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Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word

askauntdara@gmail.com


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Parents are Concerned about Teenaged Son’s Online Relationship

Dear Aunt Dara,

My husband and I are very concerned about our 17-year-old son.  He is a wonderful young man, does well in school, and has never given us any trouble.   He recently told us, however, that he has fallen in love with a 16-year-old girl that he met online.  The girl lives in another country thousands of miles away.  He has been communicating with her through texts and Skype for over a year, but has kept it a secret from us.  The girl's parents do not know about the relationship and she continues to keep it secret from them (they are also Christian, but are apparently very strict and will not allow her to have a boyfriend until she is 18).   Both the girl and our son say that they are deeply in love and hope to be together forever despite the long distance between them, despite having never met, and despite being from completely different backgrounds and cultures.

We are concerned, first of all, that this could be a scam to somehow get money from our son or our family.  We have tried to investigate this possibility, but the answer is inconclusive and I don't think we will ever know for sure, unless she eventually asks him to send her money (which she has not).  Secondly, even if this is not a scam, we are worried that this will be a distraction to our son, keeping him from meeting someone he could have a real future with.  He is going off to college this fall and has already said that he will never date anyone at college because that would be "cheating" on this girl that he has never even met.  It also bothers us that her parents are not aware of the relationship.  As Christian parents, we do not want our son to be involved in deceiving someone's parents.  If her parents knew, they would most likely not be in favor of this relationship either.  Their culture is one that does not look favorably on dating or marrying an outsider.  We have talked with our son at length about our concerns, but he is adamant that he and this girl are "meant for each other" and that their love will overcome any obstacles.  We don't see this as a typical teen relationship that will just fade away with time.

What should we do as parents?  How can we get him to understand the problems and potential dangers of this relationship?  We have prayed for wisdom in this situation and are really at a loss as to what we can do.  If we ban him from communicating with her, then we feel that he will rebel and will still talk with her behind our backs.  Plus, there is no way we can control his behavior when he goes away to college in a few months. However, if we do nothing we feel like this will continue for years to come, only to end in more heartbreak for everyone involved.  Should we somehow try to tell her parents about the relationship?  If you have any suggestions for us, we would kindly welcome them!

A Concerned Mom and Dad


Dear Concerned Mom and Dad,

Thank you so much for writing to me and trusting me with this situation.  I do not believe that you or your son are in any danger from this situation and I see nothing in your letter that would indicate that this might be a scam.  It's been over a year and the young lady has not asked your son for money.  Most scam artists act very quickly in asking for money so they can move on to their next victim.  I also do not think that your son is participating in deceiving her parents.  It is the girl's responsibility, and her responsibility alone, to tell her parents.  She is likely keeping it secret from them because she knows they would disapprove and she fears the possible consequences of their finding out.  Please do not interfere by contacting her parents, because that would surely make the situation worse for her.

Communicating on Skype is nearly the same as meeting in person because you can SEE and HEAR each other.  It is clear that your son has become very involved with this girl, emotionally.  You have already told your son what you think about this situation and explained the problems involved.  Any further effort that you take to stop your son's communication with this girl will just drive a wedge between you and your son and strengthen his resolve to continue the online relationship.

As I was reading your letter, a passage of scripture in Acts came to my mind.  Please look at Acts 5:17-39, and pay special attention to verses 38 and 39.  Only time will tell the outcome of your son's online relationship.  If God wills it to be, it will be.  If God wills that nothing will come from this online relationship, He will guide your son to meet and develop love for the woman that He has chosen.  So, I suggest that you do nothing and say nothing more about it.  Just sit back and wait for God to work it out.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mother Reacted Harshly to Daughter

Dear Aunt Dara,
 
Recently my mother, who is in her mid-80's, told me that she was thinking about not remembering one of my children with a gift this year...not a problem except she had already sent a monetary gift to my other child.  Her reasoning was that my daughter did not send her a card for her birthday so she must not care.  I became upset and reminded her of the many times she had come with me to visit, and that I know this was nothing intentional, she just forgot.  Anyway, I told her I did not agree with her and reminded her how hurt my daughter would be.  Her response was that she didn't understand why I was so upset.  I will admit I raised my voice and told her that she needed to rethink all this.  She sent my daughter a gift through the mail to me, and I thought that was the end of the matter.  When I got home last night, she had left me a nasty voicemail, telling me how upset she was and that she couldn't sleep.  She told me not to call or contact her this Christmas, that she had plans.  Also, that she couldn't believe the way I spoke to her after all she had done for me...that I was hateful.

