Popular author Dannah Gresh encourages young women to find contentment in God's love instead of seeking attention from men and falling into the trap of feelings-driven relationships. (Part 1 of 2)
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Mrs. Dannah Gresh: God encourages us to be authors and businesswomen and CEOs and He gives us that affirmation. But He says, above all, I want you to love being a wife and a mom. And you know what? If the guys in this room right now were to say, “Yeah, I guessI’ll have a wife one day and maybe kids, but I am a career-driven man,” you would look at that guy and say he was a jerk. So, why do we say it and get away with it?
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John Fuller: Dannah Gresh has a pretty counter-cultural message about purity and modesty for today’s generation, especially for young women and she’s our guest on today’s “Focus on the Family.” Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, as many of our listeners know, we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary this year and to mark the occasion, we’re featuring some of our favorite guests who help strengthen families in significant ways. And Dannah Gresh certainly falls into that category. What a legacy she has of helping families live out their faith and hold firm to those moral standards in today’s over-sexualized culture. It is increasingly hard to do as a parent to try to maintain that standard and we know, ‘cause our kids are still at home.
John: Y’all have teenagers and it’s a struggle every day.
Jim: We know God’s truth doesn’t waiver or change according to the latest trends or what’s popular today. You can look at history and see that God’s Word is steady and true, even though culture ebbs and flows. God’s plan for our sexuality and for our marriages is simply the best way to go. You can argue about it, but even secular research is saying it is by all the data points.And that’s what Dannah teaches and I want to urge you to carefully consider what she has to say today, because this is such an important message for today’s family.
John: And Jim, you noted, it’s our 40th anniversary year. This program was recorded a few years back. It bears listening to again though, because as you just said, the struggle is even greater now than just a few years ago. Our discussion with Dannah centered around her book, Get Lost: Your Guide to Finding True Love. And this will be a topic that isn’t appropriate for young children, so we’re gonna recommend you direct their attention elsewhere. Here’s part one of our conversation now with Dannah Gresh on “Focus on the Family.”
Dannah: Now you’re not women, so maybe you don’t struggle with this quite the same way.
Jim: But we’re married to women.
Dannah: You are married to women. (Laughter) This is true. So, you may have noticed, not your wives, of course (Laughter), but other wives--
Jim and John: Yeah.
Dannah: --manipulating love, making it happen, being intentional about it--
Jim: You’re on dangerous ground now. (Laughter)
Dannah: --as opposed to (Laughter) trusting God--
Dannah: --as opposed to letting Him direct our passions and our pursuits. And so, this is really a call out to all the women out there, but especially single women, that if you want to find true love, you have to let God direct you to it.
John: Which sounds really, really nice, but really, really hard.
Dannah: Oh, it’s almost impossible with our fleshly natures.
Jim: That’s the thing and we all war against that, men and women. And it’s something we have to face and face it very straightforwardly. I love what you’re doing with young women in particular, Dannah. In fact, you mentioned you were at Penn State doing a lecture and I don’t know if that’s supposed to be confidential. But you’re talking about defending virginity (Chuckling).
Jim: And you got a cold response (Laughter) from the student body, is that right?
Dannah:”Tolerance for Virginity,” ‘cause sometimes our messages about virginity are a complete contradiction of the banner of tolerance that’s waved so proudly over sexual choice. And if you go to a secular campus, the students who are virgins will be very quick to tell you that, that is true.
And so, there were students that came to me or tweeted that they were now proud of their virginity, ‘cause I gave the scientific evidence for why it’s a good choice. But I got a lot of looks of disdain that day, as well.
Jim:Dannah, help me understand that college campus, not Penn State particularly, but just college campuses in general. Paint the picture for our listeners. What’s goin’ on there? What are young people saying about their sexuality?
Dannah: Well, at the average secular campus, university campus, state school, about 19 percent of the student body would say they are virgins. That means that the majority are very sexually active and they’re not just sexually active; they’re very sexually active. The average male will leave with 9.7 sexual partners.
Jim: Out of college.
Dannah: Out of college and the average female with 7.1.
Jim: Now with all the brokenness that occurs, you know, obviously what need are they looking to meet in that environment? What’s really goin’ on? Is it just experimentation? What is it?
Dannah: I think it’s kind of a two-fold thing. One is just the tremendous pressure. I meet with students often who are told how they’re sexually repressed ‘cause they won’t have sex. And that one student came to me and said, “I was told just to sleep over with guys. You don’t have to have sex, just sleep over so that you can prove that you’re not really repressed, ‘cause everyone’s worried about you.”
