Or, the art of taking a chance.
Confession: I used to be the person who couldn’t imagine dating a guy unless I could immediately picture myself marrying him. Every guy I saw was a potential husband (which is every guy’s worst nightmare I’m sure). I mean, what’s the point of going through all that emotional commitment without a specific endgame?
And I feel like we have this expectation that we should just know if he or she is the one. We have friends and family who’ve married their high school sweetheart, their college romance, the first and only guy or girl they dated. They got it right the first time. They found their perfect match on round one. Why can’t we have that?
We put so much pressure on what should be a pretty simple question. “Do you want to go out with me?” It’s a yes or a no. But we take it to new depths. We imagine that we have to have that immediate spark, that recognition of souls when we first meet someone we could be interested in. We look at the guy or girl we’re interested, and we start to wonder if we could see ourselves with them forever. Do I want to be with this guy for the rest of my life? Do I want to marry this woman? Do I want to have his children? Do I want to be forever tied to her family? Do I want to go to bed with him every night? Do I want to wake up with her every morning? And all of this before you’ve even held hands. We look, we like, we love (or not) in the span of three seconds.
I’ve done this. I’ve turned down a guy, because I overthought the whole thing. I couldn’t see the marriage with kids and white picket fence, so I said no. I didn’t give him a chance, and he didn’t expect that answer. He never spoke to me after that, never made eye contact. I felt horrid. Absolutely terrible. I started to second guess myself. Maybe he was my soul mate, and I had just turned him down. Maybe I had just walked away from my one and only chance at love.
I avoided dating like the plague after that. Nothing was worth the emotional turmoil that experience had wrought on me. If I could barely handle saying no, I couldn’t fathom dealing with someone breaking up with me or cheating on me or losing interest. (The difficult part was how dramatic I became.) But like anyone with a penchant for excessive thinking, I never really let it go. It kept surfacing and surfacing, usually at inconvenient times. Why had I said no? Why couldn’t I take the chance? What was I looking for that I couldn’t find?
There are two conclusions I’ve come to in the last five years since my grand sidestep of the dating scene. Perhaps I should have known them all along, as obvious as they seem now. But they took me time to discover, and they may even change as I continue to discover what love and relationships mean to me.
1. There is no such thing as love at first sight. Some of you may be rolling your eyes right now (for various reasons), but bear with me. I don’t believe in love at first sight. The romantic in me is probably cringing and swooning at the moment, but the pragmatist has won this age old battle. Love at first sight, that brilliant moment we read about or see in movies simply can’t exist in reality. How can it? How can you love someone, truly love, esteem, and admire someone at first glance? Love isn’t a moment in time. It’s an action. It takes effort. It isn’t the meeting of the eyes.
Not even the Bible speaks of love at first sight. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts. We shouldn’t be too quick to give it away, to let someone possess it. The Bible believes in relationships to be sure; but in building, creating, and sustaining relationships. But there isn’t an instant thunderbolt or Cupid’s arrow leaving you just knowing that this guy or girl is the perfect partner for you. That level of love, trust, respect, and intimacy will take time to mature and grow. You can’t expect it right away.
2. Dating isn’t as easy as filling out an online profile. We wish it was. That would save a lot of tears and heartache (and trips to the store for chocolate and sad song downloads and beards grown). There really isn’t an easy way to go about dating. The Bible doesn’t even say much about the dating scene, probably because there wasn’t one. You meet, you talk, your fathers barter a bit, and you get married. You don’t go to the movies, have candlelit dinners, or long walks on the beach while you discuss you favorite food, color, and day of the week.
The closest the Bible comes to romantic gestures is Jacob working a total of fourteen years to get Rachel, David not-so-subtly removing Bathsheba’s husband from the picture, or Ruth sleeping at Boaz’s feet. (Though that last one could be read as a case of breaking and entering with a hint of stalking… and perhaps a foot fetish.) Even Paul says to stay single unless you can’t handle your sexual desires; then you can get married. The truth is that the Bible doesn’t lend any help to the question of dating.
Can I get an amen? No one?
Dating’s something us modern “progressive” humans made up all on our own. And like all things humans create it’s basically a mess with occasional brilliance. It would be easy to avoid the whole thing. To just say no. But I believe that we miss out on learning a lot about ourselves when we don’t take that chance. Humans are relational. God created us to be in relationships with each other (platonically and not-so-platonically). We grow, mature, discover, and create ourselves through the friendships and relationships we establish. And maybe that first guy we date isn’t going to be our future husband. And maybe the girl who turns you down the first time will change her mind and marry you a few years later. The fact is that dating is a bit like Russian roulette: you can’t really know how it’s going to turn out from that first glance. Making a snap judgment could mean missing out on something spectacular. So don’t be afraid to take that chance, to say yes. When you are ready to enter the dating world (and I’m still not sure that I am) trust that God will lead into the relationship you’re meant to have.
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