There’s a ton of advice thrown left, right and centre concerning dating. How to get into it, how to keep at it, how to transition to the next level, and everything in between it’s all out there. For Christians, it’s often been a long list of don’ts and not much said what you can and should do; but this is a tide that is slowly turning.
I think there are as varied possibilities in how to get into relationships as there are people. The reasons why people date are also quite numerous. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all template but I do cherish divine principles.
I’m wary of dating for “fun” because it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. For all the independent bravado put up by both sides of the gender divide, I’m not convinced we were created with the ability to play fast and loose with our emotions without damaging consequences.
This doesn’t mean that every relationship started on a “serious” note will automatically succeed. As with everything in life, starting something and sustaining it successfully to its completion are two very different things. Doing things God’s way certainly doesn’t negate facing challenges; it just means you’re better equipped to deal with them and have them work for your good.
Nor does it mean that dating with marriage in mind sucks the fun out of everything. You’d be surprised how often God will be the One to engineer the most memorable moments in your relationship. If doing life with God is boring for you, you’re not doing it right…seriously!
The beauty of dating with purpose as it were, is that everything you sow in dating you will reap in marriage. The heavy lifting you do in the course of your dating you will greatly benefit from in marriage. Even in the event that things don’t work out, I’m a firm believer that God wastes nothing – your harvest will be carried over to the new thing God establishes for you.
So how can you make the most of your dating season with marriage as the end goal in mind?
Do learn to value the Holy Spirit in your relationship. I’ve lamented numerous times about this thing we do as Christians where we only bring God into the mix when there’s trouble. You don’t consult Him when you’re thinking about dating someone. You don’t involve Him in the decisions you make in the course of your relationship. You only drag Him in when things are not working out as you’d like then send Him on His merry way when they get fixed. And you wonder why your “Christian” relationship is a mess.
If the Holy Spirit has no room in your dating relationship, He will not magically find room in your marriage. It takes a deliberate choice to include Him in everything you are and all you’re doing. It’s also a great test to how well you’ve built a friendship and devotion with God as an individual. The easier it is for you to relate with God as individuals, the easier it will be to relate with Him as a couple.
Do cultivate a culture for your relationship. How to best fill each other’s love tanks. How to fight for the relationship not against each other. How to establish healthy mental, emotional and physical boundaries. How to communicate your needs to each other and figure out the best ways to meet them. These are all things that can happen while dating that most people don’t even realize are important till a crisis arises in marriage. These are also just some of the things the Holy Spirit will clue you in about and help you navigate. He’s not just important because He’s God and we’re Christian; He’s a very practical Help.
Every relationship is unique to the two people in it and there’s a culture – a way of being and doing things – that will take shape whether you’re conscious of it or not. In being deliberate in forming this culture with the input of the Holy Spirit, you create an environment where both of you can thrive not just in relationship matters but in every sphere of your lives.
Do value your emotions but don’t be controlled by them. It’s been said that emotions should be indicators not dictators. Acknowledge how you feel but don’t be governed by it. For instance, just because you’re angry at your partner doesn’t mean you lash out at them in the name of wrath. If you consider the anger as an indicator and take time to dig into why you’re angry – and elaborate on that to your partner rather than just unleashing your fury; you’ll be doing yourself, your partner and your relationship a great service. You may even find that the cause of your anger has nothing to do with your partner and is an external matter altogether. Communicating anger (emotion) solves little as you’ve only presented the symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself.
Do be ready to be washed by the truth of God’s word concerning a situation. If you go to God with a matter e.g. your anger, and He tells you that what you expected from your partner was wrong to begin with, be willing to take the correction and learn from it. Is it more important to you to be right or for your relationship to be alright? If your pride matters to you more than your partner, then I can confidently tell you dating and marriage are a terrible idea for you. So is pretty much any human relationship. None of us is perfect and we all need to give grace as we are in even more desperate need of it ourselves. It takes a confident belief that God wants the best for you to elevate His revelation of truth over what you think/feel is right.
Do distinguish Hollywood fantasies from reality. Where did all your beliefs about relationships and how they work come from? If there’s one thing that is greatly underestimated by many, it’s the influence media and the world around us has on us. We don’t want to believe we’re easily impressionable but how we make choices and live our lives reveals just how much we are. Take some time (whether you’re single or dating) and ask God to show you any seeds that you’ve grown in your life as a result of what you’ve been exposed to that are bearing the wrong fruit. Get His help in uprooting what is unhelpful to you and replacing it with the right seeds.
Many relationships rise and fall on expectation. If your expectations are founded on human wisdom (whether it comes from a movie or a well-meaning friend), don’t be surprised if it eventually turns into sinking sand and you have trouble building anything lasting on it. If your expectations are founded on the wisdom of God, then you will be able to establish a healthy divine relationship that can be sustained even in divine marriage.
Do remember to laugh and have fun with one another. As much as you can. As often as you can. It’s not just our perseverance that glorifies God, our joy does to. They’re both fruit of having the Spirit of God at work in your life with none considered more prestigious than the other. One of the best testimonies we can ever give of Christian relationships is having them, and us, exude with joy. So find joy, first in God and then each other.
P.S. This is by far not an exhaustive list – just a few key ones. There are numerous wonderful resources out there including websites and books on matters relationship. I’ve found that the secret to avoid information overload and overwhelm is to just ask the Holy Spirit to lead you the resource you need when you need it. He’s phenomenal at that! 🙂