Wednesday, December 17, 2014

AWPATT XII: September 17-December 17 (Thoughts 109-200)

Will mention sexual subjects in connection to marriage.

109 Okay, recap: I’ve criticized veils, expensive dresses, wedding cakes, floral arrangements and hiring a band. Now, is it fine to play music? Certainly. I like music. Note, I didn’t say I like noise. Not all sound constitutes music, and then not all music constitutes pleasant music, or music that would be fitting for a wedding celebration. I would definitely stock a playlist of songs that would preach the Gospel and talk about marriage from a Christian theological perspective. Dave Barnes’ God Gave Me You, Andrew Peterson’s Dancing in the Minefields and World Traveler, Sanctus Real’s Lead Me, and other songs like Love is Not a Fight, Children of God, You Belong to Me, Beloved, and many more, and those are just a sampling of songs remarking on marriage. The wedding is first and foremost an opportunity to preach the Gospel to people who may never willingly sit still and pay attention or visit a church of their own accord. What more powerful way to display the truth of God’s love and grace in salvation than via the single most powerful representation of His nature that there is in this world?

110 One way that the wedding will be a witness to unbelieving family members or friends is by the absence of worldly or otherwise religious traditionally included aspects of the celebration. I’ve already mentioned veils. But the music played and the ritual parts, like traditional words spoken by the officiant and spouses, when not included, will tend to jar those who expect a catholic wedding, or a jewish wedding, or a secular wedding. And that will get their attention. Then the alternative will be presented, and everyone left with a choice.

111 Secular folks (here including those who consider themselves members of churches, and who are probably nominal believers) will probably expect a dance. No dancing at a wedding would be a shock to this culture, which has come to take sensuality for granted to such an extreme that people go to weddings trying to hook up with someone of the opposite sex, or to have fun – really? The wedding of someone else is for the purpose of you having fun?? Not allowing people the chance to exercise this narcissism will be a witness enough to some.

112 Many people are so blind these days that they think priests officiate every wedding. The only major American religion that has “priests” is the Roman Catholic Church, which, since before the 1500s, has been an apostate, anti-Christ religion. The term “priest” is a term that means someone who speaks to God directly. Prior to Jesus’ incarnation, the Israelites had a high priest who would sacrifice for the sins of the people once a year, but when Jesus came, He, functioning as our High Priest, sacrificed once and for all for the sins of those who would believe. Now, the book of Hebrews says, we His followers are a royal priesthoodevery one of us. There is no priestly class within Christendom, and the idea that someone else has greater access to God than my bride and I is an offensive and anti-Biblical notion!

113 I struggle with the symbolism of the ringbearer. I don’t see where it’s useful, but it also isn’t clear what it’s supposed to represent in its present use, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be in favor of utilizing such a fixture at my wedding. The rings themselves represent continuity and wholeness and union, more on that below. But if this comes from somewhere, then it is fitting that the union of marriage be symbolized as coming down as a gift from God, so it would make more sense for the pastor to give it to the spouses, or for the rings to be sitting prominently at the front of the church for the whole time until they are put on the bride and groom’s fingers.

114 What would the father giving his daughter to her husband to symbolize? If it is ownership of another person a la slavery, then that's not Biblical, and it must be dispensed with. But actually having an understanding of female submission in the Bible, it's clear as day to me: until marriage, a woman is under the spiritual authority of her father. And when she marries, she comes under the spiritual authority of her husband. She submits to the one, and at a certain point, ceases, and begins to submit to the other as her first and foremost "prophet, priest and king" in the earthly realm, with each of them submitting in turn to God, our true Prophet Priest and King. This could be included in a wedding without having anything to do with ownership, but spiritual authority, and it shows that the bride is a godly woman willing to submit to her father before marriage and her husband in marriage, out of obedience to God.
115 Did you know that wedding rings worn on the finger are a custom popularized by Rome? Rings have been used for a long time to represent engagement, and as far back as Jacob’s marriages to Leah and Rachel, you can see that he gave his wife a nose ring. So rings are Biblical symbolism, and having it on the finger isn’t likely something strange, since nothing is implied to be evil about signet rings of kings, for example. So I have no beef with a ring being the symbol to represent that I am married to my wife.

116 But need it be gold? I think that’s fine, because it represents purity, but for me, personally, I prefer Tungsten. For maximum irony, it’s named after the Swedish words for “heavy rock” by its Swedish discoverer. But it’s one of the densest and strongest non-poisonous metals in the periodic table, and any metal can be pure so long as it’s not alloyed with another element, so the purity element still stands there. But what matters more to me is the symbolism of strength. Our union won’t be tainted by adultery, so it’ll be pure in that respect, but both my wife and I are sinners coming together, and so there is an inherent impurity in our souls, one that Christ has forgiven and is continually healing us from, while promising to remove it completely in the end—it is by His strength that we, two sinners, can come together as one and not be separated. So I like the idea of Tungsten because it will represent that it is God who keeps our marriage together, that He’s at the center of it.

117 Because I really don’t care, I’m not even sure which hand the wedding ring is “supposed to” sit, but I think it’s the right. There is equally valid symbolism for the right and left hand, the right being used in the Bible (‘the wise man’sheart is at his right hand’) to represent control, because most people are right handed, although the left hand is closer to the heart, and I know from Boy Scouts that it was used by Lenape Indians in handshakes to symbolize friendship for this reason. For me, I have spontaneous, occasional, yet persistent flare-ups of skin irritation (apparently a form of Eczema), which my right ring finger tends to bear the brunt of, so I might put it on my left hand for this proximate cause, and justify it with the reasons given.

118 On the other hand (hur hur), there’s a surprise benefit to having the wedding ring on the left hand, if it’s usually on the right—people might be more likely to respect your relationship if it has the appearance to them of being “new,” so that they wouldn’t doubt your passion for each other. Discouraging home-wreckers would be a practical benefit of having the ring on the left hand, without being openly deceitful about it.

