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A little note before I start off on this post: this blog has officially been up for a year! Woohoo!

Ergo, I decided that what better way to celebrate my first blogoversary with a post on a hot topic in Christian circles when it comes to singleness: sex.

Back when I first became a believer and was reading books like “When God Writes Your Love Story”, sex was something I honestly didn’t think about all that much….or at least, I didn’t think I did, anyway. Even though I was a teenager, I tended to think about all of the other things I wanted about marriage: companionship, someone’s affection, someone to come home to, and and, oh yeah, someone who thinks I am attractive (very much something I couldn’t fathom at age sixteen). Sex would just be a byproduct, an added bonus.

Now, I realize that it was actually more important to me than I had thought, because, of course, for women it is in many ways a fulfillment of feeling connected to our husbands. Although obviously I can’t speak directly to men’s experience, I’ve talked to some and read books/articles on the subject that indicate that it’s similar for men – but that sex is how they get a sense of connection with their wives. Just like most women need an emotional connection in order to give sex joyfully, so also men need sex to feel connected to their wives and feel fulfilled. Interesting.

Christian singles today do not live in the same culture as even ten, fifty, a hundred years ago. That is certainly obvious. The sexual revolution created deep undercurrents of social pressure in the name of ‘freedom’ that were repressed beforehand. In response, movements like True Love Waits that advocate celibacy until marriage, were put into place. These are well-intentioned programs, but in my opinion they do not take into account the fact that, for many young adults, prolonged celibacy is just not the norm anymore. Young Christians are told that they need to keep themselves pure before marriage because one day God will provide them with a sexy, adoring spouse to bless them for their behavior; that their wedding night and subsequent honeymoon would be mind-blowingly awesome. And sometimes He does. And other times – and more often, I would say – the reality is that some of those same people grow up to be 30, 35, and 40 with no sexy spouse in sight, wondering why God chooses to ignore the fact that they have been so faithful to Him with their virginity. It’s unfair. And unlike what some of these movements and often many Christian books suggest, sexual desire and passion is not just something to be repressed and stuffed down forever. One of the greatest tragedies of singleness is the inability to express ourselves sexually in a healthy way, and to be appreciated for that part of us. It is a realistic loss; and to some extent it is beneficial to grieve it each time we experience the pangs of loneliness and physical desire that, for the time being and perhaps for at least the near future, we are not able to act on in a way that honors God.

If I may be blunt, this is one of the things about following God as a single person that is really hard, and just plain sucks. It drives me crazy that Christian women who married at age 18 (!) write books addressed to young girls about the preciousness of sexuality, when they had to wait almost half the time that some of their readers do. And the real kicker is when they describe the doe-eyed virgins as a “lilies of the valley” and the ones who had made mistakes, “the thorns” (I’m talking to you, Leslie Ludy). What. The. Heck.

I am not by any means suggesting that having sex before marriage is just “going to happen” or that it’s not an issue that God cares about. Premarital sex is sin in God’s eyes, mainly because it wrecks us emotionally – and sometimes physically – and it is for our good and His glory that He wants us to follow this commandment. But. The reality is that there are many single Christians – myself included – who have made their own mistakes sexually. They have realized that their desire for sexual connection seems so natural, so powerful, that no book on being “lily white” will take it away. There have been times when my desire to fall asleep in someone’s arms has been so strong that I have cried myself to sleep. And other times, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and made decisions that settled for a counterfeit of the real thing, making me feel more bereft than over. Honestly, sometimes, I don’t know which is worse. I don’t think that thousands of singles of marriageable age going without sex is part of God’s idea of “good”. I think that, although there are no easy answers, it is a direct effect of sin, and that it truly is a tragic repurcussion.

