I had my first real crush when I was almost 12. He played on my brother’s basketball team and whew! was he ever cute. It didn’t hurt that he could drop three-pointers like nobody’s business.
Unfortunately, at that point in my life I was living in a TINY town with a whole slew of fun-loving uncles who all loved to watch high school basketball games and who somehow figured out that I was sighing over a particular ninth grade boy.
I would go to games and when my crush made a shot, an uncle would call across the gym, “Tasha! Did you see that?” Since the-boy-whom-I-shall-not-name was one of the highest scoring players, this happened so often that my face was permanently stained red.
That was also the year that I realized many of my classmates were starting to pair off. There were boys in my class who were cute, for sure, but I felt stutteringly insecure about acknowledging that I liked anyone. When I realized there was actually a boy who, for some unknown reason, was pretty impressed with my frizzy shoulder-length hair and too-big glasses (or maybe he just thought I had a good personality?) I went to my dad in a panic. “Can you give me a rule that I can’t date until I turn 16?” I asked him. Because the easiest response EVER to a question about dating would be, “Uh, sorry, my dad won’t let me date.”
My dad just looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. “There’s no need for you to date at this age. Don’t worry about it.”
I was pretty sure that meant I could blame him if anyone questioned me.
But the truth of the matter? I was starting to notice boys. Mostly just that ninth grader with the mad basketball skills, but it was obvious that this new awareness wasn’t going to go away.
Before anything could come of that strange year of noticing boys and being noticed by boys, my family moved. We slipped off to Florida where I didn’t know anyone and was starting with a clean slate.
(Well, besides the pile of newspaper clippings that my grandparents kept sending every time said-crush was in the newspaper. Which, unfortunately, was quite often. Darn small-town basketball hero.)
It was around that time that more conservative circles began talking about there being alternatives to dating. Turns out you didn’t have to date in high school to get married someday. (Who knew?!) In fact, some people even managed to make it to the altar without dating at all!
To this incredibly introverted girl, who was basically confidant that there wasn’t a single pretty thing to do with frizzy hair and glasses, I found this to be encouraging. I didn’t have to date. What? Maybe someday there would be a guy who would want to marry me despite my ordinariness, and in the meantime I didn’t have to go on a single awkward date. Awesome sauce.
Even when I had another crush in junior high (another basketball player. What can I say? It’s like a sickness.) I was still set on my not-gonna-date status. At one point the new crush spent part of a youth meeting tossing a basketball around with me. I don’t think I strung two words together the whole time, which probably confused the pudding out of him. I mean, the word around school was that I had his name written all over my math notebook (I did, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, and I didn’t do all of the writing.) but there I was, silent as a mouse, shooting free-throws.
I think I realized right then, as the ball swished through the net again, that I could date if I wanted to. I mean, all it would have taken was a little flirting. After all, I had contacts by then and knew how to French-braid my hair. A little smiling and well-placed jokes that made him and laugh and whalla! I could date the cute basketball player.
But I didn’t want to.
I was really starting to seek after God at that point in my life, and dating a guy seemed like a huge distraction. I was spending hours reading through the Old Testament prophets and realizing exactly how passionate God was about His people, and how serious He was about them needing to choose to follow Him.
Other reasons to not date, besides the fact that I was an introvert, were coming into play—and the value of having a single-minded heart came into focus. I wanted to live a life that mattered. I didn’t want to just be a Sunday morning Christian, or a passive Believer. I wanted my faith to be so deep and real that no one would question who I believed in, or whether or not I understood Christ’s love.
There were so many years ahead of me before I could think seriously about a boy. Where could a high school romance really go? The only reason to date seemed to be to find a husband, and I was pretty sure that marriage at 14 was not part of God’s plan for my life. And the other reasons to date? To have someone like you, want to hold your hand, kiss you? Those seemed a bit premature since I hadn’t even passed algebra yet.
Not to mention, I had just figured out that those basketball boys weren’t the only ones who could sink three-pointers. I could, and did, start racking up my own basketball records and by George, it was fun!
My parents didn’t give us any laws one way or another about dating (even when I begged for rules because that seemed easier to me), but they kept pointing out the benefits of just being friends and not separating off. Somewhere in there I decided they probably did know what they were talking about. Shocker.
