It seems strange now, to remember just how serious I was about the subject of dating, when in was in high school. In our Bible classes, we discussed issues like marriage, divorce, and the general culture we were growing up in. I remember learning a statistic about how much more likely children of divorce were to experience divorce themselves. Learning that really shook me up! Experiencing divorce in adolescence was horrible—and I had no desire to experience it as an adult. Beyond that, I definitely did NOT want to put my kids through that pain.
There was one caveat to those ugly statistics on divorce: children of divorce were less likely to experience divorce in their own marriages if they took the time to educate themselves about healthy relationships and communication. They also needed to make smart decisions about what they wanted/needed in a mate and then enter dating situations with those issues in mind. It all sounds very clinical as I write about it now, but this approach appealed to my high-achieving mindset. I signed up for an elective class, titled “Marriage & the Family”, and drank in all the information I could from the course materials and other things that I was reading. I totally bought into the idea that I could control my heart and find the perfect soul-mate.
If only it were that easy! The combination of naiveté, pride, and hormones made for some turbulent dating experiences. There was a song that was popular just a few years before this, titled The Things We Do For Love. It could have just as easily been the title of my dating years; that was the song my soul was singing. I wanted to be smart, but I craved being loved. The craving to be loved resulted in some poor choices. Afterwards, when I considered those decisions, I was flooded with guilt. How was I ever going to find the perfect Christian husband when I couldn’t make choices that showed I honored and respected myself? My approach to intimacy left me feeling ashamed and worthless. And feeling worthless drove my desire to be loved. And my desire to be loved drove my choices. . .
Sometime during my first year of college, my current very-serious-relationship ended. He broke up with me and I was actually relieved. I had thought we were a forever kind of couple—probably most of our friends from high school did. But I realized that I was tired of doing everything wrong and expecting a happy ending. I remember thinking that I was done with dating—it was time to direct my attention to something where I knew my decisions would be good enough. It was time to focus on school, get my act together, and grow up. And so, I did.
No dating. Only school. Focused. Driven.
I think that, subconsciously, I believed that if I let up on the pressure to achieve in school, I would have to face the fact that I was a failure at relationships. I was a child of divorce, destined to make the same mistakes myself, unworthy of a truly decent man. God must have smiled as He saw me give up on my plans for the perfect relationship. He knew I had to—in order to make room for His.
In July of 1983, I completed LPN school—at the top of my class. I was so happy that I could get one thing right! And I had a job already; I was returning to UCA as the School Nurse and Assistant Girl’s Dean. I was beginning to believe I could make good choices and I could be good enough, at least where school and work were concerned.
I had about one month to kill until the school year began, and I decided to use that month to travel to Ohio and visit my daddy. I deserved the break—I had kept my promise to myself. I had focused on school. I hadn’t been on a date in 20 months. And I had a plan for my future.
Little did I know that God was about to put His plan into action and teach me about unconditional love. He wanted to show me that there was someone who would love me—and I didn’t have to do anything but truly love him in return.
But, that’s another story. . .