If you think that dating or courting is pre-engagement, and that you’ve got to know this’ll be your marriage partner before you go on your first date, then you’re really putting too much pressure on yourself. That kind of attitude will turn dating into an agonizing burden, and may paralyze you from even moving forward in your relationships.

Some time ago I received the following e-mail (which the author has given me permission to publish here):

I got a call recently from a man from my church. We’ve gone on a mission trip together with our church and served in our church together for the past two years. We are in the same ministry group.

He called me to talk in private, which I took as a sign that he is going to ask me out. I got hints that he talked to our pastor about it already before making that call to me from what my pastor mentioned that he had office hours with him last week.

However, I am nervous and anxious about this. We get along and work well together. However, I’m stuck wondering if he’s the one that God has purposed me to be a helper to. How do I know? How do I know if this will be the right guy? We are both very committed to our church and I don’t want to risk any awkwardness in our relationship if it doesn’t fare out OK. Is this a fear of commitment or failure of courtship?

I have other guys that I am open to going out with if they ask, but they haven’t. I admit that this man is someone that I can respect, yet I’m just scared. How else do I seek God’s guidance in this matter? I’m not sure what would be the right thing to do.

Am I too idealistic in wanting to marry the first person that I go out with and not making the wrong choice? He’s a few years older than me and we are both committed to serving God in our church and reaching out to non-believers and ministering to those who are already believers.

My reply:

I appreciate your concerns. You’re not the first to ask such questions, or the first godly woman to want to do this the right way. I commend you on your caution.

That said, let me answer this question directly: “Am I too idealistic in wanting to marry the first person that I go out with and not making the wrong choice?”

Yes, you’re too idealistic. Indeed, such a perspective is misguided. Dating is not pre-engagement. You are not committing to this man by agreeing to date/court him. You are simply agreeing to get to know each other better with the intention of discerning the Lord’s will about whether you should marry or not. Indeed, if you go into this dating/courting relationship thinking he must be “the one,” then you may be setting yourself up for a rough time — a dating relationship that’s under so much pressure that it’s just no fun, or committing to a guy from the start only later to discern that he’s not the man for you.

As long as you’re not physically involved, and as long as you don’t get too emotionally entangled, you should be able to exit the relationship (if that’s what you together deem is the Lord’s will) without tremendous “awkwardness.” And if the relationship works out, and you together come to the conclusion that it’s the Lord’s will for the two of you to marry, then how awesome is that?  :-)

Take a look at this blog I published yesterday: “Dating Is Just Fine.”

Don’t date casually, but don’t take it so seriously. You are not agreeing to marry him right now.

What I said to this young woman I say to you: Don’t fret so much about only dating people who you’re certain you’ll marry. Of course, don’t date someone who you’d never consider marrying. But it’s senseless to wait to go on that first date until you know for certain that he or she is “the one.” The very purpose of dating is to determine God’s perspective on whether he or she is “the one.”

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: Now, lighten up and go on a date, would ya?

From the BoundlessLine blog.
Copyright 2007, Focus on the Family.
Used by permission.

Ted Slater
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