Godly Dating Principle #5: Be Intentional.
“Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.” ~Proverbs 11:3
Joshua Harris would say dating is only permissible if there is intent to marry. But where does this leave the person who may feel emotionally mature enough to explore getting to know someone on a romantic level, but not ready for marriage? Many young adults who are in college or just out of college, for example, may fit into this category.
While it was normal in our parent’s generation to marry straight out of college, it is no longer at the forefront of the college graduate’s mind. Women are pursuing careers more than they used to and globalization has opened up a plethora of opportunities for young adults to live, work and study abroad for extended periods of time. All of these factors (and more) are pushing back the average age for marriage to mid to late twenties. Whether this is a good or bad thing is for another post all together, but it is a reality that needs to be factored into the Christian dating equation.
There is a school of thought in the Christian world that says young adults who are not ready for marriage, should refrain from dating all together. I personally think this is a grave mistake, as engaging in relationships with the opposite sex can add tremendous value to one’s growth and maturation process–spiritually and emotionally. Dating for the sake of marriage is obviously the ideal and when possible, should be the motive for dating in the first place. But given the trends of the younger generation, I believe dating–according to Biblical principles and values–can still play a crucial and beneficial role in the personal and spiritual development process of human beings.
The important thing is to be intentional from the beginning about the purpose and motivation for pursuing the relationship, whether marriage is the immediate goal or not. Some examples of statements of intent might be:
- “I am not ready for marriage right now, but I would like to get to know you in a dating relationship as a way of learning more about each other, ourselves and God.”
- “I would like to pursue a dating relationship in order to see if we are suited for marriage.”
- “I am not sure if I am ready to explore marriage, but I would like to date as a way of challenging each other in our faith and becoming more like Christ in the process.”
The end goals of these three statements are clearly different, based on the ages and stages of the persons involved. But what they do share in common is the intent in their hearts for starting the relationship and it is stated in the beginning. This will ensure that both parties will be on the same page from the start, allowing them to enjoy the relationship without having to guess what the other person is thinking. Too often, when the intent is not stated at the beginning, one person might be viewing the relationship casually, while the other person is geared towards marriage. This creates false expectations and hurt feelings when they are not met.
If you are ready for marriage and see dating as a means to that end, don’t be afraid to voice that. If you are not ready for marriage, but see dating as a way of learning and growing as a person and in your faith, then don’t be afraid to voice that either. When two people are honest about their feelings and intentions, dating can be viewed as a fun, healthy and spiritually enhancing activity that can glorify God in the process.
There may be times when God will direct of away from dating for a season, if we are not spiritually or emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with it. Or He may reveal motives that are misplaced within us, such as pursuing a relationship to boost our ego or satisfy lustful desires. We should constantly be checking our motives with God by uttering David’s heartfelt words in the Psalms: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).
God will surely help guide our hearts and actions according to His standard of honesty and integrity if we are tuned into His will, listening for His voice and relying on it each step of the way!
**This the Fifth Principle of Godly Dating out of a 10-part series. Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts, questions and comments! And stay tuned for next week’s Godly Dating Principle #6: We are Called to Holiness. See you then!