Valentine’s Day - a day that is full of roses, Hallmark cards, and chalk-tasting heart-shaped candies with creepy love notes on them. All of these things are driven and motivated by one thing: love. There are many different types of love that we experience - love between us and God, between family members and friends, and there is a romantic kind of love that we share with a special significant other. It seemed appropriate, since Valentine’s Day landed on a Sunday, for us to discuss this type of love. What should dating and relationships look like and what does the Bible say about it?
God has taught me (John) some valuable lessons through a few dating experiences that I shared with the students on Sunday morning, and tied in with Biblical support. I will share those experiences, lessons, and Scripture with you here… As a little bit of background, I have two older brothers that I respect a ton. They both highly encouraged me not to date in high school, and because of my admiration towards them, I submitted to their instruction - at least until I was half way through my senior year. When I was a senior, I had found out that the super-popular, attractive girl in my school liked me. Upon discovery, I thought it was a good time to enter into my first relationship. We dated for one month - it was a surface-level, zero depth type of relationship, but because it was my first, I became emotionally invested. She ended up breaking up with me (later, I found out, it was because I would not take the relationship to an inappropriately physical level). This is when I learned maybe the most valuable lesson of all: don’t date, just to date. Dating should have the motivation for marriage. From that point on, I would not date a girl that I could not potentially marry. Secondarily, I learned another important lesson: don’t bail on your friends. It’s just not cool. I did that during that month, and it’s not cool.
My next girlfriend was a girl that I had been friends with for a very long time. We grew up in the church together, from VBS through high school graduation. We were in the same circle of friends, participated in the same sports, and just grew to like each other quite a bit, so we started dating. After a summer of dating, we entered into a long-distance relationship as I went to college in the Mid-West and she went to school in California. We dated for almost two years before it ended - it seemed like long-distance was just a little too much for us, in the end. But I learned a valuable lesson: significant other should be a Christ follower. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawless? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” With GF #1, I didn’t even consider her spiritual beliefs before dating. Once I made up my mind to date with the potential for marriage, I knew that I would never marry a non-Christian, so why date one? GF #2 had grown up in the church with me and we tried our best to maintain a Christ-centered relationship - and I learned the high value of keeping Christ number one.
My third and final girlfriend’s name is Jenna - who now happens to be my wife! And I learned some valuable lessons from her and our relationship as well. After the previous break-up, when I was back and ready to start dating, I had my eyes wide open for a new GF! After a semester of trying to find the right girl, going to movies, dinners, coffees - I was met with frustration. No one had seemed to work out, and I resolved to not find a girlfriend in college. I made up my mind that I would just focus on God, school, and friends - and when I graduated from Moody, I would then pursue a lady friend. Of course, right when I made up my mind, in walks Jenna. We had become really good friends and I had taken a liking to her, but I held to my stance. So we became very good friends, and nothing more than that - but God was making it so clear to me that there was more in store for this relationship. We started dating and made sure to keep God our number one focus. We prayed and sought after God’s will in our relationship - which ultimately led us to marriage. A major lesson learned in this relationship: friends first, dating second. I tried so hard to find a girl that semester of movies and dinners, but I was really forcing a relationship… God planned for me to become really good friends with my future wife before entering into a relationship, and it made it work out for us. God also showed me what a relationship should look like in time spent with Jenna. The passage 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 was evident in our relationship - it says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
This isn’t necessarily the textbook of romantic relationships, but they are valuable lessons that God has taught me through a series of a few different relationships I have been in. I hope they encourage you all in your potential dating experiences. In everything we do, we should seek God and His Word for guidance: dating and relationships are no different.