Sharnessa wrote this letter to two girls who had just attended a "Romance God's Way" seminar by Eric and Leslie Ludy, and who were very new to this idea. She lived in New York (as a nanny earning money to attend the School of Creative Ministries at International Bible Institute of London the following year.)  Her heart was to encourage these girls as they considered and processed what they had taken in at the seminar, but what she says will encourage any teen  wondering about and grappling with this issue.  It's very long, but it's well worth the read!  (Someday it'll be a book!)

    

Dear Girls,
   
Hey girls! So howís life in the "Wild West"?  All is well over here on the East Coast. Well, where to start? I have so much to say to you two! How did you like the Romance Godís Way seminar?  I absolutely love their stuff! 
   
Ok, I guess Iíll start at the very beginning. I just want you two to know that youíve really been on my heart a lot lately. I heard that you both went to Eric and Leslieís seminar and were really touched by it. So I guess what I felt God placed on my heart was to follow up on it. Listen girls, I know, TRUST ME, I know how hard it is to go against the flow. I donít know if you have both totally decided which path, as far as dating goes, youíre going to take. But, I just want to share with you my experiences and my heart, and hope that youíll take them into serious consideration. Not that you havenít already heard what I have to say, but I know from my own personal experience that I can many times hear something, but God always managed to use it once again to penetrate my spirit. 
   
Well almost 5 years ago when I was 15, I met Josh Harris. We became friends (the brother-and-sister-in-Jesus kind) and heís actually the one who introduced me to the whole courtship thing. I have to say that I just absorbed everything about it. It seemed so right to me! Now, before that I had never had a boyfriend so it wasnít like I was having to deal with leaving a guy. In fact, this guy and I liked each other before that. I was 15 he was 17. But for some reason, I just did not feel I was supposed to go out with him. [from Barb: A few conversations with your mother probably had a little bit to do with it!   ;-)  ]  I still remember standing in the rain in the church parking lot after church and him asking me if I would "go out" with him. I said, "you know, Iím just too young. It just simply wouldnít make sense right now. I think we should just wait but still be friends in the process. Looking back now, I canít believe I said that before ever even hearing about Romance Godís Way and "courtship"! And to my surprise he actually thought it was a good idea. (This was surprising because he is known as being a "player" and getting any girl he wanted.)
   
Anyway, nothing ever happened there and it was shortly after that I heard Joshís stuff. Man!  Like I said earlier, when I started finding out about it, it was so convincing, so penetrating, so right on, that I knew now I could never enter the dating/boyfriend scene. When something hits me with such a passion, thereís no turning back! Iíll just take it and run! 
   
Now Iím not sure what you guys did with what you heard after the conference, but I just want to now share with you why I chose the path I did. Like any other girl, I had looked forward to someday having a boyfriend and then getting married eventually. Well, here are some things that had never even entered my mind before it. ("It" being "not dating"). For one thing it was so amazing to think that I was actually someoneís future spouse! I mean, Iíve always known I was going to get married, but to actually think about it in the context of "I belong to him now!"  Like it says in Proverbs 31:12: "She does him good and not harm for all the days of his life."  It hadnít occurred to me before that this means even before I meet him!  Iím supposed to be preparing for him right now! 
   
I guess you know that's what I want to get across to you gals. This is such a precious time in your lives right now. God has so much in store for you both, you have TONS of potential and I don't want to see either of you get ripped off. This season of your life is meant for growth -- tremendous growth -- and I have to tell you, relationships (guy/girl) will and DO stunt your growth! I've seen it time and time again in my friends. Honestly, I've learned so much about relationships from watching my friends go through pain and garbage over and over and over. It's not a pretty sight. I have friends who, years later, are still hurting over and affected by past break-ups.  
   
That's one of the main things right there.  When you're in relationship after relationship, and break-up after break-up happens, eventually your heart will become calloused.  It's a vicious cycle.  And like it or not, you will end up taking that pattern into your marriage. I seriously believe that is why there is such a high divorce rate.  Not that it is the only contributing factor obviously, but as I see it, young people are in their relationships and everything is just dreamy... These dreamy feelings of infatuation eventually go away, hence the relationship is disposed of -- because they are no longer "in love." 
   
They then end up going into their marriages with the same pattern happening... The "feelings" are gone, so off to bigger and better things. That is SO not how God intended it to be! Instead of getting caught up in the guy/girl thing I have chosen to lay everything down at Jesus' feet and let it all happen in His timing, not mine. I'm allowing God to use this time preparing me for my man, as opposed to getting caught up in what everyone else is doing. 
   
