Archive for the ‘My thoughts’ Category

I have heard and read so much on the subject of Christian dating. Some of it is helpful, but most of it is decidedly not. A lot of the current advice boils down to this:
“How can a young man or woman engage in a God-honouring romantic relationship?” The answer: “By not doing it.” This is often accompanied by the verse from Song of Solomon about “do not stir up or awaken love until it pleases”
Having now successfully dated a damsel, and married her, I would like to write briefly about my experience and share what worked, and what didn’t, what I am proud of and what I regret.
The Purpose-Driven Date
Let’s get this out of the way from the start. Christians do not date as a form of social recreation without any purpose other than their own hedonic desires. That is not only asking for trouble, physically and emotionally, but it creates bad patterns, worldviews and attitudes for marriage, and skews your thinking about Christ and his relationship with the Church.
Marriage Isn’t Everything
It seems so obvious it almost goes without saying, and yet it must be said. Just because the goal is marriage, does mean that every dating relationship must end there. Let me explain. I think that for the Christian every dating relationship entered into should have a reasonable chance on the face of it of ending in marriage, but without spending time getting to know the person, you cant know for sure. If you see that you aren’t a good match, be honest with the person and call it off. There is a huge difference between purposeless, hedonistic dating and a relationship which doesn’t end in marriage.
Levels to Your Love
Dating is not some “next level” sort of social dimension. Dating ought to be in my opinion, the natural progression in a good friendship between a man and a woman. This applies whether the said man and woman are in their late teens, or in their late twenties or even thirties.
The concept is basically an attempt to restore the progression of a friendship to what it naturally is.
I believe that it is best for lovers to have been friends first in order to:
        prove to themselves that their attraction is more than infatuation
        to have a solid basis on which to build a more unique relationship.
Without a friendship, they are thrown right into the “deep-end” so to speak, and whilst I dont deny the very real possiblity that it will work out in the end, I believe that its much easier to love someone you know meaningfully, and to deal with problems which inevitably arise when you have been good friends first.
Thus the flow of a relationship ideally proceeds as follows:
Acquintance → Friend → Good friend → Best friend → Lover → Spouse
This is not to say that relationships cannot develop very differently, but it seems to me to be the most natural progression from friendship to something more. Marriage is the closest human relationship we can experience. If it is not based on friendship, then we might as well throw our names in a hat and draw life partners. This of course, does not mean that the friendship cannot move quickly into deeper waters, but it does mean that you should not date someone for whom you have no attraction or common interests. (Lets leave arranged marriages out of this for the sake of staying on topic)
Therefore – we would like to avoid certain cultural ‘pitfalls’ which are not conducive to what we believe is natural. One of them is the idea of too definite ‘categories’. Specifically in this instance is the category of ‘dating’. This is not because we want to be different for its own sake, but because the category carries unhelpful baggage which only makes a God-glorifying friendship more difficult. The baggage I’m referring to is the expectations that come with the term. Expectations are not intrinsically wrong, and in fact many are praiseworthy – but these good expectations can still be fulfilled because of biblically transformed minds and good discussion.
However, the vast majority of expectations associated with dating are unhelpful – for example, a sudden increase in physical contact – this is not natural, and just makes temptation more difficult to deal with.
A second example is that of exclusion and exclusivity – we want to avoid damaging other edifying friendships by creating too strong an “us and them” understanding in our friend’s minds.
A third reason is that making it known that “we are dating” might be ok for those who are involved in the relationship, but for others it appears very much as if the pair have gone from ‘nothing to everything’ in an instant – how is that normal??
It would be much better to prove the depth of their bond by their growing friendship over time. Just as faith without works is dead, so, just because you say you love someone, doesn’t mean you do. The time for announcing things comes with engagement, not before.
Not everyone would agree with this style of doing things because its quite different and it doesn’t take much contemplation to realize that this idea is a bit of a ‘Utopia’ which means “No place”. This assessment isn’t completely off the mark because the idea of a natural progression is not without its complications – physical contact, giving answers to curious friends and parental approval, just to mention a few.
Parental Approval
This is, a true paradox – its easily the simplest and most difficult part at the same time. It is simple in the sense that the girl belongs to her parents, not to the guy, and the Bible demands that children obey their parents and honour their father and mother even where they haven’t spoken to a topic specifically. That’s easy enough to understand and implement. 1 + 1 = 2 there’s really nothing to it except acceptance.
It is simultaneously difficult because misunderstandings are easy both positively and negatively and because rules that parents lay down may be discussed, but not ignored. They are not always pleasant to the ones they affect. You cannot change many of the rules given by parents, even those which you disagree with, but as far as the future goes, as well as parts of our circumstances that we can control Christians will want to submit  themselves to the loving sovereignty of God in doing whatever their parents would like. This will be worth it in the end for the sake of a good conscience, pleasing the Lord and because sacrifice proves the genuineness of the love.
With regard to speaking to the girl’s father – I’ve always been of the opinion that the conservative Christian practice of “speaking to the father” has been grossly exaggerated to the point where asking the father to date his daughter is tantamount to asking for her hand in marriage – as far as I’m concerned, that is just ridiculous! Having said that, I will concede that “a good Greek boy would have come to me and asked to date my daughter” at least informing the father is only polite and right. It always helps to explain your intentions and bring parents on-board as far as your thinking goes. This is honouring to your potential future in-laws and shows them that you respect them and are mature enough to warrant trust. 
