As a culture, we often view dating as an end to itself, rather than the process by which we find a husband or wife. Because of this, the “who is your girlfriend” question usually begins in preschool, and only increases through grade school, middle school, and high school. By the time a young person is ready to pursue marriage, they have had numerous romantic relationships, carrying loads of baggage on their first date with Mr. Right.
But is there a better way? (Yes!)
The better way is trading recreational dating (dating for the fun of it) for intentional dating (dating for the purpose of marriage). Intentional dating starts by asking two questions, “Who?” and “When?” In asking “who”, you are deciding what type of a person you want to marry, and by asking “when”, you are establishing the season you will be ready for marriage. Then start dating to find your who, only when you are ready to marry them.
In navigating dating and marriage, it’s helpful to note the 3-seasons of love that proceed marriage.
Season of Sleeping.
This season is between birth and puberty and should be a season where children are asleep when it comes to romantic love. During this season, we must avoid asking kids who their girlfriend or boyfriend is because this question starts to awaken something in our children that is not ready to be awake yet. When our kids start singing the K-I-S-S-I-N-G song to their friends, we must talk to them about what kissing and boyfriends are about, which is marriage, not dating in kindergarten. Parents, let your kids sleep during this age, and put them back to bed if they try to wake up early.
Season of Preparing.
This season begins at puberty, and will more than likely last through the teen years. Dr. Mohler says, “Puberty is not a toy to be played with, but a tool to mature by.” When puberty hits, most teens assume their new desires and feelings are toys to be played with, so they jump into dating relationships and start playing with love. During this stage, we must tell teens their feelings are not toys, but rather a wake-up call telling them they were created to be husbands and fathers, wives and mothers.
Therefore, the teen years are not for playing with love, but rather preparing for love. It’s about teens learning from mom and dad how to be godly men and women who will be ready to marry when the next seasons comes.
Season of Looking.
In the late teen and young adult years, the season of looking begins when a person feels (and others agree) they are ready for marriage. Looking means opening one’s eye to see potential suitors, and then prayerfully pursuing or responding in God-honoring ways. Dating at this stage is done for the purpose of marriage. If you are in this stage, check out my post 8-Suggestions for Dating on Purpose.
What season do you find yourself in, or what season are your children or grandchildren in? If it’s sleeping, then let love sleep. If it’s preparing, then prepare. And if it’s looking, then look with the goal of marriage in mind.
Let’s stop treating dating like a fun game that has no consequences. Instead, let’s date on purpose, because the goal is not a fun dating career, but one really epic marriage that last a lifetime.
I also recommend this post on dating from Sam Taylor, a former student of mine who is now at MSU.