I recently saw a sign outside an elementary school that said, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” That sure sounds good. Especially in our current culture.
One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse. That took a lot of different forms. Sometimes it was simple and relaxed. Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One. Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).
But over and over again for years, it never happened. God didn’t “answer” my prayer.
This really begs two different types of questions. First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse. Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.
When I was an teenager in school, one of the things that I heard constantly from girls that I wanted to date was something to the effect of, “You’re a great guy, but I just see you as a friend.” In other words over and over again, I entered what has become known as the friend zone.
This is a terrible place to be. We get there a whole lot of different ways. When I was younger, (at least in my experience) there were some times when I really was friends with the girl before I decided I wanted to date her. But as you get older this is less likely.
Many guys when they like a woman start being really nice to her. We go out and try to meet her needs, help her out with anything she wants, buy her considerate gifts etc. I once bought a girl a birthday present that I wasn’t even dating. I was a 30 year old man. WTH was I thinking? I liked her. I should do nice stuff for her right? Yikes!
One of the complaints I hear all the time from men (and that I used to make all the time) is that women, and in our case Christian women, always seem to choose the bad guy over the good guy. If you are a consistent reader hear then you know that I would say that is the wrong view of a real issue.
Here is what women do – they choose the guy they are attracted to over the one they aren’t.
There are a lot of men who say that women should date them because they can be a great husband, are trying to be godly etc, even though they are not, for whatever reason attractive to women. I would ask that guy, are you asking out women you know to be godly that you are not attracted to? I’m guessing no.
So rather than sit around and complain, maybe we should think about what is attractive and work on it.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about chasing vs. pursuing. I’ve already decided we need some new language to make all of that more clear, but that is not the topic for today.
I received a note from one of my female leaders asking a good question in response to that post. In actuality she asks a much more important question, perhaps without knowing it. I don’t typically write specifically to women here because, well I’m not one, and I don’t come from that experience. But I think this is important and merits an post.
In follow up to the post on chasing vs pursing, may you write a refresher on how women should appropriately response to being chased or pursed? I think that for the well liked, popular Christian single lady, it may be easier to differentiate the two and act accordingly, perhaps due to exposure or experience. For other women, especially when requests and invitations are few and far in between, or even non existent, it can be hard to tell what is a good and noble pursuit versus what is simply a chase because we are a woman. Sadly, I have fallen for this one, and I would appreciate insight on how a woman should respond to such encounters in the future.
This question brings up a few very important points that we need to consider. So let me take a crack at them here, while hopefully helping answer the intent of her question.
About 15 years ago my brother and I went to a Rick Springfield concert. I can’t believe I just typed that. You have to understand that I was a child of the 80’s and Rick, was well, sort of awesome. He had 17 top 20 hits. He was smooth with the lines and the ladies. So anyway in 2000 or so, long after he was cool, he was in concert to promote a new album that of course no one actually bought.
At any rate there we were at Station Casino and it’s packed (meaning there were like a thousand people there. . . maybe). Rick steps up on stage, and forgets the words to his opening song. Haha. Then he says, “I sort of forgot the words there, but it’s ok. I feel I’m among friends tonight.” The “crowd” roared. From then he was on fire. Flawless as he belted out the tunes as we sang along.
At one point, he starts to sing one of those top 20 hits called The Human Touch. “We all need the human touch. We all need it. . . I need it too”. Then he went out into the crowd and began hugging people and giving high fives. My brother and I died laughing as we watched a 40 year old woman run screaming to a friend, “He touched me! He touched me!.”
I know at this point you are wondering why I’m sharing this story, but I share it because I think we actually do need human touch and as a single person it can be hard to come by.
Back in 2001 there was a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. It was a book that sort of came out of left field for me and there was so much in it that as a man I resonated with. In it, Eldredge talks about many things but one of the key premises that he shares is that men are tying to answer the question, “Do I have what it takes?”
I really do believe that in some form every guy is asking that. It’s a value question. In other words, as a man, I get my value from the answer to that question. The book goes much deeper into that question and how it was or wasn’t answered by our fathers.
As Eldredge dives into that question he further shares that men desire three main things. A battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. It’s this last desire that I want to talk about today. As with all of these desires – there’s a lot of ways to mess this one up.
When I read that book, I was 29 years old and single. I was going after my full time ministry work hard. I was living the adventure and fighting the battle. No doubt about it. But as a single guy, I thought, “What do I do with that last desire?”
I think the desire is real. I say that because it’s ingrained everywhere. It’s in movie after movie, story after story. Hero guy sees girl in distress. Hero rescues girl. Hero gets girl. But like most things in life, it’s not quite as simple as a 90 minute movie.
In real life, not every girl in distress wants to be rescued. Not every girl in distress should be rescued by you. And, just because you rescue the girl (or have a part in it) doesn’t have much to do with getting the girl.
