I’m starting to feel like one of those dating advice columnists. It seems like I spend so much time talking about dating, but I really do think it’s warranted. Not that dating is the be all and the end all of life, but some of my biggest mistakes thus far have taken place in dating relationships, so I hope that my experiences can help you navigate the pitfalls of this tricky business.
(Maybe I should start a blog called “Ask Sharon.” Haha!)
In the past, I’ve talked about dating and marriage as a kind of “tool” for ministry–I want to be a better minister WITH my spouse than I was without them. And this paradigm was actually set for us with Adam and Eve–Eve helped Adam in his dominion over creation, and he did a better job because of her….at least that was God’s original intention.
Even now, I stick by that standard whole-heartedly, and I think all Christians should factor it into their thought process as they consider someone for marriage. BUT, I recently heard a simpler version of this approach that I really like, if for no other reason than it is straight to the point. I think you will find it to be helpful as well, and it goes as follows:
Am I more or less admirable now than when I was single?
The person who shared this dating barometer with me explained, “With a lot of the girls I dated, I felt that I was a more admirable person before I met them.” As a single guy, he spent his time and thought life in ways that were more pleasing to God and gained the respect of those around him.
But when he started dating the wrong girls, all that started to slip away. Suddenly he was sacrificing his ministry and friendships to spend more time with his girlfriend. What’s more, his prayer life was hampered by the shame he felt due to the physical side of his dating relationship. As a result, his relationship with God and his friends suffered.
Perhaps you’ve been in the same situation. And if you have, I would bet you could see it on your friends’ faces–suddenly the friendship is not what it used to be. You can’t put your finger on it, but there’s tension, there’s frustration, and there are walls where there weren’t walls before. You can tell that your friends respect you a little less than they used to.
But a Christ-centered relationship should do the opposite. It should inspire you to love God and your friends better. It should simultaneously anchor you and liberate you to live life more effectively.
I know that phrase sounds like a bit of a paradox, but both components, anchoring and liberating, should be present in a healthy relationship. You should be anchored by the peace of knowing you are within God’s will for you, thereby protecting you from the emotional storms of a self-absorbed relationship. A Christ-centered relationship should create greater peace in your life, not greater uncertainty, anxiety or confusion.
If you are not in an anchoring relationship, one of the first two things that suffers is your relationship with God and your friends. Because your dating relationship is rocky, it consumes your thought life–it’s all you can think about, and it’s all you talk about. Plus, it takes you away from your friends because you’re constantly with your significant other, patching up the latest drama. In this way, you need a relationship that anchors you, not only for your own emotional benefit, but because of the greater implications it will have on those around you.
But in addition to being anchored, a Christ-centered relationship should also liberate you to serve God and others, knowing that you don’t always have to be with your boyfriend all the time since the relationship is in God’s hands.
What’s more, your bf should inspire you to serve such that you feel MORE connected to him when you’re serving God, even when you’re not with him. This is a bit counter-intuitive, but there is a degree to which you can foster greater intimacy by serving apart, as opposed to spending lots of time together, but time that is wasted just sitting around playing Guitar hero, watching Grey’s Anatomy, and making out.
So all of that to say, look for someone who will make you more admirable than you already are. And if you’re in a relationship now, ask yourself, “Am I more admirable than I was as a single person.” For the sake of your dating relationship, your relationship with God, and your relationship with your friends, I would encourage you to make sure the answer to that question is a resounding “yes!”