- In order to make wise choices, we’ve got to surround ourselves with wise voices.
- We do best to protect ourselves from sexual immorality.
- We are to “drink from our own cisterns.”
- We should pray continuously.
Four healthy ways we’ve recently talked about that the Bible shows us we can do to cultivate purity in our dating lives.
And still, people sometimes confuse the roles their dates are supposed to play as well as our freedom in relationship with them.
Let’s clear things up a bit.
First of all, God isn’t against sex. He’s against distortion. God created sex so, naturally, he’s all for it…in its proper context.
Our dating lives should be marked by God-honoring purity.
From a Biblical perspective and as a Christian, the person you date is either your sister/brother-in-Christ or they’re your Spouse. (1 Timothy 5:2; 1 Corinthians 7, 26-28)
There is no middle ground or room for statements like, “well, you know, we love and are 100% committed to each other, so….” Or, “We’re just testing out the relationship to make sure we are a good fit.” Or even, “Even though we’re not married, it’s okay. No one waits anymore. God understands.”
You don’t engage in sexual activity with your sibling – that would be nasty and horribly wrong!
So in order to “be right” in doing such things with your date, they must first become your spouse. (1 Cor. 6, 9-20; 1 Cor. 7, 2-5)
It is in marriage that the two become one flesh; that your bodies become one another’s.
(Genesis, 2:24; Mark 10:8)
And the way that happens in our culture is through a period of engagement.
Think about it. Now that most of us don’t come from families where arranged marriages are the norm, people “date.”
And they don’t go directly from dating one day to getting married the next.
There is a period of “engagement” in between.
This time is more than just a bridge between dating and marriage; more than just a period of planning for the “big event,” it’s a further and final opportunity for enhanced evaluation.
An opportunity to more fully assess if this is the person with whom you are willing to be covenanted to spending the rest of your life; and for them to do the same with you.
A covenant is more than just a commitment.
A covenant is different than a contract.
You seal a covenant while you sign a contract.
A contract is a mutually beneficial relationship while a covenant is something you fulfill.
A covenant is a blood promise before God that is not to be broken.
A bonding that goes well beyond “I’ll try my best” to “I will do everything in my power and with the help of God to make this work for as long as we both shall live.”
The kind of bond that vows are written for.
The word “engagement” itself suggests active commitment. As author and pastor Ben Stuart shares, ‘Engagement is an exciting time filled with activity. Choosing a church or other venue; the perfect flowers, décor, food, photographer, a place for the reception, and who’s going to be in your wedding party.’ But it’s also “about more than working on a wedding. It’s about working on a marriage. You’re beginning to weave your lives together – to unite your families, your finances and your forever future together.”
And you can actually continue building the foundation for this type of permanent relationship during your period of engagement while continuing to cultivate purity and more…
In fact, let’s pause to ask and then try to provide some answers to questions most couples will ask as their single lives begin to pass away and a new, united life seems to be emerging:
- How do you know when you know you’re ready to get engaged?
- What should you feel inside?
- What should you see in your relationship?
The Bible, especially through the book, Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), provides some amazing suggestions for knowing whether the person you’re with is the right one. In his book, Single. Dating. Engaged. Married., Ben Stuart summarizes these concepts as follows:
5 Indications that your partner is the right person for you long-term:
Let’s flesh them out.
Excitement (Song of Solomon 1: 1-4)
- “Becoming engaged to be married is a celebration of a relationship gone right.” (Ben Stuart)
- If you’re going to be engaged, both of you should feel a strong sense of excitement in your relationship.
- You should be able to identify and communicate which qualities of the other person excite you.
- Your friends and loved ones should be able to affirm your excitement.
- Godly love exhibits excitement that’s stirred by character and affirmed by others.
How excited are you about your relationship right now?
What is your internal response when you hear your partner’s name?
Is your beloved exhibiting behaviors you’d like to see in your children? Why or Why not?
