From the time I was a little girl, I knew I was meant to be a mother. My greatest fear, other than the dark, at nine years old, was that I would die before I would marry and have children. I made my list of “must-have qualities” for my future spouse and hoped and prayed that such a man existed. To be completely honest, in the beginning, a lot of guys existed that met my simple-minded criteria, but with each new crush or Lifetime movie that aired on TV, my list stretched and evolved into one that vaguely resembled my 1980-something list! Thank God too, or else I would have ended up with someone like Dukes of Hazard’s hottie, Bo Duke played by John Schneider (not that there’s anything wrong with a flannel wearing, muscle-car jumping, justice fighter!!!). Ironically, I did marry a Schneider. I like to think of this as God’s nod my way!
The good Lord was kind to me by bringing Dennis into my life when He did because I was starting to fret no one would want me, the real me. I was 18, so this thought now, seems utterly ridiculous! Thinking through some of the false beliefs that plagued me back then and the actions I took in response slay me now. In hindsight, I still would have married Dennis because he is such a remarkable man of God and loves me better than I love him, but I would have done things differently—correction, not “things”, EVERYTHING differently. I learned so much about myself, about the beauty of God’s redemptive grace and forgiveness, and so much more that it has 100% changed how I look at dating, my own daughters, and their suitors! To date myself and to channel yet another 80’s TV program, The A-Team, “I pity the fool” who desires to date my daughter! (I’m totally laughing at myself!!!)
Actually, I don’t! Dennis has jokingly said to the girls on multiple occasions,
“God and I will get together and let you know when we’ve found a man worthy of you. Until then, stop looking”.
I don’t want my girls to settle for less than God’s best for them and because they, or at least one of them, is boy crazy like her mama was, I know how easy it is to overlook some traits, justify others, and imagine others are seeds just ready to spring into existence. I know red flags when I see them, quite possibly because they look a little like long-lost friends!
So over the course of the next few weeks, I will be writing a short series of letters to the boy(s) my daughters will someday date. Of course, I will not actually give these letters to the boys. They will serve more as a communication tool for my girls.
Dear Boy Dating Our Daughter,
Before we even met you, we liked you. We liked you because you saw something of great value in our daughter. Sure, her twinkly brown eyes and darling dimples drew you in the moment you saw her. Her readily, contagious, boisterous laugh where you can literally see all her teeth at one time– and even, if you’re close enough—and you’ve no right to be yet—see that she still has her tonsils, made you want to know what her secret is to genuine happiness.
You’ve seen that she’s strong, determined, and will stand up for herself and for justice at all costs and in the next moment you’ve seen her giddy “as if carried by the wings of euphoria”. She’s a dreamer and adventurer, while being grounded in logic and reality. She loves to push the limits, but also has unfathomable respect for the rules. She loves deeply and quickly all whom she allows into her small, guarded world. She is the perfect balance of tenderness and strength. You see that. You like that. And it scares the crap out of us…because we have to trust you. We have to trust that you’re going to protect her heart. And that means putting her needs ahead of your own. This is hard and sometimes doesn’t seem fair. You’ve no reason to believe us, but we promise, she’s worth it! She really is. We hope you can not only live with that, but find joy in living a warrior’s life.
One of the things that scare us about you dating our daughter is that relationships often begin based on physical attraction, affecting all our senses. And as wonderful as that is—and it is, it leaves a relationship incomplete; empty. If you base your relationship solely on physical attraction, your relationship will only be as deep as that beauty. It will be pretty…but shallow. We want more for our daughter. We want more for you.
You might not hear many parents say this, but we really want you to get to know our girl from the inside out. This takes time, lots of time. We will give it to you freely. We will not hold you back. We will encourage and support this relationship, but also, like a new bowler, we will put bumpers in place, in hopes to guide your relationship towards its absolute best, not as a way to confine you. It takes spiritual discernment and objectivity to understand and genuinely know a person’s character and spiritual nature, so it is our hope that you take the time necessary to know what makes her heart tick (her innermost beliefs, goals, dreams, desires) and that you will encourage and challenge her to grow to new heights. We desire that she’ll do that for you as well. Relationships grow and change, morph and stretch. When they don’t, they’re in trouble. We’re rooting for you! Don’t get into trouble.
On that note, you have no idea just how much we have prayed for you over the years (since her infancy). We know you have your own story, joys, struggles, pains, and past. You will find no judgement here because we know these things have chiseled and deeply etched your heart, bringing to the forefront a character that otherwise may not have been revealed. It is our hope for you, let alone our girl, that your story is being manifested in holiness, honesty, morality, temperance, and commitment. In short, that you are in the process of becoming the man God destined you to be. Not for our girl’s sake, but for yours.
We should not have to remind you that she is a princess; flawed, certainly, but her identity cannot be found in those flaws, but more so in Who Christ she says she is–and He calls her daughter! If you do not see that, then it was nice knowing you. I realize that sounds harsh, but life is too short to hope and pray that one day you will see her value. She is worth more, far more, than you are able to see right now. If you do see her as a princess, you know that her virtue is her gift to you and her character is meant to compliment yours. These are only two of the three foundational pieces in which to begin building a relationship. The third? Gosh, we hope we don’t have to tell you!
Faith! You cannot, cannot have a healthy and lasting relationship without Christ being in the center. Ecclesiastics 4:12 points out that “…a cord of three stands is not quickly broken”. Living out your faith together will draw you closer together than any other thing in the world. And not to keep quoting scripture, but Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. It is our hope that the two of you cultivate a beautiful, intimate relationship with Christ and live your faith out loud. We pray that you would stand by one another as you both pursue all that God has in store for you as individuals and as a couple, and that you would be obedient to Him first and foremost. No guy or girl is ever worth compromising your faith! If she pulls you away from Christ in any way, kick her to the curb. Clearly, she isn’t ready for you!
Genuine faith brings forth a servant’s heart and is quick to give to others, go the extra mile, offer help, volunteer in the face of need. Having a servant’s heart is one that lives to give–for others; never for self or to gain. We live to this standard—however, imperfectly. Pastor and author Tommy Nelson says it perfectly when he says, “A godly person with active faith, who is quick to serve has the full stamp of approval by God”. If this is how you live your life, you too, have our approval!
We want the best for our daughter. We want the best for you, too. And to both of you, we would advise that you don’t settle for less than God’s best for you. If our girl is not meant to be your someday-wife, that’s OK. We are not putting the cart before the horse here at all! Gosh no! But we would ask that you keep in mind that one day she will be someone’s wife, someone’s mother. How you treat her, speak to her, show her love and respect—she will take with her into each of those relationships. You will be part of her story. If you eventually part ways, leave her better than you found her; leave her believing in herself a little more, and ultimately, leave her a little closer to Christ. But we hope you won’t leave her—because we kind of like you too!
The Girl You’re Dating’s Parents
Like I mentioned in the preface, I am not really sending this letter to my daughters’ significant others. How mortifying would that be for them?!!! This letter hardly scratches the surface of all I would like to communicate to such suitors, but it begins the important conversations.
I would love to hear your stories, the advice your parents gave you, the advice you wished your parents gave you. What would you tell your own son/daughter about dating?