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(Warner Faith, 2006)

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SINGLES & Purity

Your Relationship: Undressing the Truth

By Laura J. Bagby Sr. Producer – As a 19-year-old college student, Jason B. Illian began challenging pop culture's salacious norms on sex and dating. Ten years later, in 2005, the Christian motivational speaker gained the rare opportunity to broadcast his message of abstinence as a contestant on ABC's The Bachelorette. Instead of attempting to win the heart of bachelorette Jennifer Schefft, Jason says, "I went on the program to show love rather than to find it." Now, continuing his controversial stand on no sex before marriage, the 30-year-old virgin openly discusses his faith-based perspective in his new book Undressed: The Naked Truth About Love, Sex, and Dating (Warner Faith, 2006).

I was thrilled to openly discuss hot topics surrounding the challenges of dating as a christian in today's world with Jason this summer while he was on his book tour. I hope his practical, God-driven stance on dating relationships will challenge you.

How can you call your book Undressed and how can you talk about this sex and dating thing as if you know about it when you are a virgin?

That’s a great question, and I love this question. It is my favorite question. The thing is I am not talking about sexual positions or even centering sex in the middle of a relationship. That’s the problem we have, because we are not talking about relationships anymore in this society. We are talking about sex and how the relationship fits into the sex. I am talking about the other way around: that the relationship is bigger and sex feeds into that. Physical intimacy is important. It is a progressive ladder. It is not an all or nothing relationship that we have played it out to be. Underneath sex, in terms of physical relationships, I have had good ones and bad ones, and I am drawing from both of those to say these are the things that I think are really beneficial in a relationship and these are holes that you do not want to step in because this will cause problems for you. When I get married, don’t worry. I will write another one on sex.

Should we ‘kiss dating goodbye’ or should we ‘kiss dating hello’? Should we court or should we date? Is dating wrong?

Some people say that there is nothing about dating in the Bible. There is nothing about automobiles in the Bible either. You hit the nail on the head. There are two sides, two extremes that we have been pulled to: I kissed dating goodbye and the hope of any normal relationship, and I will just kiss everyone goodnight and do whatever I want to satisfy myself. What about the other 95 percent of us that live in the middle, that want to have a God-centered life and live it out on a daily basis? That’s really the foundation of this book is saying that dating in and of itself is not bad, but how you do dating can be bad. It’s kind of like a gun. A gun can be very helpful if you are protecting your family from a bear. Of course, it can also kill, too, if you are not careful. I think relationships are a lot like that. That’s really what the book is about - having that balance in reminding us that it is centered on God’s Word.

You talk a little about group dating and why that doesn’t work. Some people are probably still doing this.

You would be surprised at the number of places that I speak at across the country that promote group dating. And the biggest thing that I learned over the last ten years is that it allows men to be passive. We need men to step up and be the leaders they are designed to be. They need to learn that in the dating process. It doesn’t magically happen when you get married, but that is what we are assuming. We are assuming that, well, let’s just group date. Let’s take all of the pain, let’s take all of the confusion, and let’s take all of that out. In reality, we are adding it in there. We add to the confusion because we don’t know who is seeing whom and we are not calling it dating, so we are cultivating intimacy without cultivating commitment and it is causing a real problem.

What about dating more than one person at a time? Is that cool? Does that work?

I really think that in the first three or four times that you go out with somebody that is the get-to-know-you period. There shouldn’t be any we went out once and so we are dating, unless you talk about it or you have been physical or something of that nature. You have three or four dates to decide that. Once you have started dating, it doesn’t even take three or four. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt by giving you four dates. Usually, you can know in the first couple. But in those three or four dates, if you are seeing two or three different people, I think that is OK. But after that three or four dates and it’s now this smorgasbord of dating whomever I want and seeing what I can get out of it, that is a recipe for disaster.

When does friendship end and dating begin?

