Friday, July 10, 2015

Reader Report: Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship

"I wrote Boy Meets Girl the year after I was married. It was a great chance to answer many of the questions that were raised by my first book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I know the last thing most singles want is more rules and, in Boy Meets Girl, I wanted to offer an alternative: an intentional, God-pleasing game plan for finding a future spouse. In the book, I discuss how biblical courtship (a healthy, joyous alternative to recreational dating) worked for me and my wife Shannon, to give an encouraging and practical example for readers wanting to pursue the possibility of marriage with someone they're serious about. This updated version includes a new foreword, a new chapter, an all-new '8 Great Courtship Conversations' section, and some updated material throughout."

Joshua Harris
Joshua Harris is the author of six books, the most recent being Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down. Living what he calls a "backwards life" Josh became a best-selling author at age 21, the lead pastor of a mega-church at age 30 and only now, at age 40, is attending Regent College, a graduate school of theology, in Vancouver, BC. His passion is making biblical truth accessible to everyday people and helping others discover the security, identity and freedom of being rooted in God's love in Christ.  Josh and his wife Shannon have three children.

Publishing Info:
Multnomah Books, 2000

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"Falling in love was God's idea. He was the one who made us capable of experiencing romantic feelings. He was the one who gave us the ability to appreciate beauty and experience attraction. And He was the one who invented marriage so the blazing fire of romantic love could become something even more beautiful--apulsing, red-hot ember of covenant love in marriage."
-Josh Harris, p 35

This book is in essence, a sequel to I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In that book, Josh urged readers to skip dating until they were ready for marriage. In Boy Meets Girl, Josh helps readers figure out how to move forward appropriately when one is ready for marriage

Josh begins by telling his story of how he met his wife, Shannon, and how he trusted God through the early stages of their relationship, and talking about why we need purposeful romance and more than just intense feelings and how God guides us in His timing. 

Josh stresses the importance of wisdom paired with romance. He compares romance to a kite, with wisdom being the string: "I suppose there are times when a kite feels tied down by the string. 'If this bothersome string would just let go of me, I could really fly high,' the kite might think. But that isn't true, is it? Without the string holding it in the face of the wind, the kite would quickly come crashing to the ground. In the same way, romance without wisdom will soon take a nosedive. . . . It's not enough to simply have romantic feelings. . . . Long-lasting romance needs practical, commonplace wisdom that knows when to let the wind of feelings carry us higher and when to pull back. When to express our emotions and when to keep quiet. When to open our hearts and when to rein them in" (p 41).

"Romance says, ' This is what I want and it's good for me.' Wisdom leads us to consider what's best for the other person. . . . We glorify God in our relationships when we put our needs aside and base our decisions on what serves the interests of the other person" (p 44-45). Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to decide if we're guided by selfish or selfless desires (paraphrased, p 45). Is starting this relationship now what's best for him? Will I be a distraction for something God is calling him to do immediately? Will expressing all my feelings serve him, or distract and confuse him? Are my actions encouraging him to love God and seek His will more? Am I communicating clearly and in a way that benefits him? Does the way I dress encourage (key word - encourage) him to have a pure thought life? Will kissing now be what's best for us in the long run? Am I treating this person the way Christ would? "A selfless desire to do what's best for the other person can guide us in the big and small decisions of a relationship. It's not tedious. It's an expression of sincere love and the defining mark of a Christian relationship" (p 45).

Next, Josh moves on to talking about courtship - how to grow in friendship, guard each others hearts, tips on communication, embracing our gender differences in order to complement each other, reasons to get support from your community, and a great chapter on sexual purity during courtship. 

It can be hard to know how to act towards your boyfriend or girlfriend in the beginning of a courtship. You're "more than friends, less than lovers." You're getting to know each other more, but you're refraining from the traditional dating game. You have feelings for each other, but you don't want to awaken love prematurely (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4). Josh says: "Growing in friendship involves learning through conversation who you are as individuals. It's having fun together and spending quality and quantity time together. . . . Don't stress yourself out trying to orchestrate incredibly entertaining or romantic dates. Relax and enjoy each other's company. Look for activities and setting that allow you to spend time together and talk freely. . . . Look for ways to share the different parts of your life - the fun, the mundane, and the in-between. . . . How can you let each other see the 'real you'? Whatever it is you love, whatever it is that captures your imagination, invite the other person into it - and ask the other person to take you into his or her world, too" (p 79). 

