Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Story

Pride and Prejudice, 2005
I’ve been writing this story since before I started this blog and now I think I can finally post it. It’s been alluded to in many posts, especially my earlier ones. For a long time, I held back in telling this story because of own pain and not knowing for sure what was going to happen. I also wanted to protect my friend Jason’s privacy. Just reading it over again still hurts a little.

“A book by the name of Emotional Purity came out several years back; I purchased and read it, at about the age of fourteen. My ideals were being shaped at that age, for I also bought at the same time, Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliott. And, I had in my possession, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy meets Girl by Joshua Harris, and The Dating Trap by Martha Rupert. At first read, Emotional Purity seemed to have its philosophy straight and I agreed with much of what it said. Then when I was sixteen, I began to reexamine my foolproof system and the books that had influenced my thinking. No book was safe from my sharp critique and I found many flaws in the teaching they presented; in Emotional Purity especially.” Part 1, Let It Be = Love3

Now, what I didn’t explain in Let it Be = Love3 was the reason why I began rethinking my trust in the formulas prescribed by I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Emotional Purity, and various speakers in the homeschool realm. At the time, it was all still too fresh and too painful. Here’s the story…
When I was fifteen, I began e-mailing a good guy friend of mine who lived in another state. Let’s call him Jason. He and I had many similar interests and ideals, we were both homeschooled, and both of our parents thought that courtship was the way to handle relationships. Jason and I were friends and had been all our lives but there was always a little something special between us and that began to blossom over the next 10 or so months. We e-mailed everyday and we saw each other several times that year during family visits and our friendship grew deeper and deeper. I knew I was in love with him and knew that he likely felt the same way about me―some feelings can be exchanged with looks and words are not necessary. Then, all at once, the day after Christmas, he wrote and told me that he thought we should stop e-mailing. He said it didn’t line up with the Josh Harris books and the Little Bear Wheeler tapes (i.e. Dating is No Game tape set) he’d been listening to and thinking over. We were still technically “friends” and so applying these ideas to a “friendship” didn’t really work or make sense. I was completely confused. I asked him to call me and he did… but only after his mom called my mom and made it clear that the correspondence was over. No discussion, no chance for hope. It was over. Talk about feeling like Mr. Bingley!

Pride and Prejudice, 1995
When I was able to talk to Jason, we stayed on the phone for a really long time and he sounded so sad. He mentioned Emotional Purity and the Little Bear tapes but didn’t really have a coherent argument. Then, it was over. I cried myself to sleep for several nights afterwards and spent the next few months trying to figure out what had gone wrong. At first, I blamed myself. I blamed my parents. But then, I realized who (and what) was to blame. Upon closer examination and from what I know now of Jason and his family, his parents must have decided that I wasn’t right for their son. Or they thought he was “feeling” too much because love is a deadly sin. (*rolls eyes*) So they made him stop e-mailing me…likely by making him confused and guilty about it.

"Do you deny it, Mr. Darcy? That you separated a young couple who loved each other, exposing your friend to the censure of the world for caprice and my sister to its derision for disappointed hopes, and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind?" - Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley), Pride and Prejudice, 2005

As the years went on and Jason and I saw each other again from time to time… he grew more and more distant from me. I don’t even know him now. The person that he has become is not the young man I loved. But that’s another story entirely.

It was after this experience that I realized that the books and formulas weren’t working and didn’t work. In fact, they could even be used as ammunition to ruin friendships or allow parents to manipulate relationships. Even Josh Harris is aware of this possibility and mentioned it in Boy Meets Girl. I wanted to burn my books but ended up putting them in a box in the basement.

