by Rich Murphy
Pretty much everyone in the world has been single at some time or another. (Although there might be a few people in some remote tribe somewhere who were born married, and never were single, I don't personally know anyone.) Most of the people who are single today are either waiting to get married, looking for someone to marry, or are too young to marry. There are a few that don't want to get married, but they're definitely in the minority.
If all those single people are looking to get married, the question comes up, how will they find someone to marry?
In today's society, the process of selecting a spouse is through something we call dating. In this process, a person spends time in relationships with various members of the opposite sex. These relationships may last anywhere from a few hours to several years. During that time, the two people engage in a number of different activities to enjoy themselves, each other's company, and supposedly get to know each other.
Eventually, through a process of trial and error, two people will find each other and come to the decision that they are mutually compatible, should get married, and live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, the person they think they've been dating isn't the person they're going to have to live with. The person they've been dating is a mask, not the real person. In dating, everyone is putting on a show. The real person is kept hidden away until after the marriage.
Although this sounds like a fairly simple system, it in fact is highly complex. The combination of possible interactions between two people is literally endless. While the trial and error nature of this method should make for some sort of security to eliminate errors, it actually does the opposite and insures that each person has enough errors in their interpersonal relationships to give them a lifetime of heartache. This heartache carries into the marriage relationship and all but destroys the possibility of intimacy within the marriage.
While there is no formal history of dating that we can look to for accurate information, the idea of dating is actually something new in the world. It hasn't existed anywhere in the world for more than 100, or at the most 150 years.
Before that, we don't find anywhere in the world that people dated, especially young people (teens). Instead, when they were at an age where marriage would be appropriate, the parents would seek out a suitable spouse for their child. This system is still in use in parts of the world today.
If we look in the Bible, we don't find a single example of dating. Instead, we find that when Isaac needed a wife, his father, Abraham, sent his steward back to his home town to search for one (Gen 24:2-4). Why? Because Abraham wanted to be sure his son had a good wife.
The earliest instances of "dating" I know of in the United States were about 100 years ago. But, those weren't dating as we know it today. Instead, a young man would go to visit a young girl at her parent's house. They would sit in the parlor (living room) with the rest of the family and talk. They wouldn't leave to be alone, nor would the family leave them alone in the parlor. There would always be other family members there. That greatly reduced (like to zero) the possibility of there being any physical contact between them.
Another example grew out of the frontier days of the old west. Communities would have social events to raise funds for various needs within the community. At some of these events, the women would prepare a box dinner. The men would bid on these dinners. Whoever "won" a particular dinner had the opportunity to eat it with the preparer. Again, this was done in a public forum, where nobody was left alone.
It wasn't until World War Two that we see any dating as we know it today. During that time, there were a very large number of men off fighting the war and away from their homes. This caused somewhat of a breakdown of the family. In addition, there was a general loosening of morals, as is normal during wartime. Young men would be looking for young women to pass time with, and young women, excited by the wartime atmosphere, would be much more open to their advances.
Understand, these young men weren't looking for wives at that time, they were looking for relaxation, fun, and sex. An honorable man doesn't want to get married right before going off to war. He wouldn't want to leave behind a widow and orphans. But, a man who thinks he might die soon would want all the sex he can get.
Herein lies the true problem of dating. Most of the time, dating isn't about finding a spouse, it's about sex. It has been said that young men are nothing but a hormone covered in skin. Because of this, they see every female as a potential sexual partner. They date with the hopes that they will be able to entice the girl into bed.
Girls, on the other hand, aren't looking for sex, but affection and attention. They become involved with guys in order to satisfy this emotional need. Since they don't have a strong sexual desire, they don't think about the fact that the guys do. Then, once they're emotionally involved, the guy say something like, "If you love me, you'll have sex with me." The girl is emotionally trapped. If she refuses, he'll probably leave her. So, she gives in and has sex with him. He's sexually satisfied and she's dealing with sexual problems for the rest of her life.
Almost all of the sexual problems that any couple has can trace their roots to the time of dating. By definition, sexual abuse is being pressured, forced, or coerced into any sexual act. So, what's a sexual act? Is it just sexual intercourse, or are there other sexual acts?
Let me answer this way. As a married man, I can hug and kiss my wife without any problem, right? But, can I do that with another woman, let's say the wife of another pastor? No! Why? Because these are sexual acts. Yes, I know that some churches hug, and people kiss on the cheek all the time, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a full frontal hug, not a little hug on the side. Any time the breasts of a woman touch a man it is sexual. I'm not talking about a kiss on the cheek either, but a kiss on the lips. I can't do this with another woman because it is sexual.
Well, if I, as a married man, can't do that with another woman, why can your unmarried son do them with my unmarried daughter? If it's wrong as married adults, it's wrong as unmarried youth. These are sexual acts!
