Ready for Relationships
About the Guest
What do our teens need to know about love? John Majors recalls his own awkward encounters with the opposite sex when he was 13, and admits he had no concept of what dating was all about.
Ready for Relationships
Bob: Ephesians 2:10 says that “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works, which He prepared beforehand, that we would walk in them.” So, as parents, how do we help our children figure out the paths God designed for them to walk in? John Majors says we need to help our children be asking several questions of themselves.
John: “What delights has God given me that I can take value in, even if everyone else isn’t praising them? What unique things has He wired us with?” and “How do we discover those?” I’ve really tried to press into three things: “What do I like? What am I good at?” and then “Will it bring value to people?” If you align those three things up, you’re going to figure how to make money at it—you’re going to figure how to make a career and survive at it. Plenty of people do, even if there’s not an obvious career path toward that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
All of us, as parents, want to help our kids get pointed in the right direction in life. How can we do that when they’re in middle school? We’ll talk about that today with John Majors. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m thinking back to eighth grade. When I was in the eighth grade, there was one thing that stood out that I thought: “I really need this thing.” Do you know what it was?
Dennis: Probably your best friend’s girlfriend.
Bob: [Laughter] I didn’t care if it was my best friend’s girlfriend. [Laughter] I just needed a girlfriend. [Laughter] In fact—
Dennis: [Laughter] So, I was right!
Bob: —I was not fairly discriminating about who she needed to be—[Laughter]
Dennis: You just need one.
Bob: —because other people had girlfriends. I just remember thinking: “Okay; I get how this works.
“I just need to find somebody who would be a girlfriend.” It was not an easy process to go through—to find somebody who wanted to be my girlfriend. I—
Dennis: Why would that be, Bob?
Bob: I ask myself the same question. Still today, I cannot figure out why the girls were just not lining up.
Dennis: I’m tempted to call Mary Ann right now.
Bob: Well let’s not; okay? [Laughter] Let’s not do that.
Dennis: I’ll tell you what let’s do. Let’s ask our guest on the broadcast today, John Majors; and by the way, welcome back, John.
John: Thanks. Good to be here.
Dennis: He’s a colleague, here, at FamilyLife. He and his wife Julie have three children. They speak at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. He’s the Senior Director of Content Development. He helped create Passport2Identity™ for guys and has written a new book called True Identity. Let’s talk about this, John. What do parents need to know about their 13- to 15-/16-year-old about this whole identity thing around having a girlfriend?
Bob: Well, did you have a girlfriend when you were 14?
John: My first girlfriend was also in eighth grade—
John: —which meant we sat together at church. I think that was—
Bob: That’s as far as that went.
John: That was about the bulk of it. [Laughter] If your parents have to drive you to go anywhere, it’s probably not a real girlfriend.
Bob: Here’s a key question: “Did she know she was your girlfriend?”
John: Oh, yes.
Bob: Okay; I was just checking—
John: I asked, and we clarified.
Bob: —because some guys—they just say: “She’s my girlfriend. She just doesn’t know it yet.”
Dennis: I confess, too, that in the eighth grade—
Dennis: —I got a girlfriend too—
Dennis: —and got my first kiss on a merry-go-round.
John: In the eighth grade?
Dennis: In the eighth grade. I’m not saying I was mesmerized by the whole thing. [Laughter] I slipped the guy who was running the merry-go-round an extra five bucks—I said, “Just let it run.”
Bob: “Keep going!” [Laughter]
Dennis: “Keep it going!” [Laughter]
I’m just telling—it’s a powerful time in the life of a young person, when the hormones start raging—and girls do start paying attention; or guys pay attention to you, as a girl; right, John?
John: Yes; kudos to you because I was way too nervous to kiss her. I couldn’t pull it off. [Laughter]
Bob: This is a part of early adolescence that I think parents are afraid of. They’re not sure how to help their child navigate it. They tend to say, “Don’t,” rather than entering in and saying: “Okay; this is real. Let me help you with this.”
You’ve written a book called True Identity. It’s for 14- and 15-year-olds to read, but it’s also good for parents to read through it with them so you can have some conversations on these issues.
John: Yes; when I was dating my eighth-grade girlfriend, I had no context for what romance and relationships were really about. I had no intentionality in the relationship. It was just—as you guys would say—“Just having fun—we’re just hanging out.” It feels good to have somebody show you attention / express affection.
Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t like that?
But I think, as Christians, especially, we’re called to be intentional around this issue; because there is a greater calling around romance and relationships. It’s really the ultimate purpose of dating—is to find a spouse / to find someone to be married to. When we’re just fooling around with one another, we’re often interrupting that process of God helping us to really get into a relationship that will honor him, ultimately, in marriage.