“Writers of these type of books need to be blatantly's okay to "flower-up" a novel but writers shouldn't flower-up real life...and they need to state over and over that this is just one story and that everyone's story will be different. I'm tired of the authors never saying that. Why? Because I'm concerned that young people (or their parents) take these stories and believe that their (or their children's) future will or should look like that...and that belief, I know from experience, can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes, people who are married forget how much singles hang on every word in these books and stories...they need to remember what it felt like to be 14 and impressionable.” - Re: Let it Be = Love3

Something that has bothered me since the whole thing went down is the fact that instead of being concerned that our relationship lined up with the Bible and the words of Jesus, Jason was only concerned about how our relationship related to I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Emotional Purity, and the thoughts of Little Bear Wheeler. When we allow books, speakers, music, or anyone other than Jesus Christ to be our guidance for life, we have strayed from the truth. The next time you want advice, don’t pick up a book or listen to a tape… read the Bible and pray.

The ideals of the courtship movement were indeed to blame for what happened to me and by the summer, I knew I didn’t want anyone else to be as misled as I had been. So I started this blog. Without those ridiculous theories, Jason and I would likely have dated or at least talked about dating instead of dancing around the subject and acting like nothing was happening because it was a “sin” to fall in love at 15. Perhaps he would have broken up with me and then at least I would have known the boundaries and rules I had to follow. As it was, after it broke off, I wasn’t sure if we were still friends or… what? Courtship’s ideals can create a very unnatural strain and lack of openness between young people themselves and in their interaction with their parents. For some reason, in a courtship mindset, parents seem shocked to discover that their teenager actually has romantic feelings for a guy/girl and forget that crushes and young love are common. This stuff is all normal! The shutting off of emotions only causes confusion, guilt, anger, and pain and it’s not right to expect perfection from another human being.

Another thing…don’t be afraid to suffer. I never sought out these trials but I learned to accept them when they came. God will allow you to be tested at some point and He may choose to do it with a relationship. Sure, if I'd followed all the principles of those books I'd be a safe, happy, girl, (well maybe) who has never had her heart broken.

But I wouldn’t have learned anything either.

Now, I'm a strong, content, young woman who had her heart broken and has found that it's been glued back together with no more than a little scar. I'm happy for my sufferings, because God used them to teach me more than any safe times ever could have. I took a risk—got hurt—but ended up with wonderful blessings.

And I'd never trade those wonderful years of friendship with Jason for all the so-called "safety" that emotional purity brings. Love can be painful but it is also fun and beautiful in its time.

Why post this?

I want to help parents not to make the mistake Jason’s parents made and I want to help young people in the same situation. This is my way of saying, you're not alone. God's with you and there are others with similar heartaches or who have had them. You're not the only one.

This word to parents, don't ever take matters of the heart into your hands. Give them to God. Don’t lock your child into a box of perfection. Look for the good in people. Pray and pray some more. This is why I wrote Seeking Perfection. Don't ever put your child or the person of their choice through what Jason and I went through. In most cases, if you've taught your children correctly, they will not disappoint you. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." —Proverbs 22:6. Trust God.

This word to young people, if you love someone…don't be afraid to show it. I'm not talking about infatuation. I'm talking about love and if you're ever in love, you’ll know what I mean. Don't take anything for granted, that's one of the things that God has taught me through this. You've got to live, laugh, and love while you can…because tomorrow everything could be gone forever.

And now, it honestly doesn’t matter. I’ve moved on and I’m interested in another guy. God is bigger than all of these things that have happened to me and He has sustained me through all of them. I’m glad he saw fit to test me and show me that I am to trust in Him alone―not live by self-help books and formulas. It doesn’t matter that Jason and I don’t speak now or that his parents turned him against me. In the light of eternity, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter when people attack me or accuse me of things I didn’t say or do…. Life is too short. I still pray for Jason and his family. I hope that they will find peace and freedom as they walk with Christ.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13.


1 comment:

Joanna Marie said...

This is a great post, and great thoughts. These "ideals" for "pure relationships" may seem good in theory, but in practice only lead to unnatural guy/girl relationships.

What worked for Josh Harris will not work for everyone, or even the majority of everyone. Not that he is the only one pushing the "courtship" ideal, or the worst view of it. But there really is no "right" or "godly" way to go about a relationship. If you are not sinning (based on the BIBLE'S definitions of sin!), then there is no wrong way.