What to Look For
About the Guest
Ben Stuart remembers the season he took a "time out" from the dating scene to focus on the Lord and recover emotionally after his parents' divorce. He reminds single men and women that singleness exists for devotion to the Lord and encourages them not to settle for someone outside the body of Christ, but to lean into Jesus as they walk in faith and wait on Him to lead them.
Ben Stuart remembers the season he took a “time out” from the dating scene to focus on the Lord and recover emotionally after his parents’ divorce. He also presents the purpose for singleness.
What to Look For
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 31st. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You might say it takes a village to build strong, healthy, permanent marriage relationships. We’ll talk more with Ben Stuart about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve already said this, this week; but I cannot imagine what it’s like to try to date in this environment. We—
Dave: I’m just glad you’re not trying to date, Bob. [Laughter]
Ann: Are you saying you’re happy that you’re married?
Dave: I hope you’re not even thinking about that.
David: He’s dating his wife!
Dave: Take Mary Ann out.
David: Are you saying he’s not dating his wife? [Laughter]
Bob: We’ve got David Robbins, the president of FamilyLife®, joining us today. When you and Meg were dating, I mean, there was no social media; there was no—you didn’t text her to ask her out.
David: I had just gotten a cell phone, and texting while walking was like the biggest faux pas there was. [Laughter]
Dave: You had a cell phone when you guys started dating?
David: I was a junior in college.
Bob: It wasn’t a brick phone; was it? It wasn’t one of those.
David: It was close. [Laughter] It was close.
Bob: Well, today, we’re going to hear from Ben Stuart, who is a pastor and author. He’s talking about the current culture and about his own experience, and just trying to help young people navigate what is a whole new world when it comes to dating and beginning relationships.
Before we dive into that and hear our conversation with Ben, this is a pretty big day for us, here at FamilyLife. It’s New Year’s Eve; it’s the last day of 2019. David Robbins, who is president of FamilyLife, who is with us—what happens today determines what 2020 looks like for FamilyLife.
David: Yes; no doubt. I just love being around a table with you guys. I think about the team at FamilyLife and what we’re trusting God for in 2020, and the plans that we have. We really do care about generation after generation and marriages and families flourishing for generations to come. We want to get practical biblical help and hope to as many people as possible.
Today is significant because we have not met the match that generous partners of FamilyLife have been kind to give to us—this huge opportunity we have that really will fuel the ministry into 2020. I just want to challenge you that, if you are someone who benefits from hearing this program and the ministry of FamilyLife, we would cherish you coming alongside with us and fueling the ministry into the days ahead and into the things that this team—I’m so grateful for the Wilsons and so grateful for you, Bob, and the whole team at FamilyLife—we are trusting God for big things, and we’d love for you to join us.
Bob: Dave and Ann, as we are at the end of your first year on FamilyLife Today—
Bob: —has it surprised—
Dave: It’s been a year!
Bob: Yes—has it surprised you?—the feedback you’ve gotten from friends and neighbors, who are listening to you, now, on FamilyLife Today?
Dave: Yes; we’ve been blown away. You know, you sit here in a studio, and you ask God to lead us and use this content, and you really don’t know. I mean, one time, we’re in an airport; and they go, “Hey, I recognize your voice!” We’re like, “What?!” We thought they went to our church, and they were like: “No; we listen to FamilyLife Today every single day. You’ve changed our lives. You’ve changed our family and our legacy.”
You just forget; it’s like: “Oh my goodness! God is using this ministry in powerful ways with people we’ll never probably ever meet”; but we’re literally changing their families and their legacies like ours have been changed—
Dave: —by FamilyLife.
I would just echo David Robbins and say, “This is a critical day.” We’re all making decisions as the year ends, and this is the last day. It’s like: “We want to finish strong in 2019; but to help FamilyLife do what we’re doing for decades to come, your decisions tonight—I mean it—tonight can make a difference. So, please help us.”
Ann: I think, too, as we sit around this table, we’re all different—we have different backgrounds; we’re different ages—and that’s true of the listeners as well—but one thing we all have in common is we want to have the best marriages/the best families that honor God that we can have. This is a great way to make that happen because this is important; it’s big. I hope that you’ll see it as a priority.
