Dating is not un-Christian.
Dating is not a bad word.
Jesus actually told me to date. No, wait, I’m serious. Okay, maybe it wasn’t this big, audible “DATE, MY CHILD,” like with Moses and the burning bush, but one afternoon a few years ago, as I sat at my desk doing my budget, the Holy Spirit impressed it upon me to join Christian Mingle. For real.
At the time I had about 70 dollars in my bank account, and CM was the furthest from my thoughts. I had recently let go of a relationship that had hindered me and was finally “in the clear,” a blank slate, a girl who sincerely wanted to date right this time. A girl who wanted to date a Christian man. Who was tired of dating unequally yoked and losing years of her life with men who didn’t get her, men who squirmed when she sang a worship song in front of them, who made her feel like a prude when she discussed boundaries and purity—men for whom she eventually morphed into a lesser version of herself until she finally found a burst of strength to leave or they broke her heart.
Little did I know this one small step of obedience would lead to so much growth.
Yes, Jesus led me to join Christian Mingle. He’s asked weirder things of His people.
But when I started dating and when I started to realize God had me on this path not only for myself but for others, I met with a good amount of resistance from the Christian community. No one was blatantly mean about it, but they said things like:
- I believe in courtship, not dating.
- I believe God will bring the right person into our lives when it’s the right time, and we should just focus on Him.
- Dating is a modern-day construct.
But I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was the path He had me on.
You see, while God does place the right person in some people’s lives without them having to go through date after date, for some of us, He uses dating to teach us things, to grow us, to refine us, to prepare us for that right person when it is time.
If you’re like me and have any of these qualities, the dating path might be for you:
- You fall in love quickly. And hard. (In fact, you’re embarrassed to share your diary entries from middle school and high school—heck, even college, even NOW, because every guy or girl was “the one.”)
- You value loyalty, which has translated into staying in unhealthy relationships for way too long.
- You have thought many times that this is “the one.” (See first bullet point.)
- You have found yourself morphing into the person your partner wants you to be, even if it means compromising your values and things you hold dear.
- You seem to choose unhealthy relationships time and time again.
- You feel like you just don’t know what you’re doing in love.
For those of us who fit any of these bullet points, dating with Jesus might just be the path for us.
You see, dating with Jesus step by step has taught me a great number of lessons, though, yes, I’ll admit that it hasn’t always been easy. First of all, let me clarify that in many ways I also believe in the courtship model, that dating (or courtship, as it’s called in this model) is a means to eventual marriage.
I am not just dating “to date.” I am dating with intention. I am trying to date with honor toward Jesus, myself, my date, and my future husband. I am not just out there to have fun. I am out there to learn the lessons Jesus wants me to learn, to grow more like Him, to learn lessons that will help me be the best partner and wife I can be.
And I do hope, of course I do, that each date, each relationship may turn out to be “the” guy. But I no longer go on one date or two and declare to all my friends with certainty that “this may be the one, ya’ll!!!” (Or yinz—I’m from Pittsburgh.)
While it’d take an entire book to share the things dating with Jesus has taught me (and I’m actually writing one, so I hope you’ll stick around!), I’ll share some in a minute. And I’d love for you to add to the list in the Comments. How has dating benefitted you?
But first, let me clarify what has made this dating journey different than the one I was on before. Dating with Jesus this time was a true heart change, a heart that had had enough of wasted years living a life that didn’t honor Jesus nor myself, living a life I knew wasn’t His best for me. It started with the heart. With a true desire to walk with Him on this journey, to do it right this time, to, perhaps, selfishly, have His best for me.
I want IT ALL, Jesus, not just the half-best but the FULL BEST.
I had seen girls date and marry godly, handsome men. I saw the way their faces shone. I remember doing a magazine story about one sweet lady who married a man who treasured her. I sat in the home he built for them, a home that smelled of pine and woods, as she beamed with joy sharing stories of her husband. At the time, I was in a relationship with a man who dimmed me, who cringed when I sang worship songs, who turned the radio dial when I began to sing, who shrugged me off when I tried to give him a hug in public, whose Bible sat on the shelf collecting dust. Still, I loved him. I was loyal to him. And we had sweet moments. Some shared interests. But in the deep woods of my heart, I knew I wanted more.
So when that relationship ended, I realized that after 15 years of dating men who didn’t get me because, really, they didn’t get the center of my heart, my Jesus, I laid my love life down on the altar for real, and I got serious. I got an accountability partner. I asked my dates earlier whether they were Christian. I tried to stay away from blatant temptation. And then Jesus had me join Christian Mingle.
And boy, I had NO IDEA where he was going to take me in the next few years after I made up my profile…
These past few years of intentional dating have not been easy—read: lots of awkwardness, rejection, etc. (and I apologize to any men I hurt unintentionally along the way)—but I wouldn’t trade what has come from it, things such as…
- Growing in character. Dating has brought up some things I thought were healed, giving me the opportunity to work through them, which is beneficial not only for me (and others!) now but also for my future husband.
- Learning that God truly is central in my life. His love and presence are the only constants I can depend on. If you’re dating with Jesus, with a heart truly for His best, you will see doors close and it will hurt, but you will learn, too, that He is enough.
- Figuring out what “I” want. Because loyalty is so ingrained and because I would fall so quickly, I never really took the time to figure out the qualities I would enjoy in a partner. Dating healthy has allowed me to get to know a variety of guys, which has helped me to explore what I would like in a partner.
- Preparing me for the right one. I am now in a relationship with a pretty amazing Christian man who didn’t cringe when I told him on one of our first dates that I thought the guys I dated prepared me for him. But it’s true. I’m glad I met him when I did, even if I went through some painful experiences beforehand. Which leads to two more things (gosh, there are so much more, but I’ll close with two)—
- Trusting God’s timing. Through these few years of dating, I’ve watched door after door close and date after date find his soul mate, but it’s affected me for the most part in the opposite way than you’d expect. It made me understand why it didn’t work out: He found his person. You can tell when a person has found their person; they just fit. There’s an ease there. A comfort there. A love and tenderness there.
- Realizing on a deep level that a man isn’t going to complete me. I can honestly say this is true. This journey of dating has not been easy, but it has taught me that a man is not going to be the ultimate source of my happiness. One day I’ll share more on this, but dating with Jesus will teach you such truths.
Each of these could be another blog post, and maybe some of them will someday, but for me, dating is the path God has put me on. And while I can’t predict the future of my current relationship, I do know that staying the course of this dating journey, eyes on Jesus, getting back up on the raft when I fell—because, yes, I did fall sometimes—led me to a healthy relationship in which I see him as a blessing and not the center of my happiness. But in this relationship, I am treasured. I am prayed for. I am honored. And I know that God has us both, and if we continue to look to Him, He will steer us in the ways we should go.
I would love to hear your thoughts…Has dating benefitted you in any way? Has it helped your spiritual growth?