I used to be very judgmental on the sex issue when I was younger, thinking people who couldn’t control their desires were beyond help. It was only when I experienced some of the things that I have that I realized that it’s just not that easy. It is not easy to stay a virgin if you have the means not to. And while God certainly does command us to do so, if we do make mistakes in that area, redemption is entirely possible. I’ve experienced it myself and seen it in countless other ways as well. But I am so angry with messages that the key to conquering sexual sin ispursuing some form of spiritual nirvana-esue “lily whiteness”. Bull. Yes, Christians are certainly commanded to have self-control. I’m not advocating sexual immorality or promiscuity in the event that marriage is not provided. However, all I’m suggesting is that the struggle is very real, and very difficult, and there are just no easy answers. Marriage is a safe haven for sexual desire to be expressed, and without it, singles will feel bereft and isolated. That’s just the way it is.

I’m sure that some people reading this will react with a “but sex is about glorifying God!” Of course it is. No one’s arguing that it isn’t. But, if this isn’t blasphemous, I believe that a single going without sex when desired feels a shadow of the kind of raw emotional that Jesus did when He expressed His anguish at feeling abandoned at the Cross. He had basked in the love of the Father up until that point, and when it was removed, He was left feeling bereft. Now obviously His mission was far more important than singleness and I’m certainly not trying to insinuate that they are on the same level, but I think that we can take comfort in the fact that He has felt such anguish. It also suggests that the power of connection and love that is established when we are one with someone – whether physically in sex or as Jesus is with the Father – is absolutely something that God values and understands our pain when we are cut off from it. It is, perhaps, what it most exciting about the idea of the new creation that will be established; the idea that unspoiled and lasting oneness will occur. Sexual desire, I believe, ultimately speaks to our deep seated desire for meaningful connection. But it also is an act of grace – created of course to enable the human race to continue producing, but also to simply give us pleasure. It is okay to crave that. And it’s more than okay, I believe, to feel a real sense of grief when we are unable to experience it.

 

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Is God ever really good if He doesn’t give me the desires of my heart?

This is something that has been echoing in my heart these past few weeks; popping up whenever a quiet moment presents itself. I have pushed it down, using the Sunday school answers to quell my doubts: “Of course He’s good! How dare you think otherwise!”.

I admit that it’s dangerous to think that God revolves around my desires – to believe this would be blasphemous at worst and unhelpful at best. However, I have come to believe – or perhaps, to want to believe – that the God of the Bible is personally aware of mankind’s desires and needs. He knows that we need to lean on people to thrive. He knows that in American culture, sex sells anything from a can of tomatoes to an coveted luxury vehicle. He knows that loneliness leads to an experience often akin to hell on Earth. I also understand that He has purposes beyond curing loneliness, or providing every person who wishes to have sex a spouse. However, I don’t think that God’s purposes are above those things. But here’s the struggle, the crux, the vulnerable part that I am afraid to admit but will do so in spite of perhaps better judgment:

I have recently realized that if I were to remain single for the rest of my life, I would never believe God is truly good. I hope that I would still follow Him, love His people, and tend to His needs (however imperfectly). My experience with faith leads me to believe that Jesus would keep me in His hand for His glory. But I am not sure I could ever fully believe that God cares about me personally, if He neglected to give me my biggest earthly desire.

Now, I won’t hesitate to add that I am also very much aware that God allows His children to experience suffering. It’s important, even, for a believer to enter into times of troubles, because it is then that we really do recognize our need for Him. I am not by any means suggesting that following God means getting everything you want. But I do think that if God is good, He is not going to leave us alone in our desires and needs. He will meet them, as He met those of the beggar, the blind man, the dead Lazarus.

And then, I think of Jesus. His story was not expected – and I’m pretty sure the disciples were wondering where their good God was when He lay dead in the tomb. I’m also pretty sure they realized that their God’s goodness was so overwhelming in the wake of the resurrection that all of their concerns and fears became like a mist burning away in the heat of the sun. With Jesus, out of death comes life. Out of pain comes healing.

