“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2
Bearing with each other means helping each other live the life of faith. Every one of us has things with which we struggle and areas in which we are weak. We are never meant to overcome these things alone. We need people in our community to help us stay on track–especially in living out godly relationships.
Another word for this is accountability. It entails bringing a third party into the relationship and giving them permission to ‘check in’ on how things are going from time to time. It is good for the woman to find a woman and a man to find a man whom they can trust and can count on to be firm with them in asking whether they are upholding their commitments to God.
I have a girlfriend who is engaged and about to married. She and I have agreed to be that person in each other’s lives who asks the real and yes, sometimes awkward questions. It doesn’t have to be anything super formal or formulaic, just an agreement between two people to hold up your end of the bargain and really keep checking in. The way it works with my friend is I’ll just ask her every now and then how things are going in her relationship–emotionally, spiritually, physically–and she gives me the honest answer. If there are areas in which she is struggling, such as sexual temptation, we will pray about it and talk about ways she can overcome it, for the Apostle Paul says God will not allow us to be tempted “…beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). An accountability partner can be there for support, encouragement and prayer in the face of temptation.
Here are some other real life examples of how others have incorporated accountability into their dating lives:
- “I met with my accountability partner as soon as we started the dating relationship and put in writing all the values/standards that were important for me to uphold in the relationship. I signed it and gave a copy to my accountability partner to keep so that when I suddenly became blinded and weakened by love, she could help me ‘stick to the plan’ during the relationship. It worked like a gem and I was so grateful to have her prayerful support!”
- “I had my accountability partner meet the person with whom I was in a relationship so she could get to know and observe how we interact as a couple. I thought this was really crucial in how she would later be able to advise me in situations.”
- “I meet weekly with my accountability partner as a way of ‘checking in’ and remaining transparent. I have learned to be really open and honest and it has helped me keep my relationship in perspective in the context of my faith. Having this safe outlet has been such a blessing to me!”
- “I inform my accountability partner when I am going out on a date and have her call me at 10pm. Knowing she is going to call helps me to avoid putting myself in compromising situations where I know I will be tempted.”
- “I have promised my accountability partner that each time I compromise on my stated values, I will be completely honest in telling her. Knowing I will have to do this really makes me think twice before crossing boundaries.”
The person to hold you accountable should be someone of your choice. It doesn’t have to be a pastor or a licensed professional. It simply needs to be someone in your immediate community (ideally in the same city, but long distance is okay if it is the only option) who knows you well, whose advice you trust and in whom you feel comfortable confiding about the ‘real’ stuff.
Including a third part to hold you accountable may sound like one big fun killer. But stay with me! If we really are serious about honoring God in this aspect of the relationship, it calls for serious measures to be taken.But serious measures do NOT mean there is no fun to be had! It just ensures that you are paving the way for a relationship that honors and pleases God and in turn will receive the maximum benefits and blessings–emotionally, spiritually and physically–for both you and your partner.
So don’t delay, if you are in a dating relationship, find an accountability partner who will be willing to walk this journey of faith with you and help you to bear the burden of maintaining a godly relationship. It’s so worth it!
**This is the 8th Principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #9: Stay Connected to Community. See you then!
“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” ~Proverbs 25:28
A lot of times Christian couples have the desire and intent to keep their relationship pure, but fail due to one thing: lack of boundaries. Boundaries, my friend, are the ‘walls’ we all need to keep us on track and to practice self-control in our relationships.
You might be saying, “Yeah, but that’s no fun. Don’t boundaries stifle romance?” I don’t think so. Boundaries help keep the romance alive in a healthy and holy way that honors God in the process. God’s blessings and abundant fruits rest on the relationship that seeks to remain pure until God brings them to the marriage bed.