Since they are sexual acts, they cause the girl, or woman to receive the same sort of problems as rape does; maybe not to the same degree, but of the same sort. According to this definition, basically all women have been sexually abused at one time or another in their past. That's why women have such a negative attitude towards sex.
The only way to avoid these sexual problems is to avoid sexual contact before marriage. Then, on the marriage day, the woman is free to give herself to her husband, without any negative effects of past relationships.
God doesn't have anything against our youth having fun, He just has something against them using sex, drugs, alcohol, and crime as the methods of having fun.
My teen-age kids probably have more fun than any other teenagers I know. They do all kids of things with their youth group, and with their friends. But, they do it as a group, not as a dating situation. That protects them both emotionally and sexually. I'll say it again, God doesn't have anything against our youth having fun.
There is a chemical hormone in the body called oxytoxin. The level of this hormone in our body is augmented by touch between two people. The more intimate the touch, the more it is increased. A hug will release more than a handshake; a kiss more than a hug; an intimate caress more than a kiss; sexual intimacy will release even more; and sexual orgasm releases the most. The more a couple is in contact, the more oxytoxin they will have in their bodies.
Not only does oxytoxin get increased in the system, but it "feeds" upon itself. An increase in oxytoxin triggers a desire for more oxytoxin. This triggers a desire for more touch and more intimate touch. A couple that has no plans to have sexual relations may find themselves unable to avoid having sex because of the craving to "feed" the oxytoxin in their bodies.
This hormone literally causes the feeling of being "in love" with another person. Any two people (male and female) who have a lot of physical contact, and especially a lot of sexual contact will be in love with each other. It doesn't matter what the person looks like, how they act, or what their character is like, just as long as there is a lot of contact.
Unfortunately, being "in love" doesn't mean that they love the other person, are compatible on a long-term basis, nor are the perfect match for marriage. It only means that they feel that way at the moment. Lower the oxytoxin level that they have and they might even detest each other.
This is what happens in marriage. During the dating time, the couple is constantly touching, hugging, kissing, and in today's society probably having sex every day. Because they are in love, they get married. During more or less the first year of marriage, they continue touching, hugging, kissing, and having sex. Then, after about a year, the couple receives a little gift; a gift in diapers; a baby.
Suddenly, all the attention that the woman was giving her husband is over the baby. She doesn't have the time, or energy to pay much attention to her husband, and he ends up feeling rejected. Because of this, he doesn't pay as much attention to her, and she feels rejected. Without the bond caused by constant intimate contact, there is nothing to hold them together emotionally.
People talk about falling "out of love" all the time. Some get divorced, or separate based on this "reason." Quite literally, that's what they are doing. They remove what caused them to "fall in love" in the first place, and they fall again, this time out of love.
The only way to avoid the effect of oxytoxin is to avoid physical touch. Dating places great pressure and temptation on the couple to have physical contact, specifically intimate physical contact. The only way to avoid this pressure is to avoid dating.
In addition to the sexual problems that come from dating, there are emotional problems as well. Every time someone becomes emotionally involved with another person, they give the other person a piece of their heart. Finally, after being involved in several relationships, where they've given a piece of their heart to each, they find the one they'll spend their life with. Unfortunately, all that's left to give is a small piece of their heart. Not only that, but they've given away so many pieces, that many times they're afraid to give away that last little piece. They want to keep it for themselves.
Many people feel robbed in their marriage because of this. They aren't receiving all of their spouse's heart, because others still hold onto various parts. Their spouse isn't free to give of themselves, because they've been hurt too many times. Instead of having a relationship of freely giving to each other, they have a contest to try and receive, without having to give too much.
The other long-term emotional effect of these relationships is in the area of trust. After being hurt by so many other relationships, anyone has trouble trusting another. Every irritation, hurt, and bad action is reflected onto the new partner. Words and actions of this new partner are misinterpreted in light of the past hurts; putting a constant friction between the two. Instead of getting to know the new partner, it is common to decide that they are just like someone else, because of a similar habit, action, or manner of speech.
Some of these problems can take years to appear and even more years to overcome. We know of one couple where the woman had been in an abusive relationship. Although they socialized a lot in this relationship, she was never allowed to enjoy herself at the parties. So, later when she married someone else, she had a lot of problems enjoying any social event. Holidays, parties, and dinners with friends could cause her to close up emotionally and even drive her to tears. It became very difficult for this couple to have any sort of social life, or recreation.
According to statistics put out by Focus on the Family a few years ago, 75% of Christian girls think that if a guy spends money on them, taking them on a date, they have a responsibility to repay him by having sex with him. That's among Christian girls! Imagine what it's like for the guys, or for non-Christians.
