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Monday, January 31, 2011

Emotional Purity and Courtship, A Conclusion

My heart is pretty full right now. When I posted my first post on this subject, I had no idea it would go where it did. And the stories just keep pouring in! For some of you, it was just nice to know that you aren't alone in your struggles. For others, it confirmed what you've always thought on the matter. And for many, it's left you thinking "Now what?"

I have been cautioned not to "jump from one ditch into the other" but I think that is a false dichotomy. There's a very wide road between those two ditches. Just because I decry the problems with courtship, doesn't mean that I think promiscuity to be the answer. The casual dating that our parents were trying to get away from has it's own set of damaging behaviors and issues. What we need to do is find a balance. How do we conduct our relationships in a way that honors God, honors the other person, and honors ourselves? That allows God to be God and lead in our lives, write our love stories?

I am not going to give you another formula. I don't think one exists, actually. But the scripture is full of teachings on how to interact as children of God. Every principle we need to have God-honoring relationships are outlined in the Bible. These have been called the "one-another" verses. I challenge each of you to get a concordance and look up the phrase "one-another" and see how many instructions there are in the New Testament regarding our interactions with each other. These verses will become your standard for how you conduct all your relationships, regardless of what those relationships are. They are the fleshing out of what it means to love God with all you are and to love your neighbor as yourself. The reason we follow these verses, the very crux of the issue, is summed up in Jesus' words "By this will all men know that You are my disciples, if you love one another".

Any relationship in your life will be God-honoring if these one-another verses are the standard under which you operate. Marriage, dating, parent-child, friend, and sibling relationships should all be conducted with these teachings in mind. Because, when all is said and done, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, children of God, and every other relationship we have is secondary to this.

Consider verses like these:

"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Eph. 4:1-3

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:12-17

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Phil. 2:1-4

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." Rom. 12:9-16

If this is the standard under which we are supposed to operate our relationships, how much more should we use this standard in our dating relationships? In our marriages? With the people who we are most intimate with?

One-anothering....it's what being children of God is all about.

If this seems rather vague and general to you....good! It's supposed to be. Because intertwined within following the one-another verses, is God writing your own story. Making it personal, individual, specific. I think He just likes to be creative in how He shows His glory and love to men. If you don't believe me, read your Bible. A fiery furnace. A lion's den. Talking bushes and donkeys. Healing blindness with spit and mud. Manna from heaven. Your story of God's grace and love toward you is no different. Let him be God and don't try to make formulas to control His working in your life.

This might seem scary, this stepping out in faith. Because it requires acting upon something that we can't see the end of or know where we might be taken in the mean time. What I said earlier bears repeating here: "...formula is the opposite of faith. Formula says "I will follow a God that I've put neatly in a box, to give me the desired results". Faith says "I will follow You even when I can't see where I'm going, even when the world is collapsing around me". Formula says "I will not risk, I will be in control of my future". Faith says "I will risk everything, I will trust Whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway." Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). But we are afraid. So we control instead of trust. We don't take a step unless we can see where we're going. We build neat little formulas and say "THIS will keep me safe!" Then we blame God when our puny formulas fail."

Any system or teaching that promises a safe, packaged life is promising more than what Christ promised His followers. Actually, it would be promising the opposite. Jesus, in no unspecific terms, told his disciples that if they followed Him, their lives would be anything but safe. If He was trying to teach a prosperity gospel, He failed epically. He promised torture, tribulation, hatred from others, abandonment, ridicule, and all kinds of fun things. But He also promised abundant life, blessings, and intimacy with the God-who-is-love. He never promised ease and safety, but He did promise it would be worth it. I am very suspect of any teaching that promises the opposite of what Jesus Himself promised.

So love much. Risk sometimes. Step out and ask a girl you admire for a coffee date. Invest in other people. Give, expecting nothing in return. Bear one another's burdens. Love one another. Tell your story. Be honest, sincere, and genuine. Give abundant grace. Go talk to him. Be friendly. Be kind and compassionate. Abide in Him. Follow our crazy God. Live well. Live Jesus.


