I may sound like an old fogie to some, but my concern in this area is grounded in life experience. My husband and I started dating when I was 14 years old. I was a child. We dated for nearly five years before we got married and made wonderful memories along the way, but it was also very difficult. I learned through experience that growing in your relationship with the Lord is more challenging when you are consumed with a dating relationship. Developing friendships, spending time with family, learning new hobbies and skills – these are important in teens’ lives but the time available for them is limited when so much is wrapped up in a boyfriend or girlfriend. But the biggest challenge for a dating, Christian teen is to remain sexually pure. No matter how devoted to the Lord a young person may be, spending extended time with someone they’re attracted to and have feelings for is inviting sexual temptation. Not to mention hormones are in full swing at this age! This can lead to guilt, confusion, and ultimately, sexual sin. That’s why it’s our job as parents to set firm boundaries for our kids as well as steering them away from dating and perhaps (if we feel led) forbidding it altogether. It is my hope that my girls will not date until they are 18. That may sound legalistic, but let me explain why.There is a verse in Song of Solomon I learned around the time I got married.
“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.” Song of Solomon 8:4 NLTOther translations of this verse tell us not to “stir up” or “arouse” love until the time is right. When is the time right? I’m not a Bible scholar but my humble conclusion is – when we can act on it! If sex outside of marriage is a sin (and according to the Bible it is), then we should not awaken those feelings when it would be a sin to act on them. In society today, it is nearly impossible for a young person to get married while still in high school; they need to be able to work and support themselves. This is why I feel dating before 18 is unnecessary and dangerous.
Of course, this is not a Biblical mandate. For some the “right time” in life may be later or sooner. But I know for sure our kids today are awakening love too early.My oldest started Kindergarten this year, and thus, it begun. Her friends at school already talk about who they like and who is their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” Believe me – I know these relationships are innocent. Still I wonder if we as parents do more harm than good when we encourage this kind of behavior.
In our house, we’re starting early discouraging it, in the most loving, light-hearted way we can. From the beginning, I want to set my girls on a different path with a different focus because I don’t want them facing the same arduous, uphill battle for purity that me and their daddy did. I want them to be free in their teenage years to enjoy their singleness, their friendships and their family. Free to develop their talents, skills and interests. And free to grow in their relationships with the Lord, without being bogged down by guilt, distraction, or confusion.I look forward to the day when they meet the men God has for them, when the time is right and they can commit their lives to each other and express their love. But until then, I don’t want to do anything to arouse in them feelings that may make their paths more difficult along the way.