When should you start to date (or court)? Here are three tell-tale signs (among others) that you’re ready:
1. Your authority figures give you the green light.
I heard from a girl recently who wrote:
I like this dude, and he happens to like me back. One day after school, we talked, and he told me that he likes me, and so I told him I like him, too. I have heard from many people that he is going to ask me to be his girlfriend . . . and that’s where things get crazy.
My parent will NOT let me date. And if they find out that I am dating . . . let’s just say that I will die. LITERALLY.
I am not dating him right now, but I just have a feeling that he will ask me . . . and I don’t know what to do. I really like him, and he likes me. This is very rare!!! When ur crush likes u back . . . Rare. My friends are like, “Just say yes, and just don’t tell your parents,” but I am like, “They will find out!!!”
I can relate. I told her:
We have a lot in common. My parents had the same rules . . . plus some. Growing up I thought they were totally unreasonable, and I dated behind their backs (and was always discovered).
Now, looking back, I can see that God was protecting me from myself through my parents. It sure wasn’t fun in junior high and high school, but now I am SO grateful I wasn’t allowed to get my way. I actually ended up dedicating my book to my parents. Here’s a little taste:
“[Thank you] for keeping such close tabs on me during those tumultuous teen years! At the time I thought you were just plain ol’ mean, but now I can’t thank you enough for sparing me a harvest of regret.”
You’ll end up being grateful, too, for those strict parents. Even though you feel anything but gratitude now, know this:
God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1–3). And He always keeps His promises! It’s not just
a suggestion; He commands it. If you disobey your parents, you’re ultimately disobeying God.
If this guy really, really likes you, he will wait for as long as it takes. And if he is the kind of guy you want to end up with long-term, he will
NOT encourage you to disobey your parents.
God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents. And He always keeps His promises!
Please, please trust me. Going behind your parents’ backs will only end in regret. And if you already have, it’s not too late to get out.
(Psst . . . If you’re struggling with your parents’ rules, here are some posts I’ve written in the past that may help.)
Let me add that just because an authority figure says you can date whenever you want doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Maybe this authority figure isn’t currently making the wisest decisions. In this case, ask yourself if you’re ready for marriage. That’s right. Marriage.
2. You’re ready for marriage.
That’s the point of dating, after all. Ben Stuart explains it like this: “Dating is not a status. It’s a process (of evaluating a person for marriage).”
That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily feel completely ready for marriage, as in, “Oh, yeah, I got this covered, no sweat.” But you’re actually at a point in life where you’re old—and mature—enough to get married. You don’t have something else you have to complete first, like a big chunk of schooling.
The practical advice I give the singles at our church is, if you cannot happily see yourself as a married woman in less than one year, then you are not ready to date.
But what if I met someone super special, you ask? And they actually like me? Shouldn’t I do something about that?!
Why would you, if marriage isn’t even a possibility?
I’ve gotta side with Scott and with the writer of the Song of Solomon on this one. Over and over throughout the book the warning is given, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires,” or until the appropriate time (2:7; 3:5; 8:4).
Song of Solomon 8:7 explains why: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” And as the verse before says, “It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”
God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.
Can you imagine a blazing forest fire that several rivers worth of water cannot extinguish? That would be one intense firestorm. God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.
Better to build healthy ways of relating with all guys and to pursue your relationship with Christ at this stage in life. You will not regret it. Promise.
Another way to know if you’re ready to date is . . .
3. You have pursued and served God wholeheartedly as a single, and now a godly guy is pursuing you that you think you could be even more effective in serving Christ with as a team.
In the biggest section of Scripture on singleness and marriage, Paul writes,
In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God (1 Cor. 7:24).
Make it the goal of your life not to change your status, but to serve God as effectively and energetically as possible in whatever state you are. The contemporary poster says it well: “Bloom where you are planted now!”
