Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I Kissed Dating & Got Slapped

People seem to think I'm a matchmaker. I don't know where they get that idea. Just because I tend to enjoy watching this person and that person come together doesn't mean I am involved in making it happen. Well, only occasionally. But I do enjoy watching.

People also often ask me questions about this whole guy/girl thing. I have to admit my personal experience is rather limited. The only girl that I ever got as far as holding hands with is the one I married. But because I am constantly among young adults - and because I like to watch - I guess I have done a fair bit of thinking about this topic.

Here are the questions I would like to tackle today, and I would love some feedback on my answers and my take on what God's word says about this topic. You may think I am out to lunch, and you may be right. So please let me know.
  1. Is there one person out there whom God intends for me to marry?
  2. Is there a gift of singleness / celibacy?
  3. How does God want me to break off my dating relationship?
Before getting started, I want to remind you that this is a recent phenomenon, this ability to choose your own life partner and to develop a romantic relationship with that person before getting married. Not very common prior to the 1920's in Western culture, and still not common in many cultures today. If you think arranged marriages were a bad idea and good riddance, consider that divorce has skyrocketed in just the last century, especially in Western culture.

1. Is there one person out there whom God intends for me to marry?
Even those of us who would answer this question "no" likely hold to the romantic idea that our relationship with the one we love is a match made in heaven. Well, go for it.

Certainly God knows/knew who you are/were going to marry, just like he knew you were going to read this blog post today while eating espresso flake ice cream out of the container. And if today you would like to think there is no better way to read a post than with a container of espresso flake ice cream at your elbow, don't cry to me when tomorrow you discover that sauerkraut sherbet is so much better.

Here is the problem with assuming that God has chosen one person in the world for you marry: Apart from the lack of any biblical promise that God is the personal matchmaker of anyone other than Isaac (Genesis 24), one day you are going to run into a problem. One day, after you have married someone whom you think is the most perfect person in the world, you will meet someone more perfect. It's nearly inevitable, like it is when you buy a pair of new shoes. Someone is going to walk by wearing shoes that look better than the ones you purchased. So did you make a mistake? Was there only one pair of shoes for you and you somehow missed it? Now what?

The solution for many people is to dump the old and move on to the new. Maybe it's because we think we somehow deserve the best, but maybe we share the age-old assumption with Adam and Eve that God has been holding out on us. Rather than being satisfied with the good thing that is in our hand, we reach out for the better thing that is not ours, and death enters our world.

So what am I saying? That there are many people out there who would make you a good husband or wife?

Absolutely. Choose one. Wisely and with much prayer. Be satisfied and grateful.

And when Mr/Ms More Perfect walks by, be happy for their spouse or spouse-to-be, and don't assume that they were made for you or you for them. You can only wear one pair of shoes at a time, and when it comes to marriage for most of us that means only one in a lifetime.

2. Is there a gift of singleness / celibacy?
I like easy questions. No.

Those who think otherwise need to read Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 more carefully. After Jesus' famous quote about, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," ("asunder" is such a great word, I had to use the KJV), he says this:
    Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.
And Paul, teaching about marital faithfulness and cautioning spouses not to deprive one another, says this, "I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that."

Many assume from these two places that God gives some people a special ability to stay single. But when Jesus says, "The one who can accept this should accept it," the context shows that he is talking about marriage, not singleness. And Paul's gift is not singleness - he had to be married in order to be a Pharisee - instead, it seems that he is talking about a gift of sexual self-control.

The idea in both passages is that if you can accept God's standards for marriage, you should get married. It is a gift. Unfortunately, in our day of choice, some are not chosen and so miss out on this gift. Others are too busy seeking first his Kingdom. So God gives them something better. As the title of a book suggests, Wide My World, Narrow My Bed.

3. How does God want me to break off my dating relationship?
Here is where I lose some friends. He doesn't want you to break off your dating relationship. Want it from the Bible? Here it is, from Malachi:
    You flood the Lord's altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

    Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

    "I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel.
Whoa! This is talking about marriage, not dating, right?! Well, when your dating relationship has all the trappings of a marriage relationship minus (maybe) the sex, so that when you decide to break it off it hurts you both and everyone around you and you can't be in the same room with one another afterward, is that not divorce?

What kind of relationship on earth should be like that? Is God okay with the two of you never talking to one another again? Never reconciling your differences? Never forgiving one another and being brother and sister in Christ again?

So when I say that God doesn't want you breaking off your dating relationship, what I mean is that you should never get into a relationship that requires breaking off.

Just don't let it get there, until you either decide that you should get engaged and get married (and then God's standards kick in and it is intended to be 'till death do us part), or you decide that you should stay friends and marry someone else.

I hope I'm still your friend. Let me know.