. . . and the final installment:
Myth #8: You shouldn't date someone unless you're already pretty sure you'd be ok with marrying him or her. But my question is this: how in the world are you going to know if you want to marry someone if you don't date them first? In the past decade or so, dating has gotten a really bad reputation in Christian circles and has been viewed as an immature way to satisfy your desires, have fun, and play with another person's heart and emotions. But dating doesn't have to be a selfish way to use another person to meet your need for emotional connection with someone without the pressure of a serious commitment. Dating can be--and should be--a responsible, fun, appropriate way for two people to simply get to know each other on a deeper level so that they know whether they are willing to commit to each other long-term. And if and when they realize that they aren't willing to commit, then they do need to step away from the dating relationship before any deeper feelings develop.
Myth #9: Marriage will solve all your problems and it is the be-all and the end-all of life. No, I'm afraid it won't. I've heard that marriage is hard, and it takes ongoing work, effort, and commitment. Marriages can fail. Marriage isn't always the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And moreover, a marriage will probably be happier if the people involved don't expect it to do things it can't do--like complete them or offer them ultimate fulfillment. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can do that. No marriage is ideal. And while marriage usually adds a lot of joy to life, many, many people are happy and fulfilled without it.
Myth #10: If you've had your heart broken, it means that you gave away a part of your heart that you now will never be able to give to your future spouse. And it means you're basically damaged goods. This is one of the most damaging lies I've ever heard about relationships. In an ideal world, sure, the only person you'd ever "give your heart to" would be your spouse. And no one's heart would ever get broken. But it isn't an ideal world. We don't always get things right the first time. It doesn't mean there's no opportunity for a satisfying relationship in the future. Plus, I'm not convinced that "giving your heart" to someone is such a bad thing anyway. I've "given my heart" to a lot of people--family and close friends of both sexes, at least in the sense that I have loved and trusted these people deeply and shared deep parts of my life experience, hopes, and dreams with them. And yes, my vulnerability with others has sometimes led to hurt and disappointment. But that doesn't mean I have any less love and trust to offer my husband someday. Love given away is multiplied, not divided into little pieces until someday you realize, "Oops! I don't have any left to give."
And the Final Myth: When it comes to relationships, you'd better hit the nail on the head the first time. There is no room for trial and error. (This sums up the myths about how you shouldn't get your heart broken, and how the first person you fall in love with will be your spouse, and how you shouldn't date unless you think you will marry the person). Here's the thing: I believe that marriage is intended to be for life, and that we should do everything we can to make a marriage work once we are in one. In that sense, I don't think there should be room for "trial and error" in marriage relationships. Once you've made that commitment, you shouldn't back out because you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But, this truth has been needlessly extrapolated backward to give rise to the idea that you shouldn't really date, and your heart shouldn't be broken, and the first serious relationship you're in--the one where you fall in love--had better be with your spouse (and if it's not, well, you have less to offer your spouse someday). But it's not really true. Again, we don't live in a perfect world, and try as we might, we won't always get it right the first time. Please don't misunderstand me: yes, we are to strive for exemplary purity in all of our relationships--romantic and otherwise. Yes, men and women should guard their hearts and minds both with respect to the opposite sex and to all the thoughts that we take captive and allow to enter into our minds. Yes, we should take a stand against the larger culture that says that a relationship is all about ME and getting what I want, and remember that Jesus showed us by example that to love someone means to sacrifice and give of ourselves. And we certainly shouldn't be recklessly and thoughtlessly entering into relationships, knowing that our rash behavior will inevitably scar our own hearts or someone else's. But because we're human, we won't always do relationships perfectly. And even if we could do it perfectly, we may not always get the perfect fairy-tale ending. But God is bigger than our failures; our mistakes were never meant to define us. God can redeem our failures. And what a great Redeemer He is.
. . . Come back tomorrow as I explore this: What can our view of relationships reveal about our understanding of redemption? How does the redemption we have in Christ matter--right here, right now--for our relationships?