I don’t mean to insinuate in my plea that I arrogantly want to demand a husband from God and expect Him to drop Him right there on my doorstep right when I want it. I also know that I don’t just want a husband from out of nowhere; I desire a relationship born of God; shaped by Him, perforated by His presence. That is why I’m so conflicted, because I don’t know how to reconcile my love of God with the very real fear that if He “doesn’t come through for me” on this, that I will want to neglect Him. I don’t want to do that – I honestly want to think that even if I never marry, I will strive on and continue in the daily quest to pick up my cross and follow Him. But I’m just not sure that’s true. I may believe that God is good in the general sense, in the saving of humanity sense – but personally? I honestly don’t know.

The thing is, I am aware that He is good – and that He does care for me – the blood of Jesus poured out on me proves that. I am not here to blaspheme the Lord, or to claim He isn’t good. I know He is. But when it comes to the intricate personal desires of marriage and family, I am just not sure how I would go about believing that He is my best interest in mind. It seems silly, and contradictory, and it probably is. Selfish?  Maybe. Twisted? Possibly.

In Mark 10:51, Jesus comes across a blind man and asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The man answers, “Rabbi, I want to see”.

Because He’s God, He could most certainly have chosen to not heal the man. However, as it turns out, He does heal him – and it is on account of the man’s faith. Now, plenty of people in Jesus’ time were most likely not healed; my understanding is that of course God still cared for them all the same. But He does seem to respond to people who can do nothing else but trust that God, and only God, will provide and heal them of their pain, be it emotional or physical.

The thing is, if I were the blind man, and Jesus chose not to heal me after I requested it, I might listen to Him and respect Him, but I might not fully want to trust Him or believe He cared. Biblically, it seems that God cares not only our spiritual health and desires but also our emotional and physical ones. It is through His interactions and healings on earth that His power over sin and death could be made more poignant and  obvious. They matter.

But not everyone gets healed. Not every prayer gets answered. Not everyone gets married. What do I do with the fact that God is free to do what He wishes in my life and that just might not include what I desire for myself?

Well, to be honest, I pray every day that He would change His mind if that is the case. But I also remind myself that God’s goodness is not about me – and not dependent on my understanding of it. Through the Cross, God’s goodness was shown so evident that the disciples were forced to reevaluate what they had previously thought it meant for God to be good. And they also saw that God took what they believed was dead and removed from them forever and placed Him as their Advocate and Brother, far greater than what they could ever imagine. Their needs, and desires, were met in abundance…on Earth.

It is not my intention with this post to cause anyone to doubt, or to suggest that God is not good or doesn’t know what He’s doing. I want to obey and bring glory to Him, not the opposite. But I also want to be honest about my struggles; I truly don’t think Jesus just cares about the abundant life for us in glory; it is available now. I also want to make it clear that I absolutely do not think that struggles or lack of fulfillment of desire mean that God isn’t good or doesn’t care. But for me, personally, it perhaps becomes a rephrasing of my first question:

Am I willing to believe that God is ever really good if He doesn’t give me the desires of my heart?’

That, I think, is what I am most afraid to face.

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If you haven’t heard the new single by American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, I highly recommend that you do so. The song is hard-hitting and profound, and I definitely teared up when I first heard it (and still do). Take a look at the lyrics to the first verse:

There’s a place that I know

It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone

If I show it to you now

Will you try and run away

Or will you stay – even if it hurts?

Even if I try to push you out – will you return?

Something I’ve been struggling with recently is the terrible reality of just how sinful I am. This isn’t a forced feeling; a fabricated sense of self-deprecation brought on by years of sermons and my general demeanor that is prone to self-criticism. While those things are certainly in place, it does go deeper than that. Most recently, I found myself going once again against my better judgment and following a path that lead me to sin in a certain way. Now, of course I sin everyday, but often when it catches up to me, the guilt is hard to bear. I do desire to follow the Lord and seek His ways, but I can just be so selfish and self-serving that when I fail, it takes me a good few days to even start to feel hope again.