119 White wedding dresses were popularized in Victorian England, but white is not the only color that can represent purity. Blue represents water, which hearkens both to water baptism and the Noachian Deluge as further symbols of the washing clean that God accomplishes for us through salvation. More to the point would be the color red, which represents the shed blood of Christ, which itself represents His death, that satisfied the price to be paid for our sins, and made us ‘white as snow’ in the sight of God the Father. I could see my wife perhaps wearing a white dress with a red sash and blue …shawl? Whatever something just covering her shoulders would be called. Or any of the colors by itself; explaining which symbolism is intended would be part of the ceremony and I’ll be curious what her personal choice would be.

120 Of course, there wouldn’t be any alcohol served at the wedding. No open bar, nothing of that sort. That would probably be a shock to some people. Mark this, I’m not among the fundamentalist-baptist sort who make it an article of faith that alcohol is evil. Hardly so, but it’s certainly not necessary nor is it always good for everyone. Besides, I have a preexisting concern for having full control over your mental faculties. Anything that interferes with my ability to think would be bad in my view, sin or not, because nothing good can come from handicapping my ability to make the best decisions with all the information available to me. Alcohol present at my wedding would provide some with an excuse to avoid hearing the Gospel by drinking enough to make them black out or otherwise lose awareness of whatever is being told to them. In this way, the presence of alcohol certainly would be a temptation to sin for some, and that’s why I would not include it.

121 I have no intention to ‘date,’ if dating is seen as a casual relationship with someone without the intention of marriage. If you have this sort of relationship, you’ve already decided that you’re not going to be with them forever (here meaning for the duration of your earthly life), and so you’ve already decided that you’re going to break up with them when you begin dating. What would be the point of such a relationship? “Practice?” Make sure you tell that to him or her when you go out the first time, that you “just want to practice what it’s like to have a real relationship, using this one for make-pretend.” I bet they’ll be thrilled. And if they go along with it, there’re two reasons: 1) they don’t believe you. In other words, they are accusing you of lying, so you already have a lack of trust, which is going to result in disaster 2) they do believe you, but are emotionally damaged and would rather be with someone who will hurt them in the long run rather than take rejection up-front. NEITHER of these situations are positive, and so no matter how you slice it, “dating” without any plan for commitment is futile, self-destructive, insensitive, sadistic, immature, emotionally calamitous and a stupid waste of time. So don’t date.

122 A relationship can culminate in 4 basic ways: stagnation, where it neither grows nor dissolves; break-up; death; or marriage. Seeing as none of the former three are appealing, what would be the point of entering a relationship you were expecting to be doomed from the get-go? Only marriage has any sustaining value to it.

123 So my approach to women is, initially, no different from my approach to men. Talk, see if they enjoy talking back. Get to know them. If you connect well, you can become friends because you build up history and trust (one way to define friendship). This can take place long-distance

124 After that point, the question becomes: do I know enough about this person that I can see them as 1) a desirable marriage partner in general and 2) as compatible with me, in particular? If those are true, courtship can be initiated, which is simply the expressed intent to get to know a person better with the motivation of pursuing marriage. Clear goals. And so it isn't outwardly much different to the world than a friendship. But where it leads is so different from where anything the world offers leads to.

125 I'm a bit of a sweet-talker as well as having the capacity to be very deep in a lot of ways. There wouldn't be an option not to explore different aspects of intimacy (responsibly, naturally, depending on what level of relationship I'm at with a person), so my fiancee hopeful would have to expect "gooey gross feelings" [a phrase used in a conversation with a young lady online, by her. This portion of the AWPATT is adapted from that conversation] eventually. On the journey toward marriage, I wouldn't fail to make you feel. Or think. I suspect the reason I never get past more than a casual conversation with most girls is because the sheer depth of thought and emotion (despite my serious lack of intuition when it comes to that; my understanding of my own and other people's emotions is all intellectually comprehended) is something they're not comfortable with. 

126 Part of the reason I write a lot is because I hope to give less-talkative ladies the opportunity to pick something to respond to. It's a behavior I've developed subconsciously, to elicit more in-depth responses from my conversation partner. I'm very introspective and analytical. Hence how I know myself so well, if not others. I like to know why I do things.

127 Cute isn't after all just what you look like. If you show interest in someone, then as a guy (dunno how widespread this is so I won't speak for all men), I find you more attractive because now your beauty isn't just something distant, a mere idea to comprehend. Now it's something you're sharing with me. In introspecting myself, as I made reference to doing, I've discovered that what will touch my heart more than any other thing is desire. I don't need an unrealistic concept of physical beauty to attract me to someone--if I perceive that she WANTS to be involved with me in some way (be it listening, talking, spending time, or desiring a relationship), then that's what will make me "fall in love," as the vernacular puts it. It will be what captivates my mind. Desire is desirable. 

128 I could be wrong about this so I won't pretend to state it as an absolute truth, but based on my few experiences/anecdotes, it seems to me that girls, because of legitimate concerns about being vulnerable, are in a way "afraid" when approaching relationships. Certainly this isn't a crippling fear that prevents them from happening, or they wouldn't happen, but I mean that before they know who a guy really is, they're wary about giving him access to their heart, where he can hurt them if he's careless, foolish, selfish or malevolent in intent.

129 But when there is freedom to be vulnerable, as in a loving Christian courtship/engagement/marriage, then it's my understanding that the low-level, ever-present fear of men dissolves, and a loving man can do wonders to inflame her soul with joy and passion.

130 Perhaps this is a uniqueness of mine, but I have no problem, at least in theory, making friends with a girl I think is super cute. Because my view is that until I find reason to think otherwise, I see every relationship as having the potential for marriage. This is different from trying to pigeon-hole every interaction into a context that it might not be meant for. It simply means that I'll continue to take slow step by slow step to get to know you or anyone as a person, so long as I "can see myself marrying them ". That doesn't mean that I'll up and quit a relationship when I find out we wouldn't be compatible. You can still be friends. It simply means that I'll be transparent and explain that this is the conclusion I've come to, at that point, instead of playing games with your heart.

131 ‘Can't ultimately love or show love to a person you don't understand--so to me, it's all about understanding. It's one of my key core desires (needs?). I simply want a woman who can understand me, who will respect me, and who wants me. Those three things. All else is EASY to figure out and get in place. It's the big central pieces that matter the most about my future relationship on a very personal level. Everything else is mainly incidental and flows from those three. Consequently, I want to understand how your mind works. That's why I appreciate thoughtful talkativeness so much.

