July 24, 2012

Courtship Doesn't Win You More "Holy" Points

When I was in high school I got a ton of books on dating and courtship shoved my way, because that's what you do when you're single. You read books on how to become un-single. But then something happens... something they don't really tell you in all those books, but rather I found out once I got to that point where I actually went out on a few dates, hung around more guys, and attachments/"friendships" were made:

It isn't anything like the books make it out to be.  

And it wasn't just me either. Friends of mine and acquaintances had the same discovery. Leaving us to answer the questions like, "Should I be the courtship girl... or can I still go out on dates with the purpose of finding a spouse?" or, "Should I kiss dating goodbye?" or "Realistically speaking, which principles do I want present in my love story?" and others like them. It often feels in the Christian world there's a pressure to choose between two camps: courtship or dating. There isn't an in-between camp called 'dorting.' At least not to my knowledge. And somehow those who choose the courtship camp get more brownie points than those who choose the other. Like there's this unwritten clause that says courtship wins you more sanctification and holy points. And that those who choose dating aren't as romantic because they don't want a Jane Austin/Anne of Green Gables/fairy-tale-like story.

Just so we're clear here, courtship wasn't the way relationships were done back in Jesus day. I know for some people that's a shock, but it's true. In fact during that time in history marriages were arranged (and still are in some parts of the world for that matter). Do we have any votes for that? I didn't think so. The point is courtships fail, and dating fails (they've both been successful as well). It's not that courtship or dating is the problem, but rather us, the people. We're the common factor, and both are man-made... so there's going to be flaws. Just because a person is committed to courtship, doesn't entitle them to an awesome marriage or a fairy tale anymore than someone who dates. Following some relationship formula doesn't guarantee us easy, wonderful, romantic, godly marriages. In fact, relationships and formulas hardly ever go together. That's not even the model that God gives us in His love for us. His love is not based off of some formula. God works in dating and God is at work in courtship. Not exclusively one or the other.

So this is me laying out my cards or where I personally fall on the debate... or better, how this all looks in my life... does that make sense? I'm saying this is where I'm at now and how I go about navigating this whole relationship thing in my everyday life. You can totally disagree with me. That's fine. I'm not going to be offended by that whatsoever. Dating/Courtship is a gray issue. Ok... here ya go...

I'm Purposeful. I don't just date for the sake of dating. I'm in my 20's now, which means I'm on the lookout for a husband. That's the end goal in mind. I'm not flippant about who I date/or am in a relationship with either.

I'm Pro-Boundaries.
  • Don't go too deep too soon in conversations. Personally, I don't need to know a guy's baggage right off the bat. There's a reason people tell you not to discuss previous relationships on the first, second, or third date, because depending on the person it can be overwhelming. And sometimes it even shows that you're not really over the previous girl. Like it's still too fresh or too recent, and thus, it's probably not time to move forward into a new relationship just yet. I don't need all your dirt at first, and I'm not going to give you mine either. If we're just going out on coffee dates here and there, then I don't think you need to be privy of all my past, you know? Just because you date someone doesn't mean they get the key that lets them have full access to everything about you and your heart. And girls especially have a tendency to do this. They want to go too deep too soon and have these intense conversations, rather then taking the time to build up and invest trust in the relationship. There should be appropriate disclosure  in any type of a relationship depending on it's nature. I just think that the heavier conversations should be done purposefully and prayerfully. They require vulnerability and honesty. So in order for those conversations to occur, there needs to be a level of trust established before you and I start discussing things such as past relationships, baggage, fatherwounds, etc.
  • I don't say "yes" to just anyone. I will and have said "no." I do have standards as to the who I will date. I don't particularly think they're unreasonable or nit-picky, but I do have some none the less. They need to love Jesus and be actively pursuing him. I don't have the time and energy to date guys who don't, or I'm convinced that the relationship could never reach "marriage potential."
  • Sex is off the table until there's a ring on my hand, (*"If ya like it, you shoulda put a ring on it!"), vows are exchanged, and the preacher announces me as a Mrs. There's no negotiating on that one as well as a some other physical boundary lines I have. Now, saving the first kiss till the wedding day or holding hands? That's kind up in the air for me. I greatly respect those who wait that long... but I don't know if that's the route I'd take. Those would be negotiable for me... I guess. At this point it would just sorta depend on the guy, the relationship... the situation... yeah... I don't have my mind made-up on those little signs of physical affections at this moment in time.
  • I'm not going to be the stand-in girl. Been there, done that. It's awful. And by "stand-in" I mean you're used as an emotional crutch for someone else until the person they really want to date becomes available to them. It's a really unfair position to be in. We call that manipulation and leading someone on, which is sorta based in selfishness... no thought for another's feelings. You either want to date me, or you want to date some other girl... in which case, I'm not going to be your "stand-in." 
  • I do try to keep my emotions in check and seek wisdom... which is what it means to guard your heart. Emotions can be tricky though... and emotional "purity" (if such a thing exists... there's a whole debate going on with that) is murky water to navigate for sure... but that's a whole other post for a different day. The point: seek wisdom. Like crazy. Because people do dumb things when it comes to dating and relationships.
I've Got My Naomi. I do my best to listen, carefully consider, and seek out the advice/wisdom of my mentors and those who are my spiritual covering, and I'd highly recommend that to others as well. With courtship usually that's the dad, but for a lot of us, including myself, our dads are not our spiritual coverings or mentors for one reason or another. But we still need others to help us spot red flags, as well as celebrate with us =)