Bob: Well, it’s easy to make a yearend contribution. You can do it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call; we’ve got folks here today to take your calls because this is a big day. They are all hoping that you will call 1-800-FL-TODAY and help us take advantage of this $3 million matching gift before the day is over. That would be huge for us, so we hope to hear from you. Again, online, you can donate at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright; we’re going to hear Part Two, now, of a conversation we had earlier this year with a pastor from Washington, DC, and author. Ben Stuart has written a book called Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. We talked to him about the environment that a lot of singles are operating in today, and the confusion that is there, and how somebody travels the journey from singleness to marriage in our culture today. He went back and shared from his story about his 20s, when he kind of set the whole dating scene aside.
Bob: After high school and some college relationships that didn’t work out well, did you kind of shut down and say, “Okay; I’m not doing this”?
Ben: Totally shut down—I mean, when I was at my church—you know, I’m talking like 22 to 28—I was involved with this church. People were always like, “I’ve got this cousin...” I’m like, “Don’t care!” I mean, it—literally, word got out: “Don’t set Ben up. He will not make eye contact with you ever again if you do.”
Dave: And why is that? Why did you not want to be set up?
Ben: I just knew, “I’m not okay.” There’s some emotion; now, I have more clarity around—“Man, I had issues with my parents’ divorce and my dad. I just didn’t even know how to get into some of my relational fears”—I just didn’t know. I just knew enough, then, to go: “This is kind of a mess; but ministry—I know how to do, and I have a real clear purpose. I’m chasing that, man.” And I just went for it.
I’m like, “I don’t want a relationship to slow me down,” because the way I would do them—we’d get all tangled up, and it was confusing. I would hurt people’s feelings, because I didn’t know what I thought. So, I thought, “I’m just taking a break from all that chaos. Let me just run, man.”
Dave: Now, let’s talk a little bit about what you figured out. You said you had issues with your parents’ divorce—blah, blah, blah. A lot of singles—they are there. They are not ready, or they feel like they can’t date. How did you figure that out?—what happened?
Ben: Well, you know what it was? It was people that loved me but weren’t impressed with me. That’s what I think everybody needs—someone who loves you enough to speak the truth to you and isn’t scared if they hurt your feelings; but you know what they are saying is: “They care.” I think [those] kind of relationships helped me—and [their] mirroring back—as they heard my story. You know, there were people that would hear some of my past and go, “Man, that’s horrible.” I’m like, “Is it?!” because what do you compare it to?
Ann: To you, it’s normal.
Ben: Just helping see some clarity of: “Oh, yes; I do have trouble trusting some people. I’ve been hurt, so I have kind of bought the lie: ‘I’m on my own in the world.’ That’s not really the best way to live. I don’t want to be like that,”—and trying to figure some of that out.
Bob: In this season of 22 to 28, where you’re not looking at the nieces—I mean, you had to notice some cute girls were showing up at church; right?
Ben: Oh, of course; yes; yes.
Bob: But you wouldn’t say, “Maybe, I should ask her out”?
Ben: I didn’t really do it, man.
Ben: I know that’s weird. I wrote the book, and I didn’t do it. I really—because I think it really was because I just was like—I was so focused on what I was doing; I didn’t want a relationship to slow me down.
Ann: It was a distraction.
Ben: They were going to be a distraction. I was like: “I’m not sure I’m going to do this. I’m not ready.” As I went further along in life, I started to realize—started to get some emotional healing, quite frankly, and started to get some life healing—make some good decisions.
Some of that emotional healing is happening, in community, with some really caring adults and some married couples that would have me over and just were my friends. I got emotionally healthier. So, when I met my wife, I remember going, like: “Hey, that girl is cute. I’d like to date her. Accessing files on Ben: ‘Less of a train wreck.’ You know what? We should try this.” That really—I got some me right, and I was ready to try we out.
Dave: —which is your first/where you start the book—you say, “Man, you’ve got to get your relationship with God right before you get a relationship with a guy or a girl.”
Dave: That’s your journey.
Bob: But hang on. If there are folks, who are saying: “I’ve got to get some emotional healing and deal with scars and pain from the past before I’m going to be good for a relationship. That means, by the time, I’m about to be 63.” [Laughter]
Ben: I don’t think you’ve got to be perfect; but I think—especially in your 20s, your—literally, your brain is changing in your 20s. Connections are happening that didn’t exist before; it’s helping you connect some things. You need some people that love you—that, I think, without the romantic entanglement—just some people that love you that can help you process yourself a little bit better.
