We started a new series on dating for our Wednesday evening youth program. I wanted to start the semester off with a few practical messages that the students would be able to apply to their lives at the beginning of the school year. I broke the series down into 5 messages and used 5 questions about dating as the title and theme of each message. The first message of the series is:
What do I need to know about me before I start dating?
Topic: Discovering who we really are and how that affects our relationships
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. ” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I was brought up to believe that how I saw myself was more important than how others saw me.” — Anwar el-Sadat
“I define comfort as self-acceptance. When we finally learn that self-care begins and ends with ourselves, we no longer demand sustenance and happiness from others.” — Jennifer Louden
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard Feynman
“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be.” — Fannie Brice
“Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” — Betty Ford
Who are you? What do you know about yoruself? Do you know what you want in life? Do you understand what is truely important to you? “Know Thyself” – This is the first step in preparing to date.
What does it mean to be a man or a woman? While we are created in the image of God and we are all human, the fact remains that Men and Women are very different. How our body works and what happens to us and to our hormones when we are teenagers affects who we are and ultimately directs our relationships with the opposite sex if we let it.
It should be obvious that males and females are different. Duh, right? We can be quick to say that this is a true statement, but do we live it? You see, the problem is that when males interact with females and females with males they unconciously expect the other gender to think the same way they do, and this is not going to happen. You are very different.
When you are a teenager you begin to experience some hormonal changes that change the way your body works and the way your mind thinks. Once this begins, it will happen for the rest of your life, and as this continues you will have to learn how to deal with this in the appropriate way. Yes, I did say that you have to learn to deal with it! This is not something that you will be able to ignore or hide. All of you will experience it and will have to deal with it in some way. Why? Because these hormones have the ability to turn an otherwise normal and nice teen into a self-absorbed, self-gratifying person with a one-track mind, pleasing self. Your body is changing so quickly that your mind may not necessarily know how to keep up and this will go spinning out of control if not dealt with. Once you come to grips with the fact that you body is either changing or is going to, you need to ask yourself the question: “What does God want from me?”
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4
This is a message to everyone, including teenagers! Being a teenager and being flooded with hormones does not exempt you from this Scripture verse, it makes it that much more important to learn how to control your body so that you might honor God. It is the will of God that you remain sanctified or pure, that you avoid sexual immorality, and that you learn to control your body so that you may be holy and honorable. This is what God wants from you.
If you know that these things are happening inside you and that you have these feelings and that to honor God you must control them, the next step is to learn how to control them.
Dating seems like such an innocent thing, but the world seems to have a warped view of dating. Teenagers believe that they must date. That in order to fit in to society, dating is the norm. The world also makes them believe that dating means being physical with one another, and if you don’t get physical in any way then you’re not really dating. To teens, dating also seem like a world of paradise where everything is perfect and wonderful and yet rarely do the relationship last because this fantasy bubble will always be popped, 100% of the time. Teens feel that dating will solve many of their problems, that if they can just date they may be popular or accepted, or more special, but the truth is that dating causes the majority of teens to be stressed out and even more self absorbed. Many feel that dating is safe and fun and yet dating violence is one of the most common forms of violence against teens (verbal, emotional, and physical).
Dating isn’t just a walk in the park, it can alter your future, your dreams, and everything that you hoped for. It can destroy you if you let it. Here is a message that you may not often hear “dating can be dangerous”. It can control our present and future lives. It can completely consume us. That is why it is so important to do it right, or don’t bother doing it at all.
Here is the point I want to make, you can survive high school, and even college without even dating and you would be better for it, not worse. I’m not trying to say that dating is a horrible thing, but it is a risk that can be very dangerous. For the next several weeks we are going to be talking about taking that risk, the reasons people date, how to know when you are ready, what to do when you are ready, and how to deal with sex and other issues that will come up when dating. Before we talking about those things, I want to make this point right now, you do not have to date right now! You have plenty of time. Time is actually on your side. You will be older, wiser, and have a better idea of what you want in life and what you need in a partner when you are older than you will right now. And lets face it, only 12% of relationships will ever last over a year when you are in high school. The odds are not in your favor at all.
Dating at this stage in your life is nothing more than a risk that will most likely end badly until you’ve messed up enough that you decide to do something different or until you’ve messed up so badly that you have no way out of it. I don’t want you to say years down the road, “Well, no one ever told me I didn’t have to date.”
Ok, so what do we know so far? At your age you are beginning to experience some issues with hormones and to honor God you’ll need to know how to deal with them. The other thing you know about yourself is that you have a choice. It’s not important that you date right now, but if you decide to do it you need to know how to do it properly.
What else do we need to know about ourselves?
Gen. 1:27 – “We are all created in the God’s image and created male and female. 31 – God saw what he had made and called it good.”
We are created as people who need relationships and we are created as people who are sexual beings – (That blasted hormone thing again) and both of these things are good. 1 Tim 4:4,5 “Everything God created is good”
Listen closely. Our hormones may begin to work in us causing us to go a little fritzoid and by doing so you may find a girl or boy that fits the description in your head of someone you would want to date and you may begin to look at yourself and say “I’m not good enough, I need to change this, I need to look like this, I need to do something different with myself because I’m not good enough for that person to accept me.” – But didn’t God say you are good? See, we begin to lie to ourselves and try to change ourselves in order to fit in to this dating scene. We try to change ourselves in order to become what we thing other poeple want us to be.
For some reasons we do things a little backwards. Instead of trying to change ourselves, we need to be satisfied with ourselves and then choose to date someone who is perfectly happy with who we are and with who God made us to be. If you need to change yourself to date someone, you are already fighting a losing battle.
As a teenager you are beinging the process of knowing who you are, of shaping who you are going to be. You are starting to develop your own personhood, your own personality and your own independance. Here is a news flash: dating can really mess that up if you don’t do it right.
Remember: You don’t have to jump into dating when you’re not ready:
It’s kind of like driving a car. You wouldn’t let your 1 year old sister drive the car. In fact she couldn’t. Her legs are not long enough and she couldn’t see over the steering wheel. However, when your sister is 9 years old she may be able to see over the steering wheel and touch the gas pedal. Now that she is perfectly capable of operating the vehicle controls, does that mean it is safe to let her drive the car? No. She isn’t old enough, she isn’t mature enough, and to let her drive the car prematurely could not only cause an accident, it could destroy her life. When she turns 16 and she is more mature and has taken the time to learn what she needs to learn in order to operate the vehicle, then you can let her drive the car. With dating you slowly learn and grow and when its time and when you are mature enough then things will go smoothly, but if you do it prematurely you are destined for disaster.
You have plenty of time. No hurry. You must learn self-control, don’t let yourself be out of control. When you discover who you are, what you need, and you begin to develop your own personal values and self control then you are that much closer to being ready to date.
Most young teenagers are so eager to start dating that they jump the gun, run into the dating life as fast as they can and then live to regret it all in the end. Don’t become another teenage statistic. Take the road less traveled.