It's important to have Christian fellowship with your boyfriend/girlfriend. In marriage, we are serving God together and helping each other move closer to God. In courtship, we should be starting that. Share your testimony with your partner and in groups, talk about your faith with your partner, pray for each other and with each other, talk about what God is teaching you right now, read Christian books together, talk about what you learned at church and how you're going to apply what you learned, read scriptures together (Josh and his wife read the book of Acts together during their courtship and emailed about what they'd learned). For Mormons, other activities can include sharing your favorite talks from General Authorities, attending family home evening together (in each other's homes or in a YSA group), attending Institute together, watching Youth Devotionals and General Conference together, attending missionary events and sharing the gospel together. There are so many ways to share your faith with your partner and encourage each other to grow. 

It is true that God made men and women different. Many people in the world see this as women being 'less than.' This is not true. "God made women totally equal to men in personhood, dignity, and worth. They are no less important or valuable to God. Within the context of their equality, God assigned men and women different roles. . . Men and women were created equal, yet different. And the fact that we're different is wonderful" (p 107). Matthew Henry said "Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled by him, but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him." (Sister Linda K. Burton gave a great talk about the complementing nature or males and females at the April 2015 General Conference - read it here. Also see The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)

Josh reminds us of the importance of community - receiving counsel from parents, church leaders, mentors, and friends. It's vital to balance personal thoughts and revelations with counsel from your community. They are able to look at your relationship objectively, while you may be missing some things because of your emotions. "While it's true that no one else should decide whom we marry, how arrogant it is to think that we can make this important decision on our own! And while a couple needs time alone, how shortsighted and foolish it is to cut ourselves off from the wisdom and support of the people who know us best" (p 125-6). 

Josh devotes a whole chapter to outlining why we should save physical intimacy for marriage. It's a beautiful chapter that reminds us that God didn't give this commandment to torture us, but because having these relations with one person is a joy. And when you save them for your wedding night, it is a special gift that you give to each other as a married couple, a new experience that separates your courtship from your married life. But, "there's another reason the struggle on waiting for marriage is a blessing. God not only wants to maximize a couple's enjoyment of sex in marriage, He also wants a couple to learn to trust Him together. When a Christian man and woman systematically deny their own physical desires as an expression of mutual faith and submission to Jesus Christ, they are laying a solid foundation for their marriage. They're learning to fight sin as a team. They're learning to care for each other, pray for each other, and challenge each other. In the most practical of ways, they are submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord of their relationship" (p 151). 

Finally, Josh devotes a chapter to addressing forgiveness for past sexual sins and how to deal with them in a relationship (though a lot of what he says applies to any sin, really). He ends with the final preparations before marriage, and tells us about his own wedding day. 

Included in this section is a list of questions to ask before you get engaged, which Josh adapted from an article, "Should We Get Married?' by David Powlinson and John Yenchko: Is your relationship centered on God and His glory? Are you growing in friendship, communication, fellowship, and romance? Are your parents and mentors supportive of your relationship? Is sexual involvement playing too big a part in your decision? Do you have a track record of solving problems in the way that scripture directs? Are you heading the same direction in life (can you cleave to each other)? Have you taken into account any cultural differences you have (hurdles that may have to be overcome because of familial, racial, historical, financial differences)? Do you want to marry this person? With all this intellectual and spiritual aspects to think about, it' s important to not overlook your heart. It should not be the deciding factor, but do you love this person and want to grow old with them? Have the courage to answer these questions about your relationship and decided what to do - whether is proposing or ending the relationship. 

Throughout the book, Josh tells us of his own courtship and engagement, and shares stories from other people he knows. These people come from many different circumstances - some lifelong Christians, some recently converted, some with Christian families, some being the only person in their family to value a God-honoring relationship, some save the first kiss for the altar, some choose to share this before marriage while still saving other things, some end in marriage, some end with the people realizing marriage should not happen. The variety of stories, I think, give a hope that these principles can work, wherever you are and in whatever circumstance. The point of this book is not to set rules, but to show people how to look to God in scripture and prayer to change your heart and define your own guidelines. 

One of the best parts of this book is the bonus at the end, the "Courtship Conversations." Each conversation includes a date idea, suggestions of things to discuss that go along with the activity, and questions to ask. Each date includes 15-20 questions (sometimes more), so you could actually use the conversation suggestions for many more dates or activities. I'll be buying the book just for those (not really, but almost).

Overall, I thought this was a great read. Josh made many great points about the attitude we should have during a relationship that's moving towards marriage. He discussed a lot how this time should be different from friendship, while also being different from marriage. There were many practical suggestions of ways to evaluate yourself and your relationship during this time, as well as to move forward. Like I said, I'm definitely buying this book. 

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