By Samantha Gallo, Creator and Author of Abundant Life: You Were Made for More
When it comes to questions about teenagers and romance, part of me just wants to say, “Don’t do it. It’s too important and too many things can go wrong!” But that doesn’t really help anybody, does it? As a mom and an individual that cares so deeply for adolescents and teens, I want to help them navigate all of the hard questions and all of the desires they have – remember, God created us for relationship, so it is only natural that we would crave them and be interested in them. Questions about relationships are arising earlier than ever, due to pressures from culture and the media, so I want to equip not only my daughter but all teenagers to navigate these rocky waters. Because the fact of the matter is, they are so important – they involve people who God loves – AND there are so many things that can go wrong. Whether we want to admit it or not, if we believe in the Bible, we must recognize that we are broken, selfish, and desperately yearning to understand our worth somewhere, and the combination of all of those things can lead to murky and confusing waters.
Too often we may not be addressing the most important question about relationships and romance with teenagers. Rather than merely asking what this or that relationship should look like, we should encourage them to see God’s purpose and design for relationships.
From beginning to end God has made us for relationship with him and with each other. We are relational beings – it is at the heart of who we are. We must walk the narrow path of never neglecting that truth and never idolizing the gift of relationship over the Giver.
Every human being we interact with is an intentionally created, image-bearing soul who will live forever. This defines what it means to enter into any relationship. So, as we talk with our teenagers specifically about romantic relationships, here are two principles to emphasize: don’t neglect and don’t idolize.
We should emphasize that as human beings, we need the full spectrum of relationships for which we were made. We were made for family, friendship, discipleship, service, and a host of other human interactions, as well as romantic love. Sadly, we too often unfollow, unfriend, cancel, or otherwise get rid of any relationship that doesn’t specifically please us. If we neglect or reject the whole truth of relationships or the variety of relationships we were made for, we place an unbearable weight onto any remaining relationship in our lives.
As we walk with teenagers through their thoughts and feelings about romance, it is helpful to ask, “Are other relationships in your life being neglected?”
Before embarking on the path of romance, we should counsel our kids to honestly survey the nature of all relationships in their lives. If there are serious relationship wounds or voids, that should be an area of prayer, reflection, and ministry. One of the greatest roots of unhealthy relationships, particularly romantic relationships, is building them around a need to fill or fix a different missing or damaged relationship.
As we understand more about who we are in light of who God is, we come to understand that nothing besides Him can ever truly heal those broken pieces of us. Trying to fix our brokenness with idols will only lead to more of the same.
Idolatry of self is the constant threat to all our relationships. Feeling joy and pleasure in how someone loves you is a good thing, and part of a healthy relationship, but it can never be central or ultimate.
We are made to have a perfect, loving God look upon us with shining graciousness that brings us peace. We need this kind of love, but only God can give it. Too often, we seek human relationships to satisfy our innate need for peace. As we talk with teenagers about their friendships and romantic interests, we can ask “Are you mostly looking for personal satisfaction?”
We are made to dwell with God, walk in his ways, and bring all things to him in prayer and supplication. We must encourage our kids to be honest with themselves. Are they seeking another human to give them the love, peace, satisfaction, and security that only God can provide?
Relationships are not designed for self-satisfaction. We must teach our kids to see that relationships are a good gift from God to be enjoyed, and through them he is doing work in us and through us.
We give teenagers a good gift when we teach them that relationships are to be enjoyed, but that if we expect relationships to satisfy, we make them an idol. We are getting to the heart of discipleship when we teach the next generation that idols always demand more than anyone can give and they destroy people. When we make idols out of other people, we crush them and the relationship. Remember; we want to train students for the here and now, but also for their futures. This principle is deeply important to marriage, too, and if we’re looking at what the Bible says about marriage, the purpose is not to self-serve, but rather to sacrifice, honor, and uphold covenantal love. Unless we’re talking about these things when our teens are young, we can’t expect them to realistically implement them in a marriage later on down the road.
The Heart of Everything
As we wrap up, I want to leave you with a question to ponder. What is the value of a soul? Do you recognize the infinite worth of this image of God with whom you are choosing to be in a relationship? Do they (your children) recognize the infinite worth of your soul? Are you both seeking the good of the other?
These are the types of questions that will lead us to have healthy, life-giving relationships.
Sammie graduated from Robert Morris University in 2017 with a background in biology and psychology and started working with Anglicans for Life (AFL) shortly after. In addition to her work with AFL, she spends time pouring into high school students in her community and is a full-time nursing student, hoping to work in the labor and delivery unit upon her graduation in December 2022.
Sammie married her best friend, Juan Gallo, in May 2019. During her free time, she cares for their sweet baby girl, Ofelia, who joined their family in August 2020.
Sammie spends her day-to-day making sure that every person hears and believes the words: “you were made for more.” You can follow Sammie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! She’d love to get to know you!