Right now a lot of good, nice guys are thinking, “Damn straight!” I hear you. I lived it for far too long.
Here’s how it works. You are attracted to a girl. You see her beauty and you see that she needs rescued – usually from dating someone other than you – the “bad for her” guy. You are there for her, listen to her, give her advice, and in the Christian world “minister” to her. You of course tell her how great she is and that she deserves better. She’s not into you, but you want her to be and if you can just “rescue her” she would be. In some circles this is called The White Knight Syndrome.
But it gets worse. “Christian” dating advice to men just exasperates the situation. You’re trying to be a Godly man and do things right. So what do they tell you? To man up of course. Be a good guy. It’s your job to protect women even from yourself. Guard her heart. Be clear about your intentions. Be nice. She’s the victim of the last bad guy she dated (or in some circles the guy she was married to).
No where are we called to do this in the Bible by the way. I’ve heard people say (and I’ve said) that wives submit to your husband does not mean girlfriend submit to your boyfriend. Fair enough. But neither does it say, boyfriend love your girlfriend as Christ loves the church . . .
We teach people who they should marry but not how to meet them. We tell people what not to with their date, but not how to get a date. We tell men to man up and women to dress up without explaining why that matters. We can help you break up with the wrong person, but we can’t seem to help you learn how to approach the right one. We tell men to guard girls’s without telling them how to win them to begin with.
Here’s the reality. The desire is good, but there are only two ways you can help rescue a girl so speak. The first is if you don’t want to date her and you just want to help her. Sometimes in ministry this actually happens. As a strong male leader, you can have impact in women’s lives. Nothing wrong with that.
The second way is to get the girl and then rescue her. This is what Eldredge, and for that matter Ephesians 5 is referencing. It assumes you are married to the beauty – and for that matter that the one you are married to is the beauty.
We don’t rescue the girl to get the girl. We get the girl to rescue her. And then you fight for her the rest of your life. Sometimes that fighting for her will mean fighting with her and you can’t do that if you are constantly trying to get her to like you. And get this, sometimes you’ll have to do it even when you don’t feel like it. Crazy.
Here’s what we need to get a hold of. Attracting the girl and rescuing her are not the same thing. They aren’t even in the same sphere. Learn to do the first, and you’ll have a chance at the latter. You don’t rescue her with the goal of getting her because then what? Get her and then spend the rest of your days trying to figure out how to love/rescue her.
The thing about the hero in the movie – the girl already liked him.
Just over a year ago, I was driving home during a huge storm with wind, rain and some hail. I remember thinking, “Man, I hope my car doesn’t get hail damage.” Then as I turned onto my street and headed towards my house it happened. I hit what I at first thought was just a huge puddle as I saw a huge splash. But then all of a sudden I realized that instead I had driven directly into a flash flood. It was up over my bumper and my engine stalled.
It’s amazing what goes through your head. At first I tried to restart my car – um that wasn’t happening. Then I rolled down my window to survey the situation. It was not good. I shut the window because we wouldn’t want the leather to get wet. Water started seeping in. (For free – if you’ve ever wondered how long you would have in your car if you drove into say a lake, before water filled up the inside of your car . . . answer. . . not very dang long.)
All this to say, my car was completely totaled. Water got in everywhere. I was sad as I really liked my car (which was paid for) and planned on driving it for about another 100,000 miles.
Fortunately Nationwide really was on my side and gave me a very fair amount for my car. But now, I needed to find a new car. So I of course had to set up some qualifications for this car. I wanted a car similar to my old car with the same features (heated leather seats, v-6 engine, sporting looking, lots of leg and head room, moon roof, at least 30mpg, etc). But I had some restrictions. I was committed to not having a car payment for example.
So I set out to find “The Car”. Shopping for a car is sort of crazy these days. Almost all dealers have multiple locations and websites. You can go online and search cars, values, compare and contrast. But of course you need to go test drive it. This is a big decision. I mean whatever I get, I’m planning on driving a long time.
I did it all. I booked marked cars online. I went to a ton of dealers. I gave my number to dealers who would call me if something came in close to what I was looking for. I test drove easily 15-20 cars. I almost pulled the trigger a couple of times but decided no, or the car was sold. Once I had one that I really liked but I couldn’t afford it.
Finally, at a dealer two hours away, I found a car that worked and a dealer who worked with me. I had my car. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a solid choice. I still like my car a year later.
Friends, that was searching for car. Now find go and find a spouse.
We live in a world with a ridiculous amount of choice in all categories. Groceries, restaurants, items at restaurants, Cable TV, hundreds of channels. Really there is a choice for everything. We’ve bought into the idea that more choice is good. But with more choice comes more confusion, indecision, panic, regret, and anxiety*. No where is this more true than our current dating culture.
