Bringing God into Dating: Arranged marriages to continual whispers?

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Firstly, an apology: this is long overdue. I won’t attempt to make any excuses, other than to say two words: World Cup.

Last time I wrote a few thoughts on the general idea of bringing God into our dating (read them here). I hope you found that helpful and thought-provoking. Today, I am casting my eye over the portion of Andre and Rachel’s book that reflects on the history of dating culture. As an amateur history aficionado, I found this particularly interesting. They do a great job of charting the evolution of relationships from a logical choice of the most economically beneficial option available, to the advent of courtship and genuine feelings. What really got me thinking though is this idea of arranged relationships.

The statistic that 55% of marriages today are still arranged genuinely shocked me. At face value, this is an alien concept, living in the post-modern western world where choices are ours and ours only, and criticism of them is unacceptable, however good or bad they may be. However, the more I have reflected on Christian community today, there are some unsavoury elements of arranged relationships that linger, albeit unspoken.

Let me illustrate this with a story about two of my friends: Max and Isabel (I have used fake names for discretion). They are both well respected, well liked members of their church community. They are very good friends. They share similar interests and are from similar parts of the world. They are both single. Inevitably, the whispers started to begin. “What’s the deal with those two?” said some inquisitively. “When are those two going to get it on?!” another demands after several pints in the local. Others are more diplomatic: “I think they’re just a great fit for each other.” One day I speak to Max about it. His response is unequivocal: “It’s not a thing.”  So that is that. Or is it? The whispers continue.

My point here is that in this situation, there are real Pressures on both Max and Isabel from their community, and pressures that arguably reflect those seen in traditional arranged marriages. There are expectations of romance, when the reality is that both parties aren’t even thinking about that. And that can be damaging and dangerous.

This post doesn’t come as condemnation; after all, I’ve been just as guilty as anyone else of this in the past. My hope is that it gets us thinking about how we can support each other positively, both in singleness and in relationships, as ultimately this is what God calls us to. Jesus wants us to speak words of affirmation and encouragement to each other. Who knows, maybe Max and Isabel may end up together. But that isn’t for us to decide or to arrange. Rather, we need to encourage and support, and let each other genuinely walk in the freedom that God has given us. I’ll leave you to talk to God about the following:

‘Who can I encourage and support that may be feeling pressure, either in their singleness or their relationship, and how can I do this?’

Once again, thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

By Tim Emerton
Follow me @TimEmerton

This blog is part of a series that is discussing the book ‘The Dating Dilemma: A Romance Revolution’ written by Rachel Gardner and André Adefope. For more info on the book, or to order a copy, click here. 

according to Stooshe, Can you look but not touch?

This is all about unfaithfulness. Why is faithfulness and trust so important to relationships?

Could you date someone you did not trust? Would you want to be trusted by them?

Listen to the first verse. It says ‘I handle looks, but never touch’. Do you think it is okay to ‘check out’ other people? Why?

Do you/would you like it if your boy/girl friend did it to you? Would it make you feel valued, worth something and good enough?

Some people say trust has to be earned. How can you build trust in your relationship, in big ways and small ways?

According to Emeli Sande, what really matters in a relationship?

What is this song about?

How much importance do we place on passion and fun over support and friendship in our relationships? Is that a good thing?

How can we/will we foster these ideals more in our relationships?

Listen to the first verse. Is sacrificing these things hard to do?

Could we sacrifice the things we liked doing for our relationship? How much should we/can we sacrifice these things?

Bringing God into Dating: The introduction

First of all, an introduction: my name is Tim, I’m 23, a recent graduate and a single man. As I hope you’ll discover, there is more to me than those four things, but for the purposes of introducing this blog that will just about do for now.

You are reading what is set to be the first in a series of thoughts unpacking some of the issues explored in Rachel Gardner and Andre Adefope’s book ‘The Dating Dilemma’. As a twenty-something single Christian, I certainly am within their target audience. So, who better to work their way through this book and take a look at some of what is said, I hear you saying?! Well, indeed. That task has been bestowed on my good self.

My hope is that this blog be helpful for both those who have and have not read the book. For those of you who have, I hope I can bring some new or different thoughts to your own – things to agree with, disagree with, fight with and maybe even be infuriated with! And if you haven’t read the book, that’s ok as well! But maybe get it. Worst case scenario, you can pass it on to a relative as a cheap Christmas present. Best case scenario, it could change your life!

So, to it then. The first thing that should be said is that it is generally refreshing to hear issues and challenges that surround relationships being vocalised. While no-one needs a pity party, it is important to say that, actually, there are things that are pretty difficult, and it’s important to talk about them openly in a way that confronts the issue at hand, rather than sweeping things under the carpet. I appreciate the guys acknowledge that some of these difficulties won’t necessarily go away. What is important that we put in place a method of dealing with issues WHEN not IF they arise. By doing this, we can be equipped to handle whatever comes our way well, be it positive or negative.

At this point, it’s probably for the best that I start to practise what I’ve just preached above (wish me luck). To a line found in the first few chapters of the book. The following quote is one that absolutely summarises my love life: “Sitting back and waiting for things to happen, rather than discerning what God wants me to do next from a place of intimacy.” Perhaps I’m overly self-critical, but this is it. In one sentence. They’ve nailed it! It is strange that I have no problems speaking to God about pretty much anything else, but this seems so often to be a no-go area. Perhaps it is due to previous hurts and disappointments. Maybe I’ve got trust issues. It could even be that I like deciding what I watch on TV. The reality is, it’s probably a bit of all three, and then some.

But that’s ok: we are all a work in progress. I have no doubt that I will get there in due time. It is only by engaging with challenging words like this that the positive change can come about! I honestly believe the key here is knowing who we are and whose we are. In many ways our identity is the lens we look through, and if through that lens we see ourselves as those with Christ in us, the hope of glory, it changes everything – not only in our relationships, but also in all areas of our life. The challenge in my own life is to learn to be more and more intimate with God, and a by-product of that will be an increased awareness of his will, in all areas.

I think that is enough of me for now. I’ll leave you with a couple questions to ponder on: How much of a priority do you place on having time with God that is free from any agenda or list of requests? And how, practically, are you going to get to know God better in the coming days?

Cheers for reading, let’s do this again sometime.

By Tim Emerton
Follow me @TimEmerton

This blog is part of a series that is discussing the book ‘The Dating Dilemma: A Romance Revolution’ written by Rachel Gardner and André Adefope. For more info on the book, or to order a copy, click here. 

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