Every time my wife and I go to a wedding, we always chuckle a little watching all of the young single people frolic to and fro. Actually, chuckle isn’t the word. We laugh and shout, “Suckas!” and think smugly: “Man, it’s great to be done with that season of our lives.”
Don’t get me wrong: Young love is exciting. There’s an unmatched adrenaline that comes by being on the market. And yet, it’s also a time of caustic idealism and gut-wrenching uncertainty. It can be hard to navigate through the wiles of the dating process.
But the good news is this: God has a plan for dating. He loves being a part of all the details of our lives. And his goal is that you’d stay full of His joy and peace throughout the process. The question is: Will you stay in sync with him by maintaining good boundaries and a high amount of faith.
Unfortunately, my wife and I have watched hundreds of people crash on the rocks. People nod at basic Bible mandates yet take their own path all the time; but, just the fact you’re reading this is a sign that you don’t want to be one of those people. And God is going to honor that.
But the question remains: How do we date and stay full of God’s life? What are a few of the classic dating pitfalls, and how can we avoid them? In part one, two, and three of this blog, we’re going to answer many of these questions. Keep in mind, there are many books on Christian dating. I encourage you to read them until the information gets cliche. But in the meantime, here are a few of the basics.
1. Don’t date someone with “Potential”
A lot of single Christians struggle that God cares about them. As a result, rather than waiting for a passionate Christian, they find themselves a “fixer-uper.” When I’d ask them about it, they’d say: “Well they have the potential of being a Christian,” or, “…if I help them along, I just know I can reignite their passion for Jesus.”
But think about it: If you went in for surgery, would you want your doctor to be a newbie or an expert? “Potential” is not the quality we look for when it comes to an issue of significance. It’s fine if you’re buying a house because, you can resell a house with potential. But you can’t sell a spouse (at least, not anymore). In the end, you want someone who actually demonstrates the attributes you need – and has done so for a while.
Obviously, the Bible is replete with warnings about yoking ourselves with faithless people (Prov. 12:26; Prov. 13:20; Ezra 9-10; 1 Cor. 15:33). And the reason why the Bible devotes so many passages to the topic is because it’s one of the most common tragic mistakes. Thus, 2 Cor. 6:14 talks about being “equally yoked.” Keep in mind, when a farmer yoked a strong ox with a weaker one, it made it impossible to plow straight. Thus, when we’re “unequally yoked,” it will inevitably lead us in circles.
In some ways, this is great analogy because you can still be “unequally yoked” to a Christian. This doesn’t mean you should always look for some super-Christian who has the same amount of “Christian knowledge” as you. In some ways, knowledge has nothing to do with it. Rather, is this person going for Jesus at the same rate as you? THAT is what makes you equally yoked. But despite all of this, many single people downplay the significance of their spiritual yoking. So consider the following true story.
Many years ago I had a good friend who felt called into full time ministry. Over time, he married a good looking Christian girl; but, she was never very passionate about the Lord. Things were fine for the first two years; but, the itch to go deeper in ministry was stronger than ever. The only problem was, she didn’t want anything to do with ministry. In fact, she had pretty much stopped going to church all together.
I wish people could’ve seen the pain in his eyes every week as we’d share prayer requests. He’d go to church and have these amazing experiences that he couldn’t even begin to share with his wife. Honestly, his wife would almost get irritated over his excitement – perhaps interpreting it as condemnation or pressure.
Over time, every step my friend took towards the Lord became a deeper wedge in their relationship. His wife began to look at his faith like an adulteress woman. When he wanted to save money for mission trips or give time to charities, she viewed it like child-support to a wicked step child. In fact, she often leveraged it against him. Week after week, he’d cry in front of me saying: “I can’t even share the most beautiful and deep aspects of my life with her.” Later on, he even confessed that he was struggling with the idea of an affair: “If I would have just waited a year more, I could have found a wife who could completely share all of this with me… but at the time, I was more worried about good looks than true character.”
You see, early on, most relationships are quite superficial. The adrenaline rush of a new relationship can sustain both parties for quite awhile – and all the more when the relationship becomes physical. These temporary substitutes for long-term intimacy tend to cause people to underestimate the need for spiritual unity. But over time, spiritual intimacy becomes the greatest pleasure. Climbing the mountain tops of spirituality are the greatest adventures a couple can share – especially once kids enter the picture. Which leads to the next tip:
2. Don’t Date anyone Who doesn’t have four to seven Intimate Christian Friends and a Weekly Ministry in a Local Church:
Why is this important? Because, the top two statistical predictors of spiritual growth are right here. The odds of a person serving Christ over the long haul are quite slim without good fellowship and a good ministry outlet. I’ve watched a lot of Christians go bonkers over the years. But rarely does it happen to people when they’re actively ministering on a weekly basis AND when they have at least four good Christian friends. God’s word is replete with blessings towards people who prioritize ministry and fellowship (Prov. 11:25; Mt. 6:33; Acts 20:35). Thus, the Psalmist wrote: “Planted in the house of the Lord, [we] will flourish” (Psm 92:13).
