One Way, Many Paths: Different People, Different Styles

???I am the way, and the truth, and the life.No one comes to the Father except through me.”-John 14:6

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In this long-overdue concluding post on the 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life (ed. Alex Chediak, Th1nk Books, 2005), I want to draw our attention to some things that we can easily overlook while trying to decipher which “path” to take on this journey towards a life-long earthly companion.At various times in our lives, things may not turn out the way we originally planned and more often than not we may be disappointed in God for that. In those times, we must trust in the LORD that He has sovereignly ordained every step in this earthly pilgrimage towards heaven, and have faith that everything we go through is for our good and for His glory. As His redeemed children, we can be assured that as we endure and persevere in these times of testing, we will be refined by the Holy Spirit’s fire and we will be all the more ready for Christ Jesus’ glorious return. After all He is the only Way, the only Truth and the Only Life — regardless of which path we may decide to take.That being said, let us look back on the “five paths” that I have already reviewed:

Common Ground

While each of the 5 paths may do dating or courtship differently, there are many areas of agreement between them (as noted in the concluding chapter). Each method places a priority on the role of families and social groups in the relationships of singles and couples. Each method is marriage minded and does not take lightly the importance of preparing for that covenant. Each method strives to be biblical and God-honoring, forsaking all worldly ideas of what a relationship should look like. With all these areas of agreement, how then is any good Christian supposed to discern which path to take?First, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we all must let our requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 reminds us that we ought to pray about everything, and that includes this touchy, often-difficult-to-discuss topic of dating and courtship. Second, we should “stop trying to find the right person, and start being the right person.” Or as Jeramy and Jerusha Clark said, “before you can find someone worth finding, you must first become someone worth being found.” (165) In other words, we must work on ourselves first before we consider finding someone to share a godly relationship. Our priority needs to be on becoming godly men and women of God who know His Word. We ought to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8), training ourselves to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:12).And as we are on that road towards godliness, that is when God takes our individual differences and uses them for declaring His praises to the world.

Different People, Different Styles

The following continuum, from betrothal to dating, provides a useful way to compare the views represented in the book (202):

???Betrothal / Courtship / Dating???

???Greater preliminary formality Less preliminary formality??????Initial commitment important Initial commitment less important??????Damage inevitable in multiple experiences /Damage not inevitable in multiple experiences??????Method more important than culture Neutrality of culture??????Consider objective criteria Consider subjective criteria???The fact of the matter is simply that different people have different styles of doing relationships. Some people may have had negative past experiences with one method, and so they may do things differently the second (or third, or fourth, etc.) time around. We all have a history, and since there is no “right” way of sharing godly relationships, we must carefully discern by prayer and Scripture how best to respond to our past and move forward in this earthly pilgrimage. Here then is a good place for a serious word of caution: be prepared to compromise and be flexible with your chosen/preferred style or path. For who knows, God may give you a “dater” while you are in the middle of a non-dating phase of your life — this would be the perfect time to contextualize and apply all this head-knowledge into a tangible, Christian response to what God provides.A serious misconception of singles I have received from an engaged couple who has dated, is the explicit implication that I thus should date because it has worked for them. I am sure some of you have at one time or another experienced this yourself. This is first and foremost rude, and second, intrusive to one’s private life and personal theology. I have no problem with people who do date; I have no problem with those who do courtship; nor do I have any problem with those who do betrothal. What I do have issues with is those of one method imposing their way of doing things on me and trying to convert me to their method of doing a relationship.There is a time and place and personality for each method, but we must understand that we all go through different circumstances, and thus different measures and methods need to be taken.?? In this sense, we need to contextualize the method to the relationship and persons in the relationship. For those who have been hurt or have failed numerous times in the past with the dating method (for example), it may not be appropriate then to tell them about the “wonders” of dating since they clearly are not in the time of life for that. We should on the other hand listen, listen, and pray for our brothers and sisters, in spite of whatever circumstances they find themselves in. We all need friends who can support us in good times and bad, friends who love God and can love us despite all our flaws — this is the kind of friendship where we mutually care for each other and give biblical wisdom in times of need.

Of First Importance

Reading this book and mulling over its contents has been a great benefit for me. I am much more knowledgeable about the different paths that are out there, and have become more aware of the possibility of the clashing of persons who use different paths. But even as God has given us these different paths for finding a mate for our time on earthly, we must not become enamored nor too focused on walking the right path. Rather, in all things and on every path that we take in life, we must ensure that we are committed to following the Way, Jesus Christ our Lord. For He is ultimate, and our relationship with God is of first importance beyond any earthly relationship we can ever have. While we may be different people with different styles of how we relate to each other, we still are united together by His blood. This is what we must always keep in mind, that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And for this very reason, let us love one another with brotherly affection, and outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

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