Tying a Knot That Lasts

People call marriage “tying the knot.” The truth is tying the knot starts when you’re dating, long before the wedding day. In this message, we discuss Song of Solomon chapters 2 and 3 to see an example of how to date in a way that sets you up for a marriage that will last.

Message Transcript

Welcome, friends, in the room, Fort Worth, El Paso, Phoenix, Fayetteville, Tulsa, Nashville, and Philadelphia, wherever you're joining, or if you're just listening on live stream. We are continuing the series, Rated R for Romance. Let me start this way. I have a random side hobby I do from time to time called fixing up golf carts.

Here's what I mean by that. Every now and then on Craigslist or one of these five-mile resale apps, there will be somebody selling a golf cart, and through the years, I've learned different ways to trick them out. It's a fun, random hobby. Some people like to work on things and build things. I fix up golf carts.

One recently I had found was in the country. This guy was selling a golf cart. I was like, "Dude, I could probably put a lift on that. That would be awesome!" Just a little foot project on the side… I reached out. The golf cart was available, so I rented a trailer, and I headed out to his home in the country. I got to his house and looked at the golf cart. This all looks great.

A side note about the guy. This was one of the more interesting interactions I have had. This dude was in his 30s. I show up to his place. He lives on this huge plot of land. He has an airplane strip in front of his house where planes can land in front. He has seven kids all running around ages 13 to 2. All of them had four-wheelers. I was like, "Dude, where am I right now?" and "Calli, if I don't come home, they murdered me."

He had his own pond. He was like, "Yeah, I dug that pond up." The dude was the most "He-Man" I've ever been around. At one moment, I'm looking at the golf cart, and I'm like, "Part of the metal underneath this thing is bent. That's not good," expecting him to be like, "I'll take $200 off," but he's like, "All right. Let's take it down to the shed." He takes it down to the shed. The dude pulls out a straight-up welder, puts the mask down, and welds new metal onto the bottom of this thing. I was like, "I'm not worthy."

I ended up buying the golf cart. I load it onto this trailer I had gotten from U-Haul. It doesn't fit. I'm like, "Oh, no. This is not good. I have to leave with this thing. I've rented it. I've driven over an hour out here. What am I going to do?" The guy was like, "I'll just give you some rope. We can tie it down. It will be fine." I'm like, "That's great."

He hands me the rope, and then it hits me. This moment I've experienced a lot of times when I begin to think, "I don't know what type of knot to tie here." I wasn't a Boy Scout. Some of you guys were Eagle Scouts, and you're like, "Here's what you have to do there." You know exactly what to tie, but I'm the kind of guy who just ends up being, "I'm just going to rope this around like 15 different times and pull really hard. Hopefully, that will hold."

I'm thinking through that. "What kind of knot would you tie, He-Man?" He used some term. "I would do a square double-back fender." I'm like, "Yeah. A square double-back bender. Right. I don't really like my square double-back bender. What does yours look like? Maybe I could check out how you do yours to make sure."

Eventually, I just gave him my man card. I was like, "Here. Just take it. Can you tie a knot on this golf cart and tie it to the trailer?" Because one thing I don't want to happen is for me out of pride to just end up tying some janky knot like, "Here are the bunny ears, then pull" and it ends up having the golf cart fly off of the trailer on the highway at 70 miles per hour. He ties up this different knot, and everything goes fine.

What does that have to do with Rated R for Romance or relationship goals? Well, in that scenario, I knew that something valuable was at stake, so risking tying a knot that wouldn't hold or that would come undone was something I didn't want to do, and in the same way, we have a term for marriage and relationships that is very similar to the scenario I was in there. We call it tying the knot.

People come together and they tie the knot in relationships when they get married. You've probably heard this phrase before. "When did you tie the knot?" or "We're going to tie the knot." People form a relationship. They date. Then, they get married, and they tie the knot, but tragically, about half of the knots that are tied end up unraveling and coming apart. How can you and I be people who know that we're stepping in the direction of tying a knot that will last all of this life and we're not going to end up a statistic and be a part of tying the knot with someone else and years later it just begins to unravel together?

One of the reasons I think why so many people come together and form this relationship and make this promise and stand on their wedding day and pledge, "Till death do us part," and tie the knot, and then months or years (a fixed amount of time or a certain amount of time later) they end up standing in front of that person, and they are signing divorce papers saying, "I never want you in my life again," is because their knot was not strong enough to hold.

As tragic as it would be to tie a knot that ends up having a golf cart fly off of a trailer, infinitely more tragic is tying a relationship knot in marriage that ends up falling apart. You can get another golf cart. You can get another trailer. You don't get another shot at your first marriage. You don't get another shot at your 20s. You don't get another shot at your dating, your love life, or even your soul in the way that romance and sex and love impact it.