Good question. A friendship ends and dating begins when intimacy is cultivated between two people. The thing is we have trouble defining this. I think guys need to do a better job of voicing when this is going to start – ‘Is this an intimate relationship?’ Women, on the other hand, they understand emotional intimacy, when two people are communicating and sharing their hearts. That is when intimacy has begun for them. Guys don’t usually connect like that. We connect when it is physical or we have actually talked about it and said it because we are segmented in how we talk. So both sides need to be conscious of this. While guys should bring it up, if they don’t bring it up, the women need to say something like, ‘Is this a friendship, or are we going somewhere else with this?’

On what basis should someone choose a future mate?

The foundation is godly characteristics, the fruit of the Spirit. Is that evident in their lives? Some people are dating because they say that they are Christians or they say they go to church. What does that mean, exactly? Unless you see somebody’s life and that life bears fruit, it bears the fruit of the Spirit, you don’t really know what that person is about. That is why I encourage people not to jump into it really quickly. Don’t get married inside of six months. Don’t get married right away because you don’t have those seasons to see if that fruit is evident. It is that fruit of the Spirit, the godly foundation that you need to build the rest of your life upon. Without that, it is a shaky foundation.

How long before you should start seeing the fruits of the spirit in the person you are dating? You don’t want to keep going in a relationship if it is not going that way, but then you don’t want to cut it off too soon. Is there a window of time?

It is going to depend on where you are personally in life. For older people who have been dating for years, they have had more experience. They are going to see those types of things sooner. For people who are younger and dating, they need more life experiences in them, and it is better to have more time under your belt to really understand the type of person that you are with. If we are going to spend the next 70 years together, what is it going to hurt to date seven more months? But a lot of times we are rushed to get into it: We are both believers and we both like each other, so let’s get married. If you have made it 30 years, what’s another 12 months to make sure he is the right one?

How do you guard your heart in a relationship? 

Guarding your heart is not about being recklessly available; it is about being thoughtfully vulnerable. You can’t just put up walls around your heart. You have to be open to the world. You have to be vulnerable in order to love. If you are not vulnerable, you can’t love anything completely and fully. In order to do that, it simply means we have got to communicate openly, understanding that the possibility of being hurt is there. A lot of times I hear questions from girls like, ‘I want to know how to attract the best Christian guys.’ If you are going to know how to attract any guy, it is going to be all guys, not just the Christian guys. You are going to have to wade through it all, because if your light shines, it shines for everybody. You can’t just shine it in a specific corner for just certain people to see. But that is what we have tried to make it out to be. So, if you can do it in such a way that you understand that you have to be vulnerable, then that’s OK. Sometimes, especially from a guy’s standpoint, we have lived that we need to be macho, we have lived that we need to be tough, and there is a side of us that does need to be tough for our families. But there is also a side of us that needs to be very understanding, thoughtful, compassionate. When you have both of those sides and you are able to balance it, I think that is the godly life that God has created us for.

Talk a little bit about breaking up. Other books say that breaking up is like divorce. It is bad. But you are talking like breaking up is good. Why is it good?

Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a good thing, but a lot of parts of the Word talk about how our suffering makes us stronger and how those things in life teach us and ground us again and remind us of who we really are. Breakups will do that to you if you allow yourself to be vulnerable. If you allow God’s grace to flow into your life, what it does is it fills in those cracks and you are able to love bigger and more fully because you understand that it is not just about you anymore. What happens if you are not focused on God’s love, and that is what a lot of young adults are doing, you become bitter. They think, ‘It’s not going to work, it’s got to be my way,’ instead of just saying, ‘God, I don’t know what I am doing. Help me here. Help heal my heart so I can love more fully and more completely in the next relationship.’ So breakups can in a way be a good thing if you are willing to allow God to work in your life and know that it is not on your time frame.

What is the best way to break up with somebody?

In the Christian world, we have stopped taking personal accountability for what we do – ‘I have prayed about this, and I have decided that God doesn’t want us to be together.’ The other person is left holding the ball because what do you say? ‘Oh, well, God spoke to you. Well, then, that must be right.’ God is not making us do anything. He is not making you date somebody. He is not making you break up. If there is something in a relationship that you don’t feel is going to be a fit long-term, just be honest about it. Be honest and say, ‘This is the part of our relationship that we have worked on. I don’t see this getting better. I think it is best for us to go our own ways.’ But when you throw God in, it devalues our faith. And you wonder why other people don’t want to be Christians! I don’t want to become a Christian when you use God as a defense and it is insulting to what we believe. I think we need to take personal responsibility if we make a mistake and say, ‘I made that mistake.’

