Up until this past June, I have always been a teacher’s kid. When I was in kindergarten, my mom taught the first grade. When I moved to the first grade, Mom moved to Kindergarten. She stayed in kindergarten until I was about eleven-years-old and then she moved to second grade where she remained for the duration of her career. Some of my earliest memories took place at Brinson Memorial Elementary School. Some mornings we were there early enough to see the sun peek over the trees and many nights, we were there as the sun ducked below the trees signifying the end of another day. In other words, Mom spent a lot of time planning and preparing for her students (and I got to be a part of it – mostly against my will ~smile~).
One Christmas season when I was in middle school, Mom found out one of her student’s families was not doing well financially and would probably have an extremely meager gift exchange that year. Her heart was touched and she decided to give some gifts to the family as well as spreading the word so others could give gifts to the family too. I can still remember sitting in the middle of my Dad’s truck as he, my mom’s teaching assistant, and I drove to the child’s house to deliver the gifts. As we walked in with armloads of presents the mom cried out repeatedly with tears in her eyes, “Thank you, Jesus!” By the grace of God, I hope to never forget that experience. All I did was help take presents to a family in need (and by the contents of their home it was clear they were truly in need), but it left a mark on my heart. It was one of the best feelings of my childhood. When I left, I wanted to take more gifts to more families!
Serving others takes the focus off of us and places it on someone else (unless we are serving in order to be noticed by others). True servanthood requires giving without expecting a personal return on our investment. Spending time serving others with your boyfriend or girlfriend is an excellent way to get to know each other without focusing on your relationship too much.
How many of us have friends who fall off the face of the Earth when they’re dating someone? It’s like they get so focused on their honey that they forget about the world around them. This is easy to do (I’ve sure been in the clouds at times in my life), but it’s not healthy. The best way to begin a new relationship is by spending your energy doing God’s work. Get the spotlight off of you and Romeo or Juliet and shine it on someone else.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” If you want to have a marriage filled with giving, serving, and loving on people in need, set a precedent by having a dating relationship filled with giving, serving, and loving on people in need. If you find that your boyfriend or girlfriend is not interested in serving others, that’s a tell-tale sign that you may be on different (deal breaking) wavelengths and that he or she may not be very giving to you in a marriage. This does not mean that he or she is going to want to do every serving activity, but there should be some of them that are a good fit.
Though you and your honey are working on service projects together, be sure serve on your own as well. Remember, you are not married yet and it’s important to lead your life as a single man or woman for the time being. This is your time to devote your energy to the things of the Lord before your interests are divided (1 Corinthians 7:34).
Treasure your single time! You will likely have many years to focus on your marriage and raising a family, so don’t be in a rush to pair your life with someone else’s while you are unwed. Let your relationship grow and mature without losing yourself in the process. Remember that your identity as a child of God is found in Christ, not in your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Find a few service projects and dive in – together and separately. Time given to others in a worthy task is time well spent. If you see a need not being met in your community, do some brainstorming and see if there is something you, your sweetheart, and others can do to meet that need. Be wise, be prayerful, and experience the pure joy that comes from selfless giving and serving!
Are you and your boyfriend or girlfriend currently involved in serving your church or community together – and separately?