For years, I've wanted to be two things: husband and father. There's just no beating around the bush. Admittedly, though, I haven't had a whole lot of dating experience. This is something I count as God's protective hand on my life, but I won't digress to explain that now.
For the ones I have had, I'm pretty slow (at least, I think so) and thoughtful (but maybe more over-analytical and calculated), for I want to protect the process. That being said, things fizzle out, almost immediately following my feeling that "this could be it."
I'm faced to recognize two things: 1) I'd made an idol of the pursuit and then the subsequent relationship, and 2) I was in denial of my lack of spiritual preparation and discipline. It's likely that my mindset gravitates toward "how not to lose it" instead of "how to foster it."
Time passes as I analyze any possible moment that could be "the misstep." Then, there's usually a list for "next time." Once I feel good about it, I find myself crying out to God, "Alright, sir, you can put it all back together now; I've learned my lessons."
But, had I really learned the lessons? No. It's a cycle that's more like a coping mechanism to speed up (or rather avoid) the emotional process of love and loss. It's a way for me to feel in control.
Surrender. How am I suppose to give up the two things that I've wanted my whole life? And if I'm not supposed to give it up entirely, how do I surrender the current desire and prepare for what's ahead?
Recently, I watched a sermon from a pastor in Dallas titled "Revolutionary Dating." In it, he unpacks very practical application through the story of Isaac and Rebekah found in Genesis 24.
The bullet points are prayer, purity, and service. You can watch the sermon here; and below, I've shared some of my own reflection.
I feel like this is a given. Pray for your future spouse.
I recognize, though, that my own practice hasn't been very consistent. It's also been very "me-focused." Instead of framing it as a "non-negotiable checklist" based on the worldly cravings, we should approach it from a place of humility, more focused on our future spouses than ourselves.
Since birth, my parents have been praying for my siblings and me in this area, but it's honestly not something I've truly valued. Not until someone else's mom told me that she was praying for me did I feel this "aha" moment. If my parents as well as others' care about this, I should really start to take direction from them as they've taken it from Scripture. And, you should too.
Here's an example: Lord, will you protect my future spouse today? As she seeks your plan for her life, please give her opportunities to love her community, boldly using the gifts you've given. I pray that her family would be reconciled with Christ; but if not, give her the courage to love them deeper still. And I'm praying that I wouldn't lose heart, even if I never get the chance to meet her. Please help me to surrender this desire to You and be obedient in the waiting.
For some, this is probably another "duh!" point, but it's one that's easily tossed aside. I recognize how we're able to qualify this argument and have even found ways in the past to "test the waters," either in speech or deed. After all, there's grayness to embrace.
But, that is not the way of the Lord; there is no gray. Sin is sin, and we should take every action imaginable to guard every part of our lives. (Wow, talk about conviction!) Whether there's been struggle for days or years, it's exponentially important to flee; we can start again in Christ.
Personally, I never had a "True Love Waits" talk. I basically found out about all this stuff in biology class and online. There were a few talks here and there in youth group, but I never fully felt "in the know." There seemed to be lots of questions that went unanswered. (I recognize this sentiment is as much on me as it is on my circumstances.)
Maybe it was an "Oh, duh! Drew doesn't struggle with this stuff. He's a preacher's kid..." mindset. I'm not sure if I projected that, but it's a pride-filled, isolating lie.
That being said, below are some practical applications. I'm no expert, but I feel very strongly about these:
- If you don't have some type of accountability, find it. Ask a friend, pray together, and lock down your browsers.
- If you're dating or about to date, have the "boundaries" talk sooner than you initially planned to have it. It shouldn't be assumed as a "non-issue."
- If you're already a dad, please (please, please, please!) do not delay or avoid "the talk" with your sons. It may be awkward for a bit, but they'll thank you when they're my age.
People often say "Actions speak louder than words..." and "Walk the walk."
I mentioned before the importance of using your God-given gifts within your local community as worship to Him, and that definitely applies here too. But, don't serve for the sole sake of being noticed by the girl you like (something I've allowed myself to do before). Instead, consider the humility of Jesus:
If you're looking for ways to serve, check with your local church community. And for New Yorkers, I also recommend Hope for New York. They have a lot of great opportunities that require various skills.
Additionally, put "service" as a prayer topic when considering a future spouse. It's easy to over-emphasize appearance and personality, but don't be fooled by the makeup. God looks at the heart.
Above all, I hope you see the seriousness of this. I also hope that you feel encouraged by the fact that you aren't alone in the daily struggles (work, family, temptation, etc) that vie for attention. But, it is on you to take the next step in preparation, and I hope you're able to humbly walk in community as you take it. And if not, know that I'll be praying that a new community is presented to you, one that's built on trust, kindness, and patience.
I recognize that marriage and fatherhood may not be what God has for me. It's a tough pill to swallow, for it's been my deepest desire most of my life. (Yep, I'm a romantic and a planner and a sappy love-story teller. My birthday is on Valentine's Day after all!)
Nevertheless, I'm praying that the Lord will realign my heart as I seek guidance from Him in this season of preparation and waiting, and I hope you'll join me.