Bob: But you know what? Most singles today—instead of dealing with the emotional baggage so that they can be ready for a healthy relationship, they are accumulating additional emotional baggage during their 20s—
Bob: —so that they are in worse shape when they are 28 than they were when they were 23.
Ann: —it’s because we think the marriage will take care of all of the baggage, and it will somehow magically disappear; and it doesn’t.
Ben: One of the biggest concerns I have in the world today with phones is—you think about it—when you sit at a stop light, or when you lay in bed at night,—
Ben: —that used to be time of—
Ben: —it’s basically you and God. It was meditation, and meditation leads to insight. That’s usually where insight happens. That’s why people say, “Oh, I got a creative idea in the shower.” Why?—because you were isolated, and it was just you and your thoughts. You connected some thoughts and went, “Oh”; and it led to insight.
But that moment has been removed from most young people. So, if they have some emotional pain/some relational baggage, there’s not that moment to help connect pieces at the same degree that there used to be. There’s also not the connectivity, relationally; it’s all online.
To me, there was benefit in me delaying marriage some; I don’t think everybody has to. Nowadays, though, you see people delaying it a really long time; why?—because they are not using, I think, the opportunities they have, in singleness, to really process that stuff. It’s just distraction, which I think is interesting. Paul says, “undistracted devotion”—like distraction is a major problem in the world today. Rather than taking my pain to a place, where I can get insight and healing, I’m just kind of dorking around, online. It’s not just a young people thing—that’s the world—but it concerns me.
Bob: You said, at the point that you saw your wife for the first time and you were attracted to her, you stopped and accessed the files. [Laughter] You said, “How am I?”—I mean, was it a conscious thing to say, “Am I doing okay where I could actually ask her out?”
Ben: Yes; absolutely.
Bob: How did you come to the conclusion: “I’m doing okay”?
Ben: I think—you know, life is an event in process. I think I had been in a process of getting in healthy relationships at my church, which is something I really encourage singles to do. It’s something I love about our church—we’ve got that. Just get in that healthy matrix of relationships.
I didn’t really think about it that much until that moment, where I’m like, “Well, here is another dating opportunity.” I looked up and went: “You know what? I think, if I asked her out, there are some people I trust/I could process with it that would be honest with me about how we’re doing.
Ben: I was like: “Hey, I’m going to do this. I want you around us. I want you seeing this with us.”
Bob: See, this is a key marker, right here, because I think too many people venture into: “Maybe, this is a new relationship,” in isolation.
Bob: They don’t have anybody wiser/anybody who can see blind spots, speaking into it. They are just caught up in their own infatuation/their passions—they are carried away by that.
Ann: I think women—we can tend to want someone in a relationship so much—
Ann: —that I’ve seen this. I remember being with all these college girls, and they are like [speaking sweetly], “Oh, that’s so sweet that he loves you, and you should do that.” I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me?! This guy has so many danger things around him. This would be the worst guy to date in terms in where he is and where you are.” I was like, “Why are these girls like pushing her into that?”
Ann: It’s because we think that love will fix us and fix everything. I think there is a danger to that a little bit.
I love the wise counsel. I like the idea of helping another couple.
Ben: I don’t spend time with the young women in our church—
Dave: Good idea.
Ben: —very much, directly.
Dave: Good idea.
Ben: Yes, I think that’s a solid decision; but, you know, my wife does. It is great, though, there have been ones that, when they have a question about dating or relationships, Donna will say, “Why don’t you come over?—and you can/we can have dinner, and you can ask Ben in that moment.”
Dave: Yes; that’s great.
Ben: For some of them, they like ask if I’ll meet the guy—and not in a real formal-like—[speaking as a butler] and he will sit down in the parlor; you know? It’s more of a: “Hey, tell me what you think of this guy.”
Ben: I like that. In the past, we used to do that. We used to protect young women—
Dave: Right; right.
Ben: —especially, because the dating world can be pretty dangerous; and some guys’ motives are not great. We had a sense, as a community, “We’ve got to protect people as young love forms.”
Nowadays, it’s happening in isolation, online. It’s happening in isolation, in bars—and a lot of young Christians are—that’s where they are meeting people. You can meet someone great there; but it just—it’s hard because you are missing out on some really helpful pieces.
