Dating is Messy

Photo credit: https://uprint.id/blog/en/sad-couple-2/

I wish there was a clear cut manual on how we should date. You meet someone and you wish it could be as straightforward, walking you from point A to B. But it never is. We are plagued with thousands of questions even before it starts:

Who should I date? Where do I meet the best men? Is it too soon to text/call her? What should I reply? Why hasn’t he called me yet? What does her reply mean? Does he like me? Where is this relationship going? Is he the one for me? Should I introduce her to my parents? How should I turn him down? Should we break up?

It doesn’t help that the bible is silent on dating. It has no mention of it. Dating is a modern concept. Men used to meet women and decide to marry her. Now, with the rise of technologies, graduate degrees and supermarket choices, what used to be a simple process of meeting someone, saying ‘I Do’ and sticking with it, we have moved to hashtag ‘It’s complicated’.

If you’re the lucky few who met their beau in high school, then good for you. But for most of us, there’s no promise that we’ll leave the dating scene unscathed. I myself wanted to avoid the tortuous murky waters of dating. So I guarded my heart and waited on courtship. But waiting and waiting, and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. So I turned that page and jumped into the water.

What no one tells you about dating

1. You will be confused.

There’s a ton of advice you’ll hear on dating. Some are practical (eg. Meet at a public place and go there separately for safety reasons.) Others are strategic (eg. Only accept dates three days in advance. Don’t reply so soon or you might seem too eager.) While others reflect our faith (eg. Don’t date unbelievers.)

I poured over books and articles on dating, relationships and marriage, hoping to escape the nasty burns of confusion. But it doesn’t get any easier or clearer. I’ve violated each one of the advice I’ve mentioned above. Each situation is different. There are principles that we can glean from the bible, ones that espouse the values of respect and loving our neighbors. But the specifics are what gets us (ie. who, what, when, how). And because it involves another human being who is likely as confused as we are, we get a hodge podge of emotions leaving us undone.

2. You will get hurt.

And thus we’re told by biblical wisdom, Guard your heart. Don’t immediately give your heart to someone you hardly know or who won’t hold up in water. You have to test his character and see if he is the real deal. Can she be trusted enough to let your guard down?

Sounds simple enough? How I wish. But when you feel that tug of infatuation, all those emotions threaten to leave us up in the cloud. As much as we wish to be guarded, there are portions of ourselves that we need to intentionally (or unintentionally) expose to the other person, for them to see us for who we are and decide whether they can accept us or not. C. S. Lewis puts it poignantly:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

We will reach a point in our dating relationship when we have to be vulnerable. That is the risk.

3. You will feel discouraged.

Perhaps months or years have gone by with no new date or prospect. Or maybe you’ve gone on many dates and still no sight of the right one for you. Or maybe you’re in a relationship, but you’re not sure if both of you are going in the same direction. It can get discouraging. Or you may feel tired of it all, losing faith in the process.

Give yourself time to grieve, yes. But also find people who will walk with you in this time. You may find yourself withdrawing from community, but don’t stay too long in the shadows. There is hope.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.. (Romans 4:18)

Hope in the One who gave you the promise. Nothing is lost in the realm of God’s will. It’s in the uncertainty that our faith expands. You learn to trust in the confusion, witness healing in the pain, and step out with renewed hope. So go forth; date bravely.

 

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Why We Honor Our Parents in Dating

Photo credits: Huffington Post

Is it too soon to involve our parents while dating?

While popular culture tells us it’s no longer the norm to ask our parents’ permission, let alone inform them that we’re dating, or who we’re dating, there is wisdom in this age-old practice.

I haven’t always been an advocate of laying my heart out for my parents to see, especially not in my rebellious teen years, but ironically now in adulthood, I’ve seen the benefit of seeking after the thoughts and insights of my dad. The way we date may be different now, but the values, principles and truths of dating and relationships remain the same.

Let me give 3 real-life stories of how parents have played a role in their child’s dating life.

Case #1. I met a guy who piqued my interest and invited him to our family lunch to see how he would fare. Later on, I asked my dad about him, and from his strong disdained reaction, I knew it was a no.

