Monday, October 11

To Date or Not to Date; That is the Question

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs--how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife-- and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world--how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.--1st Corinthians 7:32-35

The Bible has a lot to say about marriage, but since dating as we know it did not exist for first century Christians, it can be difficult to determine how to apply godly principles to situations-- like dating-- that are unique to our current place in history. Nonetheless, it is a topic that bears much discussion, particularly on high school and college campuses and at church youth groups throughout the country. I certainly don't have the answers, but I do have some ideas.

A popular idea in young Christian culture seems to be the "God is my significant other" attitude. Young men and women alike are shifting their attitudes about dating. Many try to convince themselves that as long as they have a deep enough relationship with God, they don't need the type of relationship that can be found in dating. The funny thing is, these people who are so put-off by dating are usually the ones who have a very extensive collection of books on the subject.

Books like When God Writes Your Love Story and When Dreams Come True by Eric and Leslie Ludy present a very picturesque fairytale image of dating. A large number of young Christians are convinced that an outlandish miracle in dating is out there for them too, and that if they simply read enough of these books, they will be magically endowed with supernatural dating abilities. Armed with Joshua Harris' book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, they believe that they will somehow be able to spot the One from across any room.

To be fair, I have read the majority of those books. I happen to be of the mind that they provide a very limited viewpoint, and represent only a tiny fraction of the real experiences that are occurring in the dating world. Many individuals who want to get to know someone by dating them are frustrated that these books have turned many a young adult into a non-dater. As my cousin said of the notably small dating pool in his college's Bible study group, "Joshua Harris' book has ruined a whole generation of perfectly dateable women!"

I agree that dating subjects a lot of individuals to being hurt, especially when the hormones take over. I also fully acknowledge that some people are called to remain single. The reality is, the majority of people are not so called. I would venture a guess that a large number of you who are in the critical decade are either actively involved in a dating relationship, or at least spend a lot of time thinking about it!

God created us with a desire to blend our lives with a member of the opposite sex. He created us so that our personalities are very well complemented. I believe that dating provides an opportunity to figure out the kind of person with whom we would be happy for the rest of our life. As my husband puts it, dating allows you to find the person with whom you can serve God much more effectively than if you were on your own.

Dating should be approached with an attitude of maturity; emotionally, spiritually and socially. I also think that it is perfectly acceptable to approach it with an attitude of joy and a spirit of adventure. Dating and courtship are an important part of social development. For me, dating wasn't always flawless, but it wasn't full of tumultuous heartache either. The times I left God out of my dating decisions, things didn't go very well. Conversely, the times I trusted him with the details, he blessed me incredibly!

For those of you who do date, or will soon be dating, I encourage you to involve other people in the experience. Get advice from people you trust, and make sure you have an accountability system in place. Read up on what trusted Christians have to say about being in relationships. I highly recommend the following:

Life On the Edge by Dr. James Dobson
I Gave Dating a Change by Jeramy and Jerusha Clark
I Married You by Walter Trobisch

and for the younger crowd (high school age or thereabouts):

Getting Ready for the Guy/Girl Thing by Greg Johnson and Susie Shellenberger

Remember that above all, only a relationship with God will be make you a whole person. A dating relationship is no substitute for the spiritual relationship that can fill the deepest longings of your heart. In everything you do, whether you date or don't date, be sure to seek to honor God with your thoughts and actions. In all you do, whether in word or deed, do all to the glory of God.



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