Everyone wants a happy ending. Filipinos are suckers for this especially in TV series and movies. I remember myself avidly following but eventually hating one tagalized Koreanovela. It turned out that the guy died in the end. And do I hate Shakespeare for what he did with Romeo and Juliet!
For us, deaths and breakups do not qualify as successes in love stories. Let’s concentrate on breakups. Breakups are as common as relationships. Boyfriend-girlfriend relationships at that. Hey, did you know that they broke up? Who? Who?
Let’s face it, we don’t think people who break up have had their share of a successful courtship. “It just didn’t work (sigh)”… It was not meant to be. Bummer. Too bad to hear. Sorry for that. A wedding ring is our idea of a successful courtship.
But did you know successful courtships can also lead to breakups? You probably haven’t thought of that, have you?
Now let’s pause for a moment and have ourselves rethink. Let’s think anew about courtship.
Courtship is the prelude to marriage. I may rightly or wrongly attribute that sentence to Joshua Harris, bestselling author of books “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and “Boy Meets Girl.” But anyway, courtship is by principle the time when two people—boy and girl—find out if it’s God’s will that they eventually say “I Do.”
Does a courtship always have to end up with marriage? Not necessarily. It is a platform of finding out: soul-searching. In Christian circles, suitors often replace the invitation phrase “Can I court you?” or “Could you be my girlfriend?” with “Can you pray with me?”. It sounds weird, but the essence is there. Prayer is one of the ways that we can know what God wants to happen in our life—by asking Him.
Courtship though, shouldn’t be done for the sake of being romantically involved. Simply put, it is not a free place to express what you feel and have your feelings reciprocated. It is not “an end in itself” or a dead end.
As you go along finding out, God will reveal His will in many ways. Is the person right for you? One way to find out is what James refers to as the “wisdom of God” that is “peacable” (Jas. 3:17). I’d like to see it this way—that if you are meant to be, God gives you the peace to go along through the weeks, months and even years of your courtship. He will give you that special kind of peace and joy to continue and make the romantic involvement grow. And it will deepen.
However, God can also reveal the opposite. If you are not meant to be, He will surely impress it to you, that is, if you do not play deaf to Him. It may be in your quiet time, your devotion, your prayers. It may also come as a remark from a Christian brother. It most especially will come from within: a feeling of restlessness, lack of peace and joy will haunt you if you are stubborn. The Holy Spirit from within will convict you that it’s not right to continue.
Are you asking for answers? Or you deliberately won’t listen so you wouldn’t know?
A successful courtship ends when God wants it to end. After all, everything we do is just the daily following of what God wants. Relationships are no exemption. If God wants it to go “all the way” (I mean marriage, not sexual immorality), so be it. That’s good. But if He makes it clear that you should end it, so be it. And that’s good.
Joshua Harris’ advise that romantic involvement grows only in proportion with commitment is true. “The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment.” Unless God impresses in our hearts that we are doing His will by staying with the person, we ought not to commit to the relationship. That way, we minimize the hurt—of course there will be—when we break up. That’s why it’s always important that we guard each other’s purity. We give the other person all the respect, the love, the care that they deserve (especially women).
If we become so romantically involved and emotionally attached to the person, a danger looms. When God wants you to let go, you have to.
Being obedient has its own reward. We are not in the position to assert what we want. Obeying His will save us from hurt or pain beyond what’s necessary. Think of it—letting go would have saved you from a lifetime stuck with the wrong person in an unfortunate married life. Pathetic boyfriends make pathetic husbands. But if you want things your own way, go ahead. Be my guest. But remember, obedience will prevent us from unnecessary consequences. God forbid, like violating the other person in your confusion.
After all, courtship is the time of finding out. If it’s a yes or a no, it’s not our business. Our business is to do the right thing based on the right information at the right time.
A breakup is as good as a courtship that leads to marriage. That is, if it’s the will of God. Both are successes.
It also follows that a courtship that leads to marriage is not always a successful one. Even a courtship that continues after it should have ended.
People who desperately hold on to people are in trouble. They ought to understand this: No human relationship can ever satisfy. We only find completeness, peace and joy in God alone.
If this is not understood, relationships will be a mess. It will not do its job—to lead us to the right person prepared for us. By refusing to break up, we deny blessings from pouring in.
One is growth. Elisabeth Elliot writes in her book “Passion and Purity” about this:
“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops. If we hold tightly to anything given to us, unwilling to let it go when the time comes to let it go or unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used, we stunt the growth of the soul.
“It is easy to make a mistake here. “If God gave it to me,” we say, “it’s mine. I can do what I want with it.” No. The truth is that it is ours to thank Him for and ours to offer back to Him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go–if we want to find our true selves, if we want real Life, if our hearts are set on glory.”
Looking back, I could just be thankful of my breakup experience. Did it hurt? Yes. Would have I wanted to have her back? Yes, but that was years ago. *wink. Did I have a hard time moving on? Like who wouldn’t? But would I want to prevent it from happening if I could go back in time? No.
I could only look back and reflect on my immaturity and shortsightedness back then. The breakup gave me the opportunity to grow. When I look at how far God has brought me, I thank Him. I wouldn’t want to go back to the past and change anything.
When we refuse to let go of the wrong person, we also withhold ourselves the coming of the right person. We cannot put water in a glass that is full. Who would want that?
Therefore, take the time of courtship to find out what God wants. As you go along, seriously ask questions. Don’t shun answers because you don’t like to hear them:
Am I learning to love the right way (see 1 Corinthians 13)? Is the relationship helping me grow? Or is it stunting my spiritual life? Is it sucking up the joy that I find in Christ? Am I depending too much on the person? Remember God wants first place in our lives.
Do I have peace? Do I see the qualities I want of a Christian husband or wife in the person? Does he/she share the same vision and appetite for the ministry?
Does he/she share the same faith as mine in the first place?
And how about this: Does this person love God first, before me?
Take note of misguided priorities, wrong notions of love, and unwillingness to listen to God’s will.
And lastly lemme ask, how do you view God? Is He someone who is kill-joy, who doesn’t want you to be happy? What do you know about His faithfulness and promises? If we know God as the Author of love and romance, we would trust that His Will will always lead to successful courtships. Breakup or not.
Know and love your God first.
“A messed up theology leads to a messed up life.” —Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep