For many young people with safe and easy lives, the most heartfelt prayers often concern relationships with the opposite sex. I used to be embarrassed by this, since I felt a little panty-waisted praying for “wisdom” about “that girl” while reading:
Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up;
Fighting all day he oppresses me.
My enemies would hound me all day,
For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. (Ps 56:1-2)
No matter how many times you remind someone who fancies himself in love that David was worse off then he is, it doesn’t lessen the strength of his feelings. Sure, it’s easy to laugh at in retrospect, but at the time, figuring out guys and girls and how we’re supposed to interact feels like the weight of the world on a pair of skinny, pimpled shoulders.
But where in the Bible could we go to find a role model, someone who had navigated the Charybdis of relationships with the opposite sex and come out victorious on the other side? There aren’t too many Biblical characters who spend their days sighing over their secret love–and those that do aren’t worthy of imitation (2 Sam 13). In fact, most Bible courtships are somewhat… cursory. It usually involves several camels, a handful of gold jewelry, a quick conversation with a near relative, that kind of thing. It’s almost embarrassingly banal, and certainly doesn’t do justice to the emotional jungle that most teens find themselves in.
Of course, the Bible story as a whole is the story of Christ laying down his life for his bride, and it ends with a glorious wedding. But what does that have to do with young people whose prayer lives are only consistent when they’re twitterpated and it isn’t going well? Do high school crushes have anything to do with spiritual warfare?
Absolutely. In the very beginning, the relationship between man and woman, which God made to be the most intimate in Creation, is one of the first things that’s torn apart by sin. First, sin creates a rift between man and God, then it creates a rift between man and woman. The entire story of the Bible (and history) is a quest to rebuild those lost relationships.
The point is that being confused and in love (or in love and confused), does not by itself make young people foolish children who don’t understand the world and who just “need to grow up.” The feelings and emotions that run amok during the teenage years (and afterward!) are not peripheral to the Christian life–they are at the heart of what Jesus came to fix.
It’s also worth mentioning that the bewilderment doesn’t go away when a man and a woman are brought closer together. Because of sin, the closer the relationship becomes, the more opportunities there are for conflict and confusion. The battle of the sexes rages fiercely because the sexes are meant to complement one another. The good news is that when Jesus fixes our relationship with God, the downstream effects of that heal our relationships with each other.
In other words, don’t be embarrassed if your prayer life seems heavily concerned with what she did, or what he said. Yes, there are ways to blow these things out of proportion. But ultimately, it’s a struggle against the effects of sin, and that’s a fight worth fighting.