My unmarried roommate Charlie was climbing into his late thirties when a woman invited him to join her at a wedding reception.
Maybe not a terrible first date? I thought. It’s a bit intense but fair enough.
Charlie accepted and seemed to have a good time. The day after their wedding date – I mean, date-at-a-wedding – the woman appeared on a front porch with a wrapped present for Charlie.
Isn’t that sweet?
He opened it to find a framed picture of them at the wedding. Awkward!
Don’t couples wait to give printed photos of themselves until they are an actual couple? Where would you even place a photo of you and the gal from the first date? On the mantle above the fireplace? On your desk at work? In a box in the attic?
While your dating life may not include that kind of extreme experience, I’ll bet you’ve got your own awkward dating stories. But if we’re being honest, all dating is awkward – inside and outside the church. Here’s the key: dating is awkward, but it doesn’t have to be weird.
What’s the difference? Something (or someone) is awkward when it’s uncertain, ineffective, or precarious. We primarily use the word awkward to mean uncomfortable and clumsy. Picture a newborn giraffe attempting to stand – that’s awkward. Her legs are weak and shaky. She’s unstable. For many newborn animals, this is a normal process. Similarly, when we lack skills or try something new – like dancing or playing the guitar – it’s awkward. I stepped on more than one woman’s toes while learning East Coast Swing Dancing – klutzy to be sure, but par for the course. Weird, on the other hand, is bizarre. If that same awkward-but-adorable giraffe was born with six legs and pink and purple spots, then it’s weird. A creature like that would be completely irregular. Awkward is normal; weird is abnormal.
Imagine dating a guy or gal, breaking up, and then ending up at the same small group. It would certainly feel awkward, but it’s also completely normal. Weird is when your ex shows up to the same meeting wearing a Halloween costume so you won’t recognize him or her. See the difference?
The bottom line is that awkwardness is inevitable, but weirdness is optional. Christian dating at its best means accepting the awkwardness but minimizing the weirdness.
On the other hand, somehow some followers of Jesus can elevate the natural awkwardness of dating to a new level and make it weird. Have you heard a Christian use any of these expressions?
- “God told me we were going to get married.”
- “God told me to break up with you.”
- “The Holy Spirit didn’t give me peace about you.”
- “I had a dream about you and it was from the Lord.”
- “God gave me this Bible verse for us.”
Although spiritual assertions like these might be sincere, mediating quotes from heaven is often incredibly confusing when it pertains to dating. Even worse, they can come across as spiritual manipulation. Dating is already an imperfect process, but adding superfluous religious lingo turns it into an enigmatic one. Our faith in Christ should make relationships easier not harder, right?
One guy abruptly approached a woman I know and claimed, “God told me that you would be my wife.” She was surprised, but told him she would pray about it. Days later, she returned and responded by saying that the Lord wasn’t speaking to her in the same way about him. He became upset, left in a huff, and accused her of not hearing God correctly. It ruined their relationship.
There is no one right way to choose a spouse, but there are many wrong ones. Touting that “God spoke to me” then getting angry that the other person doesn’t see it the same way is a wrong one. This man’s immature rebuttal only proved that he wasn’t ready to be with her anyway, because mature Christians are honest, open, and humble when they make mistakes. Maybe he could have won her heart by honoring her no, backing off, and humbly accepting her answer. If he felt the same way a few months later, he could have contacted her again and been direct: “I know you said you weren’t interested, and I’m sorry for how I acted. I really like you. I think we’d be great together. Has anything changed with you since we talked before? Or do you still see us only as friends?” No fluff, no room for ambiguity. If she said no a second time, then he could drop it altogether.
I’m not here to thwart how God wants to speak into your dating life, but I’d recommend waiting to share anything related to “God told me about you” until later in the relationship. You might scare off a viable mate. If you insist on staying prophetic, be open to being wrong, and immediately follow up you assertion with questions like, “What do you think?,” “How do you see it?,” and “Would you mind praying about this?” By showing humility, you’ll not only protect your reputation but honor your beloved’s ability to hear God’s voice.
It’s easy to outrun reality when we want something (or someone) so badly. In romance, feelings can cause fuzziness in our spiritual antennas. The combination of sexual attraction, excitement, and fear often jumble the signal. Understanding how God is communicating to you in romance is indispensable, but tread lightly and give it time. And apply His revelations to how He wants to guide your decision process, not someone else’s, in dating. If you question how God is speaking to you and prompting you to act, ask others.
Of course, I’d be ecstatic to receive a booming voice from heaven on whom to marry. The truth is, visions, dreams, or spiritual liver-quivers aren’t needed to kick-start a godly relationship, and the lack of a sign from heaven doesn’t need to keep you from exploring a relationship with another Christian. Some believers are willing to let their lives pass them by as they needlessly wait for a sign on whom to ask out on a date. Stay open to the more mundane ways God might want to bring you and your future spouse together. Whether meeting in college, through a club, at church, through friends, or on the internet – every way God brings people together is holy.
But just because God can write the name of your spouse across the sky, He probably won’t. He regularly allows unexpected twists and turns in relationships to grow you to be more like Him. The process of what you learn in dating is as important as the outcome. For example, being open, vulnerable, and sharing your feelings when you’re interested in someone is awkward, but, at the same time, a necessary stepping-stone to Christlikeness and emotional maturity. Furthermore, the normal ups and downs of dating allow you to grow in courage, display wisdom, and learn to hear His voice in a way that a one-off divine intervention wouldn’t.
Thank goodness God still works in the midst of our dating blunders. Remember my friend Charlie who received the picture frame after the first date? That eyebrow-raising gift didn’t stop him. He asked her for another date, and they were married a year later. Go, awkward dating!