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Friday, October 3, 2014

Can't We Just Call it Dating? ~ Because the World Keeps Turning upon the Hand of God, in Spite of Us

A couple of years ago, largely in response to inquiries from readers, and partly as a means of working through  my own thoughts, I began a series on courtship.   Over the past years, that series has evinced the evolution of my thoughts on the matter.  I have continually reminded you that I haven't a clue what I'm talking about; I am only thinking my pitiable tissue-paper thoughts out loud.  Here's what I think now:  Josh Harris should be slapped. Okay, maybe not literally slapped - and not Josh Harris specifically, but the concepts he, in part, gave birth to.  I think we have meant well, but we have created some obstacles for at least some members of a generation of Christian kids in the process.

Cistothorus palustris CTCC BY-SA 3.0Cephas - Own work

There's a lot of talk, at present, about the fact that Christian kids of marriageable age are not dating much.  That's partly a manifestation of the state of singles in the general society, I'm sure.  But I think it's also because we scared our Christian kids half to death by putting the idea in their heads that relationship failure is not a godly option. I'm sure we didn't mean it. It's certainly not what we said, but that may be what many of them heard. We set out to avoid throwing them to the wolves without guidance and support, but we ended up putting a wolf at the door that makes them terribly afraid to open it.

Life is not a safe proposition.  It's full of hurt and error, false starts and corrections, mishaps and blunders. We were never told that nothing would go wrong; we were merely told that we wouldn't be given anything we could not handle, and that we would have Divine companionship on the journey. And, isn't that really the best set of promises to have? Formulaic approaches to life may seem safe; but they are terribly restricting, are not generally conducive to real growth, and they steal the glory, don't they?

I'm not quite sure how this happened, this tendency of my generation to wrap our children in emotional bubble wrap. Perhaps it is a vestige of the World War II generation that saw true horror, and wanted to make certain that their children would be shielded from knowing of its presence behind the curtain? At any rate, our good intentions may have pulled a curtain over their potential joys as well - because if one is afraid to lift the curtain, one can see neither, I suppose.

Puffin Latrabjarg IcelandCC BY 3.0Boaworm - Own work

I still believe that dating should not be a merely recreational activity. It should not be undertaken lightly.  It is not for children.  It is meaningless for those below marriageable age. Ultimately, it is about discernment of vocation, singly and as couples- eventually.  But, it may also be about learning to live. It may be about learning to navigate intimacy. It may even be about --gasp-- learning to fall down and pick oneself back up. We really need to lighten up folks, and give them a little room to breathe and learn and grow.  We need to give them permission to experience joy, even when some pain, for one party or another, might result.

I continue to believe that dating / courtship-  whatever we are calling it this week- ought involve family. Parents have a little wisdom to share, and life happens within the family embrace.  Separating oneself from family to experience life may likely not be wise, and it is certainly not a means of clear discernment of ones own heart and soul, or those of another. Fathers have a role in the protection and headship of their daughters.  The notion that another man should walk into that daughter's life absent of the discerning and protective gaze of her father continues to seem both absurd and disrespectful to me. (This has never meant to us that couples should not spend time alone, by the way.  Only that some time should be spent with families, as well.)

Haematopus longirostris - Austins FerryCC BY-SA 3.0JJ Harrison ( - Own work
I think we ought be very careful though, how we apply these principles. I think that we may be starting, in our thought process, from the place where we found ourselves at their age.  We may want to avoid the extremely recreational approach to relationships that we confronted, and believe that by sharing courtship principles with them, we are bringing them a step away from that emotionally dangerous place.  They have no backdrop, though, against which to temper our suggestions.  They are hearing them, perhaps, with no prior experiences to use as a starting place for applying those principles to their lives. We are telling them that we want them to live well, but they may be hearing that we don't want them to live at all, unless they are certain they can do it perfectly.  We didn't mean that did we? Of course we didn't, but perhaps a course correction is called for.

As Darcy has shared:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
~C. S. Lewis

Wondering where we started from?
This is part 6 of a series.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Part 4 is here.
Part 5 is here.

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  1. I appreciate that you did a series on this Michelle. I wish these posts were around when my three oldest adult children were young. Well, I still have my 10 yr. old daughter : ) These posts come frequently to mind believe it or not!


  2. This was a very interesting post to me. By far the vast majority of my Christian friends are in their 20s or early 30s and are single. Most of them say they want to get married but many of them won't even go to a restaurant for lunch with a single adult of the opposite gender, or be willing to have real conversations with other single adults so as to get to know someone well enough to marry. I personally did court and my relationship with my husband did proceed under my parents guidance, and I'm grateful for that, but it does seem that many of my friends will take great lengths to avoid even the slightest appearance of romance.

    1. Hi Rachel! What you describe is exactly my concern. I think there are tremendous benefits to courtship principles. I believe that dating/courtship should be approached with marriage in mind. However, if we insist that single adults do not even interact with the complimentary gender unless they are immediately considering marriage, then we are scaring them away from opportunities to locate someone that they may want to court. There needs to be some intermediary step in the process, and we need to find the means to prevent some of the fear of failure that seems rampant. For Heaven's sake, Christian young adults aren't getting married any more-- this is not what we had in mind at all! :)
      Thanks so much for your comment! Blessings!~Michelle


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