This is the second post in a series my sister and I are writing together. We are taking on common misconceptions in Christian circles about dating and trying to reconcile them with real life situations. Whatever your relationship status–be it happily married, engaged, in a serious relationship, divorced, single and loving it, single and hating it, a complicated relationship–we hope and pray that our words are able to encourage you.
I’m convinced that Christians who give dating advice almost all love math.
Math was never a favorite subject of mine. When I was little, math didn’t seem that bad–I’m really good at basic math. I can wrap my head around those concepts. As I grew older, math became more complicated. Algebraic formulas and geometric proofs frazzled my brain as I worked to understand them. Algebraic formulas made (somewhat) sense to me because there was a structure, a defined procedure to follow in order to find the value of x.
One thing that I have noticed among the Christian relationship/dating advice that I have come across is that almost all of it involves some type of formula.
“If you want to find your future spouse, you must do this, add this, subtract this from your life, add this in two steps later, divide it, find the square root of it, and multiply all of this by the level of patience that you have.”
It is almost like they are telling me to complete the Quadratic Equation, with “x” symbolizing my future husband.
“If you want to find your future spouse, you must pray about it as often as you can.” “If you want to find your future spouse, you must be obedient; you must read Scripture daily; you must do everything else that makes you a “good” Christian–give money to the poor, fast, evangelize, disciple, worship, attend church….” “If you want to find your future spouse, you have to be fully content being single.” “If you want to find your future spouse, you must not actively desire a relationship.” And of course, we can’t forget the two most commonly quoted Scriptures given as dating advice—“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).” “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).”
If finding your future spouse is as easy as plugging some life circumstances into a formula and waiting for it to work itself out, there is an obvious answer to the question of, “Well, why am I still single?”–it is because you haven’t done the formula. In other words, being single becomes a result of not fully living out the Christian life.
If formulas based on “good Christian behaviors” were the end-all to attain your future spouse, I should have been married before I graduated high school. The truth is, I am nowhere near entering into a dating relationship, let alone marriage. Just the other day, an older guy joked with me, “You should be married off by now.” The truth is, I can count on one hand the number of guys who have shown a romantic interest in me. The truth is, I have friends who in complete honesty have told me, “I don’t understand why you don’t have a guy pursuing you. You have so many good qualities.” The truth is, I have no answer for the question, “Why aren’t any guys lining up at the door to date you?”
(image credit: Reidsville Baptist Church)
God is not Genie in Aladdin. You can’t just rub a magic lamp (or complete a formula) and have God grant you three wishes. “Poof! What do you need?” “Poof! What do you need?” “Poof! What do you need?” is not how God works. God also does not work in formulas. Jesus consistently called out the Pharisees for their insistence that religious duties and full obedience of the Law were your one-way ticket to salvation. If following specific rules and structure doesn’t give me eternal life, why would I want a specific, cookie-cutter plan so that I could “find” the value of x—I mean, my future spouse?
My life is not a scavenger hunt from God. I do not get any brownie points from Jesus for handing Him a list of things that I have found. “Look Jesus! I found my husband! I had to look all over for him! You sure made that difficult, Jesus.” God is my Provider in all things—including my future husband. Let’s leave the formulas where they belong—back in Algebra class—and live our lives leaning into the adventure God has for us, trusting Him as Provider.