At the time of the writing of this blog post, my son is 16, my daughter is 18. Maddy will head off to college this fall, and Eli will be entering his junior year. My wife and I have been intentional through the years, in trying to help our children live beyond today. To encourage them to look beyond their own noses and navels, and to understand that to follow Christ, means your perspective in life is much grander.
As Christians, we are to live in light of eternity. We are to live for the glory of our God, not our own. We are to live, not for ourselves or to serve ourselves, but for the sake of others, as servants in the Kingdom of God.
That isn’t easy. The pull of our flesh, let alone culture and peers, is strong. It isn’t easy as a parent to continually encourage your kids to have that mindset. And it isn’t easy to live it out as a teenager. We know. We were once teenagers. It especially isn’t easy to live for the glory of God and for the sake of others, in the realm of dating. To live with a perspective that goes beyond today, doesn’t come naturally in dating. So while it isn’t easy, it is more than worth it. It is worth it in light of your future, let alone eternity.
So what are we telling our kids when it comes to dating and marriage? A lot of things. And we’ve been talking about it long before they were teenagers. Specifically, what are we telling our son? Here are the 5 things we’re encouraging him in, as he approaches the dating and marriage years. Yes there are a lot of similarities in what we are telling our daughter, but for the sake of this blog post, I’ll be addressing it to our son.
To the son in whom I love,
Pray for her
You don’t know who you will marry someday. You may have guesses, dreams, or hopes, but ultimately, you don’t know at this point. God does. Pray the Lord would be at work in her life. Pray she’d know who she is in Christ, and that she’d be anchored to that identity. Pray the Lord would protect her and guard her heart. Pray that she’d be rooted and established in her faith, and that the Lord would provide for her godly friends to surround her. And if you’re not sure how to pray for her, pray Scripture. Ephesians 1:15-19, Ephesians 3:14-21, Colossians 1:9-14 are examples.
And after you begin to date her, don’t stop praying for her. Pray for her, when you’re with her, out loud. Lead the way, and don’t put your faith on a shelf in dating.
And some day, if the Lord saw fit that you’d marry, then keep praying for her. Cover her with your prayers for her heart and life. Confess your need for the Lord’s power and grace to enable you to love her in the way Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her. Pray for her.
Prepare your heart and life
Don’t wait to grow spiritually until you’re out of the house or in a dating relationship. Keep growing in your faith now, no matter your dating status. As much as you’re praying for her, pray and ask the Lord to be anchoring and growing your own faith and love. And if you’re unsure of what to pray, pray Scripture. See the examples above.
The greatest thing you can do to prepare to love and serve your future wife for life, is to humble yourself and abide in Jesus. To remain connected to Him as the vine. To read and study His Word, to seek Him in prayer, to live in the light and be in community alongside other believers. To grow in loving and serving the Lord.
A Godly character and way of life doesn’t happen overnight nor can it be turned off and on like a switch. It develops over time instead through the patient and powerful work of your Father in Heaven. Keep saying yes to that work. He’s shaping and preparing your heart and life.
Pursue friendship and her heart
The world around you, and your own flesh, will tell you that the goal of dating is to live for yourself in the relationship. To get the most out it for yourself. To dominate every conversation with the subject of ‘you’. To get her to serve your needs and wants. To see dating as simply a physical relationship. It is all a bunch of lies that lead to a shallow, unstable, and unhealthy relationship.
Instead, as you begin to date and get to know a young woman, pursue friendship and her heart. Get to know her. Become a student of her. What does she love, what does she not love, what are her dreams, what are her fears? Ask questions, and listen more than you talk. Don’t settle for the superficial subjects all the time. Drive the conversation deeper. How does she feel loved? Are encouraging words important to her? What about gifts? What about spending quality time together? It may not be in the same way that you feel loved.
What do you two enjoy doing together? Make memories and seek to build a friendship that is not based on the shaky foundation of strictly a physical relationship. Your mom is my very best friend, and I can tell you, after nearly 25 years of dating and marriage, that to pursue friendship and her heart, has been worth it.
Protect her heart, life, and future
As Godly men, we are called to a different standard than the world. We are called to be men of courage, love, humility, service, and integrity. God has wired us to protect and guard. Not in some wicked domineering way that you sometimes see in the world, but in a selfless, loving, sacrificial way that reflects Jesus. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” So as you begin to date, guard not only your own heart, but hers.
Here are three examples of ways you can protect her heart, life, and future:
- Never talk to a friend or acquaintance about her in a way that is not building up or encouraging. The peers who surround your relationship thrive on gossip and juicy details. Reject all of it. If you’re in conflict or have a misunderstanding in the relationship, talk to her about it directly.
- Honor her by fleeing from sexual temptation. As your affections grow for someone, temptation’s pull grows as well. Talk with one another about how, together, you can set up safeguards and boundaries that protect yourselves from yourselves.
- Avoid just flippantly throwing out the phrase ‘I love you.’ Words matter. I’m not saying don’t ever use that phrase. I hope you do. But what I’m saying is, words carry weight. And before you say them casually, know that you mean them consistently.
Be a man full of love, courage, and integrity, and seek to protect her heart, life, and future.
Provide for her
One day, down the road, you’ll probably be married, and then someday, you might be blessed with kids. In that role of husband and father, you’ll need to provide financially for your family. As you begin to make money through part-time jobs, learn to spend, give, and save the money the Lord has given you in the way He sees fit. He’s the owner. You’re the manager.
As you begin to date and pursue friendship with a young woman, pay for her when you go out. Serve her in that way. As you begin to think about what the Lord has called you to do in this life, consider the implications of providing for your family. That is not the only factor that should determine what you do in this life, but it is also not a factor to ignore.
God has designed us to work. Work was a part of a God’s perfect design in Genesis, and it was a part of our world, before the fall of man. We’ve been created by God to work, accomplish, build, design, manage, lead, and serve, ultimately not for ourselves, but as worship to the Lord. Keep developing a work ethic that is both glorifying and worshipful to God, as well as, loving to your future wife.
I’m grateful to call you my son, and I love you more than you’ll ever know. I am praying with you and for you through all of these things and in the years to come. Keep trusting in our God who is forever faithful and steadfast in His love. He is a perfect Father, and you are His son, so talk to Him all the time and about everything.
Love you E,