It’s the end of the semester, so I thought I’d go a little bit off topic this week by writing about relationships. These are my opinions, not necessarily those of Campus Renewal Ministries.
Many students come to college hoping to find “the one.” Well I am sorry to tell you that I don’t believe in finding “the one.” More than that, I think looking for “the one” is an awfully dangerous way to pursue relationships.
I’ll tell you another secret of mine. More often than not, when students I work with are in relationships, I pray that they will break up. Okay, I am not that harsh, but I do ask God to break it up if I sense that the relationship is being pursued in a way that is dangerous. Most often, I believe they are.
Here are a three ways I believe Christians get it wrong and wind up hurting each other in relationships. Of course I have to be brief, so my thoughts will not be fully explained, but you’ll get the idea. I welcome your comments (agreements and disagreements) on this extremely important subject.
Don’t Pray About It
I tell students, “If there is one area of your life where I do not trust you to hear God’s voice, it is regarding relationships.” What area of your life are your motives and intentions more confused? None, I’d say. If you enter a relationship and soon after start asking God if he/she is the one, I believe you’re headed down the wrong path.
I’ve seen it time and time again: students who think God told them they were going to get married end up breaking up. This causes great confusion and pain. On top of that, “hearing God” can be a form of manipulation too. A guy may say, “God told me we should be together.” A gal may say, “God told me we should break up.” This too causes confusion and pain.
Why not leave God out of it all together? There is some sarcasm in that statement of course, but I am actually pretty serious about it. Stop praying about it. If you’re going to pray, ask God to purify your heart and motives and ask God to help you treat he/she with honor and respect. Don’t pray about where the relationship is going.
Don’t Talk about It
All this God talk leads to a slippery slope where couples start talking about their future in a way that needlessly speeds up the relationship and thus shipwrecks it. There is no need for repetitive “define the relationship” (aka DTR) conversations. Couples who are constantly having DTRs reveal their relational insecurity and lack of trust in God.
When you have DTRs and talk about a future together that will likely never happen in the first place, you obscure your ability to objectively assess the relationship. You speed it to a point of no return, which makes for an even more profound crash and burn when the relationship ends.
Why not enjoy time with each other and let the relationship progress without having to define it? What not take measure to slow the relationship down by not spending every waking moment together? This is how every other healthy relationship in your life has developed. I can hear you objecting, “But sometimes we have to define it.” No, you really don’t.
Don’t Get Physical
Wanna completely ruin any chance at seeing your relationship objectively? Start making out and pushing the boundaries physically and you’re sure to do so. Getting physical is a cheap way to receive the illusion of love and affection. Those who engage in too much physically often do so out of deep and unconscious brokenness or out of pure selfishness. It’s like the lighter fluid you throw on a fire that burns fast but lasts only a moment. Real fire requires much deeper character and commitment.
Christian students who push the limits physically also battle with the guilt and condemnation that comes from it. Sin makes it impossible to see straight. Any relationship that has a pattern of sin and confession over and over again is completely doomed. If you have not shown the commitment and discipline to respect the other person sexually, this screams “Red Flag!”
Why not build a relationship around getting to know the person’s personality, character, passions, hobbies, thoughts, opinions, interests, friends, family, etc.? If you move to the physical realm you will think everything I listed above is just wonderful. You’ll be blind to all the warning signs. Meanwhile, you’ll be playing around with someone else’s future spouse.
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.
