I come into this week’s post a bit torn. I want badly to post, but the topic is something that I do not feel terribly qualified to broach. This week finds me weighing in on dating and most likely offering my jaded and misguided view on the practice.
I will admit that, unlike the people who have followed Josh Harris’ advice to a ‘t’, I think dating a healthy practice today. Maybe a few hundred years ago when marriages were commonly arranged, courtship was the norm, but I feel this is because love was not a prerequisite for matrimony. The concerned man and woman (girl in a lot of cases) underwent this process, because they were going to get married whether they liked it or not, so they first needed to get to meet one another and then run the entire course of a relationship before concluding in marriage. Lord, thank You that this is no longer the practice. I’m sorry, but that seems atrocious. From experience, relationships today aren’t nearly as forced. The only people I would even consider dating are people who I already knew and was familiar with. I feel like this initial getting to know step is the major game changer here. Without that step being planned, really is courtship that different from dating?
Yes, I consider myself inexperienced in the field as I’ve had two real dating relationships to note and another relationship that almost disastrously resulted in dating. Honestly, I probably learned about as much from the relationship that wasn’t as I did from the other two, but that’s a horse of a different color.
So, what is the purpose of dating? This is my question, honestly. Is it marriage? I think this is the folly of the Church and all us young folk running around blindly seeing only the happily married around us, thinking that is the ultimate crown of achievement on this earth for us. It’s not! This I am certain of. Marriage is the ultimate purpose, but I feel there is another along the way that is highly important. I think that purpose is to experience Christ in a whole new way that involves both personal and interpersonal discovery. Through the dating ritual, if you will, we come to understand ourselves in the context of a closer relationship with someone of the opposite sex. We see how we were made to interact and how we thrive in relationship. We also come to see Christ in a different light that is not as accessible by other means.
I think there’s a significant reason why Paul only distinguished between married and single. Dating does not mean that you are wrapped up in your significant other. Dating is more like a tourist visa to a foreign place than it is a black hole. I have made the mistake of focusing on preparing myself for a life with the person I was dating, because I saw dating as the transitional stage between single and married. When dating, we are still single, because I think that Paul was referring to our heart condition. We are single as in our heart consists of only our singular soul which is dedicated solely to God. When married, our heart consists of the grafted hearts of both partners whose dedications are both to God and to one another.
Finally, the hardest question: what should dating look like? I could write a novel on what dating shouldn’t look like, but I do have some thoughts here. First of all, the first date should be nothing more than an appointment or a meeting. It should not be the potential beginning of the rest of your life as this gets back again to the purpose of dating. Second of all, dating should be focused on both people growing simultaneously. Both should desire to grow first and foremost in their relationship with Christ, not with each other. I think each person needs the room to grow alongside one another without the squelching pressure of trying to forcefully grow together as one. I think I would prefer to leave that to pre-marital counseling and marriage itself.
Dating has long been kryptonite in my life as I’ve had zero clue how to go about them. Honestly, I have little clue now, but Christ has been gracious enough to show me how to have my heart broken and then come back to have it happen again. Dating, like everything else in this life, is made to be another way to worship our great God, but somewhere along the line I’ve missed that memo. I’ve committed every faux pas I’ve mentioned above as well as many others and in only a couple chances haha. I know I’m not the only one making these mistakes, but for once I want to take my own advice as well as the advice of some wise people who have mercifully been placed in my life. Long story short, dating doesn’t have to resemble a minefield. It can be a much calmer place with less pressure and tension if we only sought to go about it in a more Godly way.