132 I actually took a free training course back in high school to be a volunteer mediator. So I'm now pretty instinctive at applying reflective listening, in order to make sure that the other person feels that you understand them. It's just so frustrating when I have conflicts with people who don't allow you to talk without interruption so that you can never have a constructive discussion where each side feels heard. I deeply desire someone who can have a respectful discussion and collaborate to resolve an issue even if we're both livid and extremely offended with the other. It's a "lost art," although seeing it a different way, it's highly tied to theology. The Gospel removes your pride. That removes your perceived "need" to be vindicated, prove the other person wrong, and make sure they feel punished the way you think they deserve. When you're free from that, you can exercise forgiveness and you can resolve extremely angry disputes without the issue becoming chaotic/violent/destructive etc.

133 I absolutely insist on having a dispute before committing to marriage, in my thinking about my future spouse. I need to be confident she won't crack when things get bad, so before I marry a girl, I anticipate intentionally emphasizing my less pleasant qualities. That's part of my obsession about honesty. I want to make sure that she can live with me, and not just her idealized perception of me.

134 Unpleasant quarrels are never nice but that's not because of the fact of the conflict, but the inability to resolve it, I think. If we can get heated and reconcile, that's more relieving than just avoiding a verbal fight with someone who you can't communicate with because they always shut you down/out/up.

135 I wouldn’t purposefully cause a fight, of course. Though I could imagine that bringing up a subject I know to have the possibility of stirring emotions could perhaps do that. Wisdom lies in broaching different conversation topics at the right time.

136 Shyness isn’t annoying, but someone who pretends to be shy in order to be a tease or to hide from vulnerability is offensive, because they’re literally being a hypocrite—putting on an act—to try to manipulate people into treating them the way they want rather than accomplishing this through honesty and communication. So long as someone is able to open up with people they trust, are comfortable with, etc, then there's nothing that would really bug me about someone who's quiet at first. There's a difference between being reserved and being evasive.

137 Now, I sympathize with not wanting to speak unless you can find something of value to say. Even when I chit-chat, I try to make it meaningful. ‘Can't talk without conveying information, it just feels wrong. So me being casual in conversation is still me trying to share something and not just take up the other person's time.

138 It's a disservice to a young woman for a boy/man to treat her like the epicenter of his life--to behave as if she is the adventure. Women are people, too, and so if a guy treats a girl he likes like a goddess, someone who is perfect, and he's unwilling to acknowledge any flaws she has, then he's not engaging with her as a real person, but as an unrealistic ideal.

139 Whereas it might be exciting to have a guy lavish attention on you and treat you well, if he does it because you're the greatest thing in his life, it will get old, eventually. The inherent problems with the approach will reveal themselves over time. For example, she can become an idol, where she's so central to the guy's life that he worships her, and in essence, she takes the place in his life where God should be. And no human can take the place of God. They're not cut out for it. They will fail, and there will be disappointment and let-down on both sides.

140 God doesn't need our help. But a woman, like the man in her life, is an imperfect being and therefore it's a guarantee that she needs help, somewhere somehow. If the guy treats her as a perfect angel, then he won't be conditioned to be able to support her and help her in the way she needs it. So treating her as a goddess, while it seems nice initially, when you really get into the details, it hurts the woman more than it helps her, because it puts a blockade in the way of the man being able to connect with her in the way that she needs, (and for that matter, that he needs).

141 So what a girl needs is not to be the adventure, but to be taken along with the man on an adventure. The adventure needs to be something higher, greater than she. By having the right central focus in his life, a godly man is able to be properly intimate with his future/spouse so that he can bring her joy, comfort, and most of all bring her closer to God. It's hard to do that if she's taking His place, in the relationship.

142 So what I'd like to offer to you is the idea that a guy who can honestly look at you and say that he sees you as a flawed individual can be sexy, rather than an insult and an overture for an aggressive verbal fight. Of course, it matters how it's introduced. You can't just get together with someone and start criticizing them. It's all about the motivation: is it to hurt, or is it to realign what we value with what is really important? The latter is what I'm seeking.

143 Looking at James 4:17 and Romans 14:23, I'd say that concerning Christian liberty, if you don't think that wearing bikinis is wrong, then it wouldn't be sin for you. After all, there is nothing evil about the female body, or anyone's naked body for that matter. So if you've never thought about swimsuits in a Christian-walk context, that may mean you wouldn't have been defiantly doing something you thought was inappropriate. There are those who adamantly think it is, and for them, if they were to do it, it would be sin, according to those passages. Basically those are saying that whenever we do something that betrays our conscience, then we are sinning--no matter what that happens to be, sinful or not. I find that interesting; Christianity is the thinking faith, unlike any other. It doesn't give a list of all behaviors that are acceptable, and those that are not, in specific; instead it gives us guidelines and causes our hearts and minds to be reformed, so that our conduct would be changed naturally, not as a superficial obedience.

144 What do I think about girls in bikinis? I think they can look really good in them. And knowing myself, I'm conscious of the fact that I could be tempted to sin when I see a beautiful woman, and rather than try to toe the line between "appreciating beauty" and just plain lusting, I am more comfortable personally to seek to avoid putting myself in situations where I am confronted with such thoughts.

145 The way that I would hope a young woman thinks about how she decorates her body would be thus: would it be actively doing something that could give someone an opportunity to sin, which would by no means be necessary? In an ideal world, people could see beautiful people, clothed or naked, and never lust at all. And it's helpful to note that on the other end of the spectrum, no matter what we do to avoid provoking people, there are those who will sin (not just in lust, but notably anger and envy etc) no matter how much care we took to not give them cause. So the reality as it concerns our behavior lies somewhere in between. We're not accountable for others, but we do live in a world where there is sin, and so if we love others, we are motivated not to needlessly provoke them to it.

146 And it scarcely needs noting, in marriage, my wife’s body would not be an issue for me, personally. You can’t lust for your wife any more than you can idolize God.

147 Without a lot of impressive civic achievements under my belt, what I long for that makes me satisfied that I've made the world a better place is simply to be able to influence other people positively. Something as little as encouragement is gratifying, but to be able to introduce new ideas to others that they appreciate (it seems strange to call it "teaching"), that gives me joy.