The God who is there doesn't want you to go through not knowing how to tie and move toward one another and create a bond and create a knot that will last and that nothing in this life will be able to tear apart, but it's not going to happen by you doing it on your own opinion or following how you think is best.

Just like in that scenario, I knew if I went based on how I think I should tie the knot, it could have very big consequences and tragic ones, or I could say, "You know how to tie knots, He‑Man. You tie the knot." The God who is there is saying, "Are you going to try to do this on your own? If so, you risk becoming a liability or becoming another statistic, because your knot is going to unravel," or you can trust the God who is there who says, "I know how to tie knots. I created marriage. I know how to best move toward a relationship that will last."

Tonight, we are going to talk about the dating phase, because the dating phase is moving your relationship in the direction of creating a knot and a bond that will never be able to separate or come apart. We're going to explore what it looks like to date well and to begin to form relationships, because one of the reasons why knots end up unraveling is because of dating so poorly.

We are exploring in the book of Song of Solomon the second phase in this couple's relationship. If you weren't here last week, you can go to iTunes or to Spotify. You can check out the podcast and what you missed. We opened up the book of Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon is one of the most risqué books in all of the Bible. It's an exploration of a man and a woman and their marriage and their sexuality and their love and romance for each other.

If you thought God was against sex or romance, you are wrong. He created it, and he even included an entire book of the Bible that is all about his celebration and this couple's exploration of love, romance, and each other in sex. It is so risqué that we said last week that Hebrew boys and girls were not able to read this book until they were 30 or married, because rabbis were like, "Dude, that is going to make everybody hot and bothered. We need to just keep that from them until they're married."

It's a beautiful picture of this relationship that God just celebrates and keeps in the Bible. To review, it's a song called Song of Solomon. It reads a little bit like Shakespearean poetry. In it, there's a Romeo and a Juliet. There's a man and a woman. Last week, they began to form their initial relationship with sparks of attraction.

This week, we're going to catch up as they continue their relationship, and we're going to see them go from increasing amounts of intimacy and deepening in their relationship, and all of the way at the end of tonight, they're going to get engaged. We're going to explore three things that every healthy dating relationship should include as a part of it. Every dating relationship should have progressing, expressing, and addressing involved in certain areas. Progressing, expressing, and addressing.

We're going to unpack exactly what those are, but let me read the verses first. Then, we'll dive into them. This comes from Song of Solomon, chapter 2, verse 8. The woman speaking says, "Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag."She's basically saying, "My boy is a stud!"

"Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice." I'll explain exactly what is going on there. "My beloved spoke and said to me, 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come…'" Spring.

"'…the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me [into this new season] .' My dove…" That's him speaking. That's his girl."…in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely."**

They both speak in verse 15. "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards [our relationship] , our vineyards that are in bloom." Then, she says, " My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved…" She's talking about her boo."…and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills."

An interesting side note about rugged hills… If you have a different translation, these are translated as different words or different ways. If you have the NASB, which is another translation, you have the Bether hills there, or rugged mountains is another phrase. There is no place on earth called the Bether Mountains, so what are they saying?

Bether is a word that means cleavage, so she is saying, "Come." This girl is getting excited about the next chapter, which is the wedding night, and she's beginning to say, "Dude, come all night long." That's until the shadows flee and the morning breaks. "I want you to play on the mountains of cleavage. I want you to play with my breasts," is what she says. It's in your Bible.

Some of you guys are like, "I have my memory verse picked out for this week!" "All night long…" She goes into this nightmare she has. **" All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city…"** She begins to explain this nightmare she's having.

"…through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him. The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. 'Have you seen the one my heart loves?' Scarcely had I passed them when I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother's house, to the room of the one who conceived me." (The most intimate part of my life)

"Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." As hot and bothered as she is, she still says, "Do not introduce sex until it is time." There are three things I want to pull out from this couple and their relationship that is growing that are so relevant to you if you're dating and so relevant if you ever have a dating relationship. If these are not a part of your dating relationship, you should be concerned.

First, if you are in a relationship, it should be a relationship that is progressing toward marriage. Let me read verses 8 through 13 again. She says, "Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look! There he stands behind our wall…"

She's speaking metaphorically. There is a wall of separation. "…gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice." He desires to move closer and progress toward each other in the relationship. Then, he speaks to her and says, "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past…"

"Spring is here. There is a new season, and I want you to come with me into this next season of life." It says, "…the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land." He's pointing to spring being here. It's essentially the idea of a ring by spring. He's saying, "Hey, girl. I want you to come with me into this next season of life. I want us to progress forward."

