Can The Bible Teach Us to Date? Part I

When I was in my mid-thirties, I started to seek God seriously regarding this marriage issue.  I realized that God really did desire marriage for me, however, he was not going to just plant a spouse on my door and say, “Marry this one!” I was going to have to put myself out there and date. This truly was a stretch for me, pushing the limits of my emotional, physical, and social comfort zones.

However, if I wanted to get married, dating was necessary. Our society does not offer any established provisions of wedlock for single men and women. In more recent times, there are even less norms for men and women regarding appropriate dating interactions. The result? People may find themselves without any means to select a suitable helpmate and get married. Singles can experience a string of broken relationships that lead nowhere, suffering heartbreak and prolonged singleness as a result.

I had my share of heartache when I was in the dating world.  I never expected it to be easy or pain free. I conducted myself the only way I knew how: I did what society said was okay. I had called men. On occasion I asked men if they wanted to go out. I hung on to relationships when they were not going anywhere. And I languished in the gloom and woe it created for me. I did not feel empowered. I actually felt a loss of self-respect. Surely, there had to be a better way.         

I learned new dating principles from God’s Word

The more I learned about God’s love for marriage, I discovered that he also cared how men and women related with each other. While God created male and female equal, he created them different from and complementary to each other.

God established certain principals in each of the sexes. These principles are the underlying faculties and endowments from which men and women relate to each other. This is regardless of what society dictates. To ignore these fundamental precepts is akin to disregarding the law of gravity: you can jump off a building, but you will fall to the ground. Even in the 21st century.

Since I wanted to adopt better dating practices, I was determined to understand God’s relationship basics and put them into practice. I established boundaries for myself when interacting with the opposite sex. I became a responder to and not a pursuer of men. As a result, I had shortened my time spent in relationships that were not going anywhere and limited my grief when they ended.  

I knew the modern dating landscape would never be free from rejection and pain. However, implementing God’s relational principles was one step I could take to slowly start pulling myself out of the prolonged singleness trenches. I was not perfect when I initially carried these changes out, as they were hard and seemingly old fashioned. Somethings I never got perfect. The point is that I tried, and kept trying, asking God to help me do it his way. And God was faithful to respond with his grace, all the way to the altar.

In this blog series, I will lay out some key relational principles that God endowed men and women that can be gleaned from the Bible. Our rich tradition as Catholics provides many sources that gives us insight into these, including the writings of the Saints and The Theology of the Body by St. John Paul II. For the purposes of this blog series, I am only going to focus on what is supported by scripture, which is timeless in their application:

1. God is the ultimate Match Maker. I know this one sounds simple, but sometimes it is not easy. This is because its application is a direct result from our faith in God to work on our behalf to help us meet and marry a helpmate uniquely suited for us.

There may be times that your circumstances or feelings scream the opposite of this belief. I know it was this way for me when I was single. I would cry out to God and beg him to help me believe that he would bring me a spouse. If you struggle to believe God can do this for you, also, then a good place to begin is to reflect on how much God loves marriage, loves you, and is willing to help you marry.

There are two sets of scriptures that support this principle:

Genesis 2:18-25:

The Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of he air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ she was taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame. (NABRE)

Tobit 3:16-17b:

“At that very time, the prayer of these two suppliants was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God. So Raphael was sent to heal them both: to remove the cataracts from Tobit’s eyes, so that he might again see God’s sunlight; and to marry Raguel’s daughter Sarah to Tobit’s son Tobiah, and then drive the wicked demon Asmodeus from her.” (NABRE) (emphasis added)

2. Pursual and Courting are a mystery. I was continually puzzled by other people’s relationships, engagements, and marriages. How did that happen for them? I was always on the outside looking in at other’s enjoyment of true love. I would often try to mirror the actions of my friends who were in successful relationships, expecting there to be a formula that would lead me to lasting true love.

I came to a point where I recognized that I could not be perfect enough to merit a relationship. I could follow all the relationship “rules” that are “out there” and still not find myself part of one. That is because the union of two people at its heart is a mystery. The Holy Spirit is the giver of life and the creation of life is a mystery. Henceforth, the essence of a relationship between a man and woman will be a mystery and a gift from God.  

A relationship at its core is a mystery and a gift

There are two sets of scriptures that support this principle:

Proverbs 30:18-20

Three things are too wonderful for me, yes, four I cannot understand: The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, The way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden. Such is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats, wipes her mouth, and says, “I have done no wrong.” (NABRE) (emphasis added)

1 Corinthians 11:12

“For just as a woman came from man, so man is born of woman, but all things come from God.” (NABRE)

In the second part of this blog series, I will continue with the dating principals that can be mined from the scriptures. The third on the list is “Men are tasked with taking a wife.” It is in this principal, and the fourth, “Following Ruth’s Lead,” that I start to explore some concrete examples of how to apply the Bible to modern dating.

By Julieanne M. Bartlett All Rights Reserved Copyright 2020

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