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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?