Two days after my thirteenth birthday, I typed out a countdown to my sixteenth birthday. Life was going to begin when I turned sixteen. Sixteen was indeed the magical age for all females. Ariel got married to Prince Eric when she was sixteen and no one thought it was weird or inappropriate! Sixteen was going to be my year of freedom, because, you know, having a driver’s license automatically frees a person from all parental restraint, right? Best of all, sixteen was going to be the year I could date boys. Not only sit in church, hold hands, and talk for hours on the phone, but go out with boys… in cars! If Kelly and Zach had it right, dating was going to be the greatest experience of my entire life!
Was I disappointed? Well, maybe a little (read: a lot)… and I expect I am not alone. How many of you have thought, “Wow, I was completely wrong about this dating business! Who knew it would be so difficult?” Apparently, there is more to dating than spotting an attractive stranger across a crowded room, locking eyes, dancing, and declaring your eternal love seventeen minutes and two songs later.
As we grow up and get a glimpse of real life, dating becomes (or, at least, should become) less about chasing an emotional high and more about getting to know people with the express purpose of making a wise, informed marital choice.
Is it okay to date with no intention of marriage? I would say it depends on your definition of dating. If by dating you mean hanging out with members of the opposite sex for fun with no flirting or mixed signals, then sure; have a great time. But, keep in mind that leading someone on when you have no intention of considering a relationship may be cruel and unbecoming of a believer. What may seem like innocent playfulness to you can be received as serious interest and cause a lot of hurt down the road for the other person. So, if you are not interested, be careful to not act interested.
However, I will warn you, with human nature and the laws of attraction being what they are, it is difficult for guys and girls to hang out for extended periods of time without emotional bonds developing. Even if your relationship is free of romance, it will be difficult to “lose” him or her to another person when he or she eventually begins a romantic relationship with that someone else.
If you desire to live a God-honoring life, and you wish to have the emotional and sexual companionship of another, marriage is where you will find it.
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” – Hebrews 13:4 (ESV)
And if marriage is where you will find it, you will likely begin the pursuit of matrimony by dating. So, the age-old question is asked again and again, “How will I know if I should go on a date with someone?”
First, and foremost, we need to remember that going on a date and being a couple is not the same thing. Sometimes, in Christian circles, if a guy and girl simply go out for frozen yogurt, they are suddenly branded *a couple*. Meeting someone for coffee does not a relationship contract make. So, with that said, there are two phases of questions in the dating realm:
- How will I know if I should go on a date with someone?
- How will I know if I should date someone exclusively? (Some call this “seriously dating.” Others call it “courting.” I call it dating with the distinct possibility of marriage.)
Today, let’s focus on the first question: How will I know if I should go on a date with someone? After all, it is the first date which leads to further dates… which eventually leads to exclusive dating, engagement, and marriage. We will tackle the second question in a future post.
How will you know if you should go on a date with someone? A few questions to ask might be:
- What do other people – people who have known him or her for a while – say about this person? “He is just the best person I have ever met!” Eric and I sat intently listening to this young woman’s excited declaration about her new special guy. Having known him a bit longer than her, Eric and I were more in touch with the realities of his strengths and weaknesses – and the love bug had not blinded us. Eric and I were amused and concerned about her cockeyed view of her new suitor. Before allowing yourself to believe the ancient lie which says, “This person is perfect,” do some research. Ask several questions. Whoever you marry will have strengths and weaknesses, but a good character is non-negotiable.
- Am I considering turning down this opportunity for superficial reasons? Is his profile picture not the greatest? Does she not quite fit your idea of beautiful? Does he make little money or seem like he still needs to find himself? Is she a little quirky? When Eric and I met, I did not experience love at first sight. On the first day of class, he swung around and introduced himself in a way which blew my hair backward. Wow, this guy has, um, energy. Over the next few months, he asked me to do various activities with him, but I always jumped to some excuse. However, as I got to know him better, I not only made a good and trusted friend, but I found a partner for life. First impressions are not always correct impressions. If your reasons for backing away are not due to character flaws, perhaps they are not good reasons. Think it through before you automatically dismiss the idea. Again, going on a date does not a commitment make.
- Do you have a general uneasy feeling? There is, however, something to be said for trusting your gut – even in this world of relationship books and theories. Often the best indicator of whether or not you should date someone is your intuition. If something deep inside tells you to keep your distance, there is likely a good reason. Every time I ignored my intuition, I regretted it.
- From what I have heard and observed, is he or she a Bible-believing, Christ-follower? There are many self-proclaimed Christians out there. However, publicly recognizing a faith is not the same as being saved, changed, and serving Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17, I John 1:7, John 3:3-6). A true Christian is going to be different from the world – talk differently, have a righteousness about them, and make decisions based on what honors the God they so deeply love. Based on what you have seen, read in a dating profile, or heard from his or her friends, does this person walk with the Lord?
- What are my dating goals and would a date with this person move me towards (or away from) my goals? Goals, Heather? Are you serious? Believe it or not, I am completely serious. Just because you have goals for something does not mean it has to be crazy serious or zero fun. Dating can be a blast and still serve a purpose outside of having a good time. For some, their main dating goal is to get comfortable meeting new people. These folks will likely make different decisions than those who only want to date people with similar career or ministerial goals. Before dating anyone, ask God to reveal to you what you want and need. If you have goals, you are less likely to waste your time and others’ time. When I was a teenager, I did not have written dating goals, but if I did (and, if I was honest), they would have included the following: have fun, feel good about myself, and emotionally connect. In retrospect, these goals were not the most prudent or biblically-minded and they took me to some painful places. What are your goals? Take some time and write them out, but also remember goals are not shackles. Use your goals as a guide, but not as a straitjacket.
What are your answers? Is it time to ask her out? Is it time to say yes to a date? We spend far too much time in our heads, dreaming up new reasons to stress when all we need to do is a quick evaluation. You are deciding whether or not to go on a date with someone. You are not picking out furniture, dishes, or a pet with him or her. A date is simply a, “Hey, I would like to get to know you a little better? Would you like to know me better too?” That is all it is. No commitments. No freaking out over whether or not this person is “the one.” (There is no such thing as the one, by the way.) A date is just an activity to enjoy (hopefully) together while becoming better acquainted. If the date goes well, it may lead to friendship; and, if the friendship grows, it may lead to marriage. But, right now, it is only a date – nothing more, nothing less.
As we are simplifying this year, let’s not only focus on simplifying our finances, homes, and health but also on simplifying our thought processes. What causes you mental stress and how can you simplify it so it uses up less of your energy? Dating is an excellent place to start. Write down your typical fears and hang-ups when it comes to dating. Analyze them, reframe them, and simplify them!
Does your dating life need some simplification?