If you are in a dating relationship… Healthy dating relationships involve your relationship progressing toward marriage. In other words, it's not just stagnant. It doesn't just stay there. Your relationship is going somewhere. If you are perpetually waiting… If you're perpetually saying, "We've been dating for six years," you should be concerned. You should break up. You should move on and be honest enough with one another.

You should be progressing somewhere. Dating is meant to be a path that leads toward a promise…marriage…that leads toward a lifelong pursuit. It's not just meant to be just dating. It's similar to this. Dating is meant to involve you going in and saying, "Is this someone I can move toward the destination of marriage with?" The end goal is not dating. The end goal is moving toward marriage.

Dating is almost like going to the airport. The airport is not a place anyone wants to go to just hang out or spend a lot of time. The only reason you go to the airport is not to hang out at the airport, unless you need counseling, because the reason you go to the airport is to go to your destination.

You go through security, and when you're sitting in there it's not because you're like, "This is great. I love how the airport feels and smells. I love security and taking off the old belt and hanging out in here. I love that everything is priced 10 times more than the rest of the world. If a banana is a quarter out there, it's $6 in here."

What is wrong with you people? You only go to the airport in order to move to another destination. Dating is not the destination. Dating is like the airport. Just like you don't casually go hang out at the airport, you don't causally go date unless you are ready to move in the direction of marriage.

If you are dating and it's not for the intent of getting married, you should break up. You are playing with fire. You are playing with emotions and heart levels in a way that God never you created you to have intimacy with someone (emotional, spiritual, or physical) in an exclusive way that didn't have the purpose of us moving toward marriage someday.

Just like it is expensive and everything costs more the more you hang out at the airport, it is an expensive thing to begin to spend time in a dating relationship, giving your heart, and then ripping it apart from someone. You are not meant to spend an extended season of aimlessly dating without a purpose. You are to be moving in a direction.

This relationship is moving toward marriage, and if you're not in a place where you are ready to say, "I could be married in the next year," you should not be dating. It has been said that dating without the intent of marriage is like going shopping with no money. You will either leave frustrated with everything you see or you're going to steal something that doesn't belong to you.

If you date without the intent of marriage, you are setting yourself up to end up frustrated and discouraged and angry and hurt by how it went, or you're going to steal something that doesn't belong to you (part of the other person's heart, their sexual purity). You're going to end up taking something that is not yours.

If you are not at a place where you can honestly say, "I want this relationship to progress," so it's not just hanging out for years or with no purpose where I'm stuck in a holding pattern, you should break up. Let me give specifically the timeline. Here's what it should look like. Here's the direction.

You should start with singleness. You're single; they're single. You're single well. You're healthy. You're in a season where you're like, "I feel like I could be married in the next year. I'm not saying I will." You're not 14 in middle school and you're not in a place where you're like, "I need to finish law school. I have three more years, and I'm definitely not getting married until I get done with that."

You should not date, because you are setting yourself up to fail. You're going to date for three years? You weren't made to be with someone who you are increasingly growing emotionally and physically attracted to and you just want to be together for three years. You're either going to cross boundaries physically, or, if you don't have any desire to move further in the relationship, that's probably concerning, too.

"This is great. We're just friends. I love being with her. There's no real anything there, but this is great. We're in this dating relationship." You should be concerned there. If you're not in a place where you say, "I can really see myself entering the next season of life," then you should not be dating, but let's say you are.

You're single; they're single. Here's what happens next. A date. A date happens when a guy comes up and initiates a date. He goes up and says, "I would like to take you out for…" Maybe it's dinner. The guy initiates and says, "I would like to ask you out on a date." Now, the girl either reciprocates with a, "Yes, I'd like to do that," or you say, "No. I would not like to go on a date with you." The guy initiates.

You may be wondering, "I thought we said girls could kind of put themselves out there." We'll even bring more clarity to that in the Q&A after this. Sure, there is a way in which you can strategically put yourself in the presence of godly men, but the Bible says men are called to lead in 1 Corinthians 11 and Genesis 2. God created men to initiate and to lead.

Men, you go up. Here's what you're going to do. You're going to use your words. You're going to say, "I'd like to go on a date with you," or "I'd like to go to dinner with you," or "I have tickets to a Mavericks game, and I would love for you to come with me. I'd love to spend time with you." You initiate. You ask. You risk rejection. That's what you do. You risk rejection. Could you be rejected? Yes!

