Let it be said, that while I have definite opinions, I also tend to see a number of things in shades of grey rather than in black and white. But how can this be? Well, for instance…
Sin is a black and white issue.
(Don’t do it. It’s wrong.)
Mac vs. PC? Black and white issue.
(If you have to ask, you must be a PC user.)
Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi? Black and white issue.
(Who honestly prefers Pepsi products?)
Self-help books? Grey. I’m sure that many of them carry some great principles or action steps that are helpful to some people, but generally, I usually get about half way finished with them and feel that moving on would be a better use of my time.
I have to say, though, that I have heard a great deal of positive comments about Henry Cloud’s How to Get a Date Worth Keeping: Be Dating in Six Months or Your Money Back. Besides, Henry Cloud is legit, and his book Boundaries is a great resource for anyone who struggles with setting life parameters. It is because of these things that I read the entire book and tried to keep an open mind throughout.
I thought that Cloud had several good takeaways in this book, but because of time and space I’m going to limit them to a few bullet points.
Here’s what I liked about the book:
- Cloud says we need to be more active in our dating search, especially the females. That whole “waiting on God to drop a guy at our doorstep” thing–with no effort on our part whatsoever–is a bit unrealistic. If we’re not meeting new people, then we need to change our traffic patterns, get out of our rut, and put ourselves in situations where we are meeting them.
- He also discusses that online dating is a good way to change your traffic pattern, love at first sight is a myth, sticking to one “type” of person to date severely limits your dating field, and girls need to flirt a little to show some interest.
- There are some of us who have some underlying issues that might be keeping us from dating and, ultimately, marriage. Cloud doesn’t gloss over those; in fact, he nails the importance of dealing with those areas and relying on a “team” for accountability and honesty. He stresses the importance of becoming a whole, healthy, and content single adult.
Here are the two biggest problems I have with Cloud’s book:
“The real issue here is what is the purpose of dating. One of the first steps people need is to be cured of the thinking that the purpose of dating is to find a marriage partner…Dating is as much about learning what you need and want, and how you need to grow and change, as it is about finding the “right” person…Changing your goal and expectations of dating from looking for a mate to learning and experiencing will do wonderful things for you. You are probably not ready to marry if you have always demanded that dating was for serious relationships only…This is the first step in this program. See dating as a place not to find a mate but to learn and have fun.”
Cloud does not believe dating should be used as a tool for marriage, but for finding out more about ourselves and others. I do agree that dating is a learning and exploring process, but I also believe that we can’t totally dismiss dating as a precursor to marriage. I will also agree with him that sometimes we allow the idea of marriage to become an idol in our lives, and it becomes our sole focus at the detriment of everything else.
However, throughout the book, it feels as if Cloud is telling me that if I date around a lot, I’ll uncover any issues/preferences/patterns that are keeping me from being married—as if my singleness is dictated by my own personal control and has little to do with God’s sovereignty over my life. While it is true for some, not everyone’s lack of marriage is because they have issues that need to be dealt with, and not everyone who is happily married dealt with all of their “issues” before they were married. We don’t get marriage as reward for dealing with all of our junk.
Cloud also spends an entire chapter talking about why he believes it is permissible to date non-Christians. His plan doesn’t allow for commitment, and it calls for honestly declaring your faith to the non-Christian and for dating multiple people at once. In his defense, he makes strong delineations about where a Believer should be before agreeing to date a non-Believer:
“So if you are working the program outlined here, you are being who you truly are, and you are not spouse-shopping…In that case, I see no reason why you cannot go out with people of different spiritual persuasions. But, if you are not dating by the principles we have been discussing, you are in danger, and I suggest you don’t date outside your faith.”
He goes on to list things such as the danger of falling for the person, loneliness, not being engaged in Christian community, and sexual impulsiveness as reasons you refrain from dating non-Christians. He even goes so far as to say that if one is in danger of falling for the person, then one’s faith is weak and Jesus doesn’t have his/her full heart.
“…God was the most important thing to her in life; he was her very heart. So, if someone did not share that, her heart did not have an attraction to the person at the level where a commitment could follow. Her heart belonged to God, so she would not even want to. She was in no danger.”
I did a quick poll of 10 of the godliest single men and women I know. I asked them if they thought it was acceptable to casually date a non-Believer. Nine of the 10 said, unequivocally, no. The tenth said it was dangerous and he wouldn’t advocate it. All of them had one common thread: the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 speaks of the deceitfulness of our hearts. To casually carry on a dating relationship with a non-Christian is dangerous territory. But to say that someone’s faith is weak because they could fall in love when someone they enjoy and are attracted to shows them attention on a regular basis is more than unfair.
I don’t think it means that their faith is weak. I think it means they’re human. And when you play with fire, there’s a good chance you could get burned. (I hate cliches, but this one fits here.) It’s the very reason Cloud discusses setting boundaries for yourself and the reason married people put boundaries around their relationships with people of the opposite sex. Boundaries are a safeguard, but the heart is deceitful. Lust is powerful. Temptation is around every corner.
And I don’t have the time (or space) left to dissect how I think that regularly dating a non-Believer, even if you’re up front about the casualness of the relationship, toys with their heart and their emotions. It seems a bit selfish to me.
So, back to my favorite color grey. Dating is another grey area for me. I don’t think there’s a one-size fits all approach, unlike Cloud’s plan. There are too many variables, the heart being the biggest one. Would I recommend the book to other Christian singles? My answer is grey; it depends on the person. But I have strong opinions on which people should/should not read it, if that counts for a black and white answer…[An excerpt of the book can be found here.]