148 Applying the theology I’ve discussed and will discuss regarding courtship, it’s important to recognize that until married, I’m NOT the most important man in a young woman’s life. THEREFORE, I shouldn’t expect her to give me the highest priority of her time and energy, or consider my opinion more than anyone else’s. So anything more than how I might expect her to treat a member of the public is to be seen as nothing but her willing grace (giving something good that's not deserved). Seeing it in that frame makes me more apt to be grateful, rather than disappointed. And that feels good. It's so exciting how good theology can align your thoughts to influence your emotions for the better. Just taking some time to think about how to feel about something can keep you from reacting wrongly.

149 In a big-picture sense, with all the variety in human voices, how someone sounds is not really a big important factor in determining if you think someone's a good potential partner. But ironically, I've found that if someone has a really good voice, that's one of those overlooked "little things" that can really get to me, about a woman. All other things considered, if she has a great voice, she can make my heart melt. If said young lady enjoys the thought of acting possessive, in private, in a future relationship, she could certainly use her voice to entice me to give myself over to her.

150 . Funny thing regarding cuddling, that I've found: people are either physically compatible, or not xD. How two people instinctively move their bodies to best take up space on a couch, or seat, or bed, or other surface, it's interesting how that can affect your ability to connect early on. I had a physically close relationship with someone I considered a very good friend and nothing more than that: We never kissed or decided that we were in a romantic relationship. We just hung out as friends, and happened to be able to trust each other enough (because of clearly expressed intentions, as I've harped on before: we were both strongly conservative Christians and made it clear we weren't a couple, to each other), that we cuddled a few times. From that, I've learned a few things I hadn't thought about before:

151 One is that it gets HOT when two bodies are touching, when you're trying to sleep. Goodness gracious. Never considered that, but it sure must be useful in wintertime.

152 Two, I'm apparently instinctively predisposed to be a good lover, because I'm good at reading the other person's body language and being responsive. Yay for me! :D And I hope my future wife is instinctive in that way, too. But if not, I can always teach her ;)

153 Funny enough, I have heard the opinions of people who don't like "innocent intimacy", as one might call it, and it's a bit fascinating in a strange way to listen to. Like, the fact that there are people in our oversexualized culture that will do hookups and multiple partners but actually disdain the simple act of touching without a sexual connotation to it? That boggles the mind.

154 I'm very open about the abstract--some people get uncomfortable with just how much I am fine discussing--but I'm SO careful with regard to a serious commitment beyond an initial romantic attraction. I suspect it might be the case that I'm  a slower mover than most women, people just wouldn't get that impression when they hear me talk about how I yearn to be married.

155 Clearly and directly explaining how you see something, so that there's no ambiguity is incredibly helpful. That can be romantic or flirtatious, too, depending on the context. I don't think many would disagree with me that trying to figure out someone who refuses to be pinned down is frustrating if they don't give up the game eventually. I don't particularly "hate" teases, but girls who can't not be evasive come across as immature and I just am not interested in a relationship with someone like that, so it would never happen because I'd give up pursuit really quickly.

156 [For the hard-working, busy, ambitious woman]: If your tendency is to overextend yourself or lose track of "doing things for yourself," a Christian husband or fiancée can help you keep that balance by virtue of the fact that his attention will be focused on you, and preoccupied with how to bless you. Consequently, all you would need to do, rather than second guess your commitments as you might if you're single, would be to happily pursue your external obligations to the fullest that you wish, and simply be mindful to respond to him when he beckons you to slow down. A [marriage] relationship can be seen as a single human organism with two centers of consciousness, such that you can benefit from a second-person perspective in ways that you can never quite realize on your own, through introspection alone. So a loving man would let you chase your dreams and only when it becomes necessary, pull you back to him, and all you would need to do (and would be free and secure to do in that relationship) would be to give in.

157 "How can you be single?" can be a compliment, but often I find that the context in which it's asked is insulting. I've had girls tell me that, "how is it that you don't have a girlfriend!?" but often they are in relationships. That's not inherently insulting, that's just frustrating. But imagine a person who is single themselves, saying this to someone. If they really mean it, wouldn't they then be interested in a relationship with them? What then explains the perplexing situation of a single and attractive girl telling me that she can see why any girl would want to date me, but isn't herself interested?

158 I think some people give kinder compliments than they secretly give the recipient credit for deserving. Because the bottom line is, if they aren't interested, then clearly they can see some reason for not wanting a relationship, and hence they CAN understand why others wouldn't also want to date them, and thus why they are single, after all. So from a single person, the "compliment" "I don't understand why you're still single," if they don't follow it up with romantic interest themselves, really means "I can see why you're still single, I'm just not going to tell you why, so that the feedback could help you." And that's where I find the insult.

159 The only reason a single person wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone they find desirable without reservation is because of something negative on their side of the equation. They’re unready, in one way or another. That’s the only reason. “I would be interested in you but I’m a bit too old for you” is still a reason you can see why they’re not single, so if you see it, say it, don’t say you can’t see why. “I want to wait until I finish school”, however, is a valid reason not to be interested even if you find someone desirable. In other words, where you are in life is really the only valid reason for a person not to want someone they think would be a good partner. Your own past history is only a reason for them to not be interested in you – that is not your right to decide, that you are ineligible because of.

160 Consequently, I'll never say that to a girl unless I'll allow myself a) that I am actually personally interested in them, potentially, and b) if I'm not willing to accept a relationship, that I will explain the reason why not in terms of some constraining factor on myself, such as not being financially ready (the big one), etc.

161 Otherwise, if I can see a reason in that person why I wouldn't want a relationship with them, then it isn't true that I could be confused as to why they're single. And therefore, if I asked them that, I would be lying.

162 And when you distill the issue down this far, you can once again put words to why it's frustrating. When complimented by unavailable people, it's frustrating because they can't satisfy your will not to be single. But when complimented by single people, it is, insidiously, not a compliment at all, but a subtle lie, and acknowledgement of withholding helpful information, etc etc. So anybody told this from someone who's professedly single and available, who does not have reasons why they're not ready for a relationship, has every right to be offended.

