A few weeks ago, I walked into Wednesday night worship to find one of our teen guys alone on a pew. His eyes were red and his shoulders were slumped as he sat in complete dejection. His girlfriend had just broken up with him, & had broken his heart along with the relationship. This young man was struggling to even be at worship, because his, “ex” was also a member of our youth group & he could hardly stand to be around her. All night long, well-meaning brethren assured him that it would be okay, that a broken heart was a rite of passage & eventually he would find the girl for him, that the “trial & error” of dating was what the teen years were about.
Last summer I arrived for worship on Sunday morning to find the mother of one of our teen girls absolutely livid. Her daughter (14 years old) had been up all night crying because her boyfriend had just broken up with her. This mother was furious about the heartache her child had just endured, but was also constantly affirming that her daughter was better off without this young man, that she would just go out and find someone better.
Two days ago I happened to drive by our local elementary school during recess. I looked over at the playground as I passed to see several (what appeared to be) five- or six-year-old “couples” running around the playground holding hands.
We all understand that dating leads to heartache, and oftentimes we think it’s “cute” when our little ones have a “boyfriend.” Should we be concerned? According to the CDC as of 2010:
- females aged 15-19 have the highest rates of chlamydia & gonorrhea of any age group.
- 15-24 year-olds represent 25% of the sexually active population and account for 50% of all new STDs.
- 30% of sexually active girls and 44% of sexually active males were not even in a relationship when they had their first sexual encounter.
- 32% of sexually active teen girls, 33% of sexually active teen guys have already had between 3-5 sexual partners.
- 17% of girls, 22% of sexually active teen guys have already had 6 or more partners.
- 13% of sexually active teen girls, 19% of active guys would be pleased if a pregnancy resulted from these encounters.
Do these statistics shock you? To be honest, they shock me, but they do not surprise me. I think we are all aware that premarital sex, unwed mothers, divorces, and STDs have reached epic proportions in our society, and even in the brotherhood! Sisters, if we keep doing what we have always done, we will get what we have always gotten.
A few times I have heard dating referred to as “practice for divorce.” People whose children are dating tend to get very upset at this comparison, but if we look at it honestly, I think we have to acknowledge that there is truth in it. Dating has become more and more prominent in our society. At the same time the rates of cohabitation and divorce have skyrocketed. When children date, they jump from relationship to relationship (much of the time before they are even old enough to understand what a relationship is supposed to be) and the minute something is not ideal they break up and move on to the next relationship.
What does this teach our children about what commitment is supposed to be? Not only that, but this practice is reinforcing to them that the goal of a relationship is for the other person to make them happy. If you’re not happy, move on. If the relationship isn’t perfect, move on. I have yet to hear of a marriage that is either perfect, or easy. Marriage takes work and commitment, a love that is based on a decision(not a feeling), and two people who desire to serve, not be served. How are our children learning any of that through dating?
I have visited with several people about courtship who respond to me, “Well, dating worked just fine for me!” First of all, did it really? What about the pieces of your heart that you gave to different partners along the way? Can you honestly say that you don’t remember those other people, how they treated you, how they kissed, how they made you feel? Every one of those touches, romantic dates, and even emotions was a first that you didn’t share with your husband, as well as a memory that you will always have.
Second of all, as a friend of mine, Alethea Trujillo, recently put it, “We can all say that we survived a train wreck, but why would we want that for our kids?” Just because dating is the way we met our spouses, doesn’t mean that it is the best way. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we will all have to admit that we have scars from our dating experiences. As Alethea expressed, I want so much more for my kids!
As Christians, we need to keep in mind 1 Peter 2:9-12. We talk a lot about how we are a chosen race and a royal priesthood, but so often we forget the context. Peter goes straight from that to saying, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul.” Peter says in this passage that we have been “called out of the darkness into His marvelous light.” Why in the world, once we are in the light of our Heavenly Father, would we send our kids back into the darkness?
As Christians, we are called to be pure! Paul says to Titus that for the pure, ALL things are pure. That would include the way we and our children choose our spouses also! This is why we have chosen courtship for our children. Is it the way my husband and I met? No. But it is a better way. It’s a way to help protect the purity of my children’s hearts and minds, in addition to their bodies. It is a way to show the light and purity of Christ to a lost, dying world, and it is a way to keep our children unstained from the world (James 1:27).
by Lacy Crowell
Lacy and her husband Jonathan are both graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute. They currently live in Holdenville, Oklahoma, where Jonathan serves as an evangelist for the East Main church of Christ in Holdenville. Lacy enjoys writing and speaking for ladies’ days. She spends her days at home caring for her husband and her three daughters and year-and-a-half old son.