  1. *thumbs up*


  2. I certainly understand the urge to protect children from harm and heartbreak! It's really little wonder so many parents cling to teachings like this.

    I've enjoyed this series and the way you've ended it.

    I'd like to share something that may seem strange. I'm a middle-aged woman grown up from a very promiscuous teen. Since becoming a Christian at age 40 I've found I experience all the same uncomfortable relationship issues you and the other "purity" kids are describing! I think this movement you're describing has the potential to actually rob innocence from its children almost as fully as my own sexual sin did, by re-interpreting all male-female interaction into something sexual and sinfully inappropriate.

    Another effect of this mind-set is the reducing of people down to categories like "pure" and "soiled goods." There seems to be little grace here for those sinners who have been washed by Christ - no real belief in His ability to cleanse sinners. There is a sense that the only sin that defiles a person is sexual sin, and that defilement is permanent. Yet my Bible tells me not to call unclean what God has cleansed.

    I'm so thankful for a husband who was willing to embrace this tainted female with all his heart. To say that people like us cannot glorify God and have a lovely marriage because of our past sins is to put the lie to the Gospel itself.

  3. Darcy, I've really valued the things you've written recently. Thank you for a really good conclusion too :)

    Laurie, thank you for that comment, it cuts to the heart of what I've often felt and complained about: that 'Emotional Purity, TM' as it were, categorizes people as 'ruined goods'. Terribly hurtful and as you said, completely against the teachings of grace.
    God can restore ANY person and ANY relationship, thank you for sharing your story as a reminder to us of that. It's very comforting to me :)

  4. Reading what you wrote about faith and formula's makes me wonder again, am I looking for a formula? I'm just afraid to believe right now.

  5. ::Applause::

    As one of my friends once prayed, "Dear God, please bless this box I made for you. It's just your size. In Jesus' name, Amen."

    The whole point of faith is that life is scary sometimes. You can either tie yourself to the pole so you won't move, or you can jump and trust the safety net. The second way you get to fly.

  6. "I think this movement you're describing has the potential to actually rob innocence from its children almost as fully as my own sexual sin did, by re-interpreting all male-female interaction into something sexual and sinfully inappropriate."

    Laurie...Bingo! This is it EXACTLY. Thank you for sharing that.

  7. Did my last comment go through?

    This might end up being a double post.
    But, I couldn't agree more!
    Why do we have such a strong desire to control God? He will do what He will; whenever, wherever, *however* He wants! And it's such a beautiful thing. His way is best, but there's no precise formula to follow.


  8. Young Mom,
    I'm afraid to believe too. I'm afraid to release control over my life and trust God right now. It seems like in every stage in your life there's another step of faith to take, another formula and box to get rid of. Right now I'm trying to let go of my anger toward Him and trust Him again. My prayer is "I DO believe, Lord help my unbelief". And God is so unbelievably kind. He doesn't push us, He wants us to give Him control freely. So He takes us where we're at and gently helps us grow into a fuller belief in Him.

    Sometimes my faith is like the time I did a high-ropes course at our family camp last summer. I stood at the end with only the "leap of faith" left...I had to jump off the platform I was standing on 50 feet off the ground and try to grab a trapeze bar hanging just out of reach. I stood there for 20 minutes, trying to get the courage to make the leap, my friends on the ground shouting "you can do it!". In the end, I couldn't do it. Even though I was harnessed and strapped in and KNEW I couldn't fall, I still could't jump. The only way I could even make myself jump off the platform was to close my eyes and step off (it was the only way down :P).

    My faith is like that often. I want to trust, but i just can't, and I finally have to close my eyes and take a little step off into nothing. But God loves me anyway. He desires relationship with me anyway. In His eyes, I am not finished yet. I think He takes just as much delight in my baby-steps of faith as He does in others' triumphant leaps.

