What Do You Mean, Godly Relationships?

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I was a product of the so-called Christian non-dating.

It was exactly on the day that I became a Christian where I had read I Kissed Dating Goodbye — and in a rather curious (first) experience, I felt the heavy burden of a resolution stirring up inside of me the moment I read about Joshua Harris’ views on dating to glorify God.

I didn’t understand completely what “glorifying God” meant at that moment. I had no idea how hurtful it was to put down something you really cherished in order to pursue God. But that night, I broke up with my boyfriend, asking him, like for confirmation, if our relationship was pleasing to God.

I haven’t been in a relationship since. And I am totally fine about it.

It was years and years after reading the now controversial book that I realized, it wasn’t the book that led me to make that initial first step to cherishing relationships with people of the opposite sex in a way that pleased God. It may have opened the door, but it was the Hand holding me as I walked through it that solidified the conviction.

The book talks about relationships in the light of marriage in the near future. It talks about not pursuing relationships that are unwise in seasons, and purity on sex in the context of marriage. Yes, it set the bar high. For someone who just really felt all the giddy, warm feelings of being with someone, it felt to me like it was too much.

Initially after the breakup, I knew it was going to be harder than I thought it would be. Many times I wondered if there were anyone who actually followed through with it.

Of course, I didn’t go through this whole single-again-for-a-season without bumps or cracks or even self-inflicted bruises and wounds. You do notice people. You do start to like men. You do suffer disappointment or heartbreak. You return to habits – or to people. After a while, in anger, I wrote and re-wrote non-negotiables in relationships like it was the essence of it. Until I threw it away, never to go back to it again.

It wasn’t a perfect season. Nothing is. But I have nothing but thanks for the Father for allowing me to go through it. It may have started with a book by an innocent teenager, read and taken very seriously by an equally innocent teenager. But now I’m almost 28 and still single, and I’m happy to have taken life as it is; not pushing to be in a relationship with the tiniest interest, and enjoying lots and lots of healthy friendships with men and women who are smarter and more relational than me.

I understand people have been hurt by the very linear views presented in the book. They were clear cut, stringent measures – suggestions, that may have worked for some, and not others. I read in this article that apparently, a lot of people had been hurt by it and had it used against them so that their season felt trapped. It’s a sad thing to have something you genuinely thought could be good and beneficial though hugely counter-cultural to be used against others to off something that could be good, or at least, something that could teach them.

I believe that decisions we make about our life are our own – it’s one of the best gifts that God ever gave! But to have a view or conviction made by another shoved into your face and used against you to fall in line, that’s another thing. I feel for Joshua Harris, and I feel for those who were unintentionally hurt by IKDG, True Love Waits, and all those other publications about dating. And most of all, I feel really bad that people think God is a killjoy for being misrepresented by a blown-up and unfocused picture of godly relationships. And yes, I say, relationships.

One time, I talked to a friend about “Christian dating”, the whole can’t-hug-or-kiss laundry list of rules, and scoffed at the term. After a long beat, I decided, “there’s no such thing”, and told her so. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe in purity, or dating for marriage, or dating in season. But the term sliced Jesus apart from the rest of the world in the opportunity to a beautiful, blessed relationship with any other person, like when you mix Jesus in as with juice, you get a totally different flavor.

So what do I believe in, with regards to relationships, exactly? (These, again, are my convictions. I will not impose these on anybody, nor convince anyone to take these up unless they take them up with God Himself. These are mine, because I asked God for them.)

Jesus is the center. Period.

It doesn’t matter if you’re non-Christian, or a specific Christian, or whatever. With my family, friendships, work mates, and all the relationships I form, the thought is that I am going to center myself on Jesus (Colossians 1:17); and that means I will do what will best reflect His goodness (1 John 4:19).

