Love, Sex, and Real Life
Is This Real Love?
I'm 16 and my girlfriend is 14. We've been together for 11 months now, and we both really believe we're in love. But her father, who is also our youth pastor, has told us that teenagers are more likely to be "in lust" than "in love." We fell in love over time. We tell each other "I love you" on a regular basis. We don't just say it, we really mean it. I love God, I love myself, and I love her. So I guess I'm trying to ask, is it possible for two kids like us to be in love?
You bet it's possible. When a person feels love, it's very real and very powerful. And if you and your girlfriend continue to date and develop a more mature, deeper relationship, your love will become even more real and more powerful. Yes, it's possible to be very much in love when you're 16 or 14 or even 12.
But don't ignore her father's words. True, his "in lust" comment is maybe a little cynical and probably stems from years of knowing teenagers who "loved" each other one week, then wouldn't speak to each other the next. But most likely he also knows that some people do feel love when they're teenagers. I think her father's real message is, "Take it easy." Think of his words as a reminder to not rush your relationship.
To be honest, I don't think it makes much difference whether your feelings could be called "real love" or not. Your feelings are real to you, and that's what counts. Yes, there are a million kinds of love. Yes, sometimes those feelings change from week to week, even day to day. And yes, maturity has a lot to do with whether those feelings will last.
You and your girlfriend might be developing a love that will last forever, or you might break up a month from now. Don't worry about that right now. Your job isn't to label your feelings or predict the future. The only job for you and your girlfriend is to continue to grow as people and as Christians. Encourage and strengthen each other. Help each other grow closer to God. Care for and respect each other. If you do those things, your feelings will take care of themselves.
How Can I Stop Lusting?
I was sexually active before I became a Christian. Now I want to wait until I get married before I have sex again. But my thought life is filled with lust and images of past sexual experiences. I'm not dating anyone right now, but I'm afraid I won't be able to control myself when I do go out with a girl, or that I'll get married too fast for all the wrong reasons. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this?
I do have suggestions, but I want first to say how impressed I am that you're thinking about these issues now. Most of the time I hear from people who have already put themselves in harm's way. They're halfway down the drain before they try to stop!
It's far better to anticipate problems before they appear and to strengthen your defenses. The most powerful aid in resisting sexual temptation is an accountability group made up of your peers and a mature adult leader. Find a handful of Christian guys who will meet with you weekly for prayer, honest sharing, and mutual encouragement. You might start by asking your pastor or another Christian adult you trust to give you some names of guys who have the maturity and commitment to meet with you. Be honest with these people, and they can be a tremendous source of strength for you.
I'd also encourage you to develop the habit of daily personal prayer and Bible study. Pick a time that works for you—first thing in the morning, last thing at night, whatever—and spend 15 minutes or so focusing your mind on God and his will for you. You might even want to memorize some verses that deal specifically with temptation, such as 1 Corinthians 10:13. Many, many people have found that this discipline of daily devotion to God carries them through difficult times.
Finally, if you haven't already found a church, make a commitment to get involved in a church where you can worship God with other Christians. It's amazing to me how often people skip over this crucial aspect of spiritual growth because they can't find the "perfect" church. As somebody has said, if you ever find a perfect church, don't join it—because then it won't be perfect. Church is just a group of ordinary people who want to do their best to love and serve God together. As you grow closer to God and to other Christians, you might find it easier to ward off those lustful thoughts.
There are no guaranteed tricks to keep sexual temptations completely out of your life. Only a connection with Christ that's stronger than your temptation to sin can keep you from giving in.