The Physics
The general rule is the principles laid down in Scripture, but there is a need to be more specific, without at the same time undoing the ‘naturalness’ we were aiming for by going the unconventional route we have outlined above in the first place.
More specific guidelines need to take into account parental advice/rules and mutual discussion, along with the desire to be godly on the one hand and on the other not to be unnaturally rigid so as to squash all displays of affection. Ecclesiastes speaks of a time for everything. The time for most physical contact is after marriage, but before that, there are times when touch is appropriate and times when it is not. I believe that this can be best controlled in a natural friendship, rather than a sudden implementation of a set of expectations that come with the ‘dating category.’
This is an area where I do have regrets. It is helpful to remember that with raging hormones, you are often not thinking straight and are able to justify behaviour which is sinful, and so if I were to do it all over again, I would err on the side of caution for the sake of honouring God.
The Law of Diminishing Returns
Be aware of the fact that what is really exciting and enjoyable now, will in all likelihood not remain that way. As sinners we are not easily contented and therefore always looking for more. This is especially relevant during the engagement period.
The Actual Dates
Avoid seclusion.
Choose dates which will enhance your relationship and knowledge of the individual. By this I mean – don’t let every date be a movie. Go out for coffee, and picnics, and walks. These activities will give you the opportunity to speak to each other and get to know each other more.
Go out with other friends too – this will give you a chance to see how your partner interacts with other people and in a group, and is a good opportunity to see your friends and your date together.
Worship
Set aside time to read the Bible together and discuss what you read. Follow this up with prayer. Kerry and I used to travel to university together quite often and arrive early and read, discuss and pray. This not only helped us to start the day off with truth and light, but also to form good habits, and orientate our relationship around the Lord
Answering the Curious Georges (or Georginas)
Its impossible to hide an attraction from onlookers forever, and there comes a point when there really is no reason to do so. When presented with the common question, “So are you dating?” it would probably be best to answer the person according to who they are. Closer church friends can be answered by either an explanation, or simply, “no, but I understand what you mean – and yes, we do care for each other” or something generic. To non-Christian friends, trying to explain is just a waste of breath – they’ll never understand so just answer them according to their expectations – telling them you’re not dating eventually gets seen as untruthful because to them
Love = date
And trying to explain to them seems like a matter of ‘nitpicky’ semantics which is not the case. The best response is probably a, “yes.” It might turn out to be an effective evangelistic opportunity when they see how we treat each other, and how different it is to relationships they’ve had or are currently in.
Friends
Take some opportunities to see your friends as individuals – this goes a long way to showing your friends that you haven’t forgotten about them.
Communicate
Friendships, and by extension, dating relationships are based on communication. If not, then your partner may in fact be a straw man called “Infatuation”. All straw partners eventually show their true colours, but some only too late.
In my observation of other couples, I noticed that a large majority of fights and problems arise out of either misunderstandings or lack of communication.
In my relationship with Kerry we therefore resolved to always speak about everything as early as possible. This way the risk of misunderstanding, and small molehills turning into mountains is minimized. In addition this allows for mutual submission and service. Naturally, this requires a commitment from both parties not to take criticism personally, and to be willing to rethink and work through any topic. True love does not insist on its own way, and therefore if fights are arising commonly because one or both of you will not budge on an issue, then I think that there needs to be some serious self-examination.
The Fade to Normal
Remember that no matter how hard you try to keep the butterflies and the feelings of magic and romance, there is an inevitable familiarization which occurs in a relationship. Holding hands once thrilled your soul, but after a while you notice that it makes your hand sweaty and useless. Getting a message from your loved one used to make your day, but now its the norm. In a sense, and to a degree, there is nothing wrong with this, although I would urge people to fight to keep fanning the sparks into flames throughout life, there is a lesson to be learned. Your partner is on their best behaviour during the dating period. Therefore, if they are overly irksome and there are many disagreements and altercations during the dating period, beware – marriage will not magically make everything better. On the contrary, with familiarization, the chances are good that all of these negatives will be intensified.
Don’t overdo it
Proverbs 25:17 says, “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbour’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.”
This is wise advice and there is an application in the dating realm too.
Dating when you are seeking to honour the Lord is not easy, but things of value seldom come cheaply. Dating can be a wonderfully fruitful and productive time of getting to know someone you are attracted to. It has many pitfalls, and many opportunities for temptation, but the Christian who sincerely wants to pursue marriage and goes in with his eyes open, having a prayerful heart and in dependence on God’s divine aid, will find the process well worth the effort.
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Life changes tremendously in your twenties. It has done so for me, at any rate. I finished my degree, got married, moved out of home, relocated provinces, got a job, returned to Gauteng, bought a house, got a new job, had twins, and bought a dental practice. That’s probably more change in seven years than the first twenty put together!