Dennis: When we were going through this phase with each of our six children, as they broke into adolescence and they were being pursued by the opposite sex, one of the things that brought great strength to them and their identity, as a follower of Christ, was to talk to them about the purpose of dating and to talk about a definition—say: “Let’s talk about ‘What is a date?’”—just the definition of a date.
And our culture doesn’t like to define things; because if you define it, you have to live by it. We defined a date as being alone with the opposite sex.
John: I shared your definition recently with a group of high school graduates I was teaching on marriage and family. The scoffing that came out in the room—oh, it was overwhelming: “How can you say that that’s a date?” And the thing I pushed back on them is: “Well, then, you tell me what a date is. What is your definition of a date? Do you have one?” Most of them didn’t / most of them hadn’t—even late in high school.
That’s part of the challenge: “How are we being intentional in our romantic relationships?”—because if you’re not intentional—I mean, the slide is towards sexual involvement pretty early on / that’s what all the cultural messages are telling them is the marker of a real romantic relationship.
Bob: I think this is different today than it was when I was 14 years old. A lot of young girls are actively pursuing young men, and they’re the aggressors—
—you wrote about this, Dennis, in your book, Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys.
I’m just wondering if you could go back and speak to your 14-year-old self about this period of life—and what this needs to look like and how to get through it in a healthy God-honoring way—what would you say?
John: I was so clueless at 14. Not long after that, I read a book, Lady in Waiting. It’s written for single women who are waiting for Prince Charming to come along and swoop them up. I read it because I realized I needed to get in the head of a young single lady and understand—
Dennis: Find out how to swoop them.
John: Well, no, to under—I mean, of course, I was interested in that—[Laughter]—but also: “What are they thinking about the way I’m behaving? What is that communicating to them about my intentions?” I had no idea that some of the things I was saying to my girlfriend at the time—who became my wife—that the ways that I was leading her on, emotionally, and didn’t even realize it.
I think, with a young guy, you’ve got to sit him down and say: “Look, here’s how a young man treats a lady.
“He’s real clear about his intentions. He doesn’t just toy with her emotions. He doesn’t just lead her on, but he’s intentional to lead the relationship in a God-honoring way.”
Dennis: And if I had the opportunity to go back and talk to me, I think I would have grabbed me by the lapels; [Laughter] and I think—
Bob: “You dummy, listen!”
Dennis: —I think I’d had a wakeup call is what I would done: “LISTEN TO ME! [Laughter] You’re messing around with fire! LET’S THINK THIS THROUGH A LITTLE BIT. There’s more to life than chasing girls.”
Bob: You would have had the Proverbs 5:6-7 discussion, where it does talk about: “Look, this is a dangerous area.”
Dennis: And I would have talked about the reality of that, but here’s the thing—my mom and dad were great parents, and I mean that. I can say they were great parents, even though I do not consciously recall a conversation about dating / about relating to the opposite sex.
I did have a dad who taught me how to protect a woman—who treated my mom with the utmost respect / who treated her like a woman and a woman that he loved.
But we didn’t get down to discuss what teenagers are going through. I mean, it is—when the switch comes on in adolescence, mom and dad have to be there. This is not optional. You have to be there and have the discussions and be talking about—and that’s why John’s book is going to be so helpful here. It’s going to enable you to engage around kind of a third party—a book that says it. You can ask your son or daughter what he or she thinks about it.
Bob: I think it was on my third or fourth date with Mary Ann that I told her I loved her. She was not the first girl I’d said that to.
Dennis: Did you tell a bunch of eighth grade girls that you loved them to try to get them to be your girlfriend? [Laughter]
Bob: No; no, I don’t think I said that.
But when I was growing up, if I found a girl that I really liked and we enjoyed being together, it was real easy for me to say: “You know what? I love you.” What I meant was: “You’re special, and I like hanging out with you.” I had no idea that when Mary Ann or other girls heard me say, “I love you,” they thought I was an inch away from proposing marriage to them.
Bob: And to your point, Dennis, my dad had never said to me, “Now, look, you don’t say these things to a young woman; because that’s what she’s going to think.” In fact, my boys heard me say over and over again: “If you say to a girl, ‘I love you,’ your next statement is ‘Will you marry me?’ You don’t say the first until you’re ready to say the second.”
These are the kinds of conversations / helpful conversations that fathers and sons / mothers and daughters need to be having.
Bob: And with Passport2Identity—the getaway kit that you [John] helped create for fathers and sons and mothers and daughters—those conversations emerge in the dialogue that takes place.