I was so occupied by finishing school early, laughing through basketball and soccer games, and spending hours studying Scripture, I never missed the dating scene. There were plenty of friends in my life, a whole soccer team of boys (I was the only girl player in our little school), and my three brothers plus an exchange student who lived with us. While no one singled me out, we all got along fabulously—and my brothers didn’t even seem to mind that their little sister went everywhere they went.
The one time I started feeling a bit insecure about the fact that I didn’t even have to turn away any dates to maintain my date-free high school years, my soccer coach told me that I wasn’t really the kind of girl a guy would want to date anyway—I was just the kind that they all wanted to miraculously end up married to someday.
That statement mollified me and I continued on.
I think I was sixteen the first time a guy hit on me. It was one of my brother’s friends and he was laying it on pretty thick about how cute and funny I was. I didn’t particularly like him, but I’ll admit it sounded nice. My brother was standing with us, so I didn’t expect the guy to come on so strong—but when he reached over to tug on one of my curls and then run his hand down my arm, my brother body-slammed him into the lockers. I was a bit surprised, but did find it humorous as he laid the law down about never laying a finger on his sister again.
Later I figured out why my brother cared about that particular boy trying to play me. I don’t think I would have fallen for it, but I was just as glad that I didn’t have to find out. There was some part of me that really loved the attention of those moments and that scared me. I didn’t want to get my confidence from some guy with a smooth tongue. I wanted to believe what was true. I knew I was a fun person, a good friend, and not horrible to look at, but there were deeper things that actually gave me value. I decided right then that any guy worth my time had better be able to serve up something more substantial than how much they liked my curls or my dry humor or the way I could swish a three-pointer.
Of course, it didn’t escape my notice that my crushes from junior high had been formed over the same type of shallow thinking. Reason number 1,345 that I was thankful I hadn’t fallen prey to the dating scene back then: my value system had been more than a bit off. But something was deepening in me, a maturity that came with age, for sure, but also a deep, solid foundation that came from knowing God and being known by Him. I wanted to look pretty on the outside but I wanted to be beautiful as well.
In Christ, I knew there was worth to who I was. A woman who lived by God and for God was known in Scripture as more precious than rubies and as someone who was called blessed. None of that was found in her body, or her smile, or her athletic skills. It was found in who she was created to be. In Christ, her worth was nonnegotiable. Nothing could take from it and nothing outward could add to it. She simply was because of who Christ is. It was the safest, most priceless kind of worth.
By the time I was 17, I was done with high school and off gallivanting. I still didn’t have to turn away dates, but there were also plenty of guys who smiled at me. I smiled back but didn’t talk much. The only place I really talked was at Bible studies, and while that provided me with plenty of boys who came to me with questions in regards to faith—not a single one ever mentioned so much as meeting for coffee.
Yet, even then, I was thankful. I had this sneaking suspicion that my personality wouldn’t handle “casual” relationships very well. So the fact that all the guys around me thought of me as a smart and semi-loveable big sister (even when I was years younger than them) was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t have to sift through my feelings for any of them, I could just smile and hang out with groups of people.
I almost broke my no-dating decision right after I turned 18. I moved home and a good friend started smiling at me a bit more warmly, which caused my stomach to flip-flop around. He was great and good looking and even went so far as to talk to my father. My dad encouraged friendship since we were so young and over the next few months I realized that while I could have pretty easily been convinced to put everything into a relationship because, hey, it’s really fun to have an awesome guy like you, and I really did want to get married someday! I also had a lot of stuff on my heart that the Lord kept prodding me with.
Once again, a realization struck me: I probably could get married. Not just to anyone, but to a really great guy who really did seem to like me for good reasons.
But I knew that dropping everything to pursue that relationship would mean dropping the other things God was calling me to. And I really wanted the God-things.
I think, in my naïve 18 year old mind, I figured this guy might still be there when I finished wandering off here and there. Didn’t God do that kind of thing? Ask you to give up what you wanted and then later give it back to you? But as time crawled by, and I wandered off to Haiti to visit another orphanage, and the guy started looking at another girl, it came to me that sometimes God doesn’t do things exactly like we expect.
In fact, I would venture to say that most often God doesn’t do what we expect.