See, when God brings me and my man together someday, I want to give him my whole heart -- not just the pieces that are left over from past relationships. I want to give him ALL of me. I think that's what is left out of too many youth-oriented teachings today. They focus on the "no s_x* before marriage," which is obviously very important! But it is just as important to keep emotions, thoughts and hearts pure as well. They may not be as physically evident, but they are SO vital! 
   
Okay, think about this now: you are the future wives of two great guys who are somewhere out there right now! Isn't that so exciting to think about?!  Now, I want you to really think about this. Are you honoring and preparing for "the one" by dating other guys? Also, those guys you're dating also "belong" to someone else. I mean, when I first started thinking about all this it was like "Oh my gosh! I would be dating someone else's future spouse! Yikes! Not good!!!" (I'm really sorry if all of this is overwhelming and not making any sense! Sometimes when I'm writing or talking about something I'm so passionate over, I just go off in a million different directions!) 
   
Anyway, I don't know where you're at right now with everything, or whether you have boyfriends or not, or intend to, but please continue to hear me out. I know a lot of this may make it sound like if you do it "God's way," then it's going to be a dull, lonely, lame life. I hope I haven't made it sound like that because it's SO not! Man! When we lay down our will and allow Him to take the steering wheel, God just blesses our socks off! His plans for our lives are way more incredible than we could ever dream up ourselves! He wants us to be happy. I know it may seem like God says "no" to so may things that feel so good, but that's just where people are so wrong! 
   
See, God created love, He is love! And He created emotions and feelings. And He created s_x! As weird as this may sound, He could've made humans just like animals, where they mate simply for reproductive purposes. But with people, He wanted there to be a bond, a unity and an enjoyment there. This was HIS idea! But the thing is, is that He esteems s_x so highly that He only allows it in the sanctity of marriage. Outside of that you're treading on dangerous grounds! 
   
Now, for me, you bet there are times when I just want to forget my standards and morals and go the easy route of instant gratification, but that's where I have to draw strength from Him. I could not do this on my own! Also, I want all that God has for me in every area of my life and to get God's best. To do that, I have to play by His rules! 
   
Now, something I must say is that I love guys! I don't want to make it sound like I refuse to be around them. I really "adore" them, so to speak. But I think the key is keeping it at a friendship level. I know that many people say it's impossible to do that, (I can't tell you how many times I've heard that!), but I'm here to say that it's not impossible! Some of my best friends are and have been guys! But the thing is that if you're going to have guys for friends, you have to be mature enough to make wise enough decisions to KEEP it at a friendship level. For instance, there should be a limit on phone time, and no one-on-one time as that creates a sense of intimacy. Hanging out in group settings or with a bunch of friends, but keeping the flirtatiousness out. That's so important. It's extremely vital to keep motives and everything pure. It should be the same type of relationship that you would have with your brother. Here's a quote from "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by my friend Josh. (I highly recommend this book to you two!) 
   
"Can you imagine the righteousness that could be born if both s_xes took it upon themselves to watch out for each other?! I just love that! It's like, what an amazing thing would happen if we stopped viewing one another as potential boyfriends/girlfriends, but instead as brothers and sisters in Jesus! And we guarded and protected one another's hearts, instead of looking to satisfy our lust. Lust simply means 'I must have it now.'"
   
Also, you really can learn so much from having guys who are friends. In fact, that's one way to find out qualities you want in your future husband, by watching the guys and men around you. I've had people ask me before, "So how are you going to know what kind of husband you want and the qualities you want him to have if you're not going to date?" I always tell them the same thing, that I already know from watching the guys and men in my life! You don't need a boyfriend to know what you'll want in that precious life-long relationship called marriage. In fact, like I've said before, its only going to take away from it. Plus, what in the world can you learn from a teenage guy? Not much!   ;-)   (Well at least most of them, I should say.) 
   
Now, when I'm talking about "watching the men in your lives," I mainly mean your fathers. I'm sure you've already heard this, but did you know that the way you treat your dad is the way you will treat you husband?!  Isn't that weird to think about? But it's so true!
   
While we're on the subject of parents, I'd like to bring up something else. I'm not sure what your relationships are like with your parents, but I must say that they are the most important relationships you'll ever have. (along with "the one" later on!) I have been so blessed! My parents have always been my strength, my comfort, my sounding board, my accountability partners, my reprimanders(!), my friends. I adore them. They are such a vital part of my life. All that to say that I know you both have very cool parents, so don't take them for granted! God placed you with them for a reason! I understand that there are times when things come up and arguments happen, but don't let that get in the way of what could be an awesome relationship. You may not realize it, but your best friends live right down the hall! Also, don't let your friends' opinions influence you towards thinking that it's not cool to think your parents are cool. That attitude has always bugged me. Moms and dads are actually way cooler than us! They are the ones who have more wisdom and they have it all together, so to speak. (At least more than we do). So, seriously listen to what they have to say. Set aside time for them, just like you would a friend. At night, before bed, go sit in their room or on the couch and just talk! I guarantee you won't regret it! 
   
