Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dating to dignify, part 2 of 5: Get a social life that benefits your dating life

This year I've interviewed dozens of my single Christian friends about dating. I've taken their ideas about the best ways to navigate the initial stage of a dating — getting a first date and moving past it —  and have compiled them in this blog series. 

Check out part 1: "No more dodgeball"

From the ages of 21-27 I went on four first dates. True story. Two of those dates were pretty fruitful — one became a serious boyfriend, and the other became a fiance. But neither of those relationships turned into marriage, and so I spent four of those six years single and mostly date-less, waiting for my Prince Charming to come and find me. 

But he didn't. 

At which point I began to realize that most women's husbands didn't ride up on a white horse and whisk them away. And most husbands' wives didn't just fall into their laps. First they had to date. And date. And date.

In other words, they had to work to find a spouse, much like they worked to get a college degree, and later get a job and buy a house. 

Of course God's fingerprints were all over my married friends' relationships. God is always sovereign and involved in our lives, especially when we invite him to be involved. But in most cases, it was clear that my married friends worked in tandem with God to find a spouse. They didn't sit back in their lonely house and wait for God to *poof!* give them a spouse out of nowhere. 

I know God does sometimes drop spouses in people's laps when they're not working for it. He's fun like that. But that's really rare. 

Moreover, God has a track record of working together with the people he loves to accomplish his good purposes. He invites us to pull diligently in a yoke with him. And man, we get to work with the same God who sculpted the Alps with his hands, breathed the Milky Way into existence, formed us from the dust of the ground, split the Red Sea in half,  and brought the dead back to life. No big deal.

So we pray, and we work, trusting that God will sovereignly use our efforts for his good purposes, whatever that looks like. 

About a year and a half ago, instead of just praying for a husband, I decided to get to work and get dating. Discussion about dignifying people with our dating is moot if we're not going on dates, yes?

But I didn't know any single guys with whom I hadn't already explored the possibility of dating. At which point I realized I needed a different social life. Sure, I had my seminary classes, my colleagues, and my church community. But there were very few single guys in those spheres. 

So, as I began to slowly regain health, I was intentional about cultivating social circles in which single men ran. I made conversation with strangers at church, on my seminary campus, and at the coffee shop and grocery store. I invited new friends to my place, said yes whenever I could to invitations to friends' parties, and tried to talk to people I didn't know at the parties I attended.

It was slow going for me because of the way my health issues inhibited me, but I still managed to meet a lot more single men each month than I had previously. Muy bueno.

So evaluate your social life. Are you meeting interesting, single folk? If not, begin to cultivate social circles that serve your love life. Attend weddings and church gatherings, show up at the bonfire where you don't know anyone, join a community softball league, and say yes to as many party invitations as possible.  

Consider also what kind of people you want to meet. Do you value health and fitness and want to meet someone with similar values? Then get a membership to a Crossfit gym. Do you want to meet someone who values the arts? Then start attending your church's monthly art workshops. Go to the places where the type of person you're hoping to meet might hang out. 

And when you start meeting single folk, get to dating. 

I know, I know. Easier said than done for my fellow fetal position-assumers. 

So come back tomorrow and Thursday for tips for getting and moving past the first date.

© by scj


  1. This post reminds me of a piece of advice I heard when I was in my early teens: "You have to be the kind of person that the kind of person you want to marry would want to marry."
    Pretty wordy, but it makes sense. I am not sure that I used it a lot other than what you said about going places to find the person you want. Go to the places you want to hang out and enjoy spending time. Join clubs, etc. Anyway, just thought I would share :)

    1. Hi, Jenny!

      I think that advice is apt on so many levels. We ought to go to the places where the good guys and gals would hang; press into Christ in the way we hope a spouse might press into him; and develop a lifestyle that cultivates character, the way we hope for a potential spouse.

      Did you meet your husband taking this advice?!


    2. I did meet my husband at a young adults church group. I was dating a guy at the time but Kyle (my husband) told me I was the "most stunningly beautiful and captivating woman" he'd ever met. And it was pretty much a done deal :)
      Totally true that you need to get "out" to find your spouse though. Maybe it used to be easier with the whole arranged marriage thing, but it is just a different type of adventure now!

    3. Goooo Kyle! What a line! I love it. It is so lovely when guys intentionally and honestly affirm the image of God in us.

      Dating these days is a different type of adventure, indeed! It's always so interesting to me how social and cultural trends affect dating. I'd love to do (or review) some studies on Christian culture to see how it shapes our dating experiences. Fascinating.

      Thanks for sharing, Jenny. :)


  2. This is good advice...I need to keep working on this. I wonder how to best balance this with spending time in the world and with non-christians, whom you love and hope to influence for eternity but do not hope to marry?