When you go back in history, our choices for a spouse were much more limited. For most of history you had basically no choice. You married who you were arranged to marry. But even in recent history, you married who you knew. You grew up in one geographical area, met someone you were attracted to, and tried to make it happen. You maybe had a few choices and comparisons.
Today because of travel, technology and urban explosion, we live in a world where there is always someone new to meet. You could literally spend your life going on first dates. And if there are all these choices, then there must be the right choice. That one perfect choice.
Our Christian dating culture just exasperates this whole idea. You are looking for the right one. Not only are looking for someone you are attracted to and get along with, but there are all these criteria. Do they love Jesus? Are you equally yoked? Are they THE ONE God has for you. Talk about pressure.
Throw in the fear of choosing wrong (this is for life after all) and we often end up paralyzing ourselves. We have so much choice that many of us can’t choose.
The question becomes how the heck do you know? How do you choose?
Am I suggesting we throw out our qualifiers and criteria? Not exactly. Am I saying attraction doesn’t count? Heck no. But what I am saying is that we can’t live in fear of choosing wrong. We need to hold it loosely to be sure. Its to our advantage to know that we can walk away, that we don’t have to choose a person. But at the same time there is no perfect person and no perfect decision.
I want to talk more about how to choose and what I think a couple of qualifiers that I personally think everyone needs to consider. But for today I want to leave you with a couple of questions.
How has this plethora of choices affected you? Have you ever been paralyzed by the fear of choosing wrong? Have you accidentally convinced yourself that there is the one perfect choice?
Do you want to know the craziest part? Love itself is a choice.
* For a great article on choice in our culture read this from The Economist.
If you’ve grown up in the evangelical world at all, then you’ve heard the following advice: “flee from sexual immorality”. I remember reading this in 1st Corinthians 6 back when I was a teenager and always referring back to it. It was of course easiest to agree with when I wasn’t dating anyone. Haha.
This is actually an important idea, even if we can sometimes become legalistic about it or use it to beat up on people. But at it’s core it is right. Paul himself writes that sexual immorality is to be fled from because all other sins are outside the body while this has to do with not just the physical and doesn’t just hurt someone else, but against your own body, which should be a temple for God.
But if we are going to understand this idea we need to realize what this really looks like. And to do that we need to define some ideas.
To begin with, we need to define what sexual immorality actually is. I mean if we are going to flee from something it might be a good idea to know what it is we are fleeing from. There are of course a lot of ways to look at this question. Some people will point out that in the bible the term usually refers to sex, prostitution, and the like. In other words, they would say, the bible is silent about oral sex, masturbation etc.
Other people leave the physical all together and jump to what Jesus said about lust in Matthew 5. They would argue that having feelings of lust in any way or context is sexual immorality. I’ve already discussed this verse here.
In reality we have to look at the bible as a whole in the contexts of the writers and then ask what would count in our society now as sexually immoral. But for a simple definition for today let’s say this: Sexual immorality is the fulfillment of sexual desire outside of a heterosexual marriage relationship.
Assuming that definition the question becomes how do we flee from that. This is where I think we mess up.
We need to actually be committed to it. This is why our definition of sexual immorality is so important. Am I just committed to not having sex (which is easy if I’m not dating someone) or am I committed to avoiding all sexual immorality? This is why this is not only a single person question but for everyone.
Secondly we need to get into our heads that flee means just that. Paul doesn’t say to endure sexual immorality, or work through your sexual immorality, or even to overcome sexual immorality. He says basically, get the hell away from it. So what does that look like?
Flee means avoid the situation to begin with. Now I get how this can be taken to the extreme. Never be alone with the opposite sex or don’t go dancing are examples. I’m not suggesting that. I mean I guess almost anything can lead to immorality if we let it. But I think there are some common sense things here that we can do.
Fleeing is not, let’s get naked and then not have sex. It’s not having a secret life online that no one knows about. It’s not traveling alone and having a girl over to your hotel room. It’s not drinking a lot and then hoping nothing bad happens. We could go on and on, and create a nice comfortable list.
These are indeed important to flee from. We can set ourselves up by having people who know what we are doing when dating someone, setting up online accountability, and generally not having a secret life. We should live in the light, not in the dark.
But the number one way to flee sexual immorality? Don’t date the wrong people. Now again that always sounds easy when we aren’t dating anyone. And yet so many of date the wrong people over and over.
Here’s the kicker you need to flee from it early on. I think that guys fall into sexual immorality most of the time through their eyes. Women fall into it through their emotions. I understand that these are general truths, but I think it’s pretty fair.
Here’s what I mean, guys chase the hot girl, and women give in to the guy that gives them the butterflies so to speak. This puts us in the position to give in. Once we are in we start tossing all of our qualifiers out the window.