If asked which aspect has been most significant, my reflexive response would be: parenting. Parenting has been one of the greatest joys and blessings I have experienced. It alters your perspective irrevocably, and shows you your own rough edges in a way that nothing else could.

One of the more interesting changes the little people achieve, is in your mind. Parents learn to predict the future. With almost perfect accuracy. This ability is not one which can be exercised at will, and it doesn’t extend more than about thirty-seconds into the future. Lets call it a Spidey-Sense, which only comes into play when the need arises. Perhaps it is a gift.

As your child goes about their kiddy-activities you get flashes of probable futures and generally you make moves to influence the outcome to be most favorable. Every now and then one possibility becomes a certainty. Sometimes, initially, you ignore this Spidey-Sense to your detriment, but soon you learn to trust it.

Maybe this child-clairvoyance is helpful as you shepherd little people through the dangerous years of an undeveloped frontal cortex, but in the rest of life, relying on your mind can be a problem.

Allowing possibilities too much weight in your thinking can cause you to live in fear of unrealities – things which might happen, but also might not (and usually won’t, in all probability).

This phenomenon is what causes us to fear the dark, or that noise you wake up to at 01:30am. It is usually irrational, and very often unhelpful. Of course, not giving any consideration to possibilities makes you reckless – in short, a teenager. Giving too much consideration to possibilities causes you to stagnate, take no risks, and lose enjoyment in life.

