This blog post is my attempt at piecing together different nuggets of wisdom that I’ve found to be helpful in my own life – whether it was from pastors, dating seminars, respected older brothers/sisters, or even my own personal experiences. I know that the “rights” and “wrongs” of dating can be a bit of a touchy subject; My heart behind writing about this particular topic is that this post would be of good help to those who are navigating what it means to date as a Christian.
Whenever people ask me what my views on dating are, I tell/ask them these points:
Are they Christian?
To be unequally yoked to someone will be very detrimental in the short and long run. What’s a yoke, you ask? By definition, a yoke is “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull”. For a more descriptive visual representation, the believer will carry the majority of the load. The nonbeliever’s lack of spiritual musculature will not be able to help the believer sustain the strain – that is meant for two believers – of pulling the burden of living life together (2 Corinthians 6:14).
In other words, to date a non-Christian is straight up disobedience. To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). God would rather you initially obey rather than sacrifice what you have gained from disobeying. In the same way a father disciplines his child, God disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Pray through your bouts of unbelief; Have faith that the Creator of this elaborate, wonderfully immense universe knows you fully and what is best for you (Psalm 139).
Side Note: “Missionary dating” is not okay. For the cases that did end up working out, I think that’s God grace over the relationship. It is not wise to test God.
It’s okay to admit if you feel that you desire a relationship with another human being more than a relationship with God. (This is a classic example of this phrase: “When we love creation more than the Creator.”) But, admitting that does not give one license to sit and do nothing about it. Share with God about how you feel. He can take it; In fact, He loves it when we’re completely honest with Him. Pray through it, and ask for a greater desire to know Him more. Admittedly, I pray for a greater desire to know Him more all of the time. I implore you to pray this – because this life with Christ is infinitely interesting and exciting because we serve a God who is limitless. How wonderful is it that we are fully known, yet still fully loved? This is the God that we serve; One whose love for us remains steadfast and will never change for all of eternity. Hallelujah!
The right person at the wrong time is the wrong person (for that time period).
People often ask, “How do I know if this relationship is something that God wants for me?” I firmly believe that timing is a huge indicator of whether or not you should pursue the relationship. That is not to say that this specific person is out of the picture forever; Sometimes, it ends up working out later on down the road.
Food for thought: In the beginning stages of courtship/dating, I think it’s wise to be cautious about who you share any sort of news with out of courtesy and respect for the other party’s privacy because it’s not just your news – it’s theirs too. The more that other people know about it, the more unspoken pressure it puts on the potential couple to become something – especially if they’re unsure if the relationship will happen or not yet. But the other extreme of not sharing with anyone isn’t healthy because accountability is important in the beginnings of any romantic relationship. Personally, I only share with close friends and older sisters that I feel comfortable enough with to share about anything covered in this post.
Even if the “perfect person” came into my life at a time that didn’t feel right, I personally wouldn’t go for it. How does one even discern if the timing is right or not? Ask God. Talk to Him about it. Listen to what He has to say. Pray through it rather than praying at Him simply for an answer. God wants to be an active participant in your life, but you have to invite Him in.
What I would not recommend is waiting – especially if the relationship is one that has not officially begun yet. In my opinion, deciding to wait for the “right timing” is our way of subconsciously yearning to control the situation. I also think that waiting puts this weight of expectation on both parties. What if he/she waits, and I don’t feel the same way anymore? What if I wait, and they moved on? What if… What if…
I think that unless you both are already in a relationship for a while and had to wait because of something like a relocated job for a year, then that’s okay. If it’s the beginning of a relationship, I would highly recommend to not wait because it gives license to jump on the never ending thought process of “what if?” It could result in something as exhausting and painful as one party hating the other by the end of it.
Do you like the person for their presence in your life or for the person (who they really are).
A pros/cons list. As cheesy and old-school as it sounds, I think it really helps to look at things more objectively. I think that most of us are familiar with the honeymoon stage – Making a pros/cons list forces you to take facts into consideration. The last thing that you want to do is make decisions riding solely on your emotions because emotions come and go.
I highly recommend talking this out with an older person of the same gender (sisters with sisters, brothers with brothers) that you trust in the Church, like a discipler or pastor. They know you and can see your blind spots. Take advantage of their willingness to share their wisdom & discernment, and make use of it.
Physical attraction is important. It does not make you shallow for not wanting to date someone because you don’t find them physically attractive. I believe that there are cases where people find so many other things attractive (besides physical attractiveness) that causes the person to love their significant other more fully. All I’m saying is that you are not a scum bag if you end up finding that you are not physically attracted to someone. Also – as long as you find them attractive, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.
Is their relationship with Christ one that inspires you to pursue after Christ even harder?
We find ourselves most attracted to godly men and women because at the end of the day, what our souls are really seeking most is Christ who is living in them. Believe it or not, the best thing that you can do for yourself and your future spouse is to pursue Christ with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. This will sound harsh, but if you think that finding and dating “that person” will fill that void in your heart and soul – you’re wrong. If anything, it will leave you feeling emptier inside because you’re trying to fill the God-sized hole in your heart with one of God’s creations.
Date with the intentions of marriage, but not the expectation of marriage.
Courtship. Dating. Engagement. Marriage. We all know that one leads to the other. Our family is called to be our first church. Personally, my dad played a huge role in me being able to see God, the Father, as a good and loving Father. Sure, my dad – rather, all dads are flawed, but he really tried. I truly believe that my dad did his best to be the best, Christ-like head of our household that he could be. God intentionally formed our families. No family is beyond God’s grace or is beyond God’s ability to show His glory in it. This has always been something that stuck with me; At the end of the day, I will not allow for just any man to become the representation of God, the Father, to my future children. I think that it is good and important to set reasonable expectations for your future spouses. After all, they do say that who you marry is the second most important decision of your life – behind choosing to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Does your personal ministry align with their personal ministry?
