First Priority

Love, genuine love, is not a feeling.  I have said this before, and I must say it again — not only for my readers, but also for myself.  Love is greater than emotion:  it is the choice from which our feelings will follow.  When I think of love, my mind pictures romance.  Yet romance by itself is only one small part of love.  Love is at heart a practical discipline. Practical, in that it is practiced, and a discipline in that it requires us to push ourselves in order to maintain it.

When we say we ‘love’ someone, we may mean it, but whether we truly love them is proven by our actions over time.  Love is an effort, not an accident.  This is why ‘love at first sight’ is not possible — that is attraction.  So no matter what we hear about love in the songs and movies, true love is nothing like those descriptions. 

I hear people speak of how much they ‘love God’ quite often.  I hear the ‘love of God’ preached even more often.  It makes me ask the question:  do most people even know what love is?  Think of the world’s definition of love.  To our society, love is (to put it as tactfully as possible) based on physical interaction alone.  It is based on conversation, personality and instant gratification.  When this ‘love’ no longer satisfies, or necessitates an effort, the participating parties go their separate ways.  With people so saturated in this mentality toward love, how will they ‘love’ God?  Most likely the same way:  based on feeling, condition and instant gratification. 

Due to society’s deluded perception of love, they treat God’s love in the same way they treat their relationships: as temporary and ‘replacable’.  Due to that same misconception, they also have trouble believing God when he says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  (Jer. 31:3, ESV)  These days that kind of love doesn’t seem to exist.  In a seeing-is-believing world, people often give up on faith and settle for feeling instead.

God calls us to a different kind of love.  It’s the kind of love He had for us, when, despite scorn and beatings, and a horrific death, He died so we could be His.  He calls us to the love based on effort and action, founded on choice and courage, and grounded in faith and freedom. 

This kind of love doesn’t just happen.  Sometimes our feelings will sway us to take the easy way.  But His voice calls out, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matt. 6:33)  He must be First Priority to remain First Love; and when He is First Love, He will also be First Priority.

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Got a Boyfriend Yet?

Every Christmas one side of my family used to gather together in the town hall of the little village where my grandma lives.  There was usually a huge turn out — up to 100 family members total.  And every Christmas, while I piled my foam plate with mashed potatoes and baked beans and my cousin’s squeaky violin was tweeting out “Silent Night” from the corner, my Aunt Charlotte would come out of nowhere and ask the question she had asked every Christmas since I was eleven:

“Got a boyfriend yet, Phleesha?”

While other people may not grab your elbow and ask it in the same nasal tone, you have probably already fielded this question plenty of times.  And you will continue to answer it for years to come, until you’re married, and society becomes bored with your faithfulness to monogamy. 

As one guy friend of mine said, “It seems to me people are so bored with their own romantic lives that they have to go meddling around in everyone else’s.”  It seems that that is the case.  Now, some of these are well-meaning relatives that just want to see their little babies grow up and move on and be happy — but often even they can’t understand why a girl would consciously choose not to spend her high school years dating.  “Hey, it’s fun! I did it, and I turned out okay, right?”

Maybe in the 50’s, when there was a current of morality still running through the culture, dating could be viewed with a little less caution.  Back then television had just appeared on the scene, and music wasn’t constantly blaring with sexual innuendos and overtones.  Children grew up innocent, girls learned to be homemakers, and boys learned to be men.  But even in that time, dating opened up room for temptation and consequently, failure.  With the invention of the car, young people could ‘take off’ anywhere they wanted to.  No one was watching. 

And no one was watching while the dating scene became more and more centered around physical interaction.  No one was watching when children — fourteen and fifteen years old — were committing adultery without even knowing what the word meant.  Namely, parents weren’t watching. Or perhaps they watched, with hands thrown in the air, and ‘let kids be kids’, rather than training them to be the adults they should be.  The current of morality became nothing but a trickle through the 60’s and 70’s, and in our present day, we are lucky to see but a drop of it on the wasteland that once was our country’s moral standard.

Choosing not to date in high school should not be done out of fear, which is what many people would like to say is our motivation.  The decision to wait is a decision not to avoid, but to attain. Our motive should not so much be to make known what we are against as to proclaim what we are for.  While a discussion of the problems with dating is necessary to understand why we need an alternative, focusing only on the negative turns off the world faster than anything.  What solution do you have?  Why should you wait instead of date?  What are the benefits?  What can you attain by waiting to be marriageable age before entering a relationship?

So we tell them.

“You can attain freedom to have friends, and to be one.  You can attain character as you wait, free of distraction.  You can attain a greater understanding of family and marriage.  You can attain appreciation for the sanctity of the marriage relationship.  You can attain inner peace knowing God will bring the right one, rather than grasping for him or her.  You can attain, and maintain, purity of body — out of the way of temptation.  And you can attain a purity of heart, unbroken, untarnished, and precious in the sight of God.”

What can a temporary relationship offer that outweighs those benefits?  The teen years should not be wasted with broken hearts and unkept promises.  They should be a time to grow, and enjoy life with friends without the unknowns and pressures of a ‘special’ relationship.  Am I saying that after high school dating is also unadvisable?  No.  I will be addressing that in later posts.  But high school is a time where a relationship has a 98% chance of ending.  Is that worth the time, energy, emotion and temptation?

I don’t think many people realize the implications of the teen dating scene.  Unsupervised interaction between girls and boys in this over-sexualized culture will inevitably lead to the problems we see all around us today.  Parents bewail the state of our generation, wondering what to do, and what went wrong.  We know what went wrong — and now we can offer an alternative; a way to do things right.  Many people won’t want to receive it because it seems too ‘extreme’.  Let me ask you:  in view of the consequences of unsupervised dating relationships, is there any alternative that wouldn’t be ‘extreme’? 

Waiting instead of dating in high school is a commitment.  Like I said before, it isn’t always easy or fun.  But your Lord knows that you are doing it to honor Him and your future mate, and He will bless your decision.  Saving your heart and body will be a decision you will never regret.  Make your high school years the best they can be.  Have good guy and girl friends, have fun, and enjoy life.  A temporary relationship is not necessary to fulfill that goal.  I can testify to that!  I am now out of high school, and no, I don’t have a boyfriend yet.

So one more Christmas for Aunt Charlotte to go unanswered.  But that’s alright by me.