Written by Emily Tester / April 2016
Dating is hard. There are so many things that have to go right and so many things that can’t go wrong in order to ultimately find “The One”. General attraction starts out on a pretty superficial level – looks, style, body type. As you progress in this attraction, you start to notice other characteristics – sense of humor, how they handle themselves in a group, degree of intellect. Pretty soon you’re getting into the deep stuff – aspirations, values, compatibility. For most of the world, that’s where it ends.
As long as you have chemistry, enjoy each other’s company, and can see yourselves not killing each other 5 years down the road, you’re set. This is an easy standard to fall prey to. But there should be more to the search than just that. Those of us who went to ILHS were blessed with an additional (and very important) compatibility feature, namely, faith. The further away I get from those tall green pines, the more I realize how good I had it, surrounded by Christian guys day after day. It’s difficult to find a Christian partner in this increasingly sinful world, especially one who checks all those other compatibility boxes listed above. There are times when I wish I would have found my future husband back in high school. It would have been so much easier. I wouldn’t have to sift through my OKCupid messages to find the select few guys who list themselves as “Christian”. To make it even more difficult, a good number of people who call themselves Christians only do so because they went to Sunday School a few times as a kid or only show up to church on Christmas and Easter. They don’t live out their faith as adults. When your standards include having an active and growing faith life, searching for love is very tricky.
Even though I had begun to wander away from Him, God never left me for a second.
The trickiness of the love search can start to wear on you. And by “you”, I mean “me”. I was fed up with dating. Mind you, I dated some great Christian guys who made me dig into my own faith and learn more about Christ. But there were always little things that didn’t quite line up – beliefs about baptism, the importance of going to church on a regular basis, the role the Law plays in our lives. We couldn’t get around these issues, so the relationships ended. Failed relationships plus living alone in a new city equaled loneliness. I think this is something a lot of you can relate to (at least the loneliness part). I’ve talked to a number of old ILHS friends who were used to being surrounded by great Christian peers 24/7, and then college and beyond happened. We moved away from friends and family and started all over again. In some ways, this is great! But in other ways, it’s just lonely. The issue of missing friends, especially Christian friends, could be an entirely separate article. It’s rough. But let’s get back to loooove.
This loneliness that I encountered did not bode well for my self-esteem or mental health or attitude in general. I decided that I would find friends and more-than-friends, whether we shared religious views or not. I wiggled my way into a friend group that definitely did not have faith as a priority, or even as an after-thought. That friend group paved the way for a kinda-sorta relationship with a guy who was great. Really really great, in the eyes of the world. But he was the furthest thing from a man of God that I had ever seen. He not only challenged my faith and my God, but he attacked it. He made a mockery of it. Of course, I knew this was wrong and I defended my beliefs until I was blue in the face. The entire time, I thought that I could change him. I could be the vessel the Holy Spirit used to bring him back to the Lord. But what I didn’t consider is how the relationship and his words would affect my confidence in God. I’m not proud to admit it, but those conversations shook my faith, right down to the foundation. I not only questioned my faith, but in some instances, began to doubt it. I quickly chased those thoughts from my mind, but they had squirmed their way in, whether I liked it or not. At the time, I didn’t realize how much our conversations (which sounded more like debates) were rattling me. Looking back at it now, I see how skillfully the devil used my weaknesses against me. I was far away from my Christian rock (family, friends, home congregation) and I wanted love so badly. This boy checked almost all of my compatibility boxes, but the biggest box, the faith box, was unbelievably empty. I ended up leaving that relationship once I felt like I had done everything in my power (including getting my pastor involved) to bring some tiny shimmer of faith back to his life. But he had done some damage. I proceeded to date similar guys and I watched as my life continued on a downward spiral. I got to the point where I looked at myself and was pretty disgusted with who I had become. We’ve all heard the stories of Christians who reached a low point and felt like God could never forgive them because of the depth of their sin. I never understood those stories. God is loving and merciful, how could you ever question His ability to forgive? Well, now I understand. I had never felt so far away from God. I was ashamed to even speak to Him in prayer because I felt like such a failure. But pray I did. I prayed long and hard and started to feel like His child once again. Even though I had begun to wander away from Him, He never left me for a second. At that point, I decided I would never fall so far away for a second time. One way I would prevent that was by taking a break from dating. I needed to concentrate on myself and my faith. Then once I was ready to date again, I would only pursue Christian guys who would uplift and encourage me in my faith, rather than tear it down. The journey leading up to this realization was rocky and painful, but it got me back on track, and I believe my relationship with God is better for it.
In the time since that realization, I began dating an incredible Christian man. He uplifts. He encourages. He challenges me to live my life in a way that’s even more devoted to our Savior. We may not agree on every little religious idea, but I think that can be a good thing. It forces us to dig deeper into the Bible to compare our beliefs and what we’re discussing with the one genuine source of truth. It’s comforting to know that our answers will always be found in God’s Word rather than the erroneous logic of man. We have the same standards, and they don’t end with the checkboxes of the world. We have the mutual ultimate checkbox of faith.
I recognize that this has turned into more of a journal entry full of emotional ramblings than an article. The point I want to get across is this: Yes, dating is hard. It can be tempting to follow the logic of the world and find someone who’s great in a number of ways, but is lacking in the faith department. Please don’t succumb to that temptation. It’s not only unrealistic (if you want to truly live a Christian life), but it’s potentially damaging to your own faith. Your standards should always attempt to match those of the Lord’s. You’re not perfect, and you can’t expect the person you date to be perfect. But the two of you should be aiming for similar standards. Trust that the Lord has all the timing figured out. Put your love for Him above all else, and the rest will fall into place.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7