Thursday, November 19, 2009
Now this is not a celebration of making out. Nor am I advocating get carried away with the kissing thing. You know what I am talking about... like when you get up the next morning, thinking ,"OH CRAP!" And if you have yet to graduate from high school you are automatically prohibited by me from this celebration. And for those of you who need me to overstate the obvious....if you are not in a committed relationship or married...you're out, too. You can't put the horse before the cart.
I think kissing gets a bad wrap. For those of us who are married, it gets lost. It tends to lose its meaning over time. How many times has Chris kissed me and I not really even taken notice. Or worse yet been a little irritated because I was otherwise occupied. In the business of doing life together, we overlook little things that use to mean so much. And you know what...we are missing out. Kissing is good. It has the power to join us together and remind us that ours is a special bond. It can take us back to really good carefree memories or simply remind us that we are in this all the way together. It is a tender touch that can say so much, so quickly.
Chris and I laughed when I first proclaimed November to be the month to celebrate kissing. But we started kissing more. It has been fun. And it has brought us back to a tenderness that frankly we needed. It has helped us connect as we pass in the hallway between running kids this way and that. It has been really, really good. Who new?
Now for those of you dating, I think kissing gets a bad wrap in your neck of the woods, too. Sometimes in the effort to preserve purity, we stop touching all together. I am all for purity. I cannot advocate it enough, but it is possible to kiss and be pure. And sometimes a little kiss, a little holding hands is the love language that needs to be spoken. Sometimes a kiss and a cuddle can remind of that we are secure in this relationship...we are known and loved. Sometimes your touch can speak more to your boyfriend/girlfriend's soul than your words can. And it is fun...and dating (especially dating the person who will one day be your spouse) is suppose to be fun!!!
In fact dating is a time for doing crazy things (like driving 2 hours just to share a meal) just because you want to. It's a time for thinking way to much about that other person...and working like mad to figure out more ways to see them,,,,making excuses to stop by. Dating is sitting is the same room not talking and not touching and being deliriously content because you are "together". And it is okay if it is about a little kissing, too.
So I have been married now for almost 15 years and I don’t date any more. Well, not in the same sense anyway. Dating is much more fun when you are married…you never have to define the relationship or put brakes on things physically…unless location is an issue..and that can be easily resolved.
But I find myself thinking quite a bit lately about dating, just the same. I guess because several people I know and love are dating…or rather not dating…or doing something that some might consider dating and others wouldn’t. Now don’t go and try to figure out if I’m talking about you. Actually, there are a lot of “you” out there, not just one or two.
I realize dating in every definition of the word has and is changing, which makes me feel old. But in the same vein human nature does not change. Men are still men, thinking and acting like men…and women are women, thinking and acting like women. And they still don’t think and act like one another. You see God really does have a sense of humor.
So this is the question I have been pondering: how, as brothers and sisters in Christ, do you date well…in a way that honors God first and foremost and other people as well. It has been challenging to consider. My first realization is that I have an opinion, that while good and maybe Godly, is just that…an opinion. The first step in truly thinking about this is to lay down some of my own reasoned thoughts…to consider others.
I have known many people who have dated “successfully” ( meaning they are now married). And no two stories are alike. Chris and I dated 6 months and were engaged for 6 months, going from first date to the altar all neatly within one year. My friends, Virginia and Mitch, were high school sweethearts…which means they dated a LONGGGGGG time. Karen and Billy were engaged within a month (and that might be stretching it a little). Tamarin and Scott dated during college and part of grad school, waiting to get somewhat on their feet…Jeff and Stuart got married before her junior year.
Some had long engagements, others not. My friend Holly didn’t tell Jeff she loved him until she new she was ready to marry him. Laura and Scott dated on and off (mostly on as they got older) but never lived in the same state, ore even close. David and Michele live next door to his parents….Brenda and Bob got married and since have never lived less than a days drive from any of their family.
All these people love the Lord passionately. They love God now and when they dated and tried/try to honor him through it all. If you spoke to any random couple I mentioned they could tell you things they may have done differently when dating. But they could also point you to things that were really good…that helped prepare them for marriage and uniquely strengthened their bond with one another and relationship with Christ.
So in all humility I affirm that there is no one Godly way to date. There are many, and they are as unique as the two individuals and the circumstances they live out. This makes it kind of tenuous as we seek to advise, mentor and hold others accountable in their dating relationships. Yet, I do think there is some sound advice that I would stand by regardless. And here it is…
1. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you need to only date others who share this belief. You need to be very distinct in how you characterize “belief”. Many people attend church and believe in God, and still many others believe in Jesus. But a belief that shapes your daily life, thoughts and decisions is distinctly different . If you share a common faith in Jesus, it should be a evident part of your dating relationship from the start. If you don’t share this, then you need to end the relationship/quit going out and talking on the phone rather quickly.
