I wanna love somebody, but I don’t know how.
— from Sucker’s Prayer by The Decemberists

When I was 6, my parents divorced. As a result, I didn’t really grow up with an example of what a loving relationship was supposed to look like. Everything I learned about matters of the heart came from Hollywood. I watched a lot of movies as a kid — romantic comedies with my mom, action movies with my dad. This approach was not helpful. Those movies weren’t about loving your partner every day, through good times and bad. At best, they only showed me how to get the girl, which involved either riding in on a white horse in a grand romantic gesture, or rescuing her from terrorist kidnappers by sailing in on a zip line with one hand, while using my other hand to blast the bad guys with my Uzi.

We couldn’t afford a white horse, and mom wouldn’t let me have an Uzi, so I was on my own. Unfortunately, that lead to a whole lot of trial and error. Mostly, I was just following my heart.

Free advice: Don’t follow your heart. Your heart is dumb. It doesn’t know the difference between love, lust and hormones. At least mine certainly didn’t.

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
— Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

It’s easy to look back on my high school days and be dismissive about my early romantic relationships. It was just puppy love, right? But, at the time, all the intensity, the passion, the drama and the hurt (usually caused by me) were 100% real. Puppy love can wreck your whole world when you’re a puppy.

Last Sunday at c|Life, the pastors delivered a sermon that I sure wish I could’ve heard as a teenager. It was full of practical guidelines for dating in a way that honors God. (If you missed it on Sunday, you can watch it here: youtu.be/kYjxhMmrcQc) I’m so thankful that both of my teenage kids heard the sermon as well. It gave us a framework that we can reference during the many conversations I plan on having with them about this topic (much to their horror, I’m sure). I didn’t have anybody to teach me this stuff, but I can walk through it with my son and my daughter. I’m actually looking forward to helping them develop boundaries and guardrails for their future relationships, not because I love shackling them down with rules, and not just to keep them out of trouble, but so they can experience the long-term, very best life that God has to offer them.