Friday, April 05, 2013

Bad at Dating? Bad at Not Dating.

I read this article from Relevant Magazine (which I have a like/hate relationship with ) "Why Are Christians So Bad at Dating?" and the author's very first tip to have a balanced perspective on dating was to "Date to Know Yourself." I disagree with that, although I agree with some of the things she wrote. She basically said that it's important for you to know yourself really well. She suggested to be observant and cultivate self-awareness. She also said that it's important to start this getting-to-know-me process long before you start dating, but then she said to extend it in your dating process.

The author grew up in the kissed-dating-goodbye years. So did I. But we ended up on two different ends of the same stick. She ended up confused and freaked out about dating, and "interacting with the opposite sex became this pressure-filled, awkward interaction."

I was like any other girl. I had crushes and likes and I wanted to get in on the dating scene. But then I kissed dating goodbye before I even went on a single date. But I credit God for taking me further than that bandwagon. Through books and especially His Word and through prayer, God gave me glimpses of His plan and what He wants from me. They made a difference.

One of the books I read said to let your brother/sister in Christ be just that, a brother/sister in Christ. To allow him/her to grow in his/her spiritual journey without pressure from you for something more.

God impressed in my heart that He's got plans for me, just like it's written in Jer. 29:11, and He spoke to me (even through prophetically gifted spiritual leaders) that He will give me my own family. And Paul's words about singleness and the ministry stood out to me.

But - quick side note - do you know how hard it can be to be single and called into the Children's Ministry? Not only is it a constant reminder of how I would love to have my own family but I don't even have a man in my life, but some people think you're not qualified for the job because you're not married and/or have no kids of your own. Yet God is my Justifier.

Anyway, the problem that went with kissing dating goodbye was exactly what the author said she did. She jumped on the bandwagon. Going along for a ride isn't enough. You have to commit to the journey.

When I "kissed dating goodbye," I never felt confused and didn't find opposite sex interactions as pressure-filled or awkward. But I quickly realized that I didn't have the same views on dating or courtship or relationships as everyone else. Even friends and family have noticed. My wonderful church family loves to play matchmaker, and the grandmas once brought me up next on their hit list. But my grandmother spoke up and told them to leave me alone because I have a mind of my own and I would never go along with their plans. Which was true.

I'm not saying this toot any horn. I'm just showing the difference. I didn't see not-dating as restricting myself. I saw it as being free to be me, no attachments or entanglements. It was like someone telling me it's okay not to date. It's okay to just have friends. It's okay not to do what my friends are doing. It's okay to be different.

I don't think you should "date to know yourself." Or if you do date to know yourself, you need to date yourself and God. That's not a clip Christian cliche saying. Or it is but that's what I did. I went to malls, parks, beaches, the boardwalk, and to sit-down restaurants by myself and a journal. I spent a lot of time thinking, observing, introspecting, and writing prayers. I got to know and confront my hopes, fears, desires, and preferences.

Admittedly, I felt awkward and self-conscious at first, but then it was empowering to be somewhere by myself, enjoying my own company and the world around me. And when I discovered something new - and I usually did because I get lost easily - I shared it with friends later on (without getting lost).

Just as the author of the article came to terms with the reality of dating, I came to terms with the reality of not dating. Just as dating is not the problem or the enemy, not dating is not the problem or the enemy. Just as dating is "an opportunity for connection and growth," so is not dating an opportunity for connection and growth. Christians have to rethink and redefine dating and not dating. Two ends of the same stick.

When I was in middle school, this girl made fun of me because I told her I wasn't allowed to date. She teased me about that mercilessly in front of other people. And surprisingly, I was not discouraged. Annoyed, yes. She could talk your ear off. Discouraged, no, because I saw how "dating" ruined friendships and even lives (abortions at 8th grade, yep, it happened in my hood).

I'm not saying you should date to give into social pressure. But the author's article brought up a different kind of dating, which is good. Rethink. Redefine. Even Christians date and compromise. So if you choose to date, then rethink and redefine dating so that your actions are pleasing in the eyes of God and edifying to those around you. The same goes if you choose not to date. Because ultimately, God looks at your heart. And I hope it is overflowing with His love so much that people are changed for the better.

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