We made a pact in Junior High, all my friends and I. We weren’t going to date — we were going to wait until God dropped the right man into our lives. Then, with the help of our family and each other, we were going to be courted by that man until we were ready for a marriage relationship.
O yeah, and our first kiss with this guy was going to be at the altar.
This all started on a church trip when my friend Melissa and I read, I Kissed Dating Good-bye, by Joshua Harris. I was starting to get serious about my relationship with Christ, and I wanted to please Him. I figured rigid rules that prohibited me from doing something that is generally considered enjoyable would show my devotion. So my friends and I kissed dating good-bye and for the rest of the trip, we judged girls who were flirting, spending time with guys and showing PDA. We mocked them behind their backs and thanked God we weren’t like them.
But then … oh, the irony. The day after I returned from that trip, I met my husband.
Aaron and I met in eighth grade. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. I was supposed to meet him in college, be friends with him for an eternity, and then get married. I was not supposed to meet him the day after I took a no-dating vow.
Needless to say, that vow didn’t stand a chance.
It didn’t take long before the other girls met guys too. Not all soul mates, but charming guys all the same. Midway through high school, most of us, myself included, had broken the no-dating vow. By the time we graduated, most of us had broken the no-kissing vow.
I was okay with this, but I had several conversations with sobbing friends about how terrible they felt. How they felt like loose, worldly women because they had broken their vow.
But we didn’t break a scriptural commandment. We didn’t break our parents’ rules. We didn’t do anything immoral. Yet there was guilt for disappointing ourselves and each other.
I think there are a lot of people my age who have similar stories and finally felt fed up with the guilt. After a while, most of us band-wagoners kissed courtship goodbye and kissed dating hello again. I heard all the reasons that courtship was a bad idea. I agreed with some of them. Then again, I also agreed with some of the reasons that dating as we now know it was a bad idea. As always, I fell in the middle of the debate.
The weird thing to me is that people are kissing and hugging, hand-holding and passionately necking dating and courtship philosophies to begin with.
“I am going to date casually, then see if I want to be serious, then have him meet the family, then talk engagement.”
“I am only going to date when I know I am going to marry the person.”
“I will never date.”
“God is going to drop the right person into my life.”
“Dating is stupid.”
“Courtship is stupid.”
“Casual dating is stupid.”
“Serious dating is stupid.”
“It gives way to premature commitment.”
“It makes you a whore.”
“You will have premarital sex.”
“You will never see the options you have.”
“If I’m not dating, there’s something wrong with me.”
It’s like we have a relationship with dating because of the way we talk about it. We either defend it or attack it. We either treat dating like an ex-boyfriend or like a crush.
People, chill out about dating.
There’s a reason I’m not too gung-ho either way or on either side right now. It really smacked me in the face the other day. I looked at friends who have only seriously dated. Right now, some of them are fully functioning married adults, some of them are fully functioning single adults, and some of them are messed up. I looked at friends who have casually dated. Right now, some of them are fully functioning married adults, some of them are fully functioning single adults, and some of them are messed up. I looked at friends who have kissed dating good-bye and only courted. Right now, some of them are fully functioning married adults, some of them are fully functioning single adults, and some of them are messed up. Get the idea?
All of my friends have different love stories and different ways they got where they are. There’s been dating, not dating, almost dating, heartbreak, high school sweethearts, break ups, getting back together, never ever ever getting back together, proposals and weddings. In the end, I think everyone got where they would have gotten whether they had dated or not.
I think the point is, you can court wisely or foolishly and you can date wisely or foolishly.
I think the first time I realized this was a few years after I “kissed dating good-bye.” When I was starting to change my tune a bit, I read a book in response to Harris’ called, I Gave Dating a Chance. As I read and compared this book to Harris’, I noticed that both were actually saying the exact same thing — the world dates unwisely; hearts are involved prematurely; sex is involved before marriage; love becomes a useless word; be wise in your interactions with the opposite sex.
So should we casually date or have serious relationships or court? Honestly, I don’t think God cares which one we choose, I think it’s all fair game. I think there is definitely a reason why the Bible focuses more on giving us guidelines for life, than hard and fast rules about dating. God doesn’t care about our terminology.
But He does care about our hearts.
(Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23)
He does care that we’re being wise.
(So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Ephesians 5:15)
He does care how we handle sex.
(Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled. Hebrews 13:4)
He does care that we don’t saddle ourselves (in any way) with someone who isn’t following Him.
(Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? 2 Corinthians 6:14)
God really does care about our love lives. More than just giving us a list of do’s and don’t’s, I believe God actually cares about our romantic relationships. He will actually show you what to do in your love life: when to speak, when to stay silent, when to show interest, when to play hard to get. He will show you when a relationship is right and how to handle it.
So. Ready for advice time with Erin? Here goes: Don’t kiss dating good-bye or hello. Don’t hug it. Don’t hold hands with it. Do those things with a real person (if your conscience will let you) and stop worrying about what you call it. Live wisely and carefully. Forget your terms and timetables and preconceived notions of how the dating (or courting) world is supposed to work. Follow God, do what He says to do in your love life, and I’ll bet those other things will fall into place.