I once was so single that I saw love around every corner: I mistook nearly any new man I met for a heaven-sent husband. That included the man who loved God, but was still caught in serious addiction; the man who loved God, but was dating three other women; and of course the man who disliked God, but paid so much attention to me that I made an exception.
It’s understandable to feel like we’re running out of time and running out of options. In our desperation, we compromise. We convince ourselves that God’s standards are impossibly high. As we talk ourselves into becoming more “reasonable,” we talk ourselves right out of God’s blessing. This nearly happened to me, and looking back, I can spot three misunderstandings that polluted my decision making.
My bar is high.
Your bar may be higher than it once was, but is it high enough? If your dating history makes you cringe, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that bar. Personally, I had no idea that I’d come to expect so little from a potential husband. When I met my husband, he stepped over my “high” bar with laughable ease, and I realized that my bar had still been too low! As gleeful as it was to watch the man of my dreams breeze past my expectations, it was also a little embarrassing. Why did it take me so long to see it? God told me that the man he had for me would blow me away, and yet I was afraid to expect so much.
I was also expecting the wrong things. I had it all backwards; I was prioritizing things like an education, a good job and financial stability over qualities like God-fearing, sober and desiring to wait until marriage to have sex. My counselor, who was a believer, recognized the issue right away. Together, we made a list of standards for my future husband. It was a surprisingly simple list, and completely devoid of what most of the world would consider to be important. I challenge you to make your own list of dating standards. Write it down and crosscheck it with a trusted friend or mentor who loves the Lord.
No one is perfect!
We are all deeply flawed; yet, no matter how imperfect we are, we’re made perfect in Christ. This beautiful truth should encourage you to love others with reckless abandon, but I would not recommend dating with reckless abandon. If there is a stronghold that your potential spouse has not surrendered to Christ, you may want to reconsider. The difference between “work in progress” and willful disobedience is the difference between date-able and not date-able. There will be excuses, and they may even sound valid to our worldly ears, but are they aligned with the Word of God?
I learned this lesson the hard way. I once met an amazing man of God. I thought he was a great candidate for dating, but after getting to know him, I found out he came to church high every week. His explanation for this behavior was convincing, and I decided that his drug use would not stop me from dating him. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that his drug use wasn’t a gray area; it was the result of deep-rooted addiction. Worse yet, he felt God condoned his drug use, and he had no plans to slow down. I prayed for guidance, and God was very clear in His response. Lesson learned: When you find yourself evaluating what appears to be a gray area, don’t wait to seek God’s input.
This could be God’s plan!
Right about the time I was struggling the most with singleness, I met an unbeliever who caught my eye. He was attractive, kind, successful — everything the world said he should be. The what if scenarios flooded my mind, and it felt wrong to turn him away because of his lack of faith. Isn’t that judgmental? What if this is actually God’s plan? What if he will come to love God later on, and my job now is to step out in faith? What if I’m the influence he needs to know the Lord?
My advice to my former self: Don’t doubt God’s Word. The Word is very clear about being equally yoked: “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14 NLT) You are certainly intended to be a positive influence and inspiration in this person’s life. But again, the difference between date-able and not date-able is the difference between a believer and someone who is on the fence (or worse). You know that cliche, “must love dogs”? Your ad should read “must love God.”
Looking back, I realize that dating didn’t have to be so painful and full of mistakes. If I had just hung on to God’s promise to deliver the right person in His time, sought His council early on in potential dating situations, and held fast to the right dating standards, it would have been a much more pleasant experience. Now that I’m on the other side, I just marvel at God’s matchmaking ability. It seems like every day I discover new evidence that my husband is the perfect man for me. God can be trusted! If He’s told you He has the beautiful blessing of marriage in store for you, He won’t let you down.