The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Chapter 6


Couple in Love by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

            If you haven't done so already, you will soon decide to take a girl out on a date. Dating a girl is a good time to enjoy the companionship of someone else. Women have a different perspective on life.

            When you take different girls out on a date, you have a chance to see who is available. You also have a chance to firm up in your own mind what you will be looking for in a wife. Most boys go through a phase where they cannot stand any girl, except mothers who are tolerated within limits. When these boys reach adolescence, they quickly realize that girls can be interesting.

            Taking a girl out on a date gives you a chance to practice getting along with women. Girls do not enjoy being treated the same way you treat other boys. The time you spend dating gives you a chance to learn how to act around a girl.

             You need to be choosy about whom you will be going out with. Some girls will understand that, because you are a Christian, there are certain things that you will not do. Many girls will enjoy the fact that they don't have to be constantly on their guard while they are with you. However, there are girls who will use every opportunity they can find to try to get you to do things that are sinful. It is a challenge for them to see how far they can get you to go. For your own soul's sake, you are better off not dating such a girl. David warns us, in Psalms 1:1, not to associate with sinners. By continually exposing yourself to sin, you are tempted to commit a sin. That is why Paul said evil companions will corrupt your good morals (I Corinthians 15:33).

            Group dates are a good way to start out dating when you are young. If you pick your companions wisely, there will be fewer temptations in your way. A group gives you a chance to get acquainted with several people at once. You can also observe how the other guys treat their dates. Perhaps your first date won't be so awkward when it is shared with others. Some good outings with a group may be to go bowling, play a few rounds of putt-putt golf, go canoeing, have a picnic and play softball or volleyball, or gather a group of young people together after church to eat ice cream.

            Before you head out, spend some time thinking about what you will talk about during your date. In our society, boys tend to think and talk in terms of actions. Girls tend to think and talk about feelings. For example, if a boy and a girl were talking about an Olympic event, the boy would be interested in the score and the types of moves the athlete made. The girl would be interested in how the athlete was handling the stress and the athlete's reaction to the scoring. Neither viewpoint is good or bad. They are just different. It is those differences that make conversation on your first date so difficult. Spend some time thinking about what you would like to know about this girl you are dating.

            One day, all too soon, you will begin dating to find someone suitable to be your lifetime companion. If you want a companion, you must learn to be companionable. Talk about your interests and find out about hers. Do you enjoy similar things? If the two of you don't have anything to talk about, what would marriage to such a person be like?

            Make plans for the evening in advance and let your parents know where you expect to be. I know that many of you would rather keep your plans between you and your girlfriend, but you never know when an emergency may come up. Telling your parents also gives you a chance to see if your plans are respectable and appropriate. If you are too embarrassed to tell your folks, then perhaps you are planning something that a Christian ought not to do. Continue to carefully examine your motives.

            Once you are out on your date, avoid changing your plans at the last minute. Don't let your emotions lead you to making a little detour to a quiet place where you can be alone with your girlfriend. It is a great temptation to go too far when there is no one around to see what you are doing. Don't go parking in the dark. Even if the first few times you don't do anything shameful, it is continually tempting to go a little farther and to get a little closer. If you want time to talk, find a well-lighted place with other people around. It will encourage you to act respectfully. Finally, don't spend time at your house or hers when no one else is around. Many boys and girls find their own home comfortable and safe, so they relax their guard and do things they would not do in public. Most teenage pregnancies come about because a boy and a girl had sex at home. Somehow, people convince themselves there is no harm done if no one will see them. Don't let Satan fool you!

            In a few years, one person that you have dated will stand out among the others. You will find yourself going out with her more often than anyone else. You may even decide to stop dating anyone else. Dating only one person is called "going steady." Going steady with a girl for a while is a logical step before asking her the big question. It gives you a little more time to finally decide if this is really the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Just don't rush into it too soon. You can't make a good decision if you only dated one person your whole life. There are plenty of years ahead of you, so don't limit yourself to one person too soon.

            You know you are ready to go steady with a girl when you have dated other girls but you prefer this person's company over everyone else. When you want to spend more time with this person and dating someone else will interfere with your time, then perhaps it is time to go steady.

            However, if you feel pressure to date one person exclusively because everyone else is doing it, then you should reconsider. Some boys rush into going steady because they fear there won't be anyone else. This is another poor reason to go steady with a girl. There are hundreds of girls in the world with whom you could happily live. Don't get the idea that there is just one right person for you. Take your time. Marriage is a lifetime commitment, so don't rush the preliminary stages. Another bad reason for going steady is to hold on to a "good catch." Some people pride themselves on having the prettiest or smartest girl in school as their exclusive girlfriend. Remember our discussion about the pride of life. Date a girl because you like her and not because you like the admiration of the other boys.

            As you get comfortable with that special girl, keep in mind that there is a real temptation to take liberties with her that you would not take with other girls. Now is not the time to break God's law because you allow your emotions get the better of you. Far too many teenagers allow their emotions to flare and find themselves tempted to have sex during their date.

