Monday, October 29, 2012

...But I'd Like the Chance

Do we look old enough to be called "mature?"
Curt and I attend a church that is filled with literally thousands of young people in the 18-26 age category, most of them single.  It's unlike anything I have ever seen - thousands of beautiful, stylish, Jesus-following young adults coming week after week to worship God and to serve in kids ministry, directing traffic, making coffee, sweeping floors, playing music, etc.

A few years ago a couple of college students were talking to Curt and I and they said something along the lines of "we're so glad to have mature, godly people pouring into our lives."  We looked over our shoulder to see who they were talking about and laughed when we realized they meant us!  It's happened so frequently that we know now to stop looking over our shoulder and embrace our role as mentor to these outstanding young people.

One thing that has really stumped Curt and I is the way dating has changed.  When we were in college, we dated.  If a guy was interested in a girl, he asked her out.  They dated as part of the process of getting to know each other on a deeper level.  If they liked what they saw, they kept dating.  If they weren't compatible, they broke up.  Through this process of trial and error called dating, we eventually met our spouse and got married.

But it's different now.  The college kids we talk to "hang out."  Or "go to coffee" (but that's not a date).  Or "get to know each other as friends to see if there might be some potential for dating."  They call all this hanging out/flirting/getting to know each other part of being "brothers and sisters in Christ."  If and when they make the actual jump to giving their friendship a "dating" label it's such a big deal that it's practically a pre-engagement.  I don't understand this process.  And if I'm honest, I don't like it.  Like Elaine from the Seinfeld episode where she doesn't like George's toupee and chucks it out the window...  "I don't like it.  I don't like it one bit.  And this is what I'm going to do about it..."

(I'm hopping on my soapbox now).  I appreciate the fact that these young people are concerned about purity.  Concerned about doing things right.  Concerned about not wounding other people they care about.  These are all good things.  But this process of Over Cautiousness muddies the water so much that no one who is in the potential dating pool has any idea where they stand with any of their "friends."

The desire for perfection - in the process and in the person - paralyzes the entire dating process.  Girls get their hearts broken by guys who never even knew the girl liked them.  Guys let incredible girls walk in and out of their lives because they are so hung up on "could this be my future wife?" that they never even ask her out.

Young people listen up:  there is a huge pool of godly, good looking, intriguing, funny and single people who want to be married.  The truth is you may have to date a few of them before you find Mr. or Mrs. Right.  And that's okay.  You don't have to marry the first person you date.  Did you catch that?  Let me say it again and my George Fox students please hear this: You don't have to marry the first person you date.

You also don't have to be married by the time you graduate from college to be successful.  I went to a small, Christian liberal arts college like Fox and I felt the pressure that exists to marry young and to maintain a high standard of purity in your dating relationships.  I know this pressure still exists today and I fear that it leads to hasty marriages that are either really troubled or end in divorce.  I cringe to think what my life would look like if I would have married the first guy I dated exclusively.  We'd both be miserable right now because we were a terrible match.  But we were young, immature and blinded by the romantic idea of marriage since that's what all our friends were doing.  Our breakup was incredibly painful but it was God's way of protecting us both from a marriage that would have been a train wreck without some huge God-sized intervention.  Sometimes you have to experience a counterfeit first so you can recognize the authentic, real deal when it comes along.

Last night I witnessed an incredible scene.  I watched a courageous young man walk up to a beautiful girl that he admired.  He said, "I don't know you that well but I'd like to have the chance to get to know you.  Would you go out with me?"  Single People take note.  THAT is how you get it done.  (And she said yes.)

I have no idea how their story will end.  They could go out and discover that while they are both incredible, godly, smart, and beautiful people, they aren't right for each other.  Or they could go out and find that they really like each other.  The point is neither of them would ever know if he didn't have the courage to ask.

Guys:  Get off the fence.  Stop inadvertently leading the girl on that you're "hanging out with."  Take her on a real date.  Tell her why you are drawn to her.  And if the feeling is mutual, honor her by calling your relationship what it is: dating.  And if you find that she is incredible but not the woman for you, break up with her gently as soon as you know.

Girls:  Don't waste your time pining over a guy who has no clue you even like him.  If you are hanging out all the time with no forward progress and your heart is starting to break over it, then do something about it.  Stop hanging out with him.  Or let him know there's a reason why you've been so available to answer his texts, his calls, and to hang out.  If you realize he is not the guy for you, then let him know gently and respectfully.

(Stepping off my soapbox now).  Be pure.  Be kind and thoughtful.  But be courageous like my friend last night.  Don't you think the risk is worth it?

8 comments:

  1. Nice, Jodi!! Great, wise words. Something so simple like clear communication, rather than passive actions, can make such a world of difference. Love ya. - Faith

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    1. I had no idea this was such a hot topic. My inbox is flooded...

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  2. Interesting post, Jodi! I think a lot of parents prefer their teens not to date in high school, and set up this situation by grooming the "group hangout" as a form of protecting purity. I'm not sure what else the teens are supposed to think once they hit college. You certainly make some good points to consider here.

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    1. Raina - I think you've nailed the issue. I am shocked at the amount of conversations this one post has started and am glad God is using it. Our oldest is in junior high and we're just starting to talk relationships and how to interact with the opposite sex. I don't want my kids dating exclusively in high school for a whole host of reasons, so I can see why it would be hard to make the shift once you're older. But someone has to teach these kids how to communicate and value each other because the current model just breeds mass confusion and misunderstanding between really, really great and godly kids.

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  3. Oh, girl. This is good. Sooooo good. Soooo, soooo good. I will be sure Ruth reads it one day :) This is so true and so the craziness that the church seems to be in these days. The pressure!!! I cannot imagine (although I have been part of it).

    Thank you for this. YOu rock!

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    1. Thanks Anna. I had no intentions about writing on this topic. However when I saw this young guy pursue the girl he was interested so well, I knew I had to applaud him for it. It was such a sharp contrast to all the feedback I'm getting from the awesome young people in my life who are so well intentioned and godly, but so confused. When it all comes down to it, as a mom, I want my daughter's to be respected enough to be pursued intentionally. Praying and praying that God continues to use this and that He continues to teach Curt and me how to equip our kids to do this well when they are old enough.

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  4. As someone who has been in the dating pool way longer than I intended, I say, Amen! These are words of wisdom. And not just for college students."

    My much older than college age friends have fallen into the same hanging out and getting to know each other scenario. After years of playing the same game, I recently stepped up and let a guy I've been interested in how I feel. Turns out we weren't right for each other, but we took a chance to find out. The world didn't end. We're still friends, but we both now know where we stand.

    It's hard to take that step, but it's worth it. Life is hard, dating is hard, marriage is hard. They are all worth the effort.

    Thanks for speaking out, Jodi!

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    1. Thank you for sharing Tamara. I really appreciate your story. I think being honest in our relationships is so refreshing. I'm glad you got your answer with the guy you dated and just prayed that you will have patience to wait for the man God has for you. I'm really struck by your last line: "It's hard to take that step, but it's worth it. Life is hard, dating is hard, marriage is hard. They are all worth the effort." AMEN!

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