"Many girls have told us they struggle with keeping their hearts and minds pure for their future husbands. It is a difficult task, as God has wired the sexes to be attracted to one another, but also commanded “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
We’ve been asked so often for advice on this that we briefly addressed it in our message “What Our Father Taught Us About Boys,” last week at the Vision Forum 2009 Father-Daughter Retreat. Below are some of my remarks from the message.
Our travels, our work, and especially the fact that we have five brothers and a father who loves to disciple young men, has pushed us into company that is often male-dominant. Here are some practical things our father has taught us to keep our hearts secure and our focus on the things of the Lord.
1. Pray for the young men… and their future wives.
This really helps keep relationships in perspective and facilitates the right kind of sisterly interest in them. We need to look past this season of singleness and see the eternal perspective. We need to see the young men as more than “marriage material,” but as comrades and co-laborers in Christ’s Kingdom, and we need to pursue the kind of friendships that will outlast this season of “singleness” and continue into eternity.
2. Don’t assume that every attention paid you by a young man is a mark of intention.
If a young man looks at you, opens a door for you, greets you, smiles at you, etc., it might have just been a brotherly gesture. Not only is fantasizing and speculating dangerous, reading too much into young men’s kind deeds also is a great way to discourage gentlemanly conduct.
3. Avoid influences that stir the heart prematurely and tempt you to fantasize over men who are not and will not be your husband.
Music, movies, novels, or just our own sinful imaginations can be dangerous. Robert Burns wrote a great poem about this:
Oh, leave novels, ye Mauchline belles.
Ye’re safer at your spinning wheel;
Such witching books are baited hooks
For rakish rooks, like Rob Mossgiel.
Your fine Tom Jones and Grandisons,
They make your youthful fancies reel;
They heat your veins, and fire your brains.
An’ then ye’re prey for Rob Mossgiel.
I am not issuing an ultimatum here banning all movies, music and literature. You know down inside what influences arouse your passions, tempt you build false expectations, and make you feel discontent. Matthew 5:29 warns, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
4. Keep interaction with young men within a family context. Avoid private or very personal interaction (this includes online!).
This is something you need to talk to your parents about and ask them to make guidelines for you.
5. Last but not least, keep the lines of communication with your parents wide-open.
Notice that I said “parents”. Elizabeth and I have put a special emphasis on the father-daughter relationship because this is a father-daughter conference, but most if not all of these principles apply to your mother as well. We have made a habit of sharing everything with our parents, and this includes personal struggles, concerns, and our personal observations and opinions of the young men we know. We have discovered that the more faithfully we do this, the easier it becomes — it can really be the best way of relieving the burden of pent-up anxieties and fears that many girls feel during their singleness.
A lot of girls have confessed to us that they have a really hard time talking to their dads about personal things. Sometimes they complain that their dads don’t come and talk to them enough. We can’t always wait for our fathers to initiate and draw us out — men are never going to be as good at this as we would like them to be. Sometimes we need to take the initiative and start the conversation. Deuteronomy 32:7 says, “Ask your father and he will show you, the elders and they will tell you…” It doesn’t say “Wait for your father to remember to come talk to you.” Fathers need to tell, but daughters need to ask, and demonstrate to their fathers that they want their council and wisdom.
Some girls confess to us that whenever they try to go to their fathers to unburden their anxieties or concerns they always end up dissolving into a puddle of tears on the floor before they can get to what they wanted to say. What makes it worse is that most dads really don’t appreciate this. When girls tell me this, I have a pretty good guess what the problem is — it’s that they wait until there is an emotional crisis to talk to their fathers, instead of making a habit of talking to them often, about everything that is in their hearts. Some of you younger girls might feel like you are too young to be having these serious discussions about young men and marriage with your dad, but I would like to personally implore you to start talking to your father now, about everything that is on your heart, laying the foundation for your relationship, and establish good habits of communication, so that when you are my age (23), and things are more complicated, it will be a whole lot easier."