Of course, as it pertains to this blog, most recently I have found myself feeling terrified that I will never meet anyone who will actually want to put up with all of me; my spurts of anger, my oft-inappropriate statements of honesty; my deep longing to be loved that has led me to look for it in harmful ways – and that’s just the surface of it. The thing is, I honestly am thankful in some ways that I have made certain choices, as it has opened me up to be far more forgiving and understanding than I would have been otherwise, and than I used to be. I also know that because of it, I would be absolutely fine extending forgiveness to my future husband with his failures – which of course he will have. For some reason, though, I often wonder if maybe I’m too bad for it. That I could never deserve anything remotely “good” – and I’m sure that it’s based on my poor understanding of grace. I get so exhausted from trying to be holy (and yes, I know that’s sort of an oxymoron) and just want to live sometimes – without guilt. I don’t want to feel stuffy and repressed. I also don’t want to be all over the place. It does seem to be a daily, tiring, incessant battle between will and spirit – and while that most certainly is a Biblical framework of what our life on Earth is like, I get so discouraged when I see people that are “good” get to marriage…although that isn’t always the case, either.

I think all of us yearn for one person that we care about to say, “Yes – I choose you! Your imperfections, your anger, your jealousy, your lustful tendencies – and I’m here to walk alongside that battle with you!”. The difficult part is getting to the point of exposing ourselves and all the burdens that we carry to someone else. It’s perhaps made even more poignant when we don’t have anyone to expose ourselves to – and that might be one of the most painful experiences of the single life; that it can feel like our real selves are never really appreciated in the passionate way that we desire them to be.

Christ  has shown us the ultimate example of this exchange – by making us beautiful by His choice to become sin for us. To take on the role on the very thing that entices us, drives us, destroys us – and gives new Life through it. I don’t think that this advocates a sense of “Jesus is my boyfriend/girlfriend” mentality, because to be frank that seems a bit silly and people are created for intimate relationships with each other – Christ ideally being at the center of them. But I do think that once we have an understanding of who God is and how He loves us, it is easier to feel that we are worthy of love from other people – because we deserve neither. I absolutely, 100%, do not have this down right now, and I don’t think any of us fully will until we see Him face to face. However, it can only be helpful when it comes to how we view ourselves in relationships. Sometimes we have to flat out just hope that things will happen as we would like – that we’re “open” to the experience of falling in love and letting ourselves known and be known. I’m hopeful that despite all of my crap, someone will find that “nobody’s a picture perfect”, as Kelly would say – “but we’re worth it”. That me, and you, and everyone else, is to the core worth loving, despite ourselves.

 

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First things first: wow – it’s been a while since I wrote on here! Sorry people. It’s been a crazy last month or so, and getting busier…so please excuse my lack of posts. I’m going to try and get some more ramped up though, and of course – ideas are welcome!

I’ve been thinking recently on the whole notion of the set up, and how for so many people, it’s a “last resort” type of action – when desperation has started to seep in and there’s no prospects rolling in (see my last post for more on how to react to that). Many people, myself included, inwardly flinch at the possibility of being set up with someone who doesn’t excite them, or even worse, seeing the person as a reflection of who they are attracting. Sometimes, it can be a hard dose of reality to face. Others may prefer wanting to meet someone “the natural way”, whatever the heck that means. A few days ago, my roommate and I discussed the ridiculousness of this statement, because no one ever really meets someone completely naturally. There are always other factors – Person A decides to go to church and sits next to Person B, Person C reluctantly attends a party where Person D is at, etc. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far to say that God is the driving force that brings us to certain places to meet that special person – honestly, sometimes I think it’s just being in the right place at the right time, and what we do with those circumstances to maximize them. I do not in any way think that agreeing to a set up means that God is not behind it. In fact, many people meet through friends in this way – so why, do I wonder, are so many people against it?

