My Darling Dancer,
Since I liked the metaphor of dating as dancing, I wanted to write about it again. This time, I want to illustrate how dating, like dancing, must react to the environment.
Have you ever been to a large dance? One where there are dozens of other couples trying to show off to not only their partners but also everyone else in the room? An extra element of danger is added to the dancing, where you have to keep an awareness of the room so you don’t toss your partner into another person. You have to avoid poor dancers who take up far too much space and men who need to be reminded that they are dancing with a woman, not swinging a wrecking ball. You have to fight for space on the floor. It is the same with dating.
Dating isn’t done in a vacuum. There are other relationships in each of our lives, we live in a specific city, and we have our churches. These factors affect what our dating actually looks like. We shouldn’t date the same way if you live within an hour of your family as opposed to if you live several states away; there are different ways to respect your parents with different distances and levels of involvement. We shouldn’t date the same way in New York as in Des Moines; the tempo of those two cities is different. We shouldn’t date the same way if we attend a Baptist church as opposed to a Roman Catholic church; we must submit ourselves in love to serve those with convictions on their consciences (while never abandoning our Christ-given freedom). This is not to say that we should allow others to heap legalism onto us, but rather that we must be aware of those around us so that we may love them through our romance. I want our relationship to point others towards Christ, which requires knowing where others are physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so we do not weigh them down but lift them up.
Dating has pitfalls and dangers from without. So often post-evangelicals focus on the dangers inherent in dating, but let us not forget that there are forces and people who will push back against our health and well-being as we date. If we are trying to date in a way that points others towards God, we will be laughed at by those dating in the secular world where moving in together and sleepovers are commonplace, and seen as normal and healthy. Our Pharisaical Christian friends and family may be mortified that we aren’t convicted to not kiss until we are married or that we base our romance on grace and not the latest fad of romantic legalism. We must fight to keep our eyes on Jesus and his grace, and accept the wisdom of others without bending to their demands and rules. It will be very difficult, but worth it.
In dating, we have to stake out our “space”, our boundaries. Even if we are dancing along in a living room, we must first move the coffee table out of the way so we don’t destroy our shins. In our romance, we must “clear the area” so to speak. This is where I believe a conversation about sexual immorality is properly understood: as something that will bruise us if we don’t remove it from the space first. In addition to physical intimacy, we need to know where our emotional and spiritual boundaries are, for each other and the rest of the people in our lives. I do not see this as legalism and rules, but rather as protective walls to guard the freedom we exercise within their safety. Honest communication will be needed, and grace when we find we needed a boundary one step behind where we find ourselves.
Like in dancing, dating requires adaptability, awareness of the places and times we are, and a space in which freedom can operate. Balancing the grace and boundaries that keep us safe will require prayer and trial and error, and Lord help us if we move cities and have to re-evaluate almost everything about our dancing. The bottom line is that no hard-and-fast rules will be directly applicable to our dating relationships, because every single romance in unique in it’s place and time, just like floor, band, and song is unique. General principals can be helpful, but the beauty is that no one has ever been exactly in our shoes. We are the stewards of the time and place we have been given, and it is for us to wisely navigate the floor and steps. I believe that God has our backs as we fumble through it, but he is delighted that we wish to glorify him through our romances rather than the blamelessness of the final product we create.
Part three of three forthcoming from me,
A Christian Guy