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2 Tips to Date in A Loving Way

Does he like me? Did he just flirt with me? Does his reply mean something more?

Should I ask her? What does her silence mean? Should I confess to her?

When it comes to interacting with members of the opposite sex, it’s likely that such questions would’ve crossed our minds before. After all, a friendship blossoming into a tentative relationship is bound to generate a measure of uncertainty in our hearts: Is he the one? Is she into me? What should I do?

And with most of our conversations taking place through a screen—what with instant messaging and social media—we can miss out on subtle social cues that usually guide face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, this means that misinterpretations and miscommunication are more likely to happen, creating even more anxiety over what our crush may have said (or not said).

These days, an entire vocabulary has been formed to document the amorphous nature of not-quite relationships and patterns of interactions.

There isn’t just ghosting—the act of completely disappearing from someone’s life after losing interest in them. There’s also benching, where you become a plan B for someone who wants to keep their options open; and cushioning, where you’re still in contact with potential suitors even after having exclusively committed to someone else. Not to mention other dating terms such as slow fading, breadcrumbing . . . and you get the point.

But what does God think about these situationships—where it’s more than a friendship but not quite an exclusive relationship? While the Bible doesn’t explicitly lay down laws for dating, it does give us commandments that can be applied to dating.

In fact, we need to look no further than what Jesus says are the greatest commandments in the Bible: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

American pastor Richard Phillips and his wife Sharon write in their book about dating, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts:

“In dating, this requires us to honor God first. Many Christians approach dating mainly in terms of pursuing romance and meeting their emotional needs. Far too few think of it as an opportunity to honor God and grow in grace.

“What about loving our neighbor? This commandment requires us to put our dating partner’s holiness ahead of our happiness. If you are dating someone and the relationship does not grow into marriage, the least you can do as a Christian is to ensure that dating you was a spiritually beneficial experience.”

In the light of modern dating, this means asking ourselves: What would the most loving action be towards him or her?

Here’s two points to consider when it comes to making sense of your feelings:

 

1. If you like (or don’t like) someone, make it clear.

Don’t leave someone hanging. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get to know someone better before expressing your interest in him or her. But be careful about what kind of impression you’re making on the other person, and consider how he or she might be feeling in the meantime.

Conversely, if you don’t like someone, make it clear. Don’t flirt with them for the fun of it, especially if you know that this might create unnecessary ambivalence. Song of Solomon 2:7 tells us not to “arouse or awaken love until it so desires”.

For example, if you know that someone is likely to feel terribly hurt if you openly reject them, a more loving option might be to drop more subtle hints. This might mean politely turning down offers to meet or waiting longer periods before replying their messages.

Similarly, you might want to consider gently and lovingly telling them that you’re not interested in a relationship, if the situation calls for it.

While you might feel uncomfortable, presumptuous, or afraid of hurting them, remember that it is our duty to honor them as a fellow believer, brother- or sister-in-Christ, and child of God. If that means causing some hurt now, it’s better than causing him or her even more hurt by revealing it only much later on.

Ask yourself: Am I relating to the other person in a way that honors God and him or her? Are my responses clear when I express how I feel towards this person? Or are my responses leading them to draw the wrong conclusion?

On the other hand, if someone you like is sending you mixed signals—ignoring you one moment while flirting with you openly the next—you might want to consider two options. Either frankly ask how he or she feels about you, or step away from the relationship if you feel that the other person may not have honorable intentions.

Treat others as you would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Just as you don’t want to be left hanging—or ghosted, breadcrumbed, or cushioned—don’t do to them what you wouldn’t want to be done to yourself.

 

2. If you’re unsure about how you feel, commit it to God.

There may be occasions where the relationship isn’t always so clear-cut. You might be ambivalent about how you feel towards someone, especially where his gestures or her words might possibly indicate something more. Do you really like him or her, or is it something else that’s fueling these feelings—infatuation, desire, respect, loneliness, idealism?

I’ve felt this way countless times over the years, thanks to the adolescent longings and raging hormones of a teenage girl. How I pined, cried, and moaned for the affection of one boy or another!

It was only when I became a Christian that I found that there was a better way: casting my cares and worries at the feet of Jesus, who loves us with a love no boyfriend or girlfriend can offer us.

