Dating as a Christian
The end of the week always comes as a sigh of relief. For me, anyways. I'm not very good at seeing people all the time, and the weekend is a good time for me to just curl up and be an introvert. Except I end up meeting up with people because it's the weekend and just knocking out really hard at night. #introvertproblems anyone?
A recently engaged friend of mine told me that as a single Christian woman, I should talk about what dating is like, because she hasn't been single in years. Touche, thanks for rubbing it in that I will be #foreveralone compared to your #happilyeverafter. All jokes aside, I think it is something that should be touched upon. At least in the more conservative Asian Christian communities I've been in, dating seems like such a tough subject to tackle. There are so many misconceptions that creates way too much idealism (I know, coming from me that is pretty ridiculous) in how dating should be. It can render someone helpless against defending themselves in a bad situation. Myself, included.
1. It's okay to not work out
I think that being holy will give you your first love as your spouse is one of the BIGGEST misconceptions I've heard, and I am actually so passionately against this misconception that this comes first. I have heard so many people say that if you are both looking towards God, then it will work out. If you break up, it is because sin has won. I believe that this is true in NON-MARITAL relationships. If you are looking to God and willing to encourage and support one another, that's great. It's great if when you argue, you look to God for peace and wisdom in compromising and talking things out. It's great if you can love on one another and agree to disagree. However, that does not make a romantic relationship. It can help a romantic relationship, but ultimately, two people can be very accommodating and loving of each other, and not be meant to marry. If you are dating just for the support system, encouragement, and emotion of love, then your foundation in your relationship is not Christ, but seeking out what you feel is lacking in your relationship with Christ. I have heard countless friends cry over the fact that God must be punishing them with a failed relationship. Here is a newsflash: We are all sinners, and failed relationships are a consequence of that, BUT a break up is not the end of the world, and it is not necessarily a punishment, but a point to grow from. Sometimes choosing to leave a relationship is to follow God, because it is a sin to idolize a relationship. If you are constantly trying harder in your relationship with your significant other than in your relationship with God, then that relationship is no longer glorifying Him. We are all called to different things, and sometimes, that's God saying "no" or "not now" to your relationship.
Here is a scenario to illustrate the point: What if you are called to be a lifelong missionary in China, whereas your significant other is called to Uganda? I'm sure that one can point out "THROUGH GOD, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE". To that argument, I have nothing to say, other than that it must take a lot of prayer and willingness to let go of that relationship for God. My questions are: What is more important: serving God's ministry, or this romantic relationship? If God intended it to be your testimony of how God built your family with miles in between, showing that He truly is a God of all nations, then God bless! But it can be just as powerful of a testimony for God to bring you back together again after giving your relationship up to Him and faithfully serving His ministries. Maybe He has in store a greater testimony would be how He lead you both to a different spouse through your different callings! Each relationship is different, and all of our callings are different; the point is, do not make your relationship bigger than God. Regardless of whether or not you break up and how horrible you feel, it is still in His hands and therefore good.
God tests our faith and pushes our limits so that we can choose HIM. Of course He wants us to have good relationships with one another and love on each other -- loving Him and loving each other as we love ourselves are the two commandments He highlights again and again. In all, HE still comes before our love for each other, so we need to be intentional about how we seek our relationships. That means understanding that our romantic lives are not more important than God, and trusting that He is in control of whatever happens in your relationships. Part of that is not asking God to overcome obstacles impractically, but knowing that God can if it is in His will.
2. Do not judge based on your beliefs
This is a big one. It doesn't matter if you are seeking a relationship with a fellow believer, a Sunday Christian, a holiday Christian, someone of a different faith, or even someone without faith: you will have come from different backgrounds.
As human beans, we pick and choose what sins are good and bad. It's not right, but we do. Telling a white lie here and there to avoid hurting someone? We all do it. It doesn't seem that bad, compared to murder. Or how about physical boundaries? Some believe it's sinful to even ride alone in a car with the opposite sex, versus some people finding that being in a committed, sexual relationship is fine. Even within Christians, our boundaries are different.
It is important to respect boundaries and voice your opinion, but not force your expectations on someone else. Of course, this means if someone is okay with sex before marriage dating someone who is comfortable with only holding hands, then you just hold hands. BUT that doesn't give any right for someone who is just hand-holding to judge their significant other's choices in previous relationships. Part of love is acceptance, even if their beliefs differ from your own.
How to address these differences: DO NOT pull up Bible verses and call your significant other sinful if s/he is more lax in their boundaries.
If you are the one with a more lax boundaries, just explain why you feel like it is okay, and if the other person accepts, then s/he accepts. If not, respect their stricter boundaries.
If you are the one with the stricter boundaries, explain how it APPLIES to your life. If this issue is a huge biblical/spiritual issue for you, bring it up after the anger/frustrations have passed.
ie: The man does not believe in sex before marriage. The woman has engaged in sex before and views it as okay as long as they're in a committed relationship.
HOW NOT TO DO IT:
Man: What are you doing? Stop! Woman: Oh, I'm sorry. I just thought we were ready to take this next step.
Man: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4 How can you suggest such a thing! What is wrong with you?! Woman: What? Are you a man? No one waits anymore, and we're exclusive! Don't you want to marry me?
-arguing ensues and probably a break up-
TRY: Man: What are you doing? Stop! Woman: Oh, I'm sorry. I just thought we were ready to take this next step. Man: I know that this might come as a surprise to you, but I'm waiting for marriage. Woman: I'm just surprised. Is it me...? That's not usually how guys react... and we are both committed and looking to marriage. I didn't think it would be a big deal. Man: I know it seems a little out dated, but I'm a little old fashioned. People tell me I'll be awkward and unpracticed on my wedding night, but I don't want my relationships to become complicated with what sex can mean. I want to make sure I am thinking with the right head when I'm asking you to marry me.
Woman: Aww, that's sweet. I was scared for a moment that you weren't attracted to me at all. Man: No, absolutely not. I think you're very sexy and beautiful, and don't get me wrong, I want you, but I also want to respect my faith and beliefs.
Woman: Okay, but we can still cuddle and watch the rest of this movie together, right?
*Obviously not as scripted, but you get the idea.
3. Be honest
In a day and age where we can very easily ask all of our friends for their opinions on how someone looks or acts or what we should say next, it's hard to find genuine people out there. As Christians, be the one willing to be honest. Talk about what is bothering you in a calm manner, and pray for wisdom and patience so you do not speak about it in an offensive manner. Secrets do not help any relationship. Being open to discussion is what will let your relationship flourish. There's a reason why lying is a sin!
I know that this is something that's hard, and not just in Christian relationships. However, I feel that especially in relationships with Christians (not just romantic), honesty is especially hard. It means being vulnerable and exposing the other person to our struggles and how we are unholy. As a Christian, that is pretty much the same thing as stripping naked whilst feeling super self conscious about your scrawniness, rolls, stretch marks, cellulose, weirdly shaped boobs, etc.etc. However, that's what a true, God-centered relationship is. It is becoming naked to one another, and letting ourselves be vulnerable, humiliated and torn up, and simply trusting ourselves with the other person.
No fear in love.
You'll find that trying to be perfect is going to be detrimental to your relationship. It's okay to not be the textbook definition of holy. It's not okay to pretend to be. We need to acknowledge our sins and know that Jesus is our only redemption. Only through acknowledging that and accepting ourselves, we can learn to accept each other's flaws. Ultimately, "we love for He first loved us." That is the basis of a Christian relationship.