I have something to say first, because maybe you have heard from some people that you should not like someone. Maybe you’ve been told that you’re too young to develop such attraction. I’ve had a lot of voices like that in my life. I grew up feeling condemned and sinful whenever I had a crush on someone because there were those who told me that I shouldn’t be having any crush at all. Having a crush meant I wasn’t fixated enough on God. Liking someone meant I would be distracted from God. Admiring meant I would be sinning emotionally. (If you have never heard these statements before in your life, you can skip ahead to the numerated part of this post).
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand where they were coming from and I appreciate the heart behind it. However, experiences like those left me scarred, dubious, cynical, shamed, and above all else, legalistic.
I actually haven’t liked a guy romantically for two years now. Not because I try not to admire someone, but simply because I haven’t found someone who captured my attention. It’s funny that it was when I graduated university that I lost those kinds of emotions, but I guess this is just the season God is placing me in now. However, I certainly have had my fair share of crushes – all when I was a student. And for most of that time, I felt extremely dirty because I was no longer “emotionally pure.”
So let me tell you something that will get that weight off your chest: it’s okay to like someone. It’s okay that you admire him. It’s okay that you feel something for her. It’s okay. You don’t have to suppress it. You don’t have to downplay it. I know your emotions feel so real, so acting like it’s not would be messy. Trust me, I tried. I would attempt to minimize my emotions, then I’d act on them, then I’d pull back, then I’d show emotion again, then things would get incredibly messy.
And so through all my years of trial and error, I want to share with you the best way to deal with these emotions at that stage in your life:
1. Be honest to God and yourself about how you feel.
The faster you become transparent about it, the better. Don’t worry, God’s not going to strike you with lightning and He can handle your emotions. Thank Him that you have someone to admire and care for so much, then surrender those feelings to Him – don’t let them lead the way. Take a step back and listen to what He says about it. Because while you cannot imagine your life with this person right now, he or she might not what God wants for you – even if said individual is too amazing or attractive or perfect.
You have free will, but you wouldn’t want to make any rash decisions based on the fleeting and fickle knowing that it might rob you from His best. Not to belittle what you think you possibly feel, but truly loving is different from temporary liking.
My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes – many times – my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens – and it happens every day in some measure – I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.
2. Be accountable.
Don’t go spreading it around like a 5th grader. Tell your leaders, people you trust and look up to, and listen to their counsel. Tell the ones you know would guard you and look out for you, not the “friends” who would spread the fact around like a joke and stir up your emotions inappropriately even more.
3. Guard your thoughts
I am so sure you’ve heard Proverbs 4:23 used to tell you to be careful about how you feel: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” But while there is a good point to that, contextually, that is not what this verse is saying. If you read the entire chapter, you will find that this is a father speaking to his son, telling him to keep wisdom in his heart and to make sure he guarded this wisdom. And so this I tell you as you venture on the adventures of the heart: don’t be legalistic, be wise. Guard your thoughts and keep them pure. It’s not wrong to think about that person every now and then and to continually admire, but it’s wrong if that’s all you ever think about. Don’t stalk his social media accounts 24/7. Don’t overthink every little detail; don’t meditate on every single word he or she says. Don’t fixate on the person; fixate on Jesus. As you submit your emotions to Him, ask for the grace to take every thought captive and make them obedient to Christ. Let your thought life be that of all that is true, pure, noble, and praiseworthy.
“Not to think of him was impossible. How to think of him was within her power.”
-Regarding Lady Helen’s affection for Wallace, The Scottish Chiefs
4. Watch your actions.
As your thoughts become captive to Christ, I hope your actions do too. Don’t be unnatural around him or her. Don’t take matters into your own hands, don’t grow impatient, and don’t take control. Don’t let attraction turn into manipulation. Don’t go under the guise of “group hangouts” or “study dates” with just the two (or three, if you add a thirdwheel) of you. Maybe it would be wise for you to talk or text less, even. If you’re friends, please don’t stop being friends but also don’t place yourself in positions that would stir you up even more. Let your fists relinquish control and with your heart wide open, hands off.
I have had students ask me if it’s okay to pray for a specific person they desire, and my answer is yes. There is really, really nothing wrong with that. God has always wanted us to be transparent about our desires, and to present this person before Him is as honest and vulnerable as it gets. It’s worse to stay within the line of praying “only for the qualities” while thinking of this someone, simply because you think that it would be wrong to ask God and thus you end up being completely untruthful to Him. Just be sure that when you pray, you are completely surrendering those emotions to Him. Be ready to submit to His will when He says no, and be ready to risk when the time comes and He says go. If you aren’t willing to adjust to the idea that God might say no and if prayers just make you obsess all the more then stop completely, because that is no longer love; that is idolatry.
6. Let Christ be your First Love.
Now don’t ask me if you’re allowed to enter into a relationship as a student, because honestly, I won’t say that you’re not allowed. That is not for me to dictate upon you. I don’t want you to follow a formula; I want you to follow Him. So check your heart, your thoughts, your intentions, your actions – is it still about God and what He wants for you or has it become about you and what you want? Be discerning, would a relationship cause you to compromise and sin? Would it distract you from your studies? Would it make you disobedient to your parents? If you answer yes, then take it from someone who entered a relationship when she was 12 years old (I was in 2nd year high school, mind you, and it was mostly out of rebellion): be careful about trading your destiny for something that is temporary. Because let’s be honest, teenage hormones can be immensely misleading. And I don’t think it really matters to God how cute you would be with this person if your relationship wouldn’t be of honor to Him.
“Everything is permissible” you say, but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). Your willingness to bend your values might mean that you’re only using that person to fill holes in your heart, and that is just setting yourself up for disaster. My dear, you may think you just have to be in a relationship now and all your friends may be in relationships already, but if you think of the fact that you’ll live up to probably 70 or 80, you’ll realize that there’s no need to rush. Know without a doubt that God makes everything beautiful in its time.
“Our love for God becomes our scale to judge things: we do things and don’t do things because we love God.”
The most important thing is you let your love and life (and lovelife 😂) flow from a place of deep adoration for God. Human love will fall short, and no one in this world can compare to the Lover of your soul. He is the only one who can fill your deepest needs and wants; He alone can satisfy your deepest longings.
And the only way to be sure that you are being wise about how you are handling your emotions is when you love Him most, when you allow yourself to be governed by His holy love. He is the standard of true love, and so let this be how we love– with a love that is patient and not self-seeking and protects; with a love that does not seek to be completed, but is already whole.
Photo by Jah Sales