Before entering into a relationship or even entertaining the thoughts of entering into one, it’s important to seek the Lord for discernment and wisdom on how we ought to relate to the other person.

I wrote this in my journal a few years ago when I developed a strong crush on a classmate I had just gotten to know:

“I find it so difficult to see a trace of that spark or non-spark; in that I cannot tell whether or not he feels the same way. Surely if he did, I could tell? Yet no, I see nothing (and therefore continue to believe everything) that might come to be. And this is the worst part: not knowing yet believing it to be so. Since he has shown neither interest nor dis-interest, I continue to hold on to this hope, which is a potentially devastating thing to do. Already I catch whiffs of him everywhere I go, and he is continually brought up again and again in my mind, reinforcing the infatuation I feel.

Alas, what I feel for him has neither been encouraged nor discouraged. And so what I am left with is this budding of love, one that is continuously being fertilized by his frequent presence, watered by all that we have in common; and thus it grows just as our friendship grows.

Where this friendship will lead me, I do not know. But I pray with all sincerity that God will keep and guide me, that ultimately He will give me His stamp of approval or rejection; and in the meantime will reveal to me more about him, that I may decide for myself whether or not this can develop any further.”

God eventually did reveal something to me: this person was a non-believer who already had a girlfriend, which I only found out a few months later. Yet the process of committing this situationship to God daily—by choosing to commit my anxieties and uncertainties to Him, seeking His wisdom and will, and praying for Him to guard my heart—helped me to overcome the hurt and disappointment upon finding out.

It may be tempting to brood over whether the person you like feels the same way by overanalyzing every little thing they say or not say.

But don’t take things into your own hands. If it is meant to be, God will reveal it to you, and the other person (if he or she is a believer). If it’s not meant to be, God will reveal it too. I find that this is such a simple but deeply comforting truth, as someone who’s personally prone to overthinking and worrying.

So trust in the Lord with all your heart, and He will answer whatever desires, worries, and questions you have, in His perfect timing and according to His perfect plans.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh

and refreshment to your bones.

— Proverbs 3:5-8

Should I Download A Dating App?

Written By Krysti Wilkinson, USA

I still remember the day my best friend and I were hanging out, complaining about dating and boys and life in general, when we decided we were going to do it: download a dating app.

We did it at the same time, clicking through the questions and giggling as we sifted through an unknown world, trying to figure out what to put in our profiles and what pictures to use. How old a guy am I willing to date? How young? Do I put something about Jesus in my profile, or is clicking “Christian” enough?

The first time I tried online dating, I found it to be incredibly liberating.

I felt like I was taking control of my own dating life—putting myself out there instead of just sitting around waiting for a boy to ask me out. It also seemed to open up a whole world of singles that I didn’t know existed. As someone who hung out with a lot of couples and a lot of girls, I almost forgot there were single men in existence. It was a nice reminder.

And then it got old quickly—sifting through profiles of people I had no interest in, hoping that one of the few matches would actually message me, hoping that of those who did message me, they’d be somewhat normal, actually be a real Christian, and able to carry a conversation. I spoke to a few. Then we met up. But things went nowhere. Again and again and again.

I’ve gone on and off dating apps—deleting them, re-downloading them, re-deleting them, trying out new ones. Sometimes, I really enjoy the freedom they bring and the way they’ve re-invented dating. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is message a stranger and wonder what the world is coming to. It’s hit or miss, for me.

Based on the many, many conversations I’ve had about online dating with friends, there are many different views on it. But there’s one thing that remains the same: All single millennials stress over it. “Are dating apps okay?” “Tinder?!” “Coffee Meets Bagel?” “Whaaaaat?”

Yet, when it comes to church, online dating seems like something that no one wants to discuss in the open.

These days, when I ask a couple how they met, I can tell when their reply is going to be a dating app—they pause, smile at the floor, then at each other, then lower their voices and respond with “ . . . we met online.” Considering the number of relationships that start online these days, people still seem pretty embarrassed to admit they are part of the 35 percent. For Christians, it’s even worse—it seems like we should be ashamed for not dating only within church and not trusting God to drop our soul mates onto our porch, or for turning to something as “worldly” or “superficial” as a dating app.

But here’s my take: Dating apps are nothing to be embarrassed of.

