I still have my original, marked-up copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. My mother gave it to me during my freshman year of high school. Inside, she left a handwritten note. Dated March 9, 2002: I pray that this book would shed some light on what it means to be godly as you begin this phase in your life.

I am among the generation that was shaped, both good and bad, by the teachings of author Joshua Harris. More than one million copies of I Kissed Dating Goodbye were sold after its original publication in 1997. As a college student, I read his follow-up book, Boy Meets Girl.

For me, it didn’t change many of the convictions I already had about dating. I just wasn’t the kind of person that was ever going to “date around” anyway. Harris’s books helped me believe God cares deeply about who we date and marry. And He desires for us to follow His will throughout the process.

So, reading about Harris’s self-described “falling away” from the faith in recent weeks has been quite unbelievable. In case you missed it, Harris announced on social media that he and wife Shannon are separating. And he has re-evaluated much of his belief system. In fact, he no longer identifies as a Christian.

The announcement felt personal—like it had come from a family member or close friend.

An apology

Maybe that’s because I actually had the chance to meet Harris a couple of years ago. It was a full-circle moment for me. Here was the man that had impacted so many young Christians my age. Now on an apology tour of sorts for the “damage” his view of dating and courtship had caused.

Around that time, he appeared in the documentary I Survived “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” In the film, Harris appears with other young adults who say they were hurt by the idolization of virginity and the formulaic approach to a “happily ever after” prescribed in his book about courtship.

Instead of pushing young adults to pursue dating with purpose, many people said I Kissed Dating Goodbye led males to become passive. They were wary to pursue any girl without knowing for sure she was wife material. Lisa Anderson addressed this cultural moment on FamilyLife Today®.

When we met, I appreciated Harris’s kind spirit, humility, and willingness to admit where he went wrong with the books. Was everything he said wrong? No. But did it possibly change an entire generation of young Christians and their idea of biblical dating? Probably. At least he was willing to admit so.

What an absolutely wild thing to think Joshua Harris has now left the Christian faith completely. His view of relationships has made a total 180 if there ever was one.

As I grapple with these new revelations, there are a few sobering reminders I’m thinking through for myself and those around me.

We are all prone to wander

As the beloved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” says,

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

We are constantly at war with ourselves, our sin nature, and Satan himself. Satan wants nothing more than to blind us into no longer believing the truth.

What happened to Joshua Harris can happen to anyone. He’s just as human as the rest of us. We need to remember that before we rush to any judgment.

It takes a daily dying to ourselves and living for Christ to keep our hearts and minds from wandering. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

We need to regularly be in God’s Word

One of the most fundamental ways we learn about God, stay close to Him, and hear from Him is by reading the Bible. That cannot be overstated. Trust me, as a working mom of two, I can say there are going to be days when you just aren’t “in the mood” or don’t think you have the time to be in the Word of God.

I feel that more often than I would like to admit. But this is not something to mess around with. Our faith is at stake when we choose to mark time with God as optional.

I’m willing to bet you are less likely to leave the faith when you are hearing from God Himself daily.

“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:10-11).

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Pray for those around you

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Just like soldiers in war need prayer, so do our Christian brothers and sisters. We need to constantly be on guard and aware of ways Satan is working against those we love. Pray this simple prayer of protection over your spouse, your children, and everyone around you.

Lord, I want to thank You for my (husband/friend/child). I pray they would rest daily in the fact that they are Your child. May they stand firm in the faith. I pray against temptation in their lives. And I ask You to protect them from the spiritual war raging around them. Bind their heart to You, dear Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

God will never walk away from you

Though we ourselves are prone to wander, God never will. His Word says He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). That’s what makes Him completely trustworthy. He will always be there for us.

And it is never too late to return to Him.

As I look at my copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I see the other handwritten note. When we met, Joshua Harris wrote, “Audrey, so great meeting you! Thanks for your encouragement.”

I wish I could return the favor of encouragement right now. Because that’s what I believe Harris needs most.

All he’s heard for the last decade (or so) is how “damaging” his books and thought processes were. I have to wonder what that does to a person.

Now, he needs to be reassured of the good. Not only of the good that did come from his books, but most of all, of the good news of Jesus Christ.

That’s my prayer for Joshua Harris. That he finds the good again.

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