What if it your dating experience was/is less than desirable?
If you are married and have not always lived appropriately, there is still time. Do not beat yourself up about the past. You can be forgiven. If there are things to confess, confess them. Confess to your spouse if you had behaviors and expectations that were less than Godly with him/her. If you participated in activities that were harmful, make them right.
God has plans for those who struggled to maintain purity. God is the God of second chances (opportunities)! From King David to the Apostle Peter, God forgives and gives power to live right.
It is important that husbands and wives confess wrongs committed with each other before marriage. If you ask your spouse for forgiveness and he/she grants forgiveness, you will both be blessed and feel loved because of the truth and honesty. You be the one to confess. Do not expect or demand that your spouse confess. Allow the Holy Spirit to do that. You are not the Holy Spirit and you are not his/her conscience.
If there were indiscretions with other persons, those issues should not be addressed with your spouse. They should be addressed with a trusted same-gender friend or counselor. In most cases they should not be addressed with the person with whom they occurred. That would bring more hurt and pain and disruption than healing. This is not to say that it can never work well but most times it is wrong to do that.
In all cases, confess to God and share with a trusted friend who can support you in these difficult situations. Do not allow Satan to continue to blame and accuse if you have truly repented. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” God is merciful and will forgive. Forgive yourself because God has forgiven you. Forgive your spouse because God has forgiven you. Forgive those who have hurt you because God has forgiven you.
Share appropriately with your family. Tell your children in general statements about your early life and mistakes – no names or specifics. Tell them that you are sharing so they will not make the same mistakes and that you want them to hear about it from you and not from someone else. If anyone ever tells them something about you, have them openly bring the discussion to you.
As Song of Solomon is the story of faithfulness, so Hosea and Gomer is the story of faithfulness in unfaithfulness. The pain of unfaithfulness is excruciating. It is the pain of the cross that Jesus experienced. It is the pain of rejection. You may be called to share that pain. You may be called to bear that pain. God is love and so must we be. God has boundaries and so must we. As Hosea did, so we can do.
Focus on your marriage. I tell young couples to ‘Never lose the wonder of that person’ who promised to share life with you.” We can learn to love the person to whom we are married even if there are struggles. Life can get pretty mundane, but never lose the wonder of the love in your heart for your spouse and his/hers for you. That will make every day new and fresh and alive. God’s mercies are new every morning and so must our’s be.
Cultivate your marriage like a garden. Make the love of God visible to the world around you by living a loving marriage. Invest time and energy to make things as they should be. Marriage can be wonderful, like Christ and His Church. Marriage can be horrible, worse than a bad dream. Selfishness is the primary culprit.
Do not be selfish. Think and live for the other person. Join them in their pursuits. Build them up with words and actions. Feel their hurts and disappointments. Get to know them. Find out about their joys and fears. Bring healing into their life. Care and love and listen. Listen to their voice and listen to their heart. Invest time in them. Dividends will come to you.
Watch your wondering eyes and thoughts. They will get you into trouble. You will have many friends but you may only have intimate thoughts about one person – your spouse. Do not allow thoughts to develop into plans – not even in your mind even if they never are lived out.
Do not allow harmful or destructive influences into your life – no matter how attractive they may be. Say no when no is called for. Develop the best in yourself and others. Say yes to God and His Kingdom. Keep sin outside the door.
Celebrate your marriage. God wants your spouse to be loved and He has chosen you
to be the one to love him/her. Never lose the wonder of the romance you experienced. Never lose the wonder that this person has chosen you. Be grateful. Be thankful. Thank your spouse for little details that can so easily be taken for granted. Bring little bits of joy into your lives. Enjoy things that are not expensive.
Never give up. God loves you. There is joy in life and in eternity,
And the best is yet to come.
Some additional comments:
The mingling of young men and women in schools and on the mission field that is happening now simply did not happen then. Very little opportunity was there for that. It is not a bad thing. It is good. It is an opportunity for character observation and friendship. It is a good introduction to persons who may be ideally suited for each other.
Has courtship ‘fixed’ things? Hearts were broken then. Hearts are broken now. That has not changed. That is just part of the process. It will not be a perfect process. It is part of learning and maturing. Careful living will prevent some of those unfortunate stresses but, we learn from those experiences also.
Young men, if you are attracted to a young lady, make a plan to get to know her. Do not expect her to accept a commitment to marry you without really knowing who you are. Get acquainted as families. Visit together and get to know her in that safe way. If time proves compatibility, then pursue further commitment. If not, then not.
Young ladies: it is not wrong to express interest in a young man. Gently, carefully, get to know him and see if he responds appropriately. If a young man contacts you and/or your Dad, have your dad suggest some family meetings so you can get acquainted in a safe environment and learn to know the family.
What about the accusation of “casual dating” for which we were presumably guilty? What is casual dating? I am not sure. I am not recommending dating for wrong purposes. Dating is to get to know someone and make to decisions about the future in the fear of God. That is not casual.
A return to dating would bring a return to clarity. When you spend time with a person you can become friends. Then you can plan to marry your friend. Too often courtship is based on a limited exposure to a person. If that person becomes your friend, you no longer think simply of their appearance and personality. You think in terms of the whole person.
