Dating. . .

Yeah, I’m bringing it up. What can I say? I’m a romantic.

As a single guy, it’s something that’s on my mind quite a bit. But as a guy in full-time ministry, it’s something I try to avoid doing too much. I mean, I’ve certainly gone on my fair share of dates in the past, not to mention a fairly long and serious relationship that God decided to put an end to. But I’m slowly learning that, while dating isn’t off-limits to me, it’s unwise to do so prolifically.

I’m sort of just rummaging through some of my thoughts here, and I doubt I’ll have anything terribly insightful, meaningful, or even coherent to say. I’m mostly just journaling and posing some questions that I hope those of you who are single and following Jesus will take into consideration or perhaps even answer.

coupleWe’ve all heard the clich├ęd statement, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” For a follower of Jesus, that sea is considerably smaller. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but our standards should be higher than others around us. For starters, if you’re truly seeking to obey Christ, you’re not going to date someone who doesn’t, at the very least, believe Jesus to be Messiah, Savior, and King over all.

But if you’re reading this blog, odds are that you’re following Jesus and want to mirror him in your decision-making, particularly in this area of life. So you’re probably not looking for someone who is a nominal Christian, but instead you’re looking for someone who is actively following and obeying him. The sea gets even smaller still.

Allow me to pause here on my “sea” analogy and reflect on something that takes place in Christianity that kinda bothers me. There’s an awful lot of pressure on dating. Why? Why can’t we just go out for a movie/dinner/coffee with someone of the opposite sex? Why is there such a stigma surrounding it?

coffee-dateWhy does it feel like the pressures of marriage surround our attempts at going on dates? Yes, it’s true that every girl I go out with is a potential wife, but dwelling on that thought is only ruining the good time that we could be having.

I don’t know how true this is in your life, but I have a tendency to put an inordinate amount of pressure on a first date. Yes, I want to make a good impression, but seriously, it’s a first date. I really should just be having fun, enjoying her company, and taking it one step at a time.

Anyway, back to the fish in the sea. I’ve established that the sea is small for Christians, smaller still for obedient Christians (which, shouldn’t we all be?), and now for me. Because this blog is about me anyway, right? ☺

I had a friend who was in full-time ministry who began dating a pretty awesome girl. She loved Jesus and was certainly committed to growing closer to him. She was an active part of the church community, and while they were dating, she was quite supportive of my friend. (I’m going to call them Stan and Brita from now on.)

This is far more nuanced a story than how I’m recounting it, but for the sake of my post, I’m going to stick with relevant portions of the story.

Stan and Brita got engaged, and over the course of their engagement, it became pretty clear that in order for their marriage to work, Stan had to leave the ministry. It wasn’t because Brita was the wrong girl or anything, and there were other reasons for Stan’s departure besides the upcoming marriage. The couple is still actively engaged in their church, even volunteering in the ministry that Stan once shepherded. But he left full-time ministry to marry Brita.

I guess the point I’m making is this: there appears to be a unique kind of girl that can be in a relationship with a guy who is in full-time ministry. I could be wrong here, but a girl who can’t handle the rigors of her significant other’s ministry—which will undoubtedly put a lot of strain on their relationship given the necessary stressors of his job—probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with someone who is in full-time ministry.

Granted, biblically, the relationship a guy has with his wife should come before all other responsibilities. And so, given the charge to properly “love your wife,” a guy should be willing to sacrifice for the sake of his wife. But by the same token, the life of someone in full-time ministry looks very different from someone who’s job stays at the office. Even someone whose work comes home from time to time.

I suppose that really narrows it down for me, doesn’t it? Or, in keeping with my analogy, shallows it out.

Again, I could be way off base here. Because what’s to say that a woman can’t learn to adapt to her husband’s lifestyle?

Another thought, and this one is again pretty specific to me. I have a rule for myself where I’ve decided that I won’t date anyone on my team. Period. I have another rule where I won’t date anyone that I’m ministering alongside, regardless of whether she’s on my team. I’m considering extending that rule to the congregation at large. I can’t think of any healthy scenario in which I started dating someone who attends the church where I lead a ministry.

I like my rule, and it helps keep me safe and above reproach. But it’s been challenged even by the story I mentioned above. Brita was one of Stan’s volunteers. It worked for them.

(I also have a rule about not dating someone I’ve met online, but that rule is in place for a whole different set of reasons.)

Practically speaking, dating someone you serve with seems a little unhealthy and just a bit dangerous. And I wouldn’t use Stan and Brita’s story as a model for normative dating scenarios. At my college, you weren’t allowed to date anyone you were serving in a ministry together with. It’s a bit extreme, but I think I understand the heart behind it. You’re there to complete a task in serving Jesus through blessing your community. It’s unwise to throw a dating relationship into that mix.

For me, everything that I’ve mentioned in this post really limits my dating options. Which, as I type out this sentence, I’m discovering is actually a very beneficial thing for me. My life, vocation, and career are all completely devoted to serving Christ in overt ways. I really shouldn’t be muddying that up by dating within my ministry environment. And limited dating options helps to keep me focused on what I’m supposed to be doing: serving Christ full-time.

So there’s my thought vomit on the topic of dating. Like I said, this isn’t a post where I wanted to share any valuable insights or coherently discuss a topic. I just wanted to put my thoughts out in the open and see what you think.

To my future bride (whoever you may be). . .

I don’t know who you are. We may have already met, or we may have never seen each other. I used to be afraid of you. I used to think you would place unattainable expectations on me and try to turn me into someone I’m not. But I know now that’s not what you want.

Maybe I’m different from most guys. I realize you’re not supermodel hot. But I don’t want you to be. You’re beautiful because you’re buried so deeply inside our Father’s heart. You’re captivating because you’re captivated by God.

Your soft smile and gentle touch will be enough to send me to the stars. And your strong, silent support of who I am as a man will empower me, strengthen me, and energize me in ways nothing else can. I won’t ask that you always agree with me, but I will ask that you trust my intention to always seek your best interest. My methods may be wrong, and I may never understand you, but please be patient. I’m trying so hard.

I can’t promise that I’ll be your knight in shining armor, but I can promise that I’ll protect you from the dangers and hurts of our world. I’ll give my life to ensure your safety, security, and joy.

And I’ll listen. I’ll sit still and just hear what you have to say. My natural inclination is to spring into action and fix the problem, but I’ll deny that and just be an ear to talk to and a shoulder to lean on.

I know you’ll want an adventure. An endless adventure where we’ll explore the depth of our Savior’s heart and the intensity of his love. I’ll take you there. I may not have the money or ability to take you to beautiful European countries or to see breathtaking natural wonders. But I can promise you that I’ll take your hand as we discover the love that God has for us.

My love for you will be flawed and weak, so I won’t pour it directly on you. I’ll pour my love on our God, and he will amplify it and rain it down on you.

I can’t say I’m ready to share my life with someone else right now. But after I find you, I know I won’t be able to imagine facing the challenges of life without you by my side.

Listen for my voice. I’m calling out to you. And I love you.