I asked my past boyfriend whether he thought we were honoring God, and needless to say, we both thought that we weren’t doing just that. That was my first understanding of relationships that honor God; they’re not the kind where you insist on your own feelings and to be placated and excuse ugly behavior. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

All Christian dating books say this; but it doesn’t HAVE to be a dating book to say that Jesus loved me enough to die for me in my sinful, desperate, hateful  and prideful self. And as He loved others just as much, I have no right to dishonor anyone I ever come in contact with. Though friendships are formed because of equally joyful feelings, I am not entitled to only desire someone’s good graces just to fill my happiness quota, because Jesus does that in me.

I believe in healthy relationships with all genders.

Coming from the first point, I mean I should be able to make friends with anyone without agenda, if only to show them the Father’s grace (1 Peter 4:8-10). It means caring when there is necessity to care, stepping back when it is wise to do so, and pushing forward when encouragement is needed. God is a relational God. Walking with Him isn’t a solo backpacking trip; when you take others along, it becomes increasingly joyful.

So while it may be somebody’s idea to never look at a man ever again to cultivate the spirit of purity, that’s insanely detrimental to relationships (and society, in general). (On a side note, avoiding people completely does not really assure us of having pure thoughts. Prayer and asking God to put a guard over our heart does that. Just putting that out there.)

Also, friendship with different people reveals something different for each of us. Some show us more of Christ and we celebrate that. Some show us less and we learn instead to communicate His love back. Whether it’s dating or friendship, we learn to value people as we interact with them. There is such a thing as friendship without the immediate desire to date the other person. We shouldn’t let a book, or anything, stop us from forming godly friendships that lets us learn more about God.

I believe in TONS of wisdom in relationships.

I believe in wisdom in all aspects and seasons of relationships. There are friendships for a season, and friendships for stretches of seasons. You might date in one, or not at all. Family relationships are also just as important – and that is why, in the weave of all these people surrounding us, we ought to know who are the people that are most important to us. That’s not to throw certain people away, but to know when and until which point do we allow them to influence our life and be an influence back. We decide when a relationship isn’t helping, or when we need to start new relationships or friendships. There’s no one-size-fits-all for each person we meet. 

I dated when I was in university, and I can straightly say for most students that, unless you are a super student with impeccable study habits and discipline, you CAN’T date and maintain peak GWA at the same time. If, and unless, grades are not really that important to you, then go frolic and face your parents instead. :))

Kidding aside, it’s the season that dictates the relationship, and not the other way around. Before, I didn’t care as long as I was with someone I liked. But if I got married, say, fresh out of school without a job or money to my name, only love, then where else would that have gotten me or my husband? Probably in lots of anger and worry, because we’d have set things up for sure disappointment.

Relationships are not required to be a set of rules, but there is wisdom to guide us throughout that may inspire us to set some boundaries (Psalm 16:6). There’s nothing wrong with that. Believe it or not, God actually does not wish for us to suffer heartbreak (gasp!) unnecessarily! Think about that before giving your whole self away to a person who might not feel the same way.

There are certain things to consider: Where will the Father be most pleased in this? How am I celebrating God in this? Am I leaving this person with a better understanding of the love He has for this person? Or am I setting things up just to rectify my mistakes in the future?

This is why I don’t believe in the term ‘Christian’ dating but rather call it, ‘wisdom’dating, or wisdom in relationships. For me, I can’t separate Christ from all my relationships, nor can I say that He is the center and have a total disregard for what His word says is beneficial for me and others around me (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). I started to not date because at the time, I viewed my new relationship with God as something to be held above everything, and having someone nice and kind would distract me from that. (Haha. It is terribly distracting to like someone so much.) Another thing is, I was immature and spitfire to handle something so personal, that I was certain to only bring harm than good. 🙂

Over all, a relationship should seek to celebrate the grace and goodness of God. If somehow a relationship doesn’t do that, or it seeks to disobey where God has clearly said ‘No’, then that’s a bad sign. If a relationship pushes me to grow more in God, whether it’s to be pruned or to be nourished, then I thank the Lord for that.

If I constantly sought God in any relationship, there’s no more need for me to kiss ANYTHING goodbye.

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