You know you've heard it. "I'm not in a relationship right now because I'm dating God"
I cringe when I hear those words.
The reasoning behind it boils down to one word - intentionality. I'm all for that. Setting aside time in life to more consciously center your mind on God is not only valuable but necessary. We're most aware of the ways we're growing and the ways were stuck when things are silent, when we can breathe. Having less relational commitments - romantic or otherwise - does increase the time we have to be in silence.
But, to call that silence dating God, trivializes it.
Our God is a consuming fire. He's white-hot purity, He's matchless grace, He's irresistible love.
He is not my boyfriend.
I know that this may be a bigger deal to me because I was an English major and am a writer of some kind (which kind is yet to be determined ;))- words matter to me. Each word choice is significant and to say I'm "dating God" comes nowhere close to the actual meaning of what I'm saying- which hopefully is that I'm taking time to better know my Creator (and, in the process, myself).
I think that this also bothers me because it touches on another frustration I have with Christian dating.
So many Christians want safe dating relationships.
Instead of delighting in a real person we tend to force our relationship into pre-defined boxes with unnatural standards and awkward language. We try to make something spiritual and neat that, in reality, is already spiritual because it's entered into by two believers and will never be neat because human hearts are involved.
Christian dating is holy, it is sanctifying - any standards we have should help preserve that not control the life out of it.
All dating has an element of risk because authentic love requires ruthless vulnerability. You can only love and be loved to the extent that you know and are known.
You can't always play safe with your life.
(and, on that note, a broken heart is NOT proof that you did something wrong. Often it's proof that you did something right).
I'm playing with words here, with nuances of meaning.
But isn't it always the nuances, the shades of meaning, that make a significant difference?
It's the difference between being alive and living.
I think we're often afraid of love. Afraid of needing someone else on that level. Afraid of dependency, afraid of failure, afraid that we won't heal from heartache.
In the Harry Potter series Lord Voldemort tries to make himself immortal by splitting his soul into seven parts (each division requires him to commit murder). He hides the parts of his soul in different objects - called horcruxes - which all must be destroyed for him to die.
He succeeds (for a time) at remaining alive but fails entirely at living.
How often do we go through our day without living?
How often do we date without actually loving?
We create emotional horcruxes for ourselves.
Rules to keep our hearts from breaking, boundaries to keep ourselves whole.We box out the pain, the risk, the brokenness and, in the process, all the love. We split our hearts among shallow affections and miss out on life.
As C.S. Lewis says so perfectly;
"Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." (emphasis mine).
Don't guard your hearts so carefully that you cannot love.
I know women (and have been a woman) who was afraid of heartbreak. I was over-vigilant with my heart because I didn't think I was strong enough to get in the game, to withstand pain. As it turns out the compassion of God is stronger than any heartache we can ever experience.
I can walk through fire. So can you.
Don't dissect your girlfriend or boyfriend so thoroughly, looking for flaws, that you cannot love a real person.
I'm not talking about settling for marrying a mass murderer - I'm saying that you will need to accept a human who struggles, sometimes deeply. Loving someone is meeting them in their brokenness and being a significant part of their healing.
If you're waiting for a fully sanctified human who will fill in all the pieces you're lacking, who will look the same forever, who will meet all your unspoken expectations, who won't require you to sacrifice anything - than you will be waiting for a very long time.
My husband & I live in a trailer (or, somewhat classier, a mobile home ;)). It's 32 years old and certain spots in the floor are soft. When your toes hit them the wood sinks just a little under the pressure, you can feel where the fibers have been softened by time, water and...probably termites.
Relationships have soft spots too.
There are things in my marriage that ache. Ways that Tom and I are broken that will always be soft, sore parts of us. We're coming to know what they are and how to love each other through them. What I do know is that it's ok.
Real life has soft spots. Real love should shake you to your core some days. Real pain will break your heart.
We live so wooden.
So centered on the external, so bent on doing the right thing, so cautious of standards and appearances.Real life is terrifying at times. Exhilarating at others. Somewhat quiet in between.
The heart should tremble in the face of love in the gaze of pain.
I'm not suggesting you rush into the next dating opportunity that presents itself, I'm not saying to bare your entire soul on the first date and I'm definitely not saying that physical and emotional boundaries should go out the window. I'm not saying that life can or should be lived outside of obedience to the standard given by our God.
I'm not saying things like True Love Waits, I kissed Dating Goodbye, the idea of courtship and the 101 other Christian dating ideas are wrong. I'm truly not.
I am saying that sometimes they can be detrimental.
I'm saying that unless they are used by a person whose heart is freed to love, who understands that life is brutal and painful, who understands that doing an admirable thing, like "dating God" for a year, does NOT guarantee a reward or favorable outcome then they will likely do more harm than good.
I'm not saying to live recklessly but with ruthless authenticity revealed in sacrificial love.
When I die I want to be used up.
All my love, all my resources, all my hope, all my joy.
I won't get there if I don't pour myself out. If I don't confess my sin and receive forgiveness. If I'm not daily filled with grace from Christ. I won't get there if I'm so bent on doing the prescribed right thing or following a formula that I'm not sensitive to following the Spirit of God.
We can't be safe and live with ruthless grace.
The sustaining truth is that we are not alone.
We are NEVER alone. We are caught and help in hands pierced by love, hands that know pain and can strengthen us through ours. Hands that re-fill us with love as fast as we are emptied.
That, that right there, matters so much more than a no-dating "contract" or a purity ring.
About the Author: My name is Charissa Sylvia. I'm happily married to my husband of one year, Tom! I live in South Carolina, love the rain, hate red ants and blog at oldenoughforfairytales.com. Thanks for reading - email/comment I'd love to "meet" you! :)