The worst part about our modern dating culture is that everyone is fake. Whether intentionally or not, the expectation is to give the best possible first impression. With the introduction of internet dating, it’s even worse. Our society wants to fast forward through the initial process.
We want to quickly assess chemistry and compatibility with a simple swipe to the left or right. Then you meet a practical (if not literal) stranger for coffee or dinner. It’s a sales pitch from beginning to end. Both parties are convincing the other of what a great catch they are. And we’ve all heard or experienced a dose of false advertising: the profile photo isn’t entirely accurate; they said they love the outdoors, but really they’re a couch potato, etc.
After all that rushing and fast-forwarding through the “getting to know you” phase, we’re somehow shocked when we find out the person is not as amazing as they initially advertised. We’re left disappointed and disillusioned. Just another good ol’ “bait and switch.” Trust me, I’ve been there. For a long time, I was a total cynic when it comes to dating.
But, alas, I have discovered the solution to our modern day dating dilemma. I would even venture to say that the vast majority of relationship problems could be solved with this one incredible remedy. Have you guessed it?
It is this: slow down and get to know a prospective partner. It sounds remedial, I know. But in our fast-paced, instant gratification, western culture, we are so busy rushing, achieving, and otherwise careening through life like it’s a race that the concept of slowing down seems almost counterproductive. But if you want to eventually have a marriage that withstands the test of time, you have to lay a strong foundation. And the building of that foundation starts long before even the first date.
As I’ve previously pointed out in other posts, it is so important to take the time to heal your own wounds, develop your own character, and draw close to God. But there are two people in this potential (if not hypothetical) relationship. How do you know you’ve found someone who is equally mature, heading in the same direction, and deeply spiritual? You have to get to know them, of course. And not just in a superficial way that modern dating forces us into.
“But how do you do that?!” I can hear some saying. Rest assured, I’ve asked the very same question. And recently God has provided an opportunity for me to walk it out.
I have a friend. We’ve known each other for over 3 years. He’s been safely tucked in the dreaded “friend zone” for the majority of that time. To be honest, I never considered him as a viable suitor. Until just a few weeks ago. Our friendship has grown a bit over the last month or so. We were slowly starting to spend more time together and swapping stories as friends do in group situations mostly. Then one glorious Sunday afternoon, I had a barbecue at my house with a few friends over. And almost out of nowhere, I noticed that he was looking at me differently. You know, the little inside jokes and nudges, mildly flirtatious comments, and playfulness that can mean only one thing: he is attracted to me.
I must admit, after that day, I was a bit smitten. I never looked at him in that way before. He was always just a friend. But as I took a step back, I realized I already knew his character. He loves God with all of his heart and worships in the most whole-hearted, authentic way. He is gentle and kind. He is respectful of women and would never put me in a compromising situation. He is a student of God’s Word and strives to be a the man God is calling him to be every day. He humbly seeks out mentors and wise counsel within the church.
I know that if we at some point feel God calling us to move forward into a dating relationship, that he will protect me and care for me as a friend and brother in Christ ABOVE any romantic desires. I know he has his relationship with God securely placed in the number one spot on his priority list, as it should be. On the flip side of the coin, I know what his flaws and weaknesses are. I know his testimony and what things have tripped him up in the past. My eyes are wide open as to who he is and what his goals and aspirations are.
However, if we don’t become anything more than friends or decide at any point not to pursue a relationship with each other, we’ll still be friends. Because we both put God first and behave in a way that honors Him, there should never be a reason to avoid eye contact if we go our separate ways.
How can I possibly know all of this? Because we were and are friends first!
Over the course of a friendship, you learn who a person truly is without the sales pitch or ulterior motives. Only time will show you what fruit a person is bearing in their life. As friends, there may be times you can contribute to each other’s spiritual growth as iron sharpens iron. I don’t know about you, but that is something I deeply desire in a spouse.
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” -Luke 6:45
Be smart about who you choose to get involved with and take the time to really get to know who they are. Don’t just follow what “feels good” as the world does. Wait for God’s best by using discernment rather than letting your emotions drag you around. Choose wisely. It can save a whole lot of disappointment and unmet expectations down the road.