Will She Go With You?

Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.

Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife.  There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.

The number one thing has to be that you have to be going somewhere, and that needs to start with following Jesus.  Now I’m not saying following Jesus perfectly.  That’s a ridiculous standard.  But are you overall submitted to Him?  If not, you need to try to move there.  If you move there, typically He’ll give you some direction.  If someone were to ask where are you going – do you have an answer?  Does the first part of that answer sound something like, “With Jesus.”?

The second thing you need to think about is the role you have as a man and how to best exercise that role.  The idea of headship in a marriage should be exciting and humbling at the same time.  With it comes responsibilities.  But if I understand that as my role, then I’m better able to become the man I need to be to fulfill those responsibilities.* Or as I heard in a sermon recently – If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.

Let me also state that while both of the above can be hard, they are not only essential but doable.  We have to embrace them.

Now, let’s talk about this from a dating perspective.

First of all, you are not – I repeat not – the head of your date.  You have zero authority. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lead while dating – see this post for more thoughts on that. But you don’t yet have that role in your date’s life which is important to remember both in terms of pressure on yourself and frankly for her as well.

Secondly, I would advise you that as you are dating someone to ask the question, “Would this person respect my role and come with me?”  I could list 100 qualifiers for that statement (this doesn’t mean you command something and she says yes etc) but none of those change the general question.

If the answer is no, then you need to not marry that person.  It will not go well.

Here are two “pictures” of that from my own life, one from dating and another from ministry.

After some dates with one woman we began to talk about what we wanted in life, in the near and far future.  We weren’t getting real deep here but just talking and getting to know more about each other. In the midst of that conversation she said, “I don’t ever want to leave this town.  Ever.  My family is here, my life is here. I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t think they would always live here.”

I knew right then that this wasn’t going anywhere.  It’s not that she was a bad person or even that she wasn’t a Christian.  But that is not my life.  I told her that.  I would go wherever I thought Jesus wanted me to go. I had to know that we would follow Him wherever, no prerequisites.  We stopped dating shortly after.

The other example was in ministry but I think it paints a picture of what it would be like if you married someone who didn’t come with you.  In the ministry that I lead it means going to where kids are.  We go to their turf.  It’s what we do.  I lead other people to also do it. Some people do it with me and some don’t end up doing it.  I remember a meeting with a volunteer who was struggling.  This person said, “I feel like you don’t care about me as much as this other person.  You talk to them more.  I can tell you are close to them and I don’t feel close to you at all.”

I thought for a moment because they were right.  But the reasoning was the problem.  I said, “Well it’s not that I like them better per se.  I like you.  I believe in you and love you. But here’s the difference.  They are in it with me.  They show up.  They go with me as I go. You don’t show up.  My job is to lead people in this mission. That’s where I’m going.  If you want to be with me – you have to actually come with me.”

Now again, I could list 100 caveats and talk about how this can look all sorts of different ways.  But the general truth stands.  You can’t make everyone follow you.  Jesus let people walk.  It’s complicated.  Jesus pursues us yes.  He left His throne to do it.  And yet He doesn’t make people go with Him in response.  And He doesn’t chase them either. The rich young ruler walked.  A man says, “Let me first go bury my father.”  Jesus said “Let the dead bury the dead – follow me.”  The gospels and parables are full of this.  Sometimes you have to let people you wish would come with you walk.  It’s true in life.  It’s true in ministry.  It’s also true in dating.

Remember that marriage is a picture of the Kingdom (as is Celibacy).  They both point towards the Kingdom in unique ways.  Part of the marriage picture is this idea of response to invitation.

I would strongly advise you as a man not to marry someone that wouldn’t go with you. You may be thinking, “Bro you have no idea.  There just aren’t that many women out there like that.”  Maybe.  But there are more than you think.

You need someone who will come with you.  When I do weddings I always tell the groom that the bride needs to know that he isn’t leaving no matter what, and I tell the bride that the groom needs to know that she is on his side no matter what.  I know that both of those will get tested.  But they are necessary.

This doesn’t mean that the only qualifier for a spouse is that she would come with you. However I would tell you that it is one of the essential qualifiers and one that often gets overlooked when the woman has a bunch of other qualities that you are looking for.

