Monday, July 6, 2015

Reader Report: I Kissed Dating Goodbye

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Approach to Romance and Relationships

Tired of the game? Kiss dating goodbye.

Going out? Been dumped? Waiting for a call that doesn’t come? Have you tasted pain in dating, drifted through one romance or, possibly, several of them?

Ever wondered, Isn’t there a better way?

I Kissed Dating Goodbye shows what it means to entrust your love life to God. Joshua Harris shares his story of giving up dating and discovering that God has something even better—a life of sincere love, true purity, and purposeful singleness.

Joshua Harris

Joshua Harris lives outside Washington, D.C., in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he's a pastor at Covenant Life Church. His greatest passion is preaching the gospel and calling his generation to wholehearted devotion to God. Each January he leads a national conference for singles called New Attitude.

Publishing Info:
Multnomah Books, 1997

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"Some people who hear about my decision to not date till I'm ready for marriage assume that my heart must've been broken. No, my heart was made new by my Savior. The change in my attitude was the result of realizing the implications of belonging to Him. The Son of God died for me! He came to free me from the hopelessness of living for myself. That had to change everything--including my love life. Having a girlfriend was no longer my greatest need. Knowing and obeying Him was. I wanted to please Him in my relationships even if it meant looking radical and foolish to other people--even if it meant kissing dating goodbye" (p 18). 

When Josh Harris says "Kiss dating goodbye," he doesn't mean never date. Josh says this mostly meaning, "I'm not going to date until God tells me it's time."  Josh says, "The main focus of this book is on enjoying singleness and waiting on romance til you're ready for marriage (p 187).  It's about watching God in your relationships, and entering into a dating relationship or "courtship" as he calls it, when God gives you the heads up. Its moving from friendship to dating prayerfully. "You and I will never experience God's best--in singleness or in marriage--until we give God our all. We've held on to old attitudes, foolishly clutching a lifestyle that the world tells us will bring fulfillment. God asks us to hand it all over to him" (p 55). 

Josh outlines the pitfalls of modern dating, and offers new ideas about romance. We often see good Christians in solid dating relationships get involved in sexual sin, but we often blame it on a lack of self-control. While self-control is important, Josh points out that, as with David and Bathsheba, the sin isn't one step but a series of missteps. The bible tells us to "Flee from sin" (1 Corinthians 6:18); He knows that we won't always have enough self-control, so we shouldn't play games with evil. He tells us to run away. "Dating in and of itself isn't the cause of the problems we see in relationships. Sinful and selfish people are the cause of sinful and selfish relationships--it's our own wrong attitudes and values that make for defective dating. But while dating isn't necessarily wrong, we've got to keep in mind that the system of dating as we know it grew out of a culture that celebrates self-centeredness and immorality. Just as a bar that sells alcohol doesn't force anyone to drink and isn't the cause of drunkenness, a bar is an establishment created so that people can have a place to get drink. You wouldn't say that getting rid of bars would end alcoholism or that everyone who visits a bar has a drinking problem, but neither would you encourage a friend who was trying to quit drinking to hang out in bars" (p 36). Now replace the bar with dating. Dating doesn't make us sin, but the environment it creates often is the perfect place for sin to creep up on us. The "seven habits of defective dating, Josh states, are: Dating tends to skip the friendship stage, dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love, dating tends to isolate a couple from other vital relationships (family and friends), dating can distract young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future (education, job, growing in godliness), dating can cause discontentment with God's gift of singleness, dating can create an artificial environment for evaluating a person's character, and dating often becomes and end of itself (pp 38-46). We need something new. 

Josh stresses the importance of caring for and respecting others, as Christians. He reminds us that this applies to our dating relationships, too. We are to respect for the person we're dating and care for them. It's our responsibility to guard their purity, watch over their hearts, and love them as Christ loves them. Sometimes loving them as Christ loves them means not dating. "I've come to realize that while friendships with the opposite sex are great, I have no business asking for a girl's heart and exclusive affections if I'm not ready to consider marriage. until I can do that, I'd only be using that girl to meet my short-term needs, and not seeking to bless her for the long-term. Would I enjoy having a girlfriend right now? You bet! But I wouldn't truly be loving her and putting her interests first" (p 19). 