163 [To the choosy woman]: The only reason anyone would be legitimately disappointed with someone else's pickiness in choosing a relationship partner is if they're one of the ones weeded out. Nobody likes being rejected. But no man with more than an ounce of thought invested in his approach to relationships would be sincerely interested in a young woman who can't discriminate at all, and just accepts whatever comes her way, with open arms. "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." Proverbs 11:22

164 I think Proverbs 11:22 is  primarily in regard to how one carries oneself outwardly, but I think it extends to character and personality as well, not just how she dresses. Bottom line: a wise woman is definitely selective about her decisions, whether they concern how to dress, who to be friends with, how to act, who to be courted by, etc. Being overly resistant to things can make you potentially miss out on the good, but you won't regret missing out on the bad stuff, so it's far better to be described as "picky" than, say, "loose."

165 Song of Solomon ch 8 where the girl's brothers speak makes reference of their sister being either "a wall" or "a door." What does a wall do? Keeps things out. What does a door do? Opens for people to come in. It's probably not surprising to you that the symbolism of the young lady being "a wall" is held up as a virtuous thing in the passage. In contemporary language, when I read this passage, the phrase "she's a doorknob, everybody gets a turn," came to mind. Don't ever be tempted to think disparagingly of yourself because you're not that.

166 If someone demonstrates, on more than one occasion,

a) total disregard for anything I said
b) interrupts me repeatedly before I can conclude a single coherent thought
c) yells, when there was no occasion for it
d) threatens "punishments" for trying to accomplish a resolution, by continuing to try to speak/be heard
e) "ragequits" and attempts to have the last word, or shall I say, the only word
f) shows inability to reason logically
g) nags

…then I'll be too alarmed to dare risk the only hope of earthly peace I have on someone who doesn't respect me enough to lay aside their pride in an argument.

I am a reflective listener. Me asking questions as someone is speaking for a very long time should not be seen as interruptions but as engagement with what I'm hearing. Being attacked for having anything to say when someone is talking for minutes at a time and attacking me is exhausting...

167 One of the big reasons for why I have no problem at all with communicating letter-style for quite some time, is that because the more ground work you lay, the less room there is for misunderstanding later on, and the less opportunity for open conflict to occur.

168 There’s no time limit, because however long we might drag out any mention of meeting, there is always the opportunity to improve our knowledge of each other, which I personally see as key to any relationship. So in other words, you never stop growing in a relationship, and so having to wait is not so much of a downer because you can redeem the time, making productive use of it in the meanwhile.

169 And that way, if it's mutually decided at some point that a future marriage-relationship can't be seen to be possible, then you haven't wasted your time, but have gained a friend, or at the very least connected with another person in a real way, and you have that settled conscience about how you handled it. That it wasn't shallowly preoccupied with getting something from the other person, but more about what you could gain from giving to each other.

170 Thinking forward to marriage, it would be a nightmare of nightmares to find myself in a relationship with someone who's bought into the lie that men want sex, and for women it's a chore, and that she tries to withhold intimacy to manipulate me or as "punishment," as if punishment has any place in a loving relationship. The worst part about this prevalent attitude is that it hurts the relationship by driving people farther apart. Intimacy is not a simple reward, it is a necessary part of a healthy marriage that keeps you close--it's very hard to be very angry at someone who you're physically close with. One of the rare things the "sex mags" (meaning Cosmo, not playboy or anything) gets right from time to time is the advice that whether you resolve it or not, you should have sex at the end of an argument.

171 [Answering the question of what to do for a ‘first date’]: I think the first meeting wouldn't be a "first date," so the two answers to this question are a bit different. Meeting someone from on line, it'd make sense to pick a public place like a mall food court, and then sit and talk, or walk and talk, from there. On a date-date, I'm actually making this up on the spot as I write, because I don't think a lot about this because I'm a rebel against common custom. I personally don't think paying $20 for a salad somewhere is going to do much to improve our relationship, so I'm pretty antagonistic to the idea of "going out" to eat. It'd be far more fun to cook a meal together. You'd save money, you'd get to see how you both interact normally in a natural context like a kitchen in this example, and obviously you'd have some casual quality time. But for a first date, well, once we've met and you're comfortable being alone with me, I'd suggest a day hike, going somewhere scenic and just walking and talking, but along a trail instead of a street. It's all about the quality time, I will keep insisting. :) After getting tired, there's always the opportunity to do something else--again, getting to know each other through normal interaction. What does he/she do when they're bored and hungry but don't have the opportunity to make food at home? Simple everyday stuff, and just fitting in relating to each other around whatever you happen to be doing.

172 I should explain that my notion of a ‘date’ is a formally pre-planned excursion under romantic auspices and is not inextricably linked to the concept of “dating” that I railed against in point #121.

173 I've found that word [gentleman] one of the less loaded ones, and so I use that to try to communicate that I respect and admire women, am romantic, am mature and definitely not uninterested in meeting a young lady. Explaining that last part, there's lots of guys who are nice but not interested in someone. Now, I'm not desperately trying to woo everyone I meet, but I try to, without being either creepy or aloof, telegraph that I'm available, but not just available to anybody who'll have me. The intent is to make any given young lady comfortable enough in a conversation wherein which if she is interested in me, she won't be afraid to slip me some encouragement. I have come to hold one Biblical nugget of wisdom very seriously over time, and that's that in a romantic pursuit, not only is it the best way but it is also how we're wired: that the man is the initiator, and the woman is generally more responsive. The man following this logic would understand that he needs to express some interest before he hopes to know whether a woman's interested in him. He can't hope to be chased, he's the one who has the responsibility to pursue. Taking that together with the fact that a woman compatible with me (for the simple fact that there's very few sincere Christians in our age group), it's hard to find one, and your chances are not good if you never probe. So, this gives a little more background for what I said above. It's a tangent, but it's related to being a gentleman. I'll be ambiguously flirtatious with most women I talk to, in order to better gauge their compatibility (but not always that; suppose I'm talking to an older woman or a that case, being a gentleman is hoped to have the effect of producing word-of-mouth benefits.. "that Hakam guy seems real nice. Have you talked to him?") Perhaps this is a bit of a long shot, but it's in the back of my mind and helps me not be discouraged if I try to be friendly toward somebody and they aren't too pleased. :]

