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In the last 20 years or so, staying pure in the Christian circles has taken on a whole new meaning.  Couples reserve their first kiss for the wedding day.  They hold hands.  They court instead of date.  All of this is fine.

In fact, dating isn’t a Biblical concept. Yet if you get right down to it, courting isn’t even Biblical, despite the enormous popularity of the Duggars and Josh Harris’s tome I Kissed Dating Goodbye, the latest standard in contemporary Christian circles.

Let’s step back a few millennia. In the time of the Bible’s inception, arranged marriages were the norm.  Young girls often got betrothed – promised –  to older men, men who owned their own homes and held established professions or at least their own tent.  What’s love got to do with it?  Nothing.  Love happened after the ceremony, perhaps even after the birth of several children, if at all.  The idea of love tied to commitment is a western concept. It’s so rare the Bible takes care to mention it:  “Jacob loved Rachel”, “Michal loved David”.  It wasn’t the norm. People got married to 1) populate the earth and 2) build families which became the foundation of society, and 3) receive God’s blessing.  The Bible states over and over that children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).

I find courting  – which is intentionally spending time with someone to scope them out as a possible mate – fraught with difficulties.  What if he/she turns out not to be “the one”?  The whole relationship has so much pressure attached to it all the way through. Two young people, who might not quite know themselves, find themselves watched and weighed constantly.  It seems to me breaking up after such a heavy beginning might hurt even more than casual dating.

I remember attending Bible college, the bastion of the MRS degree.   I only found that out after I started attending.  Whole other story.  Anyway, you almost didn’t want anyone else to know you were dating, period, because the collective would have you married off within the hour.  Some couples – who shall remain nameless – dated on the sly.  They only came out of the dark when they announced their engagement.  It seemed sad that they had to do that to escape such gossipy speculation, but I understood.  Much easier to fly under the radar without comments from the peanut gallery.

As a single gal in years gone by, the concept of courting resided squarely in the life and times of Laura Ingalls of Little House on the Prairie. I write from a position of someone who did not court (nobody I knew did), but wanted to solely date “the one”. I mean, why waste time and my affection on non-husbands? Well, “the one” freaked out and dumped me. For a long time I struggled with that.  Did I hear wrong?  Did he hear wrong? What happened?

In the end, I learned something: I need to be open to doing things God’s way for me, and it could look different from whatever anyone else is doing.  Not bad, not wrong, just different.  Courtship is a good man-made standard, don’t get me wrong.  It’s a place to start. Guarding your heart and your affections help you stay pure and protected.  My point is God always has good in mind for you.  However, expect the unexpected.  He works in mysterious ways.  Be open to them.

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