One thing I highly recommend as you journey through dating is to keep a dating journal.
Throughout my first few years of intentional dating with Christ at the center and now in a long-term relationship, I have journaled. Nothing fancy, just a Word file on my computer I open up whenever I am feeling lonely or confused about a guy (then), about my guy (now), or what to do in a situation. Whenever things feel messy and tangled, I go to my journal to try to sort through my feelings. Truth is, my journal is more a conversation between me and God, a safe place for me to unburden my heart of all my doubts, fears, insecurities, questions, hopes, and dreams. Through journaling, I’ve also learned things about myself and what I want in a relationship and the ways that dating with Christ at the center has grown me.
For most of my dating before this time, I had not been intentional, ignoring red flags and simply letting myself fall and enjoy the ride, knowing it would end in heartbreak, even if the guy was a nice guy (but I knew he wasn’t God’s best for me). So having a tangible place to communicate with God and to see the journey plain on paper has been a useful tool to stay on the path toward God’s best for this part of my life.
The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
—Psalm 37:23–24 (NIV)
Following are some ideas for your dating journal:
- Just start. Save a file in Word, or buy a simple journal to write in, and just write—whenever your feelings are messy or you need to talk to God about something. The only thing I recommend is that you date the entries.
- Write to God. It’s a journal, but let it be a conversation. Know that you are not alone in this journey. God knows the desires of your heart, and He will speak to you through the pages of your journal.
- Write whenever you need to. Write during those lonely nights you wish you weren’t single. Write when you hear that yet another friend has gotten engaged and you feel you’ll never find someone—that you’ll be a crazy cat lady with a gazillion cats or a creepy bachelor for life and you don’t have George Clooney’s looks to make it somewhat appealing. Write when you have an epiphany about yourself or are excited about something. Just write.
- Write a page on what you envision for your future relationship. What do you hope for? What do you want in a healthy, Christ-centered relationship? What does it look like to you? Feel free to revise this page as you go along the journey and learn things.
- Write a prayer for your future spouse. An exercise that helped me greatly on a night I was so discouraged, a night a dating prospect told me he was moving to another country, a night that followed months of dating confusion—guys who ghosted me, guys coming back and then telling me they were moving across the world—was to write a prayer for my future husband. Writing this prayer gave me comfort and hope in the midst of discouragement. And the next morning, I allowed myself a drive to one of my favorite places by the water, where I treated myself to a chocolate croissant and iced coconut coffee and a morning walk and time to listen to God.
Here’s a short excerpt from a night I was lonely and aching for a partner:
“Here I am, God. You know the desires of my heart. You know the longing I feel when I see families. The tears I’ve cried in my car after seeing said families. The tears I’ve shed on this journey toward dating with honor, in a Godly way. You’ve been there with me every step of the way, and I know you have someone out there for me. I pray for him, Lord. I pray tonight that you enfold him with your love, that you continue to grow him in you and into the man you have made him to be. Help him to remain pure, and give him the courage to seek me and pursue me, Lord, whether he’s in my life currently or is in the wings. Is it time, Lord? Prepare my heart, soul, emotions, mind, and body for him, Lord. Protect me from any distractions.”
- Take a dating inventory. List all those you’ve gone on dates with or have dated in the past. What did you like about them? What didn’t you like? Yes, some of us have huge lists of wants in a partner that can be a little too much that we’re excluding an amazing person because they don’t fit our too-high expectations, but most of us, I’d venture to say, have never really taken the time to reflect on the qualities we’d like in a life partner. And this is why we’ve ended up in many dead-end relationships. As we date intentionally, with Christ in the center, we will learn things about what we like and don’t like, not only about a partner but also in us—ways in which we ourselves can grow. One thing I learned once I had put as number one on my list must have a living-and-breathing-and-growing relationship with Jesus was that I had no idea what I really wanted beyond that. Here’s a journal entry from the time of that epiphany:
“Can I pause and say it is hard for me to go past that one, and that is another reason why I think God had me go on this dating journey? While, yes, someone who has put God at the center of his life is admirable, it doesn’t automatically mean he is a good fit for us and our lives. I have spent a lot of time, too, thinking certain Christian men were the one pretty early on in having met them. I mean, did I really know this guy? Did I really know our lives would mesh? I mean, what were our desires for marriage and children? For purity and sex? What did he feel called to do? I mean, the sad fact is, my struggle to answer this question of standards concerns me, if I can be real with myself. Part of why I feel God wanted me to go on this dating journey is to discover what “I” want, to slow down and reflect and learn the things that “I” want in a relationship, that are healthy for “me.” Yes, Christ should be at the center, but marriage is your partner for life, and do your values, goals, interests, life’s situations mesh well together?”
- Write what you’re learning and how you’re growing. This is one of my favorites. During a time my heart felt like a salami machine and I had kind of lost my way through the path of dating, when I felt confused by online “dating” and the guys who had made it past the screen but weren’t sticking and why I was allowing them in and out of my life, I took a moment to list the ways I had grown since I had started the journey. Here’s a list from my journal during that time:
- I think more long-term. I don’t get into things I know aren’t going to be healthy or last.
- I find out early whether they’re Christian and get out if not.
- I reach out to my accountability and close friends when I’m tempted instead of doing it alone.
- I reach out to God for forgiveness when I stumble and I get back on track more quickly.
- I don’t hold on too tightly to anyone who comes into my life, knowing that a guy is not going to completely fill me.
- I go to God more quickly with my love life.
- Write through your fears and doubts and big emotions. Here’s a good one for when you’re starting to care for someone and it actually seems they might care for you back, and you start to get scared because now there’s actually a chance here and you get nervous and your insecurities from your past relationships start seeping out—or at least this is how I was! It seems now that I’m in a Christ-centered relationship, the fears have gotten greater as God uses this relationship to show me areas I need deeper healing in—like self-worth, parental abandonment, generations of divorce in my family, etc. During these times of fear or doubt or wanting to sabotage or push down emotions, write to God. Ask Him for comfort and truth: His words over your fears. He’s a safe place. Perfect love. He will never abandon nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6–8).
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
—Psalm 32:8 (NIV)
- Make lists! Write a list of scriptures that speak to you. Write a list of questions to ask on dates. Write fun (public!) places to go on dates. Lists are always fun.
- Last but not least, write whatever the heck you want. This is your safe place with God, a type of personal, tangible altar you can go to and process with Jesus all your emotions, prayers, hopes, and dreams for your love life as you try to honor Him with it. With the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can come to Him anytime and as we are. We can come to our journals trusting that He will speak to us and help us untangle our messy thoughts and emotions and see things more clearly.
I pray something in this post has been of encouragement to you. I highly recommend you open a file in Word and just keep it open for when you need to talk to Jesus, or buy a paper journal if you prefer to write things by hand. The spiritual warfare behind this post was great, so I have a feeling Jesus wants to use this to bless someone. Please share this post with someone you feel would benefit. And I pray you have a beautiful rest of the week and that despite the circumstances around you, you will know you have a safe place and in Him, you can have the peace and love that transcend circumstances.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
—Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV)