Dating usually ends in one of two ways:
- Running off into the sunset with the love of your life
There has to be a better way.
'Bae' means "before all else." In every relationship, my girlfriend was #1. The day after I started to date, my Junior year, I stopped going to daily Mass. And I stopped spending time with my friends, because would you rather hang out with guys and talk about girls or just hang out with a girl?
"Before all else," gave me permission to push the envelope physically. The farther we got, the more I felt like this girl was perfect for me. Clouded by the emotional and physical highs, it was hard to make any rational decisions. Then, the breakup was always so painful, as if we had been fused together and suddenly torn apart. What began with exhilaration always ended with heartbreak and frustration. I didn’t know how to date well.
After my roughest breakup I went on a retreat. (A broken heart is also an open heart.) So while I was kneeling in Adoration, the Holy Spirit rushed in. Where I used to have impurity, jealousy, and shame I now was enjoying purity, joy, and faithfulness.
But I knew I was called to marriage, so how do I navigate the troublesome dating environment? After that retreat, I heard this Scripture verse:
“You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes” (Sol 4:9)
What do you think of that verse? Is it weird for you to call your bride your sister? I wasn't convinced yet.
My Sister, My Bride
Serving with NET (an evangelistic ministry to young people) was the first time I learned about God as my loving Father. I’ve heard of God as “God” and Jesus as "God," but I started to really understand the transcendent God as my merciful Father - my Dad.
Then, the logic kicks in:
A. God is my Father
B. God is also the Father of this really cute girl
C. That makes the two of us... Brother and sister? Oh.
Christ made us adopted sons of the Father. This means every daughter of God is first 'my sister' before 'my girlfriend.' In fact, if we go on to get married, this intimate relationship is still only temporary (that is, until death!), while the relationship of brother and sister goes on into eternity! Mind blown.
So after that realization, God thought it would be amusing to put me on the same team as this super attractive woman of God. The way she prayed, her incredibly strong principles, the humility and laughter all amounted to two words: DATE ME!
But as full-time missionaries we are required to take a break from dating just for the year. It soon became clear why this is so important. And this is the first thing we must do before we start a dating relationship:
1. God, Before All Else
You’re going to miss out on God’s great plan for your life if you are primarily focused on fulfilling yourself with a relationship. Get on board with God's adventure. Pursue His will relentlessly. Make Him your "before all else." And then a wife will be your best support, your #2.
No one is meant to carry the load of 'total fulfillment.' Even the best relationships break under that kind of pressure. Your spouse is supposed to be beside you holding your hand, not in front of you claiming all your attention.
With my attention off of dating, I was able to focus primarily on God. And man, did I need some restoration in my own heart! God pulled me out of the dating scene to heal me, transform me, and show me His great love. And I became a wholehearted missionary, serving the cause of advancing the gospel to young people.
And this is what’s so sweet about this deal. God won’t forget your secondary needs and desires. Once I gave God that year, he put me on this team with my wife-to-be. It could not have been quicker. If God calls you to marriage, then He wants it more than you do! Just in the proper way. Give God the attention and He will guide you where you should be.
2. Find a Community of Brothers
This is huge. I used to see guys as competition because I saw other girls as the prize. But once I joined these brothers we had a shared purpose - not to get a girl, but to become saints.
Instead of sharing deeply with some girl for some emotional cuddling (you know what I mean), I shared deeply with men who encouraged me, corrected me when I was astray, and challenged me to be better. Only a man can impart masculinity. Only men can make boys into men.
3. Be a 'Brother' Before a Boyfriend
My attraction to Amber was purified over time. I enjoyed the company of Amber as a sister and I cared for her with what John Paul II called “disinterested tenderness.”This should be the beginning point of every romantic relationship. Instead of stirring up emotions and advancing physically, stir up a love for God and advance in your knowledge of each other. "Before all else," be her brother.
- Ask things like “do we make each other better?” Stop asking, “do we like how we feel around each other?”
- Instead of exploring her body, explore her interests and passions. You will find out if you two aren’t right for each other without compromising yourself sexually or emotionally.
For more practical tips, check out this amazing series on Dating, Engagement and Marriage by Breakaway Ministries to get a thorough teaching on dating for a college student.
With my Father’s work as my sole focus, and with brothers as my main emotional support, I saw Amber in a new light - and I loved her even more.
I was dispassionately interested in Amber, my sister in Christ. Emotional and physical passions would have clouded this view. I would not have been able to see beyond her body and how she made me feel.
So, whether or not you are serving as a Missionary, take a break from dating until you can say that your full attention is on the Lord. In the meantime, surround yourself with a Community of men to encourage, correct, and challenge you. And when you meet someone that you like, start to treat her like your sister.
Instead of ending brokenhearted and devastated, hopefully you will end in one of these two ways:
- Flying to a honeymoon with your bride
- Realizing you two were not meant for marriage, but certain that you led the other person closer to Christ. And with no regrets.