“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around…. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are….You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”
Up until a few weeks ago, strolling around campus, I couldn’t help but see all the couples around me. Now, I’m not talking about all the PDA-heavy couples, but the ones that are annoyingly adorable in the other way, in that they’re so perfect for each other that seeing them just holding hands was enough to spiral me into a state of complete despair over my own singleness. People kept telling me to embrace my singlehood, that I’m in the prime of life and I have no man to tie me down or tell me what to do. While I appreciated the advice, no. Just…no. I couldn’t help but feel so utterly single and inadequate in a couples’ world.
I almost felt shamed by society into not admitting or being proud of the fact that I just wanted to be loved. Our culture labels women who express this desire as being “desperate” and dismisses them as merely being in love with the idea of love, rather than being open to looking for actual love.
Especially in the young Christian community, I would be in the minority if I said I’m looking to date already, so early in college. Chatting with my small group leader one night about dating (over our brilliant Pieology pizzas), I was left feeling a whirlwind of satisfaction and conviction, mixed with a little rebellion as well. She demystified the whole dating issue for me, saying that our church doesn’t explicitly prohibit, but does discourage, dating in college, since college is a time of self-discovery and our fellowship should be a non-flirtatious atmosphere. If I were to date someone in college, she encouraged me to seek some accountability to make sure it’s a healthy, God-glorifying relationship that didn’t consume my life.
Since not dating wasn’t a “rule” necessarily, the rebel in me told me I needed to have a relationship sometime in college, just to prove I was mature and could be one of those rare people who successfully love only one person in their life. I even made a very expensive bet with a friend that my first relationship would last at least six months, which apparently is very difficult for a first-time relationship. What have I done.
A few years ago, when I was still basically a child and dating was irrelevant in my life, we had a message on the difference between worldly dating and courtship, which is what we should strive for. During one of the very few times I scrolled through my Facebook news feed recently, I stumbled across a Humans of New York post on a 19 year old guy who had found “the one” and gave her a promise ring, and he also clarified the significance of a promise ring versus an engagement ring. An engagement ring is a promise to get married; a promise ring is a promise to be together forever, till death do us apart. I think courting is like the promise ring – it has the intention of being with the other person forever. Dating, at least how dating is today, has the intention of merely marriage, if even. Even marriage doesn’t hold much weight anymore in terms of long-term commitment, as the divorce rate continues to climb. However, it’s not love that sustains the marriage, but the marriage that sustains the love. A lifelong commitment to each other is a choice, because love is an action, not an emotion (more on love as a verb to come).
Two weeks ago, I wrote about adultery, and how I’d been committing adultery all my life, and still struggle with it. Reflecting back on all of this now, there’s definitely a God-shaped hole in my heart that I was trying to fill with love from other people; I was deluding myself into thinking that dating was extremely important in college, that I’d be missing out on something important, that I needed a guy to fill that void in my heart. Spiritual maturity first demands a clarity of mind, in being able to separate out our desires for God from our desires for other things; I had been trying to let my other desires satisfy my desire for God, which of course, was doomed to fail. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you [Matthew 6:33]. For now, I know I’m not in a place to be dating anyone, and perhaps not even for the rest of college. But I’m oddly okay with that now.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. [Jeremiah 29:11]