This is not the first time I have been through this, but I know I didn't say anything wrong.  I had planned to apologize for losing my temper, but not being welcome for Christmas is a pretty harsh reaction.  I am an only child, so she's my family (my dad is deceased).  There have been several incidents like this in years past, so it's not dementia.  She is a Christian, as I am, but she has difficulty accepting that things don't always go as she wants.  I recently had surgery and was looking forward to seeing her this Christmas at a time when I wasn't in pain.  We live three hours from each other, and I try to go once a month.  She doesn't like my husband and is generally uninterested in what I'm involved in.  I plan to honor her request and wait until she cools off to visit, probably January, but I am very hurt, as is my husband.  The Bible instructs us to honor our parents, but this is hard to deal with. Any advice?

 
Hurting Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Yes, you are hurting.  What she said to you was very hurtful and it was a harsh reaction, but impulsive reactions do tend to be harsh.  However, your mother really didn't mean that she doesn't want you to contact her or visit her.  Calls and visits are very important to her, as evidenced by her reaction to not having received a birthday card from your daughter.  You are your mother's only child and you live 3 hours away from her.  She just can't jump in a car and drive to see you.  She is old and lonely, and she fears being alone and uncared for.  (She will not admit these things.  She responds to her internal pain by being rigid and harsh.  That's her way of getting attention, though it tends to push others away.)  If you choose to not call or visit her until January, that will just serve to validate her deepest fear—that her family doesn't care about her and she truly is alone in the world.  You need to set your pride aside and apologize to her, even though you think you didn't say anything wrong, and you need to visit her to reaffirm that you care about her.  We need to have love, kindness and compassion toward others and overlook things that hurt our feelings but truly don't matter (Proverbs 19:11).

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Can a Long-Distance On-Line Relationship be the Right One?

Dear Aunt Dara,

I’m kind of frustrated with this young man I meet three years ago.  He always wanted to be with me but I never really felt in my heart to give him a chance until the beginning of this year.  We started talking and everything was going well until my parents found out.  To make a long story short they weren't too fond of him.  The problem is he lives in Kentucky and I live in Iowa, so we have only communicated on Facebook, texting and webcam.  My parents don't like the fact that we meet on Facebook.  He swears up and down that he is in love with me and wants me to be his future wife, but we have never meet each other face-to-face.  He wanted to take me out many times but I never wanted to because my parents wouldn't allow me.  They said they have to meet him first before I can even be his girlfriend.  I told him that and he got really upset and asked how he could meet my parents if he has never met me.  Also, there are two things that really frustrate me.  Sometimes he can say really mean things to me that really hurt my feelings and then act like he never said them, and other times he can be a true sweetheart and really make me think he really loves me.  Secondly, I feel as if he is not ready to sacrifice for me.  I can't stop thinking about that, and it bothers me.  Yet, sometimes I get so lonely that I find myself texting him just to pass the time.  
 

Do you think I should still talk to him?  Is he worth my time?  Do you think he loves me?  Could he be after something?  I wonder about that because we had gotten into a big argument and didn't talk for months afterward, and he ended up getting with another girl.  He said he broke up with her because she found several pictures of me on his phone.  He said he wasn't over me.  
 
Sincerely,
Lone Star 
 

Dear Lone Star,

You raise some interesting questions regarding your on-line friend.  You met him on Facebook three years ago and have been talking via Facebook, texts, and webcam.  You can get to know a lot about a person in three years, even though you have not met face-to-face.  Your parents may not understand that and wish to protect you.  I can appreciate that, and I also can appreciate their desire to meet him before allowing you to be his girlfriend.  The logical solution would be for him to meet for the first time with you and your family together, or you could invite your parents to talk to him via webcam so they can become more comfortable with the idea of allowing you to have a boyfriend that you met on Facebook.

I can't answer whether or not he is worth your time or if he loves you.  However, you raised some issues that may help you to determine the answers.  How often does he say mean things to you?  Have you spoken to him about this and when you do, does he acknowledge his behavior and how it affects you?  What do you mean that he doesn't
seem to be ready to sacrifice for you?  What has he said that makes you feel as if he is unwilling to make sacrifices for you?  You seem to be worried that he was with another girl after the two of you broke up, as if that indicates that he may not be sincere in his current intentions for you.  I would not be too concerned about that, from the information that you gave me, but it is an issue that deserves further consideration.  You question if he is after something.  What do you think he may be after?  What signs do you see that would indicate that he may have a hidden agenda?  What is the general tone of your communications with him?  How frequently do you communicate?  Does he welcome your texts when you are just feeling lonely?  How much personal information has he shared with you?  Has he shared any of his own personal thoughts and feelings with you, or have your communications been mostly superficial?  Most importantly, is he a Christian and does he put God first in his life?

