Here’s the promised follow-up to the previous “guard your heart” post with all the fun practicals! (However, I’m super-bummer because I’ve been working on this post for a while and on the same day I publish it, another super-trendy magazine does the same thing. Womp Womp!)
Amidst all of this, I am on the “go on dates” bandwagon. I do believe that too many Christians think that guarding your heart equates to never getting around the opposite sex.To believe this is to think that we are all unredeemed animals in heat unable to maturely control our sex drives or pace in relationships. I believe that Christians can go on dates and even end up in relationships while continuing to live out Proverbs 4:23 and appropriately protect their heart.
1. MAKE SURE YOUR SHORT-TERM DECISIONS LINE UP WITH LONG-TERM GOALS
I’ve seen this scenario happen way too often, even in my own past. A Christian girl has the goal of dating a humble, responsible, loving man who owns his own walk with God and lives by conviction. Yet her dating decisions always land on that guy— the cocky, irresponsible, selfish, ambiguous-texting boy whose convictions are inconsistent at best and says he doesn’t have time to grow in his faith because he’s really busy playing his Xbox. She wants a man, yet she’s dating a boy. She gets frustrated and the reason is simple: her current choices don’t match her long-term goals. I’m not saying you should expect a guy to be as perfect as Jesus. I’m saying that you need to actually date the type of person you want to marry. If you want to marry a man of solid faith, date that way.
2. ACT LIKE YOU’RE DATING, NOT LIKE YOU’RE MARRIED
Married people have “become one” in all of life according to the Bible— they become one in their bank accounts, in their schedules, in their meals, in their beds, in their everything. According to God, the married people are supposed to operate as unit or a team in life, and God gives a portion of grace to bring those two lives together. That’s the purpose of the marriage ceremony: to publicly and legally unite it all categories by way of covenant. Dating people are still two independent people. When you try to “become one” when you’re dating, it becomes exhausting. I like to call these relationships “mini-marriages,” because people feel like they have to make every move together. You don’t have to. You don’t need to be sharing bank accounts and life decisions and all that jazz. God has not given you that portion of grace yet, so trying to operate like you’re married will feel burdensome and confusing. And breaking up will feel like divorce because you intertwined your lives so closely before it was time to do so.
Instead, enjoy dating. Enjoy going out and getting to know another person. Enjoy the giddiness. Soak up the excitement. Enjoy being able to go to your separate corners to process. And even savor the confusing moments too. Let them lead you to figuring out who you are and what you want and what your personal convictions are. Those lessons from God are priceless. Enjoy gushing with your friends about a date.
You know what I miss about dating? Getting ready for a date with Cole without him witnessing the “getting ready” process. Him just showing up at my door and seeing the girl he likes all dolled up. That was so much fun. Savor that stuff. Dating is so much fun and that fun is not to be eclipsed by trying to take on marital responsibilities too early (although those are pretty fun too ;)). For some people, dating is a short season relative to the entire 80ish years we get on this planet. Relish it! Don’t try to dress it up into something it’s not. Don’t wish away that fun, crazy, confusing, conviction-making season, or you’ll start the pattern of wishing away the next season and the next.
3. GO ON DATES IN A LOT OF DIFFERENT WAYS.
Some people are all on the group-date train. Others think one-on-one is the best way. I think we have to do both in order to see a person fully. The person you’re dating may open up better one-on-one, so to getting to know certain parts of them will only come out that way. But seeing someone in a group is also very telling of their character. Group settings show you who a person is in a whole different light than one-on-one interactions. So guard yourself form seeing a person in only one light, or letting them see you in only one light. Let your dating experience include lots of diverse interactions.
4. STAY IN COMMUNITY.
The best part of dating Cole was coming home and being able to gush it up with my buddies and mentors afterwards. They helped me think through how the date went. They also helped me maintain my convictions. They asked me hard questions and challenged me, but they also pushed me to open up a little more! These same friends helped me through a breakup before Cole—and they were there to tell me some hard truths during that season too. God really used them to confirm or confront certain aspects of my dating habits, and I’m forever thankful that I chose to share all the details with them through the process. Trying to navigate a relationship in secret or all by yourself is miserable. You need peers, mentors, and the general community of faith around you. We believe and apply that principle for general healthy Christian living, so I’d make sure it’s a part of your relationship.
5. ACTUALLY TALK TO GOD ABOUT IT AND SEEK HIS WORD.
We go on lots of varied dates. We talk about it with community. We enjoy dating instead of demanding to be married. But sometimes we just forget to meet with God and listen to what He’s saying. I agree with the anti-clichers here: It seems all the rules we’ve set up regarding dating help us avoid engaging with God. As a Christian, what is the point of all of the dating craziness if you missed God during the whole experience? Isn’t all of our life about knowing more of Him? Don’t get through a dating experience without really engaging over who He is, what He’s teaching you, and how you can know Him better. Go to His Word frequently and receive deeply from Him so you don’t end up pressuring a guy (or girl) to sustain your soul during the dating process.
6. END IT IF YOU NEED TO.
A lot of unnecessary time elapses in the dating world when it doesn’t have to. If you’ve been on a few dates and you don’t really see it going anywhere for you, just tell the person. If he or she is truly rooted in their gospel-identity, they will not be shattered beyond repair. There may be short-lived disappointment, but a truly mature Christian will handle a let-down with respect and grace.
On the flip side, maybe this person isn’t mature and is taking you down a road you don’t want to be on. End it with that type of person too. You are not a savior. God loves us all, and He has a plan for that person just like He has one for you. Maybe the person will act like you are shattering them, but you must trust that if God is prompting you to end it, He knows what He’s doing. Ultimately, regardless of the person’s response, your loyalty must be to God and His word, His promptings, and the community He’s placed around you.
And those are my top 6. Please feel free to let me know any other little nuggets of wisdom you’ve found in dating!