I generally trust Elisabeth Elliot.  I love her books and her very Godly principles when it comes to dating.  Sometimes she is a little too old-fashioned (a recent email daily devotional I read said that women shouldn’t work and should stay at home.  Nice words for those who have families or who have a man to bring home the bread, but single women do not have that liberty and she didn’t even reference that fact.)

Anyway, here is the email I received today.  I wish more people followed her guidelines (a friend of mine is dating someone who DEFINITELY did… he read “mark of a man” and approached their relationship from this perspective) – we’d all end up a lot less heartbroken I think.  Sometimes it seems extreme when compared to how people date these days.. but relationships are SO messed up in this modern world.  50% divorce rate?  Complicated dating –  Will he call/should I not call/what does that text msg mean/blah blah blah.  I so wish we could return to more simple times!!  It was so easy for our grandparents… ok, maybe not easy, but looking back, it was NOT as complicated as it is today!

Anyway, on to Elisabeth’s words…. 🙂

Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Source: On Asking God Why
Scripture Reference:

Two Marriageable People

What Holly thought would be an ordinary Sunday evening turned into an enchanted evening. She met Scott.

“I’d seen him around church a few times, but it’s a big church and we had never spoken. During the social hour following the service we got into conversation. He offered to drive me home, and–well, you know the story. He started calling me, we’d talk for hours on the phone. He decided to join the singles group, hung around afterward and we’d talk, and finally he actually asked me out. Sometimes he picked up the tab, but usually I paid my own way. I didn’t want to feel obligated to him.

“Once when we had dinner together he prayed,” Holly confided to me, “thanking God for our friendship and for the fact that the singles group could witness a man and a woman who could be good friends without falling in love.”

Without falling in love. Uh-huh. I’ve heard that story from both men and women, perhaps hundreds of times.

Who did Scott think he was kidding? Had it not crossed his mind that one of them might fall? One of the two always does. Poor Holly had fallen flat. She was in her early twenties and attractive, yet she told me she “had a problem.” She did–her heart was on hold.

When one’s heart is on hold, you do what Holly did–a lot of praying and crying and hoping for the telephone to ring. Scott kept her hopes up. He invited her to a big family wedding, even to the reception meant only for family and close friends. Surely he must be getting on toward serious. Would he put words to his feelings? Well, almost. He talked about marriage, telling Holly he often dreamed of having a wife and how he hoped to find one. He told her how much he wanted children, offering her his ideas on raising them. The time came when Holly could stand it no longer.

They were eating pizza by the fire in her living room. Scott always accepted her invitations. Once or twice he had brought flowers or a bottle of wine.

Tonight he was enjoying the pizza, chattering away about a game he’d been to. But Holly’s mind wasn’t on the game.

“Scott,” she said hesitantly, “we need to talk about something.”

“Yeah?”

“I mean–like, we’ve been, you know, friends long enough.”

The man was startled. He took a huge bite of pizza and said nothing.

”This is really hard for me to say, but, Scott, if you don’t have any intentions of, well, a real relationship, I can’t spend any more time alone with you. I’ve felt so comfortable with you. I can be myself, you know? My real self, I mean. I’ve told you a lot of–well, of my heart. But if it doesn’t–if you aren’t, you know….” Her voice trailed off.

The silence was thundering. Holly looked at Scott. Scott looked at the fire. After another bite and another gulp he said he couldn’t see himself married to her. The truth was, of course, that for months Holly had been seeing herself married to him. To her, a “real relationship” meant engagement, although she didn’t use that word. In fact, she told me, she had never voiced any desire whatsoever to be married to him. Hadn’t she? Scott might be a little obtuse, but he knew what a “real relationship” had to mean. He thought he was forestalling any such complication by telling Holly about his hopes. Didn’t she catch on that she wasn’t what he was looking for?

So here are two marriageable people who would like to be married, though not in both cases to each other. What’s wrong? Both the why and the how, it seems to me, are wrong.

Note that Scott took no risks, as far as he knew. Talked to a girl after church, drove her home–pretty innocuous, spur-of-the moment gestures. Nobody would make anything out of that. She was nice and let him talk about what interested him. So he started going to the singles group, talked to a few others, phoned Holly now and then, went to dinner and let her pay her half (didn’t want her to “think anything,” didn’t want to put her down by turning down her offer to pay). Then, because once or twice he thought maybe he caught a little glimmer in her eyes, he put across an important message–in a prayer. She couldn’t suspect any nefarious designs here, could she? When he took her to the family wedding she should have known she was just a sister to him.

She didn’t. It was quite out of the question for her not to think of marriage. Any smallest sign of a man’s interest was a big thing. She tried to deny it, tried to tell herself not to “think anything,” but she couldn’t refrain.