I know this is a lot of things for you to think about.  It is possible to maintain a long-distance relationship via electronic communication, but use those opportunities to learn as much about each other as possible.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Husband in Communication with Married Female Friend

Dear Aunt Dara,

My husband, Bill, has been friends with Sherry for over 30 years.  When we began dating, Sherry and her husband and children lived in the same apartment complex as my husband.  She would come to Bill's apartment many times during the course of our 1 1/2 year courtship.  She was ALWAYS coming over and she and Bill would go off and talk.  I discussed with Bill how much this bothered me and he would tell me that she was his sister in Christ and he would offer her Godly advice on her marriage and she would offer him Godly advice on our relationship.  I told Bill that I thought this was information Sherry should discuss with family members or girlfriends, not with him.  When we got married, things got a little better as we moved into my house and Bill was out of the apartment complex.  He knew that I did not like Sherry and did not agree with their discussing relationship issues with each other.  So, he limited how much he contacted her.  In May, Bill lost his local truck driving position and went over the road.  Since that time, Sherry's private contact with Bill has become much more frequent—several times per month for the past 3 months.  I was very upset when I found out about this.  I told Bill that under no uncertain circumstances did I want myself or our relationship discussed with Sherry.  I know she tells Bill all about her marriage woes.  He has told me that he does not discuss us, but I am not sure that I believe him.  He has asked me to find forgiveness in my heart and become friends with Sherry as this is his friend of 30-plus years and his "sister in Christ."  I feel as though he wants me to become friends with her so that they get "my blessing" to continue their private communications with each other.  When I ask what they discuss, he does not want to tell me.  I have discussed with Bill that if he does have the need to talk with Sherry to do it when he is on home time and I am there instead of in private when he is over the road.  He says that I am overreacting and that he sees nothing wrong with him contacting Sherry or Sherry contacting him.  We are at a standstill on this subject and I could use some advice as to what to do. 

Thank you,
Not Sure

Dear Not Sure,

Thank you for writing to me and trusting me with your situation.  I pray that I can say some things that may shed some light on what may be happening and perhaps spur some change and growth in the way that you may be interpreting your husband’s behavior.

First of all, the Bible is very clear that we need to have friendships with other Christians.  We are instructed to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16).  We are to be a source of strength and encouragement to each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), and we are to instruct and correct one another (Proverbs 27:6, 17; James 5:19-20).  However, nowhere in the Bible are we told that it is wrong for a man and woman to have a Christ-centered friendship with each other.  The idea that women can only have female friends and men can only have male friends seems to be based on the culture and time in which we live.  The Bible gives examples of what appear to be friendships between men and women.  For example, we know that many women followed Jesus during his ministry and took care of meeting His needs (Luke 8:1-3), and some of these women were married.  Jesus had an extensive, private conversation with a woman (John 4).  The apostle John apparently had a close friendship with a woman, so much so that he wrote a letter to her, the book of 2 John, and told her that it would be a joy for them to talk face-to-face (2 John 12).  We even have an example of the prophet Elijah living with a widow and her son for a while (1 Kings 17), and undoubtedly the two of them developed a friendship while he was living in her home. 

That being said, the cultural taboo against mixed gender friendships is likely based on the human fleshly desires that can easily enter into such a friendship.  Factors that make us more vulnerable to this temptation are (1) spiritual immaturity and (2) an unhappy marriage.  That is why Paul gave guidelines for how to manage Christian relationships when he told Timothy to treat “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:20).  We are to think of each other as family members, WITH ALL PURITY, for we are brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Regarding your specific situation, it would appear that your husband is aware of the need to maintain purity in this friendship, because he keeps emphasizing that Sherry is his “sister in Christ” and he is honoring the purpose of Christian friendships by offering her Godly advice.  Hopefully, your husband is encouraging Sherry to address her marital problems directly with her husband so they can resolve them.  Your husband appears to be respecting your wishes by not discussing you or your marriage with Sherry, so what reason do you have to doubt his honesty other than your own suspicions?  Your husband persists in maintaining contact with Sherry, believing there is nothing wrong with that.  He is right.  He wants you to become friends with his friend, and you think it is because he wants your blessing to continue his private conversations with Sherry.  Perhaps he wants you to get to know her so you will feel less threatened by his friend of 30 + years and less jealous and suspicious of his friendship with her.

