For many, many years I worked in youth ministry at an Evangelical Christian Church. Please don’t stop reading – I’m not going to walk you through the Four Spiritual Laws (I have a problem with them anyway.) I’m not going to offer a free Bible if you subscribe. I’m just going to talk about dating, courtship and marriage. Just that.
In our group we discouraged dating in High School. It was a time to be “on fire” for God and to focus on His relationship with us and ours with Him. We should study, have a lot of fun, and do our best to remain pure in every single way. We saw kids who were strong in their faith felled by relationships. I would say to the girls, and I believed it then and believe it now, that the question we should ask is not, “How far can we go physically?” but rather, “How far can I go to be a blessing to God?” I don’t know if anyone ever listened to me, but it’s a good question. I should ask myself that more often.
I heard a lot of stupid things about marriage and dating at that time. One of the kids once told me that relationships were like a pyramid with God at the top. The two of you are on the edge, and the closer they get to the top the closer they get. I didn’t buy that for a second, and I told her so. The unmarried members of the staff were far more Godly and could be committed to God because of their singleness.
I read some books. A lot of them focused on saving the entirety of yourself for your one true soul mate. I wanted (still do) for the to wait for marriage to have a physical relationship, but I don’t think there is a call to wait for that soul mate. I saw relationships continue a lot longer than they should have because they believed since they were both Christians they wouldn’t have been brought together if they weren’t perfect for each other. I’ve also seen young people stay in physical relationships because they believe to be “married in the eyes of God.” They weren’t. (If there is a call for me to write more about this here, or to dash out an email I will). But that’s the danger of one of the “soul mate” designs.
Here is another reason why: Say some kids decide they like each other. They decide to be in an exclusive relationship. The do not have sex of any kind. (This is actually pretty funny to me – do you think you’re fooling God by “just” having oral sex or “just” groping one another?) The couple does share a lot of things with their girlfriend or boyfriend but the relationship doesn’t work out. Not only are they broken-hearted they feel like they’ve dishonored and misunderstood God. They thought that this relationship was going to be their last, but it wasn’t. Their faith in God’s leading takes a blow and guilt sets in. They feel that they did something very wrong.
I think it’s not necessarily true. After I become a Christian, I learned it was possible to love God through a relationship that didn’t ultimately end in marriage. We shared a lot of our lives together and I believe he saw us on a marriage track. I didn’t feel the same, but after a short time, we were able to be good friends. We didn’t belong together and the reality was both of us knew it. He came a long way to attend our wedding.
Some people argue that a heart that is never broken is no way to begin a relationship. I don’t know if I agree or not. In Genesis, the Bible says, “And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother.” We can be there for each other, renew our souls and teach us trust. I’m not recommending serial dating, I don’t think that’s healthy either, but there are many rules that we taught that aren’t necessary true or Biblical.
The paths are different for everyone. It goes back to everyone’s Journey. I believe in seeking counsel, but I also believe that ultimately the decision needs to be 100% up to the couple. That said, I don’t think you can be 100% sure. You can be sure about your commitment to marriage, but without some sort of doubt you can’t have faith. Marriage is a huge act of faith. What are you to know about the next five, ten or fifty years? You can’t know what will happen in one year. We were married about two and a half when I was diagnosed with bipolar illness. I’m quite sure my husband clung to the fact he told God and everyone, he married me and would stand by me “in sickness and in health….as long as we both shall live.”
I know that my husband is the “one” for me. Ya know how? Because I’m married to him. I took a huge leap and found myself in love, pleasing to God and matched up. We’ve had quite a bit of troubles sometimes, but we are still together because we told God we would and because He is welding us together. We disconnect sometimes and truly connect other times. We both promised each other, and the people that watched we get married that we would do all we could to serve and love each other. We promised God we would, too. When our pastor asked B why he was sure I was the right one, B said it was because of the sense of “peace”. It’s funny to hear a man I respect and admire ask the question I think is most silly. He has an enviable relationship with his wife and family. For him, there might have been just “one”. I’m okay with that, even though I believe it is not true of every couple.