174 . I can't get married until I can have a self-sustaining financial household, but there's no harm in getting to know people while waiting for that, to not waste the time :) . If they find someone better while I'm still working on getting settled, that's no harm, no foul, in my view. I would not want a young lady to feel trapped waiting for me to amount to something, and putting her life on hold. I would want anyone I'm talking to to feel/be free to pursue other opportunities if they present themselves to them. See, while a part of what I'm looking for in a marriage is intended to assure my personal satisfaction, the operative calculus for the decision to pursue one person in particular will concern what I can offer her. It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that taking my time lets me wait to see what other options I might find; rather, I'd actually be interested to see if she could find a better alternative to me. If it turned out that I was the best man for her, then I would be driven by a sense of honor to give her the very best she needs, which only just happens to be me. This is not to demean the relationship at all, but rather to diminish any motivation for pride in myself in my approach to it, so that I'm more focused on her needs and what I can give, rather than what I can get--and to put the commitment and responsibility ahead of my personal feelings.

175 For a woman that I would not end up marrying, or see a relationship with heading in that direction, this is my thought for how to conduct that relationship and what goals to pursue for it: Whatever the extent of our relationship, all I want to give a woman is a great experience. And I'll sacrifice my own expectations in order to accomplish her best interest. That is my promise to any one who would engage with me on a personal level.

While I’m getting to know a woman, since I wouldn’t expect her to open up on every intimate level at once, my goal is to work hard to be a godly man of such character that she could trust me intimately to listen to things that are close to her heart, and if possible to play any small role in helping her a) heal or b) be encouraged/empowered by how I treat her in response. If I can't be her husband at some future date, then it inspires me to strive for giving her such good impressions of what a godly man can be like, so that when she meets a man who shares the best of my qualities (and presumably surpasses them) and is a closer match to her, that she'll recognize him for who he is, and better, to be immunized against posers, so that foolish men can't get the opportunity to hurt her.

176 Answer to a question about the ‘first kiss’ in a relationship:

My mind can go so many different ways on this, and not out of uncertainty so much as that I can see the strength of so many different arguments on it. For example, I grew up without a tremendous influence against kissing, in a culture that saw it as something given, not to mention casual, so I remain very impassively accepting of either notion of what a hypothetical close female friend would desire: to save kissing for marriage, or to frequently kiss beginning early in the relationship. I wouldn't be offended by either one in and of itself. Partly because I haven't shared a mouth-to-mouth kiss at this point in my life, I'm very amenable to the idea that "I've waited this long, why not wait til the engagement/wedding/honeymoon?" Like sex, it's not something you need to test that someone is good at, because it's possible to learn, and you get better the better you know your partner. And also like sex, the more you do that, the more you create a subconscious and very strong bond between two people, which if broken, is painful--and in hindsight, needlessly so, and easily preventable. With that in mind, together with my lofty goal of making my interaction with a young lady as positive as possible, I find a compelling reason to, at the very least, not pressure a girl into this type of intimacy, and to do my best to make her comfortable with a largely kiss-less relationship.[emphasis added] That's my initial approach, but as mentioned, it's not so strong that if she should lay in ambush, grab my face and take what she wants, that I'd be terribly upset at all. If anything, it would reveal to me the strength of her desire for me. Going out of your way to kiss me when I've showed disinterest and made no moves would take a certain level of boldness and confidence, let alone vulnerability and tenderness, and it would give you a not-inappropriate way to really get my attention. [Of course, context matters a great deal]

177 . I care very much about being of one mind with my spouse on theology, but I definitely don't want to make a woman I’ve begun talking to feel like she’s being interrogated. And it's definitely true that I can be attracted to a girl who's pretty--but all I need is a basic level of attraction. Just enough to not be repulsive xD. I can like somebody I get along well with. But the only thing that can make me "fall in love," colloquially speaking, is how holy you are. The better your relationship with God, the better your relationship with me. I can love you because I love God, and really it's God loving you through me, and that's the theology shining through to romance. But bottom-line, though I can explain why I should be interested in a Biblically wise woman, it doesn't explain the presence of a deep-rooted urge, why I should feel so...drawn toward?...such a lady. And thus I attribute that to God literally changing my internal desires, as the Bible promises that he does to those He saves.

178 Physical contact in public in a relationship: I don't think I'm very touchy in front of others. I think I'd be more likely to put a hand on a shoulder as a communication gesture as part of a conversation, more so than an absent-minded caress. If I'm very comfortable with somebody, I think I'm inclined toward frequent contact but not necessarily "PDA," like hugging or etc--more like a hand on the back when walking through a door, or touching the elbow/shoulder/side to get their attention to turn around. And for that matter, I appreciate the same.

179 Any time a relationship has failed to materialize for me, it’s been ultimately because of my choice. And any time I've chosen not to pursue a relationship, it has been solely because I determined that they weren't a match for me, at some point early on, and consequently never let the intimacy escalate.

180 What I’d be most comfortable with when greeting goodbye with a woman I’m early on in talking to: Because of my personality type (INTJ/P) and my history of not being touched or surrounded by people who are physical in that way, I'm quite simply wired to be content with going through life in a bubble where I never physically interact with someone. When someone does "reach out and touch me," it hits me hard because of what a difference it is from the usual, and is apt to make my mind race, trying to process the stimuli. It's a great way to confuse me or get me off-balance, if a person chooses to be ambiguous about how they touch me. A bit of direct communication can help me tremendously. So, to answer the question, I'd be more inclined to simply bid adieu, but may be likely to do something different in an active attempt at empathizing with how the other person would perceive my behavior. So what that means is, if I knew that a woman wants/needs to be hugged, I would indulge her needs, now that I was aware of it. Otherwise I might accidentally upset her by inadvertently offending her. That's why I'm such a fan of communicating :)

181 I could honestly go completely without having my spouse meet my parents, because

a) there's no Biblical mandate for it
b) marriage is between a man and a woman, not a man a woman and his or her family, or a man and a woman and their friends, etc.
c) there is no concern for me about approval from one person of the other, because it is not their will I wish to honor first, but God's.

