Meet Graham. Graham is your typical Christian guy: polite, friendly, and funny. He plays the guitar and writes music and goes to college. Graham is a popular guy who, for one reason or another, does not go out on very many dates. Well, one day he asks Brittany out, and she says “yes.” He is very excited, but at the same time nervous because this is his first date since high school.
Graham goes to Brittany’s house to pick her up, and they are hanging out in her room talking before they leave. As they chat, Graham’s stomach slowly starts knotting up inside of him. Soon enough, he cannot even focus on what she is saying; he is so concerned with calming down.
Finally, he mutters, “Can I use your restroom?”
She tells him that he can, and he goes to calm himself down. To give you a picture of the situation, he is staring in her mirror saying, “Be cool, man; this is ridiculous; don’t be doing this.” Finally he leaves the bathroom and, as he walks out the door, realizes that he did not even flush the toilet or turn on the faucet to cover for his nervousness. He sits back down, and they continue talking. Once again, the butterflies in his stomach become overwhelming, and he excuses himself to the bathroom for personal pep rally number two.
Once again, he forgets to flush or turn on the faucet. At this point, he finally confesses, “Sorry, I am just really nervous about this date.”
Brittany suggests that they go ahead and leave so that he might calm down. As they get to the driveway, he starts feeling anxious again. As she is talking with him, the world starts spinning faster and faster. Acting on instinct, Graham takes two steps to the side and vomits all over Brittany’s driveway. He looks up to see shock and concern on her face. He vomits again. He looks up, and she is gone.
Graham does not have time to worry about her departure because he is busy trying to exorcise that day’s lunch from his digestive system. Brittany comes running back to him, although she is not alone; she went to get help. From a neighbor? Oh no, that would have been embarrassing. No, no. Brittany went to get her mom.
So, on Graham’s first date with Brittany, he vomits and helps her mom clean their driveway. And do you know where Graham and Brittany are today?
Well, they never went out again.
What did you think I was going to say?
The history of dating is not one of successes (though they exist) but one of many, many failures. Why is that? What about dealing with the opposite sex makes us so awkward and weird? Why would Jake throw a surprise birthday party for his girlfriend that consisted of stuffed animals in party hats? Why is it even weirder in the context of the Church?
Are we designed to be this awkward in our dating experiences? I think not, but the reality of our awkwardness speaks for itself. I think this explains why there are so many books on dating and relationships on the market; there is something wrong, and we are trying to fix it. There are problems affecting Christians, specifically those in early adulthood, which are not being addressed.
So, I stopped by my nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore the other day, just to be sure.
Wedged in the Relationship section with dozens and dozens of sex books were some of the following tomes dedicated to healthy relationships:
Make Every Girl Want You
Ladies, did you know that you are powerless against the information in this book? Any guy who reads this will be irresistible. Of course, you need to realize that this book is not about relationships; it is about getting someone in bed. That is not acting in love; it is merely trying to satisfy one’s own desires at the expense of others.
Mr. Right, Right Now!: How a Smart Woman Can Land Her Dream Man in 6 Weeks
If you are a dumb woman, it takes you a little bit longer. But seriously, who needs prayer? With this book, your ideal guy is just six weeks away. Forget seeking God and just read this book!
How Can You Tell if You’re Really in Love?
Three words: You. Just. Know. Really, if you have to use a checklist or a book to tell you that you are in love, then there might be a problem. “Oh sorry, Doug; you scored a six out of ten on the quiz. I guess I really do not love you.”
Are You Normal?
Too many jokes, too many jokes. This book is great because it really puts the focus where it needs to be in a relationship: on a person’s shortcomings and insecurities.
How to Attract Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace
Hint: It takes magnets. Lots and lots of magnets. But in all honesty I know that this book works. How do you think Pedro got his sweet skills at hooking up with girls? It was not the fact that his bike could go off those sweet jumps (although it never hurts to get three feet of air).