Laurelin10 years ago
Don’t want to be argumentative, but I agree and disagree with a couple of points you made here. I agree that we should guard our hearts in a relationship because a relationship is a only discernment of whether or not we should marry the person we’re dating, not a commitment that one day you’ll get married. If you give away all of your heart to someone who isn’t your spouse, what will you have left to give to the one you’ll spend the rest of your life with? Because dating is a discernment process, I don’t agree with not praying while dating, as we should put God first and rely on Him for everything. In fact, I think we should pray more when in important times in our lives. However, I do agree with you in not following “signs from God”, as we can often get confused on what God/the devil is trying to tell us. As far as DTRing, I do think it is an essential part of dating, even in Christian life. Eventually, if you’re serious about someone, you will have to have “the talk”. Not to say that you should confess your undying love to every person you kind of have a crush on, though. Friendships between guys and girls are complicated, especially with things like Facebook and Twitter, so defining the relationship (i.e. telling the other person you like/don’t like them) lets the other person how you feel and where the relationship is going. If two people like each other but aren’t dating, yet continue to act like they like each other, I believe that is very disrespectful to their future spouses. Also, I do think “the one” exists and that God picked out someone for us even before we were born. Great article, Justin! 🙂
Tim Margheim10 years ago
I love all three pieces of advice. Hear hear.
The wording “Don’t pray about it” bugs me, though. Not so much that *you* worded it that way–you’re using a touch of sarcasm there to shock people into thinking about it in a new way. I get that, and I love what you meant by it: Don’t pray to hear God’s voice about where the relationship is going, rather pray in other ways.
What bugs me is that the hyperbole only works if we’ve started thinking about prayer *primarily* in terms of hearing God’s voice, to the point that we feel *dissatisfied* or deficient if we come away from prayer without feeling like we heard God. At best, that’s imbalanced, in the biblical sense–neglecting important parts of prayer, with skewed expectations. We need to remember prayer as *asking*, we need to be thoughtful & biblically-spiritual about the kind of thing we ask for.
We need to remember (among other things) the rock-solid promise God gave us in James 1: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The Spirit put a *lot* about wisdom in Scripture.
So… Along the lines of what you said, we should be praying for wisdom: That God would give us insight and understanding, that He would bring us wise counsel, that we would learn everything we need to learn about each other in order to make a good & wise decision. (Which may or may not include something that feels like “hearing God”.) And pray that we would do it all in a way that leaves both of us better off (as much as possible!), regardless of what decision we end up making.
Justin Christopher10 years ago
Love your comments guys. Thanks so much for taking time to do so. I made some strong statements to provoke thought so the differences you make about how to pray are valid and I agree with each of you. I find grate danger in asking God “Is he/she the one?” Like you guys described and like I mentioned in the post, I do believe in prayer over relationships but not “show me” kind of prayers. In my next blog I will write about what I consider to be a better way to discern if someone is “the one.” Hint – it does not involve prayer :-). Of course we pray, but in my opinion it should not be our primary means of discernment.
As for DTRing, of course there is a time when it has to happen. Too often, however, all couples do is talk about the relationship and where its at and where its heading. This, in my opinion, is unwise and damaging to a relationship. I always ask, “Why do you need to define it?” Often the need to define is based out of fear, insecurity, power, or control.
Becky10 years ago
Oooh, I do love this: “If you’re going to pray, ask God to purify your heart and motives and ask God to help you treat he/she with honor and respect.” So true. God never despises our requests for wisdom and a pure heart. And intercession is one of those awesome, seemingly paradoxical ways in which God likes to work. I often find that as I’m interceding for others, as I am praying for things from which I can receive no personal gain, God clarifies things in my own life and in my own heart without my even asking. Because I am doing what he has asked me to in interceding for others, my heart automatically aligns more with his. I love the idea that our prayers should not be loaded with trying to glean information from God: “Pleeease tell me if this is the one? Should I break up with him?” etc. Instead, they should be filled with interceding for the other person (whether they are your boyfriend or just someone you might be interested in). I think this kind of selfless prayer can really combat any motives you may have that are not of God, and it can help you develop more godly love for that person. I also think that the rush to “dtr” too early, or the rush into physical things, stems from a lack of reliance on God, a lack of him being enough and altogether satisfying. I think when we are not completely satisfied in God, we desperately seek someone to fill a void, and as soon as we have someone who we think *might* do that, we rush into things.