Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

If I could sum up my previous dating experiences in a single phrase, the above line from an old country western song would be it. Needless to say, I’ve dated the wrong way- the world’s way. I’ve tried online dating, blind dates, and “shopping” for dates at the local bar scene. But the problem with my dating blunders wasn’t so much the places as it was the looking.

Last week, I talked about where to place our focus (on Jesus) whether single or attached. Well, the problem with dating in the way I’d experienced before was that it first caused me to take my focus off of God and start looking to and fro for a person. Mistake #1.

As the title implies, looking for love in all the wrong places leads no where. It only brings more heartache. As they say in the real estate business, “location, location, location!” Mistake #2.

Many years ago, my dad said, “If you look for a husband in a bar, you might find an alcoholic.” Boy was he right! I met my son’s dad at a bar, through a co-worker who I worked with at (you guessed it) a bar. He was an alcoholic through and through. He always wanted to go to the bar on weekends, drank 6-12 beers 7 nights a week, and when I was ready to settle down, he was still out carousing and partying. He was the life of the party. And the charisma and charm that drew me to him at the bar became harsh words and heavy drinking in our home. My dad had tried to warn me with a common sense quip. My dad was right. I should’ve listened. Mistake #3.

Several weeks ago a single friend of mine asked if I “put myself out there” and where does a good christian girl meet a good christian guy. Short answer: not the bar! I’m not saying EVERY person who goes to a bar is an alcoholic. Nor am I saying every person who goes to church is a saint. However, the odds of meeting someone who is authentically seeking God are far higher in one than the other.

Now I can hear someone saying, “Stop everything! You want me to look for a date at CHURCH?!” Yes. And no. You’re probably imagining singing songs during a worship service while looking up and down the rows of people, hoping to see an eligible bachelor that makes eye contact with you. And right there during the chorus of “How Great Thou Art,” you give the call-me-maybe hand sign.

No. Don’t. Just stop.

Let’s back up for just a moment. My parents have been married for nearly 40 years. They have one of the most beautiful relationships I’ve witnessed. They adore each other to this day and are true life partners. They’ve been through a lot and they have never bailed on each other or hurt one another intentionally. Guess where they met? That’s right. Church. Now, they weren’t hunting for partners. They were in a Bible study together; strictly friends for a year before they ever talked about taking their relationship to the next level. Then they dated for a year before my dad FINALLY proposed to my mom.

The beauty of their story is that they were friends FIRST. He knew her background. She knew his character. They had the same circle of friends, so there were no surprises. He knew she wasn’t going to turn psycho out of nowhere and she knew he wasn’t going to turn out to be an abusive jerk. There were no facades to try to impress one another. It happened naturally and S-L-O-W-L-Y.

Don’t start trolling your church foyer. That’s creepy. You should be attending church to learn more about and draw closer to God. First and foremost, keep your priorities straight. Do get involved with things that are important to you. Serve at your church. Volunteer with ministries and organizations where you feel you can contribute. Enrich your life with things that matter and when God’s perfect timing strikes, the right person will notice you.

It’s not so much about searching for the right person as it is about focusing on God while becoming the right person. Then and only then can He open your eyes to see what’s right in front of you.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”   ~Matthew 6:33

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

The Apostle Paul, who was unmarried, said this in Colossians 7:32-35, “I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.”

I had a hard time with that scripture for many years because, quite honestly, I’ve always desired to be married and have a healthy, whole relationship with a partner for life. It wasn’t until the FIFTH consecutive year of being single and seeking God’s kingdom first that the lightbulb came on. I’m a slow learner, I know.

First, Paul very clearly says that this is a suggestion, not a commandment or restriction. He’s just saying, “Hey, this is my recommendation.” That always made it easy for me to brush off this segment of scripture. I could say, “Well, that’s his opinion because he was single. So of course, he’d suggest everyone do it his way.” But what he’s really saying is that Christ should be our central and foremost focus.

Second, my deep revelation about this scripture had less to do with the married versus unmarried aspect, but more to do with the heart condition. I realized it has more to do with where our focus is. God’s greatest concern is always for our heart and if it is turned toward Him.

If we truly call ourselves Christ followers, we must follow Jesus first, above all else. Dating, marriage, and relationships can be a distraction from our primary focus. Though that’s not always the case. And romantic relationships aren’t the only culprit. Many things can distract us from our relationship with God. Television, friendships, activities, and even our own kids can be a distraction from God.

