Continuing my new Thursday series on dating advice for Christians, since we’re told so remarkably little on the subject.
Last week, I talked about how the first priority is Getting Strong with God. If he’s not in everything, including your dating attempts, nothing you do will last. But my own experience taught me that getting strong with God logically leads to today’s topic:
GET STRONG WITH YOURSELF
You HAVE to learn how to be single before you can learn how to be in a relationship.
Who are you? When you take away your job, your hobbies, your friends, your family, and all your possessions, what is left? What is at your core that makes you who you are?
If you don’t know, how can you expect somebody else to know?
This was my problem when my girlfriend broke up with me in college five days before my birthday (ouch…): my world flat-out ended. It wasn’t just a matter of being sad and trying to readjust after two years of dating, I seriously had nothing without her. I didn’t know what I liked to do, how I should fill my time, or how to even act by myself.
This is no way to live. Fortunately, I knew to turn to God. I reestablished my relationship with him, and the first thing he did was show me how codependent I had been, and he began building me into my own individual man.
Two half people don’t make a whole person. They just make a broken relationship. Yes, we build up and help each other, yes, marriage has a certain degree of co-dependence, but that’s because you are two WHOLE people. You draw strength from each-other because you’re whole enough to give that strength.
God created us with the capacity for marriage, but please note that operative word: capacity. It’s an honorable goal, but not a necessity. God said it’s not good for man to be alone in Genesis, but God created Eve as a helper, not a lifegiver. Likewise, Eve may have come from Adam’s rib, but God fashioned her into her own person, then brought her before Adam.
Now, if it’s in your heart to marry someday, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. A desire to marry and love does not make you codependent. Hyper-feminism tries to tell women that desire for a man is weakness and chauvanism tells men that only wimps and losers settle down. THESE ARE LIES. A desire for companionship reflects part of our intregal design for each other, and that’s okay. Just don’t let it consume you.
So here are some tips for while you wait:
1. Only God can Truly Define You. This reflects back to getting strong with God first. Psalm 139 is a beautiful poem about how God knew us before there was anything to know. He created us and knows us intimately. He gave us strengths, weaknesses, quirks, desires, and passions. Open your heart to God and let him search you. God will draw out your greatest longings and your greatest strengths and in essence pull out the greatest you that you could ever be.
God doesn’t make you into somebody different than who you are; He shows you your original design.
2. Grow as a Person. Once more, this is intregal to a strong relationship with God. God is a sanctifying God who makes us more like him day by day if we allow Him. God will cultivate character growth.
For me, it was courage. I was a timid little wimp who didn’t want to stand up for himself, but God showed me how lonely that made me. He bolstered my courage and got me out of my dorm, out into the world, being vulnerable enough to make friends and eventually ask out girls. There was such a sharp difference in a few months that my wife has never once called me shy, in fact she thinks I’m exaggerating when I tell her I used to be.
Stop and ask yourself: where could I afford to grow?
3. Become Independent if you Haven’t. How do you plan on being a couple if you can’t even manage being yourself? If you’re serious about finding the one, get out of your parents’ house, get a job, get stable, know who you are, then look for love.
Yes, that’s the long way around, but it builds a powerful foundation that will make your relationship rock solid.
Yes, there are exceptions to these rules. No, you’re probably not one of them.
4. Enjoy Singledom! Paul said in Philippians 4: 11-12 that he learned to be content in any situation. We should do the same. If you want to marry, seek it out, but until you do, learn to enjoy being single. Whatever state God has you in right now, whether single, dating, engaged, or married, find the joy in it.
As for being single, you can up and leave whenever you want. All decisions are made by you and God alone. Your obligations are to you and God alone. Hassles come with relationships, and while they’re worth it, enjoy the simplicity of being single.
Enjoy marriage when it comes, but don’t think you can’t have fun right now.
What if I’m already in a relationship?
If you’re dating, you still have freedom. It may be wise to break off the relationship so that you can build yourself up. It’s possible to do this while still dating, but it’s severely hindered.
If you’re engaged, you’ll need even more wisdom. If you don’t know who you are, marriage is going to be rocky. It’s doable, but very, very hard. Pray hard, ask advice from those who know you best, and speak to your fiancee. You may want to delay the marriage to get a better foundation.
If you’re married, Do. Not. Leave. You promised to be loyal no matter what, so don’t take the easy way out (and trust me, easy is a relative term). Get close to God and grow in yourself. Explain the situation to your spouse so they can give you the room you need. Don’t neglect them in searching for yourself, but don’t ignore your own journey, either.
To put it in a simple, easy-to-remember phrase, You have to be a strong “me” before you can be a strong “we.”