Alie Benge · Love and Relationships

The Boy Detox

My dork years were of a fairly intense strain. By the time I was 14 I was already a head taller than everyone else. I was all arms and kneecaps, there was not much distinction between my eyebrows, and I thought platform shoes with boardies were hot to trot. Despite a number of ridiculous, misdirected crushes, the menfolk largely regarded me as a potato. I didn’t care too much as I was mentally dating Orlando Bloom.

At 18 I enlisted in the army and suddenly I was the only girl as far as the eye could see. So, despite my ever ballooning weight and my lesbian-esque buzz cut, my ridiculous crushes started to be reciprocated. This new found male attention threw out all my old insecurities. Perhaps I wasn’t a dag, perhaps I wasn’t a hideous monster. It was pretty fun. I felt like, after years of being bypassed, that attention validated me. If a guy starts pulling moves on me, then it said he wanted to be around me, he thinks I’m worth his debonair charm. But when that attention was gone, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My sense of worth had become so reliant on men’s approval of me that I couldn’t let it slip. For two or three years I was in almost back-to-back relationships. If there was no one I liked, I’d just pick someone. I dated some shudder worthy guys, I dated mean guys, I dated intensely creepy guys, and in doing so I told myself that anything was better than feeling invisible.

By the time I was 21 I felt old and jaded. Everyone’s relationship status can be summed up in a dvd store analogy. Some are ex-rentals, some are new releases. I was the dvd that gets kept behind the counter because it’s scratched and doesn’t work anymore. When I accidentally ended up at Bible College and realised who Jesus actually is, I knew in my tired spirit that I had to do something different. I decided I would devote one year to being intentionally single. I called it a ‘boy detox’. It would be both sucky and awesome in equal measure. I didn’t know what it would achieve, but I knew it was important. Note, there’s a difference between intentionally single and begrudgingly single. When you’re begrudgingly single, your focus can still be on dating and pursuing relationships. When it’s intentional, you aren’t on the prowl, you aren’t assessing everyone for their boy/girlfriend potential. You have to just force yourself to be content.

Ecclesiasties 3:1 says ‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven’. There is a time to be married, and there is a time to be single. The world tells us that the ultimate goal of our lives is to fall in love. Rom coms tell us that being in love will solve all our problems. So often, we race towards love and marriage and we skip an important season: The season of singleness. Probably the most underrated season. Now, I’m going to tell you something that I discovered during my boy detox. This may shock you, so make sure you’re sitting down: Being single is actually OK. There is freedom in being single that people seem to lose when they’re married. That’s not to say singleness doesn’t also come with hardships, but so does marriage. There are pros and cons to both marriage and singleness but so often we only see the pros of marriage and the cons of singleness.

Ideally a healthy Christian marriage should be two people serving God together, and growing in faithfulness together. At 21 I had no idea who I was, I didn’t know my identity in Christ, I didn’t know my giftings or how I wanted to serve. My Christian walk was more of a stagger. If I had entered a relationship then, I would have clung like a limpet to the faith of whoever I was with. Obviously I would have grown from their faith, but they probably wouldn’t have. The relationship, although Christian, still would have been unequally yoked. They would be pulled me up, I would have dragged them down.

The year wasn’t spent sitting in the dark mourning my sad life. It was spent in the word, and in prayer, working out who the frick I was. I had a lot to work through from my army years and I was able to invest time and energy into doing that. First I had to forgive myself for the damage I had inflicted on my soul. Second, I had to reclaim my worth apart from men’s approval. This is important to know: your personal worth and value is already set, you are valuable and worthy of dignity whether you realise it or not. It isn’t something that can be taken away from you. Our job is not to find or create our worth, but to realise our worth. It doesn’t change or grow. It is the same today, tomorrow, and forever. Jesus died because he wants you around for eternity. I had to realise that I am a daughter of the most high God. He knows me fully, even the bad bits, and still accepts me. If he says I am worthy then I’m not qualified to disagree with him. This means that if I like some guy and he doesn’t like me back, that sucks, but it is not a judgement on my worth. If my validation comes from Christ, it isn’t swayed by rejection or acceptance from anyone. I don’t want to make this sound like an easy process to go through. You have to resist so many messages that say you need to buy this product or achieve these grades, or please these people to find your value. Rejection is like a king hit to the soul, and if you’re not at a point where you know your worth, it can tear you up.

I didn’t come out of my boy detox at some super enlightened point where I immediately grasped my identity in Christ and my relationship with him. In fact I’ve only just reached that point of knowing my identity this year, but it launched me down a healthy track. The point of a detox is to get the toxins out of your system, so I went through a process of casting off hurt, rejection, and bitterness. When I did start dating again it was with a clean slate. I didn’t have to bring the baggage from my last relationship into a new one. It also ensured that if I went into a relationship, it was because I liked that person enough to want to be around them a lot, possibly for the rest of my life. I wasn’t entering a relationship out of a need to be validated by that person.

If you are thinking about doing something like this, I hugely, wholeheartedly recommend it. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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