Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: I Kissed Dating Goodbye (by Joshua Harris)

This was one those books that one would never think about reading...because it sounds silly. But it turned to be a very well-written book offering a refreshing perspective on a touchy subject. I must admit that at first it was not a voluntary read. The girl I was dating at the time recommended that I read it and, as a good boyfriend, I obliged her. We ultimately broke up but not because of the book. Instead, I think the book made the break up easier to bear.

Anyway, this is a book review and not on personal life. The book is an unique take on dating from Joshua Harris, who is currently a senior pastor at the Convenant Church in Maryland (at least that's what the book biographies). Interestingly, the book was written by Harris when he was 21; it contains many personal insights on the subject of Christian dating. The title of the book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" is actually an honest admission by the author -- he stopped dating for a number of years due to the realization that dating was distracting him from living for God. It is audacious but very authentic.

Harris writes the book through an explanatory narrative of what the current outlook on dating is, how it can be sinful, and how we can overcome it through building a new lifestyle. The target audience is clearly teenagers or those in the early twenties, but it can be helpful for Christians of all ages. It was certainly helpful to me -- so much that I brought my own copy.

Throughout the first half of the book, Harris focuses on the concept of love that people come into contact with through their everyday lives. He goes into detail about the differences between worldly love and godly love: that the latter is beyond temporary pleasures and is eternally good. One of the central ideas outlined is that "the joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment". In other words, relationships fall apart because lovers tend to jump the boat and become physically intimate (read: have sex) with one another without emotional commitment. This is very dangerous as the relationship is not one built on trust or care or faith, but on temporary pleasure. Harris argues that most relationships fall apart due to the lack of commitment.

In addition to his analysis of the culprits behind defective dating of today (e.g. culture, peer pressure), the author addresses the challenges of living a date-free life. The main challenges he writes about is patience. Or rather, it is the patience that derives from trusting God with your life and being confident that God has greater plans than we ourselves can ever imagine. I think this point is very well taken -- the lack of patience is another major contributor to failed marriages, relationships, etc. Sometimes we want to rush into things when the wiser course of action is to wait and take it slow.

Harris concludes with a set of practical rules one can follow to lead a life of purity, such as new attitudes on those of the opposite gender as well as on singlehood. Another key idea is the guarding of one's heart against impure thoughts or sinful cravings. Ultimately, marriage will happen to (almost?) everyone. It is God's reward for us living the correct manner.

Overall, I feel like this is a fantastic book for anyone (Christian or not) to read on dating. The language is easy to understand, and Harris includes a number of fascinating stories based on his own experiences. For example, he writes about a couple who did not share a first kiss until wedding day on the altar. It definitely changed my perspective on dating and what singlehood means. Now I think I shall read it again.

In parting, I want to leave a quote that spoke to me powerfully when I read it. It still does due to my interest in Mandy:

"I'll freely admit it -- I often have difficulty trusting God. When it comes to my love life, I have a nagging fear that He wants to keep me single forever. Or I fear that He lets me marry, He'll match me up with some girl to whom I won't feel attracted...
...I feat that God might forget me. Instead of trusting in His perfect timing, I often try to take things into my own hands. I grab my life's calendar from God and frantically begin to pencil in my own plans and agendas. 'God, I know You're omnipotent and all that,' I say, 'but I really think You missed the fact that this girl over here is my destiny. If I don't go after her now, my future will pass me by!' Eventually I sheepishly hand back the scheduling of my time, energy, and attention, saying, 'Of course I trust you, Lord, but I just think You could use a little help'" (81).

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