Navigating the Space between Singleness and Marriage
There’s little doubt that the modern world creates some unique challenges when it comes to navigating the space between singleness and marriage. There are a host of factors that exist across Western culture and a separate bundle of issues that exist within Christian culture. Put together they can create significant difficulties in successfully pairing up and transitioning from singleness to marriage.
This challenge is the topic of Paul Grimmond’s new book Water For My Camels. Though the title is clever (at least if you can catch the biblical reference) the subtitle is far more descriptive: Navigating the space between singleness and marriage when the Bible doesn’t talk about dating. And, indeed, while the Bible clearly commends marriage and expects it for the majority of people, it offers little guidance on getting there. While it describes a number of ways in which people moved from singleness to marriage in the past, these are only ever descriptive and never prescriptive. So what are we to do? We are to apply biblical wisdom. “What does it mean to apply biblical wisdom to the process of this thing our culture calls ‘dating’? That’s the big question that this book will seek to answer.”
Grimmond does this by taking three key steps. First, he turns to the Bible to establish a series of principles that are meant to guide and shape our understanding of dating. Second, he contrasts the Bible’s ancient and timeless approach with the current cultural moment and with contemporary attitudes to dating. Third, he seeks to apply the Bible’s commands to the reality of dating today. He also addresses a very long and thorough list of questions about the topic.
And overall I think he does this very well. He uses ‘dating’ as a kind of blanket term “to describe the process of making some kind of commitment to another person so that together you can work out whether marriage to one another is in your future”—a very reasonable definition. He helpfully establishes principles like the fact that we were made for marriage, yet marriage is not ultimate. He shows from Scripture how sex and marriage are always meant to go together and how Christian marriage must only ever be “in the Lord.” He lays out the cultural factors that make dating especially confusing and difficult. He gets practical with counsel about who should date, how they should date, and at what stage of life. He cuts a good middle ground between dating with marriage in mind and burdening a new relationship with talk of nuptials.
In quite a lengthy FAQ chapter he answers more than 50 questions of the kind young people are actually asking as they consider forming romantic relationships and moving toward marriage: How do I know if it’s God’s will for me to get married? If I’m same-sex attracted, is it okay to date someone of the opposite sex and get married? Do I need to disclose my past sexual history to someone I’m dating? How important are parental expectations and family culture when dating? When should I consider choosing to be single for the sake of the kingdom of God?
Water For My Camels is a brief book, but a very helpful one. Grimmond is currently the Dean of Students at Moore Theological College in Sydney, and prior to that he worked in ministry to university students. This long experience shows in his understanding of the kinds of questions people are asking and in his skillful answers to them. Those who are currently navigating the tricky space between singleness and marriage would do well to consider reading his book. I’m quite certain they’ll be glad they’ve done so.
(The best place to order may be directly from the publisher.)