Live Differently & Date Differently

I grew up hearing a lot about the modern day concept of courtship. 

It was refashioned to be a safer alternative to dating. In courtship there were/are rules placed around couples to protect purity, unwise emotional entanglement, & to keep from broken hearts. 

You're most likely not from circles who mainly practiced the concept of modern-day courtship, but maybe you've heard of it & you're wondering what it's all about because that words sounds pretty ancient & old-fashioned & just plain weird. 

Maybe you've been in the dating realm for awhile & its led to a lot of pain & heartbreak & you do desire a better way of doing things and the idea of courtship sounds pretty good right about now. Rules & regulations sound like a mighty fine idea to your wounded heart. 

Maybe you're a little younger & you're eager to start dating and the whole concept of having a boyfriend or girlfriend sounds pretty awesome.

Maybe you are from those circles that practiced courtship & you've found yourself throwing "the baby out with the bath water" because courtship was held up to such a standard that it was a real disappointment when all the rules didn't keep you from heartbreak. 

Because its true; rules & formulas do not take away the risk that is involved in relationships, whether you call it dating or not.

As with many things, people tend to swing from one extreme to the other when they've seen the bad in something. They create safeguards to keep themselves and others from further hurt or mistakes. And those things can be great unless its built only on rules & only on safeguards that do not factor in a mutual desire from two people to practice godly relationships & honor of one another.

Many of our parents swung to the extreme which became hyper-courtship. 

Now our generation, my generation, is swinging to the opposite extreme & going back to serial dating & trying the opposite sex on like a pair of new jeans, often exchanging them for a new, better looking fit in the next week or month or year. 

I've had to learn from my own past relationships that formulas & rules do not have guarantees. They do not keep you pure. They do not keep you from getting your heart broken. They do not take the place of two people desiring in their hearts to seek living out a God-honoring relationship. 

In order to have a godly relationship you must have two godly people in that relationship. 

Those two people must desire purity. Those two people must desire accountability. Those two people must desire counsel. Those two people must desire boundaries. Those two people will only build their relationship on Christ if their individual lives are built on Christ. 

I have heard of many couples who practiced every courtship rule to a T & still ended up with broken & unhealthy marriages. 

I have seen the same happen in dating.

Rules & formulas do not equal a godly relationship & future marriage. 

My heart is especially tender towards those guys & gals who have made mistakes in past or current relationships & desire to see the gospel once again shine through for them in the area of relationships. I hope that this article gives you courage to stop right where you are & ask yourself hard questions & dare to live differently & as a result, date differently.

Relationships & dating can be one of the trickiest things for us as singles to figure out & its the area I feel holds the most temptation, disappointment, and frustration. But its also one of the areas that we can discover so much beauty, sanctification, redemption, provision, & learn to lean into Christ & His wisdom & trust Him more than we ever have.

I want to highlight five different areas that we need to be most vigilant in & we need to pray most about in relationships & will drastically change the way you practice those relationships. Keep in mind that vigilance in these areas is the result of two people that are putting Christ first & putting flesh to death. They are not "rules" with step-by-step how-to's, they are biblical inspired principles & things to seek the Lord in & accept biblical counsel in. 

Whether or not you call it courtship or dating doesn't matter. I prefer to call it neither. Rather I refer to it as pursuing a godly, Christ-centered, relationship. 

It is time to throw off the stigma of titles for different types of relationships. 

It's time to stop believing that rules & formulas (or the lake thereof) will prove to create godly & world-changing relationships & marriages for Christ.

Read the rest of my post Live Differently & Date Differently by visiting the Pillars of Grace blog here!

Recognizing An Abusive Relationship

I sat around a table of ten young women, all beautiful, all with beautiful personalities, all with unique gifts & talents, all lovers of Jesus, all single. 

It was the most refreshed & encouraged I've been in a long time in regards to the topic of singleness, and I think I can speak for Hannah, too.

Even on the drive home there was a stark difference from the drive on my way to the church where the Hard Love series is being held. I drove home excited, encouraged, refreshed, and not feeling as alone in this season as we so often do. 

I dated out of hopelessness for a very long time.

I had never heard of this term before last night until the speaker, Rebekah, introduced it. She talked about five major symptoms of dating out of hopelessness and I found myself resounding with every point, but one in particular really stood out to me. 

I'm not sure if the speaker meant to refer to abuse, but she touched on the fact that dating out of hopelessness causes us not to leave when we should. We are not able to pick up our "bags" & say enough is enough & I'm done.

This point is important because as we've seen lately in this #metoo trend, abuse, emotional & physical, hides in the shadows & goes unnoticed & unrecognized even by the people who are in the abusive relationships.

Singleness can be really hard. It can be really lonely. And it can cause us to lower the standard, settle, & be involved in relationships we shouldn't be, if we aren't careful. 

It causes us to stay in relationships, accept things, we never thought we would. And it can also go a lot deeper, become a lot darker, than the missing checkmarks on our "list" of non-negotiables.

