Dating…God’s Way

In recent posts we’ve been focusing on singleness and referring to it as another of life’s “seasons.”  We’ve talked about how, if you really want to live out this season of singleness well, you can use this time to get to know God more deeply and, in doing so, serve Him and bring Glory to His name.  An undistracted devotion also allows for the opportunity to root one’s primary identity in Christ.  And that’s extremely important for any of the other relational stages we may venture into.  Though the goal of singleness isn’t to rush through this stage, many do eventually desire to move on to the next season; dating.

There.  I said it.  “Dating.” As our friend Ben Stuart, who I’ve frequently quoted during this series says, ‘The word itself conjures up a whole range of thoughts and emotions for most of us, from confusion to euphoria, from joy and happiness to drama and disappointment.  Most of us have at least a little experience in the dating arena.  And with experience come thoughts and a few memories that inspire loads of bias.’  Given the landscape of dating today, what with so many online sites promising high quality matches and mingles but too often delivering far less, everyone who’s ever ventured down this particular backroads highway has every right at this moment to a full body shiver.  Go ahead; we empathize and will wait.  Just let it out.

Don’t get me wrong.  The goal itself seems admirable enough.  “I just want to find a nice person with whom I share a fair amount of compatibility, whom I can trust and, perhaps, one day settle down with.”  In other words, ‘To date the right person in the right way.’  Yet, if you’ve ever dated, you realize how crazy difficult such a seemingly reasonable goal like this can truly be.  Especially at ‘this age.’

…fact is, many in our present culture are waiting longer or choosing to delay getting married.  Others are “single again” and exhibiting an abundance of caution so as to ‘never again go through the horror’ they experienced after their previous marriage imploded.  Though there are many reasons and factors that contribute to this hesitation, a simple truth is that many if not most people are a bit confused or lack clarity about what it is they should really be looking for in a potential partner.  Which leads to this blog post edition’s title.

While the Bible doesn’t directly address the subject of dating, it provides great wisdom and direction as to how we are to be evaluative and discerning as we pursue relationships.  God wired us for relationship, so it stands to reason that He has a pretty fair understanding and therefore a few things to share about the type of people we should be looking for.  In essence, Mr. Stuart submits that it comes down to two primary characteristics; character and chemistry.  We should seek and pursue a person who exhibits character before God and chemistry with us.  Multiple relationship experts agree that these are the foundational building blocks upon which lifelong relationships should be constructed.  And both attributes are important.  Chemistry without character can prove harmful and dangerous.  Character without chemistry can lead to boredom.  Regrettably, we rarely, if ever take the time to understand what defines a good fit for a potential husband or wife.  We typically have no idea whether or not our expectations in relationship are realistic much less if they line up with God’s design.

Ben also makes the point that our higher level of technological connectivity has actually yielded for us a lessened sense of community.  These devices that were designed to connect us have actually rendered us less close to really knowing one another than ever before.  Everything stays at such a ‘surfacey’ level.  And we communicate as though we’re impatient; that expediency and efficiency somehow override taking the time it takes to really get to know someone.  Think about it; how has our culture’s rapid adoption of smartphone technology affected your personal sense of community?  As he asks it, ‘Do you feel that the community you currently are connected to promotes the growth of each individual’ or as Ephesians 15:16 puts it, “promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part?”

“Communities,” Ben says, “often unite around causes and interests.  The extent to which that cause endures often marks the extent to which the community relationships endure.  Eternal causes lead to eternal communities.”  What cause is the community you belong to right now built upon?

“The person you should date often comes from the same community you’re working to create and be a part of.” Ben encourages singles to remember 3 primary guidelines as they decide who they should date:

  1. Find someone who has the same cause as you.
  2. Find someone who has your same character; shaped by God.
  3. Find someone with whom you share chemistry.
[Quick Sidebar: Chemistry doesn’t necessarily mean fireworks and stars. Those tend to fade over time. Chemistry usually means you want to pursue more time with the other person; you want to know them better and deeper; you are comfortable being yourself.  You can’t force chemistry…but you can coax it along]

Consider this example from Genesis 24 as we close this time together.  In it, Abraham has sworn one of his most trusted senior servants to an oath of seeking a wife for his son, Isaac in order the that promise of the Lord may be fulfilled.  (Arranged marriages were the custom in Abraham’s day.) This is the longest chapter in the book of Genesis and it so happens it’s about finding a spouse.  It reinforces just how much God cares about your dating life and your desire to one day, be married.  Finally, it provides principles that will help evaluate a potential mate.  I encourage you to ultimately make time to read the entire chapter but, for now, we’ll pick it up at the point at which the servant has reached his destination and begun his search:

42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’

45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’

46 “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.  (Genesis 24: 42 – 46 NIV)

Oh, my goodness, that’s amazing, isn’t it?!  Can it really happen that easily?  We’ll continue to review this example and how it speaks to “who” and then “how” we should date in our next editions.  In the meantime, here are a few questions for you to work through this week:

  1. Is your current community filled with people who have a cause and character worth pursuing? If not, what needs to change?
  2. Who do you feel close enough to ask for help in becoming more intentional and focused about deciding who to date?
  3. How do you think dating might be reframed when marriage is the goal?
  4. How would your dating pool be affected if you made a commitment to only date Christians?

May our God who created and loves you continue to be the Lord of your search.

Right here rooting for you,