As a homeschooled pastor’s kid, I grew up feeling as if I had been held to a different standard. Whether it was an impression I’d gathered from individuals in the church, my extended family, or my own innate perfectionism, I’m not really sure. Whichever it was, normal teenage things were not an option — too much room for error. My life centered around being the perfect, Christ-focused teen. Except it was only an act, a strict adherence to following the motions. It was a wall that blocked out potential criticism.
While walking my path of pretended perfection, I read many books — wonderful books with powerful and much needed messages — like Do Hard Things and I Kissed Dating Goodbye by the Harris brothers. These books are great to read; however, my own twisted view of faith led me to believe that I had to mimic the perfect models these stories portrayed. One of the biggest aspects they affected was my ideas about relationships.
Before I started high school, my parents decided that I wouldn’t date until I was old enough to handle a serious relationship. I was completely okay with this, though, much to my chagrin, I didn’t always follow that path. All my teenage stupidity aside, I started to believe that I needed to have the perfect relationship to match my “perfect” but regretfully hollow, Christian walk. Dating was out the window. How could such a worldly practice ever be honoring to God? Courtship must be the answer. Strict conversations with parents were a necessity. Alone time was a no go. After all, there was way too much temptation present if there was no chaperone. Holding hands was too much of a boundary breaker, and hugs were only for after engagement and special occasions at that. Forget kissing. That was a marriage thing. In my mind, I needed to have the perfect series of events….
Boy meets girl. Boy asks father to court daughter. Boy and girl enjoy each other’s company through the strict parameters of the courtship. Boy and girl decide they want to share a future together. Boy approaches father and asks to marry daughter. Girl says yes and hugs boy, perhaps, for the very first time. Boy occasionally holds the girl’s hand, and when feeling bold rests his arm across the back of their church pew during the sermon. The wedding arrives, and the boy and girl say the fated phrase of “I do” before sharing their first kiss and continuing into a perfect marriage.
The problem is that there isn’t such a thing as a perfect relationship.
Thankfully, I was able to step back in my freshman year of college and realize that my relationship with God seriously needed to change. I had to take down the walls I’d built, become vulnerable, and focus on God’s forgiveness instead of my ability to fake perfection. Once I became real and honest in my relationship with God, my perspective of relationships transformed. Perfection was no longer the focus, and with that realization came a shift in my beliefs. I started to understand that courtship was no more “biblical” than dating, because the importance isn’t in the name or traditions. It’s in the hearts of the individuals–the heart of the relationship.
While I still believe that courtship has its merit, I no longer view dating with contempt. My relationship has been blessed by my parents, but the responsibility of making decisions within the relationship has fallen to me and my boyfriend. If we can’t handle our own decisions, then how can we be expected to build a life of our own? Yes, our parents are there for guidance — I ask for it often, especially from my mother. However, it has been left to us to seek out and follow the path that God has set before us. Yes, we go on dates without chaperones. We hold hands, and I certainly hug him whenever I have the chance. No, it isn’t the traditional courtship, but every day we share a love which is founded on Christ’s forgiveness. Together, we work to build a relationship that honors God at its heart.
I am not in the perfect relationship. It took me several years to realize these romanticized, Christian myths don’t exist. The perfect courtship relationship is as real as the perfect Christian. However, I’m in a better relationship than I imagined in all my dreams of an old fashioned courtship. I’m dating a man who loves the Lord and encourages my own spiritual walk, but I’m also dating a man who sees my weaknesses and failures on a daily basis. Instead of having the perfect courtship I’d envisioned before my dating days began, we struggle through temptations and trials together. Our relationship is built on reliance of God’s strength, not our own goodness.
In the end, I didn’t kiss dating goodbye.
I didn’t kiss dating goodbye, because God led me down a different path, one I’m walking down hand-in-hand with someone He brought into my life. I didn’t kiss dating goodbye, because God had other plans.