It was a hot, muggy night in South Georgia. My heart was pounding out of my chest as my mom chauffeured me over to my crush’s house in her Nissan Murano. At 14 years old, I was about to embark on my first date—Mellow Mushroom and a movie. I picked up the cute, brunette girl and we cruised over to the dinner location. I was trying to play it cool even though being smooth is not necessarily in my skill set. We set a time for my mom to pick us up and then boom, it was just me and her. We sat down in a booth while I ordered a sprite and she ordered a sweet tea. Everything was going well for the first 5 minutes. The drinks arrived and like any normal human, I unwrapped my straw and put it in my drink. One piece of advice I had been given by friends beforehand was to make solid eye contact—so I did, to my chagrin. Instead of looking for the straw in the drink, I gazed into her dark brown eyes while attempting to partake of my drink. All of sudden, I felt a lot of liquid hit my pants. Sure enough, I spilled my drink in my lap. That was the coronation of many hiccups I would have over the long haul in my dating life.
The truth is that dating is difficult, and you will make mistakes, but there is a way to minimize the damage and maximize what God can teach you through it. This blog is specifically geared towards teenage girls, but it’s applicable to all teenagers. Girls, I’d like to talk about how you can avoid those dating hiccups (ones much more than just your date being a goober!) and find true love in its appropriate timing.
Que the appropriate timing. Finding love is natural because God has hardwired us for relational intimacy. God gave marriage as a gift to man and woman and it should be pursued, but it shouldn’t be rushed. Our culture puts a lot of pressure on finding meaning through a partner, but you need to know that singleness is valuable. In fact, it’s wise when you’re young. There’s nothing wrong with waiting and choosing to allow that to blossom later in life. It may just save you some heartbreak and regret. However, if you’re going to date, here’s some things to consider.
As a youth pastor, I talk a lot about social media, not because I particularly enjoy it, but because I see the danger it poses to students. Likes have become everything in our culture and social media exposure is king. Often, I see middle and high school girls (guys too) derive their worth from peer approval. This mentality drifts into dating. Girls want guys to approve them and before long, their worth is wrapped up in a boy’s opinion. What happens if a boy changes his mind or says something hurtful? Dejection. Tears. I sympathize because I’ve most certainly been on the receiving end of a break-up. However, a lot of pain could have been avoided by one foundational thought. God determines my worth, no one else. Before you date, you need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord. You need to come to terms with the fact that you are infinitely valuable, regardless of what anyone else says about you. This can’t be overstated.
To be honest, some of you will have a leg up because your dad has been a healthy role model in discerning what qualities you should look for in a man. You have someone you can look up to and respect. For those that don’t have that father figure, you can certainly surround yourself with godly men who can point you in the right direction.
Another factor in determining who and when you should date is your parents. Like it or not, they are your spiritual authority and you’re called to submit. I can hear audible groans after that last sentence, but reason with me for a minute. They weren’t born yesterday. They’ve accumulated years of knowledge under their belt and could be a very helpful guide. Also, don’t forget about that they have your best interest at heart. If they say, you’re not allowed to date until you leave their house, then so be it. If they tell you that you’re not allowed to date a particular boy, then that’s the final word. You have to trust them.
Now, let’s say that you’re in a position to date. Don’t let the Justin Bieber swoosh or skinny v neck entrance you. Attraction is important, but godliness is the most important quality. Let me be crystal clear… church attendance does not equal godliness. You need a guy who really loves Jesus and is committed to the church. Those guys are going to be the ones who treat you well and respect you. Another way to say it is don’t lower your standards. Granted, if your standards are that he must quote you the entire Old Testament, well, you might be single for a long time. However, don’t settle just because he’s the first guy that approaches you. You’re allowed to say no. If you’re not interested, that’s okay, just gently let him know.
Next, take it sloooooooooow. You aren’t going to the altar next week. If he’s trying to kiss you on the first date, you have my permission to karate chop him in the throat and run away. The best relationships are grounded in strong friendship. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be exclusively friends with him first, but it should mean that you’re going 15 mph even when the speed limit is 30.
It’s also important to accept the fact that you have blind spots. Other people see things that you may not be aware of. Just because he looks like a 15 year old version of Orlando Bloom doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of character flaws. When your family or friends bring this to your attention, be quick to listen instead of dismiss. They might be seeing something that you aren’t privy to.
My last piece of advice is… drum roll please… don’t check your friends at the door. Whenever a new “boo thang” enters the picture, it can be natural to do that. Your friends are left bitter and flabbergasted when you drop them for someone that you’ve known for two seconds. Lean into their friendship. If things do work out with the guy, date in the context of community. Make sure you’re as visible as possible and invite accountability into your relationship. I promise you won’t regret it.
Some of you have made mistakes in the past. Realize that there is no sin that is unspoken for at the cross. God’s grace is unimaginably deep. It can work to heal the pain of the past as well as safeguard your future.