Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boundless Summer Challenge—Task 2

The second task in the Boundless Summer Challenge was to read a series of articles entitled “Biblical Dating” by Scott Croft, think about them, and then discuss the ideas presented in the articles. The series consisted of the following articles:
  • An Introduction
  • To Kiss or Not to Kiss
  • Are You Ready to Date?
  • Just Friends
  • Navigating The Early Stages of a Relationship
  • Growing in Intimacy
  • Tips for Engagement
  • From "Hi" to "I Do" in a Year
I had read them once before—when they were originally published—but that was some time ago. After re-reading the, I find that I agree with the points Mr. Croft makes. I don’t know how to actually live what he has written about, but I trust that God will show the way.

An Introduction
In the first article, appropriately titled “An Introduction,” Mr. Croft states “Surveys consistently indicate that professing Christians behave almost exactly like non-Christians in terms of sexual involvement outside of marriage (in both percentage of people involved and how deeply involved they are — how far they're going), living together before marriage, and infidelity and divorce after marriage.” This fact is very sad. It shouldn’t be this way. As Christians, we are called to be different.

To combat this sad state of relationships among Christians, Mr. Croft suggests a different approach to dating—what he terms “Biblical dating.” He bases his arguments on various portions of Scripture that command us to put others first in some form or fashion in relationships.

Another thing I found interesting in the intro was Mr. Croft’s stance that commitment precedes intimacy on any level. That is, one should not begin to become emotionally intimate with someone outside of a committed relationship (dating/courtship, engagement, marriage) and physical intimacy at any level must wait until marriage. It makes sense. Emotional entanglements outside a committed relationship will lead to pain. If your goal is to build the other person up and treat them in a way that is glorifying to God, why would you engage in activity that does the opposite?

To Kiss or Not to Kiss
My opinion: Not to kiss.
Croft’s opinion: Not to kiss. Specifically he says “I believe the Bible to teach that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, and all romantically oriented physical activity is sexual activity. In my view, this includes premarital kissing.”

His reasoning: Kissing is a precursor to sexual activity and thus to kiss someone to whom you are not married is unwise. It makes you want more.

I think that for a lot of things, we think we can justify it as being “ok” before we do it. That while others may be doing it for the wrong motives, ours will be pure. But then, if we look back on our actions honestly, we find that we are no different from anyone else.

What is the point of asking how far you can go, how close to the line can you get, before sinning? Is there anything God-honoring in edging as close to sin as you can without actually committing the act? Did not Jesus say that to look with lust is to commit adultery, to hat is to murder, and such? Therefore, I would say that the act of getting close to the obvious sin is sin.

Rather than ask “How close to sin can I go?” we should ask, “How close to God can I go?” And the closer to God, the further from sin.

My reasoning is simpler—I want the first man I kiss to be my husband. This means not kissing until after “I do.” Even engagement is not close enough. I may want to kiss him before we’re married, but, God willing, I will wait. We can practice after the wedding.

Are you ready to date?
Croft: In my view, if you can't happily picture yourself married within a year, you're not in a position to date.
Me: Not necessarily married to a particular person, but just married in general. It shouldn’t be a “someday I’ll be ready so I’ll start looking” but an “I’m ready so I’ll start looking.”

Croft: First, the man should initiate asking the woman out
Me: Yes please.  But please be bold about it. I’ve been asked out once and the guy was several car lengths away across the parking lot and not even looking at me. I wouldn’t have gone out with him anyway but if he’d had the courage to look me in the face when he asked, I wouldn’t have come away from the encounter thinking him cowardly. I don’t know any guy that wants to be thought of as a coward.

Croft: He should talk to some of her friends, see if she's been asking about him, have one or two subtly suggestive conversations with her to see if she gives anything away.... NO! This is not initiation.
Me: Indeed. And in my case, it wouldn’t do any good. I don’t talk about such things and tend to be pretty guarded so “putting out feelers” wouldn’t even help.

Croft: Part of your role even at this early stage is to protect the woman of your interest from unnecessary risk and vulnerability by providing a safe context in which she can respond.
Me: I appreciate this greatly. It shows strength in the man that he is willing to risk my rejection and it makes me feel more worthwhile to know someone is going to stick their neck out for the chance to know me.
Croft: The idea [of talking to the girl’s father] was to protect the woman from potential hurt or awkwardness, to aid her in evaluating a man whom she might not have known well at the time of his initiation, and to help ensure that the relationship was carried out honorably.
Me: Yeah. If you go to my dad first, then he gets to deal with the awkwardness. I don’t have the “Uh…what do I say?” moment. Plus, my dad can see things that I can’t. And I love my dad and he loves me so I know he’ll evaluate a potential suitor carefully. He may see something worthwhile in a guy that I hadn’t. Or he may see flaws that need work before he’ll trust me to the guy.

