By Holly Clark
When I was younger, there was a lot of talk in my Christian circles on dating and relationships.
My mentors (with great intentions) would emphasize the importance of saving yourself for your husband. I would read books where the author would encourage young women to be faithful to their relationship with God and he would bless them with faithful men in return.
While I know these authors and mentors intention’s were to encourage women to not put all of their focus on a relationship, I have seen many women frustrated and discouraged with faith because they “did do everything right” (focused on their relationships with God) and still got hurt.
In my experience, God has never been transactional. I didn’t do “anything right” and by the grace of God, I ended up with an incredible man.
Here are a couple specific reasons why I can’t give dating advice and why we can’t depend on our “good deeds and intentions” to get what we want:
Relationships are not an A + B = C equation.
We are meant for relationship and relationships are not an A + B = C equation.
While I understand why so many Christians talk about how God will bless you when you have pursued Him with your whole heart, it’s also a cop-out answer. It’s like saying, “Things will be okay,” or “They are in a better place.”
I know this is true because I didn’t deserve my relationship with my husband. For years he pursued me respectfully and with love, all while I was focusing on the wrong things. I pursued other men to fulfill me and I didn’t even know what it meant to love God with my whole heart. I did everything wrong in the eyes of my mentors and Christian leaders. And yet now I am married to my best friend.
I’m not saying we can act and treat people however we want and it won’t matter, because we are all called to take responsibility for our actions and to live with integrity and obedience. But when Paul says in Romans 4:24 that “We are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Jesus Christ,” he truly means we are free in Christ! We are completely free and we are completely loved. But that doesn’t mean that because we are free or loved (or did everything right) we will get whatever we want.
Grace is the main factor in our relationship with God (tweet this!). We don’t deserve it and we can’t do anything to “get” it, and because of this all the good things in our life, relationships included, come down to a matter of grace.
Relationships cannot be compared.
Social media makes this almost impossible.
We have become a culture obsessed with proving ourselves, checking our social media sites for how many “likes” we have, all the while comparing ourselves to other people, what they have and their relationships. And while I can look at these things and wish and wonder why my relationship doesn’t look exactly like someone else’s, I have to remember that my journey and marriage with Jeremy is going to be completely different than someone else’s.
My friends sometimes ask me what to do in their relationships and I’ve tried to give them advice based on my situation. Jeremy and I have known each other since sixth grade, we dated for four years and then got married after college. I’ve known some couples who met, dated and got married all in the same year and they have a great marriage. So even though I may have experience with dating and being married, my advice may not always be relevant to someone’s else’s specific situation if it looks different from mine.
Whether you are single, dating, or married, live into your present moment and present relationship. There is no strict, set way your relationship should look or play out. And for goodness sake, stop letting what other people post on social media dictate how you feel about your relationships or situations in life.
Free will makes relationships unpredictable.
My sophomore year of college I took a class called Intro to the Christian Faith. I remember one specific lecture almost word for word: The professor was speaking about love and free will. He asked us if we would rather be with someone who could choose at any moment to leave us, or someone who was programmed and forced to love us.
He compared this situation to God’s love and why God gives us free will. We can choose to love God or not. And we know God loves us because he doesn’t force us to do anything. We are free to love and we are free to hurt others. We are free to make our own decisions.
So though you may pick the an amazing person to date or marry, and you do and say all the right things in that relationship (you won’t), free will guarantees that your relationship, and your life, will be unpredictable.
All relationships, no matter how similar they may be, will ultimately be different from anyone else’s. And while I can do my best to give advice based on my own experiences, know that at the end of the day only you fully know both the joys and complications of your relationship.