I felt guilty the first time I logged onto eHarmony. “I’m just looking”, I told myself, “There’s no harm in looking.” But I felt like I was cheating on God. Wasn’t I supposed to wait for him to find my match?
If you’re a Christian single, you’re probably no stranger to this concept. Well-meaning moms and married friends drop the phrase into our laps along with a copy of Waiting for God to Write Your Love Story. But some of us have been waiting an awfully long time. Do we even know why?
Your reason might depend on which type of single you are. Our upbringing, personality, and past wounds can all affect how we approach and interact in dating relationships.
On the surface the Waiter appears calm and patient. You are caring and love to serve. You can be found working in the church nursery or leading a Bible study. While you’re keeping yourself busy, you believe God will plunk the perfect person in front of you. Yet you feel like a discontented and dateless casualty as your friends pair off, and you’re attending another wedding by yourself. You probably won’t say so, but, secretly, you blame God.
Once upon a time, I was a nice girl, waiting for a nice guy to sweep me off my feet. A guy did come along. He was everything I thought I wanted—handsome, sweet, accomplished—and everything my Christian community said he should be. He was a great guy. But deep down, I knew he wasn’t my guy. It took me a while to realize that what I thought I wanted and what I actually wanted were not the same thing. And I needed to figure that out.
Many people encouraged me to think and pray and keep waiting for God to bring the perfect match to me. But, honestly, I was over it. That’s when I found myself on eHarmony, setting two rules for myself: Meet early. And date often. This meant I would not invest more than a few weeks chatting with someone online before I met them. And I would go out with anyone—online or off—at least once if they were attractive to me and passed my finely-tuned creep-o-meter test. So I was nervous and excited when a cute match, who went to my church, asked me out.
A few days later, I sat across the table from him fumbling with the rim of my cocktail. “So, what do you like to do for fun?” I asked. After a few seconds, he finally answered, “I don’t know”, and I knew it would be a long evening. I also knew I was taking a healthy step forward. The point of my exercise wasn’t marriage; it was to find myself.
In his book, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, Dr. Henry Cloud says a successful relationship is one that spurs you to find yourself. “The real issue here is what is the purpose of dating. One of the first steps people need is to be cured of the thinking the purpose of dating is to find a marriage partner,” says Cloud. “Dating is as much about learning what you need and want, and how you need to grow and change, as it is about finding the ‘right’ person.”
Cloud encourages going on lots of dates with lots of different kinds of people. Being challenged by different views and asserting your own values. Practicing vulnerability and honesty and establishing boundaries—what you will and will not tolerate in a relationship. And finding the answers to questions about yourself—like “What do you do for fun?”
To the Raider, “wait” is a four letter word. You are assertive and prone to be quickly swept into a tide of emotions, hoping for a serious and committed relationship. You believe if you don’t command your dating destiny you will end up alone. So you plunder the dating market, armed with all the right moves. Ironically, your headlong dash-and-swoop methods can push your date’s panic button, signaling the destination down the aisle—rather than the person—is the real treasure. If you don’t slow down, you could find yourself reeling from a series of toxic relationships that end just as quickly as they began, and standing confused with the map to coupledom sagging in your hands.
It might be time to push pause.
Your desire for companionship is natural, healthy—godly even. But do you know why you’re chasing so hard after love? Often, Raiders are looking to fill holes in their lives—we all are. There are spaces in each of our lives that feel profoundly empty. I believe, in part, this is a longing for a perfect kind of love, the kind only God can give us. Another person can’t fill that gap. Until we acknowledge this, and are able to fill our minds and hearts with how purely and perfectly God loves us, we will never be satisfied.
I believe another part of the emptiness comes from a wound that never properly healed. Maybe your heart was broken. Or you hold tightly to damaging messages someone once gave you—you’re not enough, you’re too much, you’re not lovable. Wounds can cause emotional baggage to explode in our faces, sometimes causing enough damage to end a relationship. Looking inward will both help you fill the emptiness and develop criteria for healthier relationships moving forward.
The Strider has a quiet confidence and approachability. You might not have started out this way, but time, experience, and personal reflection have taught you to take the good and bad in life—and in dating—as it comes. You aren’t perfect, but you do accept responsibility for your faults and use them to nourish personal growth. You recognize that to be a good partner you need to be a good friend. You accept that on some Friday nights, Netflix and a pint of ice cream will be the best date you’re going to find—and that’s perfectly OK. And that saying yes to coffee is not saying yes to forever. You take risks. You understand that failing is an option—and one you can learn from. You’ve realized even good, healthy choices can have deeply painful consequences. And that grace is something you give, as much as something you receive.
You may not always be patient or fearless, but you understand wanting to control your love life, waiting for it, and dating through it are all exercises in trusting God and you keep walking forward in your faith. The possibilities of where God will take you are as much about surrender as action, and as much about prayer as personal health and preparation.
Whether you’re the quiet Waiter, the passionate Raider, or the confident Strider, the type of single you are isn’t as important as understanding God’s best for us often involves a balance of all three traits. And with a little self-examination, intentionality, and surrender, you can mature into the most attractive kind of single of all: real, honest, courageous and whole.