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Bringing God into your dating relationships
on July 15, 2001
"Boundaries in Dating" is a guide toward dating intentionally, intended for those who wish to have some spiritual guidance in their dating relationships. It helps to answer in part questions that should be a part of any dating relationship: where is God in all of this, and what role does God play in our dating relationship? How do I reflect God's values in my approach toward dating?
In Part 1, the authors recommend the approach of "taking God on a date" with you. They encourage requiring and embodying truth in dating relationships, guard against repeating the past, and remind that "dating won't cure a lonely heart," for that role belongs to God. (Additional spiritual reading, such as Henri J. M. Nouwen's "The Inner Voice of Love," support the theme of addressing needs and loneliness from a spiritual perspective as a foundation to addressing them from a relational perspective.) Part 2 examines character discernment of one's dating partner, and Part 3 examines self-reflection, particularly the issues of clinging to false hope (when a dating partner's actions don't support stated intentions) and the role of blame. Part 3 is particularly valuable in assigning responsibilities to roles in the dating relationship, sorting out what's your responsibility and what responsibility lies with your dating partner.
Chapter 17, "Set Appropriate Physical Limits," is the best discussion I've ever read on the long-term, destructive effect of premarital sex on our emotional, spiritual, and relational well-being. Far more than being merely prohibitive, it examines deeply the importance of delaying self-gratification. It provides a refreshingly thought-provoking and countercultural reminder that God's ways are not the ways of the culture in which we live, and what a challenge it is to integrate these two ways of life, should one choose to do so.
"Boundaries in dating is about becoming a truthful, caring, responsible, and free person who also encourages growth in those she is in contact with," the authors write. "Your dating life should be a powerful change agent for you." Countering the common assumption that dating is limited to "finding the right one," Cloud and Townsend take the spiritual approach that dating and relating is just as much about "learning about your own issues, how they affect others, and what to do about them." That dating should bring us closer to God seems to be the authors' ultimate goal in writing this book.