inspired by a conversation with a friend...
Have you heard the popular worship tune Jesus, Lover of My Soul? Several years ago, back in Nash-Vegas, some friends and I rewrote the verse to that song to read: It's all about me, Jesus, and all this is for me, for my glory and my fame. It's not about You, as if I should do things Your way, I alone am God and I surrender to my will. Before you call my friends and me a heretic, let me 'splain something. It was written about modern Christianity as a critique. So much of church is not about God, but about us. We may sing songs like this to Christ, but our heart and even many of the praise songs we sing are about us instead of about Him.
I think this selfishness spills out into relationships. Whether you believe in dating or courtship or even arranged marriages by some stretch of the imagination, hopefully all of us can agree on this: the problem may not be the praxis of relationships (i.e. dating, courting, etc.), but more with the heart of relationships. I've been convinced in my experiences over the years that many of the mistakes and problems we encounter in relationships are not about our actions or mistakes. They are just symptoms of a heart condition that is far more serious.
The heart condition of which I speak is selfishness. Let's face it: we are selfish. We desire self above all else. There's nothing wrong in admitting it. Every day we do things because self desires them done. This may not be a full-time profession for each of us, but I think because of sin, self creeps into our lives on a regular basis.
This is so true in relationships. We enter into relationships for a variety of reasons. They would make a great mate. They would make a great mother/father. They're HOT. God has led us into this relationship (guys, never use this as a pick-up line!). I think that our reasons are normally a potpourri of the above and other reasons, probably. Once we are in relationships, though, our reasoning is so often self. What can I get out of this relationship?
Don't agree? Why do we give gifts to the one we are dating? Is it to express to them how we feel or because we want something in return (affection, another gift, etc.)? Guys, why do we romance her? Is it because that's what she deserves and we want to woo her because she's that awesome or because at the end of the night we want a kiss or something more? If I give him tonight, perhaps he'll love me tomorrow? If I say I love her, perhaps.... In all of these examples, the goal is not to serve the other person but to get something out of them for ourselves.
I'm not advocating the abolition of gift giving or romance (heaven forbid!), but I do want us to look at our motives. I really do believe selfishness is the root evil in dating relationships. Many of the stupid mistakes we make are because we really don't care about the other person. In a relationship (especially dating, but not necessarily), our focus cannot be ourselves. Our focus must be primarily Christ. We must seek to please Him in all our ways and to give Him glory in our thoughts and actions. Secondly, we must look to the interests of the other person before ourselves.
Guys, this means that she is our main concern in a dating/courting relationship. We want to care for and to guard her heart. It is a priceless treasure that we must protect. We romance her not to get something but because she deserves it. In the same token, we must romance her only if we are serious; we need to quit playing games with her heart and stop passing out emotional candies. We are to be intentional in our actions, realizing that she will read into all we do. Realize physical intimacy for her is an expression of emotional intimacy. Don't be flippant with holding hands, hugs, etc. They mean much more to her than to us.
Ladies, this means that he is your main concern in a dating/courting relationship. Manipulating him to get what you want is not a Christlike action. Encourage and support him; think about him before yourself. Talk to him and don't hold your feelings bottled up inside. Tell him how you fell instead of expecting him to figure it out on his own--because he won't. Don't do things just so he will hold your hand or tell you fanciful words in your ear. Do things for him because you like him and think he deserves it.
Even with all these thoughts and words, what I have to say is summed up in this: we need to stop being selfish. It is not about you and it's not about me. Think about the other person and their heart before your own. This does not make you a door mat by any means. If the guy is a jerk and does not value you, letting him go might be the best thing. If she just doesn't get it, fellas, severing the relationship might help her more. In both cases, communication is a must. That's true for any relationship, though. Open communication is the first step in intimacy and if you can be open with the person, should you be together?
We need to be serving one another in humility and honoring them above ourselves. I firmly believe the model for romance is the Great Romance between Christ and His church. He serves His bride first by purchasing her, then by calling her, and every second of the day by sustaining her. He blesses her with gifts she cannot comprehend. Christ serves the one He loves. She serves the One she loves. Let that be our model in dating/courtship. Service and humility before anything else.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. --Philippians 2:3-4
until Christ is formed in us...