Case #2. A guy I was seeing for a little over a week asked for his parent’s approval before anything became serious between us. They disapproved because I was older than him.

Case #3. This story comes from a guy I dated. He was in a relationship with a girl for a year and a half, but all along, the girl’s parents did not know about it. When the parents found out, they told the girl to break it off as they did not like the guy for her. To save the relationship, the guy proposed marriage to the girl and asked her to choose. The girl made her choice and said no.

Time and feelings could be saved when we take into account our parent’s opinion early on, especially if we see the purpose of our dating as a means to discern the possibility of marriage. But why is it important to get their approval? Does it matter anyway when it’s my life?

 

Honoring Parents in Chinese Culture

Chinese culture is heavily laden in Confucian philosophy. One of its cornerstones is the virtue of Filial Piety, or respect for one’s parents. It is deeply ingrained in who we are that we listen to and obey our parents. Not as a form of blind loyalty, but as a guiding principle in life and devotion to society (I am Chinese-Filipino, by the way).

The Chinese espouse close-knit family values. Adult children do not leave their family home unless they get married. This is contrary to Western ideals of independence, with most teenagers leaving the nest once they enter into college. And so it follows that Chinese singles living at home would still consider the advice and instructions of their parents. It would be disrespectful not to do so. Twice I’ve heard from Chinese guys that they do so because their parents provided them their education. They see it as their duty to honor them.

 

Honoring Parents as a Biblical Commandment

God’s commands cover all areas of life, including the choice for a spouse. And one of the most important decisions we’ll make is who we marry. It will determine whether we will laugh at the days to come or squirm at the sight of that person. With such a significant decision to make, it would be wise to seek every available counsel, especially when infatuation sets in overly clouding our judgment. Our parents, who’ve seen us walk in diapers, fail our first subjects, and walk through several job interviews, can help us see what we don’t see in this area of dating. Why not get them involved in the process? Here’s what the bible tells us:

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3

1. Honoring our parents holds a promise.

We gain hold of a good consequence when we honor our parents. One of which is that it will go well with us and we will enjoy long life. Marriage itself is hard enough. When you throw in having to referee between your spouse and your parents, it can get even more exhausting. Being family-oriented, I see myself spending significant time with both of our families. In the trying times, we will need the support and love of others, even of our parents. It would indeed be easier if the one you marry is approved by your parents.

2. Honoring our parents is obedience to God.

Parents are God-given authorities. They are appointed by God to guide us and help us make good decisions. Their life experiences can offer us insights on paths we’ve yet to walk through. They’ve heard stories, successes and failures that can guide us in making good choices. While not all parents are Christians, God can still use them and speak through them. He is sovereign and everything on earth is under His divine authority. Their ‘no’ could be God’s ‘no’. Some discernment may be required though on our part when sifting through advice that is not in line with God’s word. If that is the case, we can seek God to change our parent’s heart. But until then, we patiently wait on God.

It may be counter-cultural to seek our parent’s involvement in dating. But with the rate of unsuccessful marriages and ill-matched couples, perhaps going against the grain of modern culture is exactly what we need. So go ahead, ask your parents if you haven’t done so already. You may be surprised at what they have to say.

Familiar Love: The Love We Expect

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Each of us grew up with an idea of what love is. Primary of which is what we’ve received from our parents. How did they show us love (or lack of it)? Were they there for us most of the time? Were they nurturing? Did they shout at us? Any sort of abuse? Did they show themselves to be trustworthy?

As we grow older, that concept of love continues to evolve. We see it in the relationship of our parents. Are they still together or not? Have they grown closer or almost like strangers now? How is the dynamics at home or over dinner? While friends and media may teach us a thing or two about love, what we experience at home leaves us a deeper impression of how we expect to be loved.

Let me give a simple illustration.

I went out on a date with two guys. Guy 1 asked me what I wanted and went ahead to order for both of us, plus extras for the table. Guy 2 did not ask me my order; I had to ask him and he left me to order for both of us, individual plates with no sides.