182 That said, because of the spiritual symbolism referenced in thought #114, I would prefer to introduce myself to my fiancée-to-be’s parents, so that they would know who I was, to the extent of what kind of leader I would be. But suppose her parents were unbelievers, or otherwise in sin and chose to refuse to consent to my decision to court their daughter? There is nothing that says I need their blessing, it would only be better if it could be given, really for her parents’ sake, more than her and mine. But a Christian woman belongs to God first, before her parents, and it’s Him that I need to be in agreement with. I find no directive from God in Scripture that suggests that you can’t marry a woman if her parents disapprove. I find that a person’s father and mother should be honored, but to honor does not necessarily mean to submit to their wishes. If a woman can never marry against her parents’ wishes, then that would mean that she is not free to make her own decisions; she is in effect a slave—see thoughts 102 and 103.

183 I can talk about almost anything. There's really no shame for me in the realm of sharing ideas, as opposed to things you may have done that were wrong. What restrains me from being totally explicit to the degree I am in my own mind with myself, with another person, are these concerns:

1. Not wanting to upset them, and hurt the progress of the relationship by sharing things that they're not comfortable with at that stage of intimacy, but would ultimately be eventually.
2. Not being completely confident that I can trust the person with my deepest secrets.

184 In teaching children about sex, you have to start earlier than would be ideal, because they'll be exposed to it otherwise. So you inoculate them against it by teaching them the right things, as their mental aptitude allows them to understand. It's not hard to imagine that you could have a conversation with a three or four year old, that why mommy's belly is big is because:

                "Everybody's body has parts that do things that are important. It looks like her tummy is big but it's not her stomach. There is another body part called the "womb," and your brother/sister is growing inside, until they're ready to come out. Mommy is pregnant. This is something that happens when people do something called "sex." You don't need to know what that looks like or all the details of how it works, but you should know that "sex" is what happens before a baby begins to grow in a woman's womb. It's also important to understand that sex can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you use it, like a hammer or a knife. It's a tool, and if you use it the wrong way, you'll hurt yourself. So there's a lot of people who have been hurt because of sex, and so there is a social taboo around the word. Now you know what the word means, and you should be careful not to use it carelessly because it can upset other people. Just know this: when sex is done between a husband and wife, like your mom and dad, it is a beautiful thing and a wonderful thing--because you are here because of sex. So is sex evil? No, because you are a gift from God to us, so sex is actually a gift from God. But like everything else in the world, it is affected by sin, and so even though it's not inherently bad, it has been used for bad things, and because of this, it is wise to keep your knowledge to yourself until you grow older, because other kids your age might not be having this talk with their parents. Please respect the parents of your friends and classmates' decision to tell their kids about sex when they are ready. And you can always ask us any questions you have. There is much more to learn, and we're willing to give you whatever instruction is most helpful to you at your maturity level." Something like that.

185 I think I have an average/above-average drive for my age group and sex. If I were married now, I'd be hoping to make the best use of the time allotted and have sex with my wife on a 2x-weekly absolute minimum, but a once-daily or twice-daily maximum is all I'd be physically capable of, so I don't consider myself hypersexual in any sense. Just normal. And because my idea of sex in marriage is as an expression of the love I have for her, it's closely tied to and very important for me to be able to engage in this with her. Subconsciously, even if I wanted to believe differently, being rebuffed would hit me as if she was telling me that she didn't want to be loved by me. That complete lack of caring would hurt very deeply.

186 On the use of the word “like” as a compliment: I find myself often wanting to qualify this statement, because to other people in my experience, this has meant anything from "I don't dislike you," to "I want to jump your bones. Now. In front of everybody." Sooo... to me, the phrase just means that I'm fond of someone. That I find them appealing in some way and pleasant to be around or engage with. All-around positive rather than negative thoughts. Not really a question of romance or sex, though it's undoubtedly important for both. If I say it to someone, then it’s simply the case that I like them, insofar as I know them. And I believe the degree to which you can like or love someone is impacted primarily by your depth of knowledge of that person. So someone should interpret me wanting to continue to get to know them as me being happy with how much I like them now, and wanting to like them more.

187 On the length I’d be willing to wait to marry someone when courting them or engaged: Right now, it's indefinite, because of my personal situation. But upon being financially self-reliant, I'd move quickly, the only things causing me to go slow being wanting to be absolutely sure neither one's making a mistake. I could get to know someone right away and after talking to someone at the rate of 10,000+ words exchanged per week, maybe after 2-3 months asking to court them, and upon finding that we're fully compatible in the best ways, I'd arrange to put my top-secret proposal plan in action. An engagement of a half year, give or take a few months, would seem fair to allow people to make plans to attend the wedding--and that would be it. [For an illustration of 10,000 words, that’s a little more (c. 200) than the amount of words from the beginning of this article to this point right here]

188 On the subject of family again: I don’t approach another person's family disdainfully--I tend to make good impressions. I don't avoid them nor attempt to somehow separate her from her family. I just don't need anyone's acceptance but hers, from an emotional point of view. That's mainly what I meant in point 181 and 182, as it concerned my lack of concern.

189 On the suggestion that a woman might be sexually evasive on the basis of being tired, lazy, unpretty, etc: Sure, being tired on occasion is granted, and I can be sure that that'll be the case for me, too. But I know that if there's something she wants from me in terms of physical intimacy, I will give it to her any time, no matter how tired I am. And I'd hope she has the same attitude of self-sacrificial love. What I was referring to, though, was depression over consistent, prolonged disinterest. Next to cheating, that's one of the biggest nightmares that exists for me for marriage.  "Not feeling pretty" not only should never happen to my wife, but if it did it wouldn't be what matters to her, and it definitely shouldn't be a reason that enters her mind to refrain from intimacy. A strong argument can be constructed for why feeling 'unpretty' is a better reason TO have sex--what's the problem with not feeling pretty, if not fear over not being desired? Easily treatable by letting the person closest to you demonstrate how desirable you are to them, and make you feel good in the process. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 "3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." [emphasis added; see below thought]

190 Reemphasis of 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Note the only reasons given for why sexual abstinence within marriage would be allowable: the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer. And only with the consent of your partner! No other reason is given. It’s logical to conclude that medical reasons would necessarily force sex from happening at times, but feeling tired, uninterested, or having body image issues are not medical issues. They are not illnesses that make sex somehow dangerous to your life—in contrast, abstaining from sex for too long or for reasons other than fasting and prayer is directly identified as dangerous to your marriage and your souls. I can’t think of a more powerful COMMAND to have frequent sexual intercourse within marriage, and it’s right there in the Bible. Any other excuse is unacceptable, and I’d go so far as to say that, if a person is acquainted with this passage, that it is sin and disobedience/faithlessness to God. Is it any wonder that temptation and adultery strikes, when a person is rebelliously refusing to be sanctified this way?

