Who you calling ‘grown up?’

I want to talk about how Christians date, but I want to exclude teenagers, very young adults, and virgins.  This discussion is for you if you do not consider yourself to be one (or more) of the above listed categories.

(And I’ll circle back to those of us who are virginal, but no longer particularly young. You are loved, dear friends.)

The church has focused its instructions on dating on strongly encouraging Christian teens and virgins to wait to have sex.  The focus is on keeping one’s virginity for marriage.  This single-mindedness comes with a cost.  Those who are no longer virginal get very little advice, and what they do get of it is lousy.  I think they just don’t know what to say to us.

Many of us, reading these words, are divorced or widowed.  We’ve enjoyed a sexual marriage.  What advice is there for us, besides ‘just say no?’

I like that I’m no longer a teenager. I like that I’m comfortable with my body, in a way that I wasn’t when I was in my teens and 20s.  (If you are in your twenties, may I suggest you don’t plan too far ahead, and you might want to get therapy.)

And trust me, the body hasn’t gotten better.  I’ve come to understand how fabulous the body is, and that includes my not-ready-for-my-close-up body.

I like that I’ve had some experience in kissing frogs.  I can tell at a distance which ones are more likely to be poisonous toads.

I like that I have outgrown the teachings that a child/woman does not have the right to say ‘no’ to demands placed upon her by a man in authority.  I do have the right to say no.  I can no longer be talked into things that are beyond my boundaries, as has happened to me when I was younger.

I hope all this doesn’t mean I’ve become jaded and cynical.  It’s hard for me to tell, due to problems of perspective.

I’ve been thinking about Brian Kammerzelt’s call to excellence. (And the video.)   I share in his opinion that the dating process is not an area of exception for Christians.  In other words, if God calls us to love one another, and to care for one another, that applies in dating, also.  It is of highest importance that any new people that you are meeting are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  They will ALWAYS be your brothers and sisters in Christ.  And each one of them is worthy of great love and respect.

He points to the underlying problem being a faulty theology of Christian community. What does Christian community mean to you?  Have you re-read Acts recently?  What’s your model?  Is that the best model? What is?

As Kammerzelt says, “We have forgotten or chosen to ignore that everyone is in your life for a reason, and there are far more relationships, deep and meaningful, than the romantic “one.” We are capable of and deserve much more from one another than this all-or-nothing mentality that the dating culture creates.”

When a grown-up person dates, there must be less selfishness than when the young ones date.  No games-playing, please. There must be more honesty. There must be more kindness.  There must be more Christ-centered-ness.  Hopefully this comes about naturally because we have grown and matured in Christ as the years have gone by.  If this is not the case for you, seek counsel at your faith-home, your local church, or with the group of disciples that you fellowship with.

Following Jesus calls us to a different kind of life, one where other people’s needs are more important than our own.  How can we date in a way that brings glory to God?  How can we date in a way that makes those around us better?  How can we love those we date, even those who we don’t intend on marrying?

We are called to do this.  Please share your ideas with me.



Participation Trophy Christians

I read an inspiring blog post by Brian Kammerzelt recently. (No, it’s not new.  Brilliant, but not new.)  In it he condemns modern churchified singleness and dating.  He is right to do so.  It is a crazy thing, this pairing off, this searching for one’s mate.

He writes of how we should be doing this completely differently, how the body of Christ should not handle the pairing off process just like the rest of them.  If Christians marry, it should look deeply and significantly different from how the world does it.  Brian’s writing is wonderful and reaches for heights that I had forgotten existed.  There are few practical suggestions and he does not seem to argue for singleness over marriedness or the reverse.

It reminded me of the beautiful artistry of a champion ice skater performing his winning long program for the judges.  It was athletic, strong and evocative.  It’s going to win the gold. It is spiritual and poignant.  It call us to something higher.

I’m not a gold medal Christian.  I’m an also-ran. I’m an enlisted, not an officer.  I’m a plodder, a trudger, a slogger.  I’m not a artist: I’m a worker.  My faith is deliberate and methodical.

I was never able to see some higher meaning in my daily struggles.  As I struggled with being single, I was advised to focus on the Kingdom of God and stop hoping for a husband.   I was advised that I should learn to be content.  I felt that was about as good advice as being content with shoes that were the wrong size.  I was hurting.

Was I wrong to hope for a husband, children and a family of my own?  No.  And I was as content as I could manage at any given time.  I knew marriage wasn’t easy.  I knew I had freedoms that my married friends did not.  And yet, I still wanted it.  I prayed earnestly.  And yet, I did not get it, until much later.

I know that we are told that we’re the hero of the story.  Many wish to tell us this.  They mean it as an encouragement.

I believe that each of us is called to become perfect, to be as close a reflection of Christ as we can manage in this life, with God’s help.  I aspire to this.

But not everyone is a hero.  Some of us are side-kicks.  Some of us are supporting characters.  Some of us are Marthas.  Some of us are Samwise Gamgee, not Frodo. And I’m not convinced that it can be any other way.

I think of the story of Gideon, in Judges 7.  32,000 men showed up to fight for Israel against the Mideonites.  But only 300 were chosen.  31,700 men were sent home.  They showed up.  They were ready to fight, but they did not get to fight.  And this was for the glory of God.  Those 31,700 fellows were not disobedient.  They were not lesser-than.  They were part of the story.  But they weren’t the heroes of the story.

Let us not seek a neurotic or narcissistic faith.  It’s not all about us.  It is all about Jesus.  And some of us have only small roles to play.  

So, I’m an also-ran Christian.  I get a trophy for participation.

It is not wrong to wish to be married.  We are commanded to ‘marry rather than burn.’ (1 Cor 7:9)  I think it’s the how to get from single to married process that is a crazy man-made thing that does not glorify God.  

Somewhere, between a gold-medal winning faith and my plastic participation trophy faith, we all work out our salvation.  And, I hope, it glorifies God.

Keep running, friends.  If you can’t run, keep walking.  Even if all of the others are ahead of you, keep working out your faith, in your own small way.  It is enough and God’s grace carries us home.

Hello world!

Hello, friends.  Dating is awful.  Dating is hard and its even worse when you’re a Christian.

I’d like to help.I know your pain.  I’ve been there.  And I’m there again.

Let me know what you need, dear friends.