THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AS AN ARTICLE FOR MY WEEKLY FACEBOOK ARTICLE FEATURE, CALLED SUNDAY NOTES. I have a habit of writing really long messages…! 😉
Song of Solomon 2v7
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the does of the field,Do not stir up nor awaken love
Until it pleases.
This may well be the first? and last time that I quote from the Song of Solomon. I know it is the Bible, but it is so embarrassing and explicit – it is all about apples and cakes of figs and dripping myrrh – and flocks of goats! 😉
OK, well it seems last Sunday’s note had a wider reach than I had expected or anticipated…
Talking with one of my main “big brothers” that I have recently acquired, he assured me that everyone was praying for me (to be settled…). He then went on to say a few other things… Oh dear!
Anyway, still on relationships, I have tried my hardest to make this note not all about me this time! Rather I’m talking about one of my favourite bugbears – dating, and why it is not a suitable foundation for making a choice in marriage.
Now, let me first start by saying that I think that dating is a beautiful thing, and that it definitely has its place. By “dating” I mean a guy and a girl going out together, and sharing fun activities together for the sake of deliberately getting closer. I think the idea of romantic dinners, holding hands, talking, “getting deep and meaningful” is excellent, and something to look forward to.
I simply don’t get it – people get married, and then all this stops! Why?! This is when all the fun starts! Finally, I can stop holding my hands to myself and running away from being alone with my guy. (I will continue to run away from being alone with other guys) – and I can generally start expressing a different aspect to my character! 😉 This is one of the reasons why I am so particular about work-life balance issues – I always think that modern work demands leave little time for couples to spend together.
Now please understand that I am not saying this for the benefit of anyone, because, if, and hopefully when, the right guy comes, I plan to thoroughly let him know all my dreams for marriage, as I cannot afford that my husband and I should not know and understand one another’s expectations. (For me, to dream is to expect!) If he doesn’t like it, then he doesn’t have to marry me! But I’m hoping that he will like it.
However, I think that the correct context for all of this is within marriage itself. Before marriage, this same dating can actually be dangerous, especially to Bible-believing Christians. Now this is a subject that my Pastor I spoke about last week. Most of my personal views on dating pre-marriage have been formed from reading a book by a young USA author, Joshua Harris, called “I kissed dating goodbye”.
I think it may be worthwhile to think about pre-marriage dating in two aspects: dating to “get to know someone” from scratch, or dating once you’ve already known a little about someone, and you both already know that you like one another. Pastor I’s viewpoint matches with my own in that he says that dating is something that people do when they are already married. Pastor I’s main point is that pre-marital dating is dangerous as it is geared towards sexuual arousal. And he is of course right. It is one of those things that should go without saying and yet somehow always needs to be explicitly stated that as Christians sex should be reserved exclusively for marriage. I know we may all have made some mistakes, and have some regrets, but that does not change the fact that this is the standard that the Bible holds up for us.
Now the things that truly make dating exciting – romantic dinners, staring deep into one another’s eyes, touching or cultivating physical contact – these all cultivate an intimacy which human nature will want to take further and further – especially if you are very conscious of how single you are, and how much you want it… Now, personally speaking, because I want to totally avoid sexual temptation, I am not going to tiptoe as far as I can possibly can up to the boundaries of sexual purity – rather I am going to run away as hard and as fast as I can in the opposite direction. This is one reason why I totally agree with Pastor I that many of the activities of dating are dangerous to single Christians, as they encourage you to get closer and closer…
However, in addition to Pastor I’s comments, I would also add that another reason why dating is ineffective for the sake of making a marital choice is because it is simply so unrepresentative. This is especially true if you are going out to “get to know someone” from scratch, over a drink etc. If you were choosing someone to always go out to dinner with, or a lifelong cinema pal, then yes, dating – or going out on a succession of exciting activities – might be an effective way of doing that. However, if you are trying to find someone to be a partner with in life, merging your two lives together, supporting one another through different difficulties and triumphs, then what difference does it make if he has great taste in restaurants? Or if she offers to split the bill? Because you will both be trying your best, this is not a good environment to evaluate each other’s true character, or how your potential partner might behave in a crisis. You’re not, after all, going to be living with his taste in restaurants. What you’re going to be living with is the fact that he doesn’t clear up after himself after breakfast, or (in my case) the fact that she is “trying” to be neat- and failing spectacularly.
Marriage is like a trap with cruel doors. When those doors clang shut I want to make sure I am trapped with the right person. It is while you are single that you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Now is not the time to get lovey-dovey – there will be plenty of time for that later – if you make the right choice. Now is the time to be hardnosed and real and open your eyes really, really wide. Ask yourself hard questions – (I’m speaking to myself here) don’t let your imagination run away with you; don’t look at his cute smile Tosin! Are we going in the same direction – really??? Will he be able to lead me spiritually? I am the kind of person that can (and does) stand up to anyone – literally anyone (except my Mother). My husband has to be able to deal with that, and ideally he should be able to do that too – maybe not as aggressively as I do, maybe with quiet resolution. I don’t think I have met anyone who can stand up to anyone like I can. I would like to be proved wrong. (Can he convincingly stand up to me…is he scared of me….?)
Instead of dating, for getting to know one another, I think you need to find an arena where you can observe potential spouses without any expectation whatsoever, as you might get in dating. This way, you should be able to observe any particular individual, asking the relevant questions….until you start to get a clearer understanding!
Another dating danger for Christians – let’s say that you may already know one another, you may already have observed one another at length,you’ve already identified that there is potential with this one person and yes, you manage to avoid sexual temptation totally, and you both manage to keep your hands firmly to yourselves… Still, I believe dating encourages premature intimacy. I think that you could be using the time to honestly discuss with one another, not letting emotion cloud your judgement – and yet emotion is exactly what dating whips up, big time. It may be that on honest evaluation, you realise that you are not, after all, right for one another. Yet, if you were to date, this might not come out, as dating takes any initial attraction, and builds it up until you are so close emotionally that it is almost inconceivable that you would not get married. Or, even if you were absolutely right for one another, and you and everyone else heard God Himself speaking from Heaven ordering your marriage – an emphasis on dating rather than on communication might lead you to get close emotionally, and then marry, before you have discussed the main issues of marriage, such as children etc. This might mean that you damage the foundations for what could otherwise be an excellent and/or outstanding marriage.
As an alternative to dating, I would suggest (as Josh H does) honest talking. I really need to listen to some of my own advice as I have been asking (praying) for certain criteria for my husband for so long, and I have been so sure I have been right to ask for these in particular. It is in the course of writing this that I discover that if someone had all of those criteria, even if I could feel the tug of attraction, this would not mean that we were necessarily right for one another… 😉