As I’ve stated before, I grew up in a non-Christian home. I lived with both of my parents until I was 8 years old, then I lived primarily with my dad and two older brothers after they divorced. Most of my information about love and dating came from middle school and/or high school boys (my brothers) or my dad, who, well… isn’t exactly a role model in this area. In fact, he would be the antithesis of a role model on nearly all matters of relating to the opposite gender. I’m not sure I could come anywhere close to counting the number of ladies that he displayed affection for during my growing up years, or the havoc that fact (and many other facts that don’t necessarily belong smack dab in the middle of my love story) wreaked on my perception of dating.
Couple this with the fact that I have an incredibly high need for physical affection, that my home life resembled something that should leave me laid up on a shrink’s couch at least 3 times a week for the remainder of my years here on Earth, and that I was more or less absent of mother figure in my day to day life, and you can gain a little perspective into my whacked out view of dating during my teenage years.
I had my first boyfriend in fifth grade. All we did was play tether ball and hold hands once. He dumped me for my best friend shortly after. I had one boyfriend in sixth grade—he was my first kiss and it was decidedly gross. I still can’t believe I wasted my first kiss on him! My first boyfriend in jr. high was a boy who kissed me on the cheek on the playground in kindergarten, but who went off to a different elementary school than I did. So, we did what any smart jr. higher would do and rekindled that romance when we finally ended up back at the same school. He asked me to the Valentine’s dance and then broke up with me IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DANCE! Talk about crushing an almost 13 year-olds heart! But, during that dance I was consoled by dancing with what would become the guy I refer to as my high school sweetheart.
When I started dating him I initially didn’t think it would last more than a couple of weeks. If I remember right I said yes to being his girlfriend so he’d stop pestering me about it. Gotta love jr. high! It didn’t take long for him to grow on me though. We continued to date on again off again (though mostly on) for the next three and a half years and continued a significant friendship for the remainder of high school.
While we were dating we more or less acted like an old married couple. I was absolutely certain I’d marry him. I was pretty sure I’d marry him long after we broke up even, despite the fact that we both dated plenty of other people.
I regret the fact that I gave so much of my heart and my life to him, though I see how God used that relationship so significantly during that time in my life. He was my constant best friend during a very tumultuous time in my life. My home life was falling apart around me, and his wasn’t much better so we clung to each other during those years. I am convinced that our dating spared me from making some really stupid choices during those unstable, peer-pressure driven, hormonally whacked out early teen years. Though, it also caused me to make some choices that I had no idea at the time I would later terribly regret. It sounds like a cop-out to say I didn’t know any better. But truly, I didn’t.
After we broke up I had a series of mostly insignificant high school relationships, with a few significant ones that spanned my senior year of high school and the beginning of my freshman year of college. The funny thing was I vividly remember always knowing who my next boyfriend would be in high school—even while I was still going out with whomever the flame of the month was. I jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend, terrified of being alone. And I seemed to be pretty good at getting what I wanted because most of the objects of my affection ended up being boyfriends at some stage or another.
I was a strong, competent, “I am woman-hear-me-roar” kind of gal. Though extremely short in stature (just shy of 5-feet tall), I was fierce in determination. When I got my sights set on something (or someone) there wasn’t a lot that would stand in my way.
Most of my relationships were dysfunctional though—wrought with unfaithfulness, manipulation, game play and naturally, heartache. Looking back, I can see how ridiculous each of these relationships was. I sincerely wish I would have spent my time, money and energy on things that mattered like friendships, studies and extra-curricular and volunteer opportunities.
Luckily, though, I’ve always had a pretty strong moral compass. I can’t say I left those multitudes of relationships with my purity fully in tact, but I can say I came out relatively unscathed given complete lack of supervision I had and the number of guys without a strong moral compass that I had relationships with during those years. I can look back and see so many ways that God protected me, and for that, I am incredibly grateful!
So to be in this place now, this place of complete surrender to God and his will for my life and my dating future—was surreal. For me to be in a place where my desire to protect the hearts of these two guys instead of taking control of my own destiny and future was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. To be in a place where I would gladly lay down my desires and affections if that was God’s will for me—was priceless.
It was this stage of my life that showed me that God’s plan and desire for my life was so much richer and more full of peace than any plan I could craft for myself.
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