Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dating: The Weight of Expectations

For those who have noticed, yes I stopped writing my series regarding my thoughts on dating. Why? I suppose I got caught up in my life, being a youth interim for the summer and then back to working my retail job and my library job this fall. In addition, part of me feels like writing about dating always comes across as whiny or defensive, either crying woe is me or woe is them (referring to the opposite sex). I try to stay away from stereotypes, especially gender stereotypes; however, sometimes it is hard but necessary to cross the gulf.

I think there are a lot of expectations, some spoken and some unspoken when it comes to dating. What I would love more than anything is for people in the church to (1) Admit singleness is a valid life stage, one which does not cast spiritual demerits on our faith and character and (2) What we say is the biblical form of dating (known as courting) has more to do with the culture of the scriptures and the pre-industrial age just as dating is defined during and after the Industrial Revolution[1]. As far as I know, while there are godly characteristics of men and women, there are no scriptures that directly qualify courting or dating as right, wrong, holy, or unholy[2]. The problem is and never was courtship or dating, the problem is us.

(1) Financial - First off, I think any guy single past college is in quite the predicament, especially in such a bad economy. We are told by the church that, not only will God bless those who follow him financially, but also that those men seeking to marry need to be financially secure. What does this mean for today? It means we are going to see an abnormal rate of singles, both men and women in the church. A lot of the guys feel insecure not having the job they want or the money to date, much less to propose, buy a ring, and marry. On the flip-side, many females do not want to settle for a guy who cannot get a good job, and besides, they can make it on their own. They want the dream; however, the males cannot provide this dream. So, both seem perpetually stuck, unless one or both are willing to compromise some way, perhaps willing to admit richness does not need to be based on material possessions or jobs but on the life they can make for and with one another despite their circumstances, as they both seek to follow God and see him as Provider.

(2) Emotional - I think both sides tend to try to ignore this, say we are not affected by it. The truth is both males and females have emotions and when we like someone we instantly start to feel this or that, usually this includes some confusion. Maybe our emotions are conflicting with our logic. I think during these times it is best to seek out wise counsel from friends and from God, remember we should not fear our emotions but we should also not be enslaved by them. In addition, if you are using all your emotional energy on a person, it is probably best to become a little detached. Remember you are an individual and maintain your own identity. Christ made you unique and something to be cherished as an individual. Never sacrifice identity for any other, except Christ.

(3) Spiritual - Does this person love Christ? I do not mean; does he or she wear a cross necklace, sport a scriptural tattoo, or wear the Jesus tee. Forget outside appearances: Does he or she genuinely try to live and pursue Christ? Are they a new Christian? Where are they at spiritually? These are tough questions but usually the evidence will show itself, whether through friendship or within the first few dates. As a serious Christian, forgo the rules that say serious conversations should be kept on hold, and bring up some key questions to this person. However, this does not mean they have to have it all together, none of us are perfect, but there should be some depth, especially if you want your relationship to be focused and built on the foundation of Christ. That IS what you want isn't it? If not, as a Christian it is definitely something you NEED (and may need to rethink your priorities if otherwise).

(4) Physical - Let's all admit everyone has insecurities in this area, whether it is weight, eyes, hair color, or the space between your neck and nose - we all have some kind of insecurities when it comes to our physical appearance and on some level while we do not like being/feeling judged by others, we do this all the time, every day, sometimes without even knowing it. In some ways we are shallow and in some ways we just must admit attraction is a unique thing, not based merely on physical appearance but it does play a part. The question we must ask our-self is: How much should physical attraction play a role in dating? I think the answer is it must be balanced with other forms of attraction (EX: emotional, spiritual, humor, intellect, etc.)

(5) Availability - It isn't just the possible absence of a relationship status or the fact that there may be no name attached, or random pictures with you and another male/female, it goes to the cliques we have and the people we hang around. Basically, to show you are available or interested in anyone you have to move out of your comfort zone and just be real and admit that in life you are looking for more than "friendship" like your FB might claim. This means taking an interest in this person; however, walking the line between friendship and relationship can be difficult these days with the gender roles becoming blurred. Some still believe in the classic/traditional dating, some courtship, some more modern and equal, and others are kind of all over the place.

(6) Risk/Rejection - I think guys feel weighed down by this, I know I do... but I didn't start out that way. In the beginning I didn't date because I wanted to find someone with at least a little substance and quality. Then in college and through grad school I thought I did and pursued only to be rejected. The odd thing is as men we almost don't have an option to be truthful in this area. Our two choices seem to be a) To hide the hurt and cover it up with some kind of persona/barrier or b.) Admit our fear and hurt and risk being seen as unmanly for expressing our emotions/wounds. Trust me, until the female reciprocates a man’s affection and the longer she plays with his heart before rejecting him, the worse it is for the guy. Until that line crosses from friendship to either relationship or rejection, the guy is at the complete mercy of the female he is pursuing. I think honesty and open communication is very important here, well in all relationships, but especially in the beginning when so many confusing or conflicting or awkward feelings may be at play.

(7) Gender Stereotypes - I already discussed briefly how this has affected the relationships between male and females in regards to finances; however, since the wave of the women's rights movement, many new (sometimes confusing) ideas must be faced. Are men and women equal? What is the place of a woman and man? What is their place in a godly relationship? I think a lot of our ideas, again, come from culture and only slightly what we see represented in scripture. Who was made in the image of God? Male AND Female (Gen. 1:27). When does the difference come? After the fall, actually it is a result of the curse (Gen. 3). If Christ has come to wipe away sin and restore us into that image, to herald in the coming Kingdom, then should we not pursue that image he created us to be? Both men and women should be equal but not deny our distinctions in gender, for we are each unique individuals and are all blessed with gifts but also have weaknesses. Both men and women need to learn from one another and remember the only one who we are truly ever under, the one who we owe our allegiance is always Christ. In our culture we focus so much on who is in charge and would do well to look at the Trinity of an example of a divine relationship of communication, work, and mutual respect and leadership.

(8) Character - It is last because I think many of us neglect this the most when becoming interesting or pursuing someone. We should be seeking out someone who is godly, seeks Christ, someone imperfect, someone who is somewhat wise, has integrity and their own identity and thoughts, and someone whom we can build and life with and would be a good husband/wife and father/mother. This is not to neglect or diminish emotional, intellectual, physical, or comedic attraction; but to say all these must be tampered with a little bit of insight. Who is this person? Now, the road to finding these things out can be taken through courting or dating or friendship; yet I do not think we should quibble and worry over the way it happens as long as we are seeking Christ. Honestly, God usually has a way of turning our assumptions upside-down and inside-out very often.

~ Daniel




Inspired by Boundless Podcast on Dating:
The Gents:
The Ladies:

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