You need to flee early. I’ve seen it again and again over the years (and I’ve done it). It starts out with “She’s hot but not really that deep spiritually. She’s exploring it though”. “We’re not dating, he’s not a Christian. We’re just friends” (followed by smile). This soon turns into, “I know I shouldn’t be with him, but I can’t help what I feel.” This is followed by sexual immorality.
The longer you go down the road with someone you “shouldn’t be with”, the harder it is to turn around. Once you are emotionally invested it gets harder to leave. Instead we rationalize and justify more. If we “feel attraction” to someone we know isn’t right, then fleeing sexual immorality means not dating them – not just hoping we don’t sleep with them.
Fleeing is a choice and while we always have the chance to flee, the earlier we make it the better chance we have of following through. Fleeing means getting out early, not running up to the line and then trying to stop last second.
What does it mean to you to flee from sexual immorality? Do you flee early or late?
Many years ago I was at a men’s weekend golf outing. It was an incredible time where we spent time golfing, getting to know each other and talking about Jesus. Every morning and night we would circle up and someone would lead with a thought about Jesus. But before that at each meeting one or two men would share their story. They could share whatever they wanted about their life, usually a little of their past and then where they are now.
One night as one man in his late twenties was sharing, he shared a shocking secret with the group. He said that he had never masturbated. Now of course I knew from my evangelical training in avoiding all things sex that this was impossible. After all, 99% of men masturbated, and the other 1% lied about it.
The problem was I believed him. He wasn’t bragging about it, and no he wasn’t a teen groom and he didn’t even have the call of celibacy. He just hadn’t done it. What in the world would we hold him accountable for. What promise could he keep? Hahaha. Man we are messed up.
There is so much that goes into the assumptions we make about men and singleness/marriage/sex that has been perpetuated by both our culture and the church that I can’t even begin to get into it all.
Let me begin with this. I get that Christians are trying to help. I respect the heck out of the desire to have men who live virtuous lives. I agree we need that. But how we go at that makes a huge difference in whether we actually help men achieve it.
Here’s the basic message to young men.
You WILL want sex. All the time. While not exactly wrong, you must do everything you can to not think about it. But you will. Looking at a woman and wanting to sleep with her is wrong and pretty much the same as doing it. But you will pretty much walk around doing that exact thing, forever, no matter what. Victory over this is not really possible. But you should be held accountable for it. Women are holy and only give in because men demand it. If it weren’t for men being controlled by lust, women would basically never sin. Therefore it is your job to be nice, not want sex until you are married and then be “the man sexually“, all the while knowing that you will still lust after every other hot woman that you see.
What kind of plan is this?
First, the desire for sex is not wrong. In fact it is a huge part of why we get married. We are created to be sexual beings. We will desire sex. We will be attracted. None of that in and of itself is sin. Read that again.
The bible does not say, “don’t desire sex”. It does say, don’t be controlled by that desire. (OR ANY OTHER DESIRE).
Second. Looking at a woman and thinking about sex is not the same as having sex with her.
People love to point at Matthew 5:28 and say that Jesus is saying that if you desire sex with a woman, that is the same as sleeping with her. Well not exactly. I don’t have space here to go into the whole thing although it’s for sure worthy of a post in and of itself. But we need to stop using this as a way to beat the crap out of Christian men.
To begin with we need to understand that Jesus is giving a whole message (the sermon on the mount) that goes all together. He has just stated that you need to be more righteous than the Pharisees. In other words, they were following the letter of the law and Jesus is saying, “let’s get at the heart of it”. He then basically says, “Here are some examples.” Take out the subtitles – It’s one sermon. (Notice how we don’t have a bunch of messages about anger, oaths, fasting/religious activities etc. and we don’t suggest cutting body parts off.)
Jesus is also not equating looking at a woman with sleeping with her. Without going into all of the Greek here, He is saying the sin of adultery starts before sex. It has more to do with coveting the woman and actually considering how to be with her. In other words, looking at her with the intent to engage in that activity.
Lust is actually not a sexual term per se. It is a term of desire – where it becomes more of coveting of something. I can lust after a lot of things. James clearly writes that desire is not sin. Even sexual desire. Sin can come from evil desire. But it doesn’t have to. The question is, where is your heart. If a person’s heart is not right, that is when the desire (lust) grows into sin.
Jesus is saying it starts in the heart, not that every temptation or thought is equal to committing the sin. This is why Paul writes to take every thought captive. The battle starts in the heart.
Bottom line is – we don’t have to do it. We’ve confused the idea that we will always struggle with SIN with the idea that we will always struggle with a particular sin. But in truth we can grow and have victory over certain sins through Jesus.
So how do we get victory? I will share more about that. But the point here today is that we are not destined to give in to the lusts of our flesh.
What have you been taught about men and sexual desire, lust and sexual sin?