account, but instead, having direction and moving toward something in life. I’ve met so many young adults totally paralyzed, afraid to move forward.
Maybe it’s a fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice, or maybe even a fear of commitment….But one thing I know is that so many people are driven more by fear than they are by faith.
Because marriage is the most important decision you will ever make in life, it’s important to go into it with someone who is all grown up. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life taking care of someone, rather than sharing life with someone.
The only way you will know that someone is ready to take responsibility for your heart, is to see that they have taken responsibility for themselves, making the most of their life and situation.
A person who is all grown up has goals and dreams, and is taking the necessary steps to move in that direction.
A person who is all grown up has learned the importance of managing their money and being good stewards of what God has given them.
A person who is all grown up practices and understands the importance of healthy communication.
A person who is all grown up has learned how to both take responsibility, as well as control their emotions, their behaviors, and their interactions.
A person who is all grown up is responsible and self-sufficient.