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!

With Love,

Ali

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12 Comments on “Godly Dating Principle #5: Be Intentional.

  1. I’m having a hard time with this post. I guess I’m one of those Christians who think dating shouldnt’ happen unless you’re pursuing marriage. I mean, if you have no intention of marrying the guy, why would you risk getting your hearts overly involved in another’s life – only to break that connection at a later date and time? Now, I’m a serious advocate for having relationships with members of the opposite sex. Some of my best friends are guys, but the way we relate is nothing like a dating relationship. It’s more like hanging with a girlfriend who just happens to be a guy.

    I’m of the belief that dating for the sake of dating is is a dangerous game to get involved in. I’ve never seen someone get a broken heart because of a friendship (even though some friendships come to a tragic end), but dating is different. It’s a different type of relationship and it does break hearts. Rarely do I see someone walk away from a dating relationship unhurt. In most cases, you won’t see an ex-dating couple even hanging out with each other anymore. I hope this doesn’t sound harsh because I’m not trying to attack your opinion, I’m merely expressing mine. I’m just curious how you can possibly see that as healthy.

    • I hope I’m not intruding jumping in :). I can see both sides of the coin.

      On one side: “Yes, I do believe that starting to date someone with the intention of seeking marriage is the best intention available to start dating.”

      But on the other hand, if I may guess Ali’s line of thinking(please correct me if I’m wrong 🙂 )

      The other side: “There are so many people who avoid dating until they think they are ready to marry. By the time they think they are ready for marriage… Due to the lack of experience, they are a bit clumsy and clueless :).”

      Personally while agreeing the “intention of marriage from the start” is the best possible intention… Looking at so many different examples and situation in life. I don’t dare to say that other intentions are wrong :).

      But, I’d like to propose even a “higher intention”. God’s intent, instead of we conjuring our own intention, which Ali has mentioned at the very first : Godly Dating Principle #1: Seek Him First.
      As long as we always have the mindset “Ask, hear and obey.”, whatever the situation, I believe it’ll work out :).

      A bit from my own perspective: Personally, I don’t dare to make a move to a woman I have interest in; until I got a “go for it” from Father. And once I got the “A-OK”, I just “went for it” hahaha. Even though I’m definitely need to learn in my ways, as they might not be the best at times :p. I’ll employ something witty as my closing statement: Stephen Covey said “Begin with an end in mind.” The LORD knows the end from the beginning. #1HabitOfTrueSuccess : “Ask how, and do it God’s way!”

      • Alex, thank you for your very insightful comments. You are right on that our intention should always be to SEEK the Father’s will first and foremost. I have struggled with this one and am continuing to pray and seek answers on it. I personally believe at this stage of my life, dating and exploring relationships should be for the purpose of marriage. But I do think that the Lord can and may choose to use dating as a “tool” to further refine, mature and develop our character in Christ. I don’t think we should have this attitude like “dating is bad.” If appraoching with a heart to please and glorify the Lord in the process, God can do amazing things through it. But again, I am continuing to seek God on this one for wisdom and discernment.

        Thanks again for your thoughts and insights!

        Ali

    • Hi Rebekah,

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and challenging the message of this post. I really appreciate it!

      Ever since I re-committed my life to Christ about 5 years ago, I too have believed that dating should ONLY be for the purpose of finding a husband/wife. But the Lord has been tweaking my paradigm these past few months and I am still seeking Him for answers and understanding. I guess where I struggle, is with the younger population (age 18-22), which are prime development years. I think romantic relationships teach us to feel, manage our emotions, rely on God, learn about ourselves, learn about relationship, learn about another person and what the purpose of relationship is. Now that is not to say we should date for the sake of dating. I do not believe this, so I am trying to put it into words that match what I am sensing God saying in my heart. Perhaps a better way to say it is that we should always approach a relationship with the intent of pleasing God first and foremost and secondly, as a way of preparing us for a marriage relationship. This still leaves room for an 18-year-old to explore a relationship, even if marriage is not an immediate outcome.

      So to recap, I am not promoting dating for the sake of it. I am saying that dating can be a wonderful way of preparing us to be the wife/husband God intends us to be in His timing. Our prayer can be, “Lord, help me to prepare to be a blessing of a wife when you call me into that role. Until then, show me where I can grow and mature in Christlikeness so I can become more whole and like your son when you call me into marriage. If that involves engaging in a relationship, then lead me into it. If not, then I will wait on you.”

      How does this resonate with you Rebekah? Would love to hear more of your thoughts…

      Thanks again for sharing! I love being challenged and it helps me to clarify my own views and beliefs on these not so clear-cut matters.

      Ali

      • Ali,
        Thanks for the response and the clarification. I definitely agree with the idea of God using relationships to draw us closer to Himself – whether they are dating relationships or not. It’s like the Proverb says: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” God definitely made us to need relationships of all forms. By reading your book and following your blog, I’ve come to see that we have very different views on relationships, but that’s okay. Like you said, the challenge helps clarify our own views and beliefs. Though I choose to come at relationships from a different angle, I can see where you’re coming from. And I love to think of how our amazingly creative God created us all with our own unique perspectives.

      • Thanks Rebekah! Hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts and challenge mine too. What a blessing to get to ‘sharpen’ each other on this journey…thank you for your autenticity and honesty. God bless you sis!

        Love in Him,

        Ali

  2. This is a very insightful article. I agree with the idea of being fully in tune with the Lord in order to know the right person to date with the intention of marriage.
    With God’s guidance, you will date a believer with the sole intention of marriage.
    No heartbreaks will result from this. No more dating for the fun of it, or dating the wrong person.

    • Thanks for stopping by Tina. Loved your insights and comments. Continue to come back and join the dialogue!

      Bless You,

      Ali

  3. One myth that is common in Christian circles concerning dating only for marriage is that there is little support when the best end of a relationship is to end it. Just because you go into a relationship with the intent of marriage, or even to discover whether marriage could be a possibility, does not mean you will actually marry this person. We are still, at best, broken sinners trying to live out our faith in a broken world. There needs to be answers to this question.

    • I SO agree with you. You nailed on the head what I was struggling to put into words. Thank you and God bless you!

      p.s. I will be addressing this very point in my next book, God willing. Any ideas on how to solve this problem or change this mindset?

  4. I think the first step to changing this mindset is already being done. Creating a meaningful dialogue about dating and relating allows people a chance to think about a topic that they might not have thought about before. Any thoughts and opinions would need to be supported by real life action. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic or unusual, just something to show that you care. After all, broken hearts are only another symptom of living in this broken world of sin.

    • Yes, I totally agree. My passion is to get keep these dialogues going and to encourage people not to be afraid to act on their beliefs, for God is with us on the journey!

      Thanks for sharing…keep it coming!

      Ali

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