|Do we look old enough to be called "mature?"|
A few years ago a couple of college students were talking to Curt and I and they said something along the lines of "we're so glad to have mature, godly people pouring into our lives." We looked over our shoulder to see who they were talking about and laughed when we realized they meant us! It's happened so frequently that we know now to stop looking over our shoulder and embrace our role as mentor to these outstanding young people.
One thing that has really stumped Curt and I is the way dating has changed. When we were in college, we dated. If a guy was interested in a girl, he asked her out. They dated as part of the process of getting to know each other on a deeper level. If they liked what they saw, they kept dating. If they weren't compatible, they broke up. Through this process of trial and error called dating, we eventually met our spouse and got married.
But it's different now. The college kids we talk to "hang out." Or "go to coffee" (but that's not a date). Or "get to know each other as friends to see if there might be some potential for dating." They call all this hanging out/flirting/getting to know each other part of being "brothers and sisters in Christ." If and when they make the actual jump to giving their friendship a "dating" label it's such a big deal that it's practically a pre-engagement. I don't understand this process. And if I'm honest, I don't like it. Like Elaine from the Seinfeld episode where she doesn't like George's toupee and chucks it out the window... "I don't like it. I don't like it one bit. And this is what I'm going to do about it..."
(I'm hopping on my soapbox now). I appreciate the fact that these young people are concerned about purity. Concerned about doing things right. Concerned about not wounding other people they care about. These are all good things. But this process of Over Cautiousness muddies the water so much that no one who is in the potential dating pool has any idea where they stand with any of their "friends."
The desire for perfection - in the process and in the person - paralyzes the entire dating process. Girls get their hearts broken by guys who never even knew the girl liked them. Guys let incredible girls walk in and out of their lives because they are so hung up on "could this be my future wife?" that they never even ask her out.
Young people listen up: there is a huge pool of godly, good looking, intriguing, funny and single people who want to be married. The truth is you may have to date a few of them before you find Mr. or Mrs. Right. And that's okay. You don't have to marry the first person you date. Did you catch that? Let me say it again and my George Fox students please hear this: You don't have to marry the first person you date.
You also don't have to be married by the time you graduate from college to be successful. I went to a small, Christian liberal arts college like Fox and I felt the pressure that exists to marry young and to maintain a high standard of purity in your dating relationships. I know this pressure still exists today and I fear that it leads to hasty marriages that are either really troubled or end in divorce. I cringe to think what my life would look like if I would have married the first guy I dated exclusively. We'd both be miserable right now because we were a terrible match. But we were young, immature and blinded by the romantic idea of marriage since that's what all our friends were doing. Our breakup was incredibly painful but it was God's way of protecting us both from a marriage that would have been a train wreck without some huge God-sized intervention. Sometimes you have to experience a counterfeit first so you can recognize the authentic, real deal when it comes along.
Last night I witnessed an incredible scene. I watched a courageous young man walk up to a beautiful girl that he admired. He said, "I don't know you that well but I'd like to have the chance to get to know you. Would you go out with me?" Single People take note. THAT is how you get it done. (And she said yes.)
I have no idea how their story will end. They could go out and discover that while they are both incredible, godly, smart, and beautiful people, they aren't right for each other. Or they could go out and find that they really like each other. The point is neither of them would ever know if he didn't have the courage to ask.
Guys: Get off the fence. Stop inadvertently leading the girl on that you're "hanging out with." Take her on a real date. Tell her why you are drawn to her. And if the feeling is mutual, honor her by calling your relationship what it is: dating. And if you find that she is incredible but not the woman for you, break up with her gently as soon as you know.
Girls: Don't waste your time pining over a guy who has no clue you even like him. If you are hanging out all the time with no forward progress and your heart is starting to break over it, then do something about it. Stop hanging out with him. Or let him know there's a reason why you've been so available to answer his texts, his calls, and to hang out. If you realize he is not the guy for you, then let him know gently and respectfully.
(Stepping off my soapbox now). Be pure. Be kind and thoughtful. But be courageous like my friend last night. Don't you think the risk is worth it?