OH!  Back to the thing about dads for a minute. I just have to say that when I watched Eric and Leslie's video and they said the thing about how a daughter treats her father... well, I got so excited! See, my dad and I have an awesome relationship. When I was home, we cuddled, we talked, I left notes for him before he'd leave for work, we laughed, we cried. (yes, both of us!) In fact, I've even told him how handsome he is (and that he looks WAY better without hair!) Now obviously I can't do as many of those things now that I'm over here in New York, but we do talk on the phone a lot. Or he'll send me a card saying really precious things. Or he'll call early in the morning before he leaves for work just to say "hi" and that he was thinking about me and misses me. In fact, one of the weekends that K. and S. [her two friends who were nannies over in NY too] were here for the weekend [they rotated homes each weekend], we grabbed the mail on our way out for the day. Since I was driving, S. read the card my dad had sent me with a box of goodies. Well guess what? She and K. ended up crying right along with me!  It was so funny. Anyway, take my advice seriously! I think you'll find that they are some of the coolest people you know. 
   
Ok, now onto another area. (I hope you poor girls aren't bored out of your minds!) You're probably thinking that if you don't date it's going to be forever until you have "that" relationship. Well, you know what? That's where you just have to lay it down and trust God that things will happen in His timing. And you know what else? This may seem weird, but singleness is a gift. Whether you're 13 or 33, being single is a huge blessing! I don't know if you two know this but I was in a courtship relationship when I was 18, with a guy who was 23. We stayed totally pure, doing everything "above board" with our parents and families involved, not even holding hands! We both totally wanted to honor God in this, and even wanted to save our first kiss for the altar. We ended up realizing it wasn't right, or at least that maybe it was "the right thing at the wrong time" (which is still "the wrong thing"). But my point is that, had I married him, I would not be who I am today. I mean, I was very mature at age 18, (so my parents tell me) and even Leslie Ludy got married at 18. But, though it was totally right for Leslie, I'm not her; it was not the right timing for me. I have grown so much since then. 
   
See, being single is a precious season in one's life where they can be used by God in ways that they can't once married. (And marriage is an awesome "call" once it's time.) But so many people miss out on the goodness of this season of singleness because either they have already rushed into marriage, or they're too busy "trying on" tons of people to try and find the right one. 
   
Here are a few more quotes from Josh's book: 

   
"God doesn't use our singleness to punish us. He has created this season as unparalleled opportunity for growth of service that we shouldn't take for granted or allow it to slip by." ... "Don't do something about your singlehood; do something with it!" ... "God has a perfect plan for your life. More than likely, that plan includes marriage, and if so, somewhere in this world God has the perfect person for you. You may or may not know this person right now. If you spend all your time and energy trying to hunt this person down, or if you've already found this person trying to contain him or her until you can marry, you might actually do that person a disservice. The guy or girl you will one day marry doesn't need a girlfriend or boyfriend (even though he or she may want one right now). What that person really needs is someone mature enough to spend the season before marriage preparing to be a godly wife or husband." ... "Intimacy costs commitment. If I'm not in a position to pay the cold hard cash of commitment, I have no business going shopping for my future mate." ... "While we're single, dating not only keeps us from preparing for marriage, it can quite possibly rob us of the gift of singleness. Dating can tie us down in a series of pseudo relationships, but God wants us to maximize our freedom and flexibility to serve Him. Any season of singleness, whether you're 16 or 26, is a gift. You just might do God a disservice by wasting its potential on a lifestyle of short-term dating." ... "Why don't I snatch it up? (the opportunities of instant gratification by dating.) Why shouldn't you? Because God has promised something better. He provides something better now as we take advantage of the unique opportunities of singleness, and He'll provide something better later when we enter into marriage. But we must have faith to believe it." ... "Believe it or not, if we are discontented with singleness, we'll more than likely face discontentment when we're married. When we define our happiness by some point in the future, it will never arrive. We'll keep waiting until tomorrow. If we allow impatience to govern us, we will miss the gift of the moment. We'll arrive at that point in time that we expected to find fulfillment and find it lacking."
   
WOW! Aren't those incredible? You probably didn't even need what I've had to say, I should've just sent you the book! (I have half the book highlighted -- I'm a highlighting freak.) 
   
