I was so supremely naive when I first began dating – my belief that “if a beautiful girl found me attractive that it must be God that brought us together” being one of them. From my vantage point in the early years of my adult life, when I heard friends talk about choosing one certain individual over all the other aspiring candidates, it was completely foreign to me – bizarrely, cheerful creatures in a dating utopia which in no way resembled my own reality. Candidates? What other candidates? When I found someone to be as attractive as they found me, I immediately concluded that this must be the will of God and began to project on to that someone everything I wanted to see and believe. That fact that people – strangers – don’t see things as I do, or want the same things out of life that I want was something of a rude awakening to me and one I had to come to grips with quickly.
When you project on to someone what you want to see rather than getting to know them for who they really are, you invite disaster. Christian singles fall into this trap often and unaware when they feel no sort of conflict or loss because their date does not share their faith – they rationalize the issue and avoid it until some later date when it is usually too late.
Trying to interpret God once you are in the context of dating is upside down. The appropriate approach involves praying to God before you enter into a relationship and ask for His guidance. Otherwise, dating brings up such powerful emotions and needs – it is the perfect storm for idolatry to become a reality.
So many Christian singles have told me that dating affects their relationship with God in one way or another. It can be good or bad. Some get excited about God because their date is excited. On the surface this seems like a good thing, however it may also be a sign of something more problematic. Using your date’s new-found enlightenment as the only criteria for God’s will may produce a false positive about what God wants for you and therefore is insufficient. The issue needs to be more fully explored.
Here are eight questions that will help you determine if your date is God’s will for you.
1. Does this person improve my spiritual life?
One very significant indicator about whether or not a person is a part of God’s plan for your life is the answer to this question:
Does dating bring you closer to God, or push you further away? In other words, are you drawn to God through that person? Does the person challenge you spiritually, rather than you having to be the initiator? Is the relationship a place of mutual vulnerability about weaknesses and sins?
2. Does this person have their own spiritual history with God?
Another great indicator about God’s presence in the other person’s life involves the presence or absence of a spiritual history. A person without a spiritual history, probably does not have much of a spiritual present.
3. Do you hold any values that are incompatible with dating this person?
Values provide the structure of who you are. Some values are more important than others, but some are worth dying over and so it is that some are worth breaking-up over. They can include theology, calling, relationships, job and career, finances, family, sex, social issues – you may want to make a list and define them. You should base your values in Scripture and make them a part of your dating world. Make two columns – one deal breakers – the other, not deal breakers.
Remember, being committed to someone who is incompatible in major areas trusting they will see the light and someday change is not a winning strategy.
4. Are you aware of this person’s personal struggles?
Every believer who has been around for any amount of time has experienced hurt, confusion, and mistakes. To know a person’s spiritual walk is to also be aware of their mistakes.
There is something to be said, of course, about opening up too soon about stuff like this = after all, you don’t want to scare them away. However, if you don’t know your date’s struggles, you can’t honestly say you know your date.
5. Do each of you have your own walk?
You don’t want to be in a situation where the other person looks to you for direction and motivation. They had something serious with God before you met and will continue after the relationship ends or continues. Also, keep in mind, you need someone autonomous because there will be times when you are weak or times when you will fail yourself.
6. Do you disagree with this person on anything?
Differences can promote growth. Demanding that your date be on the exact same page as you can be a problem. If you have to have 100% agreement – you have control issues. You want to fall in love with someone who can challenge you.
7. Who are this person’s friends?
You can learn a lot about each other by the friends you have. For instance, if all your date’s relationship are Christian – they may have an inability to live in the real world. I mean, if your date avoids legalistic Christians, that may actually be a sign of health. Be careful here. Do not use this issue as a way to be judgemental or to scrutinize your date. I am just saying the more you know about each other, the more you can answer the question about God’s will.
8. Is this person at the same growth-level as you?
In other words, are you spiritually compatible? Are you a good match?
You want someone you can share your spirituality with. If you are drawn to others who are absent spiritually – something inside you is broken. Understand the nature of growth. Remember you are not who you were, nor are you going to stay who you are. The same is true of them. Growth means things change. So it is important that the both of you have gotten past the period of questioning. Don’t be a parent. You don’t want to be a counselor or a tutor. If you set yourself up as a parent, the child will grow up and leave. If you are not at the same growth-level, do not get serious and certainly make no commitments.
Final words of advice:
Decide in advance what you can and cannot live with. Some things may be preferences, others more objective.
Don’t date non-christians.
If you are given the choice of dating an uncommitted Christian, ask yourself how do you know. Make sure your perceptions are correct. Maybe you are too judgemental. Just because you may know more about the bible is not a great test of someone’s commitment level. Why are they less committed? Sometimes people go through periods of loss. They withdraw. Maybe with a little support they will resolve some things they need to resolve. If the lack of commitment remains, it may be better to part ways.
Make sure you are not seeing a stylistic difference. You may have a degree in bible but not have the same style as a Christian who has had more experiences in life. Do they love? Are they truthful? Do they live in reality? Are they independent adults?
Remember not to become their parent – which means you have to allow them to fail on things you wouldn’t. The key is that they are growing in their faith apart from you. But its best to find someone equal.