In declaring this principle Paul was not forbidding marriage for single people or freedom for slaves. If the opportunity comes along and it is expedient to take it, do so (7:21). His point was that people tend to concentrate on the wrong things. They pour their energies into changing their condition for their own sake rather than into changing the world for Christ’s sake (p. 293).
I’d love to hear from you. Do you think you’re ready to date (or court)? Why or why not?
Her subject line caught my eye: “I’m so scared, trying to trust God with my love life.” The email continued:
I read the prayer you wrote on page 85 about relinquishing your desire to be married to God. That scared . . . me. I know what I’m doing isn’t working, but I’m so afraid that if I give God control, He’ll keep me single forever, and my one true desire is to share my life with someone.
I’d love your prayers as I read your book (got it today). I’m trying to trust God with my love life and am so afraid to pray the bold prayers you mention. I do know I need to take a break from dating for a while until I can truly feel God’s love for me and learn to love and respect myself. Thank you for writing it!
God Most High, thank You that You’re committed to giving me Yourself. You don’t want me to find my happiness—nor can I—with anyone or anything less than You. Why do I think I know better than You what I need? I’m miserable in my strivings and resistance against You. Give me the gift of repentance.
I confess my lust toward men and relinquish to You the desire, need, and hope of marriage. I’m sorry for living for guys rather than for You. Break me over this sin, God.
I seem to think my Creator, Father, and King is acting foolishly. I think I deserve more, that I’m pretty good. Who am I comparing myself to, God? Certainly not You. My heart is cold toward You. I want to be in control of my own life. I don’t want You to be Lord of my life—I just want to use You to make me look good.
God, I step down from the throne of my life and invite—no, plead—with You to assume Your rightful place as Lord, as Boss. Forgive me. Thank You that You have.
Take my love, Lord, even though it is barely alive, and fan it into flame for You.
I may have written that prayer, but I get the struggle to be okay with singleness. I really do. It took years of pain and desperation before I was finally willing to pray this “bold” prayer.
I had the same fear she did—that if I chose to trust God with my love life, He would take my surrender as an irretrievable permission slip to withhold my greatest desire from me.
Whether you “give” God permission to be in control of your life or not, He is.
Is that a legitimate fear? Let’s take a closer at her email and explore these fears, shall we? She wrote, “I’m so afraid that if I give God control . . .” This overlooks the fact that God already is in control. Whether you “give” God permission to be in control of your life or not, He is. There is nothing in this universe He does not rule and reign over.
The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
and on them he has set the world (1 Sam. 2:6–8).
Thankfully for us, we don’t serve a cruel God with a sick, twisted sense of humor who takes delight in giving us what we hate. Matthew 7:9–11 tells us just the opposite:
“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Being in a relationship isn’t a “right” and being single isn’t an accident.
So what does that mean if you don’t yet have what you want? I love how Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth talks about it in Singled Out for Him. She points out that being in a relationship isn’t a “right” and being single isn’t an accident. According to 1 Corinthians 7, both singleness and marriage (the closest human relationship possible) are gifts from a good God who only gives good gifts to His kids. Each gift is to be 1) received with thankfulness and 2) used to bring Him glory. If you are not currently in a committed relationship with a godly guy, you can know that at least for now, it would not be a “good thing” for you.
But don’t take my word for it. (Or Nancy’s.)
Get to know God yourself. You cannot trust someone you do not know.
It’s one thing to hear someone else say God can be trusted with your love life and another altogether to get to know Him until you know that you know that for yourself. Be patient; it’ll be a process. But do pursue Him each and every day. If you’re not sure how to do that, start here.
“My one true desire is to share my life with someone.” It’s a perfectly natural desire to share your life with someone, but is that your one-desire-to-rule-them-all? What are you willing to sacrifice or do for this desire to come true? Do you love the idea of being in love with a man more than you love the Maker of man? If so, you can expect God’s wrath.
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men . . . For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they . . . exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! (Rom. 1:18–24).