As a Christian, I have the most freeing reality to fall back on. It allows me to give due consideration to possibilities, without being paralyzed by “what-if’s”. This is the certainty that, “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ” (Romans 8:28)

The above promise, along with the instruction to, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) helps me to strike the right balance and keep a hold on peace.

Life is about living, and taking action requires risk. Risk implies analysis of the odds, and analysis considers possibilities. Giving those possibilities the correct weight is the trick, and knowing how much to trust your own brain… well that is wisdom.

A Man on a Mission

Posted: 4 January, 2011 in Movies, My thoughts

I recently had the pleasure of watching all four Terminator movies for the first time with a handful of friends. The story is very stimulating and the theme of salvation runs deep throughout the quartet. Beside the very interesting interplay depicted between destiny (the Sovereignty of God) and man’s responsibility and ‘free will’ in determining history, I found the Terminator’s singleness of purpose very thought-provoking.

In the first movie, the Terminator is sent back by Skynet to destroy Sarah Conner, and he will stop at NOTHING to achieve what he was made to do.

In the second movie the Terminator is reprogrammed by the future John Conner to go back in time and protect the present John Conner. This the Terminator carries this out with unwavering focus, in spite of having to sacrifice himself in the end.

In the third movie the Terminator again sticks to its mission, even after being reprogrammed to kill John and Kate, it manages to override that programming to shut itself down.

And in the fourth and final movie Marcus (part man, part machine) helps to take down Skynet once and for all, in the end sacrificing himself to save John.

There was once a real man who walked this earth with such a focus. Jesus Christ, who laid aside the glory of heaven, put on human flesh, lived among us and laid down his life for those he loves to save them from certain destruction.

Oh how I long for such a singleness of purpose in living a life wholly devoted to serving God in all that I do!

http://www.opinion-maker.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Christianity-and-Islam.jpg

I recently received an email from a good friend of mine alerting me to an article written by a Rev. Wayne Lavender.

Rev. Lavender opposed the proposed Qu’ran burning day by Pastor Terry Jones and his church, calling it a hate-crime, and now feels compelled to undo the damage done by sending copies of the Qu’ran (presumably English translations) to churches to be included in their libraries. This, he hopes will promote interfaith peace and understanding. He ends the article by asking, “What will you do?”

And here is my answer to Rev. Lavender: (more…)

Lessons From My Classmates

Posted: 21 March, 2010 in My thoughts

PBL Boredom

At Wits, dental students are subjected to an activity known as PBL – or Problem-Based Learning.

The idea is that people learn most rapidly when faced with problems that they need to find ways of solving. This is the most natural way of learning. So – we are presented with some particular topic, and we need to think about it, as it relates to dentistry and research aspects of the topic, where our current knowledge is insufficient to solve the problem. A PBL consists of an introductory session, where groups are formed to discuss the topic with a supervisor. In this session, research topics are allocated. A week or two later we will meet for the feedback session which involves educating the rest of the group about the subject we were tasked to research, as well as finding a cohesive thread with which to tie everything together in the form of some presentation, be it a play, or PowerPoint slide show, or whatever, that we can relay to the class in the following session – the plenary session.

Its about now that the eerie organ music begins to play,  announcing our impending doom, because the plenary session is about the biggest waste of time, breath and energy that a human could conceive of. It should be unethical actually. All in all, a PBL robs a student of about 6 -8 hours which could have been spent doing something productive, like playing pool, or watching paint dry.

Last week, however, in our plenary session some students brought up something interesting which redeemed the whole PBL. They made the point that often, when people are put into a stressful situation, where they have limited time, resources and energy, their real attributes come to the surface – showing that fundamentally, nice people are really anything but nice people.

The truth is, that humans have, at their core a rotten character which they manage to hide pretty well most of the time. We can be nice, kind, gentle and accommodating of diverse people and situations when we’ve got everything together. BUT when the rubber hits the road, and the going gets tough, the real person we are rears its head, and guess what – its not a pretty picture!