Do you know what happens? If you're a godly guy and you ask out a godly girl and she rejects you, dude, I'm so proud of you. I mean it, because you are doing what men do. You step up. Do you only want to do things in life where you only do them if you know you won't fail? Really? You're like, "I would ask her out. She would be awesome. I feel like she would be great, but I'll settle for this girl, because, for sure, she's going to date me."

Do you really want to live like that? Be courageous! Go ask. If you get rejected… Dude, high five! I'm proud of you. Way to go! Girls, here's what I would say. If he's a godly guy, you should go on a date with him. If he's a godly guy and you're a godly girl, you should go on a date with him.

Guys initiate. I would plan something fun, because if you have a boring date it will be hard to determine if they are boring, if the date is boring, or if you are boring. I would plan something that is somewhat engaging and fun where you can talk together. This is my opinion. I think, girls and guys, you should give each other a chance of two dates. Why? Because if you have one dud date where you got coffee and just sat there and they were having a bad day, you may not have a great read. That's just my opinion. I wouldn't die on that hill, but guys initiate.

You ask them on a date, and let's say they say, "Yes." You go on that date. It's great. Everything is going fine. You end up going on another one. You communicate. "I'd love to take you on a second date." Girls, if you don't want to go on a second date, you don't say, "That's great," and then just fall off the face of the earth and ignore him. You say, "Thanks so much. I wouldn't like to go on a second date." The same thing if it's the third. "Thanks so much. I wouldn't like to go on a third date," if you end up going on a second.

At some point, as the relationship progresses, then you move from single to dating or a date to dating. It goes from a noun (date) to a verb (dating). The way you get there is, guys, you sit them down and you have what is called a DTR. You define the relationship. You say, "I would like for you…" Thank you! Look. There are girls clapping in here because so few men actually do this. If you do it, you are automatically in the top 10 percent. Wow! Wow! For real, dude. That is easy. You're going to get married, and I want credit.

Here's what you do. You sit them down. You're like, "I have really enjoyed spending time with you." You just tell them the truth. "I'm not sure we're going to get married, but you are at least the type of woman I would like to marry someday, and I would like to continue dating and pursuing you in a relationship, and I'd like you to be my girlfriend." You use the word girlfriend. That's a big deal. It may not be a big deal to you, but it's a big deal to her. You drive clarity into the relationship. Leaders remove confusion.

Let me just give you a head's up, guys. I know it because I am a guy and I've been there. This is going to be a really awkward conversation. You're going to sit there. It's going to be out in front of her house or in the car or maybe out on the Patio where we're all going to see you tonight as we walk by the two of you standing there.

You're going to sit there and go, "Do you know what he was talking about tonight in the talk? I really would like to spend intentional time getting to know you. I don't know if I'm going to marry you, but you're the type of person I'd like to marry, and I would love to move this relationship and continue growing and call you my girlfriend. Are you okay with that?"

It's going to feel awkward. You're going to trip over your words. It's going to feel like you went back to middle school, and your voice is going to be cracking. You're doing it right. You're driving for clarity, and you're caring for her, and you're removing confusion. Girls, you honestly answer if you're there, and if you're not, you just say, "I'm not there yet," or "I don't see this relationship moving forward. Thank you for the way you've honored me. I don't have any interest in moving forward right now." You don't blame it on God. You don't blame it on anybody else. You speak honestly.

There. You're dating. In the dating relationship, there are a couple of things this couple, as they are moving toward their relationship together, model that should be a part of your dating relationship. Let me just say one more side note. At some point, and this is for extra credit, guys. I'm talking the top 1 percent.

Men, if you are dating a girl and her parents are Christian, I think it is a great idea for you in the midst of this early dating stage to meet with her father or her mother, if she's a believer, and just clearly articulate, "I'm interested in dating and pursuing your daughter. I'm not sure we're going to get married, but here are my intentions. I want to pursue her toward marriage. Whether or not God has that, I'm not sure, but I promise I'm going to honor her and care for her and pursue purity with her. Here's my phone number. You can call me any time you'd like, and I'll communicate along the way."

At least, you should do that before you get engaged. In the midst of the dating relationship, I think that's a great practice, especially if she has Christian parents. We're in the dating relationship, so back to our couple. They're dating one another. They're hanging out, and he begins to say something to her that articulates something so huge that, if you're going to have a healthy dating relationship, it should involve.

He says, " My dove…" We said last week he's not just saying, "Bird girl." He's saying that doves only have the ability to focus on one thing at a time. He's saying, "You have eyes for me. I have eyes for you.""My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice…" "Come out from hiding and communicate with me. Speak with me.""…for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.""I want to see you. Come out from hiding and speak with me. Let me see who you are.

