Relationships

Not every courtship works out – and that’s okay

Brenda Teow // July 5, 2019, 3:33 pm

When no is a yes

In late 2018, I met Ryan* whom I thought would be “the one”. The more I got to know him, the more I grew fond of him because everything seemed “fitting”.

We decided to spend the next three months seeking the Lord and getting to know each other more before deciding if we would like to enter into a committed relationship. However, towards the end of our waiting period, I felt Ryan withdrawing from our communication. This gave me an inkling that it would most probably be a “no” when the day finally arrived.

Looking back, it was only by the grace of God that I remained strong throughout our meeting. All I could do was to receive the news silently. I did not need any further explanation or to bargain for another chance. Deep down, I knew that what was required of me at that point was to accept his decision gracefully.

I went home and spent time reflecting on the entire process. I remembered that at the start of my dating period I had said this prayer I found on Desiring God:

“If you would have me marry, Father, prepare me to love a husband or wife with the love and grace you have shown me through Jesus and His cross. Give me clarity in dating and guard me from all impurity. Let patience, selflessness and humility mark every relationship, every date, every conversation, every step forward or backward.

“In every step of my pursuit of marriage, make it clear that you are God and I am yours.”

In the eyes of man, it may seem that dating had failed for us, but God showed me otherwise. Here are a few precious lessons that the Lord has taught me throughout this process.

1. Being in a waiting season with someone does not guarantee the sealing of the relationship

Some move onto a committed relationship; others do not. Unfortunately, we fell into the latter category. This reminded me of the importance of staying pure and drawing clear boundaries while getting to know each other more.

When love is awakened, passions are roused. However, when these passions are not brought under the control of Christ, it can be disastrous for both parties. 

The principle of choosing honour above passion was put to the test during the wait. We believed words of commitment were not to be spoken casually as we wanted to guard each other’s hearts, especially when no decision had been finalised. 

By the grace of God, words such as “I miss you” or “I love you” were held back; we also did not have any physical contact. There were definitely many moments I wanted to tell Ryan that I missed him or send him a heart or hug emoticon, but I knew I had to practise self-control.

I chose to approach dating differently after 12 years of getting it wrong

Seeking intimacy allows our actions to follow our emotions, but if not kept in check, we might put ourselves in vulnerable situations of temptation. 

Courtship or this waiting period is not the final deal. The final deal is when we say our vows before God on the wedding day. Till then, we need to evaluate if we’re willing to accept and grow with this person regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.

2. Love is not self-seeking

Honestly, human love is selfish. We tend to do or say things because we feel like it without giving much thought whether our words or actions would stumble our brother or sister-in-Christ. During this dating period, I came to see clearly and more convincingly that both of us were sinners who needed God. 

At the start of our courtship, God reminded me that Ryan belongs to Christ. Therefore I was not to “possess” him in my mind and heart even though we were considering each other. This meant treating him with brotherly love and kindness. 

Gary Thomas in his book The Sacred Search writes: “Friendship is doing what’s best for someone, even if what’s best is confusing or feared or resented. To get to this place, we literally have to ‘declare spiritual war’ against our selfishness.

“Romance is built on loud and unreserved displays of lavish affection – but such displays can be evidence of an undisciplined heart. Sometimes, the most loving thing to do is to limit your displays of affection by submitting to God’s greater good for this person.”

I truly believe it pleases the Lord when we learn to treat each other with honour and respect, recognising that ultimately we’re God’s possession. 

3. God is delighted when we choose Him first before all else

It was devastating to hear a “no” from man, but I gained a relationship far greater than any earthly one –  my growing intimacy with Christ.

During the waiting period, there were times when I was so excited to share anything and everything with Ryan because of our growing friendship. However, with his encouragement, I learned to pour out my excitement to God first. Ryan reminded me that God is jealous for our affections. He longs to hear what is on our hearts more than anyone else!

When I traded God for my boyfriend

The more I started to cultivate this habit of bringing matters to God first, the more I enjoyed being in His presence just like a child talking about everything under the sun to her father. 

There were also moments when I wished to thrash things out with Ryan out because of my insecurities. But I had to rein in my overwhelming emotions and bring my complaints to God to process it with Him first before sharing it with Ryan. Our priorities and the decisions we make daily reflect who takes pre-eminence in our lives. 

For those who are in a courtship or about to enter one, I would like to share some advice: 

  • The relationship might or might not work out, but that’s perfectly fine as long as we date with integrity and walk honourably before God.
  • Do not dive into intimacy, but seek clarity in the whole process. Think of it as a period of evaluation. Ultimately, you’d like to marry someone who will be your future husband/wife and parent to your future children.
  • Seek the wise counsel of your mentors or people whom you look up to, e.g. church leaders, family and trusted friends.
  • Always put God first. He is our greatest love, and He completes us. Include Him from the beginning until the end – you will be amazed at how He leads the courtship!

The experiences we go through in life are not the end but a means of allowing us to grow in our relationship with our Creator. Be encouraged that it’s possible with the enablement of God to experience a successful and godly waiting period even when the outcome is otherwise. 

When we choose to walk the path of righteousness, we bring glory and honour to His name. 

*Names in this article have been changed for anonymity.

THINK + TALK

  1. What does it look like to date with integrity and walk honourably before God?
  2. What boundaries do you think are necessary for couples who are getting to know one another and those who are in a committed relationship?
  3. When it comes to your affections, does God take the highest place in your heart?