When is it Going to Be Official?

I’m sure many people had mixed reactions after hearing Pastor Daniel’s message this past Friday night where he relayed clear biblical wisdom about the phenomenon in our culture that is dating. But the principles he began to lay out are not only theories, they have been put into practice. One couple took this advice seriously, and their story is a great testimony of how living out a Biblical view of dating can overcome the pitfalls of our cultural misconceptions about romance and produce the lasting joy of a Christ-centered relationship. Bellow is the story of Jacob and Alexa Meiser as told by Jacob:

On Saturday, I got engaged.

On a summer night in 2013, I had a thirty-second conversation with the kindest, most captivating girl that changed my life forever. I didn’t know her name or anything about her, but I knew that she was the girl I wanted to marry. It wasn’t until months later that we were able to formally meet, and I learned that her name was Alexa.

We have an amazing story, but this blog isn’t about that. This blog is more about our philosophy of dating and how we got from being friends to being married.

Alexa has never officially been my girlfriend. There was no big Facebook status change or those cliché hand-holding pictures. We were always just friends. That’s because neither of us wanted to waste time in a dead-end relationship that wouldn’t lead to marriage.

But, how exactly should two people get from the excitement and mystery of initial attraction to the lifetime commitment of marriage? That’s a question both of us had thought a lot about before we met, and the answer was very clear: friendship. Why do people often assume that they need to create these emotionally charged relationships in order to figure out if they want to marry someone? Do these passionate feelings help or hinder our judgments? Both of us have found that they tend to hinder them.

Of course we had feelings for each other, we just didn’t allow them to be the guide for our relationship. From the beginning, Alexa and I decided that we were going to remain friends—not complimenting each other excessively, not claiming to be committed to each other, not even holding hands—until we were both sure that we wanted to marry each other. We were just friends.

People would ask us all the time, “when’s it going to be official?” My response was usually something like, “when there’s a ring on her finger!”

Because we began to realize there isn’t any real commitment in the average dating relationship. At any point, it can end. Once the four-month honeymoon phase is over, the relationship often is too. Many people end the relationship when the excitement of seeing that special name light up on their phone has faded. Even in a longer-term relationship, one fight can end it forever. There isn’t any genuine, binding commitment until marriage. We’ve both experienced this, and it’s not something we wanted to do again.

Since there is no genuine commitment in romantic relationships, what should they look like?

There is a lot of confusion about what dating should be. Reading and thinking about these things, we started to see that the 21st century idea of dating often confuses the biblical categories of relationships. This happened for me as I read a book called Sex, Dating, and Relationships and talked a lot to Pastor Daniel Hooper. For Alexa, this happened by sitting through The Well’s Scandalous series and just being tired of jumping from relationship to relationship with little intention of marriage. With these insights, we saw that biblically there are 3 categories of relationship: neighbor, family and spouse. What our culture has done is created this elusive 4th category of boyfriend/girlfriend that is somewhere between a neighbor and a spouse. You’re able to have many of the benefits of a spouse without the commitment attached to it.

According to the biblical categories a boyfriend or girlfriend is still only your neighbor. This would mean that anything you would not do with another neighbor, you should not be doing with your latest romantic attachment. They’re not your spouse. This claim is completely outlandish in our culture today, but it’s what scripture teaches and it’s what we ultimately want. Don’t we all want to find true love and commit our lives to it? Wouldn’t it be great to not waste time giving your heart, body, and soul to a person who you won’t be spending your life with? If we kept our relationships in their proper category, it would avoid an incredible amount of pain for you and your future spouse.

None of us are perfect, and there will need to be genuine forgiveness and redemption in any relationship. Marriage should mirror Christ and the church, meaning that the unconditional love of the gospel is the lens through which we see the other person.

“To be a Christian is to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us,” as C.S. Lewis said.

We can know that for every failure there is an even greater grace. This has certainly been true of our relationship, and it has been amazing to see God work in us as we’ve talked through mistakes both of us have made in the past. But we didn’t want to continue them.

So, we kept our relationship in the neighbor category until we decided that we wanted to be married. If at any point either of us decided that the other wasn’t the person we wanted to marry, our “dating friendship” (we called it “frating”) would end.

The whole point of our friendship was to know each other well enough to decide if we would want to spend our lives together. I became acquainted with her strengths and her faults, and she saw my failures and weaknesses. We were completely honest, not trying to project ourselves as something we were not.

I knew she was the one in the first 30 seconds of talking to her, and I wrote it down in my journal. But it wasn’t until I got to know her extremely well that I was able to say that with complete confidence. She knew a little bit later than that, but neither of us talked about it until months later.

After eating at Miguel Jr.’s, that highly romantic restaurant in the mall, I was able to express to Alexa for the first time that I did want to marry her. She is the one, and I can’t imagine life without her.

Sure, we could have just stayed in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship for an indefinite amount of time, but we’re both ready to be married, and we knew we wanted to marry each other, so why wait? I know her character, I love her, and all of my friends, family and people I look up to approve of what we’re doing, so we decided to go for it.

I had convinced her that we weren’t getting engaged until March, a fact that she wasn’t exactly happy about, but I was planning on doing it much sooner. This past Saturday presented itself with the perfect opportunity, and I led her into candle-lit orange groves without her having any idea what was coming. At the end of one of the rows, sat a table with flowers, candles, pictures of us, and the first journal entry I ever wrote about her. I said some things and got down on one knee and asked her to be my wife.

She is the most interesting, beautiful girl I have ever met. I’ve always imagined who my future wife would be, but I could never have come up with a person as breathtakingly wonderful as Alexa is. I can’t even explain how much I’ve grown to love her.

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