I have a teenage daughter who recently entered the phase of life that includes school dances, parties, football games and…boys. Her friend group, once glittered, rainbow unicorn-loving girls who watched Disney movies and didn’t want to be anywhere near “stinky” boys has naturally evolved into makeup-wearing, stylish, beautiful young women who are now a bit more interested in their male peers. It’s sweet, fun and a little nerve-wracking all at the same time. I don’t want to take this time for granted, and I recognize these experiences will teach her lessons upon which she will build future, more serious relationships.
One such lesson I’m hopeful she is willing to learn is that she is worthy of being pursued in a gentlemanly and honorable way. This may sound a bit old-fashioned, and it’s most certainly counter-cultural in our “modern” times. The message being shouted at girls growing up today is that they should be aggressive to show strength, make the first move to show confidence and, by all means, pay for a date to show capability. Strong women don’t “need” a man, and women who want to be considered “equal” shouldn’t be on the receiving end of chivalry. But, I respectfully disagree.
To be clear, I absolutely ascribe equal value to every life – male or female. What I don’t agree with is the notion that it diminishes anyone to be pursued or to be on the receiving end of someone’s care and sacrifice. My husband was a valiant pursuer while we dated, and he still makes intentional efforts more than 20 years later. His actions help me (a strong, confident and capable woman) to feel cherished and secure. And it’s a beautiful thing that doesn’t make me less than. Rather, it propels me to become better, and it sets a tone and example for healthy relationships in our home.
It’s an example that first came from God. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
In fact, God has pursued us since the beginning of creation. We first witnessed it in Genesis shortly after Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit. After disobeying God’s direction and hearing Him nearby, they ran and hid from Him in the trees among the garden. They ran away, but God sought after them. Knowing right where they were (and what they had done), He didn’t wait for them to cry out. Rather, He came to them, and He even clothed them from their shame (Genesis 3:8-21).
His heart is for the pursuit of relationship.
He seeks to find and save the lost, even when we are knowingly wandering astray. He pursues.
In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus offers a visual story to illustrate this point. When a shepherd loses a sheep, he leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one. Once his precious sheep is found, the shepherd is moved to rejoicing, and he carries the animal back to safety on his shoulders. He seeks, finds, cares for and sacrifices for the one he loves. In the book of John, He again uses the shepherd/sheep analogy to explain how He lays down His life for us – the ultimate sacrifice. He doesn’t ask for our performance in return, but only to understand and acknowledge who He is and what He’s done for us. We simply need to let ourselves get caught by His loving pursuit.
And know this…Jesus’ quest for our hearts came at a huge cost to Him (but He endured to the end!). He was mocked, denied, beaten and tortured as He made every effort to teach others and prepare the way for us to be forever in the presence of God. While people stubbornly refused Him and His message, He persisted until the moment of death, even committing to a relationship with the criminal next to Him before taking His last breaths. But His chase for us didn’t stop there.
While defying all logic and precedent and fulfilling Messianic prophecy, Jesus rose from the dead to prove who He was and to still continue his pursuit. He offers grace to those who receive this Good News, and He casts a wide net in the hopes to include as many people from around the world. In addition, He engages others to join Him in sharing this grand invitation. He commands, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) so as many can experience the joy of life in Him. He has given this “Great Commission” to employ a divinely-motivated army to seek people everywhere on His behalf.
There’s never been a bigger pursuit of people in the history of all mankind!
So, when I reflect back on my daughter and the valuable lesson I want her to receive, there is a far bigger application than that of a teen crush. I want her to understand that she is valuable and cherished, because God says so. She is worthy of effort, pursuit and sacrifice, because God not only says she is, but He, Himself, has done these very things for her. And, she can receive all of this without shame, guilt or payment, because God is purposeful in his pursuit. It’s done purely out of love. The greatest love ever.
Now, if a sweet boy wants to pursue a relationship with His Savior and with my daughter in a dating relationship, I will be supportive. I will also reinforce to her that the wisest of women understand we weren’t created to do life independently, but with healthy interdependence. Our hearts were made to be pursued, and our lives are richer in relationship. There is no shame in receiving, and there should be no guilt in being pursued in a mannerly fashion. Jesus came for us, and a man worth dating (or marrying one day) will also be willing to quest for her heart.
Father, God, thank You that You have made Your people the pinnacle of Your pursuit. You have offered every provision for us to know Your great love. Help us, now, to receive the fullness of Your glory and to engage our hearts in Your desire to reach others. And, Lord, as we parent children growing up in this world, give us wisdom to bring Your Word and Your examples to life. Help us to draw this next generation to You and reveal relevance in Your timeless truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.