Just Friends
Croft argues that there should be no close, intimate friendships between persons of the opposite sex outside of marriage. I agree. Even in friendships that aren’t particularly close, it is easy for one party to develop romantic feelings for the other. And that leads to pain for the “unrequited” party and, should the feelings ever be known, awkwardness for the other. Croft puts it well when he says “Why risk harm to your own heart or to that of a brother or sister in order to have a type of companionship that, outside of marriage, is arguably questionable anyway?”

Croft: But even if you don't accept that premise [that engaging in the types of emotional intimacy and companionship involved in close male-female friendships — outside of marriage and for their own sake — is wrong], such intimacy is still inadvisable in the sense that it delays and discourages marriage
Me: And if you really want to get married, why would you want to engage in behavior that discourages it?

Navigating the Early Stages of a Relationship
Croft: Guys, tell her why you have initiated or are initiating with her, tell her that you intend to pursue the relationship to determine if marriage to her is the right choice before God
Me: Please! I want to know why you asked me—out of all the girls you could have chosen, why me?

Croft: In these early stages, people should not be spending long hours looking into each others eyes over candle-lit tables or being alone together at one another's apartments. To do so courts temptation
Me: And you want to court the person, not temptation :-P

Croft: Also (and this may seem counterintuitive), I advise folks not to spend long periods in prayer together. Prayer is a wonderful thing, but it's also inherently intimate
Me: Prayer is when you should be most open and bare before God. If you’re praying with someone, then you’re going to either be extremely open toward them or your prayers will be stilted because you’re not willing for them to see that much of you yet.

Growing in Intimacy 
Croft: Remember those long candle-light dinners in restaurants I suggested were unadvisable in the early stages of a relationship? They can actually be good at this stage — especially when compared to long nights "chatting" on the couch at one of your apartments
Me: Yeah, not a good idea—until you’re married.

Tips for Engagement
Croft: Also, what do others (those that both of you have been seeking counsel from, under whose authority the relationship has taken place, Christian friends or family) think of the relationship? Does it look solid to them? Does the relationship seem to be good for both of you spiritually, glorifying to God, and Christ-centered?
Me: Please, please, please do not skip this step!

Croft: The wedding day is just like every other day in the Christian life — it is primarily about God
Me: Yes! I have been to weddings where this was so clear. They were the best weddings that I’ve been to. You get the chance to rejoice for and with the couple and worship the God who created marriage to begin with. Wonderful.

Croft: Just keep in mind the core principles: holiness, care for the other person's soul above your own needs, not defrauding one another, headship and submission beginning to play out and be pictured in a godly way for the world to see, relationships being played out corporately and under counsel, lack of inappropriate emotional intimacy, no physical intimacy, leaving marriage for marriage, being different from the world, bringing glory to God
Me: I think this about sums up the whole series


From “Hi” to “I Do” in a Year 
Croft essentially says that a dating relationship shouldn’t last more than a year. In part this has to do with his assertion that you shouldn’t start such a relationship unless you can see yourself being married in a year. But it also has to do with the fact that temptations are lessened (it’s a lot easier to wait a year for your first kiss than for two or three or more). And you should know by that time if you’re going to marry that person.

Obviously, this is not a rule that must be followed. But I think it is wise advice.

We All Settle
Croft argues that we all “settle” for a less-than-perfect mate because no one is perfect. And at the same time, no one “settles” because all we deserve is death.


My Conclusion
Overall, I found the articles interesting and full of good advice. I appreciated the fact that Mr. Croft puts forth his articles as advice and guidelines not rules. Situations are different for everyone, but the main point of the entire series applies to everyone: Put others first and honor God in all your dealings with others.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Boundless Summer Challenge—Task 1

I’m taking the plunge., a ministry of Focus on the Family, is sponsoring a month-long summer challenge to encourage its readers to grow in their spiritual walk. Today is day one. I have only the faintest idea what the daily challenges will entail but I want to try. It’s not easy for me. I don’t like not knowing what is going to happen. Not knowing what I’ve signed up for. But, as God is willing, I will face each day’s challenge when it comes—and not waste time worrying about what tomorrow’s will be.

Discipline in my walk with God is something I’ve struggled with for a while. I hope from this challenge to increase my discipline and grow closer to my God at the same time. I know if I seek the Lord with my whole heart, He will reward. And I look forward to that. :-)

Today’s challenge included the following steps:

2. Invite at least 3 friends or family members to join
3. Publish a note telling folk that I’m doing it (Now you can hold me accountable too!)
4. Spend 20 minutes praying about the challenge and for the participants

I’ve done the first three and am working on the fourth. Will you pray for me too? I would appreciate it.

Now for the journey.