Deciding to go to a Christian liberal arts college definitely had some perks. I knew I would be learning from professors who loved God. I would be uniting my mind and spirit. I would have to (sorry, get to) attend chapel three times a week with my friends and classmates. One of the first things that crossed my mind, though, when I committed to Westmont was, “Wow, there will be a lot of godly guys!” I was excited by the prospect of meeting great Christian guys —maybe even my future husband.
When I got to campus, I realized I was not the only one thinking this. Throughout Orientation weekend, I began to hear the buzzwords that frame dating on our campus: “ring by spring,” “the M.R.S. degree,” and the oh-so-famous “DTR pond.” The language we use around romantic relationships on campus is both evidence of an underlying dating culture as well as a promotion of it. One reflection on this by Baylor University defines the dating culture on most Christian campuses as the pressure to marry without the encouragement to prepare. In other words, a lot of desire to find a spouse, but very little dating actually going on. There is a cultural undercurrent of stress on marriage without also talking about how to get there.
Christian dating should feel foreign compared to the way the world develops relationships. What we thought was intentional dating, though, has turned into fear and anxiety for many. For some marriage may have become an idol. To have a healthier dating culture on Christian campuses, intentionality needs to pivot from perfectionism and the idolatry of marriage toward grace and the joy that comes from being with other people God created! Jamie Grace, a Christian and a strong proponent of intentional relationships, defines good dating as getting to know someone and enjoying them. I often get so stuck trying to figure out if someone is husband material that I forget to enjoy them! This tunnel-vision destroys the joy of dating. Enjoying dating and dating intentionally are not mutually exclusive.
Jamie Grace, in her podcast, gives Christians five steps to dating. As funny and simple as they may sound, they may just be the practical push we need to start a culture of dating on our campus.
- Prepare yourself to date. Think about what you’re looking for in a romantic partner and about the circles you run in where you may find someone you’re interested in.
- Get a date! This one seems simple enough.
- Plan the details of the date.
- Actually go on the date.
- Decide if you want to go on a second date!
Dating is fun, so let it be fun! Your intentionality comes from having boundaries, because this will honor the ultimate goal of marriage without all that blinding tunnel vision. Whether it’s coffee, a walk on Butterfly Beach with some Blenders, or a picnic at the mission, get out there and start enjoying dating!