And then, this book is a follow up to that—gives moms and dads an opportunity to circle back around on some of these conversations and say: “Okay; so what’s going on with you?” and “How can I help?” and “Here’s some things to keep in mind.” We’re just not going to do that naturally, as parents, unless we get a little prodding; and the book helps provide the prod.
John: I remember my mom saying to me on multiple occasions, “If you are half the husband that your father is, you’ll be a great husband.”
John: I had no idea what that meant at first; but I knew that she was saying: “Look to him. Look to what he’s doing; and even if he doesn’t spell it all out for you, honor a young lady. Treat her with respect and dignity. Don’t lead her on. Get out ahead and lead in the relationship and be the strong one.”
We’ve tried to put together some principles to help a young man and a young lady think in terms—
—we’ve drawn on other books like Sex, Dating, and Relationships, where they talk about this whole new category of dating relationships—that’s not really a biblical category, where sexual activity has become acceptable. There’s a kind of kiss that is acceptable, even between two men in many cultures, that would never be acceptable with a family member; but yet, that kind of affection has become acceptable in a dating relationship, even in Christian dating relationships. It really is sexual activity. We’ve tried to just help give some categories of “How are you thinking about the ways you’re interacting with this other young person?”
Bob: You’re also trying to help parents have conversations with their kids and help kids start thinking about the fact that they’re here for a purpose. It’s not just to enjoy life—they have an assignment from God: “’They are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand for them to walk in.’ So, let’s figure out what those good works are; and let’s get you walking in that direction”; right?
John: I was a big fan of C.S. Lewis. I was reading his book, Surprised by Joy—it was New Year’s Eve / Y2K—and just trying to finish that book up before the end of the year. I finished that book; and I realized: “C.S. Lewis—what if he would have rejected the way God had made him? God designed him with a deep love for languages and stories. He wasn’t any good at sports, and he knew that all the popular kids at his British school were good at cricket and whatever sports they played. Yet he didn’t reject that—he delighted in that—and that led to tons of great literature that’s radically shaped much of Christian America, especially.”
That just got me thinking: “What delights has God given me that I can take value in, even if everyone else isn’t praising them? What unique things has he wired us with?” and “How do we discover those?” I really tried to press into three things: “What do I like? What am I good at?” and then “Will it bring value to people?”
That third one is an element that we often don’t really explore with our kids.
There’s plenty of things I like, but maybe I’m not good at. I really feel like I was born to be an NBA player—deep inside. [Laughter]
Bob: Yes; it is way deep inside—trust me. [Laughter]
John: Oh. I don’t need you telling me that to know that. Many others have made that plenty clear.
So, “What do I love? What am I good at?” but then “Does that bring value to other people?” If you align those things, you’re going to figure how to make money at it—you’re going to figure out how to make a career and survive at it. Plenty of people do, even if there is not an obvious career path toward that.
But there’s an overarching mission that we can’t lose sight of in the midst of trying to figure out: “How do we make money and make a career for ourselves, moving forward?” We have the Great Commission, that all Christians have been given, that really precedes what our daily activities look like. “How are we taking God’s Word to the world?” is our first mission; and then, “How we live that out, day to day, in our vocation?”
Hopefully those overlap and complement.
Bob: And John, this is important; because you know that, back 500 years ago, there was this dichotomy that, if you wanted to love and serve the Lord, you went into the ministry. If you did anything else—if you’re a blacksmith or whatever else—then you were just kind of a run-of-the-mill person. Really spiritual people went into the ministry.
We can still have that same kind of dichotomy working in our culture today. With our children, we need to impress on them that, even if they are called to be NBA players, you can be an NBA player for the glory of God and can accomplish His purposes in whatever the vocational calling winds up being.
John: A young man came to me recently with that very issue: “I love programming; but yet, I love leading worship at church. I feel like it would be less spiritual and less important for me to go into programming, although I feel like that’s what I’d really like to do.”
We talked through the difference between vocation and mission, and how those overlap.
Even, biblically, there’s not some higher calling to the professional ministry vocation—you don’t really see that in Scripture. You see vocation as a tool to the mission. Paul’s a good example—sometimes, he was a tent maker; sometimes, he was a missionary; sometimes, he was a professional prisoner—but in every instance, it was “How am I proclaiming the gospel in all that I do?”
I think our own guy here—Jeff Kemp’s a great example of that. He was a professional quarterback. But in his mind, that was really a vehicle for ministering to the guys he was around; and it was a platform to proclaim the gospel in all of life.
Bob: And in that, he still sought to be the very best quarterback he could be;—
Bob: —but he understood that there was a bigger purpose than just scoring the touchdown.
