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Made for intimacy

Reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye while dating at age 30

Made for intimacy

I was 16 when I first saw the cover of I Kissed Dating Goodbye—that picture of a man looking down, his hand tilting a brown fedora and obscuring his facial features, that dark background adding shades of allure to an already-enigmatic man. That’s real good marketing, I remember thinking. Every girl likes a man with some mystery shrouding him, and boys probably look at that suave, dapper man and want to be him. What’s more, that mysterious picture captured for me the whole concept of dating: a bizarre, bewitching forest, thick with untapped emotions and coiled with unmarked trails. 

But then, what did I know, what did I care? I had found that book on my brother’s desk—my younger brother who at age 14 had already been on more dates and had his heart broken more times than my solid count of zero. I refused to read that book: I was a self-proclaimed feminist who had no time for boys pretending to be men (or so I harrumphed then), though if you had asked me what a real man is I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Everyone who knew me knew that Sophia Lee doesn’t want to get married—nope, nuh-uh, never ever. I had my sights on something more secure and controllable: To attend my first-choice university and be a butt-kicking, world-traveling journalist with no husband or kids to hold me back. I didn’t need to kiss dating goodbye—I never let dating be an option in the first place, and I was proud of that fact. 

So it’s with great humility and interest now that at age 30, as I’m in my first ever dating relationship, I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye for the first time. The book, written by the then-21-year-old homeschool celebrity Joshua Harris, urges readers to ditch dating and enter courtship with the intention for marriage. Then I read Boy Meets Girl, also written by Harris, this time about how he courted his now-wife. Next I read Thomas Umstattd’s pro-dating dissent Courtship in Crisis, and I also read Marshall Segal’s Not Yet Married, a new book that encourages not-yet-married readers to first find satisfaction in God. So many books about Christian dating, yet the Bible seems to say little about it, so whose advice do we trust?

At first, I was prompted to read these books because I’m currently working on a story about the ripple effects of I Kissed Dating Goodbye on Christians who grew up riding the waves of the 1990s purity movement. It’s been 20 years since that book was published—so what’s happened to that generation’s dating culture since? 

But as I study the various ideas on what “Christ-honoring” intimacy looks like and what pursuing “true love” means, as I interview marriageable Christians about their dating (or non-dating) experiences, I keep turning the questions toward myself: Why are romantic relationships so hard? Why are the emotions that come with it so powerful and uncontrollable and scary? I had never cried so much in my life as I did for this relationship. Yet why, oh why, do I want this still, want this so badly that I’m willing to cry a thousand tears more? What is it about a man-woman relationship that makes me both so selfless and selfish at the same time, that I’m capable of giving more than I thought I could give, yet demand more than what any man can give me?

I go to a big church in Hollywood, whose members are creative types in their late-20s to mid-30s who wear “distressed” skinny jeans and highlights in their tousled hair. What most of us don’t wear are wedding rings, and a pastor once told me that the biggest complaints he gets are from women who say men don’t ask them out, and from men who say women keep rejecting them. I know guys who pray with godly brothers for months before asking a girl out, and guys who tell girls they like them but want to be “intentional” about building a friendship first. I know women who for years have prayed and prepared themselves as Proverbs 31 wives for their future, so-far invisible husbands, and they’re still waiting for them. I know men who look for houses in good school districts with a future family in mind, but don’t even have a girlfriend.

Before I started dating, I used to roll my eyes and wonder what’s wrong with people, why we over-dramatize and over-complicate everything. Then I met a man. And then I cried when I read that last chapter in Boy Meets Girl, in which the author writes with such gushing sincerity about his wedding day—his face is sore from smiling, his heart is racing, his body is quivering ... and there stands his bride, and he writes, “Oh, Lord, she’s beautiful.” And I recognized that desire—to be the object of another’s gaze and gasp, to love and be loved—a desire that I, this proud, stubborn, insecure woman, share with so many others because we were made for intimacy, for love.

I used to feel shame for that desire, so I stuffed it away. I still feel uncomfortable with it, and wrestle with it every day because I spot times when it overtakes my desire for God. That’s the part that no book on Christian dating can help me— that moment-to-moment thoughts and emotions of fear, uncertainty, and wonder that I’m trying to honor yet surrender before God. Man, it’s hard, it’s messy. But oh God, it seems worth it.

Comments

  • coramdeo7's picture
    coramdeo7
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 08:03 pm

    Editor:  Proverbs 31 (?)  Unless she is intentionlly being humorous with Proverbs 33

  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 09:13 pm

    Maybe Miss Lee is a little...distracted. :)

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Tue, 11/07/2017 09:09 am

    Thank you for pointing out the error. It has been corrected.