I’ve started to ask people in my workplace, as well as in church settings, to keep me in mind if they meet anyone they think I would get along with. Sure, it’s a little awkward, but how is it any different than going to a  bar or party and nervously making eye contact with the handsome stranger on the other side of the room? I may only be 25, but I want to be as intentional as I can be, knowing of course that intentionality does not always a husband bring :). For my part, the frustrating thing is when the people I ask don’t seem to take me all that seriously. Often, the response when I ask is to laugh it off and be all, “Oh, yeah, I definitely will!” and then to not do anything on the premise of it being “awkward” to tell someone that they have a friend who they might like getting to know. I know it’s awkward people, but isn’t it worth it to find your friend someone they might have a future with? Even if it’s not a good match, I guarantee it doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated to have someone put a good word in for me, and in many ways that makes up for any awkwardness on the date! The truth is, my friends know me the best of out of anyone really, and so in theory I should be able to trust them to endorse me to some unsuspecting victim…er, I mean, guy.

Of course, the flipside of all of this is if you find yourself looking to set your friend up with someone. In this case, it takes a sense of discernment and some guts to break the ice with a guy (or girl, obviously depending) who you sense might be a good match for your friend. To be very honest, I often get scared out of doing this on behalf of my friends. Granted, sometimes the person might just not be interested in getting to know the friend – which is silly anyway because how do they know if they don’t try? – but there have definitely been those times that I’m afraid to approach the person in question because of the awkward situation it could lead to. Sometimes I find myself on the lookout for good men for my friends, and it just feels like the same old group of people are there all the time. That can get discouraging, but that’s why I’m trying to branch out to new groups – meetup.com, if you have it in your city, is a good resource – to scope out the scene ;). There are also times when one needs to evaluate the men that are in the same group and see if there are some that have been overlooked – perhaps the scales need to come off your eyes, so to speak.

In all of this, discernment is key, but there are two important things that I’ve thought about lately in regards to this. The first is that you don’t want to ask just any single guy you come across just because your friend has asked you to set them up – that’s just offensive and could definitely hurt your friend’s trust in you. No one wants to be set up with someone whose manners or general essence is so far off from them that it shakes their confidence. However – and this is a big one – I also think it’s equally important to be open to different opportunities for your friends, even if they themselves have not considered that person. Let’s be honest for a moment here – most Christians, women especially, have too much ego involved in the dating process. I know that in the past I’ve disgustingly remarked, “Why on Earth would you put me with that person?” only to be surprised that, upon getting to know the person, their crooked nose or pimple-scarred face (um, hello? I only had acne for ten years straight – who am I to judge?!) really has no bearing on their ability to be worthy of affection. We’re not all that, and none of us deserve a perfect Prince Charming. It’s all a gift, and while attraction and chemistry is certainly an added bonus, it is not by any means the way we should measure someone’s eligibilty. If we honestly think someone would be good for our friend, and that friend responds with automatic defensiveness, I think it’s perfectly fine to remind them that, as dear and lovely that they are, they don’t look like Angelina Jolie. They’re not going to end up with a Brad Pitt look alike – sorry. Realistic expectations, people.

Good judgment is key for the set up situation, on top of prayerful action. People asking to be set up need to not be ashamed of it, and to be open to go on dates with people that they might not have considered for themselves. Those looking to set their friends up need to get over their awkwardness and speak up on behalf of them, and to really do your part in looking for a good match. Protracted singleness, when a desire for marriage is given from God, just doesn’t do much good when it’s met with bitterness and lost hope. Community exists for a reason – let’s all get out there and be willing to get set up and set up!

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I’m just going to put it out there: one of my biggest fears is that I will never marry, or that the Lord will come back before I get the chance. Call me a bad Christian, but there it is. I’d like to say that I trust God with my whole life, but because this is something I so desperately want to try and control. Therefore, it’s really hard not to get really frustrated and squirmish about my single state at times.

One of the most poignant reminders of this fact is when I look into the prospects of possibilities and find myself coming up empty.

