Seems like I have been talking with a number of younger folks who are figuring out what “Christian” dating means. This may, or may not be connected to our young adult fellowship being in the middle of a series which is looking at relationships which includes dating. A couple of weeks ago I started to write up what was to be a short post about dating and marriage based on my experience with Libby and many years serving college age students and young married couples. There are so many interconnected issues. It was clear that it was going to be a bit before I posted anything. In the mean time, I thought it might be useful to suggest two books. UPDATE: make that three books. I would recommend reading the first two books as a pair because they compliment each other well. For folks in YAF… you would be welcome to borrow either of these books, just send me email.
Dating and Waiting – William Risk
This book was written while Bill was attending to PBC Palo Alto. Anyone who knows Bill will hear his voice and immediately recognize his wit. I found this to be the most gracious book I have read on the topic of dating. Unlike many books on dating which focus on the mechanics or rules for dating, this book asks the reader to consider what God is doing in their heart. Each chapter ends with a short list of questions which are appropriate for both people in a dating relationship and those who are single. I appreciated the gentle way the book encouraged the reader to evaluate their values and priorities in dating, as well as the strong emphasis that what we seek can only be found in God. There are several chapters which explore how being single, and that “waiting” can be rich times that God uses to grow and change us. As with every every Christian book on dating there is a chapter about appropriate attitudes / restraint in the physical / sexual realm and a discussion of why it is important to be dating someone who shares a vital Christian life.
This book is written by two of the pastor / elders of the church Libby and I attended when we lived in Columbus. This book captures much of what guided Libby and I as we dating. I believe the guidance was sound, and what we learn during this time in our lives provided a framework that enabled our marriage to thrive in the midst of difficulty.
This is not a book to make you feel warm and fuzzy about dating or marriage. Rather, it a practical book that will challenge you to grow in your ability to love others, and by doing that, become prepared to have a successful marriage. The first chapter is a critique of modern society’s infatuation with “romantic love” which is pleasant but unable to sustain a relationship in the long run.
The authors suggest that the only force sufficient to produce lasting relationships is sacrificial, agape love. The key to a successful marriage? “… is not to find the right person, but to become the right person: a person who has learned to practice Christian love at the most intimate level”. A simple framework is provided to think about how one builds relationship: shared experience, understanding the persons inner workings, and emotional sharing. Building strong same-sex friendships develops skills that are critical to lasting marriages. It is often easier to gauge growth in these friendship rather than romantic relationships, because when romance is involved, things often seem better, deeper, more intimate than they actually are.
The next section of the book discusses how important it is for both people in a relationship to be equally yoked (sharing the same spiritual beliefs and commitments), and that both parties are vitally involved in the life of people in church, serving others both as individuals and as a couple. The book next moves into what is the appropriate perspective on sexual love suggesting appropriate boundaries are about attitude. The book concludes with several chapters that discuss how to deal with baggage from past relationship and life choices. I believe this is a very valuable book, but it can be applied in a external fashion, and fails short in conveying how God’s at the center on things in a very personal way. Bill’s book nicely addresses this deficit.
The Meaning of Marriage
by the Kellers. This is the single best book I have found on the topic of marriage. I will update the entry in the future with a brief summary
While not ready for prime time, if you are looking for other books about relationships, you might want to look the books I have tagged relationships on goodreads. This list is incomplete right now, but in the next week or so I should finish updating this list with notes I have made over the years.