  • PaulC
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 09:14 pm

    I learned about courtship as a concept (I heard the word growing up, but never had it elaborated on) from my son-in-law.  He asked for permission to court my daughter.  I was also single, my wife having died a few years earlier.  So I also courted my present wife.  There is an important distinction between dating and courting.  Courting is getting to know a person of the opposite sex for the purpose of marriage--to determine:  is he or she suitable to be my life partner.  Most dating does not have that seriousness in view.  I never dated in the sense of just having fun with a lady.  But in getting to know a lady when I was 27 led to emotional hurt. I don't think I hurt her--my goal was to get to know her, and I was trying to win her love.  But my own standard was that I would do my best to help her and myself to draw closer to the Lord.   But our emotions overrule our good sense.  I could see that I was falling in love with her, but according to the rule she laid down, If either of us became romantically attracted to the other, we would have to break it off.  I did not want to confess my love/attraction because that would mean the end of our relationship.  But when she declined an invitation to hear James Dobson speak, and said we should stop seeing each other, I was devasted.  I went to hear Dobson without taking her, and she attended in the company of our Pastor and his wife.  I was so emotionally upset that it was not safe for me to drive.  But I drove home, was in an accident that was my fault, could have gotten others and myself killed (instead we receive whiplash neck injuries).  For three months I was emotionally hurting until I poured out my heart to my Christian boss who invited me to talk about it.  I received so much help from talking to him, that I also talked to the Pastor about it.  During those intervening months when I attended church, the lady I was interested in came and sat with one of my best friends, and that put me into an emotional tailspin.  It took all of the pastor's preaching to get me back to where I was when I came in the door.  Why am I writing all this 37 years after it happened?  Because I concluded that the way I approached this issue COULD NOT BE GOD'S WAY.   Christian guys and gals should be able to get to know each other and get to the marriage altar pure and without having hurt each other or others on the way to altar to pledge life long faithfulness to each other.  I wish I had had courtship explained to me earlier.  And I know that that also will not be a cure-all.  God help us in waiting on YOU, for the person of your choice, in your time, and in your way.  Amen.  

  • Bix
    Posted: Mon, 11/06/2017 09:37 pm

    I am a happily married man for 40 years and have happily married children. But I well remember the wild emotions, the anxiety, the stress, and the insecurity of finding a good wife and honoring the Lord. Genesis chapter 1 has several "good"s, but then the man by himself is "not good." Of course it is an experience huge with potential for bliss and for failure! God has made us that way! I so appreciate your honesty, Sophia. May you find your heart's desire!

    Paul B. 

  • Dick Friedrich
    Posted: Tue, 11/07/2017 01:22 pm

    Great article, largely because you are transparent about the ambivalence you feel. I need to check out a couple of the references too since they are unfamiliar for me. You're just a little younger than my children with whom I went through Joshua Harris' first book when they were in high school. My initial reaction to your article is that intimacy requires wisdom and wisdom requires applying Biblical knowledge. This takes time and, in a broken world, it means taking prudent risks, even with God if we want an intimate relationship with him. With people, of course, it will never be perfect but you're on the right track by facing the uncertainties with authenticity and transparency. I'm still working at it and have only been married 45 years. You're correct, we're made for it but that doesn't make it easy, being broken in a broken world.

  • Bob C
    Posted: Tue, 11/07/2017 02:37 pm

    Ms. Lee, First of all cut yourself a little slack. You are only human, and God made you that way. God is perfect but you and your boyfriend are not. The intimacy between a husband and wife is a poor example of what the intimacy can be between God and you, according the Gary Thomas. Check out his books and writings at his web site. His book Sacred Marriage may answer some of your questions. He also addresses pre-marriage issues as well.       

    The idea of Trusting God is easy, because God is absolutely trust worthy. Not that we trust Him like we should. But the ideal of Trusting your mate is another thing altogether, simply because your other half is as imperfect as you are.  The idea of surrendering to another imperfect person can be one of the most difficult things we can do. As you said it is hard and messy, at times.  Then what is really worthwhile, that is not difficult at times?  My spouse and I have been working at it for 40 years and I can testify that it has been worth it, even though the messy times, by the Grace of God.      

  • Aslan4me
    Posted: Tue, 11/07/2017 02:55 pm

    Thank you, Miss Lee, for sharing this with such transparency. God gives us such respect to figure out life with the guidance He gives through His word, the experience of older believers, and always with the safety net of grace. May your words, through the power of the Holy Spirit, touch the heart of each man or woman that is trying to navigate the world of romance.

  • John S
    Posted: Tue, 11/07/2017 04:16 pm

    Bible principles to make whatever-you-call-it relationships work God's way:

    don't awaken love before it pleases (i take to mean before you're ready for marriage)

    treat older women as you would your mother, and younger women as you would your sister, in absolute purity

    Easy right?  But better than a list of rules and guidelines, no?  Bible doesn't say much about it but what it does is so simple and good = wisdom from above.

  • momof 13
    Posted: Wed, 11/08/2017 08:21 pm

    I read so much of myself in this article. I too, was the self-declared feminist who didn't need a husband or children. In fact I felt that those things would hinder me from what I truly felt my life could attain without them. God has such a sense of humor! I now am married for 20 plus years and have 10 children! :-) Ah, the lessons I have learned along the way to teach me that the purpose of marriage is ultimately to declare to the world the beauty of the relationship of Christ and his church.