191 One more thought on meeting family. Whereas it’s all the same to me whether she meets my folks, I’d be very keen on meeting hers, for the sake of getting a better understanding of who she might be, by learning about the people who have the greatest influence on her.

192 I need to debate, discuss, bounce ideas and argue convictions to have a good relationship, and I do it with the friends I keep in touch with on an almost-daily basis. In all my experience, the worst interactions I have had with people have been those in which someone has tried to shut me down and refuse to reason with me. When that happens, I have no control or influence over the situation, and am at the mercy of someone else's arbitrary decisions to hurt me, until/unless I can flee and remove myself from their reach. This is a ubiquitous concept, spanning 4th-grade bullies, public school administrators, and people who have attacked me for excitedly sharing newfound Christian beliefs at my university. I can trace back every ostracism, every ruined relationship, and every stressful antagonism to some person deciding to go out of their way to hurt me, and then refuse to change their mind about what they're doing and why. I can deal with many things, but irrationality is the absolute worst of them all, because with it goes the capacity to overcome all other problems.

For that reason, it's an uncompromisable deal-breaker. I could never have a successful relationship on any level with someone who is unwilling to listen to other perspectives, or explain the reason why they are doing something, because without that willingness, there is no hope to ever resolve any dispute.

There is no such thing as a theological subject that does not matter, in the sense of not being worth discussion and the passing of judgment thereon.

I certainly am unique in this respect: I seem to be able to get along amicably with anyone, it's just extremely rare to encounter others who do the same; it's immensely frustrating to not be able to have fruitful, peaceful and joyful relationships with others because of others.

193 The benefit of a slow approach without rushing into intimacy is this: You keep a person at arm's length, but not as a function of not caring for them--quite the opposite, it's out of respect so that a severance would hurt them as little as possible. And the practical experience of trying to connect is nevertheless there, to help inform future engagements, without the emotional baggage that's so common among others in the culture.

194 On occasion, people (often female) who I’ve spoken to at length, usually over text, facebook chat or email, have given me kind compliments. Sometimes it’s as generous as “if only ___, you’d make an excellent husband.” Such an endorsement is something I’d happily brag about to a soon to be fiancée. In the right way; not “I’m so great, look, here’s a random person who said I’m great,” but “this woman is someone who I’ve shared what’s been on my mind with [syntax fail?] for over a year on a day-to-day basis, and if anyone could give you an insight into my mood and the thoughts I meditate on, her opinion is one I would trust above all others, even giving it more weight than my own.” So a brag. But not a self-absorbed brag.

195 Referring to thoughts 74-75: In a world where knowledge is available instantaneously at the point of asking a question, the challenge for this individual is to adopt and determine where to apply restraint, himself, because by and large, I’ll be the limiting factor in my own experiences, not the wide-open world at my fingertips.

196 I think one test of a good relationship is the idea that if you were somehow divinely required to, you could make a marriage work. And that isn’t to be understood as fantasizing about people who I make friends with, it’s more of an attempt to channel feelings of endearment into a constructive evaluation of the strength of the friendship.

197 It’s not something I’ve only contemplated with respect to close friends, by the way. It’s a consideration in the back of my mind that comes up at some point when talking to any woman—could I see myself married to her? With potential interests, it has the obvious practical effect of influencing the decision to pursue or avoid, but when it comes to friends who are off limits, the judgment has more of an effect in the way of making me thankful for them and giving me an opportunity to simply relish our level of intimacy without any prerogative of progressing down any particular path. A philosopher put it an interesting way, that God’s experience of loving another being can’t be based on deepening knowledge, since He knows everything. Instead His joy would seem to come from recurrently relishing in the satisfaction from the simple fact of having existing intimacy with someone, be it Himself or one of His children. That has affected how I see the purpose of non-marital relationships. And also including marriage.

198 A singles retreat for Christians is probably the best way to take what’s good about finding someone at church and maximizing your options and chances, but the singleminded (haha!) mentality it cultivates would be unfortunate. Chances are just as good that you’d meet desperate or less than desirable people there as well; expecting everyone to be a ten and have theology as good as John MacArthur would likely lead to disappointment, or worse, making a forced decision to engage with someone. It could be great or it could be horrible, but having no way to control that, I’d be superbly unlikely to go unless pressured, likely by someone else also going, and even then I’d emphatically adopt a non-expectant mentality and simply go with the modest goal of seeking encouragement—either the getting or the giving thereof.

199 [Compare a Reformed young man (me) with a Reformed young woman in a more urban environment]: I wonder which one of us has the worst chances, where we are in life/culture/the country, at meeting a partner. I can see it both ways. On the one hand, I’m free to pursue whomever, though on the other, you don’t have the responsibility of actively hunting down your husband. There are statistically less guys my age in churches than any other demographic, but on the other hand, we wouldn’t be appealing to a young churchwoman before acquiring a sustainable career, whereas you still would be appealing to men. You live where there are more yuppies (young, upwardly mobile professionals), though it might be more conservative by proportion in the area where I live. But that doesn’t = Christian, and you have dozens of my county’s population within a few miles of where you live. I can be afforded marrying someone younger than I for biological reasons, whereas the reverse is less likely, but I don’t really want to; I want someone close to my age, but they get increasingly fewer as life goes on.

200 Anyone who saw me and a certain friend from college together thought we were a couple or should be a couple. I wonder if it’s just showing up somewhere together with a young woman your age that leads to the notion, or if it’s “me + girl” that does it, because I seem like “relationship material”…? Or maybe it’s cultural pressure on the girl, whom others think has to get married ASAP so that every male she’s seen together with generates an “ooh, a boy! You should marry him!” reaction.

Female readers are free to weigh in, in the comments.

~ Rak Chazak

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