My wife and I have two teen-age children; one boy and one girl. They have both made a vow of sexual purity until marriage. As part of this commitment, they have decided not to date. They asked us, as their parents, to help hold them to this vow and protect them from the temptation of becoming involved in a dating relationship.
Paul tell us "Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity" (1 Tim 5:1-2).
This decision my kids have made is a biblical one. A guy doesn't date his sister; nor should he have sex with her (Lev 18:9). If men are to treat the younger women as sisters, then they will respect their bodies, and not touch them. But, just to be sure, Paul added the phrase "with all purity."
Within the marriage, sexual intimacy is intended to be a blessing. In fact, the writer of Hebrews calls it honorable (Heb 13:4). But, to remain honorable it must remain within the marriage. Within the same verse, God goes on to tell us that He will judge adulterers and fornicators.
So, if a person doesn't date, how are they supposed to find a spouse? I'm glad you asked that question. The answer, like all answers, is found in the Bible.
Tell me something, is a spouse included within the phrase "all these things?" According to the way I understand the word "all" it is. Just like everything else in life, we are to trust the Lord to provide the perfect spouse at the perfect time.
If you can't trust God to find a spouse for you, what in the world are you doing trusting Him for your salvation? I'd say that salvation is a much bigger issue. If He can take care of the big things, I'm quite sure he can take care of the little ones as well. Not only can He take care of it, but He can do a much better job at it than we can.
Every once in a while, a woman will come up to us and ask us to pray that God give her a godly husband. I always answer the same way, "God doesn't have any other type to give you. The ungodly ones aren't His to give."
If you are desiring a spouse, remember that God gives to us according to the desires of our hearts. Know what it is that you are desiring. Don't be generic, be specific. Ask God for the person you want, not by name, but by characteristics.
I had looked for a wife for so long that I literally had a list of characteristics written up for what I wanted in a wife. It didn't deal much with her looks, although I wanted a beautiful wife; it dealt mostly with her character traits. There were about thirty character traits on this list. I had written what for me was the description of a perfect woman. When I met a woman, I would compare her to this list. If she obviously didn't fit it, I wouldn't go any farther. If it looked like she did, I would try to get to know her better.
Finally, I gave up looking. I was sure there wasn't a single woman in the world who met all of those characteristics. So, I gave the list to God and told Him to take care of it. Two weeks later I met my wife. It took six months for me to be sure that she met all of those characteristics, but eventually I was sure and proposed to her.
You see, when we try to do things on our own we often end up making compromises. But, when we give it to the Lord, He is able to make a perfect way for us. All we have to do is trust in Him.
Let me regress to the decision that my kids have made. This commitment goes even farther than sexual purity and not dating though. As part of their commitment to us, they have committed to seek our help, as their parents, in seeking and choosing a mate.
Why is this part of our covenant with our children? Let's be honest for a minute, when we were looking for a spouse, we looked at all the wrong things. All the guys look for is how the girl looks. All the girl looks at is whether or not the guy is nice to her. Single people have a very poor track record in looking for the important characteristics of the heart when they are looking for a mate.
On the other hand, there is nobody who knows children like their parents do (except God). So, parents will know the character traits of their children; their strong and weak areas, their likes and dislikes, and their personality. As such, the parents are in a position to make a more accurate evaluation of the compatibility of a particular man, or women with their own kids.
Please note, I'm not talking about the parents choosing a mate without the child's participation in the decision. What I'm saying is that the best possible decision will be made when the parents and child work together to seek God's will.
When the time comes to seek who God would want them to marry, we will pray together with them for God to show us His perfect match for our children. If either they, or us as parents see a possibility in someone, we will mention it. Then, we will investigate that person, to find out everything we can about them and their family.
If they still look like a possible candidate for marriage after this investigation, we will go together to talk with that possible mate and his or her parents. Together, the two families will seek God's will in the matter. If the couple seems compatible, and everyone is in agreement that it is God's will, then, and only then, will wedding plans be made.
Several years ago, we had a pastor from India come and preach in a church that we were members of. As part of his message, he said that "marriages in America start out hot, hot, hot! But, end up cold, cold, cold. However, in India, marriages start out cold, cold, cold, but end up hot, hot, hot!. Why? Because, in India the marriages are arranged by the parents.
India doesn't have a tradition of dating. Therefore, they don't have the same sexual problems in their marriages that we do here in the western world. While I won't go as far as saying that they have good marriages, I will say that within the church of India the women aren't suffering from sexual abuse, nor are their husbands suffering from the sexual abuse that their wives received during their dating years.
God has a perfect plan for each person's life. As part of that plan, He's already selected the perfect mate for them. Why not trust Him to do it instead of trying to do things the world's way?
Copyright © 2004 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life. All rights reserved.