Save The Best For Last

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.

Ready To Love Again

“How has the enemy used fear against you in your life?”

The small group leader’s question took a minute to sink in. As person after person in the group shared their fears and how they’d been affected by them, I contemplated my own fears.

In high school and into my early 20’s, fear of rejection and what others thought of me steered me further and further away from God’s plan for my life. I wanted to be accepted. To the point that I compromised my values and self-worth in pursuit of “love.”

But that was a long time ago. I don’t live there anymore.

As many women do, I have waffled between a fear of not being enough and the fear that I am too much. I’m not enough because every day I fall short of the glory of God. I’m imperfect. On other days, I’m too much. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too silly or too serious.

But thanks to a strong group of sisters around me, I have learned that I am not alone. More importantly, I am a daughter of the Most High King. The Creator made me “just right,” as Goldilocks would say.

As a mom, I have often feared that I am failing. Surely I’m a terrible parent. I lose my cool. I say the wrong things. I react. I’ve read a hundred (seriously more like 94, but who’s counting?) parenting books and talked to every mom I know. And while they all disagree on many topics, the one thing I hear loud and clear is that if I love my children and consistently try to be a better parent, I’m on the right track.

As I processed through these fears I have battled over the years, one of the members spoke up, “I’d like to share about a fear that I am currently facing…” He proceeded to be courageously vulnerable as he shared his fear. Then it hit me: My current and recurring fear. That ugly thing that has stayed just below the surface of consciousness yet always manages to control my decisions.

I am afraid of repeating my mistakes. More specifically, for the last 6 years, I have been afraid of ending up in an abusive relationship again.

I’ve subconsciously kept myself closed off to any long term relationship for fear of being hurt. It hasn’t even been a conscious thought. It’s just a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. If I base my judgement off my past experience alone, I am left feeling nauseous at the prospect of another ride on the roller coaster of abuse. Because all I have known in relationships is abuse and unhealthy behavior. The fairy tale image we’re told as children (though equally damaging) has been completely erased. All hope of a “happily ever after” ending has dissolved.

The revelation of this fear came to me the other day as I shared my story with a girlfriend. I told her that I had recently read an article that said something along the line of, “If you’re not attracting good men [healthy relationships] into your life, it’s because subconsciously, you are not open to love.” The article went on to explain the different reasons we slam the door on love.

Fear is a big one. For all the fears previously stated, I have been sending a “don’t you dare even look at me” signal to the world without even realizing it. Fear of being vulnerable and getting hurt. Fear of rejection. Fear that any prospective partner will see me failing at parenting and bolt. Fear of abuse. Fear of failure. Every relationship has failed thus far. Why would it be any different the next time?

In our small group, we discussed what fear really is. Sometimes our fears aren’t even real, but rather, scenarios we’ve created in our minds. Lies that the enemy has fed us and we’ve adopted as reality.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

The leader then read 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. He posed the question: “What is the opposite of love?” Many of us responded, “Fear!” Wrong. He said, “No. The opposite of love is selfishness.”

Let that sink in. Perfect love is selfless in every way. It’s trusting, kind, not boastful, not envious, and so on. Conversely, fear is rooted in self-preservation. When we go through life thinking we “gotta look out for number one,” we become guarded, fearful, angry. Truly selfless love cannot operate under those conditions.

God’s love is perfect. Every good and perfect thing comes from Him. So if I’m allowing fear to control me, I’m not only blocking an opportunity for a good relationship, I’m blocking God’s selfless love from doing its perfect work in me. Moreover, my fear is only indicative of my lack of faith that God will come through.

If I truly believe that my loving Heavenly Father is working all things together for my good, then I have nothing to fear. He is cultivating me to be a wife just as he is preparing my future husband for me. I have to trust that. I have to trust HIM. God does not want to withhold any good from me (or you) and that includes a godly spouse and healthy marriage.

So tonight, I boldly cast my cares [worry, fear, doubt] upon the Lord for He cares for me and wants only the best for His children. And I declare, “I am open to love in your timing, God.”

I challenge you to do the same. Whatever you’re afraid of, let it go. Give it to God and trust that He has your best interest in mind.

You Can’t Hurry Love

I’m sitting here in my bed, cuddled up in my favorite blanket, with a box of tissues, and a vomitting 5 year old next to me. Jealous yet? The only thing worse than being sick is taking care of a sick child WHILE you’re sick. As a single parent, this isn’t my first rodeo. When illness strikes, single parents make due. We do what we must.

As I try to coax my teenager to “man up” and cook dinner for a house full of sickies, I realize first how fortunate I am to have a young man who wants to learn how to cook. My second realization hit me like a ton of bricks… For the first time in a very long time, I have a desire to be taken care of. So often, our image of an ideal mate is more rooted in fantasy than reality. But the older and wiser I become, the more I long for the practical.

Today, I dream of a man who can cook soup and let me Netflix binge for the afternoon without too much complaint. Willingness to run to the store for tissues and TheraFlu wouldn’t hurt either. Haha!

I must pause here to say that I’m not a big baby when I’m sick. Normally, especially as a single mom, I would push those feelings down and say, “Suck it up, Buttercup!” Our society publicizes this idea that I should be a single, independent woman. I’m expected to prove that I don’t need a man for anything. No room for vulnerability. Weakness is not allowed.

But today I let the feelings of longing come to the surface and explored them with curiosity. Desiring to be cared for, to be vulnerable to another, and to possibly even be provided for are not bad things. In fact, they’re natural, human feelings. Perhaps even, uniquely feminine feelings.

God designed us to be in relationship with Him and with each other. To fall into the trap that we can do everything ourselves is just that: a trap. That way of thinking is actually self-defeating and keeps us isolated. It holds us back from the more of God that can be expressed within a healthy relationship.

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” -Genesis 2:18
There’s a hole in our heart that only God can fill. He also called us to be a friend to the lonely. God even created us to be godly romantic partners. In the very beginning, as we see above, God created a helper for Adam called Eve. She was called to help alongside her mate. Not to run ahead and do everything herself. And not to fall behind all wimpy-like.
As I seek a deeper relationship with Jesus, I am also learning to pray that He develops me to become the helper that my future husband needs. I pray that God grows me into a supportive and diligent wife while I wait for His best.