After reading my last post, my wife kindly informed me that I didn't answer the question. I said that I think I answered a quarter of the question, but Amy responded that I answered the part no one cared about. I think, as usual, that she was right.
My thinking was that, in the Christian communities in which we participate, there's some hesitancy to relate to people of the opposie sex as non-romantic, close friends. Some of us are interested in dating partners or marriage prospects, but close friends? Not so much. This tendency makes me sad.
But, on to the next quarter of the question (I'll probably answer a quarter, a quarter, and then the remaining half). When are we ready to date romantically (as opposed to friendly)?
My answer is simple, but maybe unusual. Because I believe that intimacy and commitment are designed to go hand in hand, I believe that it is unwise to date romantically, exclusively and intensely unless you are ready to consider marrying the person you are dating. Is this a familiar or a foreign idea? Let me expand on it.
First, it's important to not kid ourselves about these relationships: they always escalate and grow. Spend every Friday and Saturday night for a month with a person and you already have momentum building commitment and the accompanying expectations. Talk deeply on those dates, hold hands and snuggle a little and you already have momentum building intimacy and the accompanying desires. This is natural and good: romantic, exclusive and intense dating should lead to deeper levels of intimacy and commitment. But know that the trajectory of these relationships is for the deep end of intimacy and commitment, which in the Christian life means marriage. These relationships either lead to marriage or some bent and twisted substitue or, with effort and a little heartache, back to friendship.
Secondly, if these relationships are either headed to marriage or a substitute or back to friendship, it would be wise for us to keep marriage in mind, to be considering marriage as the relationship grows. Considering marriage as the relationship grows is the best protection from the sub-marriage, sub-friendship substitutes.
Thirdly, we need a willingness to consider marrying, not an immediate willingness to marry. Please don't hear me saying "Don't date a person unless you're sure you're going to marry him/her." Dating with intent is a discovery process. What this means is that you're paying attention, watching to see if this person you're growing closer and more committed to is someone you would be wise to marry. If you discover something along the way that would keep you from marrying (she's already married, she's your sister, she's six years old, she's not a she...), the fact that you're considering marriage and not just having a good time should lead you to change the trajectory of the relationship.
So, when are we ready to date with intent? You're ready when you're ready to consider marriage (how to do that is the topic of a future post, of course). To show you what that looks like, I'll tell those stories I promised last time. But it will have to wait for next time. :)
"The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. (Harris)"