Looking back at the year 2014, I wanted to share with you an area of my life where God did some tremendous training – my first relationship.

Being in a relationship is a lot different than we are conditioned to believe.Girl watching television Many TV shows and movies portray relationships that involve drama, lying, betrayal, and love that changes faster than profile pictures. Unfortunately, the media often influences our ideas and thoughts about relationships. So how can we know what a real God-centered relationship looks like, if there is no alternative to what the world is portraying (e.g. having parents or mentors who are setting examples of strong Christian relationships)? Welcome to my world.

I have been raised by a single mom, and for most of my life, I was not close to any couples that were truly serving God and setting an example of a healthy relationship. I have always questioned if strong Godly relationships even existed. The ones where the guy and girl are both devoted to following Jesus. Where they pray together and love God together, and with every trial that comes their way, they stand by each other and they face it… together.

These are the kind of values I wanted in my own relationship. I also thought I was being naïve because maybe in the “real world” relationships were much harder, filled with drama and struggles and what I wanted was just a fantasy. For years, I had this question in the back of my mind, was it really possible to have a relationship like I desired… last year, God showed me that it was.

Guy and Girl Holding HandsDuring 2014, I became friends with a guy I met on a church outreach (we went around my town and prayed for strangers). He was visiting from another state. When he left, we kept in touch via e-mail and eventually through Skype (thank you Jesus for Skype. Really). After a few months, he bought a plane ticket and flew across the country to come see me. That was when our relationship began. This of course is the super short version of our story and one day I may share the full version, but today, I am going to talk about something a little different with you all (or “y’all” as my boyfriend likes to say).

Being that I had no previous experience in relationships, saying that I had taken a “leap of faith” would be putting it lightly. It felt more like I was pushed off a cliff in the Grand Canyon (without a parachute), not knowing what was up or down, and praying that somehow before I hit the bottom, God would save me. When first starting a relationship, it can really feel like that.

Thankfully, God is good (that is an understatement) and during every moment of this time, He has been there with me, teaching me how to love, how to receive love, and what it looks like when He is part of the relationship.

Here are a few essential lessons I have learned (and am still learning) about relationships.

1. Vulnerability is the key to intimacy

In the early stages of our relationship, I did not want to share many things with my boyfriend about my past, my fears, or even insecurities I had about my life. Yet every time I wanted to pull back and stuff something into the closet of my heart, God would tap on the door and say it was time for spring cleaning.

Eventually, it got to the point that I felt completely raw and exposed. I knew at this level of vulnerability, two things could happen, my boyfriend could hurt me or we would grow really close. It was a risk God wanted me to take and amazingly, my boyfriend continued to love me and even shared more about himself to me.

God taught me that His design for relationships is to have nothing hidden. This is very different from the relationships I have seen in movies, where many couples keep secrets from each other and then lie to keep them hidden. God desires us to be honest and real with each other, even when it is hard or scary, because having nothing hidden breaks away shame, guilt, fear, regret and all the other tools the enemy uses to keep us from intimacy with God and others.

Intimacy (In-To-Me-See) – Blending our hearts with another so you can “see into” who they are and in turn, they can “see into” you.

In other words, letting another person look deep inside you and see you for you really who are. This is God’s plan for us.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1:7

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”
Psalm 34:4-5

Thank you Jesus for your truth!

2. Saying “yes” to God is saying “no” to something else (or someone else)

Just like the waves of the ocean, there are times when disappointment came onto the shores of my relationship. I have faced tough decisions when I knew if I said yes to God, it would mean disappointing my boyfriend by saying no to him. I understand that in no manner is my boyfriend obligated to stay with me, so there is the risk that if I make a decision he does not like or agree with, he can choose to walk away.

Hands InterweavedRelationships are full of these kind of risks. It is not a question of will you have to take risks, but rather when you do, who are you willing to risk the most for?

When I know God has said I need to rest, but my boyfriend has already made plans for us, it is moments like these when I have to answer that question. Yet time and time again, across so many situations, I have learned Jesus will always be the best choice, even if not necessarily the easiest choice.

Let’s be honest, two people mixing individual desires, wants, and beliefs can be messy sometimes. It is tough when making a decision no longer affects only you. Yet, when God is part of that process, He helps to make the transition smooth, clear, and most importantly, full of peace.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Isaiah 26:3

On a side note – to my surprise, many times my boyfriend has honored me because I will say no to him, when I say yes to God, and the disappointment I thought he would have, ended up being joy at my decision.

Thank you Jesus for your faithfulness!

3. Boundaries set you free

I did not fully grasp how important boundaries were until I started dating. For some reason, I thought that if I dated a Christian guy, I would not have to worry about the awkward conversation about physical and emotional limits and what we will and will not do because, of course, he will be able to read my mind and will already know. Right. Now, let’s fast forward to reality.

Couple-in-a-Winter-ParkDiscussing physical and emotional boundaries is something every couple should do when going into a relationship. It is important to make your boundaries clear from the start and not just assume they know. Also, keep in mind this not limited to one conversation. My boyfriend and I have had a few conversations about what we need to do or not do to ensure that we are still staying pure in mind and body, how we can continue to honor one another, and the consequences of crossing those lines. This last one has been really helpful. It is one thing to set some rules, but quite another to discuss the reason these rules need to be in place.

My boyfriend talked to me about his belief that boundaries should help you focus on living as pure as possible, rather than pushing the limits on how far you can go and get away with. I love this! It makes me feel like boundaries release freedom instead of enforcing restrictions.

In His relationship with us, God also sets boundaries. He talks to our spirit about what is right and wrong, not to control us, but to give us the opportunity to live in the beauty of making the right choice.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

Thank you Jesus for your protection!

In conclusion, it does not matter that I did not have previous relationship experiences or examples of Godly couples in my life. When God is in a relationship, He is faithful to teach and train you in the way you should go. His plan for couples is more pure, honest, and beautiful than any movie or TV show could portray. I have learned that vulnerability is a little scary but good, it is okay to say no, and there is freedom in having boundaries. This is just the beginning of my journey and I am looking forward to more of His lessons about love and relationships.

Boy and Girl Sitting by Lake