I was in a relationship for a year. There were more highs than lows; but four months ago, it ended. The summer was certainly one filled with grief and confusion. I’m at peace with that now.
I’m not going to rehash personal woes here (for sake of privacy), but I will confess this: I’d been prioritizing the wrong things and was in denial of it.
During my processing with God, I’ve come to understand some things. They’re the things to which I’d previously just paid lip service, seeing them as “non issues.” I saw them as things that would work themselves out over time. (Wrong!)
Whether I knew it or not, I had the attitude of “I’ve got this.” Until I didn’t, and things began to crumble. In summary, life for me was more self-directed than God-directed. I was flying by the seat of my pants instead of taking adequate time to prepare, seeking wisdom from His Word.
Recently, I found (by way of an Instagram recommendation) Andy Stanley’s book “The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating.” I ended up reading it all in one day, so I highly recommend you pick up a copy. It’s a great read!
And while I don’t want to spoil the processing experience for you, the book ends with this challenge:
Don't date for one year.
Now, I’m not asking you to do this, but I will let you know that I’ve decided it’s what’s best for me in this season. Ultimately, the premise of this is to answer the question: “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for?”
Pastor Andy then goes on, after laying out the challenge, to list a few areas where we can put our focus during this year of dating hiatus. I’ve listed them below and added a bit of initial reflection.
ADDRESS YOUR PAST
Something I’ve found myself saying is “The past might dictate your present, but it doesn’t have to define your future.” Yes, we all have some thing (some may even call it baggage) in the past that makes up part of our story. Notice, though, that it’s part of the story; but it’s likely to remain the story if we don’t properly address (and surrender) it.
The Lord wants to redeem it and allow you to use it as a testimony to point others to Him. Sure, it likely will be painful, but it’s necessary. Without doing this, shame will remain victorious, allowing the cycle of sin to continue.
BREAK SOME HABITS
I’m not going to insert a long list of “habits” that should be broken. I believe only you can truly know what those are in your life. However, I will say that the mindset for this type of reflection should be stewardship. What are the things, attitudes, or actions in your life that keep you from stewarding your life well?
Think on it, and get rid of them. One personal example for me is my phone usage. I’m always connected, wanting to know the latest and greatest thing that’s happened in the world or with my friends. Now, I’m not getting rid of my phone all together, but I have begun to delete redundant apps. I also strive to turn off my phone completely once it gets to a certain point in the day/evening.
SET SOME STANDARDS
Without reading the book, I see this as an easy trap. You know, the “What’s your type?” trap. Sure, there’s nothing inherently wrong with finding physical compatibility or chemistry, but that shouldn’t be over-prioritized. I heard a pastor describe this recently saying, “Look for character, not curves (or characteristics).”
Some initial questions to ask yourself:
- Is this person actively pursuing a Christ-centered life?
Does this person have close friendships within Gospel-centered community?
How is this person serving the community?
Notice that none of these cause you to list out things like “blonde, tall, funny, etc.”
GET OUT OF DEBT
How are you spending your money? If it’s not in line with stewarding your life well, then take this year to refocus your heart on better financial practices. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more of a Spender than a Saver, so I don’t have tips or tricks to fix this. However, I do recommend these resources: Financial Peace and And Then We Saved.
GO (BACK) TO CHURCH
This should be pretty straightforward, but I recognize that we all have our own stories about or interactions with church. Whether you’re a Christian or not, I urge you to attend church. If the church is living in accordance with Scripture, it will be a place that receives you for you, that loves you because Christ loved them (and you!) first.
This season is one that will bring many changes and struggles, so find a place (and hopefully it’s church) to be known and loved. And here, I mean fully known and loved. No masks. No half-stories. No shame. No “let me fix myself up first, then I’ll come.”
Come as you are, and trust God with the rest. And while this point is listed last in the book, I’d suggest that it should be your first step.