Read this book. Seriously. It will change your opinion on dating forever.
Here’s a helpful summary by Tim Grissom:
“I do not believe that dating is sinful,” writes Joshua Harris. “I view dating in a similar light as I view fast-food restaurants–it’s not wrong to eat there, but something far better is available.” In a methodical, practical, and challenging manner, Harris then goes on to describe the “better” way of romance, a way that might spare many heartaches and regrets.
While thematically focused on how to build proper male-female relationships, the real message of I Kissed Dating Goodbye is about a maturing relationship with God. Dating–in a traditional sense–is one of the greater obstacles to young men and women growing in Christ as they ought. Dating is broken; it needs to be fixed. Just a part of growing up
Most kids grow up thinking that dating is an essential part of being a teenager. To them, life is a series of one-girlfriend (or boyfriend)-after-another, which really amounts to one-heartache-after-another. A two-year relationship seems like a long-term commitment. Even those who make it through the junior-high and senior-high years with their sexual purity intact will often emerge with damaged emotions, bitterness, and cynicism. To be sure, much of the damage may have been inflicted by the individuals involved, but likewise the system itself is faulty. There must be a better way to interact with members of the opposite sex, a less hurtful means to find a suitable life partner. Smart love
Joshua Harris, himself no stranger to the hurts and pitfalls of dating, offers a solution–something he calls smart love. Smart love begins with the desire for God’s best, and, by default, requires a knowledge of and a willingness to obey God’s rules. Smart love is revolutionary; its object is God and others, never self. Harris describes it against the backdrop of his own form practice of (what else?) “dumb love”: “I was primarily interested in what I could get, such as the popularity a girlfriend could give me or the comfort and pleasure I could gain physically or emotionally from a relationship…. I lived ‘dumb love’–choosing what felt good for me instead of what was good for others and what pleased God.” He follows this admission with two piercing questions:
-Does love motivate the guy who sleeps with his girlfriend when it will scar her emotionally and damage her relationship with God?
-Does sincerity motivate the girl w;ho leads a guy along then breaks up with him when she finds someone better?
The answers are obvious. Smart love is a sincere, God-focused love that is concerned for others. Dumb love, on the other hand, is self-centered and flirtatious. Unfortunately, little to nothing is being said to teenagers about smart love these days, even in church. Many lives and homes have been damaged, if not devastated, due to the neglect of smart love.
The seven habits of highly defective dating
I Kissed Dating Goodbye is not just about sexual purity; it scrutinizes the whole course of friendship, courtship, romance, engagement, and marriage. In a chapter on what’s wrong with the current approach, Harris argues that dating (1) leads to intimacy but not necessarily to commitment; (2) tends to skip the “friendship” stage of a relationship; (3) often mistakes a physical relationship for love; (4) often isolates a couple from other vital relationships; (5) in many cases, distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future; (6) can cause discontentment with God’s gift of singleness; and (7) creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.
Using the analogy of a swerving shopping cart–one that insists on going its own direction rather than being steered–to describe dating, Harris states, “I’ve concluded that for Christians dating is a swerver–a set of values and attitudes that wants to go in a direction different from the one God has mapped out for us.” Now what?
So how do we avoid defective dating? How can couples meet, romance one another, and nurture a relationship that might someday bloom into marriage? It’s one thing to spot the flaws, but what are the Solutions?
To begin with, we must stop abusing the word love. Our meaning is far below God’s, yet it is His blessing we want and his best we pursue. Understanding what God calls love is our first step.
“Like a fruit picked green or a flower plucked before it blossoms, our attempts to rush God’s timing can spoil the beauty of His plan for our lives.”Man’s view of love contains several notions that are contrary to God’s, and should therefore be contrary to the way we pursue love, especially love in the deepest and most intimate of human relationships. We must reject the philosophy of love that holds comfort of self as its chief end, reduces love to a mere feeling, and believes that love is beyond control. According to God’s Word: love seeks first the good of others, must not be measured by feelings, and is capable of being controlled responsibly. Simply put, the style of dating so prevalent in Western culture is little more than a series of short-term relationships, a training ground for divorce. Where’s the responsibility? Where’s the sincerity? Where’s the love? Patience, purity, and grace
The substance of romance-as-it-ought-to-be must include, among other qualities, patience, purity, and grace. Sometimes what is wrong with a romantic relationship is simply its timing. “You don’t need to shop for what you can’t afford,” quips Harris. If a young man (or young lady) is not prepared to seriously consider a lifelong commitment, he is better off to avoid monopolizing another person’s affections and isolating himself from other valuable friendships. Why not rather enjoy the season of singleness as a gift from God? After all, singleness brings opportunities in life that may never come around again. When the possibility of romance does enter one’s life, what a blessing it would be to have developed a lifestyle of purity. Even if one’s past contains moral failure, devotion to purity can begin today. Describing why h has come to value purity, Harris writes: “Physical interaction encourages us to begin something we’re not supposed to finish, awakening desires we’re not allowed to consummate, turning on passions we have to turn off.” Harris labels this as “foolishness.” “The Bible tells us the path of sin, particularly in regard to the wrong use of our sexuality, is like a highway to the grave. We shouldn’t get on it then try to stop before we arrive at the destination–God tells us to stay off that highway completely.”
Patience is tough; purity is a struggle. God’s grace is available. “The past needn’t determine our future,” Harris suggests. God can and does forgive and renew.
From friendship to romance
The journey toward marriage cannot be reduced to formula, nor should it be. Relationships are as unique and varied as the people who are in them. God is creative in building lives and even more so in bringing two lives together as one. However, while there is no formula, there are principles to help navigate a relationship through the major stages of romance. (Harris defines these stages: casual friendship, deeper friendship, purposeful intimacy with integrity, and engagement.) These principles include suggestions for determining if the relationship should be moved along, how to move it along, ad how to get the right help in the process.Focus on becoming
Finding the right life partner is a matter of working to become the right life partner, trusting God to cover the “who” and “when” issues. Purposing to remain pure, taking proper advantage of singleness, and building wholesome relationships that cause one to treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters–that’s a big enough assignment for anyone. Developing basic life skills (e.g., cooking, child care, home-repair tasks, vocational training) can further prepare one for building his or her own household some day. Since we tend to associate with those who share our values and goals, by concentrating on becoming a faithful, diligent, industrious, and skilled man or woman of God, are we not more apt to attract the same?
— Summary written by Tim Grissom
Excellent quotes from J.H
“I want to help you examine the aspects of your life that dating touches–the way you treat others, the way you prepare for your future mate, your personal purity–and look at what it means to bring these areas in line with God’s Word.” ~I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Introduction
“Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person like God has loved us. To lay down our desires and do what’s in his or her best interest. To care for him or her even when there’s nothing in it for us. To want that person’s purity and holiness because it pleases God and protects him or her.” ~I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Chapter 1: “So This Is Love?”
“A relationship based solely on physical attraction will only last as long as the feelings last.” ~I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Chapter 3: “The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating”
“Until you realize God’s gift of your singleness, you’ll probably miss out on the incredible opportunities it holds.” ~I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Chapter 4: “Counterculture Romance”
“Like a fruit picked green or a flower plucked before it blossoms, our attemps to rush God’s timing can spoil the beauty of His plan for our lives.” ~I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Chapter 6: “The Right Thing at the Wrong Time Is the Wrong Thing”
“Purity doesn’t happen by accident; it requires obedience to God.” ~I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Chapter 7: “The Direction of Purity”
“We need to take our focus off of ourselves and look for ways to serve those around us.” ~I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Chapter 10: “Just Friends in a Just-Do-It-World”