I’m not saying you need to cancel your cable, disconnect your phone, and move to Tibet. What I am saying is that it’s important to look at all of the distractions in our lives and take note of what/who is pulling our eyes away from Jesus. What or who is leading you away from God rather than drawing you closer? And then the tough one: What do I need to give up partially or completely in order to draw nearer to Christ?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”    ~Hebrews 12:1

To Every Season Turn, Turn, Turn

Life is made up of seasons. After winter is spring. After spring comes summer. After summer is fall. And so it goes. We learn this in kindergarten. Yet it takes us until much later in adulthood to realize how profoundly true it is in every area of our lives. There are times of abundance and times of lack. Friendships that ebb and flow. The tide rises and then it falls. As the late, great Jim Rohn said on the topic, “…When you get your own planet, you can set it up any way you like, but as long as you’re on this one, it’s just the way it is.”

You can either enjoy each season as it is, while it lasts or you can spend your life miserable, fighting against the rising and setting of the sun. You know those people that are always wishing things were different? If it’s summer, they wish it was winter. When it’s snowing, they wish it was 70 degrees. If it’s night, they wish it was daytime. If they’re married, they wish they were single. If they landed a new job, they want the next big promotion. And if they had a car, they wish it was a plane. They’re miserable no matter what because nothing is as they want it to be. We all know someone like that. They could be living in Tahiti, sipping Mai Tai’s and undoubtedly praying for snow.

Many of us fall into this trap. We want to get to the next stage. We want to hurry up the process and move to greener pastures. But in doing so we miss out on the beauty around us right now. I’m a planner. So I totally get it. I’ve fallen into this snare more than once myself. Hoping for things to change, wishing for circumstances to be different, pressing toward a goal. But I missed out on the season I was in. Change comes. It’s inevitable. Circumstances will always shift. And while ambition is great, it can also lead to discontentment.

Singledom is also a season. You can choose to embrace it and enjoy the season of getting to know yourself, your Creator, and who He made you to be. You can maximize your time of learning who you are, Who God is, and what He has planned for you. Or you can get caught up in discontentment, missing the beautiful perspective and priorities that being single allows you.

Think about it. As a single, unattached person, you can come and go as you please. You can cook whatever you want for dinner. Or not cook at all. You have the freedom to serve and volunteer as much as you want. You can go to lunch with your friends without a second thought. Whether you have children or not, as a single person, you have certain freedoms that are easy to take for granted. You can sit up in your bed until 2am, reading your Bible and writing on your computer with the lights on… Hypothetically.

Enjoy those freedoms. Embrace this season of singledom. If for no other reason, so that when the time comes to be in a relationship, you can move fully into that next season without regrets.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1

One Is The Loneliest Number

When I found myself single again and broken by an abusive relationship nearly 6 years ago, I swore I would do things differently. I would do things “God’s way.” That sounded great in theory, but how? And what does that even look like? I had learned well what NOT to do. My battered heart and body were obvious signs of that. How would I know what a good, godly man and relationship might be like? How could I even conceive of being vulnerable again? What’s healthy and what’s not? My mind was a jumble of questions. But I was determined in one thing: to choose something better.

It’s been a long journey, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. After having a series of conversations with single women recently, asking many of the above questions, I realized how much I have grown. And while I don’t have all the answers, I do have some wisdom on the topics of singledom, dating with dignity, and honoring God in the process.

I’m reminded of the Three Dog Night song as referenced in the title, “One Is the Loneliest Number.” I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s lonely being single. That part can suck. But I also remind myself of the rest of the lyrics in the chorus, “…two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one.” Have you ever been in a relationship like that? I’ve sat on the same couch and felt miles away from my partner. There’s nothing worse than being in a relationship that still leaves you feeling empty and lonely.

So often I have conversations with single friends who are jealous of those who are coupled up and I remind them that loneliness, just like singledom is a choice. I’d rather be single and occasionally deal with pains of loneliness than hop into the first relationship opportunity just to change my Facebook status, yet still feel lonely.

More importantly, as a Christ follower, it is imperative to make the distinction between loneliness and being alone. I am never truly alone as a Christ follower. He is my Source, Comforter, and Lover of my Soul. Looking to a relationship to fill the “loneliness void” points to a greater issue. Another person can’t make me feel whole or complete. Only God can fix us. There are times when I feel lonely. But I’m never alone.

The longer I have been single, though, the more I have learned to focus my attention on God. I seek Him to fulfill my needs, not another person. God has placed some amazing friends in my life who hold me accountable and point me to Jesus. But ultimately, my relationship with Jesus is my own. When I have moments of loneliness, rather than scoping the dating websites or calling a friend, I turn to God in prayer. I search my heart to honestly assess where those feelings are coming from. Then I ask Holy Spirit to comfort me and remove any feelings of insecurity, loneliness, or envy of couples.

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. ~Psalm 94:19 [NLT]