In general, I do feel like Jesus always wants us to experience the process of things rather than just the end result, and more often than not this means that some level of pain, confusion, and hurt is involved.  In many ways these experiences show the insecurity of the people involved, and also of course the great plan that God  has to turn evil and pain into good, just out of His character. To be honest, it’s all well and good to discuss this and put a stamp of Christian approval on it, but when it comes to specific fears and hopes, I get panicked. I always feel a greater sense of calm if there’s someone I’m interested in versus when there isn’t, but since I have yet to find someone who I have had a true, deep connection with, the insecurity of wondering “why not?” can often leave me stagnant. It’s very easy to think that my past will dictate my future, when in fact the only thing that defines my future is Jesus’ choice to die for me 2,000 years ago.

The Bible is full of so many examples of God’s presence in the midst of people experiencing no prospects. Abraham and Sarah literally laughed in the angel’s face when they were told they would have a child after fifty some odd years of waiting and they were 99 years old. NINETY NINE. I would have laughed too. But yet, God still provided. Abraham later on showed how much His love and trust in God became His main focus when he was willing to lay down his son for God- which, of course, God prevented by providing a sacrifice instead. It really does warm my heart to think of that.

Anna the Prophetess became a widow after seven years of marriage, and stayed that way until she was eighty-four (!). She spent most of her time praying and worshiping the Lord, enraptured by being in His Holy presence. (First of all, can you imagine only being married for seven years and spending something like fifty years alone?!) But still, Anna loved the Lord and desperately wanted to see His glory come to Earth – and He let her see the very face of the One who was to save her. Beautiful – a wonderful example of how the Lord fulfilled her lack of prospects with the greatest one a person could ever behold.

Finally, one last example is found in Adam and Eve, and to be honest I just thought of this. I find it amazing when I think about the fact that it must have felt truly terrifying – there isn’t a word to describe the experience, really – to realize that while once they were secure and comfortable, but in one second, after one choice, they were thrown into a frenzy of fear, insecurity, and loss. Talk about feeling like there were no prospects when there once was nothing but freedom and joy! But God intervened, and gave them back access, in part, to Himself through the sacrifice of an animal to cover their naked bodies. He was showing them two things, I believe: 1) That relationship with Him is the only thing that could restore their dignity and security and 2) That He is willing to sacrifice so that we might receive a new prospect, a new hope, and ultimately a relationship with Him again.

All of these examples help me to remember just how amazing our God is, and I can think of many more from my own personal experiences. I wish that I would remember them often enough to trust Him in those moments, like I’ve experienced recently, when my dating life slightly resembles that of a mirage; something that I’m excited to see after a dry spell in the desert, only to realize that it is just a figment of my imagination. In recent days, in light of this, I have been at times so hurt and frustrated that my anger has gotten the best of me and I’ve really let God have it. Then, I justify that it’s probably all my fault and the insecurities come out – I’m too emotional, I laugh too loudly, I’m way too much of a sinner for an honorable man who loves Jesus, and my chin dimple is so not cute. And then I rest fitfully in my subtle belief that God is untrustworthy.

The fact is, He has never lied. God can only speak truth because that’s His very nature! It’s also His character to create something out of nothing; to create matter out of space; to make life triumph over death. I honestly do feel like sometimes I don’t have a holy bone in my body, but I do know that God’s prospects are given to us not because we deserve it, but because He wants to – and because Jesus’ sacrifice paved the way for hope to always win out.

It only takes one church service to attend, one party to drop by, one elderly neighbor’s grandson to meet – and it’s there. I hope that if you’re still single and feeling like you have no prospects, you can face each day knowing that there’s hope because there’s a God who is amazing at creating something out of nothing. It’s like His signature dish. And in the meantime, He is with us along the way – and that fact offers me a great deal of comfort if I ponder it.

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This will undoubtedly be a little controversial, but it’s important and thus, oh well.

The issue of Christians dating non-Christians is one that either gets overlooked or overemphasized, depending on the nature of the community that we’re in. Like a lot of other biblical principles, it’s easy to sometimes avoid it altogether, or wrap it up in the box of But-Grace-Covers-It-and-God-is-Love, tie a ribbon on it and never think twice again. Or it’s so shoved down our throats that we start to feel guilty if we even talk to a non-Christian guy, because what if we (gasp!) were attracted to him?