The second part of your relationship is that, at some point, it should involve expressing deep, heart-level things to that person. "Will you come out from hiding?" That's what he says to the girl. He says, "I want you to come out from hiding. I want you to come speak with me. Come out into the open and share about the things in your heart and share about the things in your life. Speak. Your voice is beautiful. I want you to come out from hiding."

At some point in your relationship as it progresses, you should begin to express at a heart level the things in your past, things you fear, things you hope for, and some of the ways you just have scars from not living in line with God's best that you bring out in the open (your story with that other person). Hopefully, you're already doing this in community with other believers, but before you get married to that person, you should do what this couple does, which is come out from hiding and speak tenderly and express your heart to that other person.

It's a question we get so commonly. "When do I talk about my sexual past? When do I talk about my history, my problems, and my pains?" Here's the answer. Are you ready? "When do I bring this stuff up?" When you're ready to move the relationship to the next level. In other words, this is not something on the first date you're like, "I'm going to take this soup, and here's my biggest struggle in life." I wouldn't introduce that on date one.

I wouldn't introduce that on date five, but at some point, you owe it to the person you're dating. "Here are the things in my past. Here are the things that are a part of my story. Here are some of the wounds I had growing up." The time is when you are ready to see the relationship go to the next level. When you're considering engagement, you should share that stuff.

"What kind of things should I share?" Things that involve relational baggage or sexual past. "Here's some of my story." You don't need to glory in it or honor it. You're just bringing it into the open. "Here's what you should know." If there is a sexually transmitted disease, "Here's what you should know."

Honestly, whatever you're afraid of sharing, you probably should share that. I'm not saying early in the relationship or as this thing is blossoming. I'm saying, before you get engaged, or if you're like, "We're in that season, and I want to get more serious." One of the best things about Merge, which is our premarital ministry, is it drives these types of conversations that happen.

Before you enter into that season, you should have a season where you're expressing that stuff in your life. In general, you're expressing your past, what your upbringing was like, what shaped you, and where you are carrying wounds. Maybe your parents' divorce or things that have really impacted and shaped your life or your hopes. "This is what I hope to happen. These are my fears about what may happen." You're sharing and speaking and communicating those things.

Another way of saying it, to use that airport analogy, is before you move into engagement or before you take off, you should check your bags and check their bags and make sure you know what you are walking into together and that you share those things. How much debt you have. I remember having this conversation with my wife.

We were just sitting down and talking about my father wounds and being raised pretty much by a single mother or pretty much by a father who wasn't present or around and the fear of not being the dad I wanted to be because I didn't have that there, sharing about my sexual past, sharing about the story God had written of my life, and as terrifying as it is, what is amazing is what happens so often.

We're so afraid this person is going to reject us, and oftentimes the opposite happens where they go, "Dude, thank you for sharing. Now, I know everything, and I'm not going anywhere." That fear all of a sudden turns to confidence and intimacy. You're like, "I'm even more confident we should move forward to the next step." At some point, a healthy dating relationship should involve you sharing and not glorifying sin but doing it in a way that honors and cares about her.

You don't need to go into all types of details of, "This is what I did with Becky." You don't need to go very hyper-specific. If you're a girl and you're going, "No. I want to know exactly what you did with Becky," you probably should slow down, girl, and just check whatever is in your heart that may be feeding that, but doing it in a way that honors the Lord and honors this person. It just comes out into the open.

He says, "My dove, come out. Communicate with me. Come out of hiding. I want to see who you are." The Bible says in Genesis, chapter 2, God's design for marriage was that Adam and Eve were naked and without shame. "I see all that you are, and I'm not going anywhere. I love you."

The direction and destination that God wants for you in marriage involves that, and you owe it to that person before you move into that next season of sharing who you are. If they don't accept you for who you are, move on, because they don't have the heart of Christ who accepts all of us, accepted all of us, as who we are despite all of it. They may not be at a place where they are mature enough to see and do that and move past that.

The third quality we see from this relationship is they involve addressing their specific relationship issues. In verse 15 of chapter 2, they both chime in and say, "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards…" Their relationship is what they are talking about. "…that are in bloom.""Our relationship is growing. It's flourishing, and it's growing up. Catch the foxes that could hurt and destroy this growing relationship from getting to where it ultimately desires to go. Cut off anything that is going to hurt our intimacy."

What is he talking about with the foxes? Foxes in vineyards today…even in Napa Valley this still happens…will come up. In a vineyard, they are growing grapes, and those grapes will start as a bud. At the beginning of the spring season, those buds will form, and foxes will come along and will eat those buds before they ever flourish or bloom into grapes. The foxes will show up and cut them off before they ever grow into what they were intended to grow into.

