Dating is worship
We know that everything should be done for the glory of God, but sometimes it’s easy to subconsciously leave some activities off the list.
Such as dating.
In dating, it’s easy to get our focus off God and on ourselves and our wants.
I’ve heard people react to using the Josh Harris I Kissed Dating Goodbye approach that puts a lot of pressure on dating; it encourages our tendency to make checklists 10 miles long of the criteria a person has to meet just to get the first date. The focus is on me — satisfying my marital desires perfectly and protecting my heart from hurt.
But Harris, with good reason, was reacting to a culture that dated carelessly with little thought of the broken hearts and sensual temptations it was leaving in its wake. Again, the focus can be on me — the pleasure, attention and excitement I receive from flirting.
Wherever we fall on the hookup-courting spectrum, our purpose should be loving God and loving our fellow man, knowing our actions will be pure if our hearts are.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to spiritualize or excuse selfishness and a lack of love in dating relationships more so than other friendships. This selfishness often shows up in our emotions, thoughts and words.
It’s popular to apply Proverbs 4:23’s “Guard your heart” to dating situations. Yet, in comparing this passage with Mark 7:21, Luke 6:45, Matt. 12:33-35 and others, I find Proverbs 4:23 to be addressing protection from sin — not protection from relationships or pain.
Emotions are God-given and natural. All friendships are going to be messy, complicated and full of drama, and obviously dating relationships often take the messiness to the next level. Risk and pain are the price of love. As C. S. Lewis says, “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable … The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell” (The Four Loves).
Patreeya Prasertvit in “Why ‘Losing’ at Dating Might Not be the Worst Thing” pointed out that our culture tends to call the least invested partner the winner: He comes out with his heart intact afterward.
Yet that is upside down in God’s kingdom. Jesus is definitely the more invested partner. Prasertvit writes, “But dating has always been the truest test of my theology — because how do you show sacrificial, Christ-like love in a system that the world says is often designed to end in disappointment with a win or a lose? … Well, you have to be okay with losing.”
Let me clarify that risking our emotions by loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean erotic feelings. I’m talking about a pure, unselfish love that wants the best for that person. In fact, sometimes the most loving actions are breaking up, confronting or forgiving.
I have witnessed many break-ups between Christians where the guy, according to the girl, went from being the “Greatest Man in the World” to the “Worst Jerk Ever.” Instead of seeking to forgive or love our previous boyfriend or girlfriend, we become bitter.
This shows up in gossip, male-bashing jokes or bitter complaints about females. If someone is having a hiccup in their dating relationship or marriage, we suddenly think it is okay to commiserate by condemning all males (or females).
This is completely wrong! Why would gossiping about anyone be acceptable? What makes sweeping false generalizations OK?
The truth is that there are many godly men and women out there — even if there aren’t any single ones in our circles. The truth is that often the one we are bashing is a godly brother or sister in Christ — even if that person isn’t the right fit as a marriage partner.
Focusing on a person’s flaws and whether he or she meets our marriage criteria is far less important than worship.
While it is necessary to analyze ourselves and our dates, even more important is being God-focused: Where does God show up in our dates’ lives? How do they show Christ to us? What has God been teaching us through our relationships? How is the Spirit guiding us?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to treat your suitor as a brother or sister (1 Tim. 5:2). I think my RBC marriage and family professor was using this comparison to talk about physical boundaries (e.g. If we hug our physical brothers, then feel free to hug others), but for me the comparison has been most helpful with my thoughts.
Like I do with my physical siblings, I should love and pray for all my friends, both married and single, female and male. I’m called to lay down my life for all my brothers and sisters in Christ — not just those who aren’t single males.
Frequently, one way I show love is inwardly praying for my date during the date; it takes my focus off myself and protects my mind from “building castles in the clouds.”
Rejoicing in what God is doing in my date’s life has also been extremely helpful for me. I have never found praying or rejoicing for someone to lead to inappropriate or unrealistic thoughts about the future.
Dating can be a series of unsatisfactory and painful experiences or it can be an opportunity to be awed and to experience God. Which are you going to choose?
Tabitha Driver is a Mennonite who loves glimpsing God’s goodness on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She blogs at ultimatemetaphor.blogspot.com, where this post first appeared.
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