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Rachael HillMemorial Website
Male and Female Created He Them
IV. THE DATING GAME - Part I - (or, How to Fall in Love FOR SURE)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness
and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.
- Titus 2:11, 12
We have seen that most men and women have built within them this longing for another who is their opposite, that they may be one with them. Because we were not created to be alone, we all seek ways to eliminate that "aloneness."
Some, to be sure, are called to celibacy . . . this is a gift from God which allows one to focus all on the Lord without distraction. And even some who are not this way have grace from God to so live the cross that even without the gift of celibacy they can focus all on the Lord denying the distraction - these are those who have "made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." As Paul said, would that we all were this way. But alas, most of us are not.
For the rest of us who do not know this grace, but long for another, "who answers to our heart", the immediate question is, "How do I find this one that I need so much?"
Unfortunately, the quest for finding this one has led many to destruction; multiple heartbreaks in the least, hurts at best, illegitimate pregnancy and marriages based on passion at worst. All far lesser substitutes than what God has designed in His most perfect will.
In today's world, there seems to be one simple and obvious method for finding this one that you want to be one with . . . you use the "trial and error" method. You try as many potential mates as you can until you find one that is right!
I hope all are with me in observing that the "trial & error" method does not work! Do we need to prove that? I hope not. As more and more Christian marriages are based on this method, more and more head for the rocks and fail. So we must ask the question "Why?" I believe the answer lies in seeing:
As with any error, uncovering and exposing it requires uncovering and exposing its fundamental assumptions - its foundations. So let us try to do that here. What are the fundamental assumptions that we make when we employ the "trial & error" method for finding a mate?
1. We have the knowledge, discernment, and wisdom to know what we need in a mate;
2. In this huge world of billions of people, if we search hard enough, and try enough people, we can find that one;
3. We will know we have found the right person when we fall in love;
4. If we "test the waters" sufficiently, we can know what it will be like to be married to a person.
and this last assumption leads to a corollary:
The more we "test the waters" the better equipped we are to make the decision of who should be our mate;
Let us deal with these one by one.
1. We Know What We NEED in a Mate
I hope that the absurdity of this is immediately self-evident to the believer. Most of us find our mate while young. And it is an unfort-unate fact of youth that it assumes to be far wiser and more know-ledgeable than it really is! Indeed, the acquiring of age is the acquiring of wisdom and knowledge and maturity. I remember when I was about 25 thinking, "What a fool I was at 20!" And then at 30, "What a fool I was at 25!" And then, at 35, "How immature I was at 30!" And so on.
The older we are both chronologically and spiritually, the more we know that we have no wisdom, and that our knowledge is so limited that we have enough of it to decide for ourselves very few things. The Word is clear:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)
Paul tells us that not many of us are wise, and that "Christ Jesus. . . became to us wisdom from God.." (I Corinthians 1:30)
So, we can ask God to just give us wisdom of what we need in a mate (according to James 1:5, right?) and then decide? Well, yes, and no. God will never mislead us. But we all do well at misleading ourselves while thinking it is God who is leading us! Why is this?
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Praise the Lord we have new hearts, which press toward God. But we must beware that wherever our emotional hearts are involved, we are open to deception - self-deception.
I had a roommate in the late '60's whom I dare not mention by name because he is now nationally known. Less than a year after being saved and graduating from college, he decided that the Lord wanted him to marry. I responded, somewhat cautiously, "Praise the Lord." I knew he really needed to be getting to know the Lord far more than he needed to get married!
Then one day he announced to me, "Today I asked four sisters to marry me!" I went into shock! I could not believe it. I exclaimed to him, "You did what?!?" You see, he was a very handsome fellow, and a college All-American in his sport. I could see immediate disaster! Four "yes" answers and four broken hearts. I said, "How could you do such a thing?" His answer was that he had prayed about who to marry and these four had come to mind. So, he proposed to each with the purest of intentions. He was convinced that only the one that God had chosen for him would say "Yes" and all the others would say "No"!
Thank God, our Lord covers all our foolishness! All four of the girls said "No".
In reality we do not even know ourselves, let alone what we need in a mate. And for most of us, our notions frequently come from our self-life and self-interests. Only God knows who is best for each of us.
Now that grey hairs are peppering my head, I have seen many interesting things. I have seen great romances turn into disastrous marriages. I have known Christian couples who "went together" for ten to fifteen years prior to marriage. Certainly they knew each other well. Not so. After marrying, usually as the result of a crisis, a completely different person emerged than the one known in earlier years. Deep problems, deep-seated weaknesses, eventually effected a complete personality change and brought great troubles to the marriage. The spouse had no idea this "other person" existed inside the one they loved. In time, all love for the mate was destroyed to where it was replaced with a disgust. But God knew from the beginning what the real person was like.