    1. I like your question, Jena! I, too, have struggled with maintaining this balance. I'm realizing I don't need to stuff my schedule till it's bursting with activities; rather, I should be strategic about how I re-shape my social life. Maybe I eliminate some activities so I can replace them with other, more fruitful activities (this is hard for me because it means NOT saying yes to everything. In fact, in means saying no a lot). Maybe I merge activities and bring my non-Christian friend to the bonfire with me, instead of getting coffee with her one-on-one. 

      I'm also learning the importance of taking advantage of the daily, non-negotiable activities in my life. When I'm waiting in line next to a good-looking guy (with kind eyes;)) at the grocery store, then I should strike up a conversation. If he's a follower of Jesus who's interested in getting to know me, then yeeeeah, baby. If not, then I'll consider how I might share Jesus with him. Either way, I was planning on waiting in line at the grocery store regardless, and the interactions didn't detract from my already-busy schedule. Guys are everywhere, not just at parties (who knew?!) They're at the bank, the mailbox, the grocery store — all the places I'm going anyway. I've just got to learn to be open and inviting when I see them.

      I'm learning the key is to take a more integrated approach to developing a social life, rather than compartmentalizing my life into "Meeting new people time" and "Sharing Christ time." My time at parties is time to meet guys, yes; but it's also time to share Jesus with people that don't know him. When I'm playing baseball I may be flirting with that guy on my team, but I'm also chatting with the gal who is curious about what it means to follow Jesus. Every moment is an opportunity to meet a spouse; every moment is an opportunity to share Christ. 

      And lastly, I'm learning to invite the Spirit of God to show me how he would have me spend my time. Maybe he wants me to spend my time at a party just talking to that one guy, because the connection will shape our lives significantly. Or maybe he just wants me to spend the afternoon with my friend who doesn't know Jesus. I often forget that God cares about my life and the lives of my friends way more than I do. Prayer reminds me he'll guide me as I try to balance and steward my time and resources.

      What do you think, Jena? How have you been able to do this? What's worked and what hasn't?

    2. Mmmmm. I like that Sarah. I like to compartmentalize, it keeps things less messy, but I can see that my hopes and goals in life shouldn't be compartmentalized because God changed my whole life. All of it! And now he is in charge of it :) which I supposed means being intentional (romantically or academically or spiritually) with every person he made and loves.

      I have learned that in some spheres of my life I need to be carefully about what I let my heart do. When I am around a ton of guys who don't share my convictions (however attractive they may be) I need to keep the welcome mat and Ruth tactics safe in the closet. However, then I find all these hopes get pushed onto very few social situations where I do share the same convictions with the gentlemen, but that much pressure makes for more disappointment then progress. So that hasn't worked.

      I think I need to pray about it more, I forget God wants our joy and he has the best plan for it. I heard a good sermon on John 17 about that recently. I need to fine a balance between proactive/intentional and lead by the Spirit, so I don't take things into my own hands and lose the outward focus God calls me to.

      I am encouraged to hear some ideas on how to be most honoring/encouraging (in the next posts) to the men we interact with. It seems like this is about us, but God uses relationships and interactions like this to simply encourage people sometimes. :)

    3. Jena,

      I love your reminder that, while dating does seem to be about us (finding a spouse, growing, honoring each other), it's so much bigger than us. God is using our interactions for his glory at every turn, when we least expect it. Who knows but that a single interaction with someone of the opposite sex will positively shape their (or our) entire dating trajectory.

      When you're most often surrounded by non-Christian men, it is so hard not to let the Hope Floodgates open when you do encounter eligible Christian bachelors.

      The balance between being proactive (and assuming responsibility) and resting in God's sovereignty is a balance with which I often struggle. I agree that prayer — inviting the Spirit into my dating hopes and experiences — helps me to rest in God's sovereignty.

      Looking back at the sovereign work of God in my romantic relationships also helps, especially if I take time to swap sovereignty stories with other Saints. Reading stories of God's sovereignty (like Jim and Elizabeth Elliot's, for example) also helps me to better understand the relationship human responsibility and God's free will. I'm thankful for a community that reminds me who I am in relation to God. :)

      Your thoughts are helpful and thought-provoking, Jena. I'm glad you shared. :)


  3. Sarah, thank you for this post series...I am so grateful for you and how you are just a few steps ahead of me on our parallel journeys :) God has done a lot of renovation work in me in the area of openness this year, and as I come up and out into health I have been slowly trying to make changes such as you talk about in this post. have you read the books by Cloud and Townsend on this subject? it reminds me a lot of what you are saying.


    1. Macy! Thank you for your encouragement. I'm glad that, together, we can navigate illness and then dating as we return to health. I imagine God has used your season of illness to teach you true and helpful things that will shape your approach to dating. I know he did for me. :)

      I haven't read those books! What are they called? A girlfriend heard an interview with Cloud and Townsend on the radio the other day, and said it was quite encouraging and helpful. I'll have to check them out.