Now this is not about the money spent (both paid for dinner, bless their hearts). This is about what I became accustomed to growing up. I am used to the man taking charge. That’s how I feel taken care of. And yeah, I come from a big family so extras on the side does matter.

You may have your own practices at home, things that you’re used to. And that’s okay. It’s a matter of what you’re willing to accept. This may be a small area – dining out. But it streams into bigger known areas of one’s background growing up.

Guy 1 comes from a close-knit family (much similar to mine), while Guy 2 comes from a broken family. It’s a simple dinner, but provides a peephole view into what the future may look like. Do I like what I’m seeing? Can I see myself living his life together with him?

In the end, we look for what is familiar. Because that is how we learned love. That is what we recognize. But not necessarily what is right or good for us.

 

God’s love: A different perspective

Love is something we need to learn. We weren’t born with an instinct to love; on the contrary, our parents had to teach us not to hurt others, not to steal our playmate’s toys, not to lie. They need to teach us how to behave, how to share, how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’. We learn how to relate to others. And to love.

But we don’t have perfect parents. And they may fail us. How do we learn the right kind of love then?

God gives us the perfect example of what love is: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us that we may be in a right standing relationship with God, that we may know the Father’s love.

We may not physically die for others, but we can die to our own selfishness and pride. God put first our need for a Savior, choosing to sacrifice His own Son. Do we know a love like that – love that is sacrificial and unconditional?

We need to be familiar with that kind of love. A love that we ourselves are able to put out and pour out into others. It’s a re-learning and re-familiarization of love. So that when the right one comes, we’ll be ready.

 

How to Encourage Single Men in Church

Photo credits: www.intentionalworkplace.com
Photo credits: http://www.intentionalworkplace.com

As dinner wound to a close, I thanked the young man sitting across me for the evening – for fetching me, choosing a restaurant and paying for dinner. By any other definition, that would have constituted a “date”. But neither of us wanted to get ahead of the other.

These days, it takes courage as big as slaying a lion for Christian men to ask Christian women out on a “date”, namely for what it would imply (Are they dating? Courting? Has he prayed about it? Has he sought counsel from his pastor? Has he asked permission from her parents?) A simple coffee date can be blown out of proportion by well-meaning brothers and sisters in church. If he hasn’t analyzed this enough, then perhaps he isn’t ready to date.

The repercussion of which, we are seeing less and less single men taking that step in intentionally getting to know a girl. He waddles in between group activities because that is the only “safe space” to get to know someone. Meanwhile, Christian women are left wondering, “Where have all the single eligible men gone? Why aren’t they asking us out?”

 

The Problem of Single Men

It’s a crappy time to be a man. Expectations are off-the-roof – they are to lead, serve, provide, protect and pursue. These God-given responsibilities have not changed in an ever-changing world – absentee fathers, extended “adultoscence”, proliferation of pornography and other sexual outlets.

No one knows how to be a man anymore. Fathers are not present to teach, to guide, to exemplify manhood. If they are, they have received weak examples from their fathers before them – short temper, lack of communication, not treating women right. Hence, this is what they pass on to the younger generation.

Lacking that guidance growing up, young men are left to wander on their own and meander. And what better path to take than that one which allows them to play. Video games, endless hobbies, new toys and technologies. Boys will be boys. With that missing link of a strong father and strong vision of what’s on the other side, growth spurts into adulthood are delayed. What’s the rush? I’m happy where I am and I’ve got game night with the boys later.

But the biggest challenge for young men nowadays is that which attacks their purity. It’s everywhere! Pornography is anything which intends to cause sexual excitement. It has seeped into the fabric of what we consider “normal” and has invaded our daily routines. Videos shared on social media, magazine covers of scantily-clad women displayed on eye-level of kids in the supermarket, movies with sex scenes played on long-distance bus rides. It would take a gouging-out-of-eyes and cutting-off-of-hands to take stock of one’s thoughts and not spiral into that darker realm of sin. What once can only be viewed and enjoyed within the context of marriage is now mass-produced and sensationalized for easy public access. Why buy the cow when you can drink the milk for free, right?