The current dating situation seems to be an attempt to prevent the first commission. Youthful energies are siphoned off in good and bad behaviors.
Good: Bible Schools, missions, education, careers, medicine, building, etc.
Bad: – wrong types of music – porn – movies – sexual behaviors, etc.
There is a lack of Bible principles as the basic foundation of life.
Wrong things are shaping culture the culture at large and are now shaping the Christian culture also. When we adopt or adapt to those things, we lose the Godly culture shaped by the Bible. That needs to be restored.
The Old Order groups have not gotten caught up in the newer dating approach. Among the Old Order groups, dating and marriage are happening. And, yes I know, there are wrong behaviors. That is not necessary and not all of them are misbehaving. Some of them have high standards and are keeping those standards.
Many things have changed but, some things never change.
Ladies, you are the gate-keepers. If you say, no – the answer is no. You have to say yes to allow a young man into your life. Be discerning. Be kind. Be wise.
Men– you are the warriors. You need to fight for her heart. You need to win her approval. You need to live a life that will attract a Godly young lady. She needs to know that you are a safe and Godly man. If you are not, you can start today. Be wise. Be gentle. Be courageous. Be polite.
After years of doing counseling, I notice that there is a fear of disclosing feelings. Dating can become an academic exercise. It should be deeper than that. It is OK to love someone. It is OK to have strong healthy feelings for that person. It is OK to express those feelings in healthy, appropriate ways. Strong feelings are a natural part of being in love. It is OK to be in love. It is wonderful to be in love.
Read the Song of Solomon. It is a graphic account of two people who are totally in love with each other. That is a wonderful way to live. That is God’s way. He recognizes that she is a “locked garden” before they are married. Her brothers guide her in a way that is consistent with whom she is. Love is not awakened until the time is right. She dreams about him. He is totally taken up with her. This is the Bible love story.
It can be your story too. If you never marry, it is the story of God and you as part of His bride. If you date and marry, it can be the story of your dating and marriage. It is filled with wise counsel. Read it. Believe it. Enjoy it.
Could the dating practices of the past work today? Why would that type of dating not work today? It could and it should. Dating/courting today is somehow behind a cloak of secrecy. If you like someone, you are not supposed to express that.
It was not a problem for me to ask a brother if his sister had interest in me. In that way some embarrassment could be avoided on both parts. It was not unheard of for a sister to tell her brother that one of her friends had interest in him.
Friendships would develop in a casual manner and could continue to grow if there was mutual agreement. As friendships became more serious, we would “go steady.” Before that time both were free to date other persons. If you were going steady, you would only date that one person. That would be a time to know the person and their family even better. Eventually engagement (lasting typically 3-6 months) would culminate in marriage.
All of this passed off the scene in many places due to books that were written, seminars that were popular, and church groups that felt a need to control the practices. The current system of dating/courting is troubling for many youth. Sure, you know friends for whom it worked out perfectly. Those ‘perfect’ situations reinforce the current practices but leave many young men and women adrift amidst uncertainty and confusion.
Courting today means marriage. That is too much of a commitment to make with little knowledge of the other person. That is one reason young people are reluctant to begin courtship. They agonize over asking a girl or saying yes to a young man. The commitment is just too high to make to someone you hardly know. Dating provided time for getting to know the other person without that commitment of marriage.
I know, life is supposed to be perfect. Books and seminars and Bible schools have made that plain. But, it is not plain. It is confusing. Life is not perfect. Life is for joy and for living. Will there be problems? Of course. Life has joy and sorrow. That will always be.
So many young men are being turned-down. Why? So many young ladies are not being asked. Why? When I see all the wonderful young ladies who are not dating today, I can only ask one question, Where are the young men? They should be dating and marrying these girls.
Many young men are being rejected because the commitment to court means marriage. The girls are not ready to make that commitment to someone they hardly know. After a young man is rejected several times, he can easily feel rejected and give up. So girls, give the young men an opportunity to prove themselves. Accept a date for a social evening and get acquainted. I know, this sounds like heresy but, this is how we lived and it was good.
Many young ladies are not being asked. Why not? It seems that many young men are looking for more impressive girls (whatever that means). It is time for that to change. Men, ask someone who is not on everyone’s list. You will be blessed and so will she.
Many good, hard working, smart, talented girls are not even being asked. I see these girls. I hear their stories. Many of then would just love to be married. They would be wonderful wives and mothers. Make their friendship, spend time with them. Be a gentleman. Get to know them and their families. Be worthy of their time.
No one is perfect but, someone could be perfect for you. Just because someone is not a carbon-copy of your ideal does not mean that they are flawed. They, like you, may need some encouragement to be more Godly and diligent. Marriage is wonderful. It is God’s way of continuing His work among His creation. We are all part of that.
Marriage is God’s plan. “Be fruitful and multiply” was the original commission to mankind. It is still the commission today. Jesus reinforced that in Matthew 19. Exactly how to date and marry is not spelled out. We need to provide the best ways of doing that in our culture.