Would I smile at a cute guy in a coffee shop or bar? Would I chat with him for a bit before considering giving him my number? Yes. So why is this seen as so different when basically, I’m doing the same thing through an app on my phone? I’m big on pushing back against the stereotypes of online dating, so I try to be as open and candid as possible about it: I’ve been on some apps, I’m not on them right now, I’ll probably be back on them at some point. I will gladly tell anyone that if the subject of dating apps comes up, because it’s no secret to hide behind! We need to stop treating dating apps like a dirty little secret. Being single and ready to mingle is nothing to be ashamed of—and neither is being on Christian Mingle.

So, as Christians, are dating apps okay? Yes. As “okay” as dating is. Working in a youth ministry, I’ve had many kids constantly ask if dating as a teenager is okay, how they would know when they’re ready to date, and how to go about Christian dating? I’ve given everyone the same reply: when you know who you are and you know what you’re looking for. That takes an incredible amount of maturity—which some people have at 16 and other people are still missing at 26.

When you know who you are, it’s pretty easy to know what matters to you, what you aren’t interested in, and what values you aren’t going to back down on. When you know what you’re looking for, you aren’t going to waste anyone’s time—yours or the other person’s—in a relationship going nowhere. When you know what you’re looking for, you can say no to things or people whom you see no future with. When you know what you’re looking for, you don’t get emotionally invested in relationships that are unhealthy. So if you’re dating in a healthy way, there is nothing wrong with dating apps in my book.

Here’s what I will say:

Know why you are using dating apps.

Are you looking for a serious relationship or a date for Friday night? Are you looking to actually connect with another human being or are you looking for someone to entertain you? If you don’t know your intention going in, just like in dating, you’re probably going to end up disillusioned and frustrated. Dating apps aren’t a cure for loneliness or a guarantee of a relationship—if you’re turning to apps to fill voids that only God or true Christian community can fill, you aren’t going to end up very happy.

 

Know how you are using dating apps. 

Here’s the biggest problem I always see people running into: dating through the app. Dating apps aren’t ways to date people, they are ways to meet people. You cannot actually get to know a real human—and they can’t actually get to know you—through a screen. Be intentional about how you’re actually using these apps. Are you just browsing to see pictures of various single people in your area, or to date various people in your area? Are you messaging people just to message them for the night, or are you messaging them to hopefully meet up next week?

 

 Remember there are people on the other side of the screen.

Technology is really wonderful, but sadly, the more removed we are from real interaction with others, the more removed we feel from the emotions of others. Remember there is a real living person on the other side of the phone—with real thoughts and feelings and emotions. So don’t say things in a message that you would never say in person. Don’t agree to meet up with someone and not show up. And don’t message someone incessantly, toying with their emotions, because you’re home alone and bored one night, and have no intention of talking to them the next day.

 

There’s nothing wrong with using the Internet to help us meet someone—it all depends on how you go about it. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. The way you meet someone has no direct effect on how successful the relationships is going to be; it’s how you go about the relationship that will make the difference.

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

When My Parents Didn’t Like My Date

With my Facebook newsfeed dominated by status updates of engagements, weddings, and babies, I thought it was best I got my act together or risk growing old alone.

I had long given up hope of meeting anyone at work, and even though I do sporting activities like swimming, it is such an individual sport that it is almost impossible to meet anyone. Besides, the swim squad that I am with comprises mostly students and their parents.

So, I did what I assumed most single Millennials would do: I signed up on a few online dating sites. I figured since we spend so much of our time online—from following our favourite bloggers to shopping—it made sense to also meet potential dates online.

After taking a few recommendations from a friend, I duly created an account for each of the sites, filled out my profile, and took extra care to answer the various questionnaires. You see, I didn’t want to jinx my chances of meeting the right person, so I made sure my answers were honest enough, but I was careful not to give too much away, to protect my identity.

But boy did the weirdos roll in. One asked if I would move to Christchurch, New Zealand, if we “clicked”—I live in Auckland—after we had exchanged all of two chat messages. He said he wasn’t looking to waste his time, and if I couldn’t promise that I’d move to another town for him, then he’d like to move on.