            A common excuse given for having sex on a date is that you need to find out before hand if you are compatible or not. You could have sex with any girl. How familiar you are with having sex has nothing to do with compatibility. You should not be looking for a bed partner while you are dating. You should be looking for someone to share the rest of your life with. Once you and your girlfriend are married, you will have plenty of opportunity to learn how to have sex. There is no benefit gained by breaking God's law and having sex before you are married.

What is Love?

            I've often told you in this book that various feelings and reactions are not love. Having an erection doesn't mean you are in love. Wanting to have sex with someone doesn't mean you are in love. The actual act of sex is not love, although it is called "making love" in today's slang. To understand what love really is, we need to turn over to I Corinthians 13:1-7.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophesy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:1-7

            Paul is explaining what true love between Christians is like. The description also beautifully describes what the love between a husband and wife should be like.

            When you love someone, you are willing to put up with their faults. You understand that people make mistakes and that changes take time, if they come at all. Even when she says something mean to you, you will only return kindness back. Love involves trusting the other person with all your heart. You don't envy her when she gets a big promotion at work or is honored for the things she has done in the community. Instead, you rejoice with her. A loving husband doesn't boast about how good he is and ignores his wife's accomplishments. What you do is much less important to you than what she does. If you truly love someone, you won't say things that will hurt her feelings. She is much more important to you than your own concerns. As a result, you will keep a tight reign on your anger and not lash out when things don't go your way.

            Loving couples don't accuse each other of wickedness. Too many marriages are broken because the husband saw a man leave the house or found some note and immediately leaped to the conclusion that his wife is having an affair. However, sometimes it is obvious that sin is taking place. When this happens, a loving husband will stand firm with the Lord. He will do everything possible to bring his wife back to the way of righteousness.

            Being in love means you are optimistic. You are always hoping that things will get better. That hope helps you to get over the many rough times that you and your wife will face together.

            Most of all, love doesn't fail. Planning to marry someone for a time to see if it will work out means you are not in love. You don't fall in and out of true love. Love holds on through good times and through bad times.

The Difference Between Love and Infatuation

            Many people confuse being infatuated with someone for being in love with someone. Each of us has a mental picture of the ideal companion. That mental picture is usually based on various physical attributes. She should be so tall, with a pretty nose, brown eyes, etc. Occasionally you meet someone who closely matches your mental ideal. You get excited and believe you have fallen in love at first sight.

            This is not really love, but infatuation. You can tell the difference, because infatuation dies over time. I guarantee that while you are moonstruck with a girl you won't believe that it will ever end, but it usually does. As you get to know the girl and find out about her likes and dislikes, you realize that she is not as perfect as you imagined her to be. The word "imagined" is the key word. You have no idea what a person is like when you first meet them. Getting to know a person takes time.

            Over time an infatuation will either die off or be replaced by true love. When you are truly in love, you will be aware of a person's flaws, but you have made a rational decision that you can live with them. A person who is infatuated with someone will either be totally unaware of the flaws in that person, pretend that those flaws are not there, pretend that those flaws don't matter, or believe that they can change that person over time. The last attitude can be disastrous for a relationship. People do change at times, but it is not very often and it is rarely because someone caused them to change. People change themselves because they want to make the change. When you choose a woman to be your wife, you should look at who she is and not who you think you can make her into. If you do not like who she is today, you are taking a big risk thinking she will be different tomorrow. In other words, if she doesn't change before marriage, then she certainly won't change after marriage.

            Talk freely with your intended companion. Some men are afraid to tell their girlfriend everything they are thinking for fear of driving them away. If your true thoughts would drive your girlfriend away, then the two of you were probably not cut out for each other. Both of you would be better off looking for someone else. Nothing could be worst than to find out you have made a lifetime commitment to someone who can't stand you.

            In summary, true love is based on reality. Infatuation is based on fantasy. Before committing yourself to someone, make sure you both have a firm grip on reality.

A Small Exercise

            Take a sheet of paper and write down the things that you hope to find in the woman you will one day marry. Is it important that she be good looking? Does it matter to you if she is taller than you? Do you hope she is a good cook? Should she like children? How many children do you hope to raise? Give it serious consideration and don't base your answers on someone you are dating at the moment. It would be better to work on this when there is no one in particular competing for your heart. Talk to your dad or an elder or the preacher about it, but make sure that it is your list showing what is important to you.

            Try ranking your points. What is the most important? Which things would be nice, but really don't matter that much?

            It may seem a little early to start thinking about whom you plan to marry. After all, marriage is still several years off. However, if you know what you are looking for, then when you finally meet the girl of your dreams, you can be confident that you are making a sound decision that you will never regret.

            Have a rough list done before you start chapter 8. Through the years, continue to revise your list. The things that are important to you at 13 may seem childish at 18, so continue to think about these things.

Questions & Answers