(Or “Why did God curse me with this need for intimacy?”)

I thought that this seemed like as good a place to start as any. For that matter, this seems like a perfectly valid question if we’re going to talk about dating. Why bother? Why get involved in the game, the silliness, the drama? Why put yourself through the emotional roller coaster over and over again? Why invest or risk so much of your self-esteem, self-image, and personal happiness on the possibility of going out with someone? Why do we end up defining ourselves, our well being, and our worth through the eyes of another? Why, as a friend put it, do we insist on continuing to date after so many heart wrenching, near life-destroying, pain-inducing, love experiences (and then remain hopeful that the next dating experience will be different)?

One word: intimacy.

We might as well ask why form friendships or any relationships at all. Everyone wants to be loved and be loved by someone. Everyone wants to know and be known by someone. When people speak of intimacy–trying to define what it is they are wanting–they talk about genuine trust, vulnerability, and transparency. They want to feel connected to someone. This sense of connectedness is a characteristic that we want in all of our close relationships. We want to share our lives, be accepted, and be intimate with others. Especially an other.

We are hard-wired for intimacy; we’re relational beings. Augustine spoke of a God-sized hole within each of us – essentially that is that built in need for intimacy. Just as there was an intra-Trinitarian intimacy before creation, so–as His image bearers–do we share this need for intimacy. The pursuit of intimacy is similar to our pursuit of God. We seek that communion, that connection with him as well as with others. God created us with a yearning for relationships from the beginning (Genesis 2:18) when He said “‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’”

Marriage, thus, should be the fullness of relationships, where our full humanity is realized.

Sure, a lot of what we are wanting can be satisfied with friendships, but let’s face it, we also want that special connectedness that comes with that one special someone. No matter how close you are to your friends, you aren’t going to want to bare your soul to each of them. No, baring of one’s self in any true way is reserved for a special few, and done completely for one.

In fact, ideally, relationships are about continuing to discover–and delighting in the discovery of–new things about that person. By both parties. Relationships require risk, because vulnerability calls for risk. It is rooted in trust and respect, because relationships are built on trust and respect. Intimacy, however, is a slow–and earned–process. There is no such thing as instant intimacy. Intimacy cannot be rushed nor based in sex (sex shouldn’t be confused with intimacy, nor does it guarantee intimacy. I say that because this is a common mistake made by men and women alike.)

There is no love without the possibility of rejection.

That’s the rub, the scary part of the prospect of dating: the inherent risk of the process. Love cannot be forced. Love isn’t safe, and is rife with the possibility, no, probability of pain, hurt, and even betrayal. As Christ showed on the cross, even the ultimate expression of love required suffering. And what would a Christian worldview examination of dating be without mentioning sin? Sin disrupts relationships and first broke intimacy. It is sin that causes fear of intimacy, as the fruit of sin is disappointment, fear, loneliness, a sense of alienation.

Back to us. We may believe that our self-worth or happiness shouldn’t be placed in the hands of another human being, but let’s be real: Our self-image and self-worth are often measured in how others see us (or, more often that not, how we think others see us) and this is especially true when it comes to dating. How often does the sting of rejection send us into a descending spiral of depression as we wonder “What’s wrong with me?” “Am I so horrible?” “Am I worth being loved?” “Will anyone ever love me?” We let people, rather than God, determine our value. This includes the church.

The church’s one foundation is … families. Too often, we have made the marriage and the family an idol. I have been to churches that prided themselves on their “Marriage and the Family Month”s, which wouldn’t fail to leave the singles in the congregation feel like unwanted citizens treading on family time (though, singles were appreciated: they were asked to volunteer for nursery duty so that real members could be a part of the services). On more than one occasion, the pastor was asked the straw man question “what should the focus of the church be?” To which he’d answer something along the lines of “developing people into models of Christ”, which would earn a stupified look from the asker who would gently correct the pastor “no, it’s to encourage and strengthen families.” Marriage and families are apparently what we should all aspire to, apparently regardless of what God has planned for our lives.

All that being said, you have to ask yourself: is it worth the risk?

You have to wrestle with the question for yourself. However, everything that makes life worth living, everything that we are called to be, everything that fulfills us as image bearers boils down to relationships. Relationship to God and to others.

Ultimately the answer to the question “why date?” is that we eventually want to have guilt free sex.

(*sigh* that last line was a joke, folks!)