LOVE, DATING AND MARRIAGE WITH MARY KATE ROBERSTON

Since February is L.O.V.E. month on the Redeemed Girl blog, we decided to sit down with our friend, Mary Kate Robertson and ask her a few questions about all things love, dating and marriage.

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Marian: So…MK, you’ve blogged before how the Lord answered your prayers for a God-honoring husband who is also your best friend. Why don’t you share with our readers how you and John Luke first met?

WHERE THE STORY BEGINS…

Mary Kate: It’s so crazy to me to realize that this Valentine’s Day will only be our third Valentine’s Day together. Like ever. Not three married Valentine’s Days, but three altogether! And only our second one to actually be in the same location! It’s weird because I feel like we’ve been married forever haha.

We have been friends for a while, though. We met nearly five years ago at a Christian summer camp back home in Louisiana. I grew up going to King’s Camp and John Luke grew up at his family’s camp about 40 miles away, but one summer he decided to try out King’s Camp. My girl’s cabin and his guy’s cabin got paired up for the week and one of our first conversations was when our team chose the two of us to represent them in the wall-sit competition. We got to talk during that competition to get our minds off the pain. I specifically remember asking about his siblings, which I would never have imagined would be my future brothers and sister-in-laws! So, a friendship began at camp and then we went off our separate ways back home.

For me, home was a tiny town called Delhi, Louisiana, which was an hour drive from where John Luke lived in West Monroe. I started my sophomore year of high school, but at the end of that year my parents decided to transfer my younger sister and me to a private Christian school in Monroe, Louisiana, called OCS, which also happened to be where John Luke went to school. I walked into my homeroom class and despite our grade difference John Luke happened to be there, and we even had assigned seats next to each other! Coming to OCS I only knew a handful of students, so I was really grateful to have a friend and someone to talk to every day. At the time, he was traveling a lot because of their family’s television show, but whenever he came back, he always had lots of fun stories to share with me. For the next year and a half, we remained really good friends, as our lives crossed a lot being in a small school, having mutual friends, and being on the same tennis team.

Somewhere during that time, we started developing feelings for each other, and in March of 2014, we started dating. This was a pretty big deal for me because John Luke was my first boyfriend! That really was such a fun season of life as I fell head-over-heels in love with this boy. I had prayed for so long for a man who loved the Lord, and when John Luke came into the picture, I felt such a God-given peace over the situation.

Fast-forward 7 months and we’re engaged.

Fast-forward 9 months and we’re married.

Then fast forward over a year and a half, and we’re here!

PRACTICAL DATING TIPS…

Marian: I love that yours and John Luke’s story begins with friendship. I often tell women who are dating to focus on the friendship. Romans 13:14 says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its lusts.”  I recall reading this passage in my quiet time one day and pausing over the words make no provision. I knew the Lord was revealing an important truth, so I stopped to ponder these words.

To “make provision” implies forethought, planning, or preparation. When it comes to sin, sometimes we slip up and say “I can’t believe I just did that,” and other times we willingly walk into situations that set us up for failure. I feel like this frequently happens with believers when it comes to sexual sin. We may desire purity, but we willingly put ourselves in vulnerable situations that entice our flesh and make us weak to the enemy’s lies.

Good intentions are not good enough. We need to plan for victory.

When my husband and I were dating, we had a motto: “Redeem the time.” We intentionally planned activities so that we would not just sit around each other’s houses fighting the temptation to make out.

Here’s the truth: The physical aspect of a relationship is super easy. The physical will be there once you say “I do.” What is difficult for most couples is communication, finding activities you both enjoy, and building a friendship that will last a lifetime.

MK, you and John Luke have both shared that purity in dating was a first priority, and that dating was the best time to learn to develop communication while focusing on building your friendship – an important foundation that would last a lifetime! For our readers who are single, dating or engaged, can you share some practical advice on ways you both “redeemed the time”?

Mary Kate: We had so much fun dating! John Luke is super creative and loves to think outside of the box. He loved surprising me with things I would never think of (and still does!). One time, John Luke drove over to my house with a new sailboat he had bought the month before at the beach; we put it in on the lake where I lived and would just sail around for the afternoon.

We both love being outdoors, so we would do all kinds of fun things together like ride bikes and play tennis. A favorite dating memory of mine was a trip we took overseas. We were really blessed to be on the same art trip with our school to Italy, and one of my favorite memories was sitting together on the bus and taking turns asking questions and getting to know each other as we traveled around the city. It was just such a sweet time!

Marian: My husband Justin and I also have fun memories of traveling and asking get- to-know-you questions. We too, intentionally focused our time on building our friendship by going to painting classes, mountain biking, training for a half marathon and planning events with friends.

PURITY IN DATING…

Marian: In Sex and The Single Christian Girl I wrote, “Purity is a desire of the heart, before it’s an act in the bedroom.”

Sexual purity begins in the heart.  I learned a powerful truth early on in my walk with Jesus—when we love God, we obey God. When I fell in love with Jesus my desires changed. Before, I was the girl hooking-up with guys and didn’t think much about it. This was just normal … everyone did it.  But when I began a relationship with Christ, something changed. I knew sex outside of marriage was not God’s will for me and I wanted to obey. Not because it was a rule, but because it was right.

Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Our hearts naturally gravitate towards that which we love. And when Jesus is our first love, then purity follows as a natural overflow of our devotion. When we believe God is good and His commands are for our good, then we want to put them into practice.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it this way: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” Think about that, what is the “one thing” you desire more than anything else? When I fell in love with Jesus, my “one thing” became to glorify Him.  Sexual purity was the natural overflow of that chief desire— MK, can you share how you wanted to be a woman of purity because you loved Jesus and wanted to please Him?

Mary Kate: When it comes to purity and sex I feel like the church does not talk enough about these two things enough, and I really wish they would. I think a lot of young Christians who are in relationships have tons of questions going through their minds (or least I feel like I did) and just don’t know what to do with those questions. At the beginning of our relationship, we had a sort of purity ceremony with John Luke’s youth pastor, where we separately made vows to God in front of the pastor that we would save ourselves for marriage (whether we would marry each other or not). And praise God we did save ourselves, and I’m so glad we did.

But that’s not to say it wasn’t a challenge. It was especially hard during our engagement, but that’s why I think it’s important at the beginning of your relationship to talk about these things because if you’re on two different pages, it’s going to be nearly impossible.

One thing that was a huge blessing to me was having my best friend engaged at the same time and being able to walk through that season with her and talk about things. If you don’t have a friend who’s engaged, try talking to a married woman, whom you trust, this could be just as beneficial. It made me realize that being a Christian does not exempt you from wants and desires. But as a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit in you which means there is a supernatural power helping you to say “no” if only you ask! If you ask God to help you wait, why would He say no to that?! Of course, He will! And what a way to honor not only your husband but to honor God! And if you have given yourself before marriage, God is still there to wipe your slate clean. He is the One who makes all things new! I love the scripture in Revelation 21:5 that says, “Behold I make all things new.” Friends, let me just say— purity is possible. God can redeem any past mistake, and make it something beautiful!

Marian: AMEN! AMEN! MK, you bring up such an important point. When my husband and I dated, we talked frankly about our desire to remain pure. We also set up boundaries and accountability so that we could resist temptation.

Oftentimes, women tell me they are too embarrassed to talk about it. To which I say, “If you can’t talk frankly about your desire to honor God then the relationship has more problems than you think.” Any relationship—friendship or dating— should be one that we can freely share our hearts. As a woman who loves Jesus, your desire to honor Him should be something you are happy to share. Because my husband and I both made our intentions clear from early on in dating, it was easier to resist temptation— and yes, we were very tempted! But we both knew our priority was honoring God, and therefore we both helped each other keep our commitment.  I remember many nights when it was time to say goodbye that the desire to stay was so strong and the lure of sin so sweet. But we resisted with one simple statement— “I love Jesus more than I love you, so I’m going home.”

THE MIRROR OF MARRIAGE…

Marian: For our married friends, who have gotten this far into our convo, we didn’t want to leave you out. Last week, I wrote on the topic of Becoming a Woman Who Loves Well. I’ll be the first to admit that marriage has been the ultimate mirror to show my selfishness. It reveals our sinful natures and how we, in fact, fall very short of the royal command to love. The past five years of marriage have been the best years of my life! I am the most blessed woman in the world, but marriage has exposed my selfishness and pride like nothing else.

Mary Kate: I can totally agree! Dating was fun. The engagement season was fun in a way, but not that much fun haha. But marriage surely does take the win. It’s hard work, but it’s still the best! I had a friend describe marriage like that too; “Marriage is like a big ugly mirror that you are seeing yourself in for the first time. All these things are coming up and out that you’ve never noticed about yourself before or have tried to keep hidden, but now you have someone who sees the ugly parts and loves you through it and walks through it with you.” I think this also shows how God works out our sanctification. Through conviction, all these things come to the surface, and we realize how sinful we are, but God comes in and declares us beautiful and calls us His daughters, who He loves. He loves us where we are at, but doesn’t want to leave us there. He wants the best for us. I absolutely love being able to not only see, but also first-hand witness this parallel.

Marian: Friends, who are maybe struggling in the area of “loving well”, one of my favorite statements is, “You have not because you ask not.” (Matthew 7:7; James 4:3) I believe God wants us to bring our need to Him so that we can see Him answer it. In the act of prayer and dependence, our faith grows!

MK, thanks so much for sharing such practical thoughts on love, dating, and marriage. What a huge blessing it is to watch you and John Luke as y’all serve and glorify the Lord together!

Readers, we pray this post was helpful to you or a friend. If you want you to learn more about these topics, we’ve provided a list of resources from Mary Kate and Marian. Also, be sure to follow our sweet friend, Mary Kate Robertson on Instagram @marykaterob and stay connected with her through her blog. We know you’ll love her as much as we do!

1. The New Rules of Love, Sex, and Dating by Andy Stanley

2. You and Me Forever by Francis Chan

3. Sex God by Rob Bell

4. Sex and the Single Christian Girl by Marian Jordan Ellis

5. Cherished Podcast Series by Marian Jordan Ellis

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