It is a Friday morning and this is the 14,971st day of my existence by God’s design, calling, choosing and favor, and I awoke at 5 AM to thank Him for life. This has been an eventful week in our household, as all three boys are going to public school this year, especially for Garrett and Winston who are attending regular classes for the first time ever.
Both of them fussed about wanting to stay home today, Garrett saying he had a sore throat, and Winston saying that he “didn’t want to go to school every day.” We sent both of them to school: Garrett didn’t have a fever and Winston – the kindergartner – has to learn that school happens every weekday. It’s a big adjustment.
One amusing thing is that Garrett has said that for three days he’s sat down at a corner of an empty table for lunch in the cafeteria — at a different table each day — and the same group of girls has followed him, sitting themselves down wherever he has chosen to sit. Garrett is tall for his age and spent the summer lifting weights, and he also has a sense of style and likes to look nice. (He takes after my dad that way: my father never looked like a slob like I often do.) Garrett has just entered 8th grade, and since he is new to the school it adds an element of “bright, shiny and new” in the eyes of his onlookers there. It amuses me that Garrett seems mostly unaware of how attractive this might make him to girls at the middle school; when telling us about the “moving girls” he seemed to regard it as a total mystery. Of course I haven’t said a word to expound the mystery to him. I hope that as he becomes more aware he will continue to focus on his academics and personal growth and not get distracted by the wild drama that always plagues teenaged “romantic” relationships. I’ve been praying that God will send him a friend or two of the male persuasion, boys who have some background in families with morality, stability and good sense. I have talked to my children often of being friendly to everyone, but not getting too intimate or close to people that are plainly following a different path.
At the same time, I’ve told them their attraction to the opposite sex is totally natural. It’s just a question of proper timing.
Throughout my mid-to-late teens, I was interested in the Bible and pursuing God, and I sluffed off a couple of girls at church because they did not share my passion. There was one in particular named Jenny: she was even my “type,” a cute little thing. She was the most persistent, but eventually I told her I just wasn’t interested in a dating relationship because I was in school and wanted to build the foundation of my life before getting into anything like that. She quit calling. I never dated or got romantically involved with anyone until I was twenty years old, and that was with Sikki who is now my wife.
Sikki and I met at work: she was 15. I thought she was really strange and she felt the same about me. (In my case it was quite justified: my weirdness has been consistent.) Neither of us had any thoughts of romantic interest until three or four years later, when I sent her a bouquet of flowers as a graduation gift. Shortly after that, I nervously asked her out. She had three boyfriends before me, I think, and I believe I met all of them. In our many talks since then, she has expressed some regret about dating, but in our culture it is just taken for granted that you should spread yourself around quite a bit before settling down.
Some of the Christians I’ve known have an axe to grind about dating, being critical of it or disallowing it altogether. I’ve never been on board with a legalistic approach. I don’t think there’s a “right” or a “wrong” way to get to know people. (But that is the goal: getting to KNOW them, not getting attached and THEN finding out who they are.) There are three main dating dangers in my mind: being “unequally yoked,” spending a lot of time alone, and accepting without question everything that is “normal” in our culture. Our culture’s shifting expectations have led to nothing but busted relationships and people, so those accepted norms should not be leading believers around by the nose.
I’ve had three teenaged offspring who have started some exploration into relationships with the opposite sex, and Sikki and I have tried to guide them through it while at the same time making them aware of the inherent dangers and distractions of those relationships, but without uttering a commanding and absolute No. As their father, I try to make it a conversation and a learning experience, but I’m not interested in preventing their every pain and mistake. Otherwise, they’ll never learn how to function as adults in this world.
Another thing I try to emphasize is that they should take things very slow. It’s important to learn how another person reacts under STRESS. That is absolutely key to knowing someone. It’s all fine and dandy to date and have fun, but lots of people get into serious trouble because they don’t find out how the other party handles life when it’s adverse and painful.
Then there’s the question of “pressure” from the other person: if you’re telling them to take it slow and they’re rushing you into commitments or physical interactions or acting generally clingy and needy, you should move on. They don’t care about you or respect you; they’re trying to use you to meet some unmet need of their own. You’re worth waiting for, kid, and in the sphere of relationships, haste really does make waste.
I tell my kids a good rule of thumb is to try and find someone who loves Jesus more than they love you — you’ll recognize them because they will talk about Him all the time in regular conversation — preferably someone who could get along fine without you in their life. That will be a pretty complete, mature person. Or at least it will be someone who has a solid foundation when the storms of life hit.
It’s an ongoing process and I don’t have an action plan or divine directive except for some principles of Scripture that apply to all relationships. Me and Sikki are trying to figure it out, but the responsibility to train them is on me primarily since I’m their father. I pray for strength and guidance every day to accurately represent life in God to my children. I hope to inspire them to pursue Him on their own.
I just received an automated call from the school district that they will be closing early due to Hurricane Hermine, which is passing us today. I will close to address the concerns of life.