Before you married your husband, you knew that Sherry had been his friend for over 30 years and that they had regular, private communications with each other.  To require or expect him to break off this friendship or to try to set rules to control it (needing to know what they talk about, forbidding private communication, and wanting to be around when they talk) is being unfair to your husband.  This could drive a wedge between you and your husband and could result in his increased attempts to keep his conversations with Sherry secret.  Perhaps if you got to know Sherry, you might realize that her more than 30 years of friendship with your husband might have had a positive influence on his spirituality and helped to shape him into the man that you fell in love with.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Friday, July 31, 2015

Their Life Core Values are not Aligned

Dear Aunt Dara,

I have been dating a guy for 6 months now.  He's kind, caring and fun.  We have quite a lot of interests in common and I enjoy spending time with him.  Lately, I have been feeling disappointed because our core values are not aligned.  I have been a Christian for years and I know biblically well what is right and what is wrong.  He's a Christian too, but not an avid one.  He told me that he lost his virginity in his past relationship and he had no regrets about it though he knows religiously it's wrong.  This bothers me much because as a Christian, I know premarital sex is not allowed.  He's a good man and I don't want to lose him but I'm confused if we really do share the same core values.  How should I get over this?

Confused


Dear Confused,

Since he says he has no regrets and he claims he knows "religiously it's wrong," that indicates that he has felt no godly sorrow for his sin (2 Corinthians 7:9-10) and therefore he has not repented.  Saying, “I know religiously it's wrong" is the same as saying, "I  know that other Christians think it's wrong, but I don't, and I'm not sorry."  The lack of repentance, lack of respect for the authority of God's word, and lack of sorrow for his disobedience to God is of an infinitely greater concern than the loss of his virginity.  It appears that he is a "Christian" in name only, and "not an avid one," as you said.  This is what Jesus has to say about that:  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).

As you said, he does not share your core values.  Until he starts showing evidence that he respects God's word and wants to obey what it says, I would be very hesitant to continue this relationship.

God Bless,
Aunt Dara

Monday, April 27, 2015

Red Flags in a Relationship

Part One
 
Dear Aunt Dara,

I knew a guy indirectly from a friend and I had been drawn to him for a couple of years.  It was unexplainable of why I was so attracted and drawn to this guy whom I never met.  Not knowing that he was interested in me as well, he asked for my number.  He explained how he appreciated the encouraging posts and songs, and I seemed like a cool person.  So we begin talking and in only a week, we were talking on the phone every day and texting non-stop.  After three weeks, he told me that he loved me and he believed that I was the wife that was destined for him.  Within a month, I found out that he had just moved into his own house that his step mom left him (his dad is in jail and his mom only talks to him when she wants something).  He had no car.  He dropped out of college because he felt it wasn't for him and wanted to start working full time.  This is the total opposite of me because I grew up with my married parents, I have a car, and I'm a full time student.  I didn't judge because I felt as though not everyone had the privilege of growing up with both parents, and people have experienced other casualties.  I also learned that he had been saved for a little less than a year, and before he got saved, he used to sleep around with a different girl every night.  A lot of baggage, but again, I didn't want to judge on someone's past.

After a month I wanted to meet him in person, but he had no car.  My parents wouldn't let me drive 20 minutes to see him because they believe in a guy should come to see the girl.  My mom construed the idea of her driving to pick him up and bringing him here, but now she regrets the decision.  She picked him up and when he got here, it was amazing.  He asked me to be his girlfriend, but I felt it was rushing because we only known each other for a month.  However, I felt so attached to him that I needed to be with him.  I was in love with him and with his relationship with God.  He moved really fast though.  He kissed me very forcibly like he was sexually frustrated.  After we became a couple, he started to ask me to check in with him.  He doesn’t want me speaking Spanish in front of him, and the only time he seems interested in what I have to say is when I am talking about God.  He asked me to only wear skirts and dresses.  Because I refused to not wear skirts and dresses all the time, he called me selfish and wanted to break up.