If your desires are more dear to you than God Himself, repent over your misplaced worship.
“He’ll keep me single forever” overlooks the fact that marriage—the most intimate, lifelong, love commitment a human can make—is just a faint reflection of the more wonderful, forever relationship we will have with Christ. He is using this life to prepare us to be His pure, spotless bride. This sentiment shows a very limited view of the here and now at the expense of forever.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).
As you think about your desire for a romantic relationship, are you focused on living for yourself or for your Creator?
“I’m so afraid.” Three times in her email this woman admitted she was “scared” and “so afraid.” She also said she needed to take a break from dating until she had a grip on God’s love for her. I think she’s on the right track. First John 4:18 says:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Let His unmatched love drive away your fears.
You are perfectly loved by a perfect God; own this. You can know God loves you—not because He gives you everything you want right when you want it, but because He gave up His beloved Son to absorb the righteous wrath of the Father that you deserved for your sin. Let His unmatched love drive away your fears.
How about you? Do you trust God to do a better job than you can with your love life? If not, what can you do today to grow your trust in Him?
I have feelings for a guy friend. Feelings that I’ve asked God to take away from me several times, but for whatever reason, He has not. Why did God give me feelings I didn’t ask for? And what does He want me to do?
Short answer: I don’t think He did give you feelings for this guy.
I’m not sure where we got this notion that it’s God’s fault if we feel something we don’t want to feel. James 1:13–15 says:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Yes, God gave us the capacity to feel, because He made us in His image, and He feels deeply. But I don’t believe He feeds specific feelings into our hearts, like we’d feed a gum ball machine with quarters.
Our feelings ultimately stem from what we’re thinking and believing. Rather than asking God to take away your feelings, examine them the way you’d carefully examine your reflection in the mirror before leaving for school:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2, emphasis added).
God doesn’t give us our feelings; but we are wise to give our feelings to God. We see the psalmist doing this over and over in the book of Psalms. He pours out his feelings to God, and then he holds his feelings up to the truth of who God is and compares the two.
So the next time you want to blame God for your feelings, first ask yourself:
When did I start to feel this way? What led me to feel this way?
What am I thinking and believing that is contributing to this feeling?
How do my feelings line up with God’s truth? What does God’s Word have to say about what I’m feeling?
Then bring your feelings to God, taking them to His Word and placing them before Him in prayer.
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear from you. Do you believe that God is responsible for your feelings? Why or why not?
So now that I’m getting married, will I be leaving the message of this book far behind?
Not on your life.
The message of Confessions will be just as relevant for me as a married woman as it was for me as a single woman.
Because married or single, my hope is still in God, not in a man. After all, as Jani Ortlund says, “Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.” Only God is perfect and will never disappoint me.
If I look to my future hubby (or you look to a potential boyfriend) for our worth, identity, or happiness . . . we will end up bitter, angry women. As one pastor often said, “What you idolize you will eventually demonize.”
But if we continually pursue and are satisfied in the far-surpassing treasure that Jesus Christ is, we will be able to love our guy when he’s acting wonderful . . . and when he’s being a pill.
Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl is ultimately a book about the “little g” gods (idols) we worship—and how we can move from worshiping worthless gods to worshiping the one true, living God.
Married or single, you’ll benefit from the message of this book.
All week I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey from “boy-crazy to my man” with you. Thanks for being interested in the love story God scripted for us! If you’ve missed the first three parts to this story, you can read them here:
It wasn’t always easy, getting to where we are today. There were lots of ups and downs; many times I wondered if we’d make it. But my doubts never lasted long. I think this journal entry will explain why:
It seems our relationship is characterized by the most important things: Christ; communication that’s open, humble, loving, and excellent; and community. I couldn’t move forward without a single one of these.
