Hello, all! It seems like it's been ages since I've posted here--I promise, I have good reasons! I plan on doing an update soon, but for now I wish to share my thoughts regarding a very important subject that's been on my mind quite often most recently. I've had this post in the drafts for about two weeks now, studying and tweaking because I don't want to make any mistakes or leave anything out.
Do you remember my suitor, Evan? Well, he and I have collaborated and I had asked him to read this beforehand and to add his own thoughts. I believe it is of great value to know the man's side of the equation, and this is such a perfect way to do so! He has willingly agreed and you will see his little thoughts and opinions quoted in blue. As a warning though, this post is quite lengthy and for that, I apologize. But again, I did not want to cut what I wish to say too short or to leave out what I believe to be important. So, without further ado, here goes.
Dating and Courting have been defined and re-defined countless times. But what do you think? If asked what dating means/what courting is, how would you explain?
In my understanding, dating can be defined in two ways: a) according to the world, and b) according to a biblical view.
In the view of the World, dating is seen as a "game" of sorts. Men and women (and shockingly, teens and pre-teens as young as 12--some younger!) go from one date to the next, essentially searching for pleasure, entertainment, companionship, or something more. I have heard this "method" described as practice for divorce. And wow, how true is that? Just look at those around you. The cute teen at church arrives for service with a different guy nearly every Sunday. The college student believes he's going steady with his girl for a month or two, then has his heart broken when she notices his friend has a freer schedule. The pretty nurse is excited for the second date with an awesome guy, but finds him no longer interested when she says no to an "activity." These are merely examples, but something serious to think about. With this practice, how long do you think these people will stay married?
To the world, we either play the Game or are frowned upon and constantly questioned.
So, what about the biblical view?
Our bodies are meant to be sacred temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). One man, one woman. NO EXCEPTIONS. The covenant of marriage is a beautiful commitment not only to each spouse, but to God as well. A covenant marriage is of great glory to God. And by following His Word and commands in marriage and life, you will glorify Him and give light to both believers and unbelievers.
Oh my. There is so much that can be added here to help better explain the biblical view, but I feel right now I should save that for another time. Today, I wish you to see the bare basics: God created marriage for His glory. And yes, it is possible to go from one date to another without indulging in sex and still remain pure in both mind and spirit. But do remember, the flesh is weak. "Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life." (Proverbs 4:23, HCSB)
With all of that said, this is how I understand. . .
Time spent getting to know a person you are interested in with the ultimate goal being a permanent relationship: Marriage.
This includes activities such as going to the movies, taking a picnic lunch to the mountains or local park, or even working simple tasks around the house--mixing laundry detergent, setting up for an outdoor cook-out, or drying the dishes. Your outings/activities will be unique to you and your person-of-interest. It's important to know what each of you enjoy and to do a little bit of everything.
(Also, don't limit this to just you and your special friend. Include your family! They'll be around even after you're married, and it's of great value that they get along well with your guy.)
The period of time spent furthering the "dating" relationship, taking it to a new level; the stage before engagement.
In my mind, this definition closely resembles that of the above term, but with the exception that it is taken to a new level. Dating is the stage of "getting to know" the other person, while Courting (or courtship) is dating with the knowledge you want to marry that person. Hence, you do much of the same things as with dating, but you communicate your hopes and expectations regarding life and marriage. "It would be
painful to invest so much into a relationship without really knowing
how the other truly felt. You may believe that this person is right
for you after a little while, but you cannot be sure that the other
will share those same beliefs about you. He or she may come to
believe that neither of you are right for each other."
Once Evan and I began dating, now nearly four months ago (whoa!), he made this statement:
"I have always considered courting to be the final step before engagement. For me, courting is when you decide that the person you have been getting to know better really is someone you could spend your life with. You start to talk about very intimate subjects, such as finances, sex, children, living locations, and so forth. Also, as a man, courting would not start until I am positive that I can provide for the woman financially. As I don't believe I will be able to do this for another year or so, I don't think it right to enter into such a binding agreement. At least for me, that is the case. But I am not saying that I do not look forward to entering such an agreement, only that right now, I don't believe it accurate to describe our relationship. I like you, you like me, and we would like to get to know each other better."
Now, he no longer views this statement to be fully accurate in our relationship and I agree that nothing is set in stone. They are apt to change and will definitely differ with each couple. I had many ideas and views of what and how I would go about a courtship with a guy--things I'd thought of years ago--and now that I'm in an actual relationship (which still feels so surreal!), those views have changed somewhat, but in a good way. It just goes to show that something you think of may turn out to be completely different once you are in that position yourself.
Ah, and now we must dig a little deeper.
In the Dating stage, and Courting as well, you must set boundaries. There's one thing about being friends, but once you spend time around the opposite gender, there will be some form of attraction, regardless if they are the one for you or not. Hey, we are merely human, but that doesn't excuse our behavior to other children of God.
First things first, drown this relationship in prayer. If you and your guy are serious about taking the dating stage further and for the purpose of marriage, you're gonna need some serious help. God must remain first in your life, or you will never be satisfied on this earth. No man can satisfy the God-sized hole in your heart. It's God-sized for a reason. "Also, because if
we are honest with ourselves, we are very weak. Once you start
thinking you're fine and become comfortable, stuff happens that can
bring regret and consequences. Pray to the Lord for help every day.
And set yourselves up for success."
Secondly, you and your person-of-interest should choose whether or not to make physical contact. If so, you should probably limit to hugs and holding hands. Anything more could lead to dangerous territory. You want a clear conscience and no regret. Also, decide on the smoochy-smoochidy thing. (You know what I mean!) :] In giving a guy a kiss--whether on the cheek or lips--you are sharing an intimate gift.
Think of it as a charm bracelet laden with many rare and precious gems. Each gem represents an action of love--a hand to hold, an "I love you," a kiss. When you give one of these actions away, you give the gem to match. This is a beautiful visual of just how valuable your purity is. Would you want your gems to be scattered among several different guys, or would you want to give the whole bracelet and every last precious stone to one special man? (Brio & Beyond, Focus on the Family's magazine for young women, April 2008)
Thirdly, seek the counsel and prayers of others. Your relationship should not be a secret, and if it is, watch out! for every hidden thing will find the light no matter what you do to prevent it. Scripture says, "Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance." (Proverbs 11:14, HCSB) Admit it, we would never survive this life without the strength and encouragement of our friends and family. God made us to be companion-creatures. No one truly enjoys solitude. We need each other!
I pray this post serves to encourage you and help you along your way. If you have any questions whatsoever, I'd be pleased to answer them! And Evan has expressed his willingness to answer for the man's side as well (within reason). :] Please feel free to comment below! If we have enough inquiries regarding these subjects, I may just post a Q & A follow-up.
A huge thank-you to him for helping me out with this post! *applause all around* :D
Evan & I -- Gatlinburg, TN
Oh, I am so blessed. God is so good to me, and that seems like a colossal understatement. He has never failed me, though I fail Him every day. I do not deserve His unconditional love, nor His sweet mercy and amazing grace. Despite all my failures, He loves me anyway. Oh, what joy I find in Him!
One of His blessings to me is the sweet friendship of Evan. Over the past couple months of getting to know each other (though we've been friends with one another and our families for about six years now), I have come to care deeply for him. He is my best friend and I thank my God for him everyday. I don't know exactly what God has in store for the two of us, but we are learning to fully rely and trust in Him. As we travel the road of this new adventure, we hope to be a light for those who come after. May God grant us wisdom, patience, compassion, and understanding to follow His lead.