2. You need to have good communication…meaning each party needs to know “what’s going on”. Periodically, you need to have conversations that define and affirm what exactly is the nature of the relationship. It is more important that you both understand the nature of the relationship and AGREE about that nature, than whether you are dating or whatever.
3. Life is full of relationships where one party is interested only in friendship and the other party wants more. While the first party does sometimes come to change their desire and want more, I think it is more often likely that they do not. Attraction is unpredictable and often irrational thing; however, it cannot be willed. One cannot become attracted to someone simply because they think it makes good sense…or whatever other reason you think of. The longer you know someone and the closer you are the less likely these factors seem to change. If you desire more from someone who just wants to be your friend, you have two unpleasant/painful choices. You can continue to spend time together which will most likely flame your desire or you can begin to place some boundaries in the relationship that allows physical and emotional space for your heart to heal and become less attached. If you do not choose to step back, you will almost always be deeply hurt when your “friend” begins to date another. Yet it is very difficult to choose to step back as well. However, the hope is that if you do step back that you may be able to preserve your friendship. In essence, you are pulling back so that the relationship will once again be a “friendship” to both of you.
4. You must be brutally honest with yourself about what you desire in a relationship and how deeply you desire it. There is a BIG difference between a crush on a friend that might develop into more and an intimate friendship that you long to be more than a friendship. You set yourself up to be deeply hurt by ignoring your heart in this matter. Intimate friendships between the opposite sexes need to be clearly and defined and affirmed in order to avoid needless pain for one or both parties.
5. If you are in a serious dating relationship…
A. it is extremely advisable that you jointly and individually seek counsel of others. You need your friends to tell you what they think and to hold you accountable. You need mentors in your church body to walk alongside you as well.
B. You need to have a plan for how to preserve your purity. You two should discuss this as it is a most difficult tasks in our culture.
C. If you are too young to be thinking about marriage, then you need to rethink how serious this relationship should be and how to spend time together without becoming so deeply intimate with one another. You need to limit the amount of time you talk/text/im.etc. and choose to spend your time together mostly in groups and family settings.
D. Even if you don’t foresee marriage as an option in the near future, it should be part of the picture. The end goal of all serious dating should be to find and marry the love of your life. If this person is not it and is not like to become it, then you should consider moving on.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I volunteer two hours a week at an elementary school. It's not the one my son goes to. Why volunteer in a different school? I do it because I think they need me more. My son's school is blessed with lots of volunteers; you see them everywhere you go at school….helping in the media center, selling spirit wear, assisting in the cafeteria. They are in the classrooms tutoring students, working with groups, stuffing Thursday folders or cutting up materials for an activity later in the week. The school I volunteer in is not "blessed" with volunteers. I have been there 4 or 5 times and I have only met one other volunteer.
In many ways, the two schools I see are very alike. They are very clean and bright. Whenever I see children in the hall, they are quiet and walking in a line. There are at least two computers in each class and a wealth of other resources. I like the teachers I have met at both schools. They are experienced and very knowledgeable, and it is evident that they care about their students.
But when it comes to volunteers, these two schools are not the same. When I signed the volunteer log today there were 6 signatures on the page....4 of them were mine. I hope that doesn't mean what I think it means. I left the school at noon and went to my son's school to have lunch with my son. Now it is a much bigger school, but when I signed the visitor's log at around 12:30 pm there were already 50 other names before mine on the sheet, just for today...just for today. It’s hard to fathom how much volunteers do for a school, until there aren't any.
Each week I read one on one with a class of kindergarten students. But my son (who is in kindergarten) has a volunteer in his class that reads with students everyday or at least three times a week. I know part of the literacy curriculum requires for the students (especially in K-2) to read one on one with someone. But I don't know how that is possible in any CMS elementary school without volunteers. I wonder what happens on the days I don’t come to volunteer. Does an assistant spend time reading with them? And if the assistant does read with the students, then what is it that she is not doing….or could be doing if I or some other volunteer was there? It’s not like there are a wealth of assistants either.
I don't feel like I make a difference because I can't truly fill the need, not even for one class. But I have to believe that any time I give is helpful. I do know that the kids like having me come. I like them too. I hope that as I get to know them better, I can learn how best to help them.
When I first walked in to the school where I volunteer, I knew no one. I have been there now just a handful of times to volunteer, but I feel at home. When I sign in, I chat with the administrative assistants. I get my visitor tag and head down the hall to my first class. It is no longer strange to me. It’s a neat place where really good things are happening. You should come and see it for yourself.