Another said he liked Asian women because they were “kind, obedient, and had a nice figure”. Needless to say, I blocked him as fast as I could. And don’t get me started on one of the other dates, who turned out to be really gross. Besides making highly inappropriate comments, he seemed to fail to grasp the concept of personal space—he kept pressing in close to me. I had to make up excuses to flee within half an hour of meeting him. Fortunately, we had met at a cafe that was only a five-minute drive from my house, which made it easy for me to execute my exit.

I did meet a few decent guys online, but nothing serious came out of those encounters. There was a paramedic who was really nice, but conversations were stilted. I also connected with a Canadian, who happened to be in New Zealand for a short cycling tour. But while we got on relatively well, there was no telling when he would be back in this part of town again. Needless to say, that one died a natural death.

So imagine my delight when I eventually found someone whom I connected with. On paper, he seemed eligible enough; he was an engineer who also enjoyed reading and surfing. We started chatting online, and I thought, “Perfect! My patience has paid off!” After a few weeks of exchanging text messages, we decided to meet in person to see if we’d enjoy each other’s company.

Our first date, at a nearby cafe, went on for four hours, which I thought was a good sign. Previous dates had me checking my watch every second, hoping for the hour to be up.

Naturally, when he asked if we could hang out again, I agreed. A few more dates followed, and soon I was texting my friends to tell them how much fun I was having. When he bought a bouquet of flowers from the supermarket, I thought, “How cute!”

So all in all, it looked like things had fallen into place and we decided we would make the relationship “Facebook official”. When friends and acquaintances commented on how cute we both looked together (when they saw our photo on Facebook), I replied, “I know, right? He’s great!”

At that stage, we had been going out for only a month. But when he asked if he could meet my parents, I didn’t think twice about it. You see, having heard stories from friends with partners who wouldn’t commit despite being together for years, I thought it was sweet of my date to make that effort. “After all, I would have to meet them eventually,” he said. Furthermore, his parents, who lived in the UK, were making plans to meet up when they heard I would be visiting the country later. As for my date, he had moved to New Zealand about three years ago after he was made redundant back in the UK.

When I told my dad that my date wanted to meet them over lunch, he accepted the invite. When the day rolled round, I was nervous about how the lunch would go, and hoped my parents would like him.

Alas, they didn’t.

I was devastated. “But why?” I asked. There were tears and long conversations with my sister and my dad. Eventually, my dad said he felt there was something “not quite right” with the guy, and his instincts were telling him that this man wasn’t the one for me. Next came the blow: I had to break up with him because my dad didn’t think anything good would come out of it.

“But it’s so hard to meet someone that I can get along with,” I said, dismayed. I was ready to argue that it was impossible to suss out the character traits of someone over lunch, so how would my dad know “something was not right”? There were times when I made a rash judgment about someone, only to find out later how nice and kind the person really was.

But my dad is a good judge of character. Later, he told me that he suspected that there was more to my date than he had let on, and that his body language had given him away. On hindsight, I should have picked up on the red flags. For one, he wasn’t a Christian. Second, I remembered how agitated he had become when a tour guide was a few minutes late picking us up for a tour. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but he kept prancing down the hallway, checking his watch, while muttering about how late the tour guide was (the guide showed up five minutes past the hour). There was also the time, when we were out on a double-date with my sister, where he helped himself to most of the food on the table without offering any to others.

And then there were the many nights when he’d have me hanging out with him until quite late, forgetting that I had to wake up early for work. I hadn’t thought that this would be an issue, but as my dad said, being considerate of other people’s needs never goes out of style.

So, I did what I had to do and called it quits with the guy. Needless to say, he didn’t take the news very well, and within 24 hours, deleted me from his Facebook friend list. Later, he sent me a private message to say he was sorry for the “knee jerk reaction” but as he was “falling in love” with me, he was hurt by my decision to break up with him.

While some of my friends understood my reason for heeding my dad’s advice, a few were shocked at my decision. “But you were so happy with him!” they said, “And it’s not for your parents to say if you can or can’t see someone.” It wasn’t easy, but I knew that in these circumstances, I had to listen to my parents because they were a lot wiser than I am in terms of relationships.

Movies will have us believe it’s a lot more romantic to follow our hearts and to run away with our beloved—and tough luck to our parents and their fuddy-duddy advice.

