Anyone massively relate to the picture above? I definitely do. It seems like Christian dating culture is so immediate, so quick, so impersonal, that we are super encouraged to jump the gun when we so much as have coffee with someone of the opposite sex – but more on that later. For a lot of this series, I’ve used Adam and Eve as key figureheads because, well, why not? Pre-Fall, Adam was pretty romantic and Eve was massively celebrated by him. Adam and Eve are a special case when it comes to dating. He said things like “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” (Genesis 2:23) when he saw her for the first time, and whilst this kinda mirrors the whole ‘super-fast-wanna-rip-off-your-pants’ kinda attitude some Christians have towards relationships (believe me, I’ve known a few like it) – the thing is, Eve was made perfectly for Adam, and God made that pretty clear. He recognised that we aren’t all that great at doing life on our own, and God saw fit to sort that out. It was obvious, it was clear cut.
But dating really isn’t like that for us now is it?
I’m all too aware of this – and, as much as I love Adam and Eve, I think they’re a good model for marriage, not a good model for dating. I can’t have an Adam calling me the flesh of his flesh or the bone of his bone (okay, maybe not that one cause it sounds a bit dodgy put like that) when he has no idea who I am, what I like, dislike, or whether I prefer a bag of chips over a salad (to be fair, that one is obvious enough. Bad example). As I sit here, mulling this over in my head, I’m finding it difficult to pull out a biblical couple who actually did the whole dating thing – nowhere near as we would do it, anyway.
So what are we left with? We’re left with a secular view of dating and relationships – with its own positives and negatives, I hasten to add – and more and more of us Christians are turning to this because our own model is, quite frankly, absolutely terrifying.
I don’t want to feel like I have to marry a man just because we went to Caffe Nero one time and I laughed at one of his jokes. Since when was he supposed to father my children because he watched a film with me? Where did this expectation come from? Okay, in the beautiful book that is the Bible, we do have a continuous stream of couples who were – as expected – married. Marriage is clearly a good thing for some of us. Yet we also have a book full of people where the expectation was that women would marry for protection, men would marry to continue the family line. The expectations were massively differently back then, and whilst we can still learn from them, not a lot of their stories are massively transferable. I know, some of you are reading this shouting heretic at me and have planned a dating series based upon the beauties that are Ruth and Boaz, Tamar and Judah (man alive, please don’t write a series on them. They are not a healthy couple to aspire to be. But anyway) – bear with me, okay? I’m slowly but surely getting to the point.
My experience of secular dating is that, in a nutshell, people seem to take it much slower than they do in the Christian realm of dating. There seems to be less expectation, and much more time. There isn’t a rush to get married, get pregnant, and start yet another couples’ ministry at whatever church you attend. I watch programs like Dinner Date and First Dates (judge all you want, watching that with a pizza and my pyjamas is the best night in ever) – and the whole idea of the date is to get to know each other. There might be a hope for something else – like, oh yeah, another date to get to know each other, but we’re all human. We all want to be with someone, or have someone special that we can say we have that intimacy with – God knows that. Check out Genesis 2:18 if you don’t believe me. Yet the only expectation is that there might be another date, not picking out what their Mr & Mrs towels will look like. I mean, you get the odd weirdo who does do that, but more often than not, it’s just a hope to carry on that getting to know each other. It’s odd that someone outside of church is considered a psycho for jumping on the bandwagon too quickly – usually said to be a “bit keen”, but within the walls of church, it’s absolutely acceptable to be assuming that he would want a green towel because that’s your favourite colour. See what I’m saying?
The other issue here is age. I find it so hard that, at 20, I worry about the fact I’m still single. How wrong is that sentence to read, let alone type?! It makes me miserable to be honest that I even have to type that – to honestly say that I understand the panic of never finding a husband, wondering if I’m inadequate and there is something seriously wrong me because oh, I’m 20 and haven’t found Mr Annie yet. If I’m honest, I know a few couples who got married when they were “old” (so what, late 20s in real life, 150 in our time?!) and I look up to them. I see them together and I see them separately – I see the love between them, I see the appreciation and I see their experiences. I see how they flipping went for it with Jesus when they were single because they had the time to do that and they had the freedom to do it, too. I see how they waited it out, sometimes painfully and fearfully that it might never happen, but I see the waiting and I marvel at it. Why don’t we herald these people instead of encouraging a culture that 20 is the time to start worrying?
Whilst we don’t have a biblical step-by-step model of dating and how to go about it, we do have good grounding for how we should treat people, and how we should live our lives. Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God, and Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us (John 15:12). Basically, we need to go for it for Jesus, and love and respect those around us in a way that reflects the way Jesus loves us individually – and how does He love us? He loves us sacrificially, He loves us patiently, He loves us by forgiving us when we get it wrong and He perseveres with us. He loves us when we definitely aren’t perfect (…so all the time?), and He knows me and loves me in a way that has, quite literally, turned my world upside down. A wise Christian lady once said something along the lines of, with regards to dating, to keep running. Keep running for Jesus, and looking to Him – keep chasing that God dream and keep on keeping on, and if you look to your side and see someone running alongside you, then see what it’s like to purposefully run together. Give it a try, test the waters – see if you really are going in the right direction, and when you’re ready, try taking their hand. Regardless of age – I know some people reading this might be 19 and married – and if that is you, then good for you guys, really. 🙂
What I’m trying to say in all of this, is that one coffee with a member of the opposite sex doesn’t mean you have to get married. Watching a movie with a friend who happens to have man parts doesn’t suddenly suppose you have to bear his children – or her children. Guys and girls can ask to hang out – I’m a big believer in that. Be proactive in your dating – but be proactive in your friendship, too. I’ve been told that the best relationships come from solid friendships – so why not start there?
So Mr. Annie. Before I call you Adam and you call me Eve, take the time to get to know me. Don’t be afraid to buy me a coffee, or heck – let me buy you a coffee. Be my friend, and see where I’m headed. Are you running beside me – am I running beside you? Could you love me patiently – could you persevere with me and forgive me when I get it wrong? Can I forgive you and persevere with you?
I’m honestly not having a go at you because you knew after 5 weeks you should get married. Honestly, I’m not. I’m also not having a go at you if you are 19 and you’re happily married and settled – sometimes you just know and I totally respect that. But for anyone out there like me, who feels the pressure sometimes and wonders whatever happened to a bit of good old fashioned courting and taking it slow, then persevere, friends. You’re definitely not alone in that wondering and worrying. All I do know is, Jesus has this covered. He knows our hearts, he knows our minds and our desires. He knows it all. So when you feel like you have to make a snap decision about someone, or whether you’re bricking it about asking someone to simply hang out – Jesus knows all of that too. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve all had a good banter about so-and-so getting together, I’d be the biggest liar if I said I’d never done that. But Jesus doesn’t ask us to rush or go along with the crowd, He asks us to trust. He asks us to know that He is enough and He has this covered.
He asks us to run – and who knows, He might cross our path with a certain someone, and maybe – just maybe – you’ll hold their hand as you go.
Peace and blessings x