Friday, August 12, 2005

Dating: Target

A particular morning's storm heralded the approach of one bone-chilling day too many. Quaking in the unrelenting cold of the office, almost freezing my extremities off, my old riding injuries started flaring up. So we did what a bunch of sensible people would do: I slapped on an analgesic/anti-inflammatory patch and we headed down to the nearest pub to shoot a bit of pool, noosh on steaming hot Irish grub, lamb stew and butter chicken, watch re-runs of the Tri-Nations on cable.

Lulled into a confessional stupour by the good food and drink, and the collegiate warmth of congenial mates on cushy chairs, someone related his pre-dating woes.

We dating veterans who'd been there, done that, given and received small mounds of the usual love tokens and furry toys, well-versed in the cheesy vocabulary of sweet nothings, and who had been fairly bemused by the obsessiveness with which Christian singles seemed to insist on talking about dating and boy-girl relationships, nodded sanguinely. No longer part of the dating game, we endeavoured to administer beery love and objective advice.

The purpose of dating is to find a marriage partner, intoned Boddington buddy, wagging a fatherly finger. Dating is not just for fun. You do not date to pass the time, or because you're feeling lonely, or because of peer pressure because everyone else has a girl and they keep asking you when you are going to get one. You date with the intention, as far as possible and if all turns out alright, of marrying the lass.

Why did Pre-dating Woe-d Man want to get married? Would he serve God better as a single and be more single-minded about what God rather than be distracted by his wife as a married? Would he be more concerned about the matters of eternal value as a single rather than be concerned about how to please his wife as a married? (1 Corinthians 7)

Hearing his answer, we then, in an affectionate display of our Singaporean-and-one-Chris-Chia-sermon-too-many-ness, administered the 3 T dating advice:
(1) Target
(2) Timing
(3) Technique

Target
It is important to acquire a spouse properly in wisdom and not blindly in lust like the pagans (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). [Yes, nice cushy chairs and warm food in the tummy do that to us.] Because dating is with a view to marriage and marriage is for life, therefore dating is not to be entered into lightly or frivolously.

Our romanticised ideal of a girlfriend/wife (long flowing hair, big innocent eyes, clear rosy kissable cheeks, tall, slim, busty etc [Note: if lady is tall, slim and busty and is wearing stilettos to boot, Confucius he say and gravity dictates that she will fall over very often. Which won't help her face much.]) is often very different from what God says matters:
  • noble character (Proverbs 31:10): not aesthetic beauty, not as a trophy so your friends can gasp and wonder how you managed such a catch, not school smarts or a high IQ, not niceness, but noble character. It's not just ticking the boxes: she goes to church, she goes to DG, she does one-to-one bible studies, she helps at the old folks'/orphans' homes, she's cheerful and friendly, but how God figures in her life and in her decision-making.
  • hardworking: under God, is she a slacker and a sponger who lives off the charity of others so she can laze at home with imagined complaints? He who does not work, should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
  • sensible: how is her economic sense? What does she do with her money and how does she spend it? Does she plan to save, to invest, to give to God's work? How does she make her financial decisions to save, invest or give to God's work?
  • prudent (Proverbs 19:14): does she weigh things up before speaking or acting? Is she wise in the LORD (ie. does she fear God) in all she does?
  • not quarrelsome (Proverbs 21:9, 21:19, 27:15)
  • trustworthy: is her word as good as gold or must you attempt to read between the lines and second guess her meanings? Does she keep confidential that which she has promised not to disclose to others? Can you take her at her word?
  • worldview: Does she buy into the world's views and obsessions? How does she view the world? Where does she get her ideas from?
  • priorities: what are her priorities in life? Career, money, the approval of others, your approval, power, appearing godly, getting married? How does she use her time and resources? Does she live just for her own pleasure and happiness?
  • where does she find her value? In herself: her looks, body, brains, character, achievements? In God and being in relationship with him?
  • other-person-centredness: what are her topics of conversation? Is she someone who is not self-centred, who doesn't talk about herself all the time? Does she care for other people even when she thinks no one is looking?
  • helper (Genesis 2): can you have confidence in her...to help you in your work of taking care of God's kingdom? Can you be sure that if you stray away from God, she will help to bring you back no matter how much you hate her for it at that point in time?
  • what kind of mother will she be? Will she be able to bring up your children up in love and in the instruction of the LORD? Will she patiently discipline them? Will she put you and them before her career that she worked long and hard to build up? (Titus 2:4-5, Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 22:15)
  • faithfulness: is she faithful to God? Will she be faithful to you? How does she work out difficulties and conflicts? Does she pretend they aren't there? Run away? Hide? Push the responsibility? Blame others? Is she steady? Stable? Responsible? How does she chose her friends? Those that are most fun and happening? Those that are rich and generous? How does she treat her friends? Is she loyal and does she take care of them and hold them accountable? Do they grow together in Christ? Does she betray them, emotionally blackmail them or manipulate them?
  • is she desperate for a relationship/marriage? Or is she satisfied with her singleness under God? If the former, she will depend on you rather than depend on God. She will love you more than she will love God. You will be more important than God in her life. You will become her idol. It would be unloving and unwise for you to encourage her to put her hope in another human by starting a dating relationship.
  • of course these were just some general areas to consider. Everyone is a work-in-progress and every believer is being sanctified daily. But the main general criteria must be that she is someone who really fears the LORD in her life and is struggling and taking positive steps to live for him and under him.
Loads of Christian books then turn on the "Christian Humility" on the selector and urge him to prepare himself for marriage by getting into shape too.

With such surfeit of humility, we therefore humbly suggested that such urgings were a complete load of rubbish. The Bible doesn't tell us to get ready for marriage. Marriage isn't supposed to be anyone's goal in life at all. Our relationship with God is the most important thing, so if we are to be concerned or obsessed with marriage, it should be our marriage to God. So stop all that nonesense about preparing yourself for your future spouse. Unless of course that spouse is Christ.

*******

Dating: Timing
Dating: Technique

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