The Dating Game

Duck poop. That was my first date with Riley. Two wide-eyed college kids went out for dinner and then put down a blanket to watch an Oklahoma sunset at the lake . . . surrounded by duck poop. Romantic, no?

In honor of the month of love, I’ll be spending a little time working through different stages of romance. Let’s start off with dating, shall we?

Talk about an exciting time in the relationship! The dating process is probably the most in-depth experiment humans sign up for. The thrill of the chase, the possibility of heartbreak, the curiosity, the butterflies. All in the hopes of figuring out if this is really “the one.” As an observer and counselor of tons of couples, I’d like to offer some tips on this hunt for Mr. or Mrs. Right.

1. Set boundaries. For real. Emotional ones and physical ones. And stick to them. If that person you’re eyeing can’t help you abide by those boundaries, they probably aren’t right for you. Choose someone who will uphold your integrity, not challenge it.

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

(Proverbs 4:23)

2. Pick wisely. If you see major character flaws, move on. You’re not looking for a project: you’re looking for a partner. They won’t enjoy being parented by you, and it’s really hard to respect someone you can’t follow whole-heartedly. Dating anyone who doesn’t love Jesus at least as much as you do is not a good idea.

Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark?

(2 Corinthians 6:14)

3. Be who God made you to be. Brave, loving, gracious, a picture of His Son. When you can unashamedly pursue becoming like Him, you’ll attract a different sort of person—the kind who cares about that. Don’t lose yourself trying to be anyone other than who you’re meant to be. Your identity doesn’t come from your relationship status; it comes from Christ, and He says you are loved and accepted and enough.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20)

4. Watch your friendships. Keep the healthy ones close and let the unhealthy ones lose some ground. Anyone who encourages you to compromise your character doesn’t need a lot of say over your life. The people who have the most access to your heart should be able to speak the truth to you in love. If they’re noticing big red flags, allow that wisdom to inform your decisions. Blind spots are called blind spots for a reason.

The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.

(Proverbs 13:20)

5. Have fun and try lots of different settings. See how they react under pressure. Watch them around their family. Notice their work habits. Go to a sporting event, spend a day volunteering, try a new activity, enjoy a group date. The more varied your experiences together, the better idea you’ll have of who they really are.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

(Proverbs 27:19)

6. Don’t rush the process. Lots of people out there will want to push, to put pressure on you, to move you along. Trust that you are exactly where God wants you in this moment. He has good plans for your life; just enjoy the ride.

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.

(Song of Solomon 8:4)

7. With that said, if you have peace and are absolutely sure this is the one, don’t wait around for years and years to commit. Unnecessarily drawing out the waiting period can seriously test those boundaries you set when you were sober-minded. Relationships are hard enough without adding more problems into the mix.

Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

(Genesis 2:24)

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