Friday, May 31, 2013

A Missing Piece?

Over the last couple of years I've heard and read a lot about different perspectives on the benefits/detriments to dating. Recently I've been thinking about how my opinion on such matters has changed since Brandon and I got engaged - and many of the retrospective pieces of advice are much more understandable. 

From an early age I remember being overly concerned about getting married and having a family. I longed to be a wife and mother and I was scared of the possibility of that never happening. As a result I started seeking and desiring a relationship strongly, especially as I entered high school. I think really, I was looking for confirmation that I was someone who a man could want, that I had that wife potential. I was incredibly insecure about who I was and my worth. Throughout this period in my life I should mention that my parents were incredibly supportive and encouraging. However, I was thinking the other day that I wish during that time someone had encouraged me to put more energy towards my relationship with God rather than striving for a boyfriend. I was so focused on validating my worth through earthly relationships that I wasn't fully giving my heart to God and fully devoting myself to him.

Senior year of High School - 2006

The reality is that at that time I was no where near ready for marriage and consequently shouldn't even have considered entering a dating relationship. BUT, my parents and one of my brothers/SIL met each other in high school - so it was always a possibility in my mind that I should be keeping my eyes open.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." 
Ephesians 3:20

Enter my college years. My attitude didn't really change during my early college years. I attended a small Christian college and there were frequent discussions about this being the perfect time to meet your future spouse and how much your chances would diminish after college (inferring that it would be unlikely that you would be in a place with so many other Christian singles at the same time). My freshman year of college I had my first boyfriend - a guy I actually had known several years earlier. In reality, I was much more enamored with the idea of having an official boyfriend than I was with the guy himself! I gave him my first kiss.

Junior year of college brought more challenges. At this point I lived in a house with 4 other girls - 2 who were engaged, one who was "pearled" (pre-engagement) and the fourth who had a serious boyfriend. It was a long, hard year, during which I often felt very lonely and angry. However, I should mention that this was also a time of significant spiritual growth for me - I was growing closer to God and fully believed I was focused on putting him first in my life.

Junior year of college with my housemates

Then came senior year and another man entered my life. Those of you who have read my blog for awhile know about Justin - a man who was a critical part of my life for nearly 3 years. For a long time I convinced myself that he was the one God had planned for me. But please notice those words....I convinced myself. I gave him my first "I love you."

"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose."
C.S. Lewis

It was only after things ended with Justin and I that I really realized my problem. I was still coveting marriage. I was still putting my desire for marriage before my desire to commit myself fully to the Lord - to accept whatever plan he had for my life, whether that was to serve him as a single, or as a wife. I needed to say no to marriage and yes to God before his plan was revealed.

Honestly, I still don't know what I think about dating. I don't think there is anything wrong with it - although I do believe that one shouldn't consider dating another unless they are in a position where they are ready to get married. Why? Because the reality is, as cliche as it may sound, I did give parts of my heart away to men other than my future husband. Mind you, I have saved alot for Brandon :) but I still wish he could have it all. For me, one of the hardest things was separating myself from a man and a family who I had grown incredibly close to.

But yet I still can't say that I am fully against dating. Both Brandon and I dated other people before we met each other and were both very aware of what we were looking for in a spouse. For us, key factors were faith, communication, and the importance of relationships. I know many people tend to make the argument that dating and breaking up is like practicing for divorce. While I can see their point, especially in today's society where teens and pre-teens are "dating" and moving on at such a young age,  I still see a benefit in getting to know a person and ensuring where their priorities lie before making a marriage commitment - however I think you can do that without getting involved with a lot of the baggage that is typically associated with dating.

When Brandon and I started dating we were very cautious. Our first conversation included a long discussion about how if we entered into a relationship it was with the intentional end goal of getting married. We both spent time in prayer and talking to others before we talked to each other. We set strict physical boundaries for ourselves and waited to say "I love you" until we were engaged. 

Last month with Brandon, my fiance

At the end of the day, I don't regret my past relationships - but I can't deny the hurt and sadness that has come with them. 

"The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him" 
Lamentations 3:25

6 comments:

  1. What a great post Julianne. Thank you for sharing this. I also spent a long time "chasing" marriage. I have always imagined my future in no other terms than "married" and "mother". I learned the hard way that dead-end dating is very hurtful. I think you have it right. I don't have a problem with dating, but I think dating should be done with a purpose: marriage. And we need to allow God to direct our paths and our relationships.
    Now I am married but have been unable to become a mother. It is just so amazing how God has forced me to redefine who I am and picture myself to be in the future! But I have learned his ways are always for my good, and I need to trust that.

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    1. Thank you Amy! It's comforting to know others have felt the same way! Your perspective on the place God has placed you in now is such a great example!

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  2. Very good thoughts here. Thank you for being willing to share!

    I found very interesting what you said about giving away part of your heart to other men. Lately I have rejected that wording... but I have to admit I still agree with the concept. Only because I feel that same "I wish he could've had everything." Every first. And he didn't.

    I guess it's just word "heart"... he has my whole heart. But in the past, my heart was partially someone else's. That doesn't mean that man-in-the-past currently has any part of my heart, because he doesn't. But he does have a "first."

    Anyway, sorry if that's nitpicking and confusing. Again, thank you for your honest and wise words. God bless!

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    1. You aren't nitpicking at all! I completely see where you are coming from - it is a cliche phrase and I completely agree that Brandon has my full heart. But it also took awhile for me to heal from my past relationship to be in a place where i could give my full heart to him - and I think that is one of the challenges that comes with dating!

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  3. Sorry that I'm commenting so late on this- I thought I had written something when you first posted it but my comment must not have gone through.

    Anyways, this post was so encouraging to me! I have begun to realize this summer how much time and tears I've wasted the past few years being angry with being single and questioning God as to why he hadn't put a nice Christian guy in my life yet. I'm finally starting to realize that I'm still single for a purpose. :-) Like you, I don't think that dating is "wrong" but I'm starting to think that now it's a blessing that I didn't date in high school! I think a lot of high schoolers just aren't mature enough for a relationship. I don't think that dating in the college years is wrong, but I do think that physical boundaries are important. But the hardest thing for me has been to be happy for my girlfriends that have found special guys... sometimes it's really hard for me to not be jealous. But this post and posts from other bloggers remind me to keep waiting patiently because God will put someone in my life when the time is right, and I also am trying to be content with the idea of a single life if that's what the Lord wants for me. :-)

    xoxo Miss ALK

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    1. I think dealing with jealously was one of the hardest things for me as well :) It's not that I wasn't genuinely happy for my friends who were dating/getting married - I was....I just wanted that SO bad myself!

      There are a couple of things I have learned along the way:

      First, don't feel like just because it seems like everyone around you is in a relationship that you are behind or loosing your chance. Sometimes it can be a matter of circumstance (i.e. being at a smaller Christian college where people tend to get married younger) and other times the timing simply isn't right for you. Marriage is a commitment you are entering in for the rest of your life - you don't want to talk yourself into marrying someone just because he was the first guy available. In Brandon and my case Brandon often likes to joke that we met when we did because otherwise I wouldn't have been old enough! (there is a 7 year age difference between us).

      Secondly, don't necessarily shy away from friends who are getting engaged, but find ways to make sure you have friends who are also single. I know this really helped me when I felt like I was getting overwhelmed or over-jealous :) I would just surround myself with a different group of friends for awhile.

      Whether married or single, God has big plans for you!

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