As I mentioned last week, I was formerly in a relationship that progressed quickly and crossed some lines physically. Until God convicted me that what we were doing was not pleasing to Him, I didn’t understand the importance of setting boundaries. In fact, I had never heard of such a thing. I had a studio apartment that we had gotten in the habit of ‘hanging out’ at. This would often turn into late nights and let me tell you, nothing holy can come from two tired people in a dark room on a bed. Period. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out, but I just didn’t realize at the time that ‘setting boundaries’ were an option.
All a boundary does is help you to avoid those settings and situations that are going to lure you into temptation and ‘break down the walls’ of self control, as Proverbs 25:38 so wisely states (above). In that relationship I was in, we had to set a boundary that we would not hang out at night in my apartment anymore. After going on dates or doing fun things together, he would drop me off at my door and we would end things there. It was hard at first, but eventually we realized the benefits: we became more intentional in our hang out time because we knew it wasn’t going to drag out into the early hours of the morning and we both felt more at peace over all because there was no longer the guilt of ‘crossing lines’ that we had felt before.
I share this story because it highlights our naivety in thinking we can exercise self-control in any environment. But putting ourselves in dark, isolated, comfortable places is just setting the stage for temptation and eventual slip- ups into sin. Once you go down that road, it is very hard to turn around and back up. That is why we must know ourselves, where our sexual prowess is triggered and how we can steer clear from putting ourselves in situations that are going to make it nearly impossible to say no.
If two people decide to enter into a dating relationship and are committed to upholding God’s standard of holiness (see Principle #6), setting up boundaries is absolutely key. Without them, well good luck, for our flesh is weak! Some examples of good boundaries to set might be:
- No laying down on a bed together
- Keep the lights on when watching a movie
- No heavy petting or removal of clothing
- Holding hands, hugs and kissing permissible
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a legalistic form of dating. Rather, learn to see it as plain wisdom in aiding you in your heartfelt desire to live out your relationship rightly before God. Nor should boundaries be viewed as a ‘mood killer’, but a holy booster, paving the way for God’s goodness, favor and grace to bloom and blossom in your dating relationship. I have found that limiting the sexual factor in the dating phase actually opens the door to the following benefits:
- Allows couples to get to know a person on a new and deeper level.
- Forces couples to be more creative in deciding how to spend time together.
- Encourages couples to incorporate family and friends in a greater way.
- Fosters mutual respect between both partners, as both seek to help one another uphold their values before God.
- Helps to maintain an element of mystery in the relationship, knowing that certain things should be reserved for a life-long marriage commitment.
God has given us His Spirit to help us overcome even the greatest temptations. As Paul writes to Timothy, “For God has not given us the spirit of timidity; but of power, and of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). When we exercise self-discipline by setting boundaries and choose to delay sexual gratification out of obedience to God and respect for our partner, blessing will surely come in the most unexpected ways. Try it and see!
**This the 7th Principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #8: Accountability is Key. See you then!
“This general lack of dating means many young adults don’t even know how to get a relationship started.”
This quote was pulled from the same USA Today article I wrote about last week entitled, ‘Is Dating Dead?’, which made the case that traditional dating among young adults just isn’t happening as frequently as it used to. Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that this lack-of-dating trend does in fact have some truth to it and is causing a lack of ‘know how’ in the start-up phase of relationships among young adults today. If that is the case, let’s tackle the question:
How does one go about getting a romantic relationship started?
The answer to this question isn’t so cut and dry. There is no real formula or hard set of rules, as there are tons of variable that come into play, such as: age and stage of life, background, baggage, geographical location, culture, theological views, etc. But I will share from within a Biblical framework, what I think are some guiding principals in starting up a romantic relationship. Since I am of the belief that men and women have different roles to play in this process, I will break it down separately for both genders:
MEN as Initiators:
Pray. If you’re feeling ready for a relationship, it would be good to start by consulting God on the matter. Ask God two questions: 1) Am I ready for a relationship? 2) If so, who should I consider? One of my favorite verses is “Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). When we seek Him first and ask Him for guidance before acting, He will direct us and show us what steps to take or not take.