We stopped talking for a whole month and he finally contacted me.  We didn't get back together, yet we acted like we were in a relationship.  Here’s the problem.  He has started asking me to send him pictures when I go jogging to make sure my shorts aren't too short.  He tries to pressure me to drive to his home to see him, and I said no.  I said if he wanted to see me, he would make a way to see me.  He has been used to girls saying yes and driving to see him, so when I said no, he stopped talking to me for three weeks.  (At this point, we had only seen each other once and that was about 3 months ago.)  So, after 3 weeks of silence, he asked to meet with me in my town.  I met him and he told me during the time we weren't talking, he "almost" had sex with another girl.  I was hurt.  I knew that even though we weren't dating, I wouldn't do that, especially if he was the one I loved.  He begged me not to leave, so I didn't.  

Since then we have seen each other many times because he got a car and a new job in my town.  Still, he never drives to see me; I drive to see him.  That is never what I expected.  I always thought it should be the other way around.  Once again, he asked me to drive to his home to see him, and I said no.  He called me selfish, and by this time, I was fed up.  I told him that I'm giving him my all and he is offering me nothing.  The only time he has put any effort to see me was when he hopped into my mom's car.  After I told him that, he wanted to take another break.  I begged him to talk to me and he refused.  I told him that he can either speak to me or I want to cut all ties.  He told me that if I want to leave, then leave.  So I left.  I cannot stop thinking about his being a jerk who threw me away.  I don't know what to do.

Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

You are to be commended for finally getting fed up with a selfish person who uses manipulation and control to try to get what he wants.  There are so many red flags in this letter, that I would have a difficult time trying to list them all.  But this I know for sure, this is NOT the man that God wants you to be with.  God doesn't want us to be in a relationship with someone who is this dysfunctional.  I know you think you love him, but please do not confuse attraction with love.  Trust me, this man does NOT love you and he does NOT put God first in his life.  When a person's actions do not match what they say, ignore their words and trust the behavior.  There is absolutely nothing in this person's behavior that shows that he loves you or that he loves God.  Don't fall for his persuasive words.  Cut the ties and don't look back!  Don't let him try to manipulate himself back into your life.  You don't need the emotional drama and he will only bring you heartache and regret if you continue to be involved with him.

God Bless,
Aunt Dara

Part Two

Dear Aunt Dara,

It's me again.  It's been a little over a month since all this stuff has happened.  He has tried contacting me which I've ignored, and because I deleted him from all social media pages, he has been doing little things to try and catch my attention.  I've just been ignoring him until finally I was agitated.  I let those little menial things get to me and I responded back to him and asked him to stop.  That's just words because in my heart, I don't want him to actually stop trying to contact me. However, after I told him to stop, he blew up my phone with phone calls begging to just talk.  After denying his phone calls for a while, I finally just let him say what he had to say.  He begged for my friendship and said nothing more.  He just wanted my friendship, my prayers, and my love.  I talked to him for a couple hours but Aunt Dara, I feel really stupid.  I don't think I can accept his friendship. Not that he is a bad person, but I don't want to see him move on with someone else and I have to be okay with it.  I feel really empty.  I've been talking to God but I feel like I've been agitating God with the same old thing.


Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

It is your choice whatever you decide to do in regard to him.  However, I suggest that you stop asking God what He wants you to do and begin listening for God's answer.  When you get God's answer, don't keep playing around with your indecision.  If God is saying that this person is unstable, unhealthy, and will be a source of pain for you, then cut all ties.  (All means all.  Any contact at all will only make matters worse and prolong the issue, which you found out.)  If God is telling you that He wants you to continue having contact with him, then by all means, obey God.  However, there are so many red flags in this relationship, I foresee that you may have a very difficult future if you choose to remain with him.  Do you believe that is what God really wants for you?

God bless,
Aunt Dara

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Afraid of People’s Reaction to Their Age Difference

Dear Aunt Dara,

I am currently dating a man who is 25 years older than I am.  He is 54 and I am 29.  We have been together nearly a year.  He is a Christian man and a minister.  He shows me that he genuinely cares for me and my 2 children.  I have prayed and prayed and asked God to take him out of my life if he isn't the right one for me, but he's still holding on strong.  I love him.  He is everything that I ever wanted in a man and he loves God.  We are considering marriage soon, but I am afraid of what others will say about our age difference.  I feel very strongly that God has confirmed our union in more ways than one, but I'm just so scared of what others would say.

The Younger Woman
 
Dear Young Woman, 

You should do what you believe God wants you to do, regardless of what other people might say.  If the two of you have been together for a year, have been praying for God to show you what He wants you to do, and the answer you keep getting is that God is confirming your union, then nobody else has any right to contradict God's will for you.  You have been blessed with a man who loves you and your children, so accept God's gift.

God bless,
Aunt Dara