Dave: Define “great,” because you talk about it in the book. What would you advise a single person—and I’m thinking you did it with Donna—but what should they be looking for?
I’ve sat down with—remember?—a friend of Ann’s, a single girl, had me meet with her boyfriend for an hour. After one hour, I went to her; and I said, “You run and you run as fast as you can,” because I could see all these warning signs; but she couldn’t. Talk to singles about: “What do you look for?”
Ben: One, for me—I think singleness exists for devotion to the Lord. I’m running after Him. Paul told Timothy: “Flee youthful lust. Pursue righteousness along with those who call out to God out of a pure heart.” He’s telling this young, 20-something guy: “Run away from things that are going to mess you up, man. Run toward the most beautiful life possible, and do it with a crew who wants Him as badly as you do.”
I tell people, “That’s the first thing—cause—man, what cause are they chasing?”
Ann: Well, that is exactly what attracted me to Dave. I was dating this other guy that I was like: “Come on. You should do Jesus with me.” It was pulling him along, and I wanted to run after Jesus. When I met Dave, I thought, “This guy is going harder than I am.”
Ann: “I want to catch up with him.”
Dave: I’ll throw it in here—same thing—we go to Findlay Reservoir; that was a date.
Dave: That sound pretty romantic, Bob?—[Laughter]—sitting by the water.
Ann: We weren’t even dating; I guess it was our first date.
Dave: We were just becoming friends, but I asked her—she was what?—18/19. I’m going into my senior year of college; and I said, “What do you want to do with your life?” I’d never heard a woman answer this way, especially a young late-teen. She said, “I want to follow Jesus wherever He sends me and impact as many people for the kingdom.” I remember just sitting there, looking at her, like, “I’ve never heard this.”
Number one, it had nothing to do with me—
Dave: —or a guy. She’s doing this whether we get married or not. I remember, right then, thinking, “That’s the kind of woman I want to marry.”
Ben: That’s what you want, man.
Bob: So, this all sounds great unless you are 35, and you haven’t seen those guys running by; and you go, “I don’t think they exist anymore, and I’m really lonely.”
Ben: I hear that all the time: “Where are guys like that?” You know what’s crazy? I’ll go places; and young women will say that to me, “Where are the guys?” Guys will come to me, “Man, I don’t know how to talk to girls.” A lot of it is girls end up going to online or bars—places like that—which, again, there are probably some nice people there; but the pool is so diluted. That’s why I encourage them: “Get involved in a church community, where you know these are people who are interested in the same sorts of things.
It’s interesting—Aziz Ansari wrote a book on dating.
Ben: You know, he’s not a Christian—not a Christian book—but he has this one chapter, where he’s talking about—he’s doing like a case study—like getting these groups together, kind of dialogues. He was talking about how they are all talking about how depressing dating was. They get online; they swipe all these people; and they meet them at random places. They have small talk. It’s like, at the end of the day, you’re like—“I don’t know what your life’s about. I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know any of your people.” He said it was just really depressing.
He said, then, there was this one dude—wasn’t the most attractive dude/wasn’t the coolest dude—he was just talking about how awesome this dude was. You’re like, “His dating life stood out as so different.” The guy—they asked him, “What were your last two dates?” One was—he was part of, like, a serving project through his church—
Ben: —and then another one was he was part of this, like, athletic club through this missions organization he was a part of. Then they leave it there. They don’t touch the fact—you’re like: “This guy is a believer and has a completely different philosophy in forming the way he meets people. He’s crushing it, and you’re all sad. Get on his level—like: ‘Do what he’s doing. Get in an orbit with people who are…’”—you know, community forms around causes. No one unites around unity; you unite around something.
Ann: That’s good.
Bob: Okay; again, you know folks who are going, “The church is not necessarily the safe place to find guys or girls, because I’ve gone out with a guy from church; and after the fourth date, he’s pressuring me to have sex.”
Ben: Yes; well, that’s the character piece, because anybody can say they are Christians. I don’t care—man, if a guy has got a Christian fish on his car or a Bible on his coffee table—I don’t care, man—I want to watch his life.
I remember, in college, there was this girl—she was an attractive girl; lots of guys would hit on her. I remember sitting in the lunchroom once and watching this dude, just full court press, hitting on her: “Well, how can you get to know me if you don’t go on a date with me? I don’t understand. Just come out with me. Just go….” She’s like—“No; it’s not going to happen. It’s never going to happen; stop asking.” She just kept shutting this dude down until, finally, he gave up.