 

Single Men, You Are Not Alone

While it takes a village to raise a child, it may equally be true for a village to raise up young men. With the overwhelming odds stacking up against them, it takes real community effort to surround them with godly values and solid examples of God’s design for each one of us.

1.Ladies, Act like Ladies

Then [older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2: 4-5)

While this verse speaks to young married women, we can glean out the traits set out for all young women alike – to be loving, kind, self-controlled, pure, busy and subject to God-given authority.

We show love and kindness to our brothers in Christ when we engage them in real friendship. No need to shy away in fear our actions may be misconstrued. But let us not overstep our boundaries either. Let us guard one another’s heart by being pure with our words and actions, and not mislead them or cause them to stumble. Ladies, this includes dressing modestly. We want men to lead so let’s give them the space to lead. Let’s restrain ourselves from wanting to do things our way because we think it’s better or they’re too slow. Compliment them and thank them when they step up, even in the little things. Gentlemen will rise up when they see the gap and recognize the need in an accepting and nurturing environment.

2. Older Men Teach the Younger Men

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned. (Titus 2:6-8a)

Young men need to see the example of older men. The wisdom of men is seasoned through years of experience, failures and triumphs. Ideally, this is passed on at home from father to son. But spiritual fathers can be sought out to counsel and mentor. While it is tempting for us women to be the ones to teach and lead, it may not be our place. They need to see other men do it. They need other men to speak truth into their life and hold them accountable.

This is what community is all about. We do what we can to help one another. We are not the ones to do things for them, rather we set the stage that would allow them to perform their God-given roles. Let us continue praying for our single young men to rise up and be the men God wants them to be.

Godly/feminine

OK. I was going for something reminiscent of Crazy/Beautiful, but godly and feminine are not exactly opposite each other. Women ARE created to be feminine, that is by God’s design.

Whoa. That was a bit hard for me to swallow. I’m not exactly sure I’d call myself feminine. Having said that I am praying on marriage, it raises the question of how I am preparing myself for this ministry. Am I growing in godly femininity?

I went out on this blind date with a guy my sister’s fiance introduced me to. It was a double date as my sister and her fiance were also there. It was a bit awkward but I believe less awkward than just having the two of us and the chance of having nothing to talk about at all.

He was nice, really nice. The kind of nice carried with boyish innocence that was actually quite endearing. He made effort to start conversations which was a plus. But here’s the clincher. As we were walking towards the car, he asked for my number. As he was jotting down my digits on his phone, I teasingly asked him, “Do you even know my name?” He paused dead blank. I then yelled out to my sister’s fiance, “But he doesn’t even know my name!”

Needless to say, he didn’t have a need for my number after all. My friend said that I may have embarrassed him, even calling out an audience to witness his booboo. To my defense, I thought it was weird for him to sit through dinner with me and not know my name. He could have discreetly pulled his friend aside and asked for my name. But he didn’t.

Then again, I remember this article I read on how to honor your husband. One of the things NOT to do, as cited in the article, was to point out the guy’s mistake in public. Sure he’s not my husband, but it’s a way to honor a brother in Christ (not sure if he’s a believer though) or someone as well. I could have just graciously, and with a “gentle and quiet spirit”, told him my name.

In real humanly prideful fashion, I again wanted to justify my actions. I was just joking! Am I not allowed to joke now?! Am I supposed to just throw away my witty sense of humor in favor of femininity? But that would be like stripping away who I am! Who would I be then?!

“You are a child of God,” the voice said. My sense of humor is not a product of who I am in Him. It is a defense mechanism (think: Chandler Bing). Can you imagine Kate Middleton, Princess Diana or Grace Kelly – women who epitomize femininity – yelling out to embarrass someone publicly?

That settled it right there. I think humor can still live alongside femininity, as long as it is respectful, light-hearted and sensitive. Meaning there are no casualties.

I’ve always thought of that day when I’d have to submit to my husband and practice that “gentle and quiet spirit”. I was blinded from the fact that I had my chance right there. Now I know. Perhaps a few more lessons (or more more lessons – life is a never ending journey of learning) and I’m well on my way to truly being “a woman after God’s own heart”.