The summer after my freshman year in high school, I met a guy from a different school while on a Young Life trip to Canada. We enjoyed each other’s company and I loved how he made me feel. When we got back from the trip, he taught tennis lessons at our neighborhood swim club every day. One day after he was teaching, I decided I needed to tell him something so I asked if we could go to lunch.
He said sure and we headed to Subway. As we ordered our subs, my heart raced. We sat down in a booth and then I got to the point.
“I just wanted to tell you something…” I said.
He looked at me funny and a bit curious.
“Well, I have really enjoyed getting to know you this summer and I just wanted you to know that… I love you.”
There. I had said it all. I am pretty sure he almost choked on his meatball sub and was not expecting such a revelation from his friend Samantha. I waited for his response and was hopeful for a good one.
He looked at me strangely and I can’t remember all his words but I’m pretty sure it was something like, “Okay, thanks.” And our conversation was awkward and dull from that point forward—rightfully so. I’d wished he had the same feelings.
I had no idea what love was then but I liked what I saw in this guy and became obsessed with him over a short period of time—not really even knowing him. In a matter of months, I was on to my next crush.
A Bold Prayer
Growing up, the truth is that I loved receiving attention and compliments from guys. As a young woman, I always wanted to know that I was desired and attractive. I knew it wasn’t my role to be the initiator but I often was anyway. I liked the thrill of the chase and it was a struggle for me to sit back and let the guy lead.
By the time I went to college, I was well aware of that weakness so when I was 18, I said a bold prayer and asked God not to give me a serious relationship until I was ready for courtship and marriage. I was also influenced then by Joshua Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Tommy Nelson’s The Book of Romance.
That didn’t mean I wouldn’t accept offers to go on dates or get to know anyone but I always prayed that before anything could get serious that God would cut it off if it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t want to deal with heartache and pain. Needless to say, the chords were cut many times by the guy or me. The other driving force behind that prayer was that I wanted to honor God with my body and limit sexual temptation as much as possible.
Love vs. Infatuation
I learned a few truths about relationships and dating in that not-so-fun, watching-everybody-else-have-relationships waiting period, specifically some of the differences between love and infatuation:
Infatuation… short-lived, heightened passion or admiration for another person
Love… a long-term commitment to a real person, whether passion is present or not
Infatuation… often sparked by physical attraction and stays there
Love… cares for the physical but more importantly the emotional well being of another
Infatuation… you often see that person through rose colored glasses
Love… you clearly see that person’s flaws, imperfections and brokenness
Infatuation… often self focused- what can he or she do for me?
Love… characterized by selfless action- how can I best serve him or her?
Infatuation… you’re often obsessed with how good that person makes you feel
Love… the truth about that person supersedes how that person makes you feel (good or bad)
Infatuation can certainly be the stepping-stone to love but eventually you should transition from illusions and ideals about that person into raw truths and facts so you can clearly see whether that person is marriage material—resonating with you in his or her worldview, convictions, values, beliefs, character, and more. Being able to understand the differences between infatuation and love is a big deal.
Love is a Process, Sometimes Painful
Well after saying that bold prayer to God, I met my husband four years later. Thankfully I did a lot of growing up beforehand! I tried my best to let him lead as the man. From the get go, I was pretty infatuated with him. We had a strong and passionate physical attraction but our relationship wasn’t built upon than that.
I was more attracted to the fact that the man I loved lived his life under the authority of Christ, and he loved God and people. His life was marked by integrity, selflessness, service, discipline and self-control. I’m so thankful God helped me discern his true character rather than being clouded by infatuation.
I didn’t “fall in love” with a perfect prince either, but with someone who had weaknesses just like me and needed grace and forgiveness. I also quickly became aware that the only way we would truly know how to love one another was by living according to God’s ways. If we didn’t, our relationship wouldn’t survive.
Over the past 8 years, our love has grown deeper, richer, and sweeter because we have faced conflict, trials and storms that have tested our faith and character and love for each other. Our love has grown through a process—sometimes painful—not a short-lived, heightened experience.
We’ve seen our sin for what it is and by grace we continue to forgive and hold onto Christ for guidance in how to love and serve one another as he has called us to do.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” – 2 Tim. 2:22
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8