I was seventeen years old when my relationship with Kelly ended. My dreams of romance had ended in compromise, bitterness, and regret. I walked away asking, "Is this how it has to be?" I felt discouraged, confused, and desperate for an alternative to the cycle of short-term relationships in which I found myself. "God," I cried, "I want your best for my life! Give me something better than this!"
God answered that plea, but not in the way I had expected. I thought He'd bring me the ideal girlfriend or totally remove my desire for romance. Instead, He revealed through His Word what it meant to submit my love life to His Will--something I'd never truly done. I wanted God's best but hadn't been willing to play by His rules.
Over the past four years, I've come to understand that God's lordship doesn't merely tinker with my approach to romance--it completely transforms it. God not only wants me to act differently, He wants me to think differently--to view love, purity, and singleness from His perspective, to have a new lifestyle and attitude.
The basis of this new attitude is what I call "smart love." Paul describes this kind of live in Philippians 1:9-10:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge
and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be
pure and blameless until the day of Christ.
Smart love constantly grows and deepens in its practical knowledge and insight; it opens our eyes to see God's best for our lives, enabling us to be pure and blameless in His sight.
The Message paraphrases Philippians 1:9-10 this way: "Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush."
Have you ever been guilty of "sentimental gush," allowing your emotions to dictate the course of a dating relationship? Many people do this. Instead of acting on what they know is right, couples let their feelings carry them away.
I've engaged in my share of sentimental gush. While dating, I made many decisions based on superficiality and ignorance. I could so easily say "I love you" to a girl, feigning selfless devotion, but in truth, selfishness and insincerity motivated me. I was primarily interested in what I could get, such as the popularity a girlfriend could give me or the comfort and pleasure I could gain physically or emotionally from a relationship. I didn't practice smart love. I lived "dumb love"--choosing what felt good for me instead of what was good for others and what pleased God.
To truly love someone with smart love, we need to use our heads as well as our hearts. As Paul describes it, love abounds in knowledge and insight. To "know" something is to understand or grasp it clearly and with certainty. "Insight" is an instance of understanding the true nature of something, the ability to see the motivation behind thoughts and actions.
With this definition in mind, let me ask you a few questions. Does love motivate the guy who sleeps with his girlfriend when it will scar her emotionally and damage her relationship with God? Does sincerity motivate the girl who leads a guy along then breaks up with him when she finds someone better? No! Both people exemplify selfish motivation. They need to "get smart" and realize how their actions affect others.
In recent years, I've tried to let sincere and intelligent love guide me, and as I've done this, I've come to some pretty intense conclusions for my life. I've come to realize that I have no business asking for a girl's heart and affections if I'm not ready to back up my request with a lifelong commitment. Until I can do that, I'd only be using that woman to meet my short-term needs, not seeking to bless her for the long term. Would I enjoy having a girlfriend right now? You bet! But with what I've learned as I've sought God's will for my life, I know that a relationship right now wouldn't be best for me or for the one I'd date. Instead, by avoiding romance before God tells me I'm ready for it, I can better serve girls as a friend, and I can remain free to keep my focus on the Lord.
Knowing What Is Best
Waiting until I'm ready for commitment before pursuing romance is just one example of smart love in action. When our love grows in knowledge we can more readily "discern what is best" for our lives. Don't we all desperately need that discernment?
After all, when we engage in guy-girl relationships, we face some pretty hazy issues. Don't get me wrong--I believe in absolutes. But in dating, we don't only have to make wise choices between absolute wrong and absolute right. We also have to evaluate all parts of our dating relationships to make sure we don't go too far, allowing ourselves to get pulled into something we should avoid.
Here's an example. Let's say that someone at school asks you out. How do you seek guidance about what kind of person you can go out with? Try looking up "dating" in your Bible's concordance. You won't get far. Or maybe you've gone out on a few dates with someone, and you just kissed for the first time. It was exciting. You feel as if you're love. But is it right?
How do we find answers to these questions? This is where "smart love" comes in. God wants us to seek guidance from scriptural truth, not feeling. Smart love looks beyond personal desires and the gratification of the moment. It looks at the big picture: serving others and glorifying God.
"What about me?" you might be asking. "What about my needs?" This is the awesome part: When we make God's glory and other people's needs our priority, we position ourselves to receive God's best in our lives as well. Let me explain.
In the past I made the starting point of my relationship what I wanted instead of what God wanted. I looked out for my needs and fit others into my agenda. Did I find fulfillment? No, I only found compromise and heartache. I not only hurt others, I hurt myself, and, most seriously, I sinned against God.
But when I reversed my attitude and made my main priority in relationship pleasing God and blessing others, I found true peace and joy. Smart love unlocks God's best for our lives. When I stopped viewing girls as potential girlfriends and started treating them as sisters in Christ, I discovered the richness of true friendship. When I stopped worrying about who I was going to marry and began to trust God's timing, I uncovered the incredible potential of serving God as a single. And when I stopped flirting with temptation in one-on-one dating relationship and started pursing righteousness, I uncovered the peace and power that come from purity. I kissed dating goodbye because I found out that God has something better in store!