Jay & Linda Benson are two of my closest friends. They’re the kind of friends who have to drag themselves out of our place after a long night of hanging out because we never want them to leave. From terrible difficulty to increasing joy, Jay & Linda have experienced so much with Lindsey and I. When they said they wanted to write the final article in the #Dating series here on SAINTK.COM, I couldn’t have been more excited. Their incredible marriage is a testimony to their wisdom. I know you’ll enjoy. And as always, Share, Like, Comment, and give your feedback!
Dating Is…Well, You Decide
We are writing this together. We wanted to write a blog addressing the SAINTK.COM hotbed, that is dating. Before we begin let me give you a little background.
My wife and I are both Christians, so anything we write will be coming through the goggles of that perspective. I am what’s known as a hustler. Not really, but that’s what my wife and I jokingly refer to my dating history as. My wife was home schooled. Enough said.
The first girlfriend I had was during my Freshman year of high school. Our first date was to see Titanic. We held hands twice over a period of 6 months and I broke up with her over AOL Instant Messenger. From there I dated a slew of other girls before finding my wife Linda. The first boyfriend my wife had was incredibly good looking, extremely intelligent and became her fiancé, then husband soon after. Between the two of us we have experienced the spectrum of dating, and it’s ups and downs. So what have we learned? Good question.
Let me just start off by saying, experience is personal. It is someone’s own interpretation that can’t be experienced the same way by anyone else. So we’re not going to pretend to know what Will or Luke have experienced and we’re not going to say that our experience is what everyone else will experience as well. I can say however, that Linda and I have learned a lot from other people’s experiences. And in some cases, actually saved ourselves from pain and heartache by learning from those experiences. That being said, I hope some of you will do the same.
I’d like to start off addressing Will’s article. I agree with the fact that dating just to date is stupid. Coming from someone who has had at least three dating relationships where I had no intention of the end result being marriage, it is stupid. It’s safe to say that I was actually using those girls for my own self-gratitude. Let me ask you this, if you were the parent (especially the father) of a junior high girl, and a boy your daughter’s age, came up to you and asked to borrow your daughter for a year, what would you say? If you probed into what he meant by “borrowing” and found out that he would like to exclusively date your daughter, make out with her whenever possible, hold her hand, tell her he loved her, and then after the year is up, he would let her go; would that influence your answer? Hopefully any good parent wouldn’t let that happen, but it happens all the time (three times over for me).
The relationships that the Bible addresses are marriage, family, and community. So the way I look at dating is: If she’s not my wife, she’s my sister.
The problem with the argument “dating is stupid” is that it can be misleading. That is not the case for everyone. What Luke says in his article, “Nobody enters a relationship knowing ‘this is the guy/girl I’m going to marry’,” is exactly right. I can have every intention of marrying someone I date (and in fact I did at one time) and have it not work out. At some point in the equation there is a trial period of figuring out whether or not this is the person you are going to marry. Call it what you want (dating, courting, stalking) but it has to be there. Unless of course you can convince your parents to arrange your marriage.
And what do you do with the fact that dating is not mentioned in the Bible? You can’t write it off and pretend like it doesn’t exist. Cars aren’t mentioned in the Bible either but they exist and are a part of our culture. Now you can choose whether or not you want to drive a car and some might even argue that it is stupid to drive a car (I’m from Portland. Just ask anyone with a bike). But no one is going to make the argument that because it’s not mentioned in the Bible, it’s wrong. Now you can make the argument that there are definitely right and wrong ways to use a car. For example, Christians and Non-Christians alike would make the argument that to drive a car while hopped up on a hydroponic candy jelly bean (JT reference) would be wrong. It doesn’t address that in the Bible, but we can agree that there is a right and wrong way to use a car. Same with dating. The Bible doesn’t address dating but there are right and wrong ways to date. We can take a look at what the Bible does address, and get wisdom from that. The relationships that the Bible addresses are marriage, family, and community. So the way I look at dating is: If she’s not my wife, she’s my sister. This also takes the question, “how far is too far?” out of the equation. No one is asking, “how far is too far with my sister?”
Yes, I was schooled at home — no, I don’t wear jumpers (anymore) or participate in 4H. My twin and I participated in sports and had social lives. We were and are, still, very close, and we both shared the opinion that unintentional dating for the purpose of “I feel sad, I need a relationship” (Luke Keck), to harken to Will and Luke’s articles, is indeed, “stupid.” I also became critical and tended towards ungraciousness with friends who did date — believing in a black-and-white, blueprint method not too unlike Will’s list; do they love Jesus? And the other “non-negotiables.” If these bases are covered, you’ve got yourself a ring by spring and no heartache to blotch your record of Christian ministry and discipleship.
Like most things when discovered on life’s canvas of complex and colorful experiences, it’s not that simple, it’s not black-and-white. Why? Because people don’t function in a box and, as I discovered, neither does dating.
I didn’t know if I would marry him, and I didn’t like it; I wanted to know the end before I began the journey.
When I first met Jay, he came highly recommended by the men I respected at the University. He was a leader and participated in ministry — check. Showed commitment to the Body of Christ, and spoke highly of his mom — double check! Plus, he was tall, had an incredible smile, I’m a sucker for broad shoulders, a quick wit…you get the idea: I was attracted. Plus, he initiated to ask my twin’s permission to date me (this could be seen to those who are not twins as “weird”, but it was major points for me and my parents)!
However, as I opened the possibilities of beginning a relationship with this man, with those basic fundamental questions having been answered, I was now left with a surprising emotion: fear of a failed relationship. How would I go about this relationship logically and with forethought to avoid the “unnecessary” and potentially “premature emotional connection” that inconvenienced my ability to be rational? I wanted Sherlock Holmes to predict the conclusion of my relationship with Jay. I wanted to be void of the “unneeded” emotional attachment that befuddled the brain and embraced the heart. I didn’t know if I would marry him, and I didn’t like it; I wanted to know the end before I began the journey.
While Will gives what I believe are valid and wisdom-filled guidelines for dating, Luke Keck fills in the gap with his rendering the fact that you cannot guarantee that the individual you date will or will not be your spouse someday. It’s a word called “risk,” and at the beginning of my novel dating experience — I grimaced at the meaning of risk, as an aristocratic would to a beggar. While I wanted the cognitive to be in place before I could risk the emotional, my now husband lovingly embraced my questions and wrestled aggressively with my fears. He didn’t guarantee my happiness, or the ring by spring (as in fact, it was Fall). God, I learned, is never surprised nor does He waste our failures. He gave us wisdom through the voices of those around us (community), Scripture (how do I treat Jay in a biblical manner?), and the Holy Spirit — even if it meant “failing” a relationship. Was it a risk? Did I know I would marry Jay? Nope. But trusting the Lord to work with my “stuff” — mistakes and successes, became my focus, not whether or not I should date Jay. Today, in my current twenty-eight years of life, travels, schooling, and four years of marriage to a man whom I don’t deserve, I’ve learned a few things.
It’s how you date, not if you date, that makes this difference.
First, dating seems to be similar to food: it isn’t remotely evil, but like all good things, it can be abused. It can benefit me or harm me, and it’s what I use it for that makes the difference (coping with stress with a carton of ice cream?).
If I may err on the assuming side, Luke is experiencing a better relationship this time around than his previous relationship not because of dating itself, but because of his approach to dating and how he goes about it. This new moral code actually makes dating worth the while. However, where Luke argues that dating can potentially make you a more selfless, loving and prepared-for-marriage partner, I would quote Will quoting Dwight Schrute: “False.” I went on my very first date at the age of twenty-three in the Fall of 2007, and I was able to grow as a person with intentional community and a teachable heart, without the memories or regrets of past kisses and broken promises. I have met men and women in their fifties who date and still have no clue how to perform in a functional and healthy relationship (dating or none). It’s how you date, not if you date, that makes this difference (I believe Will would agree with me). A dating relationship is made up of two people and what they bring to the table — you can Wreck-It Ralph, or you can Fix-It Felix.
Luke has ascertained that dating prepares you to be a good spouse, here I disagree. Dating does not necessarily gleefully skip you hand-in-hand down the preparation path to marriage. Jay’s previous relationships truthfully had little to do with how good of a husband he is to me today. Why? Because he didn’t marry them, he married me. My personality, my fears, my passions, and yes, my sinful baggage (and lots of it!). We have studied each other for four years in the context of marriage. We have become “the one” for each other as we work intentionally and diligently to till the garden that makes our relationship grow. By the guidance and counseling of the Holy Spirit and community around us, we will love each other more tomorrow than today. It is, after all, a choice. It is in the fire that the metal is purified.
Was it a risk to date? Of course; welcome to life. I had to ask for some of his time and a glimpse of his heart to learn compatibility.
I will send a warning to the younger Linda and Will’s out there — do not let pride or legalism conduct your opinion of others dating. I had no room to talk until I myself had walked the walk and I learned a lot. I’ll never forget the day I knew I wanted to commit my life to Jay. I, like many others, had partitioned the nagging questions of commitment, happiness, the what if’s and fears of marriage. But it’s always darkest before the dawn. I asked myself about the joyful memories we had made, the fun times we had, the way he made me laugh — but what about the experience of death of a loved one? What if someone I love becomes deathly ill? What if I lose my job? When the shit hit the fan???
His name hit me like a linebacker sacking a quarterback. I wanted Jay. I knew I could celebrate life with many good people, but who did I want with me through the valleys? I wanted him. Was it a risk to date? Of course; welcome to life. I had to ask for some of his time and a glimpse of his heart to learn compatibility. I had to invest and risk a bit of myself as well, otherwise, I would have never been able to grasp the truth that I wanted to live real, nitty-gritty life with him. Sure I applied deductive reasoning (obsessive analyzing), but that didn’t remove the risk. However, I knew him, I loved him, I trusted him. I risked, and thankfully, I succeeded. And I didn’t even need Sherlock Holmes.
To date or not to date? Sorry Shakespeare, that’s not the “question” – it’s how YOU date. I believe, in their own ways, Will and Luke would agree. Best of luck to you both in your romantic pursuits.
And now you see why I chose to write first. After reading my wife’s section there is no way you would have kept reading mine after the first two sentences. But for the few of you who have decided to stick around, let me see if I can wrap this whole thing up.
Dating is a risk. It has the potential for a long life of love and happiness together and it has the potential for a messy breakup with lots of damage. I have experienced both ends of that spectrum, and am still here to tell you today, that it is worth the risk.
Dating is serious. I think we can all agree that dating just to date is stupid. Actual hearts and emotions and feelings get wrapped up in this thing called dating and whether or not both of you are taking it seriously, there is the potential for a lot heartache, because you can’t box people in. You can, however, respect and love one another with humility and a selflessness that tends and cares for the hearts and minds of those we date (or don’t date). Our advice? Don’t take it lightly.