I wouldn’t advise marrying any woman who didn’t respect you and who wouldn’t have a posture of going with you as you follow Jesus.**

 

 

* I first read about this idea of roles then responsibilities on this post.  I think it is helpful in seeing that how we view the order of roles and responsibilities is extremely important.

** I would also advise women not to marry anyone they didn’t respect or want to go with

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

In my last post I began talking about this idea of being a servant leader that we toss around in Christian circles.  I’m not going to rehash all of that here.  You might start by reading that post.  Today I want to talk about the servant part and in another post I’ll talk about the leadership side.

I want to clarify a couple of things quickly.  I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t serve people.  Not at all.  We often should.  Again, Jesus served.  He called us to serve others.  What I’m suggesting that serving and leadership are not the same and our motive for serving matters.

Jesus did not serve in order to gain followers.  He didn’t serve to earn relationships.  The reason Jesus is the greatest servant is because he didn’t have to serve at all and yet chose to.  Not only that, but He gave the ultimate service in dying for us.  Jesus served His followers.  But again He didn’t serve to get followers.

Not only that, but Jesus knew what people actually needed not just what they wanted.  He didn’t serve them based on what or how they wanted to be served.  Think of the washing of the disciples’ feet.  At no point did the disciples think, “we’ll like Jesus more and follow Him more if He would wash our feet.”  In fact Peter saw it as an affront at first.  He knew who Jesus was (or at least was coming to know) and he knew that Jesus was the one who should be served.  That’s what made it so incredible.

So what does this have to do with being a single man in the church?  Here are some thoughts.

First of all, we need to understand a very important fact.  Despite what we are sometimes lead to believe by evangelical leaders, you can not serve your way to attraction.  What I mean is that there can be this idea that if I serve a woman she will be attracted to me.

Let’s say you really like a girl.  You are attracted to her and you want her to be attracted to you.  One line of thought is that you need to get to know her and do things for her or even “minister” to her.  She is moving and needs help so you volunteer to help move her.  You’re in college and she needs help studying so you help her study.  You offer to carry things for her.  You open every door for her.  You look for every opportunity to serve her.  She is going through a hard time and you are “there for her”.

Those are all fine things.  But none of those things will make her attracted to you.  If she is already attracted to you, those sorts of things could help advance the relationship at some level.  But they are probably at best neutral in terms of attraction.  However, if she is not attracted to you and she knows you are attracted to her it could be a negative.  You could end up in the nice guy/friend zone.  You are meeting her needs which is great for her, but that won’t make her attracted to you.

On top of that, and this gets back to how Jesus served, if you are serving to get her to like you (be attracted) really you aren’t being a servant.  There are strings attached.  Women see right through this.  They might take the help.  But that’s as far as it is going.

This is one of the ways that nice guys get clobbered over and over.  “I did all of this for her and yet she chose this other guy.  He does’t do anything for her . . . ”  Well that might be true.  But too bad.  First of all, that’s not part of the deal.  Service means just that.  Pure servanthood operates without expecting anything back.  Also it doesn’t matter because if the other guy who doesn’t serve her is who she is attracted to, then . . . well . . . she is attracted to him.

What I’m saying here is that serving the girl is fine.  That’s your choice.  But if you do it so that she will date you, then that’s really on you.

Jesus served out of strength.  He did it out of love.  Not romantic love or “feelings” love. He doesn’t call us to do it out of those things either.  He wasn’t qualifying himself as worth being with by serving.  He was already worth being with and they knew it.

This by the way carries over into marriage.  We tend to sell guys on this idea that if they do certain things they will get certain results.  Serve your wife to “earn” points (I’ve actually seen Christian leaders say things like this).  But that’s not sacrificial service.  That’s selfish service.  It’s for sure not leadership.  I don’t do the dishes so that my wife will like me better.  I do it because why should I not do it.  I do it because she made a great meal and the least I can do is help clean up.  But I don’t do it expecting her to have sex with me. And I’m not counting on it making her want to.  I’m for sure not doing it to bank “points”.