Pursue. If and only when you get the ‘go ahead’ from God, it is my understanding from the Scriptures that the men are to initiate. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” This suggests there should be a process of looking for and finding someone with whom to pursue a relationship; someone who exhibits enough potential to become a wife. So men, turn over your fear of rejection to God and start finding. And don’t ever forget this: no matter what women say, we love being pursued!
Purpose. Once the pursuit of someone has begun, there should be a purpose stated from the outset. What is that purpose? That purpose should be to explore the possibility of marriage. God Himself said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Dating is about finding that helper that God made suitable just for you and communicating that to the person you are pursuing. This may sound super serious and intense. Some might even argue that being so intentional and forward from the get-go takes the fun and mystery out of it. But it doesn’t have to. You can still keep the relationship playful and lighthearted in the beginning, but letting the girl know that you are not just ‘playing around’ shows you respect her and are taking her feelings seriously. And men, trust me when I say: this will make women even more attracted to you. I repeat: this will make women even more attracted to you. We love men who are intentional and who take the lead. Are you writing this down? LOL.
Pace. The tendency in a budding relationship when emotions are running high, is to put the ‘pedal to the metal’, running the danger of becoming too close too fast! Getting to know someone new takes time. It is through real life situations over a period of time, that a person’s true colors will come out. Learning to see a relationship as a marathon, rather than a sprint, will help you pace it differently. Is it possible to maintain a sprint for 26 miles straight? Only a fool would try such a thing (a.k.a me in my first marathon)! Remember the wise words found in 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient…” Simple, yet so profound. Remember that erring on the side of going too slow, is better than erring on the side of going to fast. Pace is everything in a long race. Don’t screw it up.
Protect. I heard a story recently where a guy was certain he had heard from God that this girl he was pursuing was ‘the one.’ Within a week of starting to date her, he told her this bit of information. She got excited at the thought, though she needed time to get to know him first. He then proceeded a few weeks later to take her to look at rings and continued to plant the idea that she was definitely the one he had been praying for all those years. Again, she was excited (the natural response of any woman!) but still hadn’t had the chance to hear from God on her own. Just as she was coming around to the idea, he abruptly broke things off with her, saying ‘It must not have been God’s will after all.” She was crushed. Not only did she lose the guy she was falling in love with, but she lost the dream of marrying him as well–a double whammy. Guys, this is not a good example of guarding a woman’s heart. Note: we are very emotionally-driven beings and many of us dream and fantasize from a very young age about our wedding day. I know, it’s sounds crazy to you, but just know that’s what you are dealing with. So can you please be gentle with our hearts and mindful of how you handle them? If you think you are hearing God tell you she is ‘the one’, be sensitive to the timing of sharing that information. Pray and ask God for wisdom and ask Him to allow her to get a confirmation in her heart too, if it is in fact His will that you marry. Building up plans and expectations for marriage and then not following through is like a dragging a woman’s heart through the wringer.
Pray. You’ll notice this list is sort of like a ‘prayer sandwich.’ It is crucial to remain prayerful in the beginning of a relationship and throughout. Continue to ask God for wisdom, direction and insight into the person you are getting to know. God promises to help us through life, “For I am the Lord your God, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). It’s up to you to let Him.
WOMEN as Responders:
Pray. Same as with the men, if you are feeling ready to be in a relationship, consult God and ask Him if you are ready. For women, the questions would be: 1) Lord, am I ready for a relationship? 2) What kind of person should I consider to date? If your relationship and identity are firmly rooted in God and He gives you the ‘okay’ to be considering a relationship, put your full trust in Him to determine the what, when, where and with whom (More on this in my book, Entrusting the Key: From Serial Dating to Joyful Waiting). This will bring you under His umbrella of grace, protecting you from making poor dating decisions, preparing you for the season of relationship/marriage, and giving you the patience to wait for His leading.
