Many of my thoughts on relationships which could potentially lead to marriage and also my thoughts on sexual purity are derived or developed from the principles presented by a writer called Joshua Harris, in a book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (sometimes abbreviated in this post to “IKDG”). This blog post is an introduction to this book and how it has come to influence my thinking so deeply.
I first read this book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” while I was at uni. Even before then, I had noticed that this book had been the “Number 1” bestseller on the US Christian Non-Fiction bestseller charts for over a year consecutively. Because I myself have inclinations towards writing, I remember secretly wishing that the book would not be that good, so that I could say “I could have written this!” or “I could have done better…!” However, pretty much from the first chapter as I finally opened the book , I acknowledged that this was an outstanding book with outstanding teaching, and I became a really excited evangelist for the book.
What the book teaches: The basic premise of the book is that dating is a very ineffective and potentially dangerous way of assessing someone as a possible mate. (Dating: going out on a series of dates, or exciting activities with a member of the opposite sex, for the purpose of having fun and enjoying one another’s company romantically.) Furthermore, the book demonstrates that dating in this way is an inherently non-Christian concept, and that by talking about “Christian Dating”, we are trying to stamp a little Christian identity on something that in its design contradicts Christian principles. Another major teaching from the book is that “(Sexual) Purity is a Direction”, not an event, or a destination. That is, you are either moving in the direction of sexual purity, or you are moving away from it. So it’s not about tiptoeing around any boundaries of acceptable conduct, but rather going as far and as fast in the opposite direction as you can, at any given time. It is not about working out what you as a couple could sexually get away with, but rather making up your mind to protect one another’s sexual integrity.
This last point really struck home, and since then I have made up my mind to be running as far away from sexual sin and as far towards sexual purity within wise boundaries as I possibly can.
So when I read this book, I was at uni. I was so young and clueless when I went to uni. I knew I was definitely not ready for a relationship, and even less for marriage, and I was still determined to be a kid for as long as possible! I knew that I knew nothing, and it is only now, more than 10 years later, that I’m starting to feel as if I’m getting understanding about the world, and how to best manage myself within it. However, I accidentally went and developed the hugest crush imaginable, on an atheist, much to my immense shock and embarrassment. Nothing whatsoever ever happened between myself and this guy, (although it is fair to say that he knew who I was!) However I was definitely in the right frame of mind to think deeply about the right and the wrong ways to embark upon relationships.
IKDG really resonated with me as it condensed some thoughts that I had been thinking in a way that made such sense.
Now I grew up watching American sitcoms and drama series in which dating played a really big part. It always looked so cool and exciting – dressing up, looking good, going to the cinema with a cute guy. I was always impatiently looking forward to the time when that would happen for me! My parents were so protective that they simply forbade us from any romantic interaction with guys before we went to uni – and we went to girls’ schools and there were no guys in our church so we really did not have anyone to interact with anyway! So in a way, it was a bit disappointing to be taught that this dating thing was wrong, but then as “Josh H” explained about it, it was so much more of a relief to think of what I was sparing myself from. And the best thing was that he described that dating is not to be thrown aside altogether, but reserved for marriage, when things are allowed to “get out of hand”. Despite the fact that I had always looked forward to dating, the teachings resonated with me because I think deep down, it had occurred to me that the idea of serial dating, or moving from one boyfriend to the next was just wrong and a bad foundation for an exclusive and committed future marriage. It then also made total sense that of course you could not accurately assess someone’s character from a series of dates, and of course you should first choose the correct spouse carefully, watchfully, prayerfully, and then date one another to your hearts content and cultivate emotional intimacy etc once you are safely married.
After I excitedly introduced the book to my sisters, we all read it eagerly. Ultimately, in my largely female household we spoke about Joshua Harris and “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” so often that we eventually abbreviated his name to “Josh H”.
I have previously joked on Facebook that how one of my sisters used to live in hope about marrying Prince William, and practise her royal signature. Actually, she did more than that – she would actually declare that this would be her fate (and his!) and I remember whole notebooks that seemed to be covered with this autograph. At the time, I did tentatively suggest to her that her expectations might be just a little unrealistic. However, I think she may have mentioned something about faith…. I will here admit for the first time in history that I always thought Wills was kinda cute myself. However, M had already declared her intentions, so the sisterly thing to do was to keep quiet….
In our house, the other person we thought we would marry was Joshua Harris. After all, he was a single, purpose-driven Christian guy, and we were four well brought-up, ambitious intelligent Christian girls. I know we all secretly cherished hopes, but I have to admit that I was quietly confident that this honour would fall to me. After all, I was the one who had “discovered” him, in terms of our family. And I’d always been the acknowledged bookworm of the family (at least up until then, now totally overtaken by practically everyone) …and it just seemed to make sense for a whole range of reasons. I graciously refrained from emphasising this point whenever we discussed IKDG but knowing me I probably spoke about the whole thing in this possessive way that would have driven the point home just as effectively – this IKDG thing is mine, that I’m generously sharing with you all!
So it was with a crushing and very real sense of disappointment that we read of his marriage in the follow up book “Boy meets Girl”. We were all deflated, no-one could say anything for days, and it was brave smiles all round!
So read the book!
I must admit that I last read this book so many years ago. However, it has so largely influenced my thinking. I wonder what it would be like if I read the book again. Would the insights still feel as fresh and as piercing as they were when I first read them? Or by now, would they feel a little stale, and dated? Would I simply feel too old for the illustrations? However, on balance I think I would advise you to read it just to be on the safe side. I look at so many marriages of people that I know, and I know (without being told) that they were based on a dating mentality. I think the wisdom of this book has the potential to prevent so many ill-advised relationships, and it has really opened my eyes to the correct sorts of questions to be asking about potential spouses.
In fact, I think it is since reading this book that my determination for an excellent marriage has really blossomed. I think IKDG first brought it home that there are certain concrete steps that you could take that would contribute towards a better marriage, and since then I’ve been trying to watch and learn to think of further things I could be learning from relationships around me.
So thank you Josh H! 😉
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
Photo of hearts by Bonoz on Pixabay