Written By Grace Heng, Singapore
I started my search for love at 21. I used to dream about the ideal guy—Christian, older, tall, handsome, a true gentleman. He had to know how to take charge, sweep me off my feet, be a good listener, sing well, and actively serve in church.
I spent hours scrolling through articles like “10 Signs He Likes You” and “How to Attract Your Crush”, and reading up on different personality types. I wanted to create a “formula” for love, beginning with a checklist. Although I’d always been told to trust God for a partner, that seemed too abstract. Having a checklist felt like I was at least doing something on my part.
I would size up every guy I met with my checklist. Whenever someone caught my eye, I’d find opportunities for us to connect—which, in a Christian setting, translated to joining worship teams, youth fellowship, or church activities. But I faced repeated disappointments as the other person often seemed uninterested.
The more I tried to search for a partner, the greater my fear of rejection became. Over time, my checklist felt like a safety net. I figured that if the guy ticked all the boxes, that would reduce the risk of incompatibility and spare me the pain of heartbreak.
Upping my dating game
Soon I dipped my toes into dating apps with my trusty checklist in hand. But I lacked the guts to start a conversation, and it felt like I had no “game” when it came to texting, as the conversations never got me anywhere near an actual date.
So I booked myself a session with a dating practitioner, so I could have an expert review my checklist and help me figure out how I can better present myself. After the session, my checklist became more defined—education level, hobbies, height, religion, race, lifestyle.
The dating practitioner would send me potential matches, and I’d dress up and go to each date with a short list to help me evaluate. A handshake to start, a self-introduction. Was his handshake firm? Confident. Was he well-dressed? Respectful. Humorous? Bonus points! Did he grab the bill? That’s initiative.
But after every date, I’d feel a bit let down. Either the guy couldn’t keep the conversation going, or his faith seemed surface-level, or our interests just didn’t click.
If the dating practitioner was using my checklist to find matches, why wasn’t it working? Was I being too superficial, just searching for someone who checked all the boxes and looked good too?
Even as I confided in my church buddies and my parents about my dating woes, I didn’t really talk to God about it. I knew that I wanted a godly partner, but it didn’t occur to me to check with God what that would look like.
When I stopped looking. . . only to find someone
I started wondering if I was really that undesirable and if I should compromise on my checklist. So I decided to take a break from the dating cycle—only for someone special to catch my attention. However, it was very clear from the start that this was not someone I could have a relationship with.
Still, I was often crossing paths with this person. That, coupled with the attention and the flirty messages I was getting, was enough to throw me off-course.
Nothing about the person fit anything on my checklist, but the attraction was so strong because I wanted to be respected and loved by someone that I thought highly of.
The struggle went on for three years. The internal battle I faced eventually resulted in anxiety that called for medication and counselling sessions.
Counselling helped me realise that I have a strong fear of rejection and abandonment, and that my anxiety stemmed from not being able to reconcile my attraction to this person with what I believed in.
I was afraid that the counsellor would tell me off for what I was doing, but instead, he encouraged me to work on my relationship with God so that I can fully grasp what it means that I am wholly loved by Him, and that my value as a person does not lessen just because someone does not like me back.
But it was still hard to share my struggles as my close friends, parents, counsellor, and pastor could not fully understand what I felt. Attending church service was difficult because the guilt kept building up. I also felt I couldn’t talk to my church community.
How God pulled me back
Even as I drifted away from God, He was still faithful. He often spoke to me through songs, reminding me of His enduring love, how He gives peace in the midst of a storm, how He would stay the same for eternity.
One day I decided to attend a revival night by myself. I felt like I couldn’t be myself at church and needed a place to commune with God through worship. As I sat in the theatre, somehow it felt like it was just God and me.
Then this song came on, and the lyrics spoke about simply going to Jesus, which reminded me that even all my guilt cannot keep me from approaching Him. Jesus met me in my brokenness, assuring me that nothing could separate me from His love, and nothing was too damaged for Him to redeem.
The song also described how our bodies and souls are made for worship. Even in pain I can worship because that’s what I was created for. Worship is not about what I can do to serve, but simply giving God my heart.
At that moment, I repented for putting my needs before God and thinking that my checklist could be fool proof. I whispered, “God, I can’t do this without You anymore. Come and fill my life. Help me to see that You are the love of my life, because You are worthy.” This was the pivotal moment when I truly realised that my first love should be God and no one else.
I knew that I had to make a clean break with the person. So, after stepping out of the theatre, I sent a message to end things.
Letting God rewrite my love equation
I’ve come to see how my checklist was tied to my deep desire for approval and validation. I wanted to find that “perfect” partner, which meant I had to live up to that too—to have qualities that would make me attractive to this person. And this was all because I did not really know who I was.
When I began to see myself as a beloved child of God, it brought me assurance. I was loved by the One who would never leave me or forsake me. His love is unconditional and not dependent on whatever I had to bring to the table.
This put my fear of rejection and abandonment into perspective. Even if I was rejected or abandoned, even if I will never be chosen by any guy, I have already been chosen and am loved by God. I’m never truly alone because He is with me. This truth has brought me such peace and confidence.
When I prayed that prayer that day, God rewrote my love formula to this: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
At the core of this new formula is God. His love for me means seeking His kingdom first is for my good. And if I were to make this my life goal, I needed a man who could do that with me—a man who loved God more than he loved me, who valued godliness and spiritual growth, who will spur me on to grow in faith.
God has redefined attractiveness for me. Looking again at my checklist, I know I can still have my preferences in terms of things like looks and charisma, but I now have the confidence to prioritise more important things, such as someone who takes his faith seriously, who isn’t afraid to date in a God-honouring way; someone who displays the fruit of the Spirit.
Even if these priorities might make the search harder, I’m willing to stick with it. If I were to get married, I want the journey of marriage to sanctify me.
Now when I encounter a potential match, I hit the brakes and ask myself, “Where does God fit into my assessment of this person? Am I listening to His guidance in this journey? Am I prepared to surrender the search to Him, whatever the result?”
I also thought of this key question to consider before proceeding with any romantic pursuit: “Will I be okay if this guy does not like me back, or if God reveals that this isn’t the person for me?”
If the answer is “Yes”, then I can go ahead and explore. If my answer is “Maybe” or “No”, then I won’t proceed, to avoid a situation where I end up placing the other person on a pedestal.
I now regularly talk to God about my life and honestly share my experiences and how I’m feeling. Introspecting with God has helped me to not rush things, especially the decision to date. Instead of doing everything with my wisdom, I now choose to pray over things and move slower so I can be in sync with God.