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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When God Closes A Door

Image courtesy of Pixteller.com

He proposed.

Not to me. But to her. The man I’ve been praying for for years is now someone else’s.

Can you relate? Is that a familiar song in your life? Perhaps you’ve been praying for someone you’d thought would make a good life partner. You thought the door was wide open, or even slightly ajar, only for it to be slammed shut. Or perhaps it’s a job or opportunity that you’ve been lifting up to God these past few months, or years.

We cannot twist God’s arm or bend Him to our will. But here are three lessons I’m learning from it.

1. It is God’s purpose.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I don’t see what God is doing behind the scenes. He brought this man into my life for a purpose. I can kick and wrestle, reasoning that God wouldn’t bring Him in if not to be my future spouse. But there are a thousand and one reasons for God to do so. I can only see within a finite and limited frame, but God sees all things. He can see ten, fifteen, twenty years from now and know what’s best for me.

When I met this man, I wasn’t a follower yet. I wanted to take my walk with Jesus seriously because I was following his example. I thought, this is the kind of woman he would be looking for. Indeed, but it’s not me. Nevertheless, God gripped me with an unsatiable thirst for Him, with or without this man. God used him to bring me closer to Him. And that is ten thousand better a reason than any temporal earthly relationship.

2. It is God’s protection.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? (Luke 11:11)

God hears my prayers. Or my rather lengthy list for a future spouse. This man, though on the outside is seemingly the perfect fit for me, may not be the best that God has in mind. God is the ultimate matchmaker. He’s not just thinking of what will give me joy now, but in the years to come as well. So much Kingdom time is lost on poorly made matches, says Gary Thomas in Sacred Search. In this case, God was sparing me.

The same is true for that dream job or perfect house or other closed doors. God knows us and our circumstances better than we know it. That glamorous job may be too stressful for you or it’s not really a good match of your skills and interests. Perhaps that rainbow-bright, white picket house may have a hidden leak or faulty foundation that years down the road would be a massive headache for you. We may not see how God is protecting us. But we can trust that He is.

3. It is God’s hope.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? (Romans 8:24)

We are counting down the last few good single Christian men. Or are we? On one hand, I could, fist-in-air cry out, Lord, another one out the window! On the other, I could take it in stride and see that there are still men like him around. They are out there. I just need to be patient and wait.

There is hope. If not this one, then surely God is brewing something or someone out of the corner of heaven. He is raising up someone. He will speak that job into existence. Let’s not believe the lie that God is incapable of doing something right this very moment. Because He is. God wants that person to be a part of our life more than we do. Or for us to walk into His plan more than we seek for it. God is still in the business of answering our prayers.

But behind all this, there is one door that will never close for us. And that is Jesus. Through Him we have already gained everything. Let us continue to look to Him as our only source of purpose, protection and lasting hope.