I'm Not Anti-Matchmaking. I know some people don't like matchmaking or online websites because for some reason they don't think that that's allowing God to bring the couple together, but I disagree. God does use these kinds of people and "venues" to bring others together. As far as the online thing goes, I'll just let you go read John Piper's and Tim Challies responses since they pretty much sum up what I think about it.

I'm Committed To Certain Values. I carry my values into my dating life just as much as any other area of my life, which has a way of weeding out the guys who don't share those same values. A value is something someone "holds in high regard" and honors. Things like my faith, purity, family, etc.

I'm Not Perfect. *Big shocker there, I know.* I wish I could convey to others how so much of my "philosophy" or view on relationships is still in the works... one day I think one thing, another day I want to ratify what I previously thought because of maybe a situation I was in or a conversation I had... I'm not set in stone with everything I think or say. I haven't perfected the art of relationships... and am far from it... which I rambled about in this post months ago.

I Love the Lord... which means I'm looking for someone who does to. I want someone who's seeking to honor and love Christ, which then should lead to loving and honoring each other, all the while letting God bring us together by whatever means He may use.
The way a man loves God is the way he will love you. The way a woman loves God is the way she will love you. If someone is cerebral about their approach to God, they will be cerebral in their approach to loving you. If someone is passionate about serving God, they will be passionate about serving you. If a person is apathetic towards their commitment to God, they will eventually be apathetic towards their commitment to you. -Bianca Jurez
So did I kiss dating hello and courtship goodbye?

I have no flippin' idea. 

I guess.

And I'm ok with that.

But I'm not earning less "holy brownie points" by taking this path either. Let's not turn the courtship/dating debate into a "who is more sanctified than the other" war. 

*First time I've ever quoted Beyonce. I think I deserve some extra bonus points or a reward for that. 
 **While it's not a particularly active blog anymore, there are some really interesting articles and discussions happening over at I Kissed Dating Hello. Might be something to check out.

17 comments :

  1. amen sister. i havent personally read this book, but people i trust have, its called "boundaries in dating" by john townsend (and i think also henry cloud?). i hear that it affirms dating, just with certain boundaries. i love how you despise and fight legalism girl!

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  2. Yes =) I have read bits and pieces of that book. And from what I've read there's some great point made by the authors. Although, now I kinda just read a marriage book here and there, and not a ton of dating/courtship books anymore... which I think is actually better =)

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  3. I remember reading "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" in or shortly after high school. I think I forced myself to read the whole book, the details are kinda sketchy but I clearly remember throwing the book across the room after I read it. One person's idea is definitely not right for everyone.

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  4. preach it girl:) Christ came to bring freedom, and it's sad that some people live in so much bondage to the "right" way to do certain things! The right way is always Jesus, so as long as you are following him, and listening to his word, and the counsel of Godly people, then sweet! My dating relationship with Kev looked different than other people, but that's because everyone is unique and different, and in different places in their lives when they date. It's ok. My mom would tell me that over and over, because I had this idea or expectation that it should look like xyz. When I found that freedom, I embraced the uniqueness of our story and God has done so much in and through it! You are so good at putting thoughts into words:) love this! love Katie

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  5. you do get brownie points for quoting Beyonce haha
    and I love this:
    "It's not that courtship or dating is the problem, but rather us, the people."

