inconsolablesecrets asked: Hiya Uncle! So, question. I’ve heard you make references to books published that might give people wrong ideas about “Christian dating.” I totally get that it often leads to unhealthy thinking, and stunted growth in the “I kissed dating adios & now I don’t know how to BE in a relationship” … But doesn’t that make it sound like there really is something “wrong” with me? Even though I’ve always heard the opposite: there’s nothing wrong with not having dated, guys shouldn’t define you, etc. Help!
Unka Glen answered: AWESOME QUESTION. I love it when we get beneath the surface of things and can really talk about the deeper principles of how to live this Christian life. And here is a really important principle: the opposite of a bad idea, is another bad idea. You can’t go one direction, and discover it’s bad, and then react by overdoing it in the opposite direction and expect good results.
If you can dig it, I think this is where some of these books on Christian dating come from, they look at how bad things are in the secular dating world (and they’re certainly right about that), and then they look at what the opposite of that mess would be, and they decide that’s what must be a good idea. But that’s still letting the circumstances drive the agenda.
There really is no substitute for getting wisdom directly from the Lord.
Hallie Brewer from my staff uses the term “left and right limits” to describe what we’re looking for here. I’m from Texas, so I say we’re looking to “keep it between the ditches”, but the idea is the same, in every area of your spiritual life, there’s one extreme on one end that you want to avoid, and there’s another extreme on another end you want to also avoid. Balance is the key.
So for you, how might that look? Well, on one side you have this extreme: “I’m not going to date because I don’t need to know how to form healthy relationships before I get married. I don’t need to make that a part of my adolescence. And besides, if I dated, I’d probably just have wild animal sex, so it’s best to just avoid the whole thing.”
On the other extreme we have this way of thinking: “I need to date someone to know who I am, to feel complete and wanted and loved and so some clueless teenage boy can be the wind beneath my wings. Plus, all my friends are dating someone, and I look like there’s something wrong with me if I don’t date someone.”
Both of those extremes are wrong ways to look at dating, but what’s the right way to look at all this? Here’s the wisdom that’s between those extremes:
— You should wait on having sex, but that doesn’t mean that you need to wait on dating. If you can’t control your behavior, you aren’t ready for any kind of relationship.
— It’s possible to manage your relationship with God, and school, and friends, and dating. It’s not easy, but it is possible. When you get married, you’ll be juggling Your relationship with God, and a career, and kids, and a marriage. So you might as well start learning how to prioritize and manage, and keep things in balance.
— Make no mistake, you’re growing up in an era where too many young men have no idea when, where, or how to ask a young lady out, And they aren’t sure when or how to date. If guys keep putting off learning how to be in a relationship with a woman, then it’s going to be the kind of big scary thing that’s easily put off, and so they will, and on and on.
— Therefore: a) it makes no sense to gauge how desirable you are, based on how often you’re asked out, b) it makes no sense to wait for them to get over something they clearly aren’t going to get over, and c) if you want to date someone, you’re going to have to do something about that. Yes that means you making the first move, and yes it shouldn’t be this way.
— Some people have issues to work through before they’re ready to date, some people just don’t get that romantic itch until their later teens, and others have severe obstacles in their lives (family problems, etc.), and it in all these cases, it’s fine to put off dating until you get to some smoother waters. Everyone is different, and nobody should be dating until they are clear on the fact that they are whole and complete in Christ.
— Otherwise, it’s prom time. If nobody asks you, you ask someone. A fall formal is coming up and you want to go, so ask someone. You go to the school dance, but nobody is asking you to dance, so you ask them. This isn’t really asking someone out, it’s just breaking the ice. And by God someone has to do it.
— Dating is about learning, growing, and maturing into changes you need to make in order to be a good partner in marriage. You can be in a ton of immature drama-filled relationships and never learn that stuff, but if you put off dating, you’ll definitely never learn that stuff.
…The bottom line is, there’s a ton of room between “never date” and “there’s something wrong with you if you don’t date NOW”. And if you can get your mind operating between those extremes, then you can look and see that dating is not the huge, scary, defining thing that both of these extremes make it out to be. You can begin to see dating for the fun and enjoyable thing it should be.
You don’t have to rush in, but you shouldn’t be fearful either, or waiting for the conditions to be perfect. All the joys and the heartbreak and the feelings and the listening to romantic songs and the ups and downs… It’s all a part of growing up and growing into something stable and healthy. It’s an amazing journey that is not to be missed.
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