By Ashley Willis
When I was in middle school, I experienced my first big crush. He was tall, tan and had bleach-tipped Nineties hair like a dream. I kept my interest in him to myself until I received an invitation to his 13th birthday party.
I honestly couldn’t believe he invited me. We never really talked, and I certainly didn’t look like the girls he usually flirted with. So, I went home that day and begged my mom to let me go. This was one of the first “boy-girl parties” I’d been invited to. But, to my delight, my mom gave me her permission to attend the party.
I was so nervous. I wanted my outfit and hair to look perfect. I wanted him to notice me and maybe even talk to him—lame, I know, but this was middle school…the epitome of awkward.
On the way to the party, I didn’t say a word in the car. Mom asked me what was wrong, and I told her how nervous I was about the party and how I was crushing on this boy. She smiled and told me to just have fun and enjoy the time with my friends. So, I decided to do just that.
I walked up the brick steps, knocked on the door and was greeted by his mom. She welcomed me to the party and showed me where the kids were. It was your stereotypical Nineties middle school party with music, pizza and somebody doing the notorious MC Hammer dance move somewhere. I was having a great time, until the birthday boy decided that he wanted to play Spin-the-Bottle.
If your not familiar with the game, Spin-the-Bottle involves girls and boys forming two circles and taking turns spinning the a bottle. A boy would spin a bottle in the middle of girls’ circle and have to kiss the girl that the bottle ended up pointing to. Pretty crazy stuff for this middle school girl.
I was terrified and excited all at the same time. As I sat there, I thought about what I would do if I had to kiss one of the “gross” boys. Would I run? Would I just say “No”? Or, what if I had to kiss someone I actually thought was cute?
Before I could even entertain that question, the birthday boy came over to spin the bottle in our circle.
“Breathe, Ashley. Just breathe,” was all I could think. “It probably won’t land on you,” I told myself as the bottle spun around and around.
But, then the unthinkable happened.
As the bottle came to a slow stop, I saw the top pointed undeniably in my direction.
Oh. My. Goodness.
My heart was beating out of my chest as he walked over towards me. Closer. And, closer. All the kids were ooohing and aaaahing, and I think I began to laugh nervously and started to close my eyes in preparation for the kiss. The kiss I was crazy nervous about but really wanted to experience. After all, I liked this boy. I waited with my eyes firmly shut in anticipation, until….nothing happened.
I started hearing laughter, so I opened my eyes and all I could see was the birthday boy shaking his head at me, with a big smirk on his face as he said,
“Nah, I don’t want to kiss her. Do over.”
I was horrified. The laughter was deafening to my ears. I acted like I didn’t want to kiss him either, but inside I was totally embarrassed and crushed.
My mind was swimming with thoughts.
“How could he? No other girl was denied her kiss. Why did he not want to kiss me?”
That party couldn’t end fast enough for me.
When my mom picked me up, tears welled up in my eyes, and I lost it. I couldn’t even form words for the first few minutes.
Finally, I told her what happened and tried to make sense of it all.
“Mom, why doesn’t he like me? What’s wrong with me? Why wouldn’t he kiss me? How can I make him like me?”
I could tell my mom—who was probably a little disappointed and weirded out that her pre-teen daughter even participated in Spin-the-Bottle—was heartbroken for me.
She immediately took me home and made me a snack as I bawled my eyes out. Finally, when the tears dried up a bit, she told me something that I will never forget.
“Ashley,” she said, “you are a very special, precious young lady, and you don’t need to force someone to kiss you or love you, for that matter. You are lovable and worthy of love just as you are. This boy doesn’t even deserve your kiss, and he doesn’t deserve any more of your tears.”
I was half-expecting her to say, “Let’s go to the mall and get you a makeover so you can get his attention next time,” but she didn’t. I’m so thankful for the great wisdom she shared with me that day.
That was over 20 years ago, and I can honestly still feel how those words were a turning point for me and helped to fix my eyes on all that God has for me in this life. You see, Friends, this may seem like just another silly middle school story, but this is how many young girls/women are tempted to respond to love and relationships today. Many of us feel like we need to force romantic love, and we end up settling for less than God’s best in our relationships and getting wounded in the process.
God doesn’t ask us to beg for His love. He willingly sent his Son to die for us on the cross out of His great love for us. That’s real love.
As young women, we long to connect with our soul mate, and this is a good thing when we choose to love and be loved God’s way. When we try and convince someone to love us, we put ourself in a compromising position. We end up lowering our standards and ignoring our values in an effort to “fix” him, wait until he grows up a little or simply make him think that we are deserving of his love. This is a toxic cycle that only leads to disappointment and heartache.
Ladies, God doesn’t call you to fix anyone; only He can do that. So, let’s please stop trying to do this. Instead, let’s believe God’s truth that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” women with unique gifts and talents that He purposely gave us to bring Him glory and make a difference in the world.
Let’s stop putting ourselves through the agony of forcing someone we are dating to love us when he is clearly not the one for us. We can save ourselves a world of hurt by avoiding romantic relationships with men who don’t have the heart for God that we do…no matter how much we are crushing on them.
Sweet Girls, God has an amazing plan for your life—with or without a man. Be willing to embrace the wait for God’s best. Ask Him to open your eyes to all that He has for you. Don’t become so focused on finding a man that you find yourself begging God to convince a certain someone to love you instead of asking God to bring you the right man in His timing.
I know this is hard, but please hear me on this one. Don’t settle. When we do, we find ourselves in a whirlwind of twisted, superficial dating games that aren’t too far off from a silly middle school game of Spin-the-Bottle. And, we know where that takes us.
You are lovable and worthy of love. No person can fulfill our longing for love like God can. Only He can take residence in our hearts. I pray that each and every one of you know and believe this truth today.
For more on how God designed love to be in our lives, check out my husband’s BEST-SELLING book, “The Seven Laws of Love,” by clicking here.
About the Author: Ashley Willis is a wife and mom of four boys who together with her pastor husband, Dave, founded StrongerMarriages.org and the “Marriage” app as a way to encourage couples to build stronger marriage. You can follow Ashley’s blog on Patheos where she encourages women in faith, marriage and motherhood.