He's basically saying, "Let's catch and kill anything that's going to hurt our relationship from growing further in intimacy." The third part of your relationship should be a relationship involving addressing your issues, addressing your together issues, and addressing your individual issues. Anything that's going to hurt your relationship, anything you see together, you go, "We're going to sit down and talk about this. We're going to work through this together. I want us to be on the same page about this."

What do I mean by some of the foxes that may be in your relationship or foxes that may be in your life? One of them may be your conflict style. "We're going to work quickly to address the fox of our conflict," which is not a bad thing. We have tons of messages on conflict. If you haven't heard those, conflict or having a disagreement between two people is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be something that is conflict that leads us to form a tighter relationship together.

"We're going to know how each other fights and we're going to fight well and fight fair, and we're going to allow that to move us closer together." Some of you may need to work on and understand your conflict style and their conflict style, so you don't just get into a relationship and rely on, "We're in a fight, and we don't really talk to each other. I just kind of go silent for six weeks," or "We're just going to bank on makeup sex all of the time. That's going to be it." That's not going to work. You need to know your conflict style.

What do I mean by that? We have a term or an expression called WENI. You need to know your WENI, and you need to know their WENI. What do I mean by that? Rated R for Romance, people. WENI stands for withdraw, escalation, negative interpretation, or invalidation. In every conflict style, you typically have somebody who is one of those and the other person is another one of them, or you hit the jackpot and you're all four of them. That has to be interesting.

You need to know, "Do I withdraw? In conflict, do I just shut down and try to disappear and cover myself up?" Are you that person? Are you the escalator who gets into a conflict? You escalate. "This is what you always do!" Are you that person? Are you the negative interpreter? "Hey, man! This is great. Is that a new shirt?"

You're like, "You think I have a materialism problem? I'm greedy? Is that what you're trying to tell me right now? You don't like my fashion choice?" Are you a negative interpreter or are you an invalidator? The person shares that they're hurt, and you're like, "Well, that's just because you are a big softie and you need to toughen up in life. It's hard. Get back in the game."

Which style are you? You need to know this. I'm joking, but this is so huge and so important, and you need to know. If you're dating someone, you need to have a death grip on what they are and what you are, so you know the patterns. In my relationship with my wife, I am an escalator, and she's a withdrawer, which is very entertaining. We get in conflict, and she's like, "I'm disappearing," and I'm like, "You come back here!" It's not funny at all, but in knowing that about one another, here's what that looks like for us.

She withdraws, and it's incumbent on her to know, "I need some time to process. I need a minute. I need some time to think." Through counsel in our lives, people have gone, "That's fine, but if you withdraw, you need to know it is incumbent on you to restart the conversation." You go. He wants to work on it right now.

You're like, "I just need some time." Great. You need to go process that yourself. Then, you arrange, "I would like to talk about this." It is incumbent on you. He is trying to work through the conflict. If you need to take time, you can't just let it lie and hope it will disappear. You go. You work through that. Then, you come back and work through that together.

Whatever your conflict style is, you need to know that, because so few things like conflict will kill a relationship. It is a fox that will eat your relationship and your intimacy. It is crushing marriages all over our country and all over our world. It has crushed and killed marriages, because they couldn't work through conflict, and they went from caring about the other person and caring about the relationship to just wanting to win and just wanting to hurt the other person. You need to know your conflict style.

Other foxes you should kill… Pornography. If you're looking at pornography, you are feeding something that is creating an unrealistic sexual expectation that is going to crush your wife. You are feeding something that is telling you and teaching your mind to think a real woman is not enough and one woman is not enough.

If you're a girl looking at pornography, you are feeding yourself the same thing. A real man is not enough, and what matters most is his ability to sexually please you. You're feeding an unrealistic expectation, and that is a fox that is going to show up. It's feeding an appetite that is one of the leading causes of why people get a divorce.

Another fox that will show up in your relationship is bitterness and anger. You need to make sure before you get married or before you move into that next relationship that you have forgiven those who have hurt you most in life. I will not do a wedding for someone if they have not forgiven their parents. If they have said, "I have never forgiven my dad who left or cheated on my mom," I will not do your wedding, and I wouldn't advise anybody to do your wedding.

If they are harboring bitterness, here's what that means. It's so huge. They are saying, "Somebody deeply hurt me, and I'm holding on to that, and I'm not letting it go. I'm holding it against them." What do you think marriage is? It is repeated time after time of somebody deeply hurting you (your wife or your husband).

