I will be telling you none of these things said in the video above. If I do, I give y’all full permission to message me and call me out on it.
After a little comedic relief, I’m ready to get serious and talk about something God has been speaking to me about in this season of my life: dating and relationships. As a single 20-year-old with mostly married friends, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about dating and marriage. My friends have been able to give me advice, lead by example, as well as be honest about their mistakes. It’s also interesting to be single while your friends go through relationships, you’re less likely to make excuses for your friends and be overly sympathetic when sins and red flags arise in their relationship. You’re not jaded when it comes to relationships, and still have that fresh hope for an ideal, godly relationship.
The danger in that is this: if you have never been in a relationship and have never had wise people to prepare and teach you about dating and marriage, you tend to create a fantasy in your head that will only leave you disappointed when you enter a real relationship. Over this past year I have had the privilege to read Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll, as well as attend their marriage conference in Virginia. Just as I thought I had been overloaded with wise counsel about marriage, my pastor started an 8 week series called, “Designer Marriage” a couple of weeks later. Being single, and never having been in a relationship, I couldn’t relate completely, but I gained priceless knowledge that helps me prepare for a future marriage. In this post I want to share not dating advice, but what the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about what to do before I even start dating. Here are some tips I’ve been jotting down and meditating on:
1. Run your own race, not the race you think your future spouse is running.
Some of the greatest advice I’ve ever heard came from a word spoken during a church service. Our worship pastor said, “Run towards God as fast as you can, and after you’ve been running a while, look to your side and see who is running next to you. That is the one God has for you.” At the time I took that as “it happens when you’re not looking,” but now I understand it has a much bigger meaning than that. Sometimes we see someone we’re interested in, but we get discouraged that they might have a different calling than we do, or are on a different spiritual maturity level than we are. Then we can be tempted to start looking into the area which they are called, and ask something like, “God, are you sure you don’t want me to do missions? Your Word does say, ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’” Or worse, if we see that they might not be as mature in the faith as we are, we may be tempted to “dumb” ourselves down, or hide our passion and maturity for fear of intimidating them. There are a few problems with this scenario, but the main one is this: just as God created Eve to be a helper to Adam, he has created you and your future spouse to be complimentary to each other, both people being essential in fulfilling the calling God has in your lives. When you fail to run your own race before marriage, and walk the path God has set before you, not only are you missing out on preparation that God has ordained for your life, but you’re robbing the other person of what God has given them as help and completion for their calling.
2. Don’t settle for someone who is lukewarm, and don’t settle for someone who is okay with you being lukewarm.
This I direct at the ladies. It broke my heart and filled me with indignation when I saw a boy on Tumblr tell a godly young woman that her passion for God intimidated guys, and that she would be more likely to find a husband if she cooled it down a little. He said, “guys want a girl they can lead. They don’t like to be challenged by a girl.” This is not a feminist I-won’t-submit-to-a-man kind of young lady. She is simply a girl that knows that Christ is the supreme treasure in our lives, and lives accordingly. I don’t know about y’all, but my prayer for a relationship has always been that God would give me someone that draws me closer to Christ, and that I would be the kind of woman who does the same for him. (This is also why my first point is so important; if you don’t take care of your own spiritual life, then how are you going to be able to encourage someone else to grow in theirs?) There are seasons in our lives when we are very strong in God, bearing much spiritual fruit, and then there are those desert seasons when we struggle in our faith. I want the kind of man that is so passionate in seeking Christ and living for Him that in those seasons where I struggle, he can encourage me, teach me, hold me accountable, or provide a wise and revelational perspective. This takes a man committed to Christ and who runs his own race as well. Without this, he can easily let me wallow in self pity, sin, and other junk, because he isn’t strong enough to pull me up (see Ecc 4:9-10). Matt Chandler says that there are a lot of Christian boys out there, but not a lot of godly men. A Christian boy will be okay with you living a mediocre, on the fence life, less than wholeheartedly pursuing Christ. A godly man will 1. lead by example and 2. hold you accountable to live in nothing less than ultimate devotion to Christ.
3. Know your physical weaknesses, and determine your boundaries beforehand.
I have seen friends of mine laying on hammocks with their boyfriend or girlfriend, I’ve had some tell me about making out, and almost all of them have described to me the wonders of cuddling. My first instinct was to judge them and say that they were setting themselves up for sin. Then I realized while everyone has the same wiring sexually, meaning no matter who you are some things will turn you on, each one of us has a different area and level of weakness. For example, I have been raised in a culture where everyone is extremely affectionate. I often crave physical affection, like cuddling. Knowing that, I know that laying down on the couch with my boyfriend would make me want more physical affection, creating a downward spiral into sexual sin. For some girls having long one-on-one conversations while you’re alone may cause you to want to be more intimate. One way to know your weakness is to ask the Holy Spirit, as well as paying attention to what about a person may tempt you to lust after them. Here is what is absolutely crucial: do not wait until you are in a relationship to figure out what the “line” is. Your weakness may not be your boyfriend or girlfriend’s weakness. What tempts you may not be an area of struggle for them, so you might be dragged into temptation, and even if you don’t sin sexually, you may still sin by lusting. It’s important to know what boundaries you absolutely must set in order to remain pure, and be honest about them at the very beginning.
4. Have a true understanding of the gospel in order to have a gospel-centered relationship.
While we search for “the one,” expecting them to fulfill our wish list and be everything we’re not, we forget that no matter who we marry, they are a sinner. You are a sinner. So am I. This really messes up our fantasy relationship/marriage. Mark Driscoll puts it this way sinner + sinner
= 0 conflict. Contrary to what the world teaches, it is not two halves making a whole, one making up for where the other lacks. There two whole people, with all their qualities, as well as faults, becoming one, living under one roof and working towards one goal. That’s two times the problems. We spend our single lives perfecting our selfishness. We do what we want, when we want, and we spend it going after what we want. Even dating is referred to time time of figuring out what we want in a spouse. There is very little emphasis on what others might need us to be. We think we have it all together, and are just waiting on someone who has it all together to come be perfect with us. We forget the gospel. We forget that we are sinners who have received grace and forgiveness from a perfect God, and are still being made perfect by his Holy Spirit. Having a true understanding of the gospel before you enter into a relationship will help you in your relationship by
With a distorted view of the gospel, we can foolishly search for a perfect spouse, making them pseudo saviors, which will later cause us to demonize them when they sin and offend us. Or we can settle for someone we realize is imperfect, while neglecting our own status as a sinner; this causes a relationship where blame shifting and criticism is constant.
For those of you who actually made it through this entire post, thank you and congratulations! I did not expect it to be this long, but all of this has been extremely beneficial in my life as a single young adult. The problem in the church is that there is little to no teachings for single people in preparation for a relationship. We are told, “just wait on the Lord. Make a list of what you want and tuck it away. When you are finally content being single, God will bring that person who will exceed your expectations.” Matt Chandler rightly says that this causes us to lie to ourselves constantly to try to deny the God-given desire for a spouse. This also teaches us to close our eyes and sit on our hands, waiting for a wife or husband to come along, with no preparation or readiness for a relationship. If you want a spouse, that’s a good, godly desire! Just don’t let that desire cause you to settle or prematurely jump into a relationship with the first guy or girl who gives you attention. Use this time of singleness to grow in the Lord, know who you are in Christ, and see what a godly person of the opposite sex looks like.