Today I am going to continue my series on 90’s dating gone bad. (Read this article as an introduction.)
We come to our next rule, that families should be intimately involved in picking our spouses. I include this rule because it was one of the main points in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” Out of all the rules that we made as a Christian culture from the book, I really think we could learn from this one.
I wish that family was as important to our culture as it is to most of the cultures around the world. It breaks my heart that it is not. The importance of materialism and comfort over family is probably the saddest byproduct of our countries’ independence. But the reality is, in our culture there are very few families that are healthy enough to pick our spouses, or to even help us pick our spouses. Fifty percent of them seemed to do a pretty bad job picking their own.
If you have a wonderful believing family that you are close to who you can dialogue with about your dating life, then go for it. If they treat you like an adult but also want to lovingly help you make such a big decision, that’s invaluable. But not all of our families are like that.
If my parents picked a spouse for me, today, it would most likely be a modified kind of a business proposition (like in the Bible) where they found someone who would take care of me and my kids. I’d probably get an accountant with a nice mustache and some good hair on his chest. (For some reason I have vague memories of my mom telling me she liked those things. Weird.)
There is nothing wrong with an accountant with a nice mustache, but I am glad that I have the opportunity to pick a life partner that I deeply love .
I like that I can look for someone that I can dream together with about the kingdom and bringing it here to earth. That I can look for someone that believes like I do: that loving people is one of the most important vocations we can possibly have, even if it doesn’t pay well. A man who who simply brings home a decent paycheck and doesn’t think about the world around us is not enough for me, even though it would probably be enough for my parents.
I like that I can choose the man I will spend the rest of my life with. I feel like that is my right as a human being.
On the other hand, I don’t want to be the selfish, non family oriented American that I just described. I have a new, wonderful family around me, a family called the body of Christ. Most of the intimate friends I have chosen in this season of my life are the kinds of friends that never tell me what to do, that trust me to make my own decisions, but who process with me about all things that are important in my life and give wise advice.
I want to process with my family. I want to tell my family how I feel, and genuinely listen to what they have to say about the relationship that I am in. I trust them. They are not controlling, they love me.(If your family does not make you feel safe and try to control your dating life or you I would suggest running away fast.)
If I had eight of my most trusted friends telling me that they are concerned that the person I’m dating could be a bad fit for me, I would be wise to listen. They can see better than me, since at this stage my brain greatly resembles a bowl of hormonal soup. A bowl of hormonal soup does not often think clearly.
I do make the final decision. They get a vote, I get the biggest vote. But I want the people I trust to be involved in the process.
Another thing I would like to challenge the church on is creating better singles groups so that our “family” can help us in the dating process. Most single groups now involve a bunch of awkward people standing around a punch bowl asking each other if they like star wars. I hate small talk, and so singles groups are the scariest places on earth to me (along with eharmony first dates.)
I went to Bethel church in Redding last year and attended their single life workshop. I was so impressed with the way they went about bringing single people together. We all met in a large group, but had small groups that we sat with every week and had intimate conversations with. The groups were (heaven forbid!) both female and male! And we (heaven’s to Betsy!) talked about very intimate topics in our group like sex, communicating, even struggling with pornography. Somehow the evangelical police did not arrest us, even while talking about those topics with people of the opposite sex.
We also talked about sexual abuse- something I was surprised and incredibly saddened to discover was something many men had suffered. It was the first time many of them felt like they could talk about it, partially because there were women in the group who had gone through the same thing. They felt safe for the first time.I learned so much about men in those groups- the way they think and date and struggle and how to pray for them. All invaluable information.
We were encouraged to date each other without crazy amounts of pressure. In fact, Bethel has their own dating website for passionate Christians, which includes links to wise teachings on dating. (ondaysix.com) Our leaders trusted us to be thinking adults who can date well. It felt good to be trusted as a single person.
My Christian culture has often made me feel like I haven’t gone through the “right of passage” of marriage, and so I am not as mature as married people. Why try to teach me on communication, being a parent, or sex when I don’t need to know any of that? (Except how not to have sex, of course.) The leaders of this group made me feel like this information was important for me to learn, even as a single person. They made me feel like a valuable, thinking adult. I would love to see people taking the initiative to have these kinds of healthy single groups popping up in churches everywhere.
So let’s take this 90’s dating gone bad rule and make it balanced and redeemed. Let’s love each other enough to teach about singleness. . To dialogue about our dating lives in non manipulating, empowering ways. Marriage is a big decision, and it is good to have family around us to walk with when we make big decisions.