God did not mean for us to risk so much in our pursuit of marriage.For sure, we always make ourselves vulnerable to some degree as we get to know someone and develop a relationship, but God wants us to enjoy the fullness of intimacy within a covenant, not in some science lab of love. One test for whether you are pursuing clarity or intimacy is to study the questions we ask in dating.

The two together, without covenant promises, can be a formula for disaster in dating.

God is the greatest prize in life for any believer — at whatever age, in whatever stage of life, and whatever our relationship status.

Much of the heartache and confusion we feel in dating stems from treating dating as practice for marriage (clarity intimacy), instead of as discernment toward marriage (clarity now, intimacy later).

In dating, we often experiment with intimacy until it basically feels like marriage, and then we get married.

Before God, within the covenant of marriage, two lives, two hearts, two bodies become new person. Even their bodies are not their own (1 Corinthians 7:4). Sex is the intense experience and picture of their new union, but it’s only a small slice of all the intimacy they enjoy together now.

“Couple” doesn’t describe them well enough anymore. The reason that kind of intimacy is the prize of marriage and safe outside of marriage, but it never is.

But like so many of God’s good gifts, because of our sin, intimacy can be dangerous.

The human heart is wired to want intimacy, but it is also wired to corrupt intimacy — to demand intimacy in the wrong ways or at the wrong time, and to expect the wrong things from intimacy.

I got lots of things wrong in dating, but as I think back over my mistakes and failures — dating too young, jumping from relationship to relationship, not being honest with myself or with others, failing to set or keep boundaries, not listening to friends and family, not prizing and pursuing purity — one error rises above the others, and in many ways explains the others: My dating relationships were mainly a pursuit of intimacy with a girlfriend, not clarity about whether to marry her. With the right heart, and in the right measure, and at the right time, these are all good desires.