Let me be clear once again.  I’m not anti serving.  But I’m saying don’t serve with an expectation of a result for you.  Don’t serve to be more attractive because it won’t make you more attractive.  Don’t serve to get something in return.  Serving is not a tactic.  And it won’t work.

Finally let me add this.  If you are serving someone in an effort to chase or get them to like you, I’d stop.  Stop being the nice guy.  Stop putting yourself in the friend zone.  Stop trying to earn it.  Don’t be used in that way.  I spent significant time there in my life.  It’s not effective and it won’t help you.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Should You Pray For A Spouse?

One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse.  That took a lot of different forms.  Sometimes it was simple and relaxed.  Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One.  Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).

But over and over again for years, it never happened.  God didn’t “answer” my prayer.

This really begs two different types of questions.  First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse.  Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.

Before I give my feeble attempt to answer those two questions (the first one in this post and the latter in an upcoming post), let me remind us of a few things that we need to clear out of the way.  Platitudes that we know aren’t true and that I’ve debunked here before.  Those include but are not limited to: There is not a Christian Soulmate; God does not owe you a spouse; God is not holding out on you; God Has Not Changed His plan for marriage; It might not be God’s fault; and You don’t earn a spouse.

Ok, now let’s get to it.

First of all, I think it is absolutely a great thing to pray for a spouse.  Why would you not take your desire to God.  You don’t need to try to kill that desire (ignore the whole “it’s when you don’t want it it will happen thing” – that is sort of good advice if it means, don’t be desperate, but pretending you don’t want something is called avoidance, not dealing with it).

We need to take our heart to God.  But I think how we pray can really help us here.  Let’s get very practical.  Here are some things I’d encourage in prayer about a spouse.

  • Avoid praying for THE ONE as there isn’t the one.  This also decreases the pressure when you do meet someone and makes hearing God less pressurized as well.  Maybe pray of A One or something like that.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment.  “God show me what to do and who to pursue further.  God show me what you want me to do.  Do you like this relationship?” etc.
  • Submit to God.  This was huge for me.  I finally quit praying for a spouse.  I took a step back and said, “God, I’ll do whatever you want (You’ll probably need to at least mostly mean that), Just tell me what to do”.
  • Understand that there are different forces at work.  So pray for protection.  Both in searching for a spouse and also for protection of your heart, mind and will from spiritual attack.
  • Pray for God to show you (through others, directly, or in any way) the things that you are doing wrong in this process. “God show me my sin,”or maybe “God show me where you are working on me right now.”
  • Also ask God to show you lies you are believing.  Lies about Him, yourself, the opposite sex, marriage, singleness – you name it.  Ask Him to help you not believe them.
  • Ask Him to heal wounds that you have in this area.

This seems like a lot of prayer.  But I think too often we get wrapped up in the wrong prayers.  We pray for The One because we’ve made marriage an idol.  Or we pray for a particular One because we’ve made that person an idol.  We might pray for a spouse and not pray for anything else – therefore essentially basing our whole prayer life with God on finding another person.  I’ve done all of those things.

Finally as we pray we need to be willing to hear anything.  We need to be willing to hear yes or no.  I think a big part of what makes listening to God hard is that we are afraid of what He will say.  What if God wants me to marry a person I’m not attracted to?  What if He wants to me to remain celibate for life?  What if He calls me out on a sin?  What if He tells me not to marry this person I really want to?  It’s the old, “What if God calls me to move to Africa” fear.

But here’s the thing; If we aren’t fully submitted to Him, it will  be hard first to hear and secondly to trust what we hear as coming from Him.  This is of course true of all prayer not just prayer in this area of our lives.  But it can be especially true in areas of prayer, including this one, where we have a high emotional involvement.  It can border on anguish sometimes, and I want to acknowledge that if that’s where you are at, but we can’t stay there.

In summary, we should absolutely pray about this area of our life.  We should do it in submission to God, while at the same time avoiding false submission sounding platitudes and being open and honest with God.  Heck maybe the starting point could be, “God, right now I want what I want.  Help me to step back and be submitted to you.  That’s what I want, to do what you want.  Help me do that.” Then go from there.