Abuse doesn't have to be physical. Abuse can be the slow wearing away of who you are by another person. Degradation, anger, silence, control, manipulation.

The two lies that I have believed about myself and the two lies that have caused me to stay in emotionally abusive situations are these:

- The problems that arise in relationships & the emotional abuse that follows is my fault. 
And because it's my fault they have every right to treat me that way. I've gotta get it together.

I know without a doubt some of you have either made these same excuses in the past or are currently making them now. I know, its uncomfortable to face the fact that you might be in an abusive relationship, but please, keep reading if any part of you desires freedom.

Let's be clear: every relationship has its ups and downs & every person you will ever be with has their weaknesses, but I think you know exactly what I mean when it becomes mistreatment & abuse. You always know deep down when the treatment you're receiving isn't right.

The kind of mistreatment and abuse that causes you to make excuses like: 

I'll stay because I don't believe there's anyone better or I deserve anything better. 
What he says about me is probably true & I need to work on those things. 
I'm scared to leave because it's going to hurt. 

I'm in this relationship too deep. 
He has issues that
stem from past relationships or childhood hurt & I've gotta be the one to stick around & love him like Jesus. 
I can't give up because things will get better & it'll be this beautiful redemption love story.
He says he's a Christian.

He's my best friend.
I don't want to be alone. 
He says he's sorry.
I don't want to be single.

I know because I've made every single one of these excuses. I've stayed for far too long, undergone emotional abuse, sought to change the essence of who I was to receive approval & acceptance, and began to forget the worth that God has assigned to me. 

Rebekah said something very interesting:

"You will feel empowered after you have made the decision to walk away. It is not a decision that you will necessarily feel empowered to do before you do it."

That's right; there's no excuses for staying. There's no waiting till things get better. If I was face-to-face with you, I would tell you exactly what I'm going to tell you now: walk away.

When Rebekah said that, it reminded me of how I felt when I knew that I needed to walk away from my abusive relationship. I knew, lying on that cold floor, breath coming in short gasps, that I had to make the hard decision, but the best decision. And Rebekah is right; I didn't feel empowered or free before I made that decision, and I didn't even feel empowered right after. It took me awhile to see how very free I really was. 

And you may wonder: how in the heck did I follow through with what I knew was best & turn it into actually making that decision to walk away? How did I pick myself up off the floor, literally, and see past the pain to do what was right?

I cried out to Jesus in those painful moments, hours, & days. He was there so vividly & He brought back to mind the promises that I had always known & enabled my hurting heart to actually believe them. The promise that Jesus is enough. The truth that His plans for me were, are, good & that He desired something so much better for me even if I couldn't see it then. The truth that I have value even though I have flaws. The truth that my heart is priceless. The truth that my body, my emotions, me as a whole, were brought with a price. 

I discovered God's Fatherhood, His faithfulness, in a more real way than I ever had in my entire life & now looking back, I still don't feel empowered. I just stand in awe of God's power & redemption. The power that He wielded through me to walk away.

And He can do that for you, too.

This post is to shake you, us, from our stupor. Its to name the why behind our propensity to unhealthy and abusive relationships. It's to say girls, you are worth more & what Jesus says about you is true & you can walk away. It's to say yes you might be lonely for a little while, and it might hurt like heck, but Jesus is enough. 

The biggest lesson I have learned through the mistakes I made in relationships is just that; Jesus is enough. It sounds cliche but its really really true. It's the only thing that enabled me to end bad relationships when I was literally on my hands & knees before Jesus making what felt like the hardest decision I'd ever had to make. It was the truth that healed my aching heart & answered all of my questions afterwards in the long nights and days. It's the only thing that enables me to believe, really believe, that even if I never get married & know earthly love, Jesus is enough & He is good. 

I reject the belief that you have to do and be in order for you to be in a good relationship & to say I do to a good & Jesus loving man. What I mean by that is I reject the belief that you have to perform, change, or hide to have the relationship that God desires for us to have if its His will for us to marry.

Gosh, yes, there are things we need to grow in, areas we need to mature in, sinful behaviors we need to nip in the bud with Jesus' gracious help, BUT the answer to all of that is to love Jesus most with our time, our talents, our hearts & our souls. When you do that, you walk through what's called sanctification (being made holy) & you change & you grow & mature in all the best and necessary ways. The ways that Jesus wants you to. 

But there is never any reason or excuse for mistreatment & abuse. 

Run from and say no to any relationship or marriage that isn't a reflection of the selfless, kind, pursuing, & gentle love of our Savior shown to us. 

You are God's workmanship, creation, purposed to reflect him. You are known, loved, valued. You are enough, you are whole, single or not. Your heart is precious & held by a perfect Father.

Girls, wherever you're at now, in an abusive relationship or not, cling to these truths. If you seek to see yourself the way God does, it will be easier to see what He desires for you in a relationship and marriage. It will be much easier to turn & walk the other direction when there are signs of abuse & in turn, walk away even when you're in deep. 

I promise, Jesus is enough. 

- Jenn