(peaceful music) It’s good to be here today with you guys at Biola. I went to Christian college myself, so I kinda know what it feels like to be in your shoes. Actually, I want to start with a story from my college days. I’m gonna tell you about the day that changed my life forever. I was a sophomore. How many sophomores we’ve got here in the room today? Make some noise, sophomores. (students cheering) There we go. I was a sophomore in college. And I remember sitting in a ball, curled up on my dorm room floor just sobbing. I had been dating a guy for a year and a half. And we had been talking about marriage. And this day, it was Easter weekend, I remember this like it was yesterday, Easter weekend, his family was coming up from North Carolina. My parents were coming down from Pennsylvania. And that night, we were all gonna go to dinner. It was the first time they were gonna meet. And I literally panicked. I mean, I just had been dating him for a year and a half, but the entire time, I felt this unrelenting nagging that this wasn’t a good relationship. This wasn’t the right fit for my life. And so literally one hour before our parents arrive, I call him up and break up with him. Over the phone. I know, coldhearted. You guys are like, “That’s brutal.” But seriously, I was so anxious. You know, have you ever just been in a relationship when you just feel like something’s not right and you can’t pinpoint it? I mean, I couldn’t put it into words, what wasn’t right. I just didn’t have this peace. I knew something wasn’t right. And looking back, that was a really hard time in my life. I don’t know how many of you have ever gone through a breakup, but they are brutal. You know, especially after a year and a half, and you build this thing up, and you have this idea of what your future’s gonna look like, and then it comes crashing down. Add to that, I had grown up in what we call the I kiss dating goodbye culture. I don’t know if any of you ever heard of that. But it practically ruined my life, because I literally felt like I was getting a divorce. I mean, it was a breakup. I was dating a guy, I broke up. But I felt like I had failed in some way. I felt like I had failed God. I felt like I had failed people, you know, I just felt like it was a failure to break up with someone and be in the wrong relationship. So there was a lot of things that I was really struggling with at the time, and as I look back at that time in my life, I realize that I didn’t actually know who I was. That’s why I didn’t know who fit into my life. And if you don’t know who you are, how are you gonna recognize the kind of person that fits into your life and your future? And I think sometimes in Christian dating, we settle for what’s just okay. Like, this is an okay relationship, it’s pretty good. He wasn’t a terrible guy. There was no toxic relationship, no abuse, no addictions. But sometimes the biggest enemy of finding God’s best for my life is settling for just okay. And I think a lot of us struggle with that concept when it comes to dating. So like I said to you before, one of the reasons I didn’t know what was right for me was because I didn’t know who I was. And I don’t know if you guys know this or not, but human beings are magnetic. I mean, you are like magnets. You attract people who are like you. There was a social study that was done where a bunch of psychologists and social workers took a bunch of people and put them in these, like, strange scuba suits, so all you could see was their face. You couldn’t really see their body. And they put them all in a room. And they put cameras around to watch what they would do. And after a couple hours, they realized that people who looked similar in their physical features tended to start interacting and flocking together, and by the end of the day, they had a bunch of little groups of people who all kinda looked the same. This study affirmed the research that proves that we are very magnetic to people who are like us physically. If we’re that magnetic when it comes to physical features, how much more magnetic are we when it comes to emotional, psychological, and spiritual health? You attract people on your level of personal health. And maybe you’re sitting in here today, and you’re thinking, “Yikes, I attract some pretty bad relationships.” I challenge you today to take a step back and realize that the best way to start a healthy relationship is by becoming a healthy person. In my book, True Love Dates, I spend an entire section talking about something I call dating inward, and today I called this talk The Person You Never Thought You Would Date, ’cause guess who that person is? Yourself. That is the person that you never think about dating, but the most influential person in your life. So what does it mean to date inward? That’s what we’re gonna talk about today. There was a girl on Twitter, when my book first came out, who sent a tweet to me. She’s like, “Deb Fileta, “you talk about dating inward. “Do you recommend I take myself “to a restaurant or to the movies?” And I had to chuckle, because that’s not what I mean by dating inward. I’m not talking about taking yourself out on a date. I mean, you can do that, but that’s absolutely not what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about is having introspection and having insight into who you are. A couple verses that really back this up. Proverbs 20, Verse 5 says this. “The purposes of a person’s heart “are deep waters. “But one who has insight draws them out.” Think about that. You are deep waters. How much of those deep waters are you familiar with? How much of those deep waters have you taken the time to get to know? Another verse I love, Matthew 22:39. And this is a good Christian verse. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But guys, how often in Christian culture do we focus on the love your neighbor part, while completely forgetting the love yourself part? But according to God’s word, loving our neighbor is contingent on our ability to love ourselves. And to know ourselves. So that’s what we’re gonna dive into a little bit today. What is dating inward and how do you do it? If you’re taking notes, I really challenge you to take some notes here. The first thing you need to do in order to date inward is you need to deal with your past. Where do you come from? What is your story? You know, we all have a past. We all have baggage we need to deal with. But the problem is the word baggage can feel like such a heavy term. I mean, who wants to have baggage, you know? We’re Christians, maybe we have a couple sins we’re struggling with, or maybe we have an accountability partner to help us through some things. But who wants to admit they have baggage? I met a guy who said to me, “I don’t have any baggage.” And what scares me, for those of you in this room who are thinking the same thought, is this. It’s not that you don’t have baggage. It’s just that you don’t recognize your baggage. We all have a past, and that past starts with what we would call our family of origin. That’s a psychological term that basically means the family you grew up in and how you were raised, and who raised you. And you learned so much about love based on how love was communicated to you, but not just how it was communicated to you, you learned about love based on how your parents communicated love to one another. And those early years of your life, what we call those formative years, impress so much upon you about everything you know about love. And I think sometimes you don’t even realize the things that you’re doing come from your family of origin. There’s a funny story about a young girl, a newlywed, who decided she was gonna make an Easter ham. And so she gets out her recipe from her mom, and she starts looking through the ham recipe, and her husband walks in. And he sees her cutting off the ends of the ham. And he’s like, “Honey, “why are you cutting off the ends of the ham?” And she’s like, “Oh, I’m following my mom’s recipe.” He’s like, “Don’t you think that’s kinda weird?” And she’s like, “I don’t know, “I didn’t think about it.” but it got her thinking. And so the next day, she sees her mom, and she’s like, “Mom, “why is it that we cut off the ends of the ham “when we make this recipe?” And her mom says, “I don’t know. “It’s your grandma’s recipe. “Go ask your grandma.” So the next day, she sees her grandma, and she’s like, “Grandma, “why is it that the recipe says “to cut off the ends of the ham?” And the grandma says, “Oh, honey, “that’s ’cause my pan was too small.” So here we are years later, still cutting off the ends of the ham with no purpose, no rhyme, no reason. And it’s a silly story, but guys, how often do we do that in our real life? You know, we are just on autopilot. We just repeat things. Have you ever had those moments where you think, “I’m exactly like my mom right now” or “I’m exactly like my dad right now”? If you hadn’t, if you haven’t had those moments, just wait ’til you have kids. They will start coming out of the woodwork. But it’s really interesting, because I think whether we realize it or not, we come into relationships with junk from our past. Baggage, bad behaviors, bad habits, sins, lack of communication, an unhealthy ability to deal with conflict, maybe you’re not really good at expressing your emotions. You know, there’s so many things that we can carry with us into marriage, things that need to be corrected. Because if you don’t correct those things, marriage is like a pressure cooker, and everything comes out multiplied by a hundred. Anyone who is married will tell you that is exactly what happens in every single marriage. The colors of your past will always bleed into the picture of your present. Whether you realize it or not. Whether you want them to or not. And so the best thing you can do for your future relationships or your current relationships is to deal with your own personal shortcomings, issues, sins, and behaviors right here, right now, while standing alone. And you might be sitting here today thinking, “Oh, man, I can’t, I’m not perfect, who’s perfect? “You’re saying I have to be perfect “before I get married?” That’s absolutely not what I’m saying. It’s not about perfection. It’s about having perspective. And the more you know about this stuff, the better you’re gonna do. So the more you can learn about relationships now, you’re setting yourself up for healthy marriage in the future. So healthy people date inward by dealing with their past. They date inward by number two, knowing who they are in the present. Knowing their identity in the present. And let me tell you guys, there is a big difference between who you think you are or who you tell people you are on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and who you actually are in real life. And we live in a culture that’s really good at giving our highlight reel, showing the best of our lives, and sometimes we start believing that, you know? Like we think that we are something that we are actually not. And here’s the thing about this idea of identity. It is so easy to shape our identity. There’s so many voices speaking into our lives. There’s a psychologist by the name of John Locke, and he has this theory where he says human beings are like a big, blank slate. Imagine with me a big whiteboard behind me. And John Locke basically says that as you are born, your slate is blank. You don’t even know who you are until people start telling you who you are, and they start writing things on your board. You know, good things, bad