Literally, I came—like knelt at her feet—and was like, “Teach me her ways.” I was like, “How did you do that?” She said: “You know what, Ben? The community of people who care about the things I care about isn’t huge, and I’ve never seen him in any of it. No one I know knows him, so no one I know knows this guy. He’s not around any of the places I’m around. I’m not getting in a car alone with that dude.” I just thought, “I’d never heard of that.” She’s like: “I’m putting myself in communities, where the quality of people is different. Then, I’m watching their lives.”
Dave: Talk about this. I know there are single men and women out there, agreeing with everything you are saying; and yet, they settle.
Dave: They end up lowering the standard. They get into a relationship. I see it all the time. I know what they want—they want what you are saying; and yet, they settle. Why?
Ann: They think that they can get this person to become that.
Ben: Fear might lead into that for some—I think it’s a big part of it.
One thing that gives me a lot of compassion, right now, as I’m watching, particularly women, as they get into their 30s, and want to be married, and aren’t meeting good guys, go, “What happens now?” I don’t want to provide them a pat answer.
I think we are in a season, right now, that is difficult. I say this as someone who loves the young men that I have had the opportunity to minister to and be around. When you look at the culture—when you’re running into numbers like 50 percent of men are self-reporting that they looked at pornography last week and then you look at the data—that is so destructive in the way people relate, personally. It’s not good.
I think men—I feel compassion, because they didn’t create the world they are in. They didn’t make Google®; they didn’t make this phone—it got handed to them when they were babies/I mean, this young generation. So much of media is so alluring, because it’s built to attract what men attract; but the cost is—it’s hurting their socialization with women. I think we, as men, need to help men and release them to be men—strong and courageous and good. I think, if we do that, then we can see some really great matches; but it’s challenging.
Bob: I’m just sitting here, thinking, “If you want to be good at anything in life, you would get input; you would get training; you would get coaching; you would read on it.” I’m saying all of this: “If you are a single person, and you want to be good at relationships, and good at marriage someday, get some coaching/some mentoring—some folks speaking into your life—and get a copy of Ben’s book, Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. Put it in the stack of books that you are reading on how to get good at this.”
Ann: I would add, for us that are married, we need to really keep our eyes open—
Ann: —for singles, and draw them into our worlds, and create and form a friendship.
Bob: Yes; you know one way we could do that?—invite singles we know over for lunch after church on Sunday and say: “Hey, we heard this interview on the radio/this podcast, we thought you guys might be interested in listening to this. We bought a copy of the book. Would any of you want to get together regularly? Maybe, once a month, we’ll go through a chapter of this book together and just meet and talk about relationships; and we can tell you our story.” I mean, just imagine—I think there would be huge excitement among singles at your church for something like this if you just take the initiative and invite them over for lunch.
You can get a copy of Ben’s book, which is called Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age. Order it from us at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the title of the book is Single, Dating, Engaged, Married by Ben Stuart. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call to order at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Once again, as we wrap up, we want to thank you for listening during 2019, for being with us throughout the year. We trust that God has used FamilyLife Today in your life this year; and we want to thank those of you who, over the last 31 days, have responded to the matching-gift challenge that’s been going on, here at FamilyLife. We’ve heard from many of you, and we’re grateful.
We still have not taken full advantage of the $3 million matching gift, and today is the last day. We’re asking regular FamilyLife Today listeners: “Would you consider a yearend donation?” You’ve got just a few hours left to do that. You can do it easily online at FamilyLifeToday.com. As long as your donation is submitted before midnight in whatever time zone you are in, it qualifies for a 2019 tax deduction; or as long as your letter is postmarked with today’s postmark, that donation will also count as a 2019 tax deduction.
You can also call us to make a yearend contribution. Our number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Again, you can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. And pray for us, if you would, today that, before the day is over, we will have taken full advantage of the matching-gift opportunity. As soon as we can, we’ll let you know how that all came together; okay?
We hope you have a fun and safe New Year’s Eve; and hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to continue our conversation with Ben Stuart, talking about the purpose of dating and how you ought to talk about those purposes of dating when you start going out with somebody. Hope you can tune in for that tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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