The Message Is Bigger Than a Man
Last year I watched the documentary “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” I posted on Instagram and tagged Joshua Harris, who thanked me for my thoughts. Along with his response, I got comments from those positively impacted by “I Kissed Dating Goodbye (IKDG)” and those harmed by the message.
Today Harris’s Instagram account is awash with comments from hurt fans, curious strangers and still disgruntled readers. He recently announced his divorce from his wife of 21 years and mother of 3 children, singer/songwriter, Shannon Bonne. Following that shocking reveal, he renounced his Christian faith and apologized to the LGBTQ community; further igniting the controversy surrounding him.
Since pushback started against IKDG, I’ve been a defender of Harris’s writings. In the Fall of 2000 as a college freshman, I visited a Bible study with students reading Elisabeth Elliot’s, “Passion and Purity.” Since childhood I’d struggled with a endless series of crushes. After my mom bravely left her abortion appt. my parents married but divorced a year after. I spent my childhood between their homes. 1st to 5th grade I was in a different school yearly. Romance movies, teen novels, and peers convinced me a boyfriend was the missing link to happiness.
I devoured “Passion and Purity” and was moved by Elliot’s sacrificial obedience. I read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship, When God Writes Your Love Story, Lady In Waiting”, and all the purity books I could get my hands on. I stopped watching films that fueled unhealthy fantasies. I began praying for my husband. I surrendered my desires to God, trusting Him with my love life.
Though I benefited from IKDG, I can’t defend every sentence of a book I read twenty years ago. The same applies to journals from my 20’s which thankfully didn’t become best-selling books. Harris’s documentary makes valid points about the things he got wrong. All I know is IKDG impacted me for the better.
A dear friend from my campus Bible study who is also a thirty-something yr old Black woman shared that the impact of IKDG on our lives couldn’t be taken away. Every summer our families vacation in the Vineyard. As girls who grew up in single-parent homes we’re deeply grateful. Harris’s book gave us hope while statistics about Black women being the “least likely to get married” fueled fear.
In my 30’s I was ready to date. I’d spent my twenties as a missionary, living outside of D.C., Atlanta and traveled to places like Nepal, Mozambique, and Guatemala. I learned to love myself, made life-long friends and received emotional healing. I read other books like Shawn Bolz’s “The Nonreligious Guide to Dating” which is a good balance to the ones from my 20’s. The book I most looked to for guidance was the Bible. I had 6 months dating experience before meeting my husband and this summer we celebrated our 5th anniversary.
Waiting helped prepare me for marriage. I learned from other families, picked up cooking skills and lived in community environments. I married my husband as a strong, confident, happy woman.
IKDG was used by some pastors and parents in a legalistic manner. The stories online are heartbreaking. My story doesn’t invalidate theirs and I never want it to be used to do so. Nothing I read was pushed on me. I sought out a different way to live. Choosing to wait until marriage for sex was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Some say IKDG guaranteed the promise of a happy marriage to those who obeyed the rules. We live in a world where books, ads, and media promise us something if we do this or that. I can’t turn on my phone without an ad for better hair, a nicer house or a more fulfilled life. Even Ruth and Boaz’s story can be taught as an obedience = happy ending formula. Purity messages can be manipulative but a call to trust God is not. The “Nazirite” message of pursuing holiness is better than anything I’ve seen in a Hollywood film.
Marriage and kids aren’t guaranteed and we don’t know why some receive them and others don’t. I married into a blended family and struggled with infertility and miscarriage. Blessings are real and so is suffering. The ultimate promise is never a spouse or child, but a relationship with Christ. All good gifts no matter how wanted are temporal blessings. Pursuing purity is something we should all seek in our thoughts, words, and deeds because God calls us to. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8) is enough of a motivation.
I’m forever grateful for the ministry of Harris’s. Though I’m hurt by their recent decisions I’m praying for them to know God’s love and mercy.