What friends do you have that can help you appreciate the ups and downs of your relationship?
Friendship (Song of Solomon 2:8-10)
- You desire to be with your partner because there’s an ease, not an obligation, in your communication.
- If communication feels like an obligation now, getting married won’t magically improve your relationship.
- Your relationship isn’t built on physical attraction alone; there’s a true sense of companionship.
- It’s knit closer and closer together by one another’s continuing kindness, genuine love and care for each other.
Would you leap over mountains and bound over the hills to be with your beloved?
Are you more loving and kind after being around your partner or does time spent together tend to leave you impatient, disappointed or bitter?
Why are attributes like companionship, ease in communication, kindness and genuine love and care more important than physical attraction on its own?
Growth (Song of Solomon 2: 11-13)
- Your future spouse should produce perceptible growth in you over time.
- New and different areas of your life begin to blossom and ripen.
- Because of your relationship with that person, your life begins to look more and more like Jesus.
- Our desire to stay in a relationship (vs. flee) when conflict arises is one standard that can be used to measure health and growth.
What are some areas of growth that friends have perceived in you since you’ve been dating or that may become more evident during your engagement?
What changes for the good have you noticed as a result of being in relationship together?
Is there anything that’s “bugged” you since the beginning of your time together that has shown no signs of improvement – despite your having lovingly discussed it?
Vulnerability (Song of Solomon 2:14)
- Successful marriages ultimately rely on open communication. (These skills should be honed during the periods of dating and engagement and then continuously fine-tuned throughout the marriage.)
- The potential for getting hurt grows exponentially as you become more and more truthful with one another.
- One way we expose the hidden places of our hearts is through confession; admitting ways we’ve been hurt by others in the past; being open about ways we’ve failed to live with purity or integrity; being honest about sins we’ve personally committed.
- Revealing your missteps to one another during your engagement is vital to avoiding surprises in marriage.
- It establishes the freedom of knowing all the doors in your lives are open to one another.
- It signals a deep level of trust in your partner and can greatly increase the bond between the two of you.
- Vulnerability, however is a gift that should be reserved for only the strongest relationships.
- Sometimes we need a trusted friend or counselor to help us figure out what information and how much detail we should share.
- Don’t let just anyone into the depths of your heart; once you do, it’s impossible to take back what you’ve divulged.
Are there still pieces of your story you haven’t yet shared with your partner? What’s keeping you from sharing?
What’s risky about vulnerability?
Can you remember a time when you allowed yourself to be vulnerable with someone and got burned?
What are some good ways to determine how vulnerable/open you should be?
Trust (Song of Solomon 2:15)
- Unchecked menaces in a relationship can keep trust from blossoming and becoming fruitful.
- Trust begins to form when we can be vulnerable with one another.
- When vulnerability is received and reciprocated, trust begins to deepen.
- Trust creates conditions in which love and respect grow and thrive.
- Healthy growth requires the aid of a vigilant community.
- Part of building trust is allowing your community to speak into your relationship from their experience and wisdom.
What makes you more or less willing to trust someone else?
What areas of your heart feel the riskiest to give away?
How will you know when you’re ready to trust someone else at a deep level?
In what ways are you living that fosters trust with your partner?
In what ways is your partner reciprocating?
The season of engagement should lead you to the confidence that you’ve now found the one whom your soul loves. (Song of Solomon 3:4) If this and the principles shared in this post don’t accurately reflect the current state of your heart, there’s nothing wrong with “tapping the breaks” or potentially even taking pause or bringing the relationship to a full stop. Each of these options is preferable to uncertainty or blindly proceeding headlong into a marriage potentially fraught with misery that culminates in divorce. On the contrary, a period of engagement done right is one of open-eyed evaluation, a couple making plans built on wisdom and beginning to weave every aspect of their lives together – a cause for great celebration.
Pray continuously and continue to seek God’s loving guidance and follow His ways as you date and make forever plans with the one He approves for you.
Right here rooting you on,