As a single woman in full time ministry, one of the most repetitive questions asked is how do you date the right way or how do you be content in your singleness? Now, I don’t have all the answers. But one thing I do have is experiences. Experiences from things I have done seemingly right, and experiences from things I have done terribly wrong. Through a lot of joy and through a lot of ache, I really believe you can find something to relate with inside of all of this.
So, let’s talk relationships.
I don’t want this to be your typical “Dating and Relationships” blog where we just reiterate how you need to wait on God and how you if you want to find the right one then you need to be the right one. Yes, those are true but let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Let’s talk practical real-life experiences, real-life pain, and real-life lessons.
I’ll be twenty-two in a few months and I have been inside of ministry for five years, while working full time for a little over one. Before these five years, I was in a relationship for three years and didn’t believe in religion whatsoever. Now, throughout these five years of knowing God – I have dated on and off, had a fling a few years back that lasted about six months, had one relationship for a year and ended up getting engaged. Was engaged for four months then broke it off. Briefly dated after that and now here I am. Twenty-one working full time as one of the directors for a ministry college being asked all the time on relationships. What an irony.
First and foremost, I want to tell you that it’s totally okay for wanting to be in a relationship. That doesn’t mean you’re desperate, it means you’re human and you recognize your natural breathed desire for human affection. And on the flip side, it’s totally okay for not wanting anything right now. That doesn’t mean you’re hypercritical, it means you’re learning deeper parts of who you are and in the right time someone is going to appreciate that.
More than anything, dating is so exaggerated. There’s been this unspoken timeline of when you should start dating, when you should be engaged, and when you should be married considering kids. And it’s all whack haha. Just because your life may not reflect the image you had of what your life was going to look like at whatever age you may be does NOT mean you have done something wrong.
Just because your ten-step plan of your future isn’t happening on the timeline you created does NOT mean God is not in it. Just because you still have emotions over past relationships does NOT mean someone else isn’t going to come along and you are meant to go back to your old relationship. It just means you’re really human and you have really human emotions as we all do.
I say it all the time, but we’re all human. Pain is so inevitable. Especially when you are putting your heart, the most vulnerable and fragile piece we hold, on the line with another human. If you think about it, that just sounds like a disaster. But my friend, here’s the thing. I have learned to thank God for allowing other people to hurt me.
I know, now I’m the one who sounds whack. But really, there have been times in my life where I have tried to run back to doors God intentionally shut. And in my own humanness, I would stay and try to pry those doors back open. But I learned that because God is a caring God who has my best interest, He would allow specific people to deeply wound my heart. All for the purpose to widen my eyes with the realization and recognition of what I do not want. And more importantly, what I do not need.
And that’s the thing about pain. Pain does not happen to destroy us. Pain actually happens to reconstruct us.
There are so many different stages in life and personally, I believe stages of life play a big part in determining if you are even at a healthy place to start pursuing a relationship. Notice how I say pursue a relationship and not look for a relationship. The moment you find yourself in a frantic search for a relationship is the moment you need to be wise enough to step back.
Really, chill out. The God that has been so faithful to you this whole time is more than capable in this area. The last thing you want to do is create something with your own human hands. Because if create something with your hands, then you have to maintain it with your hands. It just doesn’t work. Because the Lord is so gracious, He will only allow you to hold onto something your hands are not meant to carry for so long until He ends it.
A lot of people have this false understanding that after you dedicate your life to the Lord then you’re automatically ready for this redeemed godly relationship. My friend, that is not the case. Let me provide some clarity. The first step in Christianity is salvation. We all know that. Your second step is not this big youth pastor role. Your second step is not this creative arts director. Your second step is not to launch your dream business. Your second step is not to be a husband or a wife.
Your second step, biblically, is sanctification. I know, I know this sounds a little too wordy and religious. But hear me out. After saying yes to Jesus, your next step is committing yourself and dedicating yourself into becoming more like Christ. In really taking a step to the side and digging into who you are, what needs to be worked out, what needs to be planted to grow, what needs to be sharpened. It’s a process. And if you jump into a relationship before taking that time, you are not going to be the person you need to be for that relationship.
Being content in singleness is not learning to accept that if God never brings you a spouse then you’ll be okay. I think that’s extreme. If it’s your heart’s desire to be married one day, the Lord knows that.
