"I am not dating until I'm at least eighteen."
He crossed his arms. "So how are you going to know how to date then?"
"Now is the time to cultivate good friendships," I looked him straight in the eye, "and when the time comes I will know what I want. I don't need to "practice" dating."
A year has already passed since my discussion with the high school freshmen from a nearby academy. I didn't understand where he was coming from at the time, or how he had gotten such nonsense into his head at the age of fourteen.
It was months later when I became involved in the academy music program. Quickly I came to the realization that so great was the pressure to pursue a dating relationship that a young person would be fighting an uphill battle in order to remain "single" during the high school years. I repeatedly saw dating relationships and flirtations revolving around me, and this was a striking contrast to what I had always known.
Some dating couples looked somewhat innocent.
"Guess what?" a friendly elementary student looked up at my face, "I have a BF! He's in the locker right now."
I turned to see a stout boy attempting to free himself of the heavy locker door. A small group of kids nearby mischievously giggled as he yelled. I honestly didn't know what to say. She was so happy and joyful, and now I wonder how many tears will spill - or have already - when the boy "breaks up" with her. Some time later I overheard a conversation between her boyfriend and several others, in which they counseled him to "drop at least one of his three dating relationships." I couldn't call that an innocent little dating relationship - the feelings that young Becky experienced were real - and even if her boyfriend didn't care, she would feel pain and loss.
And then there is the opposite extreme of the "school boy/girl" relationships.
"I'm going to re-read "I Kissed Dating Good-bye" again," my homeschooled friend Amber leaned over to me at the potluck table one Sabbath day. We had just gotten back from a performance with the choir and were grabbing a bite to eat.
I smiled. "I've read it twice already."
"You read what?" Silvia, a sophomore, leaned over to hear our conversation.
Hesitating, I wondered what her reaction would be to this book that spoke so strongly against the very mistake she was making by dating at fifteen.
"I Kissed..." my voice faded, studying her face.
"...Dating Good-bye," Amber finished for me.
Silvia slightly turned away with expressionless features, and then back again. "I read the first chapter, and I think it emphasizes the negatives of dating rather than the positives," she replied.
I scooted my chair forward, sensing a lull in the table conversation and realizing that this may be an opportunity to share my convictions.
"So do you believe the positives of dating outweigh the negatives?" I asked carefully, fully aware that I was treading on a thin sheet of ice. Every young person around me at the table (excluding Amber) was either in a dating relationship or "liked" someone.
"Well I believe dating has had a great positive effect on me," Jessica, a recent high school graduate joined the conversation. Silvia willingly let the eighteen-year-old answer my question. "I've had other dating relationships before this one, and they have greatly strengthened my character," she continued.
Her sixteen-year-old boyfriend stood nearby, pushing buttons on her new iPod.
"But doesn't it hurt - when you break up?" I asked.
"Not anymore. It has greatly strengthened me."
Strengthened this girl - what about hardened her? Had she seriously come to the point in which breaking up didn't hurt anymore? How could anyone be proud of that?
People had begun to move away and clean up after the potluck, but Silvia and I kept up a conversation.
"Do you think that the majority of the relationships here at this school are serious? Do you think people really intend to marry the person that they are dating?" I asked.
"You can tell who is serious, and who isn't," she replied.
We rose from the table and sauntered to the side of the gymnasium.
"Well for myself, personally, I will wait, and when I do begin to "date," you can be sure that I'll be serious," I carefully let her know my convictions.
"I don't want to be like," I lowered my voice, "Jessica, for instance, who has become so calloused to her feelings that it doesn't hurt anymore."
I wished that I could tell them what a big mistake they were making, but I knew they wouldn't listen. Caught up with the endless roller coaster of crushes, flirtations, going out, and breaking up, these young people were wasting precious time that could have been used instead to bring honor and glory to God. The sad thing is one day when these people get married, they will be so accustomed (as was Jessica)to guard themselves against hurt and pain, that it may take a struggle to place their heart in the hands of their spouse - if they had much of it left at all.
God looks upon us with great love and tenderness, and His heart must hurt Him when we make the wrong choice. As much as He wants to guide our hearts, He can't if we don't let Him. The world's dating scheme doesn't have to be ours - we can stay uninvolved in the first place, and someday - in God's timing - we can approach a healthy, godly, relationship knowing that we have the Lord's blessing.
I applaud my friends who want something better than what the world offer, who choose to keep their hearts whole and pure for the person God has planned for them. I admire you for winning an “uphill battle” against the popular trends of the time by choosing God’s way and waiting for His ultimate plan to be perfected in you.
The ultimate purpose in life is to serve God and to spread the gospel. There is no loosing when it comes to following Him. Won't you trust your heart in His hands?