things, ugly things. Things that might not even be true. And that becomes your identity. That starts shaping who you think you are. I think of my three little kids and all the positive things I’m trying to say about them all day long to affirm them. But I also think of so many of us in this room who’ve had the opposite in relationships, in dating, with our parents, with our family, with our friends. Where we’ve had negative things spoken over our life. And sometimes we hold on to those labels for so long that we start believing them. And we start living out of that unhealthy identity. But the beautiful thing about our relationship with Jesus Christ is that He comes to completely obliterate our old identity and give us something new. He doesn’t just come to our whiteboard with a cute pink marker and write all kinds of sweet, lovely words about us in between the ugly words. He comes to completely wipe away the old identity and give us a new one. And after that breakup I told you about, man, I was, I was like I was having an identity crisis. You know when you’ve been dating someone for so long that you sort of lose yourself in the process? And here we were, broken up, and I’m just trying to refigure out my identity and who I am. And I’ll tell you what, God’s word was such an important part of the process of me understanding my true identity. Because when you get in God’s word, it starts getting in you. And you start believing it, and you start living out your true identity. Here’s some verses that really had a huge impact on me, and maybe they’ll have an impact on some of you, as I was trying to rewrite my identity. Number one. You have a purpose. 1 Peter 2:9 says this. “You are the ones chosen by God, “chosen for a high calling.” Maybe you’re sitting in here today and you’re trying to figure out your purpose, do you even have one, I mean, there’s so many things going on with school and life and work and where do you even fit in? But God’s word assures you that no matter what you’ve come from, you have a purpose. Number two, you are accepted. The rest of that verse goes on to say, “You are to tell others of the difference He made for you. “From nothing to something. “From rejected to accepted.” And you know, guys, I think in college especially, and in this world today, you millennials, the culture, you just want to be accepted. We live for acceptance, but it’s not always easy to get that. And I think sometimes we live for acceptance from our parents, our professors, our friends. But the truth is, we are already accepted right now, exactly where we are. And you need to grasp that truth, because it has the power to change your life. You are noticed. Psalm 139. “You have searched me, O Lord, “and you know me.” I think one of the reasons we like social media so much is because it makes us feel noticed. You know they say that the greatest fear of a human being is the fear of being invisible. So why do you think social media spread so rapidly? It’s because nobody wants to be invisible. They want every single detail of their life to be witnessed by someone. And why I love Psalm 139 is because David is just basically giving Facebook status update after another. I’m sitting down, I’m rising, I’m coming, I’m going, and God is noticing every little thing that he does. You are noticed. You are forgiven. Colossians 2:14. “He has taken away your sin “and nailed it to a cross.” No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’re doing, no matter what you did yesterday, you are forgiven. And lastly, you are loved. 1 John 3:1. “What great love the Father has lavished on us.” You’ve got to understand these truths about who you are, because guess what? You will always attract the kind of relationship that you believe you deserve. So if you believe you don’t deserve something good, guess what? That’s exactly what you’re going to attract. But the opposite is also true, and that’s the beautiful thing about this. As you’re dating inward, you’re dealing with your past, you’re knowing who you are in the present, and lastly, you have a vision for your future. You know where you’re going. Proverbs 29:18 says this. “Where there is no vision, “the people perish.” But guys, how often is it, how easy is it for us to lose sight of that vision? I mean, this is like midterms going on, there’s all kinds of craziness, you’re studying, you’re trying to cram for tests, you’re writing papers, who has time for vision? And you know what? It gets even harder, guys. I’ve got three kids, age one, four, and six. Ministry marriage. I mean, life doesn’t get any easier. It is so easy to just be in survival mode that we forget to have a vision. But the problem with that is that you’re gonna end up somewhere. You know? If you get in your car and hop in and start driving, you are going to end up somewhere. If you don’t plug something into your GPS, you’re gonna get somewhere. It’s just not gonna be where you wanna go. And the same thing is true of life and having a vision, and it’s not about having this elaborate plan. You don’t have to have, like, 100-point goals or a crazy bucket list. It’s about going in the right direction. My favorite analogy, especially when I was your age and thinking about marriage and my future, if this is me, and this is God at the top of the triangle, and this is your future spouse, your significant other, or if you’re married, your current spouse, think of it like a triangle. As you move towards God, as they move towards God, the closer you each get to one another. Think of that. It is so simple, yet so complex at the same time. The closer you move towards God, the close you’re moving to each other, whether or not you know this person yet or not. The key is moving in God’s direction. And sometimes we have such a horizontal