Throughout my four years at Biola U., I have found myself answering the infamous “What do I do?” question when it comes to the lovely world of complex metaphysical nature of the heart (also known as relationships and dating). These thoughts are not limited to just dating though – often they can be applied to all relationships. So, with all of that in mind, let’s dig in!
Question: What do I do if they don’t feel the same?
1. Don’t forcefully change your entire being.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5 44-45, ESV.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is to try and over protect themselves. By deleting the contact number and Facebook friendship, ignoring them around town (and campus), and sheepishly and awkwardly running the opposite direction when they see their former (or never) other, we create a mindset that’s unhealthy for our heart.
We start to pin the blame – either on ourselves or on them – and create reasons why we shouldn’t or won’t be in relationship (platonic) with them. Usually this only results in anger, bitterness, hurt, and a stoic condescending attitude. Aside from the fact this isn’t healthy for our mental well-being, it’s not what Christ did nor commands us to do.
I’m going to use this Scripture in a relatively broad manner, so work with me. We may not view another person as the “enemy” like the Jews believed the Romans were, but the same Christ-led passion prevails. We need to continue to bestow Christ like love on those who disappoint or hurt us in our relationships.
2. If at first you don’t succeed…
…Trust God, again, again, and again. To use a relatively recent example, a young woman is dealing with the disappointment that a man doesn’t share the same feelings and interest she expressed in him. She asked me what she can do – does she follow up, explain that she still wants to be friends, and awkwardly force the issue? Does she ignore it and move on? What does she do?
Well, the answer is a little of everything.
First, protect your heart. Don’t put yourself in situations that create more pain (aka still invite them everywhere, text them all the time, let your mind wander towards them). Second, refer to my first point – don’t let your heart create bitterness and keep loving them as your brother or sister in Jesus. Why? Because Christ loves them and they are probably still an okay person. Third, find natural rhythms in your life to continue to let them be in your community.
In this specific instance, this young woman was a friend with this young man before her feelings interceded and intervened. They share mutual friends, interests, and commonalities. I believe it is okay to continue to invite this young man into her natural rhythms. Going to the movies with a group of people? Invite him! Going to the Café or having people over for dinner? Let him know that he and his friends are invited. Wave when she sees him around school. Be willing to allow the friendship to grow.
As a final note on this point, don’t expect that this man (or woman) will magically fall in love with you over time…but also don’t shut that door. God knows what’s best for you. One of the most over and misused passages of the Bible comes from Jeremiah 11. God, through Jeremiah is telling the Exiles that He knows what is going on. He reminds them that He “knows the plans” He has for them! He has a plan for their future and their hope. When they pray, He will listen. Finally, if they seek Him will all their hearts, they will find Him!
How great and powerful is that reminder for our lives as well! Maybe our life won’t be prosperous and perfect, but guess what, God has a perfect plan. He already started it by sending Jesus to die for our sins and to be raised from death. Patiently and aggressively seek the Kingdom, and God’s plan will be revealed to you.
3. It’s okay to be fun.
(Queue music: Some nights I…get it? No? Never mind). I once attended a conference love, relationships, and Songs of Solomon. Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church came to Los Angeles through Reality LA and his good buddy, Tim Chaddick.
Pastor Mark gave women some advice that stuck with me, so I would like to pass it along to you.
Men often get caught up looking at the top of the hill for a woman – and don’t realize that their perfect wife is right there in front of them. So, women, it’s okay to stand on your tippy toes with a plateful of cookies (or throw a football at him, play guitar, show off your Business Presentations skills…whatever you want) to get gently remind him you are still there. Guys can be stupid. We all know that. So, I’m not saying out rightly pursue a man, but hey, it’s okay to sometimes say “Dude, you’re stupid.” After all, Martin Luther’s eventual wife did it.