For example, the Bible teaches that Christians should live a lifestyle that’s conducive to regular confession of sin (James 5:16); it doesn’t mean we’re “forced to confess” (as to a priest); but, passages like these show that, the very foundations of Biblical healing come from intimate accountability and prayer with other righteous people. But this doesn’t happen by merely attending a church service. Indeed, you can go to a service and still be “unchurched.”
Awhile back, I came upon a blog of a young man who recently visited Substance. It was clear from his blog that he was a fairly new Christian. And towards the end, when he mentioned our church, he literally said: ”Dude, there are so many hot girls there… definitely where I want to pick up a few.” Of course, I was a bit disappointed that my preaching was the top draw (he even said that I was over-caffeinated and a little agitating to watch : ) But my next thought was this: ”How do I protect the ladies from guys like this?!” And for all you great single guys out there… there are plenty of crazy women at Substance too! Hence, I tell people all the time: Don’t assume anything about anyone that walks through our doors.
A family researcher once told me that 88% of men struggle with masterbation and porn addiction (even in Christian circles). Of course, I don’t recommend asking about this on your first date: “Say, Bob… I was just wondering about something...” But, there are all sorts of big character issues just like this that people secretly deal with. Just because a person sugar-coats their lives with a little Christianity doesn’t mean they’re a tried and tested individual – worthy of yoking yourself to.
And don’t get me wrong: Nobody’s Perfect. Yet, many of these same people have no intensions of actually becoming true disciples or walking the path through to true wholeness. It’s one thing to attend a church; it’s another to be a “child of the light” (1 Jn 1:5-10). And trust me: You do not want to marry someone, only to find out that they’re addicted, abusive, or incapable of true intimacy. Sure, they might be smokin’ hot; but, trust me… all of that will fade real quickly. Inward beauty sustains a relationship far more than outward beauty. That’s why I would never date someone who doesn’t currently have deep accountable fellowship with other Christians. Why? Because intimacy like this is usually a sign of vulnerability, authenticity and an ability to handle conflict well. It’s usually a sign, they are truly giving their lives to wrestling with God’s Word and surrendering to the Holy Spirit (which is one of the greatest and most delightful attributes you could ever ask for in a spouse) — not to mention a good sign that they understand the role of good friends to keep them on the straight and narrow.
“But pastor Peter, if I hold my criteria that high, I’ll never get married!” This is TOTALLY FALSE! (Notice, I had to use all caps there to be dramatic). There’s this faithless mentality that there ‘isn’t anyone out there’ that’s “passionate.” And if there is, they’re probably ugly & have a big hairy mole on their cheek… they probably have a unibrow (and extra long nose-hairs that flap in the breeze when they talk)… and no offense if you have all of these things (God has a plan for you too! : ) But especially in a church like Substance that is filled with good-looking single people, it always amazes me how single people can act so desperate and feel so alone.
So listen to me: God LOVES you! He’s not going to marry you to some dog! Do you realize that? Seriously. He’s your FATHER… and a perfect one at that! How can you trust God with your eternal soul and not trust God here? …unless you don’t really trust God with either?
And this leads us to my next point:
3. Who You are is Who You Attract:
If you want to accelerate God’s timeline for your life, the best way to do it is by working on your character. Stop praying for a spouse and start praying for the character that’s worthy of the spouse God is bringing. Besides, a happy single person is a happy married person. Marriage won’t change your character; but it will reveal it! If you’re a lusty single person who struggles with porn, you’ll be a lusty married person who struggles with porn. Ladies: If you want Prince Charming…when he comes, he’s only going to be looking for a princess. Guys: If you have lust problems… no job… no direction… no financial stability…why would God give you his princess? Seriously?
You see, Godly character can actually make you better looking. It’s true. So in the meantime, work on your inner beauty. It might just be the very thing that’s been obstructing the next phase of his divine timeline for you.
But as for more tips, get ready: In part 2 (releasing in just a few days), I’ll post 3 more critical tips that are sure to take a huge amount of stress out of the dating process. But in the meantime, ask yourself: How am I doing on these first three ideas? Where do you feel tension here? Take time to talk with a mature Christian about it. God is certain to grant wisdom to those who seek it! (James 1:5).