From My Heart
by Barb Shelton
This area of
approaching relationships with the opposite gender in a godly way is not only included in one of our high school
"classes," it's a foundational part of our kids'
training and education! In fact, whether intentional or "by
default," all children ARE trained in this arena! If they are not
being knowingly trained in righteousness, then the culture around them
WILL train them in its ways! It cannot help but happen, even to parents
with the best of intentions to raise "good kids"!
This area can't help but profoundly affect the child's entire life! If you attempt to homeschool but the child's heart is "leaking" out in this area, you and your child will find yourselves very frustrated. Becoming whole and educated and closer to God will not be their focus. The opposite gender will!
And focusing on guys or girls – relationships with them – is a tremendous distraction. Any person in a relationship, particularly a person who is not yet mature or confident in who they are, is going to put all their waking energies and affections on pleasing that person, thinking of when they'll be with them again, wondering what that person is doing. If it's been too long for you to remember this, just observe pretty much any teenager in such a relationship, and it will all quickly come back!
Additionally, the dating approach to relationships creates, by its very nature (it can't help it), a set of values all its own. The value of a person (caught in this mentality) is based on one's "desirableness" by the opposite s_x.* And everything else takes its rightful place in value based upon that being the "core truth." So the value of any particular event (a football game, a school club, a family reunion, a church or youth group event) is based upon the presence – or lack thereof – of the opposite s_x. The value of one's appearance becomes greatly magnified and altered according to what is attractive (or alluring) to the opposite s_x. What you think about yourself becomes based upon how the opposite s_x views you.
If you do not think "all the above" to be true, just do a little watching and listening. Or just ask someone who dates; they'll probably even tell you – or at least their reactions to your questions will!
Girls, enjoy this season of your life, and focus more on being friends with girls ~ girls with pure hearts who are not focused on attracting guys; whose self images are not based on whether or not they have a boyfriend. Guys seek out the friendship of like-minded guys who respect girls and do not have the "conquest" mentality. Yes, guys and girls can be "just friends," but be sure your heart is pure in so doing. Thinking of each other in a brother-sister way will help you in not focusing on the girlfriend-boyfriend way of relating to the opposite s_x. Flirting is not the way a brother and sister relate, so let God help you get thinking out of your mind and heart so that the picture you are in is the one God is working on in you!
Carlianne (our 14-year-old daughter) and I have prepared an interview form for a younger girl to interview an older girl who is walking this "path of purity" (for lack of a better term.) Click here to see it! A neat opportunity for the "older women to encourage the younger women to righteousness."
The Essence of Dating
In "the dating game," with each failed relationship, one becomes less able to trust, his word becomes less trustworthy, even to him/herself, having said "I love you (forever)" but not followed through with it. Dating actually conditions us to operate in a "trying you out" mode: "If it doesn't work, then just break up." This, in turn, prepares for divorce.
Here's an analogy that illustrates the essence of dating: Christian and non-Christian kids, homeschooled and non-homeschooled alike can identify with it. Cut out a heart from construction paper. This represents the heart of an average teenager. He or she may have a relationship that lasts a few weeks, months, or years; they may or may not "go all the way"; they may just "casual date" with several, or become serious and "somewhat physically intimate" sharing hopes, dreams, and becoming very emotionally attached with just one. No matter what, each ended relationship tears large or small pieces out of the heart, leaving scars, losses, and memories that will last forever. What will be left when they finally meet the person of their dreams? In some ways worse, what will be in need of being healed and mended?
Even though we realize and teach our children that "all things are possible through God," it is also a scriptural principle that we "reap what we sow." Once we become intimate with someone, emotionally or physically, those memories, not easily erased, stay with us forever. Are we able to happen upon people of the opposite s_x from our past without embarrassment or shame? A relationship is at a great disadvantage if it cannot be entered into with a whole, unbroken, unscarred heart. (And I assure you that it won't be as pretty as the one to the right!)
Kids, it is a very rampant lie that you have to be free to make your own mistakes. True, you can make your own choices, but you do not have to in order to grow up healthy. In fact, just the opposite is true.
Parents, even if your children balk at this idea at first, don't feel you are wisest to just let them go their own way. As long as your children are under your care, this is part of caring for and nurturing them, not just physically or educationally. In fact, this, I believe is a very foundational aspect of their true education. Our kids were not at all excited about this at various points of learning about and growing further in it. But I gently and lovingly (without domineeringly) guided them in learning more about this from the angle of "I want you to walk in all that God has for you. I don't want you miss a thing just because this doesn't feel good." And I learned right along with them, allowing them to (in a respectful manner and tone) ask questions about anything we read or listened to that they wanted to discuss.
A little aside: Sharnessa has always had very strong feelings about things, and I remember clearly sitting in the livingroom talking about this with her and Tory, early teens, shaking inside and trying to stay calm on the outside as she asked some pretty pointed questions. Being not totally solid in the message myself at the time, it was a bit challenging, but I tried to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me as we discussed it (I didn't want to be legalistic, but there were still some things that I felt they needed to grasp). I also prayed that God would show them the truth, as it really needed to be a heart revelation from God's heart to their heart for it to be able to take root and not just be done out of legalism. Sometimes there's a fine line between "obedience" and "legalism"; we have to trust God to show us the difference, though it really just boils down to the condition of the heart in relationship to God.
Parents and kids alike, I urge you to be open and to seriously consider this area before you have nothing left to lose, namely your whole heart for "the one" who is to be your lifelong partner in wholehearted service to the One who made and loves you. God has something very good and pure and holy and wonderful in store for you! Be willing to wait for His perfect timing!
And if you ~ or your child ~ have already lost that, then you have an opportunity to get to know God as your REDEEMER ~ which means "to take something of little, no, or negative value and exchange it, for free, for something of great value"!
One of the best resources for training "from the ground up" in this area
is Reb Bradley's "Preparing for Courtship and Marriage" tape series. This seminar is
NOT just for the family with children approaching the "dating age" but it is REALLY for the
young couple who do not yet have any children! It should be given as a WEDDING present.
Perhaps it would not be used or appreciated, but it would be the
best gift you could give them!
(We sell this in the "Romance & Relationships God's Way" area of our
catalog, among many others that will be of tremendous help to you in gaining understanding
in this arena, and helping your children do so as well.)
I got all these lovely graphics from:
(except the 9-patch heart, which
I don't know the source of!)
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