You see, even after many years, we still may not really know a person. So how can we be the ones to decide? At best, the information we have to work with is a small percentage of the total picture, and only God Himself has the total picture in view.
I know another brother who over the years developed a detailed list of his dream-woman. First of all, of course, she would love the Lord Jesus with all of her heart. She would want to serve Him totally, being willing to go to the ends of the earth should God so send. Above all, she would be a deeply spiritual woman. She would be compassionate and caring for others, graceful and warm, and ready to sacrifice all for her God. She would be a woman of prayer, and they would have a deep life of intercessory prayer for others and waiting on the Lord. She would be a soul-winner. And, she would also be tall, thin, and blonde with blue eyes!
They met while serving the Lord in full-time work. Their love blossomed from what began just as a friendship, and later a life of prayer for God's work. They sensed a oneness that they had experienced with no other person. They were deeply in love with each other. All knew they would marry.
But one day while in prayer together, after a period of separation because they lived in cities 800 miles apart, the Lord spoke to this brother. "You must separate because this relationship is not My will." He fought what he had heard, but knew God had spoken. He shared it with her, and she was incredulous. What had happened to him? He said, "Let us pray." Then God spoke to her also - they must separate. They obeyed, fighting in their hearts all the emotions that screamed, "NO! But we love each other! How can this be?!?" The brother obeyed, and it was the most difficult obedience of his life. He was so angry with God that he drove the 800 miles home on two lane roads (interstates were rare then) at speeds approaching 100 mph, not caring if he should die. After all, he had known, "this is the one. . . there can be no other for me."
It was not until many years later that this brother began to know the Lord had really spoken. And it was the grace of God to separate them. Two things became clear. First, the real person of this sister became evident in later years, and her hidden weaknesses, pride being one, brought her to a deep fall. His own pride, not having been dealt with, would have caused serious problems in a marriage. Second, the Lord brought this brother to marry one almost the exact opposite of his "dream woman", and every year of marriage made it clearer that God's choice was perfect! And that his own previous choice would have probably resulted in a marriage disaster.
Oh, the infinite wisdom and mercy of God.
We will see more later why we must let Him alone do the choosing.
2. If We Search Hard Enough, We Can Find "The ONE."
This too should be immediately evident to us as being flawed. In this huge world with billions of people, how can we begin such a search? At best, we will be like the blind groping on a 10 mile California beach for a set of lost keys in the sand. The actual universe of our choices will be so unlimited as to be ridiculous.
God is infinite - we are finite. Where can we begin such a search? Is not such a search really ludicrous? We have just shown that in the first place, we do not even know what it is that we are searching for! We may think that we know, but do we? Only God knows who. And just as much, only God knows where this person is. Perhaps God has our mate literally countries away, as with Isaac and Rebecca, awaiting His sovereign hand to be brought together.
3. We Will Know We Have Found the RIGHT PERSON... When We FALL IN LOVE
It has been said that there is one thing about falling in love - you have no control over whether or not you fall in love with someone. I think this is only half true. It has been said that if you are not in love with someone, you cannot make yourself fall in love with them. This too is only partially true. It has been said that, if you are in love with someone, you cannot make yourself not be in love with them. This is also true. At least at that particular point in time.
What is not true is that there is only one person we can fall in love with. Most of us, if not all of us, are capable of falling in love with quite a few people - if the conditions are right.
Let us start with the physical. Because of the way we are made, any normal man can have a physical relationship with any normal woman. Any normal man can be turned on by any normal woman in the right circumstances. And vice versa - the same is true of the woman. We all know this.
There is a similar relationship in the soul of man and woman - the mind, the will, the emotions. Man is attracted to woman. Woman is attracted to man. God made us this way. Of course, there are those that we each find distinctively unattractive to us, but this is only because of the fall where sin distorted God's plan for creation.
I believe that it is not incorrect to state that if you take any man and woman with the two following criteria, they will probably fall in love:
1. They find one another somewhat attractive
In other words, they do not repulse one another. There is nothing they find in each other that distinctly is unlikable. (Though even this condition is not necessary!)
What is the second condition that will cause them to "fall in love"? It could be one or a combination of several things. But I believe that the one, most central and dominant factor will be this:
2. They spend time together (first just talking, then sharing openly with each other, and develop a close personal relationship).
If you take a normal, healthy male and a normal, healthy female, who find each other somewhat attractive, put them in a situation where they spend hours together, talking, getting to know one another, sharing their thoughts, their feelings, their opinions - eventually they will probably fall in love!
And if you add other factors, they will probably fall in love more quickly, such as: one of them is hurting or suffering or has a need. If at all normal, the other will want to help. And this is especially true of believers who have the love and compassion of Christ in their hearts. We care! Because God cares. And so we try to help. And before long, because we are made this way, the emotions become involved. We feel close to that person, closer than we feel to others. We begin to trust them. We confide with each other. We respect each other. And then, "voila!", we are in love.