You have to choose, "I forgive you. I'm choosing to believe the best. I'm choosing to move your direction. I'm choosing to let that go." If they're not good at letting it go and forgiving now, they're not getting better, and I would not advise you to move forward in that relationship, regardless if someone will marry you or not, if they have not made the decision of, "I'm choosing to forgive this person who deeply hurt me."

Another fox to address in this season is sexual abuse. Statistically, the numbers are shocking, and they're all over this room. If that's a part of your story, it doesn't have to define you. It wasn't your fault. There is hope. There is healing. God loves you, and the pain that was inflicted there doesn't have to mark your marriage, but there will take some healing and you pursuing that with God's people and you bringing into the light and processing and talking through that.

You're not damaged goods. It doesn't have to define your marriage or your future sex life, and it wasn't your fault. There is hope and there is healing, but you have to be intentional to accept it or to pursue that, because that's a fox that you didn't even ask for, but it's a fox that can show up and really hurt your relationship.

In dating and in your relationship together, regardless of what the fox is, you guys need to honestly talk about these things and not act like, "We're sitting at the dinner table and this is so great," and there are foxes everywhere around you. You wouldn't do that if there were ravenous wolves all around you. You're just eating and hanging out. "This is so great," and everywhere you look there are these foxes looking to kill you. That's what's going on.

The Bible says Satan hates you. He hates your relationship. He wants you to be in shame right now. He doesn't want you to get married. He wants to kill off your relationships before they ever happen. He's not just like a fox. He's like a roaring lion looking for someone to be devoured. I don't even know that I fully understand what that means (that's 1 Peter, chapter 5), but I feel like I've seen it, and I've seen marriages devoured, because these little foxes that began to grow and began to multiply just devoured that relationship.

You have an Enemy. You need to listen to me. He hates you. He wants you to hide in sin. He wants you to hide in shame. He doesn't want you guys to work through your dysfunction. He just wants you to cover it up with sex. "We'll just have crazy, manic highs and lows and just cover all of that stuff up."

He doesn't want you to have healthy relationships. He wants you to get divorced. He wants your kids to grow up without a father or without a mother around. He wants you to be depressed. He hates you. He doesn't want you to listen to any of the things God's Word says about love, romance, or sex. He wants you to tune it out and go, "That's so unrealistic, and I'm not doing that," or for you to begin to buy the lie that it must work for goody two-shoes Christian people, "But I have a story, and I have a past." He hates you. That's a lie.

The story God is going to write in your life is not over, but you are in the driver's seat if you're going to surrender that to him. Are you going to allow the foxes and Satan to destroy your relationships? He hates romance. He hates sex. He wants to take it out of the context of marriage and inject it into your life, and it may bring some amazing highs and a moment followed with some incredible pain, and he wants you to wallow in shame.

The God who is there loves you. He is crazy about you. He wants you to have a romance life like you could only dream of, and the whole book of Song of Solomon is about that love story. He's for you, and he wants you to experience the safety and security in intimacy with a spouse in marriage. If you're dating right now, you need to be on the lookout. "What are our foxes? What are the things that are going to kill our relationship before it continues to grow and blossom all of the way there?"

Finally, in verse 16, it says, " My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies." Scholars debate and disagree. Some say most of this chapter may have been engagement, but without question, most will say this is probably the engagement line. She is saying, "I'm declaring I'm for you and you're for me. We're in this to win it. Ride or die together for the rest of our lives." That's what's going on. "We're engaged."

Further, we know that because next week is the wedding and the wedding night, and it is about to go down, if you know what I'm saying. We at least know entering into that they are engaged by this line. They are moving toward tying that knot together. If you're going to move toward tying that knot in relationship, you need to make sure you are dating in a way that is progressing; at some point, you are expressing the intimate parts of your heart, your story, and your past; and you're addressing or confronting the issues in your life and in your relationship together.

I shared earlier about the idea of a knot holding. I was thinking about a knot this week. How do I know if a knot will hold? Are there two types of ropes? What are the ropes in the world that you take this rope and you take that rope and they really won't hold together? There really isn't one. You may be going, "What about a really thick rope? What about a thin rope? You can still tie a knot of them."

There aren't these two incompatible ropes that are unable to tie together. What matters in the ability for a knot to hold? Think about it. There are two things. Who is tying the knot? What type of knot are they tying? In other words, my 1-1/2-year-old may not be able to tie a knot that is that tight. She may end up leaving it at this because she's not strong enough to tie it, or she doesn't know how to tie a knot that will actually hold.

The Bible says your relationship and what God hopes for you and what God hopes for this entire series is that we are praying God does incredible things in this room and every different Porch.Live locations and wherever you're listening in from in your hearts and in your relationships and he sets you up to marry someone who loves Jesus more than he loves you.