Being content in singleness is walking in the willingness of allowing God to shed light on areas that still need redemption. Being content in singleness is pressing pause to understand the heart of God a little bit more knowing that it’s good for you, and for the one who you’ll be with one day.
Okay, so I touched on a few things for us to personally be aware of when it comes to relationships. But what about things to look for in the other person? That’s a big one that has many different opinions. In my opinion, and based off my experiences, these are some key components that have changed my life and outlook on this whole thing.
- There is a difference between someone who knows God and someone who is in love with God.
Ask the deep questions. Ask who Jesus is to them. Watch how they respond in worship. Listen to them tell their story. Are they passionate about their relationship? Or is it just the casual, “I got saved when I was eight and have been a Christian ever since.” Are they passionate about conversations that dig deeper? Can you even hold conversation about these things?
- Don’t enter into a relationship with a person who does not show fruit of the characteristics you desire in a partner.
As someone who will always look to find the best in people, this one is tough. Because if you’re anything like me then it’s easy for you to look past issues and see people for who they can be one day. But when it comes to a relationship, you have to see things black and white. If you don’t want a partner who drinks, then don’t step into a relationship with someone who goes out clubbing just because they told you they’ll stop. If you don’t want a partner who is possessive, then don’t step into a relationship with someone who consistently questions where you’re at and what you’re doing just because they said they’ll work on it. Because sure. If someone cares about you, they’ll stop these habits. But my friend, that is shaky ground.
I have seen this firsthand and fresh. When you enter into a relationship with someone who conforms into the characteristics that you desire, you will realize that is not really who you are pursuing a relationship with. That is merely the person you have almost created them to be. It’s sad, but it’s true. And nine times out of ten, the moment that relationship ends they will run right back to what they left when you met them. Because their change was not birthed out of a place of authenticity. Look for someone who has a consistent pattern of walking with characteristics you desire. Fruit says what words cannot.
- As a girl, if you are the one who has to set the sexual boundaries in a relationship – run.
I don’t care how hot they are. How good of a person they are. How kind they are. How much potential they may have. If a lady is the one who is having to step back and have the hard conversation of boundaries the relationship needs, you are in for an exhausting road of feeling as if you are leading the relationship. As a lady, if a man cannot set up the boundaries and control to keep the relationship holy, then you need to evaluate where the relationship is headed in all areas.
If you’re dating with a purpose to lead to marriage, then these kind of conversations and decisions are necessary for the man to be able to make. A lady needs to be confident that the man is spiritually mature to know where he stands. But same for the ladies, if you expect the man to pursue purity, you need to as well. This is not a double standard debate.
- Watch how they act and respond around their friends.
You really get a deeper insight to who someone is when you see them around their friends. When they’re with their friends, there’s no guard up and there’s no filter. If they don’t cuss around you, but are throwing F bombs around their friends – notice it. If they don’t drink around you, but have no problem going out with their friends – notice it. These little things speak loudly.
- If there’s an unwavering uncertainty – don’t ignore it.
My friend, your intuition goes a long way. When you’re with the right person it’s supposed to be easy. Yes, there will be hard conversations and bumps in the road. But if you’re walking with uncertainty, pay attention to it. And be brave enough to walk away. Regardless of where you are in life, what position you hold, who is watching – it is NEVER too late to listen to your heart and walk away. I promise you.
Don’t try to figure it out and don’t try to ignore it. Something that really got me was this. When you say yes to Jesus, you say yes to peace. Peace is not something you have to go and search for. What do you mean? Because peace is a subcomponent of Christianity. So, you never have to go and “seek out peace”. You walk in peace when you walk with Jesus. It’s the moment you notice you don’t have that peace… When you realize that you lost it, that’s when you know.
I say all of this to say it matters who you invest your time into. Don’t dwell on the past. And don’t think you’re still tied down to your past just because it pops up from time to time. I’m full time in ministry and I know God. But I know my human memories, too. I know God but I know my human experiences, too. I know God but I know my human heart, too. Take your experiences and count them as learning material. I don’t know everything, but I have certainly learned a whole lot and I hope this meant something to you.
When your attention is on Him, He will exceed your expectations. Every time. And it will never be how you imagined it would be. And that’s the beauty of it. Be true to you. Don’t compromise. And when the time comes, love with all you have.