Relationship blog entries bombard my google reader every so-often. I enjoy reading them, having them sharpen my thoughts and beliefs, making me think about relationships of my friends and what they are going through, and I even like disagreeing with them. This week, I’ve taken three and combined them. So here goes.
The way I was introduced to the work of Owen Strachan was through my friend and former neighbor, David Schrock. Owen now teaches at Boyce College. I want to begin this blog and end this blog with some of his words:
“The comfort that this God, overwhelmingly good and gracious, directs each and every aspect of our lives, each moment that passes, is no mere theological datum, but a biblical reality of greatest personal consequence.”The first thing to tackle is an article about dating and courtship that was on Relevant last week. Agreed with some, not with other stuff that Stephen Simpson (prof at Fuller) wrote. But, that’s ok, not everyone is going to agree with me. That is what blogging does for me – it helps me hammer out theological truths and daily living out truths.
Of course most reading this blog will remember and probably read I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris, now pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD. I did, and I’ve read all of Josh’s book (except the new one Dug Down Deep, haven’t gotten to it yet) and they are good, biblically based, saturated with the Word. But, as Dr. Simpson says, “the concept was more popular than the practice“, and I agree. Or people became so dogmatic about it and asked girls to marry them on the first date, or bombarded their date with 20 questions of motherhood, finances, call to missions, being a pastor’s wife, etc right after their first sip of the pumpkin spice latte in their hands. “Marrying for love became popular a little more than 200 years ago. Before that, a woman’s parents would arrange her marriage to a man who could provide for her financially. Courtship didn’t have anything to do with love – it was transaction between two families that would ensure financial stability and the continuation of family bloodlines.” Of course most women love Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth, famed heroes found in Jane Austen’s novels. But, I would not want to live in those days of courtship models. As Simpson points out, most of America’s way of dating/courtship changed in the 1960s with the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution. I think Mary Kassian and Carolyn McCulley know what they are talking about in their books, so I won’t talk about that much here, but know that it is true. Here is something I don’t agree with Simpson on: “Courtship is rooted in a model that treats women like childbearing pieces of property. Men fumble around with antiquated practices that don’t correspond to modern female power. Respecting a woman means more than being polite; it means respecting her goals and gifts. In the past, marriage required a woman to follow a man on his journey. Now, a man and a woman go on the journey together. Courtship rituals haven’t caught up with this change. We need a new model. This leaves us with dating.” Dating – new model?
Respecting a woman doesn’t only have to do with being polite and respecting her gifts, but more importantly it means respecting her as the Woman God created her to be, as a full bearer of God’s image, a helper, the weaker sex, and one not to make sexual innuendoes around, and not to compare them to the toys you play with or your phone. This does not show respect to females.
“Courtship rituals reduce ambivalence and uncertainty. Cheap sex does the same thing. Dating requires courage. It means trusting God not to drag you toward a mate, but to keep you anchored to your First Love during the journey.” I almost think that Simpson doesn’t think courtship keeps you anchored to your first love? I would think dating is more flighty, more prolonged adolescence, more for a fun Friday night than intentional relationships are. I know folks who have been dating for years – why? Why not get married? My thought is guys, you have no business asking a girl out if you aren’t in a position of responsibility to warrant marriage.
Now: let me explain. If you can’t even afford dating, there is no way you can afford marriage. Most men are called and equipped to be the bread-winner of their families. But, men should at least be able to pay for the date, or the outing (whatever you want to call it). I love it and am grateful for it, and express that thankfulness when guys do that, because I’ve dated guys who haven’t done that, and I’ve seen that done to girls. So, guys – thank you. It is not about the money – it is about taking responsibility. There is a big difference. Little things.
I agree asking a girl out takes courage. And yes, I am a firm believer that guys should be the only ones doing the asking. I am thankful when guys do the asking. But, if I have seen the character of the guy doing the asking in other social circumstances, and I do not believe that those character traits are ones that I desire in a husband, I am in no way under obligation to say yes just because he worked up the nerve to ask me out. Girls, just saying. Don’t live in desperation. Live in waiting and hope that God has amazing things in store for your life. I know girls who live for that next date. God is more than a Friday night date. He is a great and provisional and relational God.
Both: don’t be scared of marriage. I don’t have many marriages in my life that I want to emulate. There are some, and I want to hang out with them, learn from them, be around them. They know the gospel and what it takes to make a marriage work. But reading Noelle’s writing over at Reactionary Century was very disheartening because I know women (and men) who live in this fear and do not pursue marriage because of it. “Yes, my tone may tend toward the realistic, the cynical and occasionally sarcastic, but it comes out of a desire to see my generation’s relationships improve upon the hollow and sometimes destructive models we’ve been culturally handed. And my own realism is born out of a place of fear. I’ve never seen a healthy marriage model. The marriages closest to me involve infidelity, co-dependency, unmet expectations, loneliness, depression, emotional abuse, and conditional love. And since I know my learning styles and personality need systems and models and directions for even things as messy as relationships, my fear is increased again, this time to an exponential level. So to combat that fear, I spend my free time researching relationships and blogging about those finding while also trying to be self-aware of my faults and how my baggage could mess up my relationships.” I want to sit down with Noelle and tell her, “marriage is not about you.” We are all sinners and are going to mess up. But, I serve an amazing God who is so much better than marriage. The gospel transforms marriage and it is hard (marriage).
Then, back to the beginning with Owen’s article, which I am very thankful for – a young(ish) man addressing younger men on how to pursue biblical manly maturity. Note – he doesn’t address this to how to pursue relationships. Owen says to “let the horn sound. Challenge boys and men to follow a different path. Model what this looks like. Show them how to live for Christ, and to serve family, church, and society.” Love it. Thank you Owen. Life is more than (for guys) fantasy football, toys, guns, video games, and serving yourself at church. Life is more than (for girls) the next guy, shopping, getting that next promotion, and being thin. Treasure Christ. Pursue Him in everything.
I want to end this already too long post with another Owen quote:
“In all of these things, we need an emphasis on trust in God, the Savior and Shepherd of his people. This is basic but essential. God sent His Son to save our lost souls. That is our chief joy. Every person, single or married, has the opportunity to participate in the work of gospel promotion, to live doxologically such that God is shown – in any and all seasons of life – to be eminently more worth live for than sex, or money, or status, or achievement, or even the natural family.” Treasure Christ. Pursue Him.