I’ve mentioned plenty of times that I’m not a relationship expert. I don’t have much experience, and frankly, I was pretty much always the one being broken up with. But that isn’t stopping me from sharing some basic guidelines for dating that I’ve picked up from both my mentors and mentees. We’ve spent the past two weeks talking through these first principles and this week we are going to wrap up the series… for now. There are too many other great questions and topics to cover. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:
Principle #1: The type of bait you use determines the fish you catch.
Principle #3: Recognize that no other person can complete you.
Principle #4: Maintain godly friendships outside of the dating relationship.
Principle #5: Open up your hands and entrust the relationship to your Heavenly Father.
I learned this next great principle from a mentor in the summer of 2005. She is a beautiful mother of seven, an author, and a speaker. I feel like I still want to just sit in Lynelle Zandstra’s living room and eat up. (Both her food and wisdom!) She drove this concept home to a room full of young women once and I am now a big time believer in:
Principle #6: Establish Relational Lifeboats.
By setting boundaries for my relationships I make sure that I don’t end up sinking in the Pacific Ocean. Remember the story of the Titanic? It was a beautiful ship of dreams. Deemed unsinkable by the architects and press, the Titanic was set for a maiden voyage from England to New York. Early on in the trip the ship collided with an iceberg and 1,516 people ended up dying at sea. The iceberg was not the ultimate cause of these deaths, the lifeboat shortage was. Were there enough lifeboats for all crew and passengers present there would likely have been enough time to save every life on board.
I don’t make the best decisions “in the moment.” I remember being in 7th grade and being invited to Rometta’s birthday party. It was a sleepover. Only problem: I don’t do sleepovers. I used to, but somewhere around 4th grade I realized that I valued my sleep too much to spend a night awake with a bunch of laughing girls. My plan was to have my mom pick me up around 10:30pm so I could head home and get some good sleep. (I’ll be honest, I’m not a very friendly person on a few hours of sleep. Even in college I would rarely stay up past 1:00am.) What I wasn’t anticipating was HOW MUCH FUN the party would be. We were singing and dancing to Point of Grace and laughing and I just didn’t want it to end. So I called home around 9 and asked if my mom could bring me a sleeping bag and overnight supplies so that I could spend the night. The fun continued until well after midnight when I began to wish for my own bed. Long story short: I ended up sick. I went home on Saturday with a sore throat and crashed until Sunday morning.
And what does this have to do with anything? I’m trying to make a lighter point of something that’s actually pretty serious. God places a high value on how we use our time and words. He also happens to feel strongly about how we treat our bodies. The temptation when we are dating can be to just go with the flow when we are having fun and then try and make decisions in the heat of the moment. Who wants to go home when everyone is singing and dancing to Point of Grace?
Don’t place yourself in situations that don’t have lifeboats. You’ve got to know your weaknesses. I went so far as to plan to have my parents pick me up early, but then I didn’t follow through. If you have set boundaries for your dating relationship, make sure that you also have lifeboats in place. Several couples I know have found success by making these permanent lifeboats: Make sure someone knows your selected “curfew” rather than having an open-ended evening, don’t remove any clothing, try to end the date by midnight. I also think that having a friend who will ask you intentional questions can be a great way to check yourself. If I know my friend is going to ask me pointed questions about what I did on my date, it can help in those high pressure moments.
Here’s the deal: the longer you are in a relationship (dating or engaged) the more you want to be together and experience intimacy together. That’s normal. So be prepared. Take the time to have appropriate boundaries and lifeboats in place.
The goal isn’t to make you guilt-ridden about the past or worried about your future. It’s to remind you that we all thrive with boundaries. They are healthy and helpful. Why even care about this issue? Thessalonians 4:3-5 in the Message Translation:
“You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity. Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God.”
This is God’s Word and God’s precedent for your dating relationships. The boundaries are set because He loves us and He wants to protect our hearts. I know this won’t be an overly popular post. It’s not mainstream and certainly not modern, but I think it aligns with God’s Word.
Check your lifeboats before you set sail.