That he's going to be someone who chases and pursues you the rest of your life, that you follow and lead together for the rest of your life, that you raise children who walk with Jesus together, and, candidly, that he breaks up so many relationships in this room that you need to get out of because you are not going to find Mr. Right because you're dating Mr. Wrong right now, and you're not going to experience who God has for you.

You're holding on because you're like, "We built relational equity together, and I'm just afraid of breaking up. I feel like I've gone too far already." You are going to miss out on what God has for you. You always do when you go against God's Word. What type of knot does God want to tie as it relates to your relationships?

The answer to who is tying the knot, Jesus would say in Matthew, chapter 19, is God. He says, " For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?" He says,"… what God has joined [tied] together, let no one separate." God is the one who ultimately says, "I want to tie a knot that is so strong that for the rest of your life nothing in this world, nothing that you face, no matter what you walk through, nothing will tear it apart."

Every struggle you go through and everything the world pulls on you is only going to pull you tighter and tighter and tighter together. That's the knot he wants to tie, and the type of knot is a covenant. It's not some contract relationship you would have with the other person. What's a contract? "I'm in this, and we'll be married unless you gain 20 pounds. Then, I'm out." That's a contract.

He is a covenant maker. What is a covenant? It's an unending, unbreakable, unstoppable relationship and bond or commitment to one another. "No matter what happens, I'm not going anywhere." You cannot have that type of covenant relationship and the experience of the knot he wants to bond in your life without, first, having a covenant relationship with God.

The first love of your life must be Jesus. The first love of their life must be Jesus. That's not some preaching language. I promise you. I've just seen it too many times where couples come together. They're sweet. They love hanging out together. This is great. Then, a few short years go by, and they have a kid, and they're standing there signing papers, and they hate one another.

It was because they didn't have the type of knot God wants to create in your life that is, first, anchored in a covenant relationship with God. If you are not a follower of Jesus, the best thing you can leave with is not how to date and tips and tricks and all of that. It is that there is a God who has invited you into a love story that is far bigger than Song of Solomon and far bigger than the girl you met from Tinder and far bigger than any relationship you will ever have in this life.

It's his love story of chasing and pursuing you. He wants to create this covenant in your future marriage that says, "No matter what, I'm staying," but you won't have that if it is disconnected from the covenant relationship with God, from the God who said, "No matter what you do, I'm staying. I died in your place. I gave my life for you."

How do you know God can keep a knot that lasts or can tie a knot that no matter what you face in this life will last and no matter what you walk through, it can hold? He has already done it once. He has promised that nothing in all of creation… Romans, chapter 8, says, "… neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God…"

That is a covenant he has already created. You may not know this if you're not a believer. Christians don't believe good people go to heaven. We don't come in here and say, "I'm a really good person. That's why I'm here." We sing songs like, "David, David, you're such a really good guy."

We say, "Jesus, Jesus, you're our Savior and you're our Lord. It's only because of you that I have a relationship with God. You pursued me. You came after me. You loved me despite me, and you died in my place. You paid for everything I've ever done." If I will accept and receive that gift, I enter into the covenant, the unbreakable love of God, where he says, "Nothing you ever do… You may run. You can't hide from my love. You can't escape it, and you can't break it."

He says, "That relationship your heart kind of longs for in marriage… You don't even realize it's longing for me. It's longing for the love of God and its unending, unstoppable, perfect love." It's only in knowing and experiencing that love that you'll have any type of romance you're looking for.

Tonight, the choice for many of you is to ask, "Am I going to believe that? Am I going to receive that?" For others of you, you need to evaluate honestly. "Am I progressing? Am I afraid to just express some stuff in my life and heart?" Are we addressing, "Are we a good couple? Are we able to actually work through our issues and move forward?'' We have a God who paid for all of our issues. They don't define us, and they don't have to define our relationship, but the choice is yours. Let me pray.

Father, thank you that you have given us a way that we can have eternal life and abundant life today. God, the greatest romance in love we've ever craved is found in you, and we just declare that we need your help to believe that, to walk in that, and to accept that the love I've been looking for since the day I was born is you.

No marriage, no relationship, no children, and no anything else that I would search to satisfy that could actually satisfy it, so would you help us, God, to believe that? I pray for friends in the room who are walking through breakup and, God, for friends who need to break up. You give them peace and clarity and conviction.

For friends who need to move in that next season of marriage, God, you would bless and your hand of favor would be on relationships that are out of this room, and they would get married and raise children who know the King, the Creator of the world, the Savior of all humanity, and the lover of their souls. God, we worship you now in song. Amen.

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