The principles we learn from the romantic stories we see in films, on TV, or in the media, promises us everything, but often deliver lots of hurt and confusion. Finding someone and falling in love is meant to be fun and enjoyable, but we need to know what good principles look like, and call out the lies we often get told.
Looking back, I made so many mistakes when I was dating.
There can sometimes be so much pressure in church culture to be perfect in the area of romance. To not even go out on a date unless you hear ‘wedding bells’. To just ‘know’ if you are a good match, and to never break up with anyone because that implies you made the biggest mistake.
But when I dated, I liked people and went out with people that it just didn’t work out with. And it was really messy sometimes.
The way I dated was really messy sometimes
When I talk to people about dating now, they are often aware that it’s confusing and people can get hurt, they aren’t fools. What they want to know is how to do it well, and how to bring God into it, instead of just going with the flow and making lots of mistakes. And for someone to tell them it isn’t always perfect and easy.
Love Is All Consuming
I remember being single and desperately wanting to find someone. I remember praying about it, thinking constantly about it, being distracted by it.
Most of the time, when I asked my friends about it and my church leaders, they would just say clichés that were just not helpful (Read 5 Clichés Said To Singles, Have You Heard Them All? ).
So I would go along with principles culture fed me, like: do whatever you think will make you happy. It will be so easy and natural. Just follow your feelings. You can use people, as long as it makes you happy. Just sit back and God will sort it all out when he brings ‘The One’.
I now know better, and I’ve been researching, writing, and teaching in the whole area of dating and faith for all most 10 years now (that makes me feel old). I wish someone had just told me some good principles back then. Something I could have put into practice, to reduce the confusion and be more God honouring.
So here is a snippet of what I wish someone had said to me, which may be able to help you:
(The following extract is taken from page 204-206 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free here)
Do It Differently
First, remember it may be hard to put into practice the changes you’re inspired to make. (Read Why I Chose To Think Differently About My Relationship.)
This doesn’t absolve us from making plans and setting goals though. Good ideas that aren’t implemented help no-one.
Relationships are hard work; there’s no getting away from that. And you don’t need to be in a relationship to get to work on areas of your character or expectations of a relationship.
Perfect Doesn’t Exist
Secondly, we give you permission to fail! No-one is perfect. We all need to be kind to ourselves and each other as we work on our inclination to be selfish.
We give you permission to fail! No-one is perfect
In fact, accepting that about ourselves and the people we will date is a key point. There is no way we will change overnight, and there’s no way we will ever be perfect. Our goal is to grow in maturity in our love for God and others.
Someone who can truly say after every date or interaction with someone that they are not what they should be, but they are better than they were, is surely moving in the right direction.
God Can Help
Thirdly, ask God’s Spirit for guidance. He is given to us to lead us into all truth, and this includes our relationships. He has the power to transform us:
‘And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:1).
Where our culture seeks to build relationships on the power of romantic feelings alone, we will build on the rock of faithfulness and commitment.
Where our culture encourages selfishness, we will practise selflessness.
Where our culture says ‘the one’ will come to you, we will exercise our God-given intellect and take responsibility for our hopes and choices, and be open to his guidance
Where our culture says feelings can justify anything, we will draw on God’s Word before rushing in.
Where our culture says, put yourself first, and if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen, we will choose to date stronger, deeper, clearer and wider. We will protect our hearts, intent on dating as a way of finding someone we can commit to for life.
Where our culture says that dating their way is great, we say they haven’t seen anything yet!
Good foundations that lead to fulfilled singleness or fulfilled marriages
So go for it. Invite that guy out. Drop that girl a text saying you’d like to get to know her better. (Read What should we do on a first date? Part 1) Ask the God of all love to pour into your hearts and minds the courage and wisdom you need to build your pre-marriage relationships on good foundations that lead to fulfilled singleness or fulfilled marriages.
Imagine if we questioned some of the principles our culture fed us, and remembered that dating and falling in love is meant to be a blessing, but God has a way that can help us avoid confusion and hurt as much as possible.
What would you say to your younger self about dating? Comments welcomed below.