Perceive. Once you have prayerfully asked God what kind of person He would have you be with (check previous posts on this topic), keep your eyes open to men that God might put in your path. Practice hearing God by asking for wisdom and discernment, and asking Him to give you His eyes to see people how He sees them, rather than being ‘too picky’ based on your own preferences. The Bible tells us that God gives generously to those who ask for wisdom (James 1:5). Be open to how God might direct your heart and try and maintain a certain level of flexibility. He may turn your romantic antenna toward someone you didn’t expect!
Put Out Signals. Yes, I said it: put out signals ladies! As in, don’t be afraid to respond to someone who is showing interest in you. Or, if there is someone in your midst to whom you are attracted, putting out some ‘vibes’ may encourage him to initiate something with you. Don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting promiscuous flirtation with misguided motives. No! But I think as women, we can do a better job of showing a little reciprocation to someone who has shown some initiative. Laugh, giggle, make eye contact, whatever…just allow yourself to be expressive of what you are feeling and sensing inside (within reason of course). Sometimes I think the reason why men don’t pursue more is because we are so busy being all holy moly and in love with Jesus (which we are of course), but we lose touch with how to interact and engage with the opposite sex. Responding positively and learning to relate on a level other than friendship can be a good, godly and healthy thing! Guys are human too and it takes a lot of guts to pursue someone new, so a little affirmation on our part is probably much appreciated, right guys? That is, if you are genuinely interested. If not, be just as honest the other way and kindly tell them, sooner rather than later.
Purity. You might find it odd that I am talking about purity right after ‘putting out signals.’ Both are equally important in the process of starting a new relationship and work hand in hand. Putting out signals as a way of responding to someone pursuing should always be done with a pure heart and motives. We are instructed to be holy in all we do (1 Peter 1:15). This means we should be mindful of how we dress, speak and conduct ourselves in the company of the opposite sex. Does this mean we have to dress like nuns and shun all means of beautifying ourselves? Heavens no! God created us to express our beauty in unique and creative ways and delights in His own creation. With this said however, we should also be mindful of the fact that men are wired differently that we are. For example, they are visual beings and have a stronger biological sex drive than we do. Therefore, we need to understand that the way we dress and interact can really stumble a brother if we are not careful. Just as men should protect our hearts from unrealistic fantasy and expectation, we should protect them in this area of sexual temptation.
Patience. It is easy to jump 10 steps ahead of ourselves (and God!) when we start feeling those fluttery butterflies in the early stages of getting to know someone new. C’mon gals, you know what I’m talkin’ about: before the first date even ends, we have already imagined ourselves in our wedding dress, walking down the isle, where the honey moon will be and how many kids we will have with..what’s his name again? He could just maybe, possibly, hopefully be ‘the one’ right? LOL. I have no idea why on earth God wired us this silly way (well, actually Genesis does a pretty good job of explaining it) but He did. So that means we have to really seek Him in prayer to help us stay in the present and not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve really got to be diligent about turning every thought, dream, desire, expectation and/or fantasy over to God, trusting that He will bring about His plans for the relationship in His timing, if it is His will. Tip: take the pressure off yourself to have to ‘know’ right away whether you’re going to marry the guy you are getting to know and just enjoy the process of getting to know him as a person! Easier said than done, I know. Patience, my dear sister, is the key to receiving the fullness of His provision and blessing! I am taking my own advice as I write this.
Pray. Entering into a new relationship is fun and exciting. At least it should be – that’s how God designed His sacred union! But we should be careful never to let that relationship come before God or substitute time with Him at any point. We must remain vigilant in staying connected to Him each day and keeping ourselves aligned with the awesome Truth of His Word, so that we can be led by His wisdom and His understanding and not the thumpity-thump-thump of our own hearts. He will unfold each and every desire of our hearts in ways we could never even ask for or imagine, as long as we truly ask and desire that His will, not our own, be done!