Well, you know, you can’t put a guy and a girl in a bed and think [nothing will happen]. You know, the body’s autonomic nervous system is gonna take over. Things are gonna happen and of course, they did and she was broken. But that’s the kind of pressure that our Christian kids are under when they’re in these secular university environments. And thank God they’re there to be a light for the world, but we need to prepare them and walk with them through that temptation.
Jim: Dannah, you talk about in your book, Get Lost, you talk about this violent craving that women have for that male affection, that male attention.
Jim: Tell us more about that violent craving. It’s an interesting way to describe it.
Dannah: This is one of the most groundbreaking discoveries I made when I was working on this book. As I was trying to figure out what is the longing that sometimes makes a young woman give in to maybe not just even sex, but dating a guy that’s not godly, that doesn’t love the Lord? What drives her to that decision, when she knows it’s not the best choice?
And I found that in Genesis 3:16, which is when God comes down and describes to Adam and Eve what the condition will be now that they have fallen, now that they have sinned. One of the things it says to the woman is, that she would have a desire for her husband and he would rule over her. Now many theologians will tell you that, that word “desire” is the key in that passage.
Jim: What does it mean?
Dannah: Well, it means it’s a desire bordering on disease first of all. They describe it as something like a disease. So, it changes your condition to react normally to things, as any disease would. But they said that it might best be described as a violent craving. So, you have to have a guy. You have a need for a guy.
Now when I started blogging about this on my website, young women were writing in, thankful that they finally has something to call what ails them. They just didn’t know what it was.
Jim: That kinda shocks me, ‘cause I would think the response would be, “Hey, that’s not me. I’m a liberated feminist.
Jim: I don’t have that craving.
Dannah: Even the liberated feminists admit that sometimes that craving in them overrides the way that they think or want to act. And they would say, you know, that’s why I get so depressed when all the Spring engagement rings come out. That’s why I started dating boys when I was in the kindergarten (Laughing). And on and on they went.
But here’s one woman, if I could just quote, she was 17-years-old. She says she was raised by a very liberal mother, an extremely conservative father and the marriage didn’t work. It ended. And so, her heart as a young girl was really broken by the concept of marriage and she just disliked it so much.
And yet, she said, “I still passionately wanted to be loved. I had determined as a little girl, I would never be married, but I still wanted to be loved.” And the first guy she had any real relationship with, she clung to for four years, desperate for his attention and love. And this is what she said. During those years she made a lot of mistakes. “I gave him everything I could physically and emotionally just to keep him around, except the actual act of sex. He was a need, a necessity, but why? I hated marriage, but wanted a man.”
Dannah: And I think that’s the epitome of the curse, because you can still want to be married, but not want it to be as God designed it to be.
Dannah: And it can be the epitome of the craving. In other words, you can still say, “Oh, yeah, I’m gonna get married. I have to have a guy, but I don’t want to do it the way that God’s Word says that it should be done.”
Jim: Dannah, when you describe it that way in the context of your book, Get Lost, some women might feel resentment toward God, because what you’re putting it in is a context of the curse--Adam and Eve, the Fall and God said you were gonna desire and be under the rule of the man.
Jim: I think some women would say, “God, why would You do that to me?”
Dannah: Yeah. Well, that was one of the hard things as I was writing this and where my editor bumped me around the most. She said, “You better answer that question.” And here’s what I think the answer is. When God came and described the curse, He was not prescribing something to mankind. He was not saying, “You did this, so I’m gonna do this.”
Jim: Cause and effect.
Dannah: Right. He was saying, “I have set up relational laws for you and just as gravity is a law, if you jump off a building, it’s gonna hurt. You’re gonna fall; you’re gonna splat hard. If you step out of My relational laws, it’s gonna hurt bad. And so, I want you to know what’s ahead.” But the beauty of it is, that He does give us a prescription to overcome the curse.
Dannah: And that’s the beauty of this book, is helping a woman to dive into what has God given us so that we don’t have to live in the craving?
Jim: Well, let’s explore that, because it’s pretty important. Another attribute I would think that comes from this is control. In a lot of marriages, a lot of people that contact Focus for help in their marriages will elevate that as one of the big issues, particularly men about their wives, that there’s this control feature that seems to come.
Dannah: That the wives are controlling. Did you just say that?
Jim: Well, I did. (Laughter) But it’s a very natural thing--
Dannah: Well, but it’s true.
Jim: --as you’re saying, that natural violent craving that a woman has.
Dannah: It’s a piece of the curse.
