My firstborn child just turned 17. She’s standing on the edge of a future that will draw her out into this big world, and in so many ways I know that she can’t wait to get started. I’m excited to see where she goes, whom she meets, and what God does in her young life in the future.
Chances are good that she will fall in love with someone sooner rather than later. I see so many women in our churches who struggle in their marriages to unbelievers, and it makes me somewhat fearful for my daughters. How does it happen that so many Christian women marry men who aren’t believers?
In some cases, they were both lost at the time they dated and married. But so often it’s a different story: a Christian woman goes on one date with a man she knows she should never marry. And then before she knows it, she’s in love with him. Love clouds her judgment. She’s unable to see how spiritually incompatible the two of them are. And she marries him.
I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that a marriage between a Christian and an unbeliever can’t be a pleasant one. Of course it can. But when the person you have committed your life to can’t understand and share the deepest part of who you are, the core of your very being, namely your love for and faith in Jesus Christ, then there are levels of intimacy that just aren’t available to you.
The apostle Paul warned Christians not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers in marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14). Can that marriage still be fun? Yes. Can it be sweet and romantic? No doubt. But as the years march on, Christian women begin to see more and more reasons why Paul wrote what he did.
They begin to feel the distance that is created by different worldviews, different belief systems, and different spiritual priorities. And then they wind up scrolling through Christian message boards or in their pastor’s office, wondering why they can’t have the kind of marriage that they now realise they need and want.
If I could offer one piece of advice to women who are dating, it would be this: don’t go on even one date with a man you already know you shouldn’t marry.
Every marriage begins with a first date. Initial sensations of flattery can quickly lead to feelings of infatuation, which then soon lead to falling in love. And once a woman has fallen in love with a man, it becomes very difficult for her to resist the urge in her heart to stay with him and make a life with him.
But time tells the truth: it won’t be long until she realises that those differences in belief that seemed insignificant at first now overshadow their life with conflict and a desire for a deeper connection. Further difficulties await. When children arrive, who decides what they will be taught? Which worldview messages will they hear the loudest?
Disney princess movies may constantly tell girls to follow their hearts, but the Bible paints a very different picture. Scripture tells us that our hearts are liars. How much more clearly is this demonstrated than when blind love leads a godly Christian woman to marry someone outside of her faith? It happens all the time, and it all starts with one date.
Admittedly, there are times when a first date is needed because you don’t know enough about the person to make a judgement call about your compatibility. But if you already know that he isn’t a professing Christian, if you already know that he claims to be a Christian but lives a lifestyle suggesting otherwise, if you have already seen traits and behaviour that are red flags or that shout, ‘This is not the guy!’ then don’t go out with him. Not even once.
Protect your heart. Guard your future. Wait for someone who loves the Lord and then take your time getting to know him, asking God to help you clearly see if he is someone you should build a life with.
We live in a world that likes to paint dating as a risk-free adventure. I would argue that such an attitude leaves Christian women vulnerable to the lies that their own hearts will tell them about how the wrong men will change into the right men with enough love and time.
Every date has the potential to lead to a life-long commitment. It may sound dramatic, but ask the many women you know right now who are attending church alone each and every week – women who have no partner in the things of God.
A woman in this situation is missing out on the joy that comes from sharing all of the intimate victories and struggles of life with a husband who loves Christ. Before marriage, she may have dreamed of one who would spur her on to goodness and obedience, one who would sympathise with her weaknesses, understanding what battles with sin are like.
She may have imagined herself walking through life arm-in-arm with a godly man who serves the church, who longs for holiness, who wants to honour God above all else, in marriage and in parenting and in all other arenas.
Instead, she treads the narrow road as a solitary figure in her home, unable to share with the person she loves most of the precious things that God is doing. She wanted so much more, but because she fell in love, she lost her ability to recognise what her future would look like.
If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would: if you already know he isn’t in love with Jesus, don’t date that guy!
My teenager has heard these words come out of my mouth so many times. One of these days she will fall in love. I hope that she will date wisely and carefully, never forgetting that every marriage begins with one very first date.
Melissa Edgington, blogger at yourmomhasablog.com.