The man didn’t mean to put her heart on hold. How did it happen? Had he wronged her? Was he being dishonest, unfair? What was he supposed to do–take ’em all out, give ’em equal time? He was no Casanova, just an ordinary guy. He meant well. He’d tried to play it cool. The trouble is you can’t play it cool with a powder keg.

I wonder if it isn’t time for Christian young people to discard the currently accepted methods of mate-finding, which haven’t scored higher in marital success than the ancient matchmaker method. I offer the following as humble suggestions for the why and the how of finding a mate. They don’t constitute the Law of Sinai, but I ask you to think soberly, even to pray, about them.

You men are the ones on whom God originally laid the burden of responsibility as head, initiator, provider. Why do you want to marry? If Scott had given sufficient thought and prayer to that one, perhaps he would not have been the bull in the china shop of Holly’s heart. God ordained marriage. God provided the equipment needed for reproduction. But it is not his plan for every man to marry. How about getting down to business, when you reach the age of responsibility, and specifically asking God whether marriage is, in fact, a part of his plan for you? In order to listen to him without distraction you will need to:

  1. Stop everything–intimacy, dating, any “special relationship.”
  2. Be silent before God. Lay your life before him, willing to accept the path he shows you. If you get no answer, do nothing in that direction now. Wait.
  3. If it seems the answer is yes, go to a spiritual mother or father (someone older in the faith than you are, someone with wisdom and common sense who knows how to pray) and ask them to pray with you and for you about a wife. Listen to their counsel. If they know somebody they think suitable, take them seriously.
  4. Study the story of Abraham’s servant who was sent to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). He went to the logical place where he might find women. He prayed silently, watched quietly. The story is rich in lessons. Find them.
  5. Keep your eyes open–in your own “garden.” You don’t have to survey all the roses before you pick the one for your bud vase. When you spot the sort of woman you think you’re looking for, watch her from a respectful distance. Much can be learned without conversation, let alone “relationship.” Ask about her of others who know her and whom you can trust to keep their mouths shut. Does she give evidence of being a godly woman? A womanly one? Expect God to lead. “Let the one to whom I shall say…Iet her be the one whom thou hast appointed” (Genesis 24:14 RSV).
  6. Proceed with extreme caution, praying over every move. By this I do not mean mumbling prayers while you’re charging across the church campus to ask her for a date. I mean giving yourself whatever it takes, whether weeks or years, to take his yoke and learn of him. It is “good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”
  7. Talk to her in a casual setting. You will be able to discover if she is a woman of serious purpose. Do not mention “relationships,” marriage, feelings.
  8. Give yourself time to think. Go back to your spiritual mother or father. (In our family, our own parents were our spiritual parents as well, and they prayed for four specific people to marry four of their children. It happened.)

I’m not going to outline the chronology of dating. I would only suggest that you start small–a simple lunch somewhere rather than a gala dinner. You pick up the tab. Treat her like a lady, act like a gentleman. (See my book The Mark of a Man for more guidelines.)

If you find yourself falling for a girl who offers you only casual friendship, or worse, the cold shoulder, first get it settled with God that she is the one to pursue. Even if a woman tells a man to “get lost” but he knows in his heart she’s the right one, he can still wait and pray for God’s timing. I know of many married couples whose courtship began this way.

The time will come when your conversations have revealed, without direct inquiry, whether this woman would be prepared to accept your destiny and your headship; whether she is maternal, a homeworker–in short, whether she is what you’ve been praying for.

It is a great mistake to put too much stock in physical beauty or in thrills and chills. Neither has anything to do with a sound foundation for a marriage. Remember that the love of 1 Corinthians 13 is action, not a glandular condition. The love that makes a marriage is basically a deep respect and an unselfish kindness. That’s pleasant to live with.

Now a few words, and only a few, for you women. I know–oh, how well I know–your position. Because we are women we are made to be responders, not initiators (see Let Me Be a Woman). This means that the burden of responsibility of seeking and wooing a mate does not belong to us. To us belongs the waiting.

This does not mean inactivity. It means first of all a positive, active placing of our trust in him who loves us, does all things well, and promises to crown us with everlasting joy. It means next a continued obedience in whatever God has given us to do today, without allowing our longing to “slay the appetite of our living,” as Jim Elliot once wrote to me, long before God gave us the green light to marry. It means just what Paul meant when he wrote from prison to the Philippian Christians, “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”

Often the awkward scenario depicted in Holly and Scott’s story is more the woman’s fault than the man’s. That is because women generally allow too many liberties, make themselves too available, and press for explanations when they should remain quiet. It is foolhardy to stick your neck out that way. When your heart is on hold, it’s best quietly to decline any further invitations rather than to try to “preserve the friendship.” It can’t be done. Better to simply back off.

If our supreme goal is to follow Christ, the rule of our lives will be my life for yours. We will be directing our energies far more toward the will of God and the service of others than to our own heart’s longings. And that, believe me, is the best possible training course for marriage.

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