Dannah: I’ve been that woman. I’ve been that controlling woman, where I had to control everything. And my husband can control the big decisions when I was struggling with it, but God help him if he should control little things, like where to park in church on a Sunday morning. Or you know, what time we were having dinner or what parties we were going [to], I wanted to be in control of the little things. And that really is a manifestation, I think, of the curse and living under it and not living in the power of what God has given us, so that we can live in contentment.
Jim: Hm. So, how would you coach a husband to say, you know, in that marital relationship, when your wife is demonstrating that element of her nature, that desire to control, how should husbands respond to that?
Dannah: Well, my husband responded graciously. He responded lovingly and he responded in prayer until finally, I could see what I was doing to crush his spirit. And I think that might not be the perfect answer for every husband, but it was the right answer for our marriage.
And then there was time after I admitted, hey, I have been controlling and I’m sorry and I want to ask you to help me with this, because here’s the bottom line. In every relationship we have, there’s submission, right?
Dannah: Right. Somebody’s gonna break the ties on this show today. It’s probably gonna be you (Laughter), Jim. And I just finished writing a book with a friend. It was her idea, so naturally I gave her the right to break the ties, because I had to be in submission to her leadership.
The only place where women really struggle with this is in marriage. And it’s completely contradictory to the logic that we have in every other relationship. We will submit to a girlfriend and her need. We just won’t submit to our husbands.
Jim: And why is that happening? Is that something that’s always been true? Or is it more true today in the culture that we’re in?
Dannah: Well, let me back up and come at this from a safe angle. (Laughter)
Jim: I want the unsafe angle.
John: Twelve minutes in the “Focus on the Family” broadcast, we’re tackling submission (Laughter); that’s a real easy one, Jim.
Dannah: You know, in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s we have to admit that male chauvinism was pretty predominant. And male chauvinism I don’t think is a healthy attribute of a godly man.
Jim: Right, there was backlash because of it.
Dannah: Yeah and the backlash of that was radical feminism. Now before everyone writes me hate mail on my Facebook page, I am happy that I can vote. I am happy that I can own property. I love that I make more money than my husband every year, all right. These are some good things that the feminist movement brought to me and my life. I have benefitted from it. However, at what point did it come that we had to emasculate men--
Dannah: --in order to be in the blessings of those things. And that’s really the culture that we live in, where men are emasculated. They’re expected to be the dopes and the dummies.We’re seeing this at the collegiate level. The population is largely made up of collegiate-aged males, but at college you will find predominantly women, because they’ve been told for their whole lives that they’re just not that smart and they’re believing it, some of them.
Jim: Dannah, you’re unpackin’ some really important stuff here. You talk about that violent craving that women have in a God-give way for men, as part of the Fall.You’ve mentioned this idea that one of the attributes that women can express is that controlling nature and how that can crush particularly a marital relationship. And for us, you know, in addition to finances and some other key things, sexual relationships, that controlling feature is right up there when it comes to strife in the marriage. Let’s talk about love. Let’s go to the positive side of it now. When you talk about love, you talk about “falling in love” as a fairly new phenomena But the culture has so embraced “falling in love,” I don’t even understand exactly what you mean by it, that falling in love is kinda normal, isn’t it?
Dannah: Well, it is normal, but normal isn’t always phenomenal or the best choice for us.When our country was young and it was just being founded, marriages were smart, you know. He had land and you had a strong work ethic. And so, hey, maybe this could work. And your friends and family might be a part of helping you negotiate a relationship, but there was thought behind if you would be a good match, if you would be a good pair.
Jim: In fact, you talk about values matching up that it was more based on the values the person possessed than their external attraction to each other.
Dannah: Yeah, that’s right.
Jim: Is that the core of it?
Dannah: That is the core of it and theattraction would come later, you know.
Jim: Now that’s hard to believe. (Laughter) Everybody’s jaw just dropped. What?!
Jim: ‘Cause [in] this culture, that’s first.
Dannah: Yeah, it really is.
Jim: First we need to be attracted to each other.
Dannah: And it’s not an entirely new phenomenon, ‘cause the Bible addresses it. Through the Scriptures, the word ahava is used for “falling in love.” And ahava is a love relationship built solely on physical attraction. And it’s built on the value of the other person physically and for what you can get out of that person. It’s not a selfless love. It’s not a committed love. It’s a, “Oh, you are hot” kind of love.
And the Bible has some things to say about this. Probably the most familiar verse would be in Song of Songs, where it says, “Do not arouse or awaken ahava until it so pleases.”
Jim: So, don’t awaken that physical attraction till it’s appropriate.
Dannah:Until the time is right. And you know, this is mind blowing that as I studied Song of Solomon, that verse is repeated three times in the poetry of the book. The first two times it’s before the lovers are married. But the third time, it’s after the lovers are married.
Dannah:So, what does that mean? ‘Cause aren’t they supposed to be allowed to express their attraction? But the bottom line is this. What I think God is saying is, don’t let the attraction become greater than the commitment and the self-giving love that I created you to live in.
And you know, we can see in Scripture that every time ahava is the driving love that brings two people together, that it doesn’t end with a happily ever after. Samson falls in love with Delilah, death. David falls in love with Michal; she mocks him when he worships the Lord. One of the most conflicting for me was when I studied the fact that Jacob “fell in love” with Rachel.
And do you know that many Bible scholars believe that he was not meant to fall in love with Rachel, but was meant to be committed in love to her older sister. And so, it says, well, of course, you know, what guy is dumb enough to marry two sisters anyway, you know. (Laughter) That’s not gonna end well. There’s obviously gonna be dysfunction. But the Bible says that at the end of his life Jacob says, “Few and evil have been the days of my life.” Don’t take the Fall.
John: That’s Dannah Gresh on “Focus on the Family” and she’s sharing insights from her book, Get Lord: Your Guide to Finding True Love. And you can learn more about the book and a CD or download of our conversation at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. In our next segment, Dannah responds to a question about when to have “the talk” with your children about dating and relationships and all the temptations that go along with that stage of life. Here’s her response.
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Dannah: Start young, when it is terrifying for you to talk about those things. I meet with parents all the time who[se] eighth-grade child is in a “dating relationship” and they’re absolutely terrified. And I say to them, “Well, when did you tell them what your expectations were?” And their answer is often, “Well, we haven’t talked about it yet. They’re too young.” Well, obviously, they’re not.
Jim and John: Hm.
John: But should I be telling my girls to be careful when they’re attracted to a guy? I mean, that’s what I hear you saying here in these biblical examples.
Dannah:No, I don’t want legalism to drive the way that we parent. The way that we handled it with our children was, defining for them what a beautiful godly relationship looked like. My son was probably 8- or 9-years-old when my husband started to tell him, “Marry well.” Just two words, “Marry well.” And he kept telling them that, that was important.
He would tell ‘em on birthdays. He would tell ‘em at celebrations when he won awards. You know, “This is great; I’m so glad you did this. You’re awesome, son. Don’t forget; marry well. It’ll feel like this.”
And you know, you just send positive messages and then when they get attracted to someone in 9th grade and you know, you’re not ready and you don’t think they’re ready, you don’t get legalistic and fearful about it. If they sit with each other in class, they’re gonna survive that. But you might monitor the relationship until such a time as they’re older and can self-monitor.
Jim: Well, and Dannah, what I hear you saying as we’ve talked about this is, really there is gonna be a romantic attraction. That’s natural.
Jim: But put it in its proper place.
Dannah:Yeah, I think my husband’s hot. (Laughter)
Jim: That’s a good thing.
Jim: But looking for the deeper values, those things that you’re actually gonna build a lifetime upon.
Jim: Because when you do it at the superficial level and we see this, like, look at all the celebrity flings that occur. They get married probably and I don’t want to prejudge and I don’t know these folks, but it seems that they’re only attracted at the superficial level. And then you hear six months, a year later when that has worn off, the marriage is over because that’s all it was based on.
Dannah:They fall out, right. They fall out of love.
Jim: And we in the Christian community, boy, we don’t want to fall into that trap and we don’t want to teach our kids to fall into that trap. So, as we look for our hopefully, lifelong partner, our spouse, you’ve gotta look deeper than just the superficial attraction that you have. That is good and it’s normal and it’s godly to have that, but there’s much more to it.
Dannah:Yeah. In fact, God gives us the Word that is what we build a healthy love relationship on. And in the Old Testament, that’s the word hesed; in the New Testament, that transforms into the more familiar word, agape. And that’s our pattern. If we study that word and understand how it works and functions, we will be able to know whether to say yes or no when a guy asks a girl out on a date.
Jim: In your book, Get Lost, I think this fits into what you’re saying there, you talk about something that’s so important and that’s that Jesus is enough.
Jim: Now, okay, we tend, I think, to separate our romantic affections and our developing relationship, especially as a later teenager or 20-something, from our relationship with God.
Jim: He wants to be in the mix with that, doesn’t He?
Dannah:He does and here’s the thing. I realized this when I was a college student. I was in a dating relationship with the man who is now my husband. And I realized that the violent craving was alive and well in me. I didn’t know that’s what it was called, but I was sitting in my dorm one day when my yearbook editor called. Now I had been paying my way through college by being on the yearbook staff. And I was in line to be the editor the following year, which would be a full scholarship. So, this was a big deal, not just to me, but to my parents. (Laughing)
Jim: I bet it was.
