As a teenager growing up in the church, there were specific rules when it came to dating. Firstly, he had to be a Christian, secondly he had to be part of a church and even better if he was part of our church.
My first ever date with a boy occurred at the grand old age of 15. To this day, I can still remember all the nerves and excitement and the anxiety about perhaps being kissed (would I know what to do?). I even remember what I wore and the slightly gritted-teeth smile of my dad, as he watched his little girl disappear out the door into the care of a blushing young man from church (who furthermore was 18 and had a car).
To be honest, the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster. We had nothing in common and sat in McDonald’s, nursing melting milkshakes, grimly reading the menu boards or the side of our plastic cups. Anything to avoid looking at each other and acknowledging the awful chasm of non-chemistry silence which threatened to swallow us up.
In the days preceding, my best friend had recently successfully navigated her way through her first kiss. She and I had talked this over a lot and her advice was simple, you don’t have to kiss him if you don’t want to.
With this advice ringing soundly in my ears, I realised in the middle of my McDonalds date, that I really did not want any kind of lip-to-lip contact. But worryingly, despite the date’s awkwardness, my suitor seemed to be implying that’s how he wanted the evening to conclude.
As we eventually (HUGE sigh of relief), made our way to the car to head home, I studiously avoided any kind of inviting eye contact. And later as the car pulled up in front of my house, I was so keen to escape, I got my foot tangled up in the seatbelt and fell out of the car, flat on my chin, on the pavement.
You don’t have to kiss him if you don’t want to. You don’t have to kiss him if you don’t want to.
Despite desperately trying to recover my dignity from my splayed position on the pavement, the wise advice of my bestie was still whirling around in my head.
We all need it sometimes. Though we don’t always know we need it. And even when we get it, we don’t always listen.
Where do you get your advice from?
I usually go first of all, to family and then to friends, but I’m learning that the best advice doesn’t always come from the most obvious of sources. Some of the most ‘obvious’ people (like ministers or trusted friends) have at times, given me the worst advice.
And so now, any advice I’m given, has to stack up against what my Bible says.
Recently, while navigating my way through a bit of a crisis, I was given some advice which actually made me feel worse. Later, I couldn’t understand why I felt more upset, more negative, after the chat, than I did before.
And then I realised that despite the giver’s best intentions, the advice came with a side order of all their own fear, negativity and bad experiences. It was loaded and rooted in their own unhappy worldview.
But God’s word always says something different. Oh, it doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear, sometimes it’s words of correction or an instruction to change direction, but it’s always rooted in God’s overwhelming love for humanity.
Even in the Old Testament when God gave instructions to the Israelites that must have seemed archaic and even at times, brutal, it was always for their own good. God has always loved his creation and every instruction, every bit of advice, every corrective word comes from a heart bursting with mercy and compassion.
Today, some people look at the Bible as a dusty book full of rules designed to oppress and limit progressive thinking. But in reality, the Bible is an inspired manual which understands human nature (and our tendency to self-destruct). It offers a way of life which might sometimes seem difficult, but which is designed (just like the instruction booklet which comes with any new appliance) to help us get the most out of the life we’ve been given.
As far as advice goes, it doesn’t get any better than that.
So I’m thankful for all the wonderfully wise people in my life who offer advice when I need it most. And I’m thankful too for God’s word which helps me to know which advice to take and which advice to discard.
P.s You don’t have to kiss him, if you don’t want to.