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dna-prerequisitesWhen it comes to relationships, our culture encourages young people to try their hand (or more accurately, try their heart) at romance as early as middle school.

Maybe that worked for you. Congratulations! Yours is a life truly blessed!

As for me, when I was in middle school, I hardly knew the first thing about being a good friend, much less a boyfriend. To put it simply, I was a spoiled, judgmental, control-freak with a propensity for self-righteousness and pride. Good lands, I didn’t even know how to share!

And did I mention the raging hormones (more like, rabid hormones)?

I shudder to think of how things might have turned out, If even one of my many middle school crushes had liked me back.

Indeed, by God’s good grace, I couldn’t get a date until college, and I couldn’t get a girlfriend until I was almost 21. That meant my first experience with dating and romance happened after I had at least learned how to share. More importantly, after I had gained a modicum of self-control of the ol libido. And even more importantly, after I had begun to understand my identity and calling.

But for many, they do start dating before they know who they are or why they’re here. Or even how to share.

And if this isn’t bad enough, the scary reality is that many get stuck in the immature relational patterns that they learn back in middle school. I see it often: 20-something, 30-something and older singles who still carry on serious romantic relationships a lot like a middle schooler.

Maybe you’ve grown up relationally since middle school. Or maybe you’re still in middle school, literally. Wherever you find yourself, you should know the prerequisites for Romance 101.

We shared three of them last week. Here are three more.

#4: You are committed to a strong Christian community.

Nothing concerns me more than when I meet someone who is desperately searching for somebody to love, but not the least bit concerned with committing to a local body of believers.

They may attend church. They may attend regularly. They may even attend various functions, sponsored by different churches every week.

But they aren’t committed anywhere.

And that’s the problem.

Someone who doesn’t see a need to be committed to a church is not a person who is ready to be in a committed relationship with another person. (We talk a lot about this in the second book in our LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation. In fact, here are 21 benefits to committing to a local church body in music video form.)

Not only will committing to a church body help you grow solid same-sex friendships (a prerequisite we mentioned last week), it will help you with meeting the next prerequisite.

#5: You feel comfortable with the opposite sex.

Let’s face it, hardly anyone in the whole wide world feels comfortable on a first date. Yikes! So much pressure. You might not even feel comfortable on a fourth date.

But can you feel comfortable with the opposite sex at all, apart from dating? I’m talking about your relationships with siblings, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, and friends of the opposite gender.

Put simply, do you view members of the opposite sex as mysteries to solve, prizes to win, objects to manipulate or threats to neutralize? Or do you see them as fellow humans to be blessed?

Q: How can you expect to care for and love someone who belongs to a people group you view with fear or scorn?

A: You can’t.

#6:God is your first love

When you sing worship songs, do you mean what you’re singing? I didn’t ask if you sound good. The word says to make a joyful noise. It doesn’t specify key or tempo.

But what I’m getting at is this: do you truly feel as close to God as the words you sing say you do? Or do those words more or less convey a vain hope? Or do you not pay much attention to what you’re singing at all?

Do you believe with your whole heart that our God is more than enough? Is He truly almighty, beautiful, Creator of heaven and earth, your deliver, everlasting, your faithful Father, good, holy, infinite, and jealous for you, loving like a hurricane, while you are a tree bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy?

Or is that just artistic expression?

If you cannot wholeheartedly rest in the reality of God’s interest in and care for you, then you will subconsciously expect someone else to be your God. Most likely a girlfriend or boyfriend.

And they will fail you.

But He will not. He will prove faithful!

And, if you believe those truths you sing on Sunday, abide in those truths, cling to them in your darkest hours, then you will you be ready to risk hurt in a relationship with someone who may or may not become a faithful and loving life partner.

That’s why it’s so important to be grounded in Christ before you date.

Hope this list of prerequisites is helpful. Again, if you can’t honestly affirm that you meet all these criteria, it only means you want grow in these areas before you seek a serious relationship.

This list is not exhaustive, but if you meet all six prerequisites (and if you’re wise, you’ll rely on the honest opinion of people you respect, instead of your own), then it’s likely that you’re ready to date.

Hope you’ll tune in next week as we talk more about what it looks like to use dating as a means of growing in healthy intimacy (and incidentally, in the process, reveal the secret to an epic sex life).

This post is one in a series on Purpose-Driven Dating which we define as follows: Intentional time invested in one other person for the purpose of growing in intimacy that might lead to a life-giving, life-long marriage. Our current focus: …for the purpose of growing in intimacy… The series begins with this post.

DNA: It’s What’s For Dating

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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better?  And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!

But He will not. He will prove faithful!