  9. Darcy...Have I told you that you rock?

    Thank you for these articles.

  10. Oh, Darcy,amening from here! Yes, yes, yes to the truth of pursuing the one anothers as our standard for relationships, whether they are in a courtship/dating setting or betweens husbands and wives or with our children. So simple and yet so easily missed because our sinful hearts want a paradigm, a list. We are truly such idolators and need God grace moment by moment. Bless you for the encouragement you are!

  11. I think you REALLY hit the nail on the head here! It's taken me almost 10 years to figure all this out through prayer and counsel. I was coming from my Harris/Ludy "roots" as a teenager. (Though my parents never put any restrictions on me in this area.)

  12. Darcy,

    I love what you write, sometimes, even though I disagree, sometimes, some of what you write is just horribly scarring in that had I known what it was you were writing I would not have read it, but the moment of enlightenment occurred, too, late.

    I am not disagreeing with you in the big picture. [At least I don't think, however, if I am mistaken do not hesitate to correct me.]

    I think formula is the end result of reason.

    Someone asks "how" or "why", and reason creates a response in the form of a formula.

    I don't think formulae put God in a box. Reason and experience indicate to me that God is bigger than either my reason or my experience. So why should my formulae concerning Him be, to borrow a phrase, "close ended"?

    I suppose one can have "close ended" formulae regarding God [e.g. atheism,] but if one truly fears God it would seem only "open ended" formulae could be developed.

  13. @Tragedy:

    This. http://xkcd.com/55/

  14. @Lore:

    Sort of.

    I am trying to ask, if I understand correctly what she is saying.

    I just am not comfortable discarding the term formula, because I think it is our best [or perhaps only] representation of reason. And what she says is formulaic. Formulae can be when discussing with people:
    What perspective they are understanding something from,
    and how their perspective agrees and differs from my own.

    Without formulae there is no reason. Without reason there is no discussion. I cannot seperate formulae from reason.

    I think I stated my position fairly well, don't you? Even if I failed to mention, I don't think we disagree.

  15. @Tragedy:
    The problem with formulas is that they take both the Holy Spirit and individual personalities out of the picture. NO relationship should be based on a predescribed patter, but a natural binding of the hearts as two people interact with each other. You don't "formulate" how a friendship develops; you allow it to develop naturally as your hearts are bound together. Why do we think we should formulate romantic relationships?
    I can tell you from my personal experiece that I developed the "perfect" formula, followed it to a "T", and still got emotional scars. Relationships always carry a risk with them; that is the way love works. The deeper you love, the greater the risk of getting hurt. But guess what: love is worth the risk; love is even worth all of the hurt!
    There are biblical principles that need to be applied to every relationship (namely, true sacrificial love), but these aren't "formulated"; rather they are uniquely applied to every situation depending on where the relationship is at and how the personalities of both people in each relationship interact with each other.
    Does this make any sense? I would be glad to share anything from my own experiences!

  16. @Ben

    I appreciate what you are saying, I simply disagree concerning what a formula is and what the perfect formula contains.

    "NO relationship should be based on a predescribed patter[n], but a natural binding of the hearts as two people interact with each other." What is this? I would call this a maxim.

    The difference is the formulae we reduce the world to:

    Mine go like this: Mixing Chemical A and Chemical B is very effective at cleaning stuff. It also produces a gas. That gas when inhaled causes disorientation, dizziness, and nausea, prolonged exposure can result in painful breathing, bleeding from orifices, and asphyxia.

    Yours go like this: Don't mix bleach and Ajax.

    Do you see how mine is "open ended" while yours is "close ended"? I can see why you don't like formulae, but can you see why I don't share your opinion?

    Your formulae don't just reduce an idea to its key components, but steps beyond the formula reducing it to its maxim. The maxim isn't the formula. It is just the most important idea, and you loose the formula by doing so. I mean, people can understand a formula without reducing it to a maxim, however, trying to deduce a formula from its maxim is near impossible.

    Your "perfect formula" wasn't a formula at all, but a set of maxims "do this" and "don't do that".

    A formula does not remove key components like God, the Holy Spirit, and individual personalities; a maxim does.

  17. @Tragedy:

    Okay, now I better understand where you are coming from. We are using different definitions of what a "formula" is. You oversimplified my definition of a formula, though; my definition would be more: do this (x), and that result (y) will always follow (like a mathematical function). I learned that because of all the variables involved, every relationship will be different, and there is no way you can always do x and y to get z.

    Here are a few more questions:
    When you speak of formulae, are you referring to the way God created the world, to have natural consequences for the way we live and the choices we make? I would certainly agree that we all live within the "natural laws" of how God created the world to run.
    Do we have a role in defining a formula to live by?

    I feel that the danger we need to avoid is feeling like we can dreate a function (that is, my definition of a formula: input x, output y) that will guarantee we will get the results we want. Real life doesn't work that way. And God meant for that to be the case; He wants us to interact with Him instead creating our little black function boxes (formulas, maxims, whatever they may be), which leave Him out.

    Does that make sense for where I'm coming from, and what I see as dangerous?


  18. @Ben

    I appreciate you discussing this with me. This is not what you are saying?

    x = creating formulae
    y = following formulae
    z = limitting God

    x + y = z

    No(x) + No(y) = No(z)

    I agree with you real life doesn't work that way.

  19. Darcy...
    Great job.
    Hugs!!! And thank you. :D

  20. @Tragedy:

    I've enjoyed our conversation, too! It has helped to broaden my understanding of how the word "formula" can be used and received.

    That is not quite what I was saying. Sorry for the confusion. This is how I tried to live in the past (even if I didn't realize it):

    x = some conviction of mine
    y = a beautiful, godly relationship without emotional scars

    y = f(x). Which means, mathematically speaking, that the same input of "x" always results in the same output of "y".

    For example, if "x" was my conviction that I should never take a girl's heart for my own pleasure, then when I lived this out, I (or anyone else), would find the beautiful fruit of a wonderful relationship with a girl in God's perfect time.

    The problem is, life is not a mathematical function. When I live out "x" in my life, it can produce any number of results. Therefore, I now believe that I should be more focused on pursuing the paths God has for me every day (which differ from day to day) than developing a "map" that I will follow.

    Does that clarify things? Too bad I can't meet you in person - maybe I could make more sense in person. :-)

    Blessings to you!

  21. Tragedy,
    I haven't said anything in this conversation, mostly because Ben has said it all for me. I agree completely with everything he has stated here. Thank you for the polite discussion. :)

  22. Darcy, these have been some great articles lately. Recently my family was put in a position when a young man pretty much (not offically yet) asked my younger sister out. This sister is a little more patriocial then I am and decided that she wasn't interested in dating him right now. I have to admit, I also kinda pushed her to not date him, but now thinking about it, I kinda wonder if there is any harm in it?

    This sister has also said that she desires the kind of attention this young man is giving her, I have observed him and I would trust him with her. But I'm also kinda nervous about encouraging them to date. Some of the teachings on purity have been drilled into me, and while they have messed up several of my male-female relationships, they still are there :P .

    I'm not sure how this story will end yet (the young man is still coming around), but this has shown me that sometimes it's hard to just have faith that things will be okay. Maybe they should become a couple? Maybe they should just stay friends? Right now we are trying to encourage them to just be friends.

  23. Arizona,
    I think that's wise. If your sister isn't interested in him, I don't see the point of entering a dating relationship. I really do believe that dating works best when two people are exploring the idea of marriage. I guess I don't see the point of dating for fun. Not that it's a bad thing, but I wouldn't encourage it, for a number of reasons. And who knows? Maybe him sticking around and them getting to know each other as "just friends" will turn into something else. I think that's natural and good.

