There may be quite a few people reading this who have seen previous articles of mine on the theme of singleness. Now that I am in a relationship of my own, I find it more difficult writing about issues of relationship, since I am coming at it suddenly from a completely new angle. It now has a different, if not more personal, meaning to me in many ways. Despite these changes, I wanted to share a few things in the hopes that you will be encouraged through what God has been and is teaching me.
February of this year began the journey of my own non-dating relationship with Jesse, an incredibly amazing man that the Lord brought into my life. I feel beyond blessed to have the privilege of getting to know him so much better after having been family friends for several years. We have been calling this time of seeking God’s will and getting to know one another better “courting”. This is a word I hesitate to use because the interpretation changes from person to person and, depending on to whom I am saying it, it has the potential of giving the wrong impression.
I sincerely believe that there is no single method that works for everyone, as circumstances and individuals vary. Courtship has everything to do with where our hearts are (“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” – Matthew 6:21). If the desire to please God is not our first motive in approaching a life-changing event, any given method can, and often does, fail. Through the whole process, we must continually seek God’s will, His direction and His guidance with the goal of pleasing Him. “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” – John 12:26. Besides our relationship being Christ centered, I also see importance in accountability, communication and setting guidelines as we work through courtship.
In contemplating a possible relationship, I wanted to be sure it was God’s will for me, so it had been a matter of continual prayer for some time. I prayed specifically that if the Lord had something more than a casual family friendship for me, that He would do the work to bring it into my life. If not, I asked that I would be able to accept His will with a content heart. This time around, I did not want a relationship that sprang out of my will. As I continued to pray, God began to birth a similar desire in Jesse’s heart.
Around last October, he began to seriously seek God to see if He had a plan for us together and asked for counsel from his parents and people in his Church (unbeknownst to me). As they prayed together, Jesse began to see confirmation and in February of this year, he approached my father regarding a courtship with me. As we both look back, we see the blessing that has come out of laying a foundation of Christ and prayerfully seeking His will. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1Corinthians 3:11. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” – James 1:5.
Another thing that comes to mind in our relationship is accountability. Even though “accountability” or involvement/ input from family can, at times, be frustrating, it is still something that we wanted to help keep us safe. Although this is not the only thing that deters me from doing things I shouldn’t, accountability is a good checkpoint. It is also helps to build our relationship in a more “real” way, as it keeps us closer to the reality of how life is – full of interruptions and involvement from others. We see that this brings balance into our relationship as well as humility as we rely on the strength of others. “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” – 1 Peter 5:5.
Learning to communicate has also been a major and at times humorous and interesting venue of our courtship. I have found that communication is not just understanding what the other person means in the words they speak but also understanding what the other person believes. It helps greatly to focus on this aspect of your relationship in the beginning, as it is crucial to everything else in the long run. Mom always said that once you begin any physical contact (holding hands, etc. etc.) in your relationship, it is, in some ways, the end of a concentrated focus on the things you need to talk through. This is true because you are distracted and also because the emotions that come can temporarily cloud your thinking. In later moments, when you are not entirely focused on your feelings, those things will quickly surface again: your beliefs, any difficulties you have in communicating with each other and even issues of conflict. You will then inevitably wish that you had dealt with them earlier on.
Even though we can never anticipate everything that will come up in life, it is still important to attempt to come to agreement on those things that are important to you (Church, having kids, finances, etc). I believe that it is worthwhile and helpful to deal with those things up front. “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” – Philippians 2:1-4.
This leads into another area of our courtship, which has been to set up guidelines for how we interact (not kissing, holding hands and so forth). When you truly love someone, you should wish to honor him and guard your own heart. We affect one another more than we can ever begin to imagine or understand, through the smallest things that we do. If we do not set guidelines for ourselves, it allows for feelings to cloud our better judgment and make it extremely difficult to honor the other person. I know for myself, that every time Jesse has chosen over and over again to honor me with his actions and not just his words, I feel such a depth of closeness to him that comes out of his constant demonstration of selflessness towards me. We have also been able to have extremely meaningful conversations and shared things with one another that we may not otherwise have had the opportunity to say.
When we choose to honor one another above ourselves with our actions, we demonstrate how much we care in the truest sense of the word. We show how much we value someone when we say, with our actions, that anything with him is worth waiting for. “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” – 1 John 3:18. Whether or not we like to admit it, there are almost always more people watching us that we would like to think are, so it is extremely important to honor Christ by our testimony. We have the potential opportunity to make a favorable, or unfavorable, impression on not only friends and family etc, but on any younger people observing our actions as well. “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” – Romans 14:13.
All these things are important and play a huge role in the direction of how we go about growing closer and also the kind of foundation upon which we are building. Deep down, we all want to build upon solid foundations and know that we did what was right and it was carried out by God’s grace. This is why the way that we do things in the beginning is very important. If we are starting out in relationships that we are hoping will last a lifetime, it is well worth the time to ensure we build in a way that pleases God and honors one another.