    I like courting a lot. In fact, I've never met anyone or know anyone who has courted/is courting. We like that it is not mainstream. It's a label that satisfies curious people and spark interesting conversations. To me, it's intentional dating—and it has worked for me so far.

    I don't think it wins the general dating vs courting debate, but it does win for me.

    at the end of the day it's the couple that establishes the core values & boundaries of the relationship, whether they label it or not. :D

    "If ya like it, put a ring on it" is true for us all. ;)

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  6. oh, and I forgot to mention! Passion & Purity was the book that most helped me and Louis (we read it individually when we weren't dating each other). Elisabeth doesn't give formulas but she does give biblical guidelines and examples of different couples & how it looked like for them. The majority of these couples had a fulfilling marriage and may or may not have died martyrs, but you get the point!

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  7. I was just about to write a post on this. I'm not even kidding. and It was going to be exactly. the. same. (I would probably have more grammatical errors though - haha!)

    Natalie, this is a wonderful post! After my first serious relationship ended at the beginning of the year, i've had lots of thoughts on how to approach the next one differently. and weighed up the 'courting/dating' thing. Nobody I know has courted. In Australia it's a lot less heard of. You've just articulated everything on my heart at the moment! Love this blog and love your heart! x

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  8. Chantel: Imagining that scene sorta made me chuckle... but I can understand the frustration... although I don't think I've yet to throw a book while reading it ;)

    Katie: Yes! That's the basic gist. Love and pursue Jesus and let that bleed over into how you live your life (in every respect) =)

    Ashley: AMEN! You always have so many great points that I don't explain all that well and you do =) Love your wisdom... and your courtship story has been an encouragement to me in several ways.

    Lauren: Thanks! You should still write your own post too ;) Glad you're enjoying the blog

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  9. I like your straightforwardness, but willingness to talk it over, and maybe change what your believe. You're right, we're all on a journey...so I don't think there's the the same formula for each person, except to just keep your eyes on Jesus, and He'll direct your steps! I enjoy reading your stuff...it gets me thinking. =) Keep it up!

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  10. your blog is like my life manual, right alongside with my Bible.
    but seriously, this is WISDOM right here.
    I loved your "I'm pro-boundaries" points. they're totally where I stand too. all of them

    i'm going to check out the blog :)

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  11. hey natalie!! i nominated you for a liebster award! check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/liebsteraward

    have a great day! :)

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  12. Oh my goodness, this is so incredibly helpful! You've no idea! I even feel liberated reading this! Thank you so much, Natalie!

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  13. holy brownie points...oh my, i love that.
    great post!!

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  14. hi from another college girl! LOVE this post and totally agree with the need for boundaries. your blog is great and i am excited to keep reading :)

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  15. You don't know how encouraging this is to me!! After learning about courtship in church-like groups and then doing everything the "wrong way," I've had trouble finding what is right. I have had guilt for things unworthy of guilt. This post is perfect, though. It gives me the affirmation that I am doing what is right. And you couldn't have written this at a better time! :) Thank you, Natalie!!! :)

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  16. i am unsure of what I have kissed goodbye and have said hello to as well! It's okay, I am just waiting on God to bring me to someone in His time and in His own way, weather it's by dating or courtship. Thank you for this reminder, I read this at the right time, thanks.:)

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  17. I really like this, Nat! I grew up reading a lot of those books, and although there was a lot of good info in many of them, I think every person is created differently and courting vs dating will look different to each of us. I totally agree that there is no formula to follow or Courtship badge to wear so others know you're one of the "good ones". Instead, I am choosing to daily seek Jesus and trust that the Holy Spirit will supply ALL my needs, that includes wisdom in every step of a relationship. He may guide me in a way that looks different than some of the author's opinions or experiences, and that's ok by me. But YES! to your point about having a Naomi in the picture. I am really big on this. I am a girl, so naturally I over-think and overdramatize things, which can get messy in a relationship. I have been making an effort to invite close friends (some the same age, some older; married, single, moms, engaged, etc) to trust with things pertaining to relationships so I can be accountable and discipled by women who follow God's Truth and can see things I may not be able to see through my rose-colored spectacles that relationships can bring.
    SUPER GREAT POST! I have been kinda stalking all your relationship posts and am gleaning so much wisdom! :-)

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