Sunday, December 04, 2005

Habits of Highly Defective Dating, Part 2

Continued look at the habits of highly defective dating from the excellent book I Kissed Dating Good-Bye by Joshua Harris.

4. Dating can distract young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.
We cannot live in the future, but neglecting our current obligations will disqualify us for tomorrow’s responsibilities. Being distracted by love is not such a bad thing—unless God wants you doing something else. One of the saddest tendencies of dating is to distract young adults from developing their God-given abilities and skills. Instead of serving in their local church, instead of equipping themselves with the character, education, and experience necessary to succeed in life, many allow themselves to be consumed by the present needs that dating emphasizes. Dating may help you practice being a good boyfriend or girlfriend, but are these the skills we need for marriage? Even if you’re going out with the person you will one day marry, a preoccupation with being the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend now can actually hinder you from being the future husband or wife that person will one day need.

5. Dating can cause discontentment with God’s gift of singleness.
God gives us singleness—a season of our lives unmatched in its boundless opportunities for growth, learning, and service—and we view it as a chance to get bogged down in finding and keeping boyfriends and girlfriends. Recreational dating causes dissatisfaction because it encourages a wrong use of freedom. God has placed a desire in most men and women for marriage. Although we don’t sin when we look forward to marriage, we might be guilty of poor stewardship of our singleness when we allow a desire for something God obviously doesn’t have for us yet to rob our ability to enjoy and appreciate what He has given us. Dating plays a role in fostering this dissatisfaction because it gives single people just enough intimacy to make them wish they had more. Instead of enjoying the unique qualities of singleness, dating causes people to focus on what they don’t have.

6. Dating can create an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.
As in a game of basketball, anyone can look like a pro when the basket has been lowed several feet, but that’s only because the standard has been lowered. Raise it back up to 10’ and the same guy won’t look quite so hot. In a similar way, dating creates an artificial environment that doesn’t require a person to accurately portray his or her positive and negative characteristics. On a date, a person can charm his or her way into a date’s heart. He drives a nice car and pays for everything; she looks great and acts as sweet as she can be. But who cares? Being fun on a date doesn’t say anything about a person’s character or ability to be a good husband or wife. What they really need to do is see each other in real life situations. They need to watch each other serving and working. They need to see how they handle stress and troubles. How does the person interact with the people who know him best? How does she react when things don’t go perfectly? These are the kinds of questions we need the answers to in considering someone as a potential mate—questions dating just won’t answer.

7. Dating often becomes an end in itself.
To often instead of dating being the bridge between friendship and marriage, it becomes the destination—not ending but not moving on either. We just date to date. Singles who grow accustomed to this dating limbo often find it difficult to leave. It’s so comfortable! Because they can experience many of the emotional and, sadly, even physical privileges of marriage in their dating relationships, many people (men in particular) find little motivation for committing themselves to marriage. And in a secular mindset, why should they? Why make huge commitments, when they’re already getting all they want? As the old saying goes, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” For the man or woman who is ready to get married, the dating scene and the habits it encourages aren’t helpful. It can seem like you’re making something happen but you might just be getting into a holding pattern of one short-term relationship after another.

If you’ve done any dating, this all probably sounds familiar to you. I think that for too long we’ve approached relationships using the world’s mindset and values, and if you’ve tried it, you might agree that it just doesn’t work. Don’t waste any more time wrestling with the swerving cart of dating. It’s time for a new attitude.