1. Relationship Secret #1: Christ
Trevor and I are fairly different, but Jesus Christ truly is the foundation of our relationship, which is more than enough common ground. Here are two entries from my journal to give you a taste of how Trevor has consistently pointed me to Christ rather than away from Him:
Trevor prayed last night, thanking God for bringing us together from so far apart, asking that in some small way we could reflect the gospel to those around us. I realized that when I asked friends to pray that I’d enjoy God and I’d enjoy Trevor, I didn’t see those two as intersecting at all. To me, romance has always been something to hide from God, not something to share with God and thank Him for and revel in Him. (How wrong I was!)
And one more entry, from a visit I made to New York:
We played “What Am I Thinking” and “Would You Rather.” His options were hilarious. Then he asked if we wanted to pray through the Lord’s Prayer. It was hard for me to turn my mind toward worshiping God, but so sweet and needed.”
2. Relationship Secret #2: Communication
Trevor and I have had excellent communication. Sure, starting out long distance helped. Talking was our only option, other than a monthly visit. But it’s more than that.
Mostly it’s been Trevor’s humble responses and probing questions that have given me more and more courage to share openly with him. I can’t tell you how huge this has been in my life; until Trevor, I always “held back.” Here’s one example from my journal, about a Skype conversation:
As were were about to go, I asked Trevor if he’d pray for me. I got teary. I told him I was kinda anxious about his visit . . . His response was beautiful . . . He asked if there was more.
I didn’t want to tell him, but I admitted that I worry I might be getting into a relationship with an angry man. He responded amazingly and thoughtfully.
He said he was sorry multiple times.
That I didn’t deserve that.
That he didn’t want me to have to have any caution flags with him.
That he would be repenting of his sin.
That he’s still growing out of selfishly thinking his sin only impacts him and the person he’s sinned against.
He said he already has some action ideas for what to do next. And he said a lot, “Anything I say feels worthless ’til you see some change.” Although he’s also confessed he’s a sinner and this will probably be a life-long process, but he didn’t want that to be an excuse.
Trevor has modeled humility time and time again in our conversations. He has also not hidden sin from me, but confessed it. As a result, I trust him—with my inmost thoughts, fears, and struggles.
3. Relationship Secret #3: Community
The fact that Trevor is so deeply rooted in community has given me great confidence. He loves his local church body. In addition to running sound, playing guitar, and doing their books, he leads a small group and participates in a discipleship group an elder leads. Because he’s surrounded himself with people, I’ve been able to hear from others who have known Trevor a lot longer than I have what they think of him. (That’s invaluable as a girl considers marriage!)
From the start Trevor was intentional about introducing me to his friends (he even tried to get some girls to host a girls’ night while I was in town!). This has meant that when I moved to New York a couple months ago (to live with a family from his church until our wedding day), I’ve had instant community through the relationships he’s already built.
We’ve also been able to do premarital counseling with an elder/counselor, and get a wise, outside perspective on our relationship.
All three of these C’s—Christ, communication, and community—caused me to joyfully and confidently said “yes!” when Trevor got down on one knee this past April and read me a Shakespearean sonnet he’d written:
. . . I journeyed far to gain this precious rose,
By land and air through darkness deep inside.
I’ll carry her through thorns and fears below,
Held by His hand in raging storms and tides.
The rising Day will banish soon the night,
Sojourn with me ’til then, and be my wife.
How about you? Would you ever consider marrying a man without Christ, communication, and community being a part of your relationship? Why or why not?
Trevor and I met in “The Promised Land” (a.k.a. Chick-fil-A) on a Saturday night last summer. (If you’re just joining us, I’m sharing my journey from “boy-crazy to my man” this week on the blog. Click here and here for the first two posts.)
We’d never even talked on the phone before—just written back and forth on Facebook for the past four months, but it was as comfortable as could be from the get-go. He was sitting at a table when I walked in—not holding a rose like in romance novels—but reading a book in true Trevor-fashion.
