It's a four-letter word, and the first letter is "D". If mentioned in my presence, it used to make me as extremely uncomfortable as I imagine you are right now reading about it. Yes, I'm talking about the word: DATE. *Cue the simultaneous cringes and happy "oohs" and "ahhs"*
When I was younger, I was one of Those Girls. By the ripe old age of, um, fourteen, I had already read--multiple times, and highlighted--Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliott, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello To Courtship by Joshua Harris, plus numerous anti-dating devotionals that all earned eye rolls from my older sister. Now, you can't consume that many books on relationships without forming your own opinion on the subject. And I did just that, at the ripe old age of fourteen. Obviously, they were very vague, but yet complicated; logical, but really ridiculous; and all of them inspired solely by Mr. Harris, and Fear.
At fourteen, I was afraid of love.
Well, I was not terrified of love itself; just its consequences and affects. I saw so many girls around me with big dreams and beautiful desires for their life sacrificing it all and settling for a boy who would win them, use them, and eventually discard them within the span of mere months. Those girls and their choices made me angry and aspire to be a feminist outwardly. However, inwardly, those girls and their choices scared me and made convent life suddenly look very appealing. Those girls scared me because they and I were not all that different. In fact, I saw those girls inside of me. I could easily become that, do that. Sacrifice it all, settle. What was most frightening of all was that I knew that if I ever did, I would be truly content in that lifestyle.
Thus I invented my lofty, super-spiritual anti-dating views. I hid behind them like a soldier would behind a barricade for more than two years. Two years I defended them, pushed them on everyone else and their parents. For two years I was not even open to examining my views and asking myself honestly, "Is this right?" because I was right, date it!
I wasn't, though. Not even close.
Now, I believe, like Elisabeth Elliott and Joshua Harris, that we are created to love one person (or three, in Mrs. Elliott's case), and to be loved by one person. Or, you can be super cool like Paul, never get married, and just love everyone in a platonic way. Either way, loving someone is involved. But anyways. I think that true love waits, and so we should wait on the Lord to write our love stories because He already has, after all, and it's so much better when we allow Him to orchestrate it. I know that the Lord's love for us is jealous, and that His will for us is to wait and give ourselves only to the young man (or not so young, if you're a character in a Jane Austen novel), one of His sons, that He has specifically raised up to love you like He loves you. I don't think that any of these views are necessarily wrong in the least, but God does not only look at our views and opinions. He looks at our motives. ("People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives." -Proverbs 16:2) That's exactly what He did, too, a few Sunday nights ago after my youth pastor caught me off-guard with a heart interrogation. He maybe asked me five questions in total, but those five questions of his inspired fifty of my own. My views on dating (or rather, the absence of dating) were not necessarily wrong, but were my motives behind them right? Well, if Christ said that "there is no fear in love" but rather, "perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment" and "the one who is in fear is not made in perfect love" (1 John 4:18), weren't my motives, which were solely fear, wrong? Why was I afraid? Because I had not yet grasped the concept that I was made in perfect love because I am loved by a perfect God! Perfect love casts out all fear because with perfect love, there is no punishment. I am Christ's, He bought me with His blood, and nothing I could ever possibly do--even something as horrific as sacrificing it all and settling for some suave bum--could ever possibly make me any less of Christ's or make him love me any less. There is pure freedom in Christ's love. We don't have to possess complicated, super-spiritual views. We don't have to try--and fail--to earn our salvation or God's love. We don't have to walk through life with timidity, building up impenetrable walls around our new, God-given hearts because we are afraid that if anyone truly sees them, they will say that they're not new at all. They are new, you're new. You're going forward, not back. There is grace and mercy.
I know that Elisabeth Elliott's view on courting, which she wrote about in her book Passion & Purity, sparked a controversial war in 2002 on what is classified as "appropriate dating" for Christians that is still going on ten years later. I don't expect anything I say to ever end that war, either. But I can end the war within myself between my heart and mind, and I can say to myself, It doesn't have to be so complicated. You don't have to settle, and your actions don't have to be governed by a fear of doing just that. I thought I knew everything there is to know about dating when I was fourteen. I'm seventeen now, and I'm realizing that I knew absolutely nothing because what God is showing me is so much simpler and freer and innocent than I ever imagined it could be. My view on dating now is that when the Lord tells me to date someone, I will. (Happily.) But until He does, I won't. The end. He doesn't want of or require of me a bestseller relationship theology book. All He wants of me is that I will run hard after Him, that I will always pursue Him. And as I pursue Him, someday, the Lord will raise up a man to pursue me. Someday, as I run hard and fast after God, I will look to either my left or right, and I will see a man who is running beside me, keeping the same pace and headed in the same direction. It will be right then, and we will join hands as we run together hard and fast after the God who made us so.
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
until it pleases." -Song Of Solomon 3:5