a love letter

Every week at the end of U-18 training, we have a words of wisdom time. From week one of meeting these precious young women, they have been asking questions about dating. I tried very hard to write something to introduce this letter. Every time I got any words down, I just felt like I was reexplaining everything to come…so instead, I’m simply going to say this: this letter is a love letter to these girls, to all girls, and even to young men; to me, to my friends, and to my brothers…please hear these words, and even if you don’t agree with my opinion on dating, please believe the words that speak the truth of what you were created for.

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Dear Girls,

Happy Valentine’s Day. You have all asked about dating, and I honestly don’t have any answers for you. I can only share what’s been put in my heart on the subject, the things I know to be true, and let you take it and do what you want with it. I have reasons for believing dating is not really a good thing, but even just giving you all a list, isn’t sufficient or helpful. The list doesn’t matter if it’s not in your heart.

I have dated. I dated the same guy for almost two years, starting my senior year of high school. And before that, and after, I went on a few dates here and there. So I have experienced the good and the bad of dating. And from it, and from a lot of prayer, and reading, and conversations with others who’ve dated, and others still who’re married, I’ve come to the conclusion that we were created for so much more than dating, where love is concerned.

I will not tell you that this conviction has made things easy. I will not tell you that I haven’t developed feelings for guys who are in my life before, even without dating. I will not tell you that it has solved a problem, or made me not long to be in a relationship… I will tell you this: It’s hard. It’s hard to be alone, and it’s hard to be different. It’s hard to explain to people why. It’s hard to explain to you all why.

Have you ever heard the term “patient endurance”? It basically means patient waiting and pressing on, even through the hard stuff. Enduring doesn’t really sound fun. But typically there is goodness at the end of whatever we’re enduring. Think about it in terms of soccer. Training to have endurance is hard work. It takes you to the end of your strength and your capacity. But you have to increase your level of endurance, so that when you get to a game, you can last the duration. Enduring in life is the same. There is training involved. It will take you to the end of yourself. There will be good things in the midst of the enduring, and there will be hard things too, just like in soccer. But you want to last; you want to make it the duration. A season of waiting means you must endure the seemingly stagnant daily things, the fear of the thing you’re waiting for never coming, and the tiresome aching in you for whatever it may be. But enduring patiently and faithfully brings reward. It brings blessing. Even in something like dating and marriage.

I know it’s hard to be alone. I know it’s hard when it seems like all, or at least most, of your friends have someone. Please trust me when I say, I know. It can be very lonely. And it can make you ask a lot of questions, like: is something wrong with me? Please hear this: you are not alone, and nothing is wrong with you.

I haven’t lived by rules, and I don’t want you to, but I want you to live by something planted deep inside your heart — something that says you were created for a purpose, for love, for truth, for joy, for hope, for peace and for fullness. I don’t know if many of you believe in the Lord, or have a relationship with Him, or anything, but this is one of the truest things I can tell you, whether you believe it or not (and I hope you choose to): He created you for the type of love that is whole, selfless, patient, sacrificial, filled with humility and hope and endurance. Love that is honest and true. A love filled with trust—so much trust that you would, and could, wisely put your life in someone’s hands. He created you for Himself. He did not create you to be the object of selfishness, lust, lies, deceit, fear, or division. He did not create you for imitation or by accident. True love — the type of love you were created for — can only come from Him. And you will only find it in Him, and in those who are filled with His Spirit. And you know, you may have to wait for it — you may have to wait a long time for it. And waiting may become tiresome; it’s that patient endurance thing again. But “our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for” (Charles Stanley). But waiting doesn’t mean you don’t live fully now. You are not waiting for a man to make you alive. You are alive now. You have been given people to love faithfully right now, gifts to use faithfully right now, and work to do faithfully right now…

And none of this is exclusive to romantic love. This is all types of love. We were made to love and be loved. The young man you marry some day, was created for the same love you were. It’s so easy to only see today, and the near future. It’s hard to see how our lives right now will lead us into what’s to come. It’s hard to see how the decision I make about dating or being with a guy today, could effect a completely different guy 5 or 10 or 15 years down the road. But it can. And it will effect you. You are being prepared right now for where you are going tomorrow, and the next day. In life, and in love…

I have to pray. I need to. And I pray for whoever I may marry, the men my friends will marry someday, the men (and women) the kids I hang out with will marry, my brother’s future wives, etc. And I’m praying for each of you, and the men you may someday marry as well. I hope you can each hear this, not as a demand or a rule or something to make you feel bad, but as something from the heart of someone who believes you were created for more than what you (or I) can see right now — as something from the heart of a girl who, not too long ago, was where you are, and still, everyday struggles with this very thing.

I am so very thankful for each one of you.

Love,

Ellie

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