How long after you have broken up should you start dating again? Some people just jump into the next relationship. Others wait years. Is there a process that you go through?

I refer to it in the book as “walking back to the castle.” When you ride off into the distance with somebody, the longer you ride, the farther away from the castle you are going to be. The problem is that when you break up, you need to go back to the castle to start the process all over again. For some of us, it is going to take longer than others because whether we lie dead on the battlefield for a while or whether we get up and start walking slowly, I think that the longer you have been in a relationship, the more time that you are going to need to spend time walking through it. A lot of people continue getting into the bad habit of the same broken relationships over and over. They never take the time to learn. They jump from one relationship to another, and that’s not healthy, so if people would take just the minimal amount of time to walk back to the castle and take time to evaluate and time to pray about it, they will see where they made the mistakes and they will be less likely to step into the same potholes again.

What are some dangers when women ask men out?

I get this question all the time and usually from angry women. They come up to me and say, ‘Well, they are just not doing it, so I am going to ask them out.’ First of all, that simple approach tells you that there is something broken. But when women start asking men out, they are starting to take the leadership role. The dating world has to have some rules. We have gotten to a world that everything has to be tolerant, everybody has to have freedom, but we have no freedom if everybody does their own thing. There has to be some set of standards that we all abide by. If we don’t have those, it’s not a game anymore. It’s chaos. And that’s what dating has been. Saying that for men their simple job is to ask out is not a complicated rule. It’s not that women aren’t part of it. They need to make themselves available and show the men that they do want to be asked out. But they don’t need to take the initiative to do the actual asking.

Women wonder, ‘How can I put myself in a place where I can be seen? How do I give that friendly nod? What does that look like?’

Women think that men are dumb, and we play dumb. We know for the most part if there’s a girl that likes us. We can tell from the body language. Now, there are some of us who still miss it. We don’t know it all the time, but there is a good chance if a girl is making herself available, if she is showing up where you have coffee, if she is saying hello, if she is doing these things, you are going to feel open enough to ask her out. If he is not asking you out, he is not interested. If you try to pursue him and try to take him down a road he is not interested, it is going to end very poorly. And it happens all the time.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

No, I don’t believe in love at first sight. You can love with the idea of someone at first sight, but you don’t get to know somebody’s heart by simply seeing them across the room. And even the first conversation, there are people who are great smooth talkers, very charismatic. That can win you over in the first couple of conversations. But, like we said before, you have got to get to know if the fruit of the Spirit is evident in their lives, and that is only shown through the seasons of life. Every relationship that I have been in, there has been some kind of inflection point at six months where you finally put your shields down. You can kind of play that you are great in six months. But at six months, you are starting to get serious enough that you need to be real. You better start really putting your cards on the table if this is what you are going to do. And the sooner that you can get to that point of saying where we really are, the better you can be. So love at first sight is a concept we all want to believe in, but it doesn’t do us justice by practicing that way.

What are some other questions people often ask you about dating?

Where do I meet these people? Where do I find somebody? I have always told them in the past, to just do stuff – if it’s cooking or horseback riding. Why would you want to participate in something that you are not passionate about? If you don’t like NASCAR, don’t do it. You need to do those things that you are passionate about, because when you do, you automatically unlock yourself. You let yourself be all of you. That attracts people to us when we are fully alive. Part of the process of being single is figuring out what makes me fully alive? Do I love music? Do I love working out? Do I love serving the inner city? What is it? It can be any number of things for people, but when you know what those things are, you run into the people who share those same passions. That is what a successful marriage is about: people who share the same passions and build one another up and encourage one another to do those things. That happens in the dating relationship. It doesn’t magically happen in marriage.

Comments? E-mail me.

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