For you men, there is a very, very, very fine line between sweet and creepy. If you did the right thing, and asked a lady on a nice date (and not the whole, “Want to grab coffee where I surprise you and pay then claim to all my friends we are dating” ploy., and she says no, then back off. But, if there isn’t that definite no, then do nice things. Open the door. Buy her drink. Show up with her favorite candy bar when you have class with her. Just don’t be creepy about it. If you are doing things because you are selfish and not because you want to love her like Jesus does and commands you to do, then you may want to read some of my other pieces.
4. Finally, are you idolizing or loving?
This one is short and sweet, but we tend to go off too far to one side or another. I already mentioned bitterness and hate. Did you know you can actually love someone wrongly? A lesson I learned this past year is that an unbridled love someone who isn’t ready to receive or reciprocate can end up in a lot of hurt. Love as Christ does and did – and that means to love smartly. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply pray for that person and do what you can – when space and timing allows – to love on them. Don’t go to the point of idolizing another being outside of God. It never, ever, ever works…like ever. (Get it? Song reference two? No, just me?)
I hope this holiday cheerful blog provides some sort of thought provoking wisdom into your life this week! Blessings to all – and remember those who are less fortunate than yourself…check out this list for a place to donate gifts or toys to families and children in need!
The past year I have seen a good friend of mine go through trial (and error) with a relationship with a young man and its effects on her relationship with Jesus.
Her story, while unique, is something I have experienced, both personally and vicariously through others. In a nutshell, a long time friend of hers has been on and off with his pursuit of Jesus but has always been on in his pursuit of her.
While her younger self made promises to him that she would give him a chance if he got his act together and started loving, following, and pursuing Jesus, her growing sanctified self realized that it was a promise she couldn’t keep. This brought on a very difficult time telling him no, despite the fact he appears to be trying to be more like Jesus. By God’s grace, she understands her identity is in Jesus and the gift of salvation on the cross – not by man’s approval (Galatians 1:10-11) – and is patiently trusting this as she is belittled and her character attacked.
All together, my friend showed great faith and perseverance as she has succeeded in loving and reflecting Jesus, and pushing this young man to the cross.
That said I want to give a few thoughts of what I’ve seen other’s do in the same situation.
1. Be leery of people who start pursuing Jesus because of a member of the opposite sex.
While it seems obvious, it isn’t to most people. Too many (young) Christians challenge someone they are interested in to follow and love Jesus, hoping they do, hoping they can eventually date, fall in love, and get married.
As soon as the other person starts to show signs of new life, the relationships starts only to see that the roots weren’t set in good soil and instead were like seeds thrown on a rocky path (Luke 8:4-8).
This nearly always ends badly, normally with one or both people returning to habitual sin, often times together, and it leads to a broken relationship with Jesus.
2. Jesus Redeems Bad Motivators
While I am strongly against jump-starting a relationship when someone starts to pursue Jesus because of another (see point 1), that doesn’t mean Jesus can’t or won’t redeem it.
Jesus uses a plethora of inspirations to bring people to Him (Philippians 1:18). Personally, I am a living example of this. I started to attend Bible study and church regularly because of a young lady. I started to read my Bible out of competition to show her I loved Jesus too (I was 14, give me a break.) Healthy? No. Ordained in God’s plan? Amen.
Fast forward 9 years later and by the grace of God I am attending a Bible loving university, serving in a Jesus loving church, and passionately pursuing Jesus! That young lady is happily married and is a part of a family (which will grow hopefully soon?) that is all about Jesus.
If a person is saying they will start getting their act together for you, encourage them to do three things.
· First, help them find a different Jesus-loving church than you, and attend regularly on their own.
· Second, encourage them to find a mentor (1x1) in this church and make sure they are going.
· Third, watch and see if they get into a community group (or life group, core group, whatever the church calls it).
3. You’re Not Jesus
People always try to become replacement parts. As Pastor Mark Driscoll says in his Trial Serieswomen often times stick around with boys because their maternal instinct kicks in.
For men, often times our “Mr. Fix It” side kicks in. We try to become whatever they need – Replacement Dad, Mom, Brother, Sister, Pastor, Mentor, etc. At the end of the day, it’s really a worship issue. We worship them as our idol, and therefore we try to make ourselves their idol.