view of relationships, I just gotta find this person I’m gonna marry, I just gotta figure out what I’m gonna graduate and do, what’s my job gonna be? What’s my degree? Sometimes, people come up to me and say, “Debra, what if I’m living in the wrong town? “What if I’m going to the wrong college? “What if I’m studying the wrong thing? “I mean, I don’t wanna miss God’s will for my life.” But I can assure you this. When you’re moving towards God, you are always moving in the right direction. And that’s the beautiful thing about it. Because the ideal relationship doesn’t focus horizontally. It focuses vertically. It focuses upward. I love the analogy of the cup. I talk about this a little bit in True Love Dates, but imagine two cups that are each half full. That’s how we are a lot of times in relationships. We’re feeling half full spiritually. We’re feeling half full emotionally. We’re feeling half full psychologically. And we just need to be filled up, and so what do we do? We think, “Once I find that person, “I’m gonna be filled up. “That’s what I need.” And so you have this half cup and this half cup, and they find each other and you pour these two cups together, and all of a sudden you have one full cup. And it feels good, and it feels fulfilling. For a little while. Maybe, though, once the honeymoon period is over, it could be a few months, it could even be a few weeks, you realize that what you still have left is two half full cups. Desperately trying to get full using the other person. But relationships with human beings were never meant to fill us up. They can’t. They don’t have the ability to fill us up. The only thing that can fill us up to overflowing is our relationship with Christ. I love this verse in Ephesians 3:18 and 19. It says this. “I pray that you and all God’s holy people “will have the power to understand “the greatness of Christ’s love. “How wide, how long, how high, “how deep that love is. “Christ’s love is greater than anyone could ever know, “but I pray that you will be able to know that love.” Listen to why. “So then you can be filled with everything God has for you.” Are you feeling full today? Because what a healthy relationship really is is two cups that are overflowing and loving each other out of that overflow. As you move towards God, you get filled and filled and filled. Let’s talk about that real quick before we end here. If you’re in this room and you’re single, which is probably 98% of you, I’m gonna speak to you for a minute. Three things I’m gonna tell you about how to move in God’s direction practically. No offense, guys. Number one, commit to praying for your future love life. Guys, if I knew how important my love life would be, I would have been praying since I was in elementary school for my future husband. Because this stuff is important. This is a huge decision, and I truly believe that God gives us the wisdom, the discretion, and the discernment to make a good choice regarding who we marry. I don’t think there’s this magical one that we’re gonna find. God says, “Choose well. “I’ve given you a brain, I’ve given you a heart, “I’ve given you a spirit. “Choose well.” Be praying about your future love life. Be praying that God would make you healthy and make them healthy. Be praying for all of the details, starting right now. Number two. Commit to becoming the best version of yourself, right now, standing alone. Guys, what is your signature sin? You know that sin that you struggle with so much that you could write your name on it because it’s yours? Maybe this is the year that God wants to set you free in helping you become the best version of yourself. Maybe it’s an addiction to alcohol or to pornography. Or maybe it’s an addiction to something more benign, like criticism, like pride. Like envy. Whatever it is, commit to becoming the best version of yourself standing alone. And I recommend every single one of you, before you graduate, enroll in at least six sessions of professional counseling. Someone that can help you take your past, learn your identity, and have a vision for your future. It’s such an important thing, and you guys have an awesome counseling center right on campus. So take advantage of that. And lastly, live your life now. Guys, your story has so much more to do with finding purpose in life than it does with finding the love of your life. But I get it, Christian college, you wanna get your MRS degree, you’re here to find your ring by spring, you know, I know the Christian college lingo and the pressure that sometimes exists in Christian circles. But I ask you to block out whatever voices you think might be coming at you and realize that your time here is more about finding your purpose than it is about anything else. Mark Twain says this. “The two most important days in your life “are the day you are born “and the day you find out why.” And for the believer in Christ, the day you find out why is synonymous with entering a relationship with Jesus Christ. So what are your talents? What are your strengths? What are your qualities that are unique to you? What is God’s calling on your life? But then my next question is how are you taking steps to move toward that calling? Because if you don’t have purpose in your life as a single person, guess what? You are not gonna have purpose in your life as a married person either. And so my prayer for you all today, as you are moving in God’s direction, is that He would fill you up. That He would help you to deal with your past, know your identity, and have a vision for your future. I’m gonna pray for you guys, and then we’re gonna be dismissed. (peaceful music) Biola University prepares Christians to think biblically about everything, from science to business to education and the arts. Learn more at biola.edu.