I’ve noticed lately that “like” can be a stronger word than “love.” Love’s true meaning absolutely speaks to a deeper affection and bond, but the problem is that a man might declare that He loves his wife and loves pizza in the same sentence. Obviously this is not the same kind of love, but we still use the word to describe a connection to things both as unbreakable as a marriage vow and as fleeting as a thin crust pepperoni.
Growing up in the church, I was taught from a very young age that Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Which it does. And He does. But one of the most exciting things I have learned recently is that Jesus doesn’t just love me, He actually likes me. He wants to hear about the highs and lows of my day, as well as the desires of my heart. David demonstrates these types of confessions in the Psalms. I’ll get back to this idea in a moment.
Something else I heard about a lot growing up in the church was having physical boundaries in dating relationships. It’s every youth group’s favorite sermon series. At my church, we would have “ditch the guys, ditch the girls” nights in middle school. As the name suggests, the guys and girls would separate, and we were given the opportunity to ask anything we wanted that might be too uncomfortable to ask with the other gender present. These types of talks continued throughout high school and college at varying degrees of intensity and directness, and though the battle for purity has been difficult these past 3 months, it’s something I felt at least a little bit prepared for.
The battle I did not feel prepared for was for keeping emotional boundaries. Emotional boundaries were like a footnote in the margin of these sex and dating talks. I knew it was a thing, but I didn’t take the time to jot down those notes because honestly, it didn’t sound that dangerous. Sex before marriage? Clearly sin. My middle school brain could wrap itself around that. Got it. But not getting too emotionally close to girls before marriage? Um, okay. I guess. I’m a guy though, I’m not emotional. And what’s the big deal if we are? We’re not hurting each other. It’s not like having sex.
The bucket of ice water was that if sex is just a way to become more emotionally connected, you could theoretically just skip it and share your deepest thoughts and feelings with someone to achieve a similar effect. Which, if you’ve been reading this blog, Sam and I did.
A brief side note… Something else I’ve learned in this relationship is that it’s my responsibility to know how to love Sam well. Ignorantly committing a crime is still a crime, because it’s your responsibility to know the law. I’m not a victim of what I wasn’t told, it was on me to learn it. And I’ve hurt a girl I really love because of my lack of preparation.
End side note. Anyway, I knew something was wrong. But I still didn’t feel like I had a good grasp on how to fix it, or even how to do define what the problem was. Fortunately, a trusted friend and mentor gave me a definition. “Sin occurs when you are going to anyone else to get what you should be going to God for. An emotional affair occurs when you are going to another human to get filled up emotionally.” This definition made sense, and I immediately thought of the woman at the well. Jesus used that well as a metaphor for getting filled up from the things of this world, as opposed to getting filled up from him, the living water that would satisfy.
I’ve tried putting this into practice by telling God things that I’m thinking and feeling, and processing them with him. He has been getting some of my most raw and honest thoughts lately. Sam observed that it’s easier and much more direct to process something with a person because they speak back audibly and directly. I think God gave us people for that exact purpose, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m learning that if you go to God, He has something much more powerful and profound to offer you.
This verse has been so encouraging to me over the past few months…
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Sometimes I don’t understand my own feelings. I’m generally a pretty self-aware person, and think about things deeply. But my feelings can still take me by surprise. One of the most profound verses in all of Scripture, in my opinion, is Jeremiah 17:9… “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” If I could preach on one verse to the entire world, I think it might be this one. It goes against the “follow your dreams” mentality of this culture. I don’t trust my thoughts and feelings, and therefore don’t make decisions based on them. I make decisions based on God’s peace. I’ve found it to be present in some of the darkest moments, and in some of the most confusing and unsure times. It guards my heart and my mind, and lately, I’ve been letting it light the way.
For me emotional boundaries have been all about feeling things with God. It sounds strange, but it’s real, and it’s powerful. Since God knows my heart and mind, he is the only only one worthy of my innermost thoughts and feelings. He can also touch my heart and mind in a way that no one else can. I can get really great thoughts and feelings from Sam. She warms my heart and gives me butterflies. We also have really great conversations about the Bible and who God is, and she shares things with me that have never occurred to me before. But God is the only one from whom I can receive a peace that transcends all understanding. So at the end of the day, He’s the one I want to go to with all my most uncensored thoughts and feelings. As I said at the beginning of this post, He likes me. He’s just as excited about this relationship as I am, and I have felt it. I’m thankful for his love and for his peace.