Depending on where you’re at, this one may be way down the line – but it still carries importance. To be honest, this point is one that I am not as familiar with. For instance, if you feel called to full-time missions in the Middle East and your significant other feels called to be a financial supporter/sender – fully embracing your calling gets to be kind of difficult. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. It happens.
On the flip side, if and when you find that someone who really resonates with a similar or coinciding calling – it’s EXCITING. As a couple, you both are meant to do ministry alongside one another and to support one another in the path that God has called you to take. This does not mean that both of your callings need to be exactly the same, but the alignment of your callings needs to be at least prayed over and considered prior to marriage.
I wanted to end this post specifically with something that I think is crucial – boundaries.
Brothers, it is important to make things as reasonably black and white as possible. That doesn’t mean that you should drop everything and go up to the sister that you’re pursuing after to recklessly confess your feelings. It means being mindful of sisters to avoid saying or doing things that would unnecessarily confuse them – hence, gray. [Gray: otherwise known as the unknown, ambiguous mess that comes from courtship. The “Does he like me? Does he not?”] Of course, some grey is inevitable to happen. All I ask is that you would examine your heart, and see what your intentions really are. That’s a good indicator of whether or not you’re being careful with or around sisters.
Sisters, this applies to us as well. Feelings are not meant to be played with. If someone is approaching you with the intentions of pursuing you and you don’t feel the same way – kindly (emphasis on kindly!!!) cut it off. Leading someone on is the opposite of guarding one’s heart. Instances like that does not give us the liberty to take advantage of the way that brother makes us feel. Unfortunately, that’s what it means to like their presence in your life and not the person.
It really boils down to the question of “Are you doing your best to guard your heart and the other person’s heart?” What does guarding one’s heart even mean? It’s out of a heart that desiring what is best for yourself and the other person. Guarding one another’s heart is not an easy or simple task. It takes effort and restraint. It involves asking for wisdom and actually acting on the discernment that you have gained in the hopes that everything you’re doing will prevent unnecessary hurts and emotional baggage.
When it comes to courtship/dating, boundaries are important – both physical, emotional, and even spiritual. In middle school sexual education, I recall my health teacher using this analogy of a sticker to explain one’s virginity. The more you re-stick a sticker onto something, the more it loses its stickiness. The more you sleep with multiple partners, the more you give yourself away and the less special it becomes.
One of the beautiful things about marriage is that it allows us to experience the Gospel in a more intimate way. Sex within the sanctions of marriage is meant to display a more intimate experience of the Gospel through the bride and bridegroom. (Yes, God created sex to be a good thing.) Sex was not created to be something that simply satisfies our fleshly desires in the way that the world portrays it to be.
Giving yourself away emotionally is essentially the same thing, except the supply of “adhesive” emotions is unlimited. We were created to produce and feel emotions – whether we like it or not. What does emotionally giving yourself away look like? If you’re sharing something deeply with someone of the opposite gender about something that should really only be shared with an accountability partner (or a trusted person of the same gender who points yourself back to Christ), you should refrain from sharing with them unless they’re already your spouse. Giving yourself away emotionally in an unhealthy way allows for the Enemy to really use your hurts against you in any future relationships, not just romantic ones.
God charges us to pursue after purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). Our bodies are to be respected, for our bodies are God’s temple in which He resides (1 Corinthians 3:16). Something I often think of is the cliché, “What do I want to save for my future husband?”
For some of us, the question is rather: “What do I have left to save for my future spouse?” If you’re feeling discouraged because you feel that you’ve made mistakes (no matter how big or small), I renounce that discouragement in the name of Jesus right now. There is therefore now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). I say this because the Enemy loves to use sexual sin to leave us feeling especially shameful, dirty, and beyond the means of God’s grace. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Jesus died for all of the sins of the world: past, present, and future. You are covered by the blood of Christ. Because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, you are fully loved, fully accepted, fully forgiven, fully redeemed. Those who put their hope in Christ will never be put to shame (Romans 10:11).
Although it’s not ideal, sometimes the best way to learn is from our own mistakes. There have been countless times when I’ve seen friends go into relationships that I personally didn’t think was the healthiest or wisest decision for both parties. I think that the most loving thing that we can do for one another is to share what we think is the wise decision and then love and support the person. That doesn’t mean that you support their decision, but that’s what it means to really love the person – that your love for the person is not dependent on their actions. Ultimately, it’s Christ’s love that should sustain us and fill us to overflow into the lives of those around us. God knows us. He knows what kind of a learner we are. Trust in that, and pray. Depend on God’s guidance if you’re in a situation like this. If ever the relationship ever ended up falling through, that person will remember who was standing by them even when you both didn’t see eye to eye.
Making mistakes is a part of life. Being Christian does not mean that we are infallible, and it does not mean that we are held to a standard of perfection. What makes us different from the rest of the world is that we accept God’s grace and mercy through His one and only perfect Son, JESUS, that died so that we might live. May this be an encouragement to you to fully embrace your past mistakes because God redeems all of it. The Enemy has no stronghold in your life that will keep you from being used by God – if anything, God loves to use the redemption of your failures and mistakes to restore you and to bring Him glory. So with that said, fully embrace God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and redemption through Jesus. This is the Gospel lived out in the experiences of our relationships. Be encouraged, y’all.