  24. I agree with Darcy, T2. :-D Actually, just as a wonderment, is the young man a Christian? Because if not, then that is a definite no. Is your sister ready to be married, or to handle a relationship at this time?

    Just as I don't think we should be afraid of relationships, I don't think we should jump into them just to get over our fear.

  25. Great post. I still don't think we need to "date to see," though. If you don't know, then wait. If you know, then I don't see the big deal against dating.

    But my main thing is I think every grown daughter and son should get to make their own decisions here. I am against parents making it for us. If I want to date for fun, I don't think my parents, at my age, should stop me.

  26. Happened upon your posts and I really enjoyed them. Thank you for sharing your heart on these issues.

    I was one that grew up with the word "courtship" but without all the other baggage that seems to ride along with it (thanks, mostly, to parents who are careful and discerning). But I hear and talk to many girls who have it- and I love hearing your perspective and how you were able to step away from wrong thinking.

    1. Good thoughts! Parents who are careful and discerning; what a blessing they are!! :)

    2. Parents who teach their children to be careful and discerning, then let them go be adults, are even more of a blessing. ;)

  27. Late to this party but THANK YOU for these posts!

    1. You're never too late for this particular party....;)

  28. Ok after reading these posts on dating and courtships and all of their comments, I have to say thank you.

    I grew up an atheist in a small town. I find it funny that purity and courtship talk about dating with the purpose of marriage. That's exactly how I see it. To me, it comes from a place of practicality. Why would I enter a relationship thinking "yea this might work for a little while"? That's a waste of time, and would lead to unnecessary heartache.

    The funniest part is that even though I will go on dates with someone to find out if we're suited to each other, you can't avoid heartache. I would go on dates with guys, maybe testing the waters for two weeks or two months before deciding that it wasn't for me... Sometimes it was lack of romance, or just lack of interest. But someone always gets hurt. Someone may be perfect on paper but In real life falls short. Rejection, that sense of failure always sucks.

    In my case, my relationships failed because I entered into them with preconceived notions as to what I wanted. I don't mean things like "have a job, have goals, have good morals and values". I mean the type of personality I was looking for. My ideal is not, in fact, right for me. It is all wrong. And as I grow older, I find that what I wanted when I was younger is so very different from what I want now. I thought I would marry my ex, but in retrospect we were not a good match. I have dated, seriously, 4 men (with many little relationships in between where either I or my partner didn't make the cut early on), and each time I thought "ok I have found one that fits my list this will work". Obviously they didn't.

    The point of this long ramble is that it's not just formulae that don't work, it's preset ideas and expectations that can lead to a relationship failing. Because you're forcing an ideal that maybe isn't right for you or the other person. And for all my efforts to avoid heartache, I still got hurt, I still hurt others.

    Would I change how I've lived my life? No. Because my experiences have shaped me into the woman I am today. Do I have regrets? Sure, but I can't do anything about that now, I just chalk it up to more lessons learned. Do I think I have a better idea now how to form a healthy, loving relationship with someone? You bet, and it's because of those experiences. And it involves me dropping my huge list of wants to what is most important to me: morals, goals, a constant desire to improve oneself, etc.

    It doesn't matter if you court or date, either way can go wrong. It doesn't even matter if you go into it with intentions to marry. Expectations, preconceived notions, and any lack of knowledge of your true self (the way you are at your absolute worst and absolute best), will lead you into pain. Each person is different, each relationship will develop differently. I think God wants it this way. He made us so unique. I think there are millions of paths that can lead to a Godly relationship, marriage, or whatever. I think if you enter into a relationship with a good head on your shoulders and a good sense of self and a desire to do your best and honor God as much as you can, then you are doing it right, even if it all goes wrong. We're meant to fail and learn lessons. If we knew it all, why would we need Go to guide us?

    My 2¢