Why do I as a man have to do the initiating?

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Why do I as a man have to do the initiating?

Nov 28, 2012 |Scott Croft
Question

How do I know if a girl wants me to ask her out? Thinking through this, I started wondering why men need to be the initiators in this particular aspect of a relationship. I can understand why men need to propose, since we need to be ready to take on the responsibility as head of the family, but I don't think it necessarily applies to courtship and dating.

Didn't Ruth pursue Boaz? After Ruth initiated, Boaz took responsibility for her by making sure she was looked after and the best kinsman redeemer was found (which ended up being himself).

Even though I don't think it's unbiblical for girls to have the freedom to initiate, I do want to take initiative and show responsibility. I have asked several girls who I thought were interested, and every time I've been harshly rejected. Most guys I know can't tell [when a girl is interested] either, but girls have said (without elaborating) "it's so obvious."

Answer

You raise several good questions here. Let me say first that I totally understand and sympathize with brothers who are thinking about asking a woman out for a date or initiating a relationship and fear rejection. I have even more sympathy for brothers who have initiated with a woman (or women) and have been rejected. I have been in both positions, and they sting. No one likes the feelings of rejection or embarrassment, especially for reasons that are less than biblical. As I wrote in this space just a couple of weeks ago, I would encourage women who are asked out by a Christian guy to (with a few caveats) encourage that godly initiation and be open to God’s providence by saying "yes" to a first date more often than not, even if she doesn’t know the guy well or initially believes she is not interested in a relationship with him.

Having said all that, I don’t think you should need to know in advance that a woman is interested before you ask her out. I think it is part of our job as men to risk rejection and be the initiators of dates and dating relationships, and if you wait until she has gone out on a limb and made her interest known, you’re asking her to take the risk instead of taking it on yourself.

You are quite right that God has created marriage such that the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). In that role God expects us to initiate and lead and sacrifice and disciple and protect and provide and do any number of other things in service to our wives that are a lot harder and have higher stakes than asking a woman out for a date. And our wives, despite our sinful, imperfect attempts at leadership, will be called to trust God, let us lead and respond to our leadership. Why begin a relationship with the roles God ultimately calls us to as husbands and wives reversed?

For those reasons and others, I think it is wise to conduct dating relationships – even with respect to who initiates the relationship – with marriage in view. I taught a Sunday school class for several years called "Friendship, Courtship and Marriage," and in that class we deliberately taught the marriage part first. We did that hoping that if people had the end and purpose in view as to what makes a godly husband, wife and marriage, it would inform how they went about dating and exploring the possibility of marriage to a particular person.

Does that mean that it’s necessarily a sin for a Christian woman to ask a guy out? Of course not. Ultimately, it’s a matter of Christian freedom, as you say. Is it usually unwise? Probably. Does it set a tone in the relationship that is the reverse of biblical roles in marriage? Yes. In marriage, wives are very often tempted to take more initiative than is biblically sound when husbands drag their feet, and husbands are very often tempted to abdicate their leadership responsibilities and let their wives do the leading. In my view, the much wiser course in a dating context – both for purposes of evaluating a potential spouse in biblical terms and to lay the groundwork for a biblically sound marriage – is for the guy to model godly initiative and leadership with the woman’s good in mind, and for the woman to respond to that leadership.

As for your question about Ruth and Boaz, it comes up a lot. As a matter of scriptural interpretation, the short answer is that Ruth’s approach of Boaz on the threshing floor (Ruth 3:1-13) is not an example of romantic initiation by a woman toward a man, and the book of Ruth doesn’t really have anything to teach us about who should do what in a potential dating relationship. Exegetically, the point of the book of Ruth is God’s sovereignty and goodness and loving care of His people even when that care is not immediately visible to those people. It is an Old Testament historical narrative that ultimately points us to God’s provision for His people in Christ. The author is not meaning to teach us how to conduct any particular person-to-person relationship.

As you pointed out, in the context of the book, Boaz is Ruth’s kinsmen redeemer. Without going into all the details about what that term means, what Ruth is asking is for Boaz to bring her under the authority of his house, to redeem her from poverty, and to provide for and protect her because of a pre-existing family relationship. Although marriage is part of the deal, there is no proper analogy, culturally or exegetically, between the role Ruth plays on the threshing floor and a 21st-century woman initiating a date or romantic relationship with a guy. In fact, a much closer modern analogy would be a woman who asks her father (or another male Christian relative, or a pastor or couple in her church) to provide oversight and protection for her by vetting potential suitors, providing counsel during a dating relationship, and helping see her through to marriage. Whatever you might think of that practice (you won’t be shocked to hear that I think it sounds like a great idea!), what Ruth is not doing on the threshing floor is asking Boaz out for coffee because she digs him and he won’t get off his duff and make a move.

Hope all this is helpful. I will pray that the Lord will give you wisdom and courage in this, and that He will, in His time, provide a woman who will respond well to your initiation and leadership.

Blessings,
SCOTT CROFT

Copyright 2012 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.

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