Dating can be a tricky world to navigate. A place full of potential landmines that can blow up in your face, a place full of anxiety and fear: the fear of not being enough, the fear of failure, or the fear of being left alone. This may sound grim, but that is how many people tell me they experience dating.
I distinctly remember a lady at a conference I went to years ago, explaining dating in her workshop for singles. She explained that dating is like going for a swim an ocean full of sharks. You have your own small safe island, and you can either choose to stay there or go for that swim. And when you went for the swim and it was scary or painful, you need to retreat to your island, and recover.
Because your island is the place where God is. So you need to return to God and recover, take time, and then go again, if you’re willing. To dive again in that scary, deep blue ocean which could contain pain and even life-threatening species the moment you set foot in it.
Meanwhile I just sat there thinking, there is something wrong with this picture. God must be in that ocean as well! With you as you swim, accompanying you everywhere you go. Giving you the courage to not hop back to your island the moment things get scary, but knowing he's right with you, where possibly the sharks are, but where you may also find other islands, new treasures, beautiful creatures you've never encountered before.
Dating can be scary. I know that from experience and I hear it in the stories I listen to everyday [as a therapist].
But if you do it well, it isn’t potentially life threatening, but potentially life-giving. It's
character shaping, heart stretching. A good and healthy experience that is meant to build you up, not tear you down. But the only way to experience dating in that way is to start at the beginning, at your foundations, at the feet of God. I strongly believe God is the source of love. I find it difficult to put it into words, but I believe that God is eternal, sovereign, and Love in the being of Jesus. And to find love you must first go to Jesus, not to some random stranger that you hope might end up as your husband or your wife.
It's true that if you date well you will could eventually meet someone whom you marry. And if you marry and it's as it should be, you will know love in a very real and personal way. More real than you might like at times. (More about that in blogs to come and chapters of my book Dare to Date.) But in order to arrive there you must go through Jesus, through both love and forgiveness. Because finding someone you want to marry also means, more than anything, finding yourself, the real version of you, with the nasty parts included. And to be able to endure the stark reality of that experience you need to know forgiveness and grace.
It all starts with God. Go out on a date with God today. Take him out for coffee at your favourite coffeehouse. Go with him on a walk at the beach or in the woods. Ask him to join you as you sit down in the quietness of your own home, in your favourite chair, holding a cup of tea. Invite him into your heart and into your dating life, as existent or nonexistent as it is. Ask him why you are single. Ask him how he can help. Ask him what he thinks of you and allow yourself to look into his shining face, into his tender eyes, and soak in his deep love for you. Accept his invitation to dance with him, to feast with him and to be embraced in his love.
If you know Jesus and his dedication to the well-being of your soul, dating becomes so much easier.
If you manage to take Jesus with you on every date you go on, imagine him sitting at the table with the two of you, or walking alongside you where you go, dating can even become a place of joy and safety. Go and enjoy his company and please share your experiences, I’d love to hear them!
Want to read more? Chapter 1 of Dare to Date is covering this subject more fully!
Aukelien Van Abbema is a singles and couples counsellor, public speaker, and successful author, including the title Dare to Date.
Helping people with Christian dating, relationships, singleness in church, dating in church, loneliness, connectedness, christian connection, healthy relationships.