By JENN WALDEN – – When I was twenty-nine years old I kissed dating goodbye. I won’t bore you with stories of good guys I let slip away, because I couldn’t get myself mentally together. But in short, when I was 29, I crashed to the floor, devastated after a long-term relationship ended. I was done with “me.”
Not long after, I read Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I crumpled to the floor again . . . “I want the next man I kiss to be my husband.” I was determined–I was angry–mainly at myself. I needed a break and so I began my journey of not dating.
I’m 29, I thought. This can’t take long, right?
Waiting with Joshua Harris
Then, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Minutes, seconds, hours, days, months, years–time went ever so slow. I did not “date” anyone for five years. It was a very long five years. I met a few people, hoped a few times, but I didn’t date, and I certainly didn’t kiss a guy.
Good times . . . not!
Then, when I was 33 everything changed, thanks to Dr. Neil Clark Warren and his 29 dimensions. Yes, I met this guy on EHarmony, because my no dating policy didn’t mean I couldn’t give God something with which to work. We have to do our part ya know.
After being matched, we had a very superficial exchange on-line. As I was preparing to return home from a trip to England, I received a message from him: I live in Alabama but I am traveling to Nashville on business would you like to meet?
Why yes. Yes, I would.
I knew very little about this guy, but what little I did know caused lots of second guessing. Why am I wasting my time? He is a single-dad of three kids, how does that work? And even worse, he lives in Alabama, and goodness knows I’m not moving there. I’m used to the refined culture of Tennessee. This can’t possibly work.
We would meet at the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville. I was running late. He was on time (foreshadowing).
We met, we walked, we talked, we drove, we ate lunch, we talked, we ate dinner. Adding some atmosphere to our dinner, I dropped a plate of salad on him. We walked and talked some more.
We spent all day together. At one point he grabbed my hand–a confident son of a gun. But I didn’t let go. After 8 hours together we said our goodbyes and I knew he wanted to kiss me, but I didn’t give him the chance. He drove back to Alabama. He called me the next day, and the next, and we couldn’t stop talking.
Five days after our meeting in Nashville, Kirk invited me to visit his hometown. I had only known him for hours. We would be on his home turf. I would have no backup if things went off the rails. Not a smart move for someone who had kissed dating goodbye. Not at all.
After all, WWJD (What would Joshua Do?).
I said, “Yes.”
Before leaving, I told my sister (who knew my oath to kiss dating goodbye) that I was going to let him kiss me. And I was darned confident he would try.
In the span of less than a week, I was kissing Joshua Harris goodbye, saying Well, Hello! Kirk Walden. I was smitten. Over the next two days, my future husband did kiss me and I was convinced–as was he–that we would be married. I had found my home in Kirk’s heart and the heart of his beautiful kids. We were married in less than a year.
A few weeks ago when Kirk told me that Joshua Harris was not only divorcing his wife but breaking from the faith, I was sad, but not shocked. It got me thinking.
The Prosperity Gospel has been so tied to finances. But I wonder if “prospering” sneaks into our faith, camouflaging itself in more subtle forms. I call it Principled Prospering.
Here is how it goes:
We are taught to practice rules and principles, living life “God’s Way.” We are taught to exhibit self-control, make sacrifices, do the hard things. None of these are “wrong” at all.
But, we are also taught that the natural outflow is reward and blessings by God. If I give (by living these characteristics), I automatically “get” blessings (like a perfect husband) from God. Hmmm. While it’s not about God being my personal banker or “Naming it and Claiming it,” I’m taught that if I work hard, God is obligated to bless me with marital bliss or whatever else I want.
Getting back to I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris taught that not dating or kissing until marriage is “God’s Way,” and establishes the groundwork for lots of good times–if you know what I mean.
Voila, Joshua! We’ve cracked the code, unlocking the principles to getting God’s best for a pure and intimate marriage! Just Kiss Dating Goodbye and we’re set for life!
So what was the result of my journey in Principled Prospering and Kissing Dating Goodbye? Well after five years of waiting, I found my prince–sort of. Actually, we were both beat up a bit by life, carrying stuff into our marriage we likely wouldn’t have in our early 20’s.
Kirk and I were immediately parenting three children together. We crammed our new family of five into my parents’ house for nine months waiting for our new home to be built. I worked full-time as Kirk launched a dream requiring serious trust from both of us.
My new life and marriage meant hard work immediately. Over the next few years our tribe of five unexpectedly became seven, and then just as we were settling into “our” family, my precious Mother-in-Law had a stroke and became part of our home too.
Pardon me, but where is the fairytale? Does life ever feel like a party?
Maybe, five years of not dating wasn’t long enough to make me worthy of the fairytale.
Truthfully, because Kirk and I were older, we didn’t expect life to be perfect or even easy. The baggage we did carry was balanced by a maturity and gratefulness that served us well. Yet, I think about all the young couples, including Joshua Harris, who kept the principles, expecting rewards of happiness for their labor.
What happens when you keep all the principles, but life is not a fairytale?
When life and relationships prove challenging, we may think leaning on good, old-fashioned principles will get us on the other side. Today though, I’m convinced the one tried and true principle we need is–you guessed it–love.
When things crash around us–and they will–we need to fall into the arms of love, not the cold measure of rules. We need mercy reaching down into our messes, not with rules, but with love. Grace covering our deepest desires, not with exacting principles for achievement, but with lavish love.
When the dream falls apart, rules can’t lift us from shame and gracefully stand us on our feet again. it is the love of God and others that helps us stand.
The rules flew out the door the minute I met Kirk. All my seconds, minutes, months and years of dedication to Kiss Dating Goodbye were tossed aside in a literal–somewhat premeditated moment.
It has been my love for Kirk and our kids which compels me to never stop fighting for us. I am not motivated by fear or punishment to love my family. I. Just. Do!
The God presented to the world by Jesus Christ was a Father of love and light. In one brilliant move, Jesus changed everything. To its fullest conclusion, Jesus lived out the rule of love. He broke the chains of legalism, submitting every rule and principle ever attempted by mankind under the unmatched authority and power of love. In short, Jesus died to free us for love; not principles and rules.
Love is not always principled and logical to us as humans. There isn’t a tidy measurable check-list. Love isn’t always perfect. It doesn’t always fit inside the box. Sometimes love is messy, spontaneous–even reckless. But love covers a multitude of junk. Rules fail, but love never fails. Rules are not personal, but love is always personal.
“God’s Way” is actually very simple: “God’s Way” was, and always will be, love.
While others are excoriating Joshua Harris as “betraying” the faith, my heart hurts for him. I hope his faith can be found. God never needed or even wanted Joshua to be an expert rule-keeper. He wants Joshua Harris–and all of us–to be an expert in love.
Realizing the truth about rules and principles shouldn’t release us from God–it should propel us to run into His arms. Our Father isn’t the one being legalistic. We are. Our worth to God, to both give and receive love, is bigger than our adherence to any rule or principle.
Will our faith be found when the rules don’t work?
I say this stuff, because we need to be strong, ladies. We need to eliminate chains of legalism from our closets. Legalism is not only unattractive, it creates a false sense of purpose and worth, focusing our faith in the wrong direction.
Maybe it’s time to kiss legalism–with its rules, regulations and principles–goodbye. Let’s not only welcome love into our closets, let’s take it off the hanger and slip it on every morning. Let’s stand in front of the mirror, smile, and tell ourselves, “You are Looking Good Girl”.
Through the inevitable struggles of life, let’s immerse ourselves in love. Love is the hard choice, but the reward is out of this world.