How to Get Your Lover Back
In other words, read this book and learn how to lose your self-esteem and solidify the fact that you are not an individual, but someone who is defined by those around you.
Do you notice any themes? There seems to be a lot of focus on individuals, on attracting anyone, on finding Mr. Right in six weeks. Attracting anyone? Is that love, or is that wanting to be loved and needed by others? People are desperate for love and attention, but if they do not seek love in its proper perspective, they will end up lonely and craving something that no one can give them. These books are teaching the wrong perspectives on relationships and are leading people down a path of pain and mistrust. Relationships are about sacrifice and giving, not about how the other person makes you feel. Books like these deny Christ’s love; therefore, they have no clue how to deal with true love.
Fair enough; I will just stop by my local Christian bookstore and see what type of help is being offered by my brothers and sisters in Christ. I found several books promoting courtship. The problem that I have heard from a significant number of people is the blurry line between friendship and courtship. “Where does one end and the other begin? Why do they act like my friend one day and my SigOth (commonly known as Significant Other) the next?”
In the Christian subculture, it seems as if there are two target audiences when it comes to relationship books: married/engaged couples and teenagers. I cannot help but wonder where the books designed for the single young adult are.
The Christian subculture is a unique one. There are relationship issues that believers go through that no one else does. What do you do when you become attracted to someone who is married? How do I forgive myself for going too far? How does one go from being friends to something more? What does spiritual leadership mean in the age of feminism? There are countless other questions that I hope to address here.
I will also address, through The Real Man Survey and The Actual Female Survey, just what Christian men and women are looking for in a romantic partner. Fifty men and fifty women each filled out a survey regarding relationships, and the results were fascinating. The results will be discussed in the context of the chapters, but the full results are contained as appendices at the end of the book.
Traditionally, the Church has offered two schools of thought on dating: “it did not exist in biblical times and therefore should not be practiced now” and “everything in dating is acceptable as long as you do not have sex.”
I would like to look at each of these thoughts in turn.
Philosophy #1: Dating did not exist in biblical times and therefore should not be practiced now.
This is an outdated mode of thought and, as any effective youth minister or young adult leader can attest, is an exercise in futility to teach. Society today equates love and relationships with dating; we have been programmed to have a desire to love and be loved. People today express love and interest through dating and asking others out. To ignore this situation because it is “not the way you were raised” is to allow the devil a foothold in a place where churches can least afford it.
I will state that another way: Our churches are slowly dying because of the horrible relationship decisions that their members make. That, along with the fact that many church leaders refuse to face reality and deal with twenty-firstcentury problems leads to people being disenfranchised with the Church and its own members feeling like they are drowning in the deep end of the pool. This must be stopped. My friends, the problem will not go away if we ignore it. This problem has festered long enough because the Church, on the whole, has been negligent in addressing these uncomfortable issues.
Philosophy #2: Everything in dating is acceptable as long as you do not have sex.
Premarital sex is one of the banes of the Church’s existence. True Love Waits programs and promise rings permeate youth activities throughout the year. Do not get me wrong; these programs are awesome, and young people and adults should likewise be taught that sex is to be saved for marriage. However, other forms of intimacy that are not discussed are killing relationships and forcing people to leave with bitterness and discontent. Emotional and spiritual intimacy should be saved for married couples, yet we throw them away every time we date someone in the hope that they will love us. The sad part is that church leaders are doing nothing to stop it; either they do not feel it is necessary, or they simply do not know how to put an end to it.
This book is not a quick help guide. No worthwhile book is. If you want to become stronger in your relationships, then it will take a lot of time and effort. I am here to help you start on that long road. I will offer various tips and suggestions, but do not think that they are the only road to success.
The stories shared within are true. Some of these stories might sound familiar, probably because they have happened to you as well.
So, now that you know what to expect, kick back in your chair, turn on a rerun of Friends, and let’s spend some time looking at the time that is our twenties.
Oh yeah, and make sure you flush the toilet next time.