I don’t understand dating. I don’t think I ever have.
Something just doesn’t compute in my brain. As free-spirited as I am, I’m also one who really loves to follow formulas and rules. [you know…because that’s the easiest way to achieve perceived self-perfection]
And it would seem that the only rule when it comes to Christian dating is this:
Make up your own rules and listen to the Holy Spirit.
Great, that’s helpful [she says while ordering 50 relationship books off Amazon].
So, be vulnerable. But not too vulnerable. Have similar vision, but don’t worry about being the same (it’s expected that you’ll disagree.) It’s okay to argue but not too much. Grow together with God. But not too soon! Don’t move so fast. Make sure your community approves of him or her…but wait–don’t base all of your choices on what your friends think. Unless, you know…they really really don’t think it’s right. Let the guy lead. But what exactly does that mean? Be best friends. But what if your current best friend is a female and has known you since you were two and has witnessed every single big event in your life? How can that compare? should it even compare? Different relationships bring you different things. Listen to your heart. But also listen to your head. You shouldn’t be able to live without them. But actually, that feels a little co-dependent and unhealthy….
Some get engaged after three months. Some, three years. Some hear clearly from God and others make a choice to choose God and make Him a part of their decision to be together. Is your head spinning? Yeah, mine too. Someone just give me a formula!
The fact is, I sort of hate it. Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t perfect it. And more than that, more than anything else in my life right now–it shows me how very imperfect I am.
Two years ago today, I went on a date with a kind and intelligent guy. I had just returned from India and I was positive I would be going back. I was also positive that I had no interest in a long distance relationship. We talked about education reform and international relief and somewhere in the mix, my hair got stuck in my Thai food and I accidentally ate it. He didn’t say anything at the time because he is kind. But I was red with embarrassment. He ended our date by asking me a big, theological question and playing some jazz musician I’d never heard of. I was swooning a little bit but that translated into, “Um, I have to go I guess, BYE.” Because obviously I don’t know what to do when my HEART IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE.
And so began the trend of me leaving the dude confused and bewildered. Bless him.
Not long into our dating relationship, he looked at me and said, “You’re not perfect you know. And I’m not going to act like you are. You’re going to make mistakes and there’s grace for that.”
Woah. Wait. What? Excuse me… but aren’t you supposed to bring me flowers and tell me how beautiful I am and not ever mention when I very obviously am being self-righteous and critical and stubborn and argumentative and judgmental and lacking an intense amount of faith?
“I’m not, huh?” I chuckled in a sort of “clearly you haven’t looked at my resume and my accolades” way. He grinned. “Nope. you’re not.”
And he’s right [obviously]. I’m far, far from it. And most of the time, I’m really good at hiding that. Most people don’t see my impatience. You don’t see my quick temper. How quickly I can judge. How often I want things done MY way. [Because, you know…there’s a right way to make eggs and drive a car]. How big of a control freak I am.
You might see me raising my hands at church or teaching the kids a lesson, but you don’t hear my doubts on the phone that night. My confusion at the things that are going on in my life. How I blatantly choose to watch Netflix instead of pray.
And that’s why dating Geoff makes me better. It shows me the areas of my heart that need to be given to God. It shows me the ways my character needs to be refined– how so much of me has to be laid down over and over and over again. Some days it feels like a constant, “Will you forgive me?” “I’m sorry.” Some days it feels like no matter what I learned the day before, I just can’t get it right.
And then the Holy Spirit is like, “Okay, we need to chat again.” Sigh. Again?
Turns out, the thing I hate most about intimate and transparent relationship is the very thing that makes me a better person. And 730 days later, I’m most certainly a better person than I was the day I walked into that empty Thai restaurant. My imperfection points me to HIS perfection.
So, as for all the dating advice, I’ve learned to be careful who I listen to. And I’m certainly not going to offer any. I don’t think there is a formula. Every story is different–just like every walk with God is different. But I do think that your relationship with Sally or Sue or Bob or Jim should make you a better person. It should both refine you and uplift you. Challenge you and encourage you.
And if you feel like you can’t get it right some days and it feels like it’s really hard, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe God is trying to show you that He is the only one who can.
[also. Because I value transparency. That picture of us is real cute right? Ten minutes before we were disagreeing about standing in line for a fair ride. So if you’re worried you’re the only one who argues over dumb stuff. You’re not]