Dating, marriage, and what I wish I'd known at 15
I feel like suing Joshua Harris for wrecking my love life. Why, do you ask?
I remember 1997 like it was yesterday. This new book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye had just been published and it was all the rage on Christian radio. I had already committed to sexual purity after going to a Ron Luce event called Acquire the Fire and I wanted to know if and how I should date — God’s way.
These are the words of famed author Joshua Harris: “Relationships with the opposite sex can no longer be about having a good time or learning what I want in a relationship. They’re not to be about getting but giving. Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person like God has loved us. To lay down our desires and do what’s in his or her best interest.”
Today, Harris denies every word. Not only has he reneged the merits of nondating but he has divorced the wife he courted (the subject of his second book Boy Meets Girl) and has also disavowed his Christian faith.
It is important to note that, at the time, Harris's book got a lot more supportive press from the evangelical radio personalities than its counterpart I Gave Dating a Chance written by Jeramy Clark a few years later. And by the time the new millennium rolled around, I had already been significantly indoctrinated by Harris and his teachings around “holy courtship.” But, you know what, that was just what the church wanted — to reinforce my goody-two-shoes reputation.
I remember devouring the book as a ninth-grader living in Miami, Florida surrounded by images of sex, drugs and reggaeton.
I was not a lovesick teen but I did have some celebrity crushes…Tiger Woods, Jerry O’Connell, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
I just knew that channeling my affection toward anyone other than an on-screen beau could lead me down a path of heartbreak and destruction, per Joshua Harris.
So, I refused to date. Settling instead for an intense, no-nonsense, marriage-only mentality. Now, you tell me. What 17-year-old living in the developed world was ready to share in my mentality without being freaked? No, not one. Thus, you can imagine the crushing blow I was delivered after my first male relationship was met with an “I told you that I was going away to school and I wasn’t sure about us” break-up line. And, that was just the beginning.
I became a steady failure at “holy courtship.” For all intents and purposes, I was trying to, as Harris encouraged, echoing Proverbs 4:23, “guard my heart.” Yet, I was getting broken over and over again after each twenty-something male was coming head to head with my Harris-fortified intensity about relationships.
I’m marriage material. I don’t date casually. You don’t seem like you’re ready for a wife.
It made me a judgmental intimidator at the age of 19. How the heck did I think that was attractive to a normal adolescent male?
So, thanks to Harris, I developed a relationship history of the following:
- Being too intense too soon
- Expecting a man to cater to me as he would his wife
- Thinking that each man I dated would be my first and last kiss
- Expecting that a man would know he “found a good thing” and seal the deal in a matter of months
This mentality messed me over for years! It only took me several decades and a dozen, what I call, “great almosts” to realize that Joshua Harris was all wrong!
There is a place for dating. There is a place for getting to know a guy. There is a place for getting to know who you are while you interact with the opposite sex. There is a place for developing genuine feelings for someone that gives you butterflies. There’s even a place for ….get this…heartbreak.
Dating teaches you so much. It teaches you:
- you don’t know everything
- you aren’t nearly as smart as your parents or mentors
- you don’t know yourself as well as God knows you
- you have to invite God into your love life
- you need to develop judgment and wisdom
Most importantly, it teaches you that God honors your choice. He gave you free will and he wants you to use the wisdom of His Word, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and your own carnal preferences to choose. Yes, I said carnal. We are indeed a three-part being. Soul, spirit, and body.
How our mate looks and how they make us feel are just as important as how much they fit into our life and Christian purpose. This was something that Joshua Harris failed to teach me. So, it took me decades to see this as valuable.
It wasn't until years later that I began praying and seeking something that made me happy rather than what I thought would make my family and/or pastor (whom I thought were reflections of God) happy. Not every guy is the real thing. To my younger me, I'd say to chill out, date several guys, don't commit your life and love to a guy until after college.
So, Joshua Harris, you got it all wrong. I just figured it out way too late! You owe me years of my life back.
Tiffani Knowles is the managing editor and founder of NEWD Magazine. Her hope is to become as "newd" as possible on a daily by embracing truth, authenticity and socio-spiritual awareness. She is bi-vocational as she is the owner of two businesses and a professor of communication at Barry University in Miami, Florida. She is also the co-author of HOLA America: Guts, Grit, Grind and Further Traits in the Successful American Immigrant and the online course series by the same name.