Can You Be Disqualified From Celibacy

One day a few years ago I was meeting with a pastor, who was perhaps in his late twenties, to discuss a singleness talk that I was going to be doing at his church.  We talked about many of the things that we discuss here on this site.  As the discussion turned to celibacy it took a bit of a different turn.

He shared that part of his story was that even though he was married he thought there was a good chance that he was originally gifted/called to ministry from the context of celibacy.  Now he was not complaining in any way about his wife.  In fact he has a good wife and a good marriage.  That wasn’t his point in sharing.  He had two points really.

The first was that when he was growing up, he never understood that celibacy was an option or something to be called to.  But later on as he learned about it he began to ask God if he might be called to it.  Just knowing him a little I wasn’t surprised by that.

He said that he flat out asked God in several ways and that looking back, God answered in every way that he was indeed called to that.

But this guy had already had sex. (Not while he was a pastor, but previously in his teenage and college years).  As he met with some elder men they agreed with his original calling to celibacy but warned him that it would be much harder because of all the sexual experience he had already had.  In the end they advised that he go ahead and marry and he agreed and did so.**

There is a lot of important questions that this raises.  It raises some questions that frankly I don’t have perfect answers to.  However I think it is worth some discussion and thought.

Before we dive in all the way, let’s first say this.  We need to raise our kids in the church knowing that celibate ministry is an option.  We just have to start talking about this.  Not only do we need to talk about it with the 30 year old guy but really with the 13 year old guy.  We need this to be a normal dialogue in the church.  Parents need to talk about it. Youth leaders need to talk about it.  Pastors need to talk about it.

We need to share that there are indeed two paths to pursue.  Doing this well would completely change the game.  I’m going to come back to this soon and talk about why that is and give some thoughts on how to set that up from a practical stand point.

But today I want to raise a different question.  That is: Can you be disqualified from celibacy?

Let’s remember that celibacy is not just living a pure life until you get married.  That’s called chastity.  Really we are all called to live a chaste life.  Celibacy means that I have the calling and/or gifting to live a life and serve God from an unmarried context.  Ideally it’s a vow just like a wedding vow, but to God and not another person.  I’ve talked about the different ways we get there here.

But the question is, what if you’ve already had sex.  Or even; what if you’ve already done a bunch of sexual things or been wrapped up in porn or other activities.  Are you then disqualified from pursuing a life of celibacy for the Kingdom?  Do you have to get married instead?****

This could happen all sorts of different ways.  You could become a Christian after you have already lived a life in which you had sex.  You could be a Christian thinking you were going to get married and slip up and have sex.  There are many examples.

Here is my take.  That’s all it is.  My take.

I don’t think that your past necessarily disqualifies you from a present or future calling.  I do think it can affect it.

I’ve written before that regardless of your past you are not disqualified from marriage.  In fact I went further and fully believe that it doesn’t even disqualify you from who you marry. In other words, just because you’ve had sex doesn’t mean you have to marry someone who has also had sex and so on.  If we repent of our sin and fight to live out of God’s forgiveness then His grace is bigger than all of that.

I believe the same holds true for the call to celibacy.  Your past does not disqualify you from that call.

Now that doesn’t mean that it won’t be tough.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t face some unique challenges as we grow out of our past and into our calling.  Paul is also clear; if you are can’t go without – get married.  But if you are called and/or gifted in that way, you can lead that life – with Jesus.

I’ll say more about this in a future post about celibacy but one thing to keep in mind is that marriage and celibacy do have some things in common.  They are both a calling and a choice.  And regardless of calling the choice isn’t made just once.  This is vital.  A married person has to choose to honor his vows.  Over and over again.  The same holds true for a celibate man.  We are all faced with temptation.  We are all faced with our past.  While both are a one time vow, both require deciding over and over honoring that vow.

I’d love to hear what you think?  I’d especially love to hear from those readers who are called to celibacy.  I know there are some.

 

** I’m not suggesting that my pastor friend or his elders were wrong.  Marriage at that point may well have been the right answer for him.  But I don’t think it should be assumed for everyone in that spot.