However, I have seen friends who refused to take their parents’ advice, and are finding themselves in difficult marriages (I have also seen the opposite, but more on this another time). Seeing these real-life examples help me better appreciate the verses like Proverbs 1:8-9, which liken the advice of our parents to a garland to grace our head and a chain to adorn our neck. There is value and beauty in our parents’ well-intended advice; they do have our best interests at heart.

American pastor Gary Thomas and author of The Sacred Search wrote, “Your parents know you better than you may realize, and even if they aren’t believers (Christians), they still usually want the best for you. At least consider their opinions . . . Also, talk to your pastor and other godly people you respect: ‘Does this relationship seem like a ‘fit’ to you? Are there any areas you’re concerned about?’ ”

Sure, no one is perfect. I wasn’t looking for Mr Perfect and I am far from Miss Perfect. But it was the culmination of all these things which made me realize, looking back, that breaking up with him was probably a good thing. Sometimes we make excuses for our date’s bad behaviour, thinking the person would change once we tie the knot. But more often than not, that doesn’t happen. I was deeply unhappy about it in the beginning, but I had made up my mind and there was no turning back.

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation where the person you’re dating hasn’t been given your parents’ stamp of approval, and you think your parents are a killjoy. Whatever the reason might be, I’d like to encourage you to listen to your parents, and seek out their reasons behind their objections. It doesn’t mean that we must always take in everything they say, but at the very least, we should give their advice some thought.

Though it might be a little hard to swallow, I believe that it will be worth your while in the long run, just as it was for me. A wise friend said, “There are worse things than being alone.”

God’s Will Isn’t Found in Books

Written By Ana Chavarria, USA

As Christians, we are known for believing that we are to follow what the Bible tells us to do. Sometimes, this gives others the impression that we serve a God who has an unending list of commands that we need to follow.

The reality is quite the opposite. In many aspects of our lives, the Bible does not give us rigid instructions on what we should do. Instead, God gives us guidelines—and the freedom to choose how we want to live our lives.

For instance, the Bible does not have an explicit set of rules on dating. As a result, many of us tend to turn to books about “how-to-date-the-godly-way” for guidelines about relationships.

When I was 14 years old, someone passed me a book on dating which became everything to me. I tried to follow everything it said to a tee. I forgot that while it offered some valuable lessons that came from the Bible, it was not the Bible. Instead, I mistakenly took the Bible verses given by the author as validation that all his “rules on dating” were from God. I remember that the book kept repeating that “courtship” was the only godly way to start a relationship, and that “dating” was not purposeful and could lead to sinful acts. By courtship, he meant not going out just as a couple, always having a chaperone around, and keeping the physical contact to holding hands. Dating, to him, was more of an exclusive relationship. It made sense when I read the author’s experience with courtship and how it worked out for him.

As a result, I grew up thinking that dating was basically a sin and it was wrong to express my feelings to someone. I ended up keeping all my feelings within and this gave me a lot of unnecessary stress.

When I started attending college, I befriended people who were in very godly and healthy relationships. I started to question my beliefs about dating and realized they had a very weak foundation. I wasn’t so sure anymore. All around me, I heard great stories of how God led my friends to the right person in different ways. It was like seeing for the first time that God works in a personal way.

That’s when I realized that what might have worked for the author of that book might not work for me, or for somebody else. Perhaps that’s why we sometimes get frustrated trying to abide doggedly by a set of steps that are said to lead to “godly living”. When we do that, we may not be allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our lives in a personal way.

Christian books and biblical counsel can provide guidance and answers to questions often asked in the Christian life. But they can also distract Christians from the most important thing—our personal relationship with God. If we are really seeking His face every day, He is going to show us His way for us individually.

Think of it this way: there are many books on dating, and each book is going to say what the author has learned about the subject. How do you know for sure which one is absolutely right, and which one to follow? Each author has a unique set of struggles which brought him or her to the place he or she is at now. It was that experience which made him or her write a book full of life lessons and advice for Christians.

Today, I am dating a guy who lives and glorifies God in everything he does. And that makes me want to be a better person every day. It’s an amazing experience to be able to journey together with the one you love towards God.

That said, God has different plans for each one of us. Christian life is not about determining who does it better or trying to model after others; it’s about letting go of yourself and letting God take over your life. You will be surprised by what He is able to do. Trust in Him and He will lead you to the path He has planned just for you!

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:31b-32