And in reality, what has evolved is a form of intimacy that we do not have with others. A form of oneness.
I believe that God has designed us to fall in love, given the proper circumstances. He wired us this way. And the sooner we realize this, the better off we will be in discerning the stirrings (and misleadings) of the human heart.
I remember the old train diagram from Campus Crusade's little booklet on becoming filled with the Spirit. It showed a train engine, coal car, and caboose. The train is the fact, the caboose the feelings. The feelings are pulled by the fact. And great problems arise when we let feelings (meant to be the caboose) color, or lead, the facts (the train). This is very true of "falling in love." The emotions of "falling in love" are designed to be there by God. They are the valid results of certain facts, which we've just addressed. God meant that the feelings be there. But He meant that they be only results, and never causes. They are meant to be the caboose. But never meant to be the train! Our problems start when we allow the emotions of "being in love" to become the reason for a relationship! They are meant to follow, but never to lead!
But how many believers, just like unbelievers, follow their hearts as their hearts are "in love"? And how many have been led astray this way? Certainly thousands of us.
How important is it that we understand how "falling in love" happens? It is vitally important!
In fact, it is because of not understanding these two "conditions" which cause "falling in love" (1., a basic attractiveness, and 2., time together communicating) that many married individuals fall in love with someone other than their spouse after marriage! Many Christian marriages have been destroyed by believers spending time with and sharing with one of the opposite sex who is sometimes initially not even attractive. They fall into sin because this principle of "falling in love" is a fact - the emotion is a result of simple factors, never meant to be a cause.
Why must we be clear on this before we marry? First, of course, so that we won't be deceived into marrying the wrong person. But secondly, because even if we do marry the one of God's choice, we can easily be deceived by failing to guard ("watch and pray") against "falling in love" with someone other than our spouse after we marry.
We should also be aware that within the incredibly strong emotions of "falling in love", there is also an element of narcissism. What do we mean? For me to be "in love" with someone, it is inherent that I must respect them, think highly of them. And then, when I find out that this one, whom I so respect, thinks highly of me, how my ego is inflated! The whole world dims in my view and I do not care what anyone thinks but my beloved. And especially what my beloved thinks of me. If my beloved loves me, nothing else matters. But this self-centered aspect of being in love can be deceiving. In fact, it cannot last over time.
Everyone I know who has fallen in love has also fallen out of love. If there is one who has not experienced this, I have not run across them in my 1/2 century of living. How does this happen? It really is very simple.
The one who is beloved either does something that is so offensive or alienating that it kills the emotions; or we discover in that person some trait or traits that we find offensive or alienating. Or one or both repeatedly occur over a period of time. Boom. Love is gone. Now amazingly, that same person that we were out of control over is not just another person, but another person with a flaw. Need we elucidate further?
If "falling in love" is the basis for knowing who to marry, we must also adopt the following two conclusions:
a. "falling out of love" tells us who to divorce!
We laugh at the absurdity of such a statement. But, one must follow the other.
b. "falling in love with another after we are married tells us we should divorce and marry another!"
And in fact, this is exactly what we see not only throughout the world of unbelievers, but throughout Christendom today.
Do we wonder why so many Christians divorce? It is only a logical result of the original basis for the marriage.
Let us now look at the last of our four assumptions which make the foundations of the "trial & error" method of finding a mate:
4. If We "Test The Waters" Sufficiently, We Can Know What It Will Be Like To Be Married To A Person.
This assumption leads to a Corollary: The More We "TEST THE WATERS" The Better We Can Decide;
As we have stated previously, in the light of the cost, commitment, and intimacy of marriage, it is impossible to really know a person outside of the parameters of marriage.
And I would add that I do not know one married person that can say they had no surprises about their mate after marrying. In fact, most would admit that their surprises were great!
Regardless of how long you have known a person, you really only know the outer shell. In the best of circumstances. With that person knowing that they are being observed; i.e., they are on "best behavior." Granted, if you are discerning, you will be able to judge key character traits. But there will be those that you miss. And your judgement too is imperfect.
Once the wedding is over, the doors to the house closed, and you've lived with someone for several years, then you may know them. Or you may not.
It may take a serious crisis to prove what is really in a person's heart. And you can be sure of one thing: in these days, soon after any marriage, the crisis will come. It may be loss of employment, a loved one, a falling apart of a friendship, or whatever. It will come.
And has anybody checked the statistics for couples living together before marriage? It is now proven that it reduces the likelihood of the marriage lasting! God has known this all along. But it's no wonder that man has yet to figure it out.
I hope these points have helped to show that all the assumptions on which dating is based are false.