Okay, ladies, I think it's time for me to wrap it up here. (Yeah right, Sharn, lets see how long this wrap-up takes!) I guess the last few things I want to say to you, I've already said, but oh well... You are so worth the wait! I see so much potential in you. God has awesome plans for you. Just don't throw it away. God doesn't want just one area of your life. He wants it ALL, which also means the area of relationships! I seriously could not be any more satisfied than I am now and you know why? It's because I got out of the driver's seat and let Jesus take the steering wheel. I CANNOT wait to see the things He's going to unfold for me. It's going to be AWESOME, INTENSE, OVERWHELMING, AND HUGE!  And I know he's got just as amazing things in store for you two, if you'll just trust Him with all that you are, all that you have been and all that you ever will be. I know it's tough to go against the flow, but it SO rewarding. And I know you may feel different at this point, but really, people will look up to you. My friends have told me that they know what I'm doing is right, but that they just don't have the strength to do it. (Lame excuse if you ask me, to know something is right and not do it is actually sin!) 
  
Now, for me, I'm a "fighter," so to speak. In fact, my mom calls me her "Little Joan of Arc"!  So I love a challenge.   :-)   But last month I was on the phone with my mom, and we were talking about courtship, and all of a sudden I felt myself getting angry. (She didn't know it at the time.)  I was thinking to myself, "Why can't I just be "normal"!?  Why did I ever have to hear about courtship? or even homeschooling! I'm tired of being a pioneer! I've always been looked at as "different" because we were pioneers in the areas of home schooling and in courtship." I have no idea where this stuff came from, I've never dealt with this before. But... then this feeling of total honor came over me, and I thought, "Oh wow! God could've chosen anyone to do this stuff, but He chose me!" And then I got choked up. And all this is going on in me while I was on the phone with my mom. Ok, then later that day, I turned my little "saying of the day" calendar to that day's page, and guess what it said? "It is not easy to be a pioneer, but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, not even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world." Isn't that amazing? I just started bawling. I then called my mom and told her the whole story and, of course, she cried too. 
  
Anyway, this is my closing, for real now. Ladies, there are two awesome guys out there right now preparing to be the most awesome husbands for you. So please lay everything before Jesus to allow Him to mould you into all that He wants you to do and be. Don't settle for anything less. And if you're tempted to compromise, fix you're eyes back on Jesus and let Him be your source of fulfillment and satisfaction. 
   
Also, remember that your dads should have your heart until the time has come for him to give you away at your wedding. Wouldn't that be so much more meaningful for him to hand over all of you to you husband as opposed to the left-over?! What an awesome thing that would be. That reminds me of one more quote I want to share with you. Remember this whenever you're faced with the temptation to enter into a relationship before it's time "Unless a man is prepared to ask a woman to be his wife, what right has he to claim her exclusive attention? Unless she has been asked to marry him, why would any sensible woman promise any man her exclusive attention?" That's from "Passion and Purity" by Elisabeth Elliott, which I also highly recommend. 
   
Ok girls, I'll finally let you go now. I seriously hope you'll think all this through. It's going to affect the rest of your lives!  Remember to go to your parents, they're your #1 cheerleaders!  And, along with your parents (most important) read books and find resources on this subject. I also highly recommend you keep a journal. And just know that if I was there, I would love to hang out with and be there for you. (Well I'm here for you, but it's a bit more difficult being clear on the opposite side of the U.S.!)  Take care girls!  I love you!  You're in my prayers! 
   
Sincerely, Sharnessa 
   
P.S. Resources I feel you really need: I Kissed Dating Goodbye (tape and book) by Josh Harris; Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliott; Eric and Leslie's books His Perfect Faithfulness and Romance God's Way;  Of Knights and Fair Maidens by Jeff and Danielle Myers, and Dating With Integrity.  

     

   

 

* I have deleted the "e" from the word "s_x" because certain servers, in an attempt to keep web surfing safe and pure for their customers, block any web pages ~ even entire sites ~ from being accessed if they contain "that word."  My web site is hardly one for Christian families wanting to deepen their walks with God or help their children purify their relationships to avoid!

    

   

From Barb: Sharnessa said "find resources on this subject"

because at the time she wrote it, they were not easy to find. But to help

remedy that once-frustrating situation, we are now selling all of these books! 

Go to the "Resources for Romance and Relationships God's Way" page of

our catalog. A new one Eric and Leslie have written since Sharnessa

wrote this is When God Writes Your Love Story. It has a single

CD with it! A beautiful song by this precious couple!
    

   

                      I got these beautiful azalea graphics at:

                    

    

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