I have a good friend who learned a very hard lesson last year.
She was 27 years old, and waiting for the man God had for her. She’d made her share of mistakes in her past, mostly due to some deep seated emotional issues and a poor self image. There was a deep need within her to love and be loved, and it had led her to make some foolish decisions.
As her honorary “big sister”, she and I had a few discussions about her past and her regrets. I explained to her my philosophy about dating, and I thought maybe a little wisdom might temper her future decisions.
I’ve always been a pretty serious person when it came to relationships, and I never saw the point in dating someone just to have someone to go out with, especially if you already knew enough about the person to know already you wouldn’t want them as a mate. I was happy to have quite a few male friends, and spent a lot of time with a couple of them in college to where some assumed we were dating, but the key element that was missing was the romance.
Ahh, romance. There’s the dangerous thing. Especially for a girl with self-esteem issues, once romance is a part of a relationship — and doubly so once physical intimacy is introduced — it becomes the be-all end-all, and obscures a lot of potential issues with the relationship that will cause it to crash and burn in the future.
My friend met a man last year, and the attraction between them was instant and mutual. By the time she told me about him, they’d been dating for a couple of weeks, and romance was very much in the mix. She was smitten.
“He’s a Christian,” she told me, “although he’s not involved in church right now because he’s been burned in the past and turned off by hypocrisy. He’s willing to start going back to church with me, though.”
I was hopeful for her, but wary, and I tried to caution her to make sure of him before she gave her heart too fully. He came to church with her all of twice, and then the logistics of getting him to church became too difficult, because he didn’t have transportation and lived too far away.
She would tell me stories later on that concerned me. Arguments they’d had, bad behavior on his part, and underneath it all, the implication that she’d gotten too involved with him emotionally and physically to back away gracefully.
“But I love him,” she told me. Her heart had taken over and was overriding things that should have been warning signals: his extended period of living with his parents, his lack of motivation to find a job, his unorthodox and un-Biblical religious beliefs… and his lack of respect for her boundaries when she tried to back off from their physical involvement and focus on her relationship with God.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. (Prov 4:23, NIV)
In November, she found out she was pregnant, and suddenly she was looking at her relationship with much clearer eyes, and did not like what she saw.
After much prayer, she made the decision not to follow one mistake with another and resisted the pressure from those around her to marry him. Her circumstances are far from ideal, preparing to become a single mother any day now, but she learned a difficult lesson indeed in getting too involved too soon.
When I read today’s passage in Song of Solomon, the verse jumped off the page at me: “Do not arouse or awaken love before it so desires.”
Author and pastor Jared Wilson had an excellent post on his blog recently with advice for young singles in romantic relationships. I’d say the words of wisdom work just as well for those who aren’t quite as young, and perhaps should know better.
A couple of nuggets from that post, to whet your appetite:
3. Persons in a dating or courting relationship are on their best behavior. So however they are now, you can expect, over time, for them to get “worse.” As familiarity grows, people let their guards down. Marriage does not fix bad behavior; it often gives it freer reign. Ladies, this means if your boyfriend is controlling, suspicious, verbally condescending or manipulative, he will get worse, not better the longer your relationship goes on. Whatever you are making excuses for or overlooking now, will get harder to ignore and more prominent the longer your relationship goes on. You can’t fix him, and marriage won’t straighten him out.
9. All of your relationships, including your romantic relationship, is meant to make Jesus look big more than it is meant to provide you personal fulfillment. When we make personal fulfillment our ultimate priority in our relationships, ironically enough, we find ourselves frustratingly unfulfilled.
I’d highly encourage you to go read the rest.