In the fall of 1987, I had one of those movie moment experiences in my life. You know, the ones where the beautiful girl walks in the room and everything goes into slow motion? It’s that scene when the hot chick looks right at the camera, flings her hair from one side of her face to the other, and says, “hi.” You know what I’m talking about?
Traci and her family had just moved from Wenatchee, WA to Salem, OR and they were living a few miles out of town. They started attending our church and one evening my parents invited her parents out to eat. So my mom and dad drove us out to their place where my sister Naomi and I stayed with Traci and her sister (and a friend named David) while our parents got to know each other at dinner.
As I walked into Traci’s house the world started moving in slow motion, the beautiful girl did the hair thing and I was hooked. Yowzuh! The problem was, I thought she was quite a bit older than me, and I was pretty sure she was out of my league. Don’t get me wrong, I knew deep down inside she was already madly in love with me and was already planning our marriage, I just didn’t want to break her heart that things probably weren’t going to work out for us -- we were doomed lovers from the start.
You can imagine the crushing blow to my ego to find out, years later, that Traci didn’t have the same initial response to me that I had for her. I’m still working on that with my therapist, but we’re doing remarkably well in our marriage despite this rather significant setback. Anyway, I went home from her house kind of in love with her. Although during my 8th grade year I ended up “dating” another girl I had actually just met my future wife.
Shortly after I entered high school the following year, Traci and I had become friends. I realized she was 20 months older than me, but because of her late September birthday, she was only one grade up. This fact restored hope in my heart, and I set out to make sure she and I dated before my freshman year was over.
That was no easy task for a number of reasons. First of all, Traci was the “new girl” hottie in youth group -- a bunch of guys had hopes of dating her. Secondly, there was the minor problem that I didn’t have the same slow motion impact on her that she had on me. Third, I was younger than her. Fourth, she thought I was “cute,” kind of like a puppy is cute. You don’t date your puppy.
Well, before my freshman year was over, Traci and I began dating. It’s always a little awkward when you’re a guy and the girl has to drive on your dates because she’s older than you, but when you get the girl, you can endure those hardships for a season. Ok, so it was like a year of hardship because I didn’t get my license until the following spring, but I still had the girl.
It’s funny how little high school dating has to do with actual relationships. Despite the fact that we dated for all of our high school years and most of our college years (with a few short breakups in there), we have always told our children and the students we’ve worked with, that dating in high school is a horrible idea. In fact, over nearly 17 years of full-time youth ministry, I know of just one high school dating relationship that ended in marriage.
High school dating is relatively easy. Basically you have the opportunity to alway show your good side, and to not have to endure the slow, mundane or painful parts of life. It’s not that you don’t have those moments, but you don’t have to live in them together. You might help each other go through a tough time, but when you don’t have to live in it together, you really don’t understand the full impact of the situation. Likewise, most of our dates were out of the house and out on the town, eating junk food, watching movies etc... High school dating is really insulated from the realities of life.
Unfortunately, I think too many of us approach our relationship with God the same way we approach high school dating. We want the benefits of having a God nearby, but we don’t want the commitment that a real relationship requires. I loved dating Traci, but I also had freedom to explore other relationships, to ditch her for my guy friends, and when she was really grumpy (not that she ever was...in case she’s reading this) I dropped her off and hit the pool hall or arcade with my buddies. I loved having a girlfriend, but I also liked that she wasn’t around all the time.
Today I’m glad Traci is my wife. We’ve learned to put up with each other, not just to get by, but to really enjoy the depth of a loving, committed relationship. (On our 17th anniversary I wrote a blog post entitled about the 17 Reasons we have a great marriage that went mini-viral and was viewed by thousands and thousands of people.) She knows my weaknesses and loves me anyway, we have closed the doors to exploring other relationships, and have determined to work out any difficulties that arise, when they arise, in our commitment to make our marriage great.
That’s the kind of relationship we must have with God in order to live the Overboard Life. God can’t be our “go to” date when we want to have a good time or when we need someone to talk to. Instead, He has to be the One we are committed to above all else. We have to determine to keep him #1, to stay connected through daily routine, to turn to Him first in heartache and celebration, to embrace Him as Father and friend, and to recognize that our lives take on the greatest meaning when they are spent doing what He wants us to do for His honor and glory!
Are you dating God right now? If so, I’ve got some bad news...God doesn’t like to date! God is interested in having a meaningful relationship with you and the good news is, He will never let you down. He won’t fail you and He will never turn His back on you. You might not always understand Him in the moment, but He promises to make your life the best it can be when it’s left in His care, according to His time. And that is the heart and soul of what it means to live Overboard -- trusting God with your life!
17 down, 23 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!