Hook Ups and the Whole Person
3 Dating Considerations for Christian Parents & Young People
When I was in my early 20s, I experienced several dating situations in my life which eventually left me extremely confused. I had spent the last five years dating different guys on and off with little to no success. It was not that I was overly “picky” or had a “list” of qualities where a guy needed to check off all these boxes. I was genuinely going out with some young men of character who loved and honored the Lord.
Then, there was one particular circumstance which resulted in deep heartbreak. I had hoped for the “Disney Princess ending” with this guy, but the scenario ended up making my life sound much more like Taylor Swift’s anthem: “Baby now, we got bad blood… Now we got problems, and I don’t think we can solve them.” Because of multiple misunderstandings, he and I left on terrible terms; and her songs seemed to embody the frustration and sadness of the story.
I felt angry, devastated, confused, and vowed to never allow myself to feel again because of the intangible, bleeding wounds that permeated my inward being. I kept wondering: what did I do wrong this time? What did I do wrong all those other times?
Looking back, I realize I lacked some basic knowledge about myself, poorly communicated, and was trying to “date” in an already confused culture. I had grown up reading books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (which Joshua Harris has now asked be removed from publication) and other resources that were unhelpful as I attempted, and frequently failed, to navigate these waters with any available insight.
If I could share with parents and young people three things that could possibly prepare them for this season, prevent potential pain, and provide practical insight, here’s what I’d highlight:
- Understand You are a Whole Person, Physically
God created us holistic creatures. We are both body and soul. The pursuit of a spouse is sacred, and with that, we cannot forget that God created us as physiological beings. When considering attraction and dating, it can be helpful for young people to understand what is happening with their hormones when they are attracted to the opposite sex.
Dopamine is a hormone released when a person experiences something good or pleasurable. It exists as the reward center of the brain. Although it is not exclusive to sex, dopamine often occurs when someone feels an emotional connection or physical attraction to someone else. Also, Serotonin is hormone associated with serenity, peace, and a feeling of calm. These two hormones can be prevalent even during the “crush phase” of attraction and throughout different stages of dating as two people bond with one another.
Oxytocin is one of the hormones present in a woman during childbirth and breastfeeding. This hormone creates a sense of “bondedness.” It’s known as the love and cuddle hormone. Interestingly, increases of oxytocin over time can result in a person being blinded to the negative aspects of the relationship.
Notably, the brain is not fully developed until a person is 25 years old. Many of the highs and lows a person experiences while dating (or even just when a person is simply attracted to someone) or during a breakup is directly related to how God designed our physical make-up. We cannot reduce dating to a physiological phenomenon; however, we can better understand ourselves in light of how God created specific parts of us to function. With this basic physiological understanding, we can recognize that emotions and feelings are just a part of who we are as whole beings made in the image of God.
- Understand the “Hook-Up” Culture and Have a Plan
We have to comprehend the culture we are living in as Christians. I recently watched two phenomenal documentaries related to the “hook-up” culture called “Liberated” and the “The Dating Project.” “Liberated” puts on full display the nature of the hook-up culture in which America’s young people operate. This documentary shows the devastating effects and consequences it is having on the upcoming generation. “Liberated” expresses how the world’s way of viewing sex is both empty and destructive. It’s particularly helpful for understanding why a healthy approach to dating is necessary for Christians to develop.
More specifically tailored toward dating, “The Dating Project” offers the best practical advice I’ve seen for young people on this topic. It includes the fabulous Dr. Kerry Cronin who gives her students an assignment at Boston College where students must go on an actual date. Cronin gives particular guidelines for the date—explaining that students must have a plan, ask someone out in person, keep the first date under $10 and 90 minutes, and have no more than 3-4 questions prepared for the date.
Dr. Cronin offers insightful communication techniques and tells her students to move on if there is evidence the other person is not interested in committing. This documentary is a MUST see and will help the next generation have practical tools in their arsenal when considering how to date well in the present culture. It’s not explicitly Christian, but many of Cronin’s suggestions directly align with a biblical worldview.
- Understand You are a Whole Person, Spiritually
We do not want to isolate the idea of purity simply to sexuality; however, we must remember that we are whole beings. God’s presence dwells in us in a supernatural way. Dr. Yeo, a professor at Southwestern, explains this by stating: “Your bodies are local addresses for the Holy Spirit.”
Scripture talks about how our bodies are actual temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20). Ultimately, God’s presence first dwelt in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple built by Solomon. The Temple was eventually destroyed, and Ezekiel sees the “glory of God” depart from the Temple (Ez. 10:18). Presently, the New Testament talks about how God literally “tabernacles” in us.
To bring honor to God in all relationships, including romantic ones, we must remember the call to holiness is not isolated to particular areas of life. Sex is a wonderful gift from the Lord in the context of marriage, and purity does not simply mean avoiding sex until marital vows are exchanged. A call to Christian purity, both inside and outside of marriage, is a call to be whole in every area—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
If I could go back and give a younger version of myself advice on dating, I would say: “Seek to understand what it means to be a whole person in Christ. Learn as much as you can about the culture. Have a healthy plan for dating and communicating with the opposite sex established in biblical truth. Remember that your entire being is a temple of the Holy Spirit. And finally, do everything in prayerful communication with the Lord!”
What are some suggestions or resources you have for the next generation of Christians who desire to date with wisdom and integrity before God and man?