The Purposeful Path

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This is the 5th and second last post in a detailed book review of 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life (ed. Alex Chediak, Th1nk Books, 2005).The fifth chapter is authored by Jeramy and Jerusha Clark. They have served in youth ministry for a combined twenty years. After meeting at The First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, where the Clarks both served in youth ministry, they moved to Monument, Colorado, where they ministered at Tri-Lakes Chapel. Currently, Jeramy, Jerusha, and their two children live in Escondido, California, where Jeramy pastors several hundred high school students at Emmanuel Faith Community Church. Together, they have coauthored 4 books on relationships.


Chapter/Path 5 (Jeramy and Jerusha Clark):

The Purposeful Path

Definition

The Purposeful Path claims that young adults who love the Lord and long to please Him can date in a healthy way. Not everyone has to date, but single Christians can enjoy appropriate dating relationships if they approach the practice with God’s perspective and guidelines. These guidelines include pursuing holiness, trustworthiness, and support from friends and family.

Distinctives

  • Single Christians should not have to turn down opportunities to enjoy the company of the opposite sex, such as the prom or a movie night; these may be great opportunities to get to know a brother or sister in Christ.
  • If you want the freedom to date, you have to accept the responsibilities that come with it, namely personal commitment to holiness and clear communications with others.
  • Pursuing emotional and physical purity is essential if you want a healthy dating relationship
  • Purposeful dating requires forethought, good judgment, and good communication to make solid decisions. If you desire to seriously date, think carefully about whom you’ve chosen and why.

Key Verses

  • Psalm 19:7-8
  • Galatians 5:13
  • Matthew 22:37-38
  • Isaiah 30:21
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:7
  • Proverbs 4:23
  • Proverbs 15:22

Key Benefits

  • This approach allows you to rely on the Spirit to make good decisions. You can find the love of your life without following any particular formula.
  • In the process of finding the love of your life, you can pursue a holy life and holy relationships while dating (even casual dating).
  • You will learn to communicate well with people because purposeful dating requires frequent and quality communication

Potential Problems

  • Establishing boundaries, both emotional and physical, can be hard, and balancing them can be just as difficult. Some Christians who have lived a physically pure life can experience deep pain in breaking up because they’ve traded physical intimacy for powerful emotional bonds. Be careful of engaging in intimate acts of worship, such as praying together, because they can draw you closer than many physical expressions of affection can.
  • Because this is a broad definition of dating, be careful not to use it as an excuse to engage in worldly ways of interacting with the opposite sex.
  • While focusing on becoming the “right” person, some people may become obsessed with it and end up with ridiculous expectations for themselves and others. Remember to operate in an environment of grace

Summary & Personal Reflections

The Purposeful Path, as proposed by the Clarks, appear to be the most liberal of the 5 paths when all things are considered, for the authors are open to dating — even casual dating — as long as Christians apply the foundational truths of Scripture to their relationships with the opposite sex (154). While they admit that there is no “one way” or formula that works for everyone, the Clarks propose a 5-step purposeful path towards appropriate dating relationships in the Christian context.The first step is the first and greatest priority for all healthy relationships: to love the Lord your God (159). The Clarks set out their path to dating by appropriately prioritizing one’s relationship with God as the most important principle at the forefront of all healthy relationships. They confess that “without first embracing the perfect love God gives, we are incapable of loving others as ourselves” (160).Secondly, the Clarks emphasize the need “to lean on and listen to the Holy Spirit” (161). We must live by the Spirit, who is an amazing source of power, truth and direction. This involves knowing and recognizing the Spirit’s work in our lives through its roles as teacher, counselor, and enabler. As teacher, the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s word so that we could know the mind of God and understand His will; as counselor the Spirit is the one whom we can lean on and trust in to disclose God’s will; and as enabler the Spirit gives believers the desire and ability to carry out the will of God.Thirdly, healthy dating encompasses becoming and finding someone who is “H.O.T.” H stands for holiness (being and looking for somebody who is not only pursuing God but is passionate about being set apart for Him), O stands for outrageousness (uniquely and remarkably reflecting God’s image to the world), and T stands for trustworthiness (relationships that are built upon trust). Furthermore, the Clarks break down trustworthiness into 3 concepts: authentic (being who you claim to be), honesty (hating dishonesty, never deceptive and always rejoicing in truth), and reliable (staying true to your promises).”[…] before you can find someone worth finding, you must become someone worth being found” (165). Once you embrace being an h.o.t. person, you will be on your way towards becoming someone worth being found, the authors concede.Fourthly, discovering the freedom that boundaries within dating bring. The Clarks spend four pages to emphasize the importance of setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries that are practical. They commend readers to decide what lines to draw before getting into any compromising situations, writing them down and following through with action. Rightfully suggested is the use of accountability partners, an older and more mature believer to help maintain your boundaries.And last but not least, the fifth step in the purposeful path is “conscientious communication” (175). This last point stood out to me as I believe it to be one of the key aspects of a healthy relationship; I recall the break-down of communication in my last relationship and consider it to be one of the main factors for why it ended so badly. The Clarks recommend that people invest time in learning how to communicate well (176), noting that only 7 percent of a given message is content, while 38 percent is tone and 55 percent are nonverbal cues. What more, the Clarks mention “DTR” (Define the Relationship) which is a tool and the title of their book which further describe how this tool can be extraordinarily effective or detrimental in maintaining godly relationships (177).The authors close with the suggestion to reevaluate often and thoroughly. I think this is something that many people in a relationship fail to do as they pass various anniversary milestones while dating/courting. They think that they’ve set got their priorities with God right, they’re leaning on the Holy Spirit to obey Him in whichever direction to take the relationship, they’re committed to be holy and trustworthy, appropriate boundaries are set, and no reevaluation is necessary. If no disaster or emergency ensues and the couple falls into a plateau of being together for X number of years, no reevaluation of the relationship may take place.While reevaluation includes the reexamination of boundaries and each person’s personal pilgrimage with God, this further includes the continual examination of where the relationship is headed and why there should or shouldn’t be further immediate commitments to take the relationship to the next level. This needs to be constantly done, at regular intervals. In this respect, I hope couples would take this last point to heart — for there should be no reason to prolong a relationship if there is no plan for committing to the covenant of marriage; you only short-change and deceive the other person with your selfish desire of not being alone.Without even reading this book, I believe that many Christians in my church-bubble fall into walking along this Purposeful Path. I neither mean this in a negative or positive way, but rather, that if one does not investigate other biblical methods and paradigms towards healthy relationships which lead towards marriage (i.e. paths 1 through 4) then one will simply do the cultural norm of “dating” as purposefully and as Christian-ly as they know how. I am not sure how effective or successful this path may be, after all, everybody is different and this might work for you. However, it does seem like there is the most freedom for mistakes and heartache with this path towards marriage.I have previously walked this path and have felt the heartache of the failures of setting appropriate boundaries and conscientious communication. And thus, I find this unnecessarily easy to slip up in. If you’ve failed in courtship in the past, this may be the path for you; but unfortunately, it is not for me.

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