Life Lessons as a Dad - Part 8

 Mike’s wedding day in 2010 with all the brothers in the family as his groomsmen: Luke, Steve, James Hoskins and Sam. Thankful for these wonderful men in my life!

Mike’s wedding day in 2010 with all the brothers in the family as his groomsmen: Luke, Steve, James Hoskins and Sam. Thankful for these wonderful men in my life!

Alright...what are the three mysterious T's! They are very simple observations of how people of the opposite sex (or the same sex for that matter) bond with one another. They are: Time, Talking and Touching. I have watched the romantic journey's of many younger and older people alike through over forty years of pastoral ministry and the three T's are always primary operative dynamics within these relationships.

Before I say more about them, I have to begin by saying that we spoke with our kids about the naturalness and normalcy (because of the way that God has designed us) of having "romantic attractions" to the opposite sex - sometimes even from very young ages. I was smitten by Dale Evans as a 5 year old even though she was married to Roy Rodgers! (Her granddaughter, Mindy Peterson, became a friend of ours before Dale passed away and Mindy told her about my childhood crush on her and Dale gave me a signed copy of one of her books. :-) We spoke with our children not to be embarrassed about these feelings (even though they still struggled with this), but to acknowledge them without shame. I explained to them that we are capable of having romantic attractions toward any number of people along our way in life. The challenge is not to repress these feelings, but to "steward" and "process" them well in the sight of God and people. It's what we do with such emotions and attractions that will make the difference between failure and success in our honoring of God, parents and others. Once they "bought into" and "personally internalized" the reality that they were unwilling and unable to pursue a "serious" romantic relationship in their youth, it was a manageable step for them to intentionally plan and discipline themselves to "keep it cool," romantically speaking, in their early teen and even into their twenty-something years.

People bond romantically to others by engaging in the three T's. They spend time together (especially by being together for long hours in private or semi-private situations). They talk at length directly to one another about the deeper and deepest contents of their hearts - even spiritual things. And...they touch one another in affectionate or intimate ways. The simple and obvious plan for slowing down and/or pacing a romantic relationship, until the proper time for engagement and marriage has come, is to place deliberate limits and boundaries on relating to another person in these specific ways. So to answer my kids' question about how to get a plan to "not fall in love" until they wanted to and to maintain their sexual purity, I was able, to help them in a concrete and practical fashion.

It's amazing to see how both unmarried and married people (emotional affairs almost always precede sexual ones) often plunge headlong into relating to someone of the opposite sex, who is not yet, or not, their spouse, engage in these bonding behaviors without any apparent conscious intention to "fall in love" with them and then be surprised that shortly they, and/or the other person, have "fallen head over heels in love" - HELLO! A lot of young teens pretend that they're seriously committed to their boyfriend/girlfriend so they can feel better about acting like they're going to be married one day. People also often play head games with themselves or others and are simply lying to themselves and/or another about their deeper motives and desires. 

There are a lot of sexual brokenness and unhealthy basic identity issues present in the vast populace of our family-fragmented culture. Our families and churches (extended spiritual families - large or small) must become equipped to bring the healing and restoring power of Jesus Christ into the broken hearts of our children and fellow believers to bring some sanity and joy back into an over-sexed and "boundary-less" society that is now reaping the fruit of relational paradoxes and confusion that have been sown with the seeds of deliberate deviation from both common sense and the wisdom of the Scriptures. 

A good place for us to begin is by consistently and gracefully influencing our children into the winsome ways of Jesus - the Prince of Life. I must say, that this parenting strategy, by God's grace, was highly effective for our five adult and happily married children. I can't wait to tell my young grandkids about the 3 T's when the proper times come!

Michael Sullivant