Recently, a single lady invited my family and another couple over for dinner. I was impressed by her level of organization and preparation. Not only was the meal fully prepared when we arrived, but it was clear she had mapped out a plan for the evening, concluding in a lively game that fit perfectly around the table where we sat. The preparation showed both an effort to serve us and to get to know us.
I had several thoughts after that evening (aside from the fact that she’d be a blessing to any man she asked out on a “turnabout” date). One of those thoughts was: She contributed a lot of effort to “date” our family.
Though the word “dating” can refer to two people of the opposite sex getting to know each other, the principles employed in dating involve getting to know anyone, or a group of people, better. This expands the adage that you should never stop dating after you get married: Not only do my wife and I continue to have one-on-one dates to strengthen our relationship as a couple, we also invite others into our plans, in an effort to get to know them.
When I invite others to join my family on a day of fun, the mental and financial expense to plan that occasion is similar to what a single man employs in dating a single woman. And the principles involved in a “turnabout” weekend at Herbert W. Armstrong College (where the females, once a semester, ask men on dates and take care of the event planning) follow women throughout their lives. When my wife and I invite people over, the planning she does in the meal preparation is like many a “turnabout” date.
Not that dating is always strictly organized or costly, but the effort we go through to make interaction and communication possible continues for the rest of our lives—whether single or married. There will always be occasions to get to know others better.
In Single-Minded for God, one of the contributors writes about dating: “we older seniors call it ‘communicating.’” The fundamentals of dating are principles of communication and hospitality. Hospitality is an attribute that all God’s people should be “given” to (Romans 12:13). The Apostle Peter says to use it “without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9).
Whether you are a teenager planning a group date, an AC student still “dating widely,” a marriageable single narrowing the number of potential mates, or a married couple planning a dinner party, serving, planning and facilitating meaningful interaction will always be part of the human experience.
In his autobiography, Herbert W. Armstrong said dating should be a “real art.” He said a date should be “stimulating, challenging, dynamically interesting.” That description applies beautifully to all social occasions. There are ways to make any interaction “stimulating, challenging, dynamically interesting”—whether getting to know another person, couple, family, or a small eclectic group.
It’s easy for singles to have hang-ups about “dating,” applying the term only in the “romantic” sense. It’s easy to think this is just for a certain phase of life and then ends when you find your “soul mate.” But there is something glorious that dating is teaching all of us. The married man will use these principles the rest of his life. The married woman will have innumerable “turnabout”-like experiences.
This is why we encourage frequent dating among our singles, and to view the date as a serving experience.
As in one-on-one dating, our hospitality-driven communications and interactions will sometimes be casual and inexpensive, and sometimes they will be much more organized and lavish. But, in the end, we are getting to know people. They sense the mental and emotional energy we put into getting to know them. These are not fundamentally “romantic” experiences, but human ones. Actually, they are godly endeavors. This is how God is building His spiritual Family. And that’s the real art.