How did you like those prayer sandwiches? Starting and building a good, healthy, god-centered relationship is no easy task. But when viewed in the proper light, it can be seen as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and someone new, as well as grow more in the likeness of Jesus along the way. Fortunately, we don’t have to go at it alone either. We serve a God who promises to take us by the hand and lead us by His Spirit in all things–even our love pursuits. But it is up to us to let Him!
Feel free to share your responses to this post in the comments section. Thanks and looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
In last week’s post, I referred to the movie No Strings Attached. Rather than addressing the content of the movie, I related the ‘No Strings Attached’ concept to our relationship with God. As the week went on, my heart was stirring and I couldn’t figure out why.
Then I remembered how I felt when I watched No Strings Attached. Something happened inside me. It was as if the eyes of my heart were shedding tears of sadness and despair–a response to how casually the movie had portrayed the subject of sex. It was nothing more that a skin on skin romp session between people who hardly knew each other. No love. No commitment. No connection. Just… sex.
Oh Father, I thought cringing as I watched, what has happened to our morals?
The heaviness hung like a dark cloud on my Spirit. I went to bed that night feeling God’s heart for the very foundations of our society, which seem to be crumbling beneath us as we speak. How have things gone so far in the opposite direction of the way God intended things to be?
I don’t have the answer to that question, but I feel compelled to at least address it in this weeks’ blog post.
First of all, I am not coming at this topic as a person with a squeaky clean past. God has done His redemptive work in my life and now that I know and have accepted the Truth of His Word, I am absolutely convinced that what it says is the standard by which I must live my life when it comes to sex and sexuality.
Take a look at what Paul says on the topic in the Message version of 1 Corinthians 6:16-20,
“There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. (Message)
Sex is more that skin on skin. Sex. Is. More. So often in the Church we focus on ‘sex is bad…wrong…sinful…’ rather than MORE. So much more than we make it out to be in movies like No Strings Attached, among others.
So what exactly is the ‘more’? We can glean some insight from the verse above:
- We value the sacredness of our own bodies
- We honor sex as an act made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another
- We realize our physical being as a place where the Holy Spirit dwells
- We acknowledge our bodies as a gift for which God paid a high price
- We sign off ownership of our bodies to God
- We desire God to be reflected in our lifestyle and how we conduct our bodies
Wow. Sex is SO MUCH MORE than the movies and society at large make it out to be. How sad that we expect and settle for so much less!
The question now is how do we let this message get across in the No Strings Attached world in which we live? Sadly, spouting off Bible verses is no longer a compelling enough reason for the younger generation.
The answer is you and me. Now that we know the Truth, we need to walk in complete obedience to it–not in a rule following or legalistic way–but in a way that makes people want God’s way. In a way that shines the light, love, goodness and glory of God through our bodies and our sexuality. In a way that focuses less on the sinfulness and wrong-doing of sex before marriage and MORE on the holiness, wholeness, beauty and doing right of saving it for marriage.
I want more. Don’t you?
We don’t need people who give God lip service, but when it comes to living it out so easily compromise. It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but God is looking for people who are earnestly seeking to walk the talk. Who believe in Him and live what they profess, not because they want to be holier-than-thou religious fanatics, but because they genuinely love Him and want to live a life that gives honor to His name. And because they see the value in doing things His way, by the strength of His grace and power of His Holy Spirit.
It’s the SO MUCH MORE way! Don’t miss out.
Action Plan: Take a moment to assess your own thoughts, attitudes and behaviors towards sex. Does your life repel or attract people to the things of God? Be honest and get real–with yourself and with God. Ask Him to show you His perspective on the matter. Get some people around you to help you and hold you accountable to living in a way that honors God in your body and sexuality. We need to lean on each other if we are going to overcome the temptations of this No Strings Attached world. We never have to go at it alone!
Question for Dialogue and Discussion: What are some creative and innovative ways to appeal to (not repel) the younger generation with a Biblical view of sex and sexuality?