Dennis: And what a parent needs to do is be sensitive to their children. When they begin to show interest in making a difference and being on a mission, be careful to not extinguish the flame before it has a chance to flicker and catch fire.
We were at a staff meeting—Bob, I think you were there / John, you were as well—when some of the daughters of the staff, here, at FamilyLife had an idea. You write about this in your book, John. Tell them what happened about these young ladies who wanted to dig a well in Africa.
John: They ended up calling themselves Single Drop Ministries. They wanted to dig a well in Africa. They came to us and asked us to help: “Would we give money toward that?”
Dennis: You’re speaking of “we” being the staff of FamilyLife.
John: The staff at FamilyLife. They were blown away by how much was given. As a result, they’ve been able to take multiple mission trips—dig wells in multiple countries—in a way that they never even could have imagined. When I tell that story to young people, it’s just to cast a vision for them: “You are in the age where you’re not just waiting to get through school to where you can do something significant—
John: —“or waiting to get to a real career—
Dennis: Exactly; exactly.
John: —“where you can start to live. Paul Tripp calls this ‘the age of opportunity.’
“In fact, the energy you have / the enthusiasm—one of my favorite verses, 1 Timothy 4:12: ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.’” Man, the motivation I get from seeing a young person get fired up about the Lord is incredibly powerful: “You can accomplish a lot right now. You don’t have to wait.”
Dennis: It’s interesting we’re talking about this—because when our oldest three were like, I think, 8, 10, 12, or there about—I took them on a trip to South Korea, China, and Macau. These were times to expose them to sharing Christ with people of other countries. It’s interesting—right now, that Samuel, who was one of the three, is on a plane right now on his way to Russia with the two oldest in his family. On Saturday, our oldest daughter, Ashley, will get on a plane with her husband, with five of their boys; and they’re going to Latin America to go reach out and minister to needy people.
Bob: I think the point there is that your kids see us on mission.
But I want to go back to what John was saying, which is: “We don’t want to send the message that being on mission is something that you wait to do until you graduate from college. A 14-year-old who wants to go dig a well can do that when they’re 14 years old. Your eight-year-old can be on mission. It’s just going to look different at eight than it’s going to look at 28.” We just have to be reinforcing: “What is it you can be doing to serve Jesus today, wherever you are and in whatever setting you’re in?”
John: Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Greg Harris—Josh Harris’s father and Alex and Brett Harris’s father—said: “I often looked to foster those delights in my children. Where did I see an interest in their life? I was quick to pull out my checkbook to help them grow in that area.”
Yes; take them to Russia / take them to China / take them to Korea on those mission trips; but also: “What can they do in their neighborhood? Is there someone on my street who needs help? Can I take them over there and show them how to serve and minister to people?” and “Can I set an example there?” and then “Can I foster the delights that I see in them?—where they have an interest in serving and growing.”
Dennis: As a parent, you need to realize you’re the place that needs to be the keeper of the standard and know where you’re going and what you’re trying to build into your children’s lives. They need help in capturing their identity in Jesus Christ. You have to answer the questions around dating, around mission, around sexuality. You’ve got to be the one who guides them through the conversations around this; and to do that, you’re going to need help. I think this book, True Identity, is going to be a great help in opening the door for multiple discussions—not just one /a onetime discussion—but to have it a first time so you can come back at a later time and talk about it more in-depth.
Bob: Yes; it’s really a one-two punch. It’s the book that John has written—together with the getaway for a mom and daughter or a dad and a son to have—you do the getaway first and then you go through the book later. Those work together to open the door to a lot of very healthy conversations about issues that your middle school-aged son or daughter—trust me, they’re living through these issues right now.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get a copy of John’s book or to find out more about Passport2Identity. You can listen to some samples of what the Passport2Identity audio project sounds like. I think your kids will find it engaging / I think you will as well. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order or get more information. Or call if you have any questions or if you’d like to order by phone: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number / 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I remember a t-shirt I saw—this was years ago—but if you’re as old as me, you may remember a t-shirt that had a picture of a bunch of fish all swimming in one direction; and there was one fish swimming in the opposite direction. I think all the fish were blue, and the one swimming in the other direction was red. The caption at the bottom of the t-shirt said, “Go against the flow.” You know, that’s how it feels for us, as followers of Christ, in a culture where the flow is going in a direction away from what the Bible teaches. As parents, we’re trying to help our kids swim upstream and go against the flow.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how you can cultivate a heart of gratitude in your children, especially during the month of November. I think there’s something about Thanksgiving on the calendar this month; right? We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can join us with our guests, Barbara Rainey and Tracy Lane.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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