Many of us view "purity and impurity as separated by a fixed point. As long as [we don't] cross the line and go all the way, [we believe we are] still pure. True purity, however, is a direction, a persistent, determined pursuit of righteousness. This direction starts in the heart, and we express it in a lifestyle that flees opportunities for compromise" (p 88). The scriptures tell us to have a "pure heart." Jesus Christ said that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Purity is a lot more than not having sex. It's about more than our bodies. It's about keeping our eyes pure from lust, our hearts pure from idolizing a boyfriend/girlfriend. Purity is always moving toward righteousness. When someone is really striving for purity, there's no question of "how far can we go."

In this book, Josh introduced a motto, something he calls the "little relationship principle" - "The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment." Josh specified that this applies to physical intimacy and emotional intimacy. When we are intimate without commitment, we risk hurt. Intimacy is only safe when coupled with commitment. With the commitment of friendship, we reach a certain level of intimacy. As friendship depends, we share more of ourselves with our friends. As we are purposefully entering a relationship to consider marriage, we share more of our hearts with the other person. There is a greater commitment. Only when we commit our entire selves and lives to each other can we become "one flesh" can we experience the true joy of intimacy that God has created for us to enjoy. God gives us many great gifts, and they are almost always coupled with guidelines to protect the sacredness of the gift. One example is intimacy. God wants us to be intimate with other people - our family and our spouse. To these people, we give parts of ourselves. When we are intimate with strangers, we give parts of our self away, and someone who is not committed to our well-being now holds a part of us, but since there is not commitment, the intimacy is not safe. We can lose that part of ourselves.

Josh claims that as we see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and understand our responsibilities to care for each other, it will totally change how we date - so much that it might require a new name. He uses the term "courting." Courting is basically dating with a purpose, or purposeful romance. In courting there's no playing with hearts. The boy and the girl respect each other and the other person's future spouse. The aim, he says, is to be the kind of friend that your boyfriend's wife can say to you "Thank you for guarding my husband's heart and respecting him." There would be no regrets. He says that courtship is a commitment, a commitment to protecting each other's purity and hearts.

"The various ways in which God brings men and women together, like the unique designs of snowflakes, are never quite the same. But just as a one-of-a-kind snowflake can only form at a specific temperature and precipitation, a God-honoring romance can only form when we follow godly patterns and principles" (p 187). The goal of courtship is to evaluate the other person's character and prayerfully determine if it is God's will for you to marry. With courtship, there's no recreational dating. Intimacy has purpose, and it is carefully guided by other Christian mentors and by prayer. Courting only happens when both parties are ready to enter the lifelong commitment of marriage - spiritually ready, emotionally ready, financially ready. Marriage is a big commitment. It requires serious contemplation. With courtship, the purpose is to consider marriage, and both parties are aware of this from the start. Again, courtship is a commitment to respect each other's hearts and purity.

Josh is careful to remind us that is courting is just a set of rules to us, it becomes just as harmful as modern recreational dating. In order for courting to be different, our hearts have to change. And, a person can alter their dating methods to look like what Josh calls courting, but still call it dating. "Courting" or "dating" is just a name.

Some other great ideas presented in this book:

  • "True love isn't just expressed in passionately whispered words or an intimate kiss or an embrace; before two people are married, love is expressed in self-control, patience, even words left unsaid"  (p 20). 
  • Sometimes, we feel lonely. Whether it's because we're not dating, or we feel estranged from family or friends. whatever the case, loneliness hits us all at one time or another "A girl in her midtwenties who recently married told me that she saw lonliness as God's call to her heart. 'When I felt lonely, I would think, God is calling me back to Him,' she told me. During these times she learned to pour her heart out to God and talk with Him. Now she wouldn't trade those intimate moments with God for the world" (p 149). 
  • Repeat: marriage is a big commitment. Marriage is one of the most important things to God. "Marriage is the first institution (Genesis 2:22-24). It was ordained before family, before civil government--even before the church" (p168). As Latter-Day Saints, we know marriage to be of utmost importance. We affirm that the family is central to God's plan for us on earth, and that family can only come about when a man and woman are married (preferably for time and all eternity). The dating principles Josh goes through in this book are important to all Christians, but our dating practices should be noted especially by Latter-Day Saints because we put a much higher value on marriage than many other denominations. God does not intend for us to take this covenant lightly. It is the highest covenant. It is what will bring us into the celestial kingdom, to live with Him forever. (Read about the LDS view of marriage here). 

This book presented many great ideas about the pitfalls of the way we date today, and some possible solutions. it was a great read, and I do think I will be applying some of the things he said to my own relationships. 

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