Just to relieve you of any piqued curiosity, I will start off by saying that I do not think that, as a Christian who fails but still wants to glorify God, it is best to date someone who isn’t also in the same boat. I don’t even necessarily think that  it’s “because God says so” even though, if we’re honest, that should be enough of a reason.  I think it because I have experienced it firsthand. A few years ago, I entered into a relationship with a really great guy, who I met in the kind of way that people do in movies (read: a meet cute). Granted, we didn’t have a ton in common, but I was in an unstable time in my life, fresh off a year abroad fraught with unhealthy decisions and even worse lingering thought processes as a result. In my head, I knew it was “wrong”, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to just give him a shot. I did, and we ended up dating for about three months, which although not long by other standards, was not just a walk in the park either. Ironically, after months of feeling guilty and even more separated from God that I already felt beforehand, we broke up. There was a realization that we would just never really understand each other fully. And believe me, despite my sense of relief, it still hurt – a lot. I felt like a failure.

When Jesus explains that to marry an unbeliever is to be unequally yoked, my mind of course immediately goes to images of an egg splattered unevenly in a frying pan and I’m consistently confused. And then I have to reign myself in (pun awfully intended!) and focus on the real meaning. In marriage, and really any type of relationship, we are called to carry each other’s burdens. When two cows are held together by the same yolk, there is an even amount of weight, ideally, on each shoulder. Neither cow is expected to fully carry the weight of the other, but the burden of both is shared. It is in this context that I believe it is most easily understood (thank goodness, since of course, that was the initial point of Paul even using the example). If we put ourselves in such deep connection with someone who does not share our faith – and our hope – then, undoubtedly, either ourselves or the person we’re in relationship with is expected to carry a heavier burden. Perhaps we, as a Christian, feel the need to always invite that person to church, just to satisfy our inward twinge that we’re still doing “Christian things” despite this (that was me). And the other person carries a large burden in this case too – they probably feel inexplicably unable to be good enough as themselves. That certainly will not lead to knowledge of the Gospel.

So there’s the lack of ability to carry each other’s burdens (which, we are told, fulfills the law of Christ) but there’s also something else: with this set up, codependency is inevitable. Often, if a Christian woman really cares for a man who isn’t a believer, she is often more likely to engage in behaviors or make decisions before which  previously she would have hesitated. For a man, if they’re dating the non-Christian woman, maybe it’s because they don’t feel like the women that attend church with them are the right mix of sexy and cute (can’t speak to the guys perspective all that much, so apologies if that’s way off!). The result is that one, and often both, members of the couple seek to get from the other what that person can never give them. It’s a painful and sometimes humiliating cycle, especially when observed in hindsight.

We all have battles to fight as we navigate our way to marriage, and fighting against the temptation to fall for someone who even just gives us the time of day can often be difficult to resist. In my experience, I’ve had a lot more non-Christian men seeking me out than Christian ones, and as hard as it is to admit, many are the thoughts I’ve entertained of what it would look like to date them. Perhaps part of the solution is for more Christian men to ask the women of Christ around them, and for women to be receptive. And another part, I think, is recognizing what marriage is for and how the relationship between a man and woman can really only be fulfilled through the institution. Marriage is a representation of Christ and the Church, yes, but also of Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. They are all in sync with one another, fully loving, and fully aware of the Other in their entirety. There is no one pulling too much weight, or anyone left abandoned. It is intimacy bound together by the mutual everlasting comfort and joy of knowing another.

I’m left to think that a relationship which does not have at its center the Person of Jesus Christ, if He is present to one of the couple, is at best lonely and at worst, lacking a giant essence of God’s character. God’s desire for His children to not be married to unbelievers is not a rules-based hope for humanity, but one steeped in His interest in our welfare and joy.

Believing that, of course, is certainly half the battle.

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