I have been contemplating relationships recently. When it comes to Christian dating I am just as clueless as the rest. In the past I looked to other couples for wisdom and guidance, but a few days ago the Lord spoke to me saying, "Why do you always look to others for wisdom? You know more about relationships than you think, because I have given you wisdom."
I want to share the vision the Lord has impressed upon my heart:
In past dating relationships I completely froze up once a title was assigned. I felt bound to the other person. I felt as if I had to forsake all ties with other men because if I maintained these relationships I was being unfaithful. I also felt extremely unfree. I am a very deep person, and I love knowing others well. Within dating, however, I felt restricted by boundaries of what I could and could not say. Ultimatley, this left me feeling like I was being untrue to myself and in response I completely shut down.
I have been reflecting on the later, working through my response to dating. What I have realized is that dating is in essence a quasi-marriage. A marriage is two people sharing all of themselves with one another. A marriage is two people becoming one, forsaking all others. Within dating I made a commitment which felt like a marriage commitment, but I had not yet arrived at a place where I could forsake all others. Moreover, dating had the form of oneness, but I could not yet be one with the other person. It is no surprise I felt bound and unfree!
The more and more I seek the Lord, the more and more I am convinced that God designed romance for so, so much more!
When I was a child I had an innocent, romantic heart. My heart was deeply moved by romance, but as I got older and experienced heartbreak and failed relationships I became disillusioned. I honestly stopped believing in true love. My romantic heart died, but recently the Lord has been reviving it, showing me true romance does exist. I know true romance exists because I have seen it in the way the Lord pursues my heart and wins my trust.
A woman's heart is designed to be pursued. She longs to be cherished, loved and valued. A man's heart, by contrast, is designed to pursue. He is designed to arise to the challenge of offering his strength and winning a woman's heart over time.
Forsaking ties with all others and being fully committed to one person is what a marriage is intended for, not dating. Dating instead should be a time of pursuit. It should be a time of a man winning a woman's affections over time, earning her trust and proving himself worthy of the treasure of her heart. It should be a time of intentionality. A time of a man and a woman spending intentional time getting to know one another.
Defined relationships bring with them expectations. When care is expressed because it is expected it loses its power and beauty. Defined relationships also often lose the intentionality of a man pursuing a woman's heart. Because a commitment has already been secured, a man no longer feels the need to arise to the challenge of winning a woman's heart. Consequently a couple's time together becomes shallow. The couple spends time together, yes, but watching a movie together and spending time in the same room does not equate true relationship.
I truly believe all of life is meant to reflect the Gospel, and romance and relationships are no exception: Christ pursues the hearts of the disobedient and wayward. He initiates. He gradually wins a nonbeliever's trust and affections over time. This represents the season of pursuit, the season of a man winning a woman's heart over time. (Note that it is the man, not the woman, who initiates and pursues, for in Ephesians 5 we are told husbands represent Christ and wives represent the Church, or the bride of Christ.) Eventually a nonbeliever comes to a point of decision, a point when he or she finally says 'Yes' to Christ. This point represents engagement, a time when a woman finally agrees to be married to the man pursuing her heart. During the season of engagement the man and woman are not yet married—not yet fully one. They await with joyful anticipation the day they will be united as one in marriage. In the same way, we, the bride of Christ, await with great anticipation the day when we will be united with our husband Christ:
I do not in any way claim Christian couples should not enter into committed relationships. I know many couples who have done so with great success, but I think we should also not assume this is the only way. If anything, I hope this post causes you to think about your own opinions about dating, thereby compelling you to personally seek the Lord for wisdom and guidance.
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”