Last night I realized a boy was about to ask me on a date. Last night a boy asked me what I was doing this weekend and I cried. Not happy tears. No girly screaming happening here. I cried an anxiety-filled cry. I panicked, requiring a best friend intervention.
What’s wrong with me I asked? Who cries when a boy shows interest in them? I am writing because I feel confident I am not the only one. I know too many of your stories. I have heard too many of your questions and confusion. I know the heartache we have experienced and have heard so many of us say, “I just can’t imagine doing that all over again.”
I actually said out loud last night when asked what I wanted, “I want to get married. And to get married you have to date.” In my mind dating is a necessary evil. I think to myself, “I have done the romantic highs and awkward getting-to-know-yous and the thinking ‘this is it’ and now all I want is for it to actually just be it.”
So as I sit in my closet getting ready to leave for this first date, I am asking the Lord what His heart is for those of us in this awkward dating season. The first thing my flesh wants to yell is that all of you married gals better be telling God thank you that you made it out! Ha! But I am not sure that plain old survival is God’s heart for this season.
Christ came for me to have life abundant. My life as a believer has abundant potential even when I am getting dressed up to go and meet some random guy who may be great or may be crazy.
As Allison and I talked through my anxiety last night so many lies began to surface. I often tell women that I feel confident sharing wisdom on almost any subject besides dating, an unfortunate problem when your core ministry field is young women. I feel like I can share a million things NOT to do in a season of dating and not one thing to do.
In fact, I regularly yell about why we still don’t do arranged marriages—if that gives you any picture of how unconfident and ill-equipped I feel in this area.
Tricia, my counselor, told me the other day to “just be casual,” “let it happen naturally” and made this flow-y counselor hand-motion. Without hesitation I replied, “Tricia have you met me?! I don’t do anything casually!”
That’s the lie Satan told me in my tears last night. The lie that what my pattern has been must continue to be my pattern. A well-meaning church culture taught me to “date to marry.” The problem with that simple instruction, especially for big extroverted personalities who already do everything 110% like myself, is that it emphasized a seriousness about dating, depth over small talk, future planning over in-the-moment, invest a lot very quickly.
For the lucky few who ended up marrying the first person they dated, the problems with having only a “date to marry” mindset probably weren’t obvious. But for the rest of us, the more investment the more pain. And for me now as I start the journey all over again, in some sense a “date to marry” mindset brings anxiety and fear.
We are people of the extreme. I am not a proponent of causal dating just as much as I don’t support an intense “date to marry” road. I am convinced there must be a middle road I can take. The theme of my adult life has been moderation. In my extremes I find deep sin and deep pain but in the middle I find peace and joy, and I believe that God is glorified in the gray middle.
So tonight I am going to dinner with a new man. Tonight I am dressed up and going to get to know a brother in the Body of Christ. I haven’t told very many people because the theme of the day has been to try and let a heart of truth run the show and not my emotions. I have learned the hard way that the more screaming girlfriends I tell about a boy, the less I am in control of putting something into perspective.
Tonight is not a marriage proposal nor is it a causal hook-up. Tonight is somewhere in the middle. Tonight, I will make it through a handful of awkward silences and probably at least one embarrassing moment because I believe that marriage is a gift from the Lord. Tonight, I will ask Holy Spirit to help me rejoice in a first date, not because I have found my husband, but because God always has something for us in the journey.
Tonight, Satan will remember that he does not run the show. As I eat some delicious food and engage in casual conversation I will remember the truth that my past does not have to be repeated tonight. Tonight, I can feel fear, pain, joy, hope, expectancy and confusion without those emotions dictating my actions or thoughts. Through the power of His Spirit who lives inside of me, tonight I can take all that I have learned in all of my mistakes and failures and heartbreak and I can live abundantly. Tonight, I choose to take the middle road. Tonight, I choose to see that in the middle God can help me take dating seriously but not too seriously.
So here’s to another first date.
If you know someone who hates the dating process, will you email him or her this post for encouragement?
Photo credit: Ernesto De Quesada