We did all sorts of “manly” things together that long weekend (remember, I was trying to show him a good time!), like exploring an abandoned house, shooting guns, lifting weights, hiking through a riverbed, canoeing, swimming in the lake, and making a bonfire. We ate. And talked. That was my favorite part. We talked about what we were looking for in a spouse, theological beliefs, and past experiences.
Tuesday morning, as we met at Chick-fil-A for one last meal before he headed back to New York, I fought back tears. We’d become even better friends over the long weekend, but I had no idea if I’d ever see this guy again. I wasn’t about to put him on the spot and ask, “Sooooo . . . what are you thinking about us?”
But while I prepared to say goodbye for good, he did it. He did what God created men to do; he initiated. It went something like this:
T: “So, how do you think this weekend went?” Me: “It was fun!” T: “Where do you see our relationship going?” Me: “You tell me. I’m wide open.” (I’m not sure he was expecting that answer!)
He let me know he had qualms about a long-distance relationship, so he wanted to take a few days to seek advice about how to pursue me from nine hours away.
I sent him on his way with some black licorice Swedish dogs, overwhelmed by God’s wonderful surprise and by Trevor acting like a man should. I was on top of the world . . . until the morning.
All too soon I pulled out my journal, and my sin spilled out:
Today I was ungrateful for all God has done and just wanted more. I wanted Trevor to pursue me now.
He’s seeking the Lord about how to do that, but I want and expect to be fawned over and contacted and pursued hotly from his first admission of liking me.
Thank You, God, for this training ground. I want to learn now how to thank You for what he does rather than focusing on what he doesn’t do.
So thank You for his sensitivity and leadership in texting me this today:
“I don’t know if I said this when we had breakfast yesterday, but I want to make sure I’m clear on this—I like you, too, and the question I face is, ‘How might a relationship like this work?’ So that’s the main thing I’m going to try to work through in the coming days and such. Just wanted to maintain the clarity a bit. “
I continued writing,
I also confess that when I responded to his text and admitted my struggle with him only telling me I “had a good head on my shoulders,” I didn’t think of how that would sound to him (probably like “You failed”). I wanted him to text me back saying,
“Of course! Dumb me. You must be wondering WHY I like you. WHAT I like about you. Where should I start?!” (This is where I imagined him rattling off a long list.)
Forgive me for seeking to manipulate him. For trying to gauge my worth on his praise of me.
Here it is again. I want to be worshipped rather than to worship the only worthy God. I am an idolater. A breaker of the first commandment. Rescue me, Abba.
So . . . what gave me the confidence to move forward with this man even when he wasn’t meeting all my crazy expectations for 24/7 romance? Check back tomorrow to hear the three main things that caused me to joyfully and confidently say “yes!” when Trevor asked me to be his wife this past April.
Should you hug that guy or not hug him? Is a front hug or a side hug more appropriate?
There’s nothing inherently sinful about a hug. It’s just that behind our arms, we house a sinful heart that can pervert even something good into something not good.
One of you recently asked me what I think about guys and girls hugging. Not an easy question!
I went to a public school where hugging guys was no big deal. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Christian side hug years later—a “safe” hugging option designed to communicate affection while staying away from any potential sexual body contact.
Only, not every Christian is on board. For example,
One godly, married man I know wholeheartedly hugs women and unabashedly tells them he loves them, with his wife looking on.
Other godly men I know never hug any woman except their wife.
And then there are those who settle somewhere in the middle with the side hug.
So you and I are left to navigate this nebulous world of hugging. (Wouldn’t it be easier if we all wore tags that told whether we were open to hugging or not?!) Unfortunately, it’s not that clear-cut.
That’s probably because there’s nothing inherently sinful about a hug. It’s just that behind our arms, we house a sinful heart that can pervert even something good into something not good.
In my opinion, hugging has less to do with your body potentially being pressed up against someone of the opposite sex, and more to do with your heart and mind.
A hug can be as pure—or as impure—as your heart.