(This is long so maybe no one will read it.)
This is about dating. Or courting if you wish. It is more about then than now because I was a participant then and I am not now. I understood dating then. I do not understand dating now. Even though I have invested most of the last 30 years teaching young people, I do not understand the current dating scene.
What is a date? “A date is an appointment with a person. It has a plan and a beginning and an end.” Thus spoke a Mennonite Bishop in the 1960’s. You make a plan to spend time with a person and you make the appointment and you keep the appointment and be as good as your word. You, the young man, tell the young lady what time you will be at her house and what you are planning for the date. If you are going somewhere together you tell her what time you will arrive at her house and what time you will bring her home again. You do exactly as you said you would.
Many times the young man was met at the door by the girl. Sometimes he was met at the door by one of the parents – typically the mother with one or more little children peering out from behind her apron. Oftentimes cheerful words were exchanged. I can still feel the nervous excitement of driving in the lane and walking to the door and knocking and waiting to see who would answer the door.
The girls were pursued – in good and healthy ways. We, the young men, wanted to date the young ladies. Had I not acted on my interest in dating the young lady who is now my wife, someone else would have dated her. I wanted to marry her so I pursued her and asked her to marry me.
What is/was a date. A date could be as innocent as going out for a milk shake with a girl. It could mean going to a Sunday evening singing or a ball game. It could mean offering to take her home from a church service. It was a fun time. It was not a marriage proposal. It did not mean we were dating. It was an opportunity to get to know a person in a natural setting for a good time of fellowship.
Those experiences allowed us to get to know the other person without the commitment of long-term relationship. It was understood that it was a time to get acquainted. If the experience was mutually enjoyable it could be repeated by planning another date. If either person was not interested in pursuing that level of friendship, it could be discontinued without further emotional bonding.
Of course, then as now, the girls have the last word. If they say, “yes” it is yes. If they say, “no” it is no. That is the reality of being a young man in the dating scene. And, of course, there were guys and girls who did not behave in Godly and wholesome ways. That will never change. Those are personal decisions. Dating processes do not change those types of decisions.
Dating then had clarity. If I asked a young lady to accompany me somewhere, she had the privilege to say “yes” or to say “no.” We both had clarity. If I asked her for another time then she knew that I was interested. If I did not ask, she knew that I was not pursuing the relationship.
It worked. More persons married younger than are now. Most (not all) persons had opportunity to date. Some chose to not date. It was a good social time. We typically double-dated – two couples going somewhere together. We would come “home” to the home of one of the girls. She would have made some preparation of snack or treat. (This is beginning to sound idyllic. That is not an accident. In my opinion, it truly was a blessing.)
Were there improprieties? Of course. There always will be. That is the fault of the persons, not the fault of the methods. “Casual dating” for the purpose of wrong behaviors did occur. I lived then. I dated then. Many of us dated and had a good time without engaging in sinful behaviors.
Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core.
They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins.
Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope.
Lamentations 2:14 NLT
Girls and Boys
Recently I have come across another resource for girls. That is great. No problem. But, where are the resources for the boys? We are doing well at raising our girls. Not perfect, but generally well. Boys – that’s a different story.
It is more difficult to raise boys. Boys are easily distracted and enticed. They have the hormones to make them into men. Those hormones must be channeled and challenged. Left to themselves, those energies will send them wrong. They must be directed and shown what is right and appropriate. They must be shown by words and examples. They must be shown early.
For every princess we raise, someone, somewhere needs to raise a prince. If we are to have good, healthy families into the future we need both. How can we do that? Specifically, how can we raise good boys to become Godly men?
My Dad was intentional about raising boys – he had three boys, no daughters. He was not an impressive man. He impressed me. His word was law. No whining. No back-talk. No challenges to his authority. He held a tight reign. I never doubted his integrity. He would do what was right. No doubt about that.
He had opinions about everything. He expressed those opinions. Those opinions shaped my thinking. He did not care what other people thought of him. He did what he knew was right – he stood alone when that was called for – that was most of the time.
He had many faults. He could not manage money. By the time I was 14 years old I had more money than he did. He never caught up. It does not matter. His discipline was harsh – too harsh at times. I knew he loved me even though it did always feel that way.
My high school curfew was 10:30 P.M. None of my friends had such an early curfew. If I was not home on time, he came looking for me.
High school graduation evening he said, “Son, You are on your own now. No more curfews.” I was in bed by 10:30.
He was strong – sometimes too strong. He raised three sons. He was demanding of himself and of us. He never called me a prince. I knew what he expected. He expected me to be a prince.
Obey, work, behave, treat everyone with respect. Treat old people with respect. Treat girls and ladies with utmost respect. Give a day’s work for a day’s pay. Live within the law. If something is wrong, don’t do it. Use respectful language – no foul talking. No course jesting. Total honesty. No shady deals. Zero tolerance for disrespect.
You do not have to be perfect to raise good boys to be Godly men. My Dad was not. I am not. We did. It was my goal to improve on my Dad’s skills.
That is how you raise a prince. That is how you raise a Godly man.
The princesses are waiting.