Dannah:And my editor called and said, “Meet me in the yearbook office. There’s a problem. I need to talk with you about some things.” So, I began to get ready to go out to meet my yearbook editor when Bob Gresh called and asked me if he could take me to the mall.”
Jim: (Laughing) Dilemma.
Dannah:Well, you know, I had a commitment, so I did the obvious thing. I said, “Yes, Bob Gresh.”
Jim: (Laughing) Whoops.
Dannah:And I thought to myself, “What do I say to my yearbook editor?” And this is so embarrassing, but I thought to myself, I need some time to think up the right answer, which really meant, to figure out how to lie to him.
Dannah:And so, Bob picked me up. We went to our destination. Actually it wasn’t the mall; it was a library. I get to the library.
Jim: There’s a date for you.
Dannah: Yeah (Laughter), there’s a hot date for ya. (Laughter) I get to the library and God solved a bit of a dilemma for me, ‘cause my yearbook editor’s best friend was standing right there as we walked in the door.
Dannah: There would be no lying about what I had chosen that day. And that whole thing was a wake-up call for me, that I was allowing myself to manipulate my love relationship at the expense of real responsibilities in my life. The violent craving was controlling me.
And so, I stepped back from that dating relationship. I just went to Bob and said, “You know what? You are more important in my life than God. I am not allowing Him to direct the course of my life. It revolves around you.” And so, we broke up and it stunk. It was awful.
But I wrote in my journal, “Until I really believe Jesus is enough and God is sovereign, I’m probably not ready to be in a love relationship.” Because here’s the thing about love relationships on earth. They are just a momentary picture of the ultimate love relationship of Christ and His bride.
And we see that in the New Testament, you know. In the book of Ephesians, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and this is a great mystery. But I’m really talking about Christ and the church. Well, that wasn’t an idea Paul had. He was studying the ancient Scriptures of the Old Testament that clearly spelled out that marriage was created just to be a picture. And we have it backwards, because guys are so tangible. You can touch them. You can talk to them. They’re so real, but they’re just meant to point us to the true love.
Dannah: And until we understand that and Jesus is enough and God is sovereign, the earthly relationship will never be what God meant it to be.
John: Some great insights from Dannah Gresh on “Focus on the Family.” Your host is Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim: John, that was a fascinating conversation we had with Dannah. I hope our listeners will make every effort to join us next time for part two or contact us here at Focus to get the CD or a download, so you can hear the rest of what we talked about. As I said before, this is such an important message, whether you’ve been married for some time or you’re in that dating phase of a relationship. Do you remember those days, John?
John: I do (Laughter) with some fondness.
Jim: Or if maybe you’re the parent of a young adult or teen who will be thinkin’ about dating for themselves and marriage not far off in that not-too-distant future. Dannah’s book, Get Lost: Your Guide to Finding True Love is a great resource for you and I want to recommend that you contact us for it. In fact, we will give you a complimentary copy when you send a financial gift of any amount to support the work here at Focus on the Family.
We know you have many options to access the resources that we offer here at Focus, but keep this in mind. When you purchase these resources directly from our online bookstore, you are also giving to the ministry of Focus. So, the proceeds are used to strengthen marriages, even save the lives of preborn babies. So, if you can, shop at Focus on the Family’s online store and your money will go much further than just mere profit for a for-profit company.
John: And the place to start is www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or give us a call and we’d be happy to give you details, 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. We really appreciate your support of our efforts to strengthen families and so, please donate generously when you get in touch.
Also at the website we have a free audio download, a conversation about dating and being purposeful about marriage. It features our own Lisa Anderson. She hosts our Boundless outreach for single adults and I highly recommend it. You’ll find that at the website.
Now coming up date time on “Focus on the Family,” Dannah Gresh offers this reality check for young women who want to have it all.
Mrs. Dannah Gresh: And if you look at the Scriptures, God encourages us to be authors and business women and CEOs and He gives us that affirmation. But He says, above all I want you to love being a wife and a mom.
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John: I’m John Fuller and on behalf of Focus president, Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. Join us again next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Dannah GreshView Bio
Dannah Gresh is a best-selling author of numerous books and a popular public speaker who is especially passionate about helping parents build strong relationships with their children and encouraging tweens and teens to pursue sexual purity. Dannah's recent books include It's Great to Be a Girl, Raising Body-Confident Daughters and A Girl's Guide to Understanding Boys. Dannah and her husband, Bob, reside in State College, Pa., and have three grown children. Learn more about Dannah and her work by visiting the website for her organization, Pure Freedom.