You aren’t Jesus nor can you replace real Jesus. Don’t try.
4. Pray, Pray, and Pray Some more.
This seems obvious, but one area that I saw my friend really excel in was her dedicated prayer to this young man. She always trusted that God’s will would be done even if it was against her desires.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5 that we should “pray without ceasing” and James the brother of Jesus adds that we should pray in all situations and pray over people in all situations (James 5:13-18).
Whether this is prayer on your knees or prayer spent time journaling to God, be encouraged that prayer works in our best interests (even if we do not see it that way).
Finally, as much as prayer is talking and telling God where we are at, people forget equally and perhaps more importantly is to listen to God’s response. One book I found extremely helpful for this and other disciplines of being a disciple is Celebration of Disciplineby Richard Foster.
5. Live on Mission
What is your inspiration for others to come to Christ? Is it so they will use their skill set to somehow benefit your church and ministry or is it because you deeply care for their soul and eternal situation?
If you’re motivation for someone to love Jesus is for your benefit (aka so you can date them) then you should probably check out of the game and have other Jesus loving people surround your friend.
If you’re motivation is for their soul and advancing the Kingdom of Christ, then stop playing the game and be smart. Jesus knew His own physical limitations in ministry (read Luke for countless examples). He constantly left his ministry to spend time alone. If you truly honestly believe Jesus is calling you to minister into someone of the opposite sex’s life, do it wisely and don’t be afraid to wander into the wilderness to recharge.
If it’s a guy, surround them with brothers you can trust. If it’s a girl, find Jesus-loving girls to surround her and show her what a Godly woman looks like.
Remember that ultimately it’s Jesus who brings real change, and you have a limitation emotionally, spiritually, and physically and that your role is ultimately smaller compared to people of the same gender.
Never grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9). Realize your limitations, realize your actual calling, and don’t be selfish. Simple enough, right?
Matthew is a senior at Biola University studying Psychology with a minor in Biblical Studies. For contact information, questions, comments, or to drop a line, click here.
“The Happiest Place on Earth” is forever claimed by Disneyland. I’m not sure how long lines, loud and obnoxious guys in Big Dog shirts, and overpriced soft drinks can lead to my well being, but I digress.
I recently caved and renewed my pass. Still don’t know why – other than a lot of my friends have them, I love going, and yes, I probably have an addiction to All Things Disney. Plus, it makes great gifts and makes my friends extremely envious when they see “Matt has checked into Disneyland with 5 people!” Breaks my heart when I know they’re in Oregon, sitting in the cold rain, at school, but hey…I chose to come here and they chose to stay, right?
Well, there I was, waiting in line at Thunder Mountain with an eclectic and wonderful group of people from Biola, when the date questions started to get thrown in my direction. (Editor’s note: I’m not some expert in the field, and if you look at my past relationship track record, you would probably call someone insane to come to me for advice, but it happens.) After getting some general questions, a young man – OK, I’ll leave him out to dry: my roommate – basically shot me this:
“Do you think dating in college works? When are two people ready? How will they know?”
Before you read on, pitchfork in hand and torch lit, you have to understand a few things.
1. I’m not an expert on dating as I just said above. I’ve only dated twice, I’ve had my countless and ill-advised share of flings, broken hearts, mistakes, and tool moments where I was a complete jerk. In the past, I struggled to live out what I preached, because I was insecure and proud, and at the end of the day, struggled to give God trust and faithfulness that He deserves in my relationship department.
2. I am a Psych student who has spent a fair share of time writing and talking to groups about the “D” word. Do I know it all? No. Do I understand some of the complexities of interpersonal relationships? Probably not all that well. Do I understand they exist? Absolutely.
3. I love Jesus. It’s all about His grace, love, and character, and I’m a firm believer that dating and relationships at their core and by their identity should point to those three things. That’s where my opinion comes in from, that’s where I approach relationships from, and that’s always where I’ll leave it. Jesus.