Does behaving in a nice, civilised sort of fashion most of the time make us good people? A clean facade?

Does a nice, bright, yellow banana make it a good banana when the inside is brown flesh crawling with worms?

We are fundamentally flawed – Jeremiah says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments – the Law, not simply because he wanted them to behave in a certain way, but to show them that their hearts were always inclined toward evil, and so when push came to shove, their sick hearts would overflow in their actions – breaking the law.He was showing them that ‘good’ outward behaviour was not enough.

Lets face it – at the end of the day when you’re put in a corner, your true character is going to come out, as my friends admitted in our PBL.

Suppressing the symptoms doesn’t solve the problem – we need a cure for the root cause – a new heart.

A heart free from the bondage of evil that it is doomed to serve forever, a heart that can choose good when it is under pressure, a heart washed clean once and for all.

Of Tests, Trauma and Travels…

Posted: 9 January, 2008 in My thoughts

Wow! So this is my blog huh? What do you do with these things again??

I’m finally home, and very well rested. Its been quite a number of weeks since I’ve touched my blog – during which I’ve studied for, and written all of my grade 11 exams, worked hard in the Union Trauma ward, cycled many hours, and been all the way to Durban and back! Phew!

I’d just like to thank all of you who prayed for me through my exams. It was honestly a trying time, and I cant say that I’ve ever studied as hard as I did last December, and I couldnt have stayed motivated to push myself if it werent for the fact that so many people were behind me. Well done to everyone else who finished the year off well, I hope I havent made too much of a fuss of my own exams when you’re all doing the same thing 🙂 For me, the stressful part was knowing that if I didn’t give my all, I might not be able to fulfill my dream, but of course, that is up to God’s all-powerful will.

As for the Cycle Tour, and my trip to Durbs, I’ll put some photo’s up as soon as I sort out the gallery on The Silver Sword. I’m not happy with the current arrangement, so I’ll see what can be done.

Its hard to believe its 2008, and a whole year has come and gone. I find that making goals for myself at the beginning of a year is really helpful in keeping me from laziness, and it gives me something to measure my progress through the year by.

So these are my goals for 2008 so far:

(Besides the obvious, like doing my work well and getting accepted into med school)

  • Put more time into mastering the trumpet, and hone my drumming abilities.
  • Make my quiet times a priority such that I plan my day accordingly
  • Be more careful about what I fill my mind with (movies in particular), and to take drastic action if I find I am filling it with something which would not please God
  • Trust God completely in every circumstance and learn not to rely so heavily on my own 5 senses
  • Read more
  • Love more

I think it would be fantastic to hear your goals and aspirations for 2008 so that when we pray for each other, we can pray more specifically with regard to these areas. Recall my thoughts on prayer? 😉
Best wishes for the year, may God increase our faith for His glory!

~ Antz ~

Giving My All

Posted: 18 November, 2007 in My thoughts

Recently I’ve been very busy trying to finish off the year of schoolwork so that I can get into exams. I’ve had to make all sorts of horrible sacrifices like not riding on Saturdays, taking a month off Kumon etc etc… Crazy? Well, yes, sometimes it feels that way, but not without good reason. These coming exams are some of the most important in my life. Why?

Well, when applying to study medicine next year I will have to submit my grade 11 marks, and unfortunately I wont be accepted unless I can prove I have a brain hidden somewhere. And even then it might be difficult.

I sometimes struggle to see things in perspective, and the volume of work can get to me, so I’d appreciate your prayers for me to stay focused, that I can retain and get a firm grasp on my work and ace these exams. I’ve thought through my other options, and I guess if I cant get accepted then it’s obviously not God’s will that I do med, but I personally agree with Neil – Medicine is a vocation, and my passion for it can only be from God, so please pray that He will give me perseverance to work to the best of my ability for to make His plan for the rest of my life a reality to His glory.

Yours in Him

Anton