A friend of mine collects oil paintings. His house is full of them. Another friend collect guns. He has an impressive array. Yet another friend collects fossils. He has created his own museum in the garage of his home.
I am a collector too. As I start this new book on relationships, my collection lies on the desk beside me. It consists of an untidy pile of pieces of paper held together by a large, red, plastic, bulldog-type paper clip. Some scraps of paper measure no more than two inches square. Others bear the marks of being torn from someone's spiral bound notebook. Others have clearly been tugged from a student's file. Before I begin to write this book, I propose to copy out some of the comments scribbled on these odd pieces of paper. They set the tone and pace for the book I am about to write.
- You feel it's right to ask her out. You think she feels the same way but you are not sure. How do you make the move? STALEMATE.
- Everyone says that sex is great and is a gift from God; but where does this leave the young single person?
- At what age should one start dating and what should one do on one's first date?
- If the Bible tells us to love everyone and to share our faith with everyone, why do people say that to go out with non-Christians is wrong?
- Why is it wrong to have sex before marriage?
- How far should Christians go if they don't agree with sex before marriage?
- The peer-group pressure to go out with someone is very great. How should a Christian cope with this?
- How do I/we keep God at the centre of our relationship when Eros seems so much stronger, more imminent (and infinitely less demanding) than God and is always imperceptibly edging him out?
- How much should we pray and do Bible studies together?
- How should we relate to others in the fellowship?
You may have guessed by now that my unique collector's item just 'happened'. Whenever David, my husband, and I speak at youth groups at Christian Unions on the subject of boy/girl relationships, we try to leave time for questions, and usually suggest that these questions are submitted in writing to save the questioner embarrassment. Over the years the pile of anonymous questions has snowballed. I tried to respond to some of them in my book Growing into Love, but inevitably, since the subject is so vast, many burning issues remained untouched.
This book is a further attempt to respond to questions like the ones I have quoted; questions which continue to perplex young Christians today. I write as a committed Christian who sets out to reflect the Bible's teaching on this complex subject. I also write as one of the many who feel burdened for the marriage relationship in the West and in the East; a relationship which, even among Christians, lies in a sorry state of disrepair.
It is my conclusion that good marriages start in the home when a child observes and enjoys his or her parents' love for one another. It is my conviction, also, that adolescence is the apprenticeship of marriage: as teenagers and young adults learn the difficult art of making in-depth relationships with people of the same sex and people of the opposite sex. And, of
course, a further training period comes with courtship, when a young adult experiments with the art form of committed love before and during engagement.
I have already written about Christian marriage in my book Two into One. And I have written about the apprenticeship of engagement in Growing into Love. This book is not for the married or the engaged. It is for those who ask, like the nurse who wept in my study on one occasion: 'What's wrong with me? I feel so lonely. I really want a boyfriend but I've never had one.' It is for those puzzled by the kind of questions held together by my monster paper clip. It is for those who want to think through the challenge and complexities of sexuality and friendship from a biblical point of view. Whether you are fourteen or eighteen, twenty or twenty-six, and whether you are interested in marriage or equally interested in the art of creative singleness, if the subject of attachments intrigues or bothers you, this book is for you.
One of the problems for the Christian young person living in the West today is that the Bible did not set out to answer the twentieth-century Western questions which cause us so much concern. One of the reasons for this is that the Bible sets out to be neither a sex manual nor a guide to specific relationships; another is, as we shall note later, that in the East when the Bible was written there existed no equivalent to our 'going out' phase in relationships. Girls were often betrothed in infancy and married before their teens. The problems which plague us in the West, and which are beginning to puzzle Christians in the East also, simply did not arise. For this reason, it is not always possible to qualify one's teaching by quoting a specific Bible chapter and verse. What it is possible to do, and what I have tried to do, is to draw on biblical principles and to build on these foundations.
To make good, deep, lasting, worthwhile friendships is rather like rock climbing. It is tough going at times. It is a challenge. It cannot happen without a quota of knocks and bruises. Yet it is fulfilling and rewarding. This book is another attempt to help young Christians negotiate the route marked 'relationships'. It comes with my concern that readers should discover for themselves the truth of that Snoopy
poster: 'Thank goodness for the people.' It also comes with my prayer that readers should take the necessary risks and embark on the adventure of friendship.
Chapter One || Table of Contents