Let’s do this. And before we do this, check out Real Marriage and some podcasts by Mark Driscoll over at Mars Hill Church. That’s where a lot of my opinion comes from (and yes, I “borrow” a lot of his phraseology), as well as The Resurgence, Tim Chaddick from Reality LA, and John Mark Comer from Solid Rock Church in Portland.
If you have talked to me in the last 12 months, you know three things.
1. My opinions on a lot of things have changed as I’ve gone through some humbling times and by God’s grace, been accepted into a wonderful community of other Jesus-loving people who have held me to higher standards and kept my pride in check.
2. I went from new interests every month to a recent exposure of head-over-heels for someone I can’t have syndrome.
3. I know I’m not ready to date – and I’m passionate about that and passionate for others to see if they are or are not ready, because I’m passionate about Jesus and the calling He puts on our lives!
So the ultimate question, “When are we ready?” really should be, “When am I ready?” which should really be, “Where am I at with Jesus and with the life and ministries He’s calling me to?”
I’ll start with the (young) men and ask the women some questions as we work through this.
Scripture says that “…a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, ESV).
I hear this a lot from my peers.
“Dude, I’m in college. I live away from home. I live in the dorms, I have my own car, I get good grades, I’m pretty responsible, I’m independent, I go to church, I live with 50 of my closest friends on (fill floor name in the blank.)”
All. The. Time.
“Does this make a boy a man? Does it happen when we turn 18? 21? When we get married and have kids?” (Mark Driscoll)
To use a point Pastor Mark drives home, historically speaking, most cultures have a defining time in a boys life that transitions him from boyhood to manhood. Sometimes it’s simply going to work and sometimes it’s wrestling a wild boar to its death.
In Western Culture, specifically America, sociologists have actually created a time in-between boyhood and manhood called adolescence. The sad truth is, it leaves the door open for a boy to live in this realm indefinitely.
It’s the “boys who can shave” time of their life. Yes, they look old, sound old, drive a nice car, do big boy things, but really, when life hits the fan, they’re still just that: boys.
Let’s look at that quote again:
“Dude, I’m in college. I live away from home. I live in the dorms, I have my own car, I get good grades, I’m pretty responsible, I’m independent, I go to church, I live with 50 of my closest friends on (fill floor name in the blank.)”
Right. So you’re in college and you live away from home with presumably less responsibility. While some of your parents may have actually cleaned up for you, I bet you didn’t get enabled like you do at college. Mama and Papa Rodriguez (no racial tension meant, just honest truth, and I love all the staff at Biola. They’ve taught me some awesome perspective) clean up for you every day.
They clean the showers, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the lobby, dust, sweep, and when your clothes are randomly on the floor couch, they pick it up and move it, sometimes fold it and put it in a spot that’s out of everyone else’s way. You don’t even have to pick up a pan or oven mitt. Mama and Papa Ramirez do that for you. In fact, you have the gull to complain when the lines are long. I hope your mama back home smacks you every time you complain that it took too long or that there was too much cilantro.
When you’re done eating, you don’t even have to be guilt tripped into thinking about how messy your plate was. You put it in on the nice moving rack in the back and some person in the back sprays, scrubs, and puts away your dishes. You don’t even have to look at their face as they do one of the most humbling acts of service in the service industry.
You drive your own car, but chances are, parents probably help with gas (and that’s not bad, my parents do the same thing) and when the car needs an oil change, you have the option to drive home to get it done. You’re independent, but you can’t go to the Café alone or run errands by yourself, always grabbing a buddy.
Speaking of which, 50 of your best friends?
How many times do I hear this and follow up with these questions: “Did you know Tim struggles with porn? Darrin thinks he may be a homosexual. Peter’s mom is sick with cancer. Mark just broke up with his girlfriend. Matt is allergic to peanuts.” Normally, most people don’t know these things about their so-called “best friends.” They aren’t your best friends, they’re a clan that moves together in massive size and does fun things so deep questions can be avoided. A few of those guys can be your best friends. Jesus had three close friends (Peter, James and John) and a lot of relationships. (More on friendships and the reality of redefining friends later this week).
