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When I was nine there was one thing I knew for sure about relationships. Or rather, one person: Sarah Bakely.*

I knew I wanted to be Sarah Bakely’s man!

I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, except I hoped we’d get married someday, because, when I was nine, that’s what people who loved each other did. (But not when they were nine.)

The only trick? I don’t remember actually talking to Sarah. Ever.

I just admired her. Stared at her. Tried to sit next to her. And daydreamed about the day when I would find out she “liked” me back.

I prayed about her too. (Hey! My love was real!)

I specifically remember one of those prayers involving a broken transistor radio (transistor radios were just like iPods, only they were much bigger and played commercials instead of pirated music). In any case, I remember asking God to give me a sign: that if Sarah Bakely was the woman I was destined to marry God would miraculously make that broken radio work again.

It never did work again. And Sarah and I never married. Or even talked.

But if I could pull a “Back to the Future,” here are nine things I wish I could have told my nine-year-old self about relationships.

#1: Your desire for a special relationship with a girl is totally normal. It means you are made for marriage. Just not now.

And because you aren’t ready for marriage right now, there really isn’t much point in trying to pinpoint the right girl. You wouldn’t be ready for the right girl right now anyway. Not even if it was Sarah Bakely.

#2: Now is the time to learn how to be a good friend.

Learn how to think about others first, take responsibility for your actions, tell the truth even when it’s hard, hear the truth even when it hurts, forgive others and ask for forgiveness.

Admittedly, learning relational skills like this isn’t as fun as daydreaming about Sarah Bakely, but they’ll come in handy when your time for a serious relationship arrives, because they’ll come in handy in all your relationships.

#3: Focus on your relationships with guys.

The truth is, keeping a girlfriend happy requires a maturity you can’t imagine right now, so concentrate on just being one of the guys.

Stop feeling intimidated by the athletic prowess of others and just do your best. Since you can’t be the superstar, learn how to be the best team player you can be. Even if that means cheering from the sidelines (which more often than not it will). Praise your teammates when you win, and learn from your mistakes when you lose. You can learn far more from losing than winning. If you’ll knock that chip off your shoulder and quit your pouting.

On another guy front, instead of viewing Cub Scouts as a chance to earn things like pins and badges, seize the opportunities it offers to learn things like leadership, cooperation, communication and healthy habits. You know; things that will enable you to get along with people. (Including GIRLS!)

#4: Do not underestimate the power of your media choices.

The pop music you listen to on the radio and the shows you watch on TV (like Love Boat and Fantasy Island) have already begun to awaken romantic longing in your little nine-year-old heart long before you’re even remotely ready for it. In fact, this media input is likely why you want to be Sarah Bakely’s man before you have even reached puberty.

(What did you ask? What’s puberty? Go ask your Dad.)

The fact is, the media is selling you a terrible lie that will take you decades to dislodge from your brain: that the “right” romantic relationship will solve all your problems.

And the reason I put the word “right” in quotations is because every romantic relationship feels “right” in the moment. And so you’ll be tempted to settle for any romantic relationship.

#5: You believe having attention means you’re important and not having it means you’re not.

The result of this belief: you’re a little attention hog. In fact, you should have been diagnosed with RADD (Relational Attention Deficit Disorder). Sadly, your selfish lust for attention is impairing your ability to get along with your parents who couldn’t possibly pay any more attention to you than they already do. And worse, it’s already pushing friends away from you, as it will keep you from making new friends.

My suggestion, as someone who’s known you your whole life is this: Learn to find contentment in the perfect, infinite and unchanging attention of Your creator. Start by memorizing Psalm 139.

#6: Understand what lies behind your desire for attention.

Do you know what your heart longs for far more than as much attention as you can get from everyone you can get it from?

No you don’t, but I’m going to tell you now. Your heart longs to be truly known by the people who love you most. And it’s the same thing the people who love you most want more than anything; though most of them don’t know it either. That said, being known hurts sometimes, because it requires vulnerability and we’re all sinners (including you) which makes vulnerability pretty risky. However…

Being truly known by the people who care about you is worth the risk of vulnerability.

So start with your Dad. When he asks you to help him with a project, instead of being selfishly offended that this will mean less time playing with Legos or Micronauts, put on a better attitude and learn what he’s trying to teach you.

You may never enjoy household/automotive/outdoor work, but you could grow to enjoy your Dad more. Especially if while you’re working, you ask him to tell you stories about when he was your age. And then share what you’re going through and ask his advice for handling certain problems. He was nine once.

#7: Two words: anger management.

Speaking of problems, you’ve got a big one that you’ll begin to take out on that cute little puppy you just got: your temper. You will think it’s the dog that makes you mad, by disobeying you or nipping at you when you try to comb through it’s impossible tangles. But what is actually making you angry is your selfish pride that wants things your way all the time. You want it fun, quick and easy. And that’s not how life works.

So stop taking animal instincts personally and start counting to ten before yelling at (or swatting) the friend who will put up with you better than any human.

#8: Don’t keep sin secret!

Onto another problem. When you find that magazine under that log in the woods, know that it is like poison which tastes amazing going down, but will make you very sick in time. And yet you’ll still want more.

It’s called pornography.

Best plan: throw that magazine away immediately, and ask both your Mom and Dad to pray that you can forget what you saw. And promise to confess to your Dad, if you ever see anything else like that again. (Because you will. Even when you won’t be looking for it. Because it will be looking for you. To destroy you.)

#9: It is normal to find the female body a thing of beauty beyond belief. 

Indeed, before God made woman, He exclaimed, “It is not good!”

But after God made woman, He pronounce all of creation “very good.”

That said, understand this:

God made the female body to be delighted in like a sunset, not devoured like ice cream.

And like a sunset, it’s dangerous to stare at it. So protect your eyes.

Until you get married, but again, you’re not close to there yet.

Oh, and Sarah Bakely won’t be the girl you wind up marrying.

[If you want to read more letters I wrote to my younger self, click here for: Lies I Believed when I was 13.]

* not her real name

DNA: It’s What’s For Dating

Dug this weekend’s DNA? Be a good friend and share with your friends on the social media platform of choice: Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, or Twitter.

Want to go beyond what a blog post can accomplish? The LoveEd discipleship series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE!

It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.

Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better?  And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!