**** One caveat needs to be said here.  If you are married, even if you were called to celibacy at some point, you are now called to honor your marriage vows.  God will still use you.  No one who is married should get divorced claiming a new found calling to celibacy.

You Are Not Her Spiritual Leader

I want to continue to try to answer a question that reader Stephen asked me a few weeks ago. Here is the question.

Everyone talks about women wanting guys who “lead”, who “aren’t pushovers,” who “aren’t nice guys,” etc. Question: what does this mean in the context of DATING. NOT MARRIAGE. Its fairly obvious what this means for married men. But when I’m asking a woman out for the first, second, or third time, the only things we’re going to disagree over, or have to decide together, are whether we’re going to Chipotle or Olive Garden. What if I really don’t give a darn? How am I supposed to “lead” while I’m casually dating a girl? I’m not an integral part of her life, I’m not her primary counselor, I’m not even likely to be *informed* about serious decisions that she has to make. 

I tackled the general nice guy question previously, but I think Stephen raises a very interesting question when it comes to leadership.

First of all, let’s clear a couple of things up.  Nowhere in the bible is the phrase spiritual leader used.  It’s kind of inferred in several places but we’ve sort of created this phrase so that we don’t have to use words like headship.  But regardless of all of that, and no matter what you call it, when you are dating someone, you are not her spiritual leader or head of anything. You are not saddled with that and you don’t have to love her as Christ loved the church (any more or less than you would any other person) and she is not called to submit to your leadership.  Ephesians 5 is not about dating.

At the same time you can show leadership.  You’re not her “leader” but that doesn’t mean you can’t lead.  In the restaurant example from above (a great simple example) I’d say on the fist date you should just have a plan and do it.  Just lead.  This is where I’m taking you tonight.  Go someplace that you like that you think she might also enjoy. Don’t show up and say, “where do you want to go?”

Now once you are dating, I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking her what she’d prefer, but I’d ask her that before you show up.  Leadership is more about an attitude.  It’s more about the conversation that night than the menu.  (A note to the ladies here – for the love of all things, if the guy asks you if you prefer mexican or italian and says he is great with either, and you have a preference, express it.  Don’t make him guess and then say, “well I really wanted mexican”.  Men like food.  We don’t care.)

While the above is sort of a practical answer to the fist couple of dates, I think this question begs a deeper one.  What is leadership and what does it look like in a dating relationship.

Leadership is sort of a funny word in our culture. It seems that everyone wants to be one, but very few are seen as one.

Which brings me to the first important point – in order to be a leader, you have to actually be going somewhere.

If as a guy, you know who you are, and remain confident in that, you can look for someone who will come with you.  In terms of attractiveness, knowing what you want, and passionately pursuing it aren’t going to hurt you.  Frankly it’s also often more effective when first asking someone out to invite them to go with you versus a general ask.  “Will you go out with me sometime?” is a lot more pressure than, “I’m going to the game this weekend, come with me.”  I get that isn’t always the preferred method, but the general idea of having a plan and inviting her to it is good.

But here’s another funny thing about leadership.  It require followers.  If no one is following you, you’re not actually a leader.  Also, just because someone has followers doesn’t mean they are leading the right way – just that they have leadership ability.  Hitler had followers.

I say all of this because it’s hard to have a conversation about men leading, be it in marriage or dating, if we don’t sort of have that down.

So here are a few thoughts on how to lead in dating.

  • Be going somewhere yourself.  What are you about?  Where are you heading – big picture and tomorrow.
  • Invite her to that – the simple small stuff at first (go with me to the game?) the bigger vision later (where do we want to be in life).
  • You set the boundaries – physical and otherwise – and honor them – even when she doesn’t want to.
  • Don’t follow her around.  Pursue her, get to know her (which is leadership), but don’t chase her.
  • Make decisions about things you do together.  (Again to clarify, the more your in the relationship the more that becomes joint – but you can still lead the conversation).
  • Lead in reconciliation and forgiveness, but not out of fear – instead out of concern for her and the relationship.

These are just a few examples.  Maybe some commenters will have more.  Keep in mind that no one leads well all of the time (I for sure don’t) and over thinking it and crushing yourself when you feel you don’t lead is totally counterproductive.  Every guy screws this up.  But we need a target.

One final thought here – if you lead and the woman never follows – reconsider that relationship.  Especially when it comes to following Jesus.

Don’t Be A Fool For “Love”

My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, Proverbs 3:21

Ahhh Wisdom.

Over and over again the scriptures point towards wisdom.  God asks Solomon what he wants.  Solomon asks for wisdom, because he knew he was in big trouble without it, and God grants it – and everything else.

If it is one thing I think we’ve forgotten how to teach share, it is wisdom.  This is true both in the secular world and in the church.

This lack of wisdom is seen everywhere in our culture.  It’s in our government, our marketplace, our entertainment, our sports, our schools and universities.  It is for sure seen in how we think about relationships, marriage, singleness and the idea of love.

Our wisdom has turned into head knowledge and our discretion . . . well that is just completely out the window at this point.

The problem is you can’t get to wisdom with soundbites, youtube videos, tweets, and hash tags.  WIsdom takes time and is proved right by it’s actions.

Now this lack of wisdom is seen when it comes to the church and singleness in so many ways it’s hard to even know where to start.  We look around and see the sexual immorality and all that goes with it and we just want it to stop.  The church is constantly reacting to it. But the problem is that rather than change a culture, we mostly offer rules, pledges and platitudes.  We look more interested in morality than helping people live to the full.  And you know what it’s not working.  At all.  We’re not even close.

Why?  Because the problem is WAY bigger than we are willing to see and we refuse to rethink the whole thing from the ground up.

We need to push the restart button on the whole thing, starting with what we teach our kids.  And I say this having taught adolescents for the last twenty years.  As I look back over that, I’d say that I taught them a lot of truth, but I’m not sure if I did a very good job of helping them be wise.  I have more to say about this later and I want to think about how we should teach our kids about marriage, celibacy, and all that goes with it.  I’m honestly not ready to write that yet.  I want to seek a little more wisdom first . . .

What started me thinking about this whole idea oddly enough was the song by the Doobie Brothers called “What A Fool Believes.”

It’s a song about a guy who meets up with a former flame.  Now it isn’t clear whether they were former dating partners or a crush or something else.  What is clear in the song is that the man has had a flame for this woman in his head the whole time, while the woman never carried the flame at all.  In his head he has/had something with her – but only in his head.

When I think of the Christian single men I’ve known over the years (including me) I can’t count the times I’ve seen this sort of thing.

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26

Here’s what I think.  I think that in most churches, when it comes to what we teach men about women, we teach them to be fools.  Not on purpose mind you, but as an unintended consequence – albeit a gigantic one.

Now maybe we don’t teach women to be wise either.  But we sort of do.  We teach them that they are the sheep and the guys are the wolves.  We tell them to be careful, to choose wisely.  We tell them, watch out for his patterns and if he has a sexual past.  He’ll want that from you after all.  Heck we even encourage them to dress wisely.  Don’t put yourself in a bad position we say.  Yes I get that it’s not perfect.  But I’m willing to bet that most Christian women can tell you what to look out for, that they need to guard their emotions and what is attractive to men and what isn’t.  I know because in the past I’ve taught all of this.

But our men?  Not so much.

We teach them to be nice.  We are taught to pursue/chase but not who to pursue or how. We are taught to keep our pants zipped but nothing about what to do.  I’m willing to bet that most Christian men can’t tell you what to look out for, how to protect themselves, how to approach a woman and almost none of them can tell you how female attraction works. Basically we don’t teach our men anything about women that will actually help them get married.  Then we sit around and complain that Christian men don’t know what they are doing.  Exactly.

We are taught to be nice, but not to be wise.  The ironic part of that is, wisdom in a guy is extremely attractive because wisdom breeds confidence and crushes insecurity.

A wise man does not chase the girl.  A wise man is not desperate.  A wise man knows who he is and doesn’t have to pose as a nice guy.  A wise man knows how to talk to a woman and which ones to talk to.  A wise man knows when a woman is attracted to him and when she isn’t and knows how to handle both.

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might – Proverbs 24:5

Have you been taught to be wise or nice?  What are you teaching others?

 

Get Out Of Your Head

I remember back when I was a teenager and just starting to like the idea of dating.  I can remember working up the nerve to call a girl or to ask her out in person.  I was not confident in this area.  What I would do of course made it worse.  I would speculate in my head over and over again about how the conversation would go.  Then after a couple of almost dials, I’d let if fly.  You know what never happened one single time?  It never went the way I made it up in my head.  Never.  Not once.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my head and what I’ve named “the pretend“.  It started when I was a kid as imagination.  And there is nothing wrong with imagination.  But as we grow older we have to move into something very important.  We have to live in the real.

Here’s the thing, the key to health in anything, be it business, ministry or our personal life is to define the reality and then deal with it.  It’s one of the key’s to mental and emotional health.

But there are all sorts of ways to avoid reality.  We can choose to hide.  We can do this by “escaping”.  We might escape to fantasy, video games, alcohol, drugs, porn, comics, you name it.  Or we might just spend all of our time alone, consciously or subconsciously avoiding real community.  Some of us have more conversations with people in our heads than actual conversations with people.

I remember this man I knew who was always mumbling.  What I realized later was that he was carrying on a conversation in his head.  If you saw it on the street you would think that guy was crazy.  But if we do it all the time in our head silently are we crazy?

It’s not healthy.  The worst thing about this “pretend world” is that it strains our minds.  And I remind you that it is absolutely not real.

As a single person in today’s world living in our own head is a real trap.  Married people can fall into it as well to be sure, but when half of unmarried people live alone there is often no one around to physically engage.  Many of our jobs have us working basically alone.  We drive in our car alone.  We go home alone.  We eat alone.  Go to bed alone, wake up alone and do it again.

There’s a reason that in prison the worst place to be is solitary confinement.  Even if we are called to celibacy, we are not called to that.

I struggled with this immensely at different times in my life. I would have conversations with people in my mind over and over again.  This was especially true when I was mad, or when I if I need to have a conversation with a girl I liked.  I would turn the conversation over and over again in my mind.  This sort of process is unhealthy.  It took me more into my own head, more isolation and frankly a lot more stress.  The reality is, from a practical standpoint, never one time did a conversation go the way I thought it would.  Not One Time.  

I remember when God started showing me it was wrong.  I can still remember the first time I prayed against it.  I was driving and getting onto a highway and I literally just prayed, “God, clear my head.  Help me to live only in the real, no pretend.”  I kid you not it was like BOOM and there was silence . . . and peace.  After that, God began to walk me out of it.

We have to submit our minds, imaginations and speculations to God.  It’s a fight but I’m telling you it’s worth it.  We need to engage God and we need to engage others.  We need to shut off the computer, the ipod, the car radio, all of it, and engage the real.  It’s not that God doesn’t want us to ever day dream or use our imagination.  But just like the rest of our life, it needs to be submitted to Him, and the incessant analyzing, conjuring, and practice conversations that won’t happen are not a part of that.  We need to take every thought captive.

The more we let the pretend (in all it’s forms) run rampant, the more it will wear us down and isolate us.  This is bad for our work, play, ministry and dating life.  You will not be who you need to be in any of those areas if you don’t pull this area under control.

So how do we fight this.  Here are some practical things:

  • Pray – this seems so basic, but I mean this in two ways.
    • Pray against this specifically.  Submit your imagination and speculation to the Lord.  Ask Him to fill your mind with peace
    • Pray about the things that you are over thinking.  Instead of speculating and imagining things, lift them up.  Don’t practice the conversation, pray about it.
  • Instead of practicing the conversation or confrontation, write down the main things you want to make sure get said and then move beyond it
  • For me, I needed to turn off the fast music when I drove.  Anything that sends you into the pretend, turn it off.  I actually do better with talk radio – because I have to engage and listen.
  • If you work alone, go to where you have to interact with people.
  • Have people in your life.  You must have community and people to engage with.  Everywhere
  • I would encourage you to not live alone.  I know some people love it.  I think it’s dangerous on many levels.

Do you have more conversations with real people or in your head?  When do you fall into the pretend?  What thoughts are not submitted to God?