Finally, going to church once a month or going to a new church doesn’t constitute being involved in church. It constitutes consuming it. Plus, how many of us men skip church because we were up way too late doing stupid things the night before, or in our dorms playing Skyrim?
Way. Too. Many.
So yes, you do all these things, and now you prey on freshman girls who still think true love can be found in the first semester of their college careers, because you do big boy things. How many stories like this have you seen/heard/experienced?
We’ve all seen it too many times. So how do you know you are on your way to manhood?
Let’s look at some practical ways to evaluate your life.
1. Where are you with Jesus? Are you in a church, plugged into some sort of community or small group that’s full of people who aren’t your age and sometimes twice or three times as old? You should be. That type of wisdom, accountability, and awkwardness are imperative to growth. Are you challenging yourself and stretching yourself spiritually by both wisdom (devotions, reading, listening to podcasts, chapels, etc.) and spiritually (fasting, praying, worshipping)? Are you serving in the church, whether it’s worship team, security, children’s ministries, high school group, or participating by serving communion? You should be. A quick aside, and I really hate to offend people on this…but I hate when people think Greet Team is serving. Yes, you’re sacrificing by coming early, and no ministry is greater than the other, but being involved in a ministry that will actually take part of your heart and put it on the line is really, really important! I love all the greeters at Mars Hill and the other churches I’ve been to, but please, please, please, get involved past that too! You’ll enjoy it, I promise.
2. Where are you with your career/education/finances? If you’re a student, it’s okay to have debt, not have quite a firm idea of where you are going, and have mom and dad pick up some of the bills. My parents help me a lot. It’s a huge blessing, and by God’s grace, I was blessed by a well paying job that allows me to cover most of my expenses and save. It wasn’t this way for the last two years though.
So, what’s next? Do you have a plan to get a job, pay off debt, finish your degree, etc? It’s never too early to start thinking and planning these things. Sit down with your parents, a financial planner, someone at church and set up a budget. Start putting away some of your earnings, start tithing, and start living within the means God is giving you. Figure out some long term plans, which will probably change, but in the very least set you up with goals to help you get to a point where you can settle down. Paying off debt, saving money, tithing is all a start. Maybe starting an engagement ring fund (even you single guys) and maybe even putting money away for your future children’s college accounts. How about investing in a mission team as well? Biola and SMU are always looking for donors. These things are a good start to being a good financial steward and steward of the things God has given us outside of monetary items.
3. Give up childish things and pursue Jesus. Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Cor. 13:11, ESV).
This was extremely hard for me. I hated having to chose to do harder things. Save money, go to church, have accountability, eat less junk food, cook for myself, pay my own way, stay in more and be responsible, cut back on selfish relationships with girls that resulted in pain.
Hated it. But it’s important we wake up and realize we can’t be 15 anymore. Stop being addicted to movies, YouTube, texting 10 girls (again, this was a personal conviction for me), and start doing man things. Get a job or volunteer, do your homework, go to class, go to church, have deeper conversations with your brothers, be responsible, get sleep, eat better, and all the in-betweens.
These are the three basic fundamentals I hit on. I’m big on being involved in a church and I’m big on being mentored, I recommend you get into that too men.
For you ladies, does your man or the man who you might be interested in do these things? It’s just a start, but it’s important. Would you rather be dating a man who is playing Skyrim until 3am or a man whose thinking of his future wife and kids by saving up for an engagement ring and their college fund? Thought so. (Guys big hint here, do it!)
Is he getting mentored by some men older than he, wiser than he, better than he? The advice of a pastor or community group leader is better than his 20-year-old friends who get their love advice from ESPN and action movies.
Jesus calls us to higher things, and these three fundamental ways to grow up are something I think all boys should adhere to.
As a final note, it’s okay to have fun, enjoy your time as a student and college kid, but also, realize it’s time to start the growing up process. There’s balance, but too many of us stay on the boyhood side of the world too long. That’s why the divorce rate is high, that’s why the premarital sex rate is no longer the abnormal, and that’s why it’s hard to find men these days.