First Timothy 5 is clear about how we’re to interact with each other in the church:
“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (vv. 1–2).
We’re family now, if we have trusted in Christ and Christ alone to make things right between us and our pure, holy Father God. As family members, we are to treat older men as fathers and younger men as brothers . . . with all purity. Yes, we’re family, but we’re a holy, set-apart family.
That’s why it’s important to examine your heart before you reach out for that hug.
When You Hug Him:
1. Is there a guy(s) you want to hug more than others? If so, why?
2. What message are you hoping to send him with your hug?
3. Are you purposefully trying to arouse him with your body contact?
4. Do you hug him just as you would any guy? Like you would your dad or brother?
5. Would you be ashamed if people could read your thoughts as you hugged him?
6. Are you hugging him in public or in private? If the latter, what are you trying to hide?
7. If he’s married, would his wife be comfortable with you hugging him like this?
When He Hugs You:
8. Is this a man who cares for you in a pure way?
9. Is there anything inappropriate about his hug?
10. Is it a quick hug or a longer-than-necessary one?
11. Does his hug make you feel uncomfortable in any way? If so, why?
When His Hug Makes You Feel Uncomfy
If his hug makes you feel uncomfortable, depending on the seriousness of the situation, here are some ways to stop it:
1. Leave some space between you as you hug, and quickly pull away.
2. When he reaches out to hug you, turn and give him a side hug rather than a front-on hug.
3. When he reaches for you to hug you, give him your hand instead. It might be awkward for a second, but he’ll get the point.
4. Tell him you’re not comfy hugging him.
5. Tell a trusted authority that you’re not comfy hugging him.
I’d love to hear from you. Has hugging been an unclear issue for you to navigate too?
Apparently I’m not the only one who has wondered how God can satisfy when all I want is a pair of strong arms to hold me close. Here’s what Rebecca wrote me:
“The biggest thing I think my crush can give me that God can’t is his strong arms wrapped around me. Although my crush has yet to hold me in his arms, his physical closeness sends shivers throughout my body. I know that God is always there for me . . . but sometimes my feelings get the better of me, and all I want to do is be wrapped up in my crush’s arms and attention.”
“I think what always gets me is that God isn’t physically there like a guy is. He can’t wrap his arms around me. Sometimes I just want that.”
And finally, Isabella said:
“I have often thought, I wish God could come down here and give me a big bear hug. Then I would really be in love with Him.”
But here’s the thing . . . He has come down! And while He was here, He picked up kids and cradled them in His arms. (You have to admit, that shows a tender heart—few guys walk around doing the same thing!)
I know He’s not physically here now. That’s the whole “we walk by faith and not by sight” deal. Like 1 Peter 1:8 says,
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
But one day soon, we will see Him. We will be with Him.
When Christ comes again to “marry” the Church, His Bride, He will likely hold us too. I don’t know this for sure, but here’s what 1 Corinthians 13:13 does say:
“Now we see in a mirror, but then, face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Now that is something to look forward to! Jesus Christ is not an idea; He is a Person. A Divine Person with arms and legs and beautiful probing eyes. He loves you. Enough to spread His arms wide in order to bleed so you might be healed. And if you have put your trust in His death and resurrection on your behalf, you will soon see and know Him fully.
If you have put your trust in Christ’s death and resurrection on your behalf, you will soon see and know Him fully.
So in the meantime, as you wait for Him, by all means, hug! No, not your crush. Hug your dad. Hug your mom. Hug your brothers and sisters. Hug your friends. Hug those old ladies at church.
And as you wait on your forever Bridegroom, watch out that you don’t make the same mistake God’s people made years ago, when they rejected God for a man they could see and touch. (You can read that story in 1 Samuel 8 and 12:19.)
Now I’d love to hear from you. Are you in danger of deciding God is not enough for you because He isn’t here to hug you right this second? Tell me about it (and more importantly, talk to Him about it!).