The Nak Christians do many things well, but dating isn't one of them. In fact, many of the fallacies prevalent in the dating world were created by Christians. We have been so overly zealous about modesty and purity that our faith often morphs into legalism, shaming everyone with unattainable standards of perfection.
Many young adults desire a relationship with the Almighty but not at the cost of feeling guilty every single day of their lives because they long for human companionship. Even God said, "It is not good for man to be alone" and then He created Eve to be man's partner Genesis 2: The answer to the reckless and shameless dating often seen in America today isn't found at the dogmatic, ultraconservative end of the spectrum.
It is found in the balanced life, somewhere between everything and nothing, culture and faith, the place where Christ resides. Despite what many of us have been taught, there is nothing inherently wrong with dating. Even though the Bible doesn't specifically talk about dating, the Bible is a wonderful guide when it comes to interpersonal relationships. And if you think about it, dating is just one type of personal relationship.
Dating gives us the opportunity to interact with a myriad of interesting people in a very unique way. Some people we will never see again, some will become friends, and some may become more. But in every instance, we have the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and about the diversity of humanity. The purpose of dating is to find the "right one" with whom to spend the rest of your life. If you simply want to have fun, meet interesting people, or learn about yourself, don't do it within the context of dating.
There is a time and place for these types of experiences, and it is called friendship. Just make friends with some people of the opposite sex if your goal is to learn and grow. Although dating sounds like an ideal way to simply shop around for Mr. Right, it is too easy to get emotionally and physically involved. And if you date with the goal of self-improvement or self-satisfaction, there is a very good chance that you're going to get hurt or you're going to hurt someone else.
Here are a few guidelines to help you on the adventure: The 5 Commandments of Dating 1. Thou shalt not group date. Rip the hair off my body with duct tape. Train my cats to swim. Visit Neverland Ranch at night. Wear a Speedo to church. These are all things I'd rather do than go on a group date. Whatever it is, it is not helpful. Nothing of any substance ever gets discussed in a group of co-ed friends when the intention of the get-together is to date.
Emotional intimacy cannot be cultivated between two people if they are surrounded by ten of their best friends. While I'll agree that a group setting can be an excellent way to meet someone new, it is a terrible way to get to know someone's heart. The church devised the group dating concept because it recognized the futility and dangers of how most people date in American culture. With pregnancies, diseases, and divorces on the rise, they wanted to protect their flock from having similar heart-wrenching results.
I can appreciate their intentions, but going from one extreme to another has not alleviated our problems. Besides, fairy tales never begin with "A group of knights gathered together to fight for a handful of maidens, only later to decide who rescues who.
It is only when one knight takes a calculated risk and battles for the hand of a beautiful princess that we see true commitment and intimacy. And we long for this in our own lives. One of the biggest problems with group dating is that it allows men to be passive. In a group setting, men can shun accountability and responsibility. They don't have to make any plans because someone else will. They don't have to be responsible for anything because it is easy to disperse ownership with others involved.
And they don't have to ask any one girl out because they can enjoy all of them at the same time! Unfortunately, marriage is not a group outing. When a couple finally decides to tie the knot, many men are unprepared to handle the decisions and responsibilities that come with leading a family.
Cassandra and Mike, a very quiet but thoughtful couple in their mid-thirties, recently approached me at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago and thanked me for a couple of articles I had written. They told me that they had been married for eight years and that the first four years were the roughest of their lives. Mike said that he dated Cassandra in a group environment like their church suggested, but once they got hitched, he struggled with leading his new family.
And they weren't alone. He named at least five other couples in their church where the men were shutting down, frustrated with their spiritual and emotional responsibilities. One-on-one dating is the training ground that men desperately need to learn how to lead. Men are naturally more reserved when it comes to emotional and spiritual development, and their growth is slowed even more when they can mask it in a group setting. On an individual date, however, open discussions can go to deeper levels and men have to think through what they really believe.
Men learn perseverance by being rejected, strength by battling for a woman's heart, and initiative by asking a beauty on a date. There is another downside to group dating that often gets overlooked. When young adults get together in groups to try to develop romance, everybody is in everybody else's business. Instead of dispersing the pressure to act one way or another, the pressure mounts. When two people in the group finally do connect, they often break away from their friends to escape the gossip and preconceived notions.
We've learned the hard way that the only thing more dangerous than a misguided individual is a misguided group. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Single Christian groups also develop an "it's-about-us" attitude. They are not very welcoming to new people or ideas. It is as if the people in the group believe they have earned the right to be the first person to get married because they have waited around the longest. Because he is just one more single mouth to feed at a table that many believe is already short of good food, he is usually not a very welcome visitor.
Are one-on-one dates more intimate? But isn't that the point? Aren't we trying to get to know someone's heart to see if we can develop a romance? Group dating doesn't allow this. You certainly have to be more mature to handle an individual date and the things that may develop from it. But that is what makes it so exciting. Men enjoy the challenge of battling for a heart they think is worth fighting for, and women exude confidence when they realize their heart is a treasure.
Thou shalt commit to the fight. But the current Christian model is quite different. Perhaps we got held underwater a little too long during baptism , but our model looks like this: Instead of having or not having a romance, we add a million meaningless micro-steps which muddy the already difficult waters. So, to set the record straight, you are either dating or you are not dating.
Commit to one side or the other. There is nothing in between. There is nothing overly spiritual or holy about camping somewhere between friendship and intimacy. In fact, when you attempt to know someone's heart without committing anything to them, you are doing them a terrible disservice. I have seen droves of well-meaning Christian men break young women's hearts because they stole intimate moments from a girl while committing nothing to the relationship.
It's called emotional promiscuity. I've done it myself more than once. It is purposeful intimacy with personal commitment. Many pastors substitute the word courting for dating, but I think this is a misnomer and very dangerous.
According to Webster, courting is "wooing, working, and trying to gain the affection of another through attention or flattery. Courting has the connotation that the relationship is definitely leading to marriage, putting undo stress on the couple. Women often think that if they are being courted, they are guaranteed a proposal.
But that is not necessarily the case. While you can hope the relationship leads to marriage, courtship is no guarantee that the man will get down on his knee. Conversely, dating is about committing yourself to a devel- oping, exclusive relationship to determine if your partner can be your soul mate. Dating doesn't hold any preconceived notions about what can or should be expected in a relationship.
As Christians, we don't need a different word to explain our romances. All people, regardless of their belief system, long to love and be loved, and we can share in this pursuit when we share in their struggles.
The tricky part is figuring out when dating actually starts. Is it the first kiss? Is it the define-the-relationship talk? Is it after x-number of dates? After talking to hundreds of couples, I've learned something humorous and sad about many Christian relationships: