Singleness And Christmas

During my 20 years of singleness the holidays were some of the hardest.

The holidays are tough as a single person.  Especially if you are over 25.  Christmas is magical as a child, it’s a great time to do nothing as a college student, but the older you get, unless you just love Christmas, the tougher it is.

It’s during this time of year that most people have some time off to reflect, and whether we like it or not, it can be a time where singles are constantly reminded of what they don’t have – for yet another year.

We are often the ones that travel for Christmas.  After all, Santa doesn’t come to our house – just to our nieces’ and nephews’.  And most likely we will go to our parents not the other way around.

There are also the Christmas cards from our married friends – pictures of couples and kids arriving every day in the mail.  It’s not that we don’t love all of those people, we do.  It’s just that it is another reminder.

If we head to a party at the office, with the organization we work with, or at church etc, we go alone even when spouses are welcome.

If we have a gathering with our parents and/or extended family we will inevitably face all of the singles questions and platitudes we hear in that setting.  And we have to determine how to deal with them.

Then Christmas is over and we get to head to New Years Eve.  Yeah!  Celebrating another year passing – alone.

Bottom line, the holidays can be lonely, frustrating and emotionally tiring for singles.

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I Can’t Get The One I Want

I was talking with friend the other day about singleness and he said something that I really resonated with.  He said essentially, “I can get a date, I just can’t seem to get the one I want.”  Man I have thought that a lot.

I think it’s a common theme for a lot of guys.  The idea is that if there is someone that I really want to date, they are unavailable, live too far away, or just aren’t interested in me at all.  There are dates to be had, just not with the someone that I really want to go out with.

First lets acknowledge that in a way, as a Christian guy (or gal) we are shooting at a small target.  Here’s what I mean.  First there are all women.  But that won’t work for obvious reasons.  If we’re honest you aren’t probably going to pursue someone that you are not attracted to physically.  So that narrows the field (I’m not talking about being a perfect 10 here but someone who is in shape and generally good looking).  But even if you are attracted physically you still have to really enjoy each others company.  So the field has already been narrowed.  Now as a Christian however, they have to also be following Jesus.  So someone attractive, who you “gel” with who also is following Jesus.  Add timing and context and that friends, can be a small target.

That being said, there’s a lot of things that “not being able to get the one I want” can mean. There are traps we can fall into, often more than one at a time.  Let’s look at a few.

We can be intimidated by the people we are attracted to.  In other words, when we actually like someone we over think it or make it too big too quick.  Sometimes we’ve gone awhile without being interested in someone and so when we meet someone we mess it up. We become like the excited puppy that pees all over itself.  Or other times it’s a true pattern in our lives.  Whenever we like someone too much we end up giving them power over us and that is as I’ve noted a lot, not attractive to women.

We might have marriage as an idol.  In other words, if I can just meet the right person all in life will be right.  If we do that, whenever we meet someone who could be that person, we often put them in the sentence.  In other words it becomes, “If I can just get Sally all in life will be right.”  This of course isn’t true but it can feel true.  It’s a bad place to be.  Usually it means you have no chance with the girl.  But even if you do somehow miraculously do get the girl you won’t know how to be with her.  We become like the dog that catches the car. Not good.

This “one that you can’t get” is not perfect.  She is not the answer to your main questions in life.  She is not the only one you could marry.  There will be others.  We need to remember that no woman should be the goal or the trophy.  That will not end well.

A second angle on the “cant get the one I want” idea is there are some of us who pick people we can’t have so that we don’t have to actually get someone.  It’s usually subconscious but we can over and over again sabotage ourselves.  These are the folks who are always dating the “wrong” person.  If you always date someone you can’t marry, that’s about something deep going on inside of you.  You need to investigate that.  Maybe you don’t think you aren’t worthy of that.  But you are.

The third angle is the whole consumerism issue.  This plays out all sorts of ways.  Some guys struggle with once they have someone, they need a new someone.  It’s like they are dating an iphone.  When they first get the iphone it’s the answer to all the worlds problems.  Right up until there is a newer iphone.  There will always be a shinier new toy. There is no perfect person.  These folks bail at the first sign of trouble and then find a new person to pursue – who they don’t know well enough yet to see their flaws.

To top this all off we are inundated with all sorts of false advertisement.  I’m speaking here about everything from advertising, to the movies, to porn.  We have a perfect look, perfect romance, perfect performance that we are comparing everyone to.

So when we meet someone who seems to be THE ONE material we either freak out and can’t get them, put them on a pedestal and chase them instead of moving on, or date them until we realize they aren’t as perfect as the new girl (actual or in our mind) that we don’t know yet.

I’ll tell you right now that in my 20 plus years of singleness I struggled with all of the above at one point or another and I definitely believed the lie that I couldn’t get the one I wanted.

So how do we fight this lie.  Here are few quick steps.

1. You have to get your identity in Christ not in getting married or “getting” a particular person.  We need to have our core questions answered by God

2. Realize that biblically speaking there is not THE ONE

3. Begin to believe that you can indeed learn to interact with any woman that you want to.  That you are capable of delivering if it counts.

4. Recognize the truth that no girl that you think you have to have is actually perfect and maybe the girl you “could get” is better than you think.

Which trap do you fall into?  Do you believe that you can get the one you want?

Should We Develop Dating Skills?

When I was a kid I loved basketball.  I loved playing it, watching it, listening to it on the radio and then re-enacting that game in the driveway the next day.

As I got older I began to actually work really hard at it.  I was coached by my dad (who still has a quicker release on his shot than me).  Later different coaches spent time with me and coached me up.  I played spring and summer ball.  I went to the outdoor courts to practice.  I did drills.  When I reached high school I conditioned and even bought strength shoes to help my vertical.  I shot endless free throws making sure I made 10 in a row before I quit for the day – no matter how long it took – even in the dark.

Now I never became a star.  I got a few awards but I was no where near good enough to play division one.  But I did get better – a lot better.  And even now I can still bang it out in the post against most people.  I can’t do physically what I could 20 years ago, but the flow and movements come naturally – because they are ingrained.  They are a part of me.

Practice and coaching are a part of almost everything we do in life.  Think about it.  If you’ve learned to play a musical instrument, learned math, got a degree in anything you’ve been coached and you’ve practiced.  When we enter the workforce we are trained by someone. When you get a new job, you have to learn the culture of that company or industry.  Someone helps you – at least hey hand you a manual or something.

Even in church this is true.  To be a small group leaders usually means you have to be in a small group first.  Then there is at least a training weekend.  Someone should check in on how you are doing.   A new Christian can usually get help on how to read the bible.  There are membership classes.  Need help in an area? There’s a class for that.  Marriage, parenting, spiritual gifts, bible study, all of it.

But when it comes to helping single people get married, not so much. We are so lost in this area and there is very little help.

There are all sorts of things that keep us single.  Some of it is situational.  Some of it is our own sin or lack of commitment.  No doubt.  Some of it though, has to do with skill.

Now we all hate that it takes skill.  But we hate this in every area of life.  I mean I wish I could be good at stuff without working at it.  Who doesn’t?  But that’s not the typical situation.  I’d love to be able to hit the golf ball where I want it to go without ever practicing. I wish I never had to study for a test in college but I did.

There is skill involved in getting a date.  There is the inner confidence part.  The approach part.  There is the body language part.  Many of us have never even considered most of this.  Most of us have never worked at it.  And almost none of us have ever been coached or mentored in it in any way whatsoever.

Many of us grew up without a dad or without one who taught us this stuff.  A lot of us learned all the wrong things.  It’s a mess.  It doesn’t have to be.  But you probably aren’t going to wake one morning, flip a switch and do it different.

This is why a lot of the spiritual platitudes in Christian dating are a complete waste of time.  “God will bring you someone” is pointless if you can’t close the deal when He does.  Telling me about marriage is helpful but won’t help me get married.

Most in the Church basically say don’t date.  Don’t pursue someone unless you are sure it could go somewhere.  Don’t practice. I get the idea.  But to me it’s unfair to assume that someone can never go on a date, and then just turn it on at the right moment for the right person.

Am I saying go on hundreds of dates?  Am I saying ask everyone out, or hit on every girl.  Heaven’s no!  But what I am saying is that somehow we need to help people work through their stuff and develop their ability to actually move with confidence when they feel led to.

We need to quit focussing solely on keeping people from marrying wrong.  People are already not getting married.  Instead we need to somehow become proactive (within our principles of loving others) in helping people figure out how to get married right.  That has to include more than who not to marry.  It has to include how to make the right thing happen.

I have more questions on this than answers.  How do we get better at dating/relationship starting?  Where did you learn what you do know?  What do you wish someone would have helped you with in this area?

The Single Christian’s Anguish

This last weekend I borrowed a buddies truck and went down to my parent’s town to pick up some various items from my Grandmothers house that had just sold.  Things like a bookshelf, patio furniture and oddly enough Christmas dishes (some things really do change when you get married – Christmas dishes?).

At any rate, it’s about a 3 hour drive and since I didn’t have my ipod, I grabbed a few random old cds.  As I slid one of them in and the music came on, I just smiled.  It was a cd that a friend and I had made in a studio just over 10 years ago.

Now I wrote all kinds of songs but most fell into one of two categories.  The first was worship type songs – I mean I’m a Christian right?  But the second, was songs about the hurt I had in the dating world.

This cd was no different.  But it was the third song that made me famous among my friends.  It’s a great song.  It really is. It’s so full of emotion.  I wrote it in my basement at age 23, literally in under 10 minutes.  I had just been told by another female that she just saw me as a friend.  To be honest it wasn’t really about her, it was about the whole damn thing.

The last lines go like this:

Outside, looking in/ You’re using that excuse that you’ve used again and again and again/ It may be your loss, but it sure as hell ain’t my win/ It seems I’ve been caught, following my heart once again.

As I listened I had a range of emotions.  In a way it is so long ago.  That song is almost 20 years old.  And yet there is so much of my story there.  When it came to dating and marriage, I really was outside looking in.

There is anger in the song but anger it too simple a word to describe what I felt for really 15 years of my life.  A better word is anguish.

Here’s your google definition – Anguish – Severe mental or physical pain or suffering.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Now there were all sorts of parts to my story and why I felt that.  I was not good with the ladies and I knew it.  I also had come to know Jesus at the end of high school, so now I needed to date not only someone where there was attraction, but also who knew Jesus. So as I left college, I was now looking for the one.

To be honest, as I got older, the anguish got worse, not better.  As I hit my late 20’s doing ministry in a college town, I was surrounded by great women who liked Jesus -none of whom I could date (or at least that is what I thought then).  Toss in some religion and self righteousness and I was in trouble.  To be honest, I just shut it down.

Then I moved to St. Louis and all of a sudden, there were options.  But the problem was, now I was screwed up.  I was a complete mess in this area of my life.  It was like somehow my awkwardness had grown.  All of this was exasperated by religious platitudes about how God just hadn’t sent me the person yet.

I share this because the anguish of many singles (especially in the Church) is completely underestimated and un-dealt with.  There are a lot of really hurting people.

Not everyone who is single wants to or should be married.  Some are called to celibacy for the kingdom.  But most are not and frankly it hurts.  And as you get older it raises a lot of questions.

The Church needs to deal with this by loving these people well.  We need people who step into our lives for real, not just with passing judgement and advice.  If we are going to face our anguish and get free of it that probably won’t happen alone.

But we as single people must actually face it.  We have to because if we don’t it will grow.  Anguish doesn’t get smaller.  You can disguise it, funnel it into work/ministry as I mostly did, or even just try to kill it.  But if we don’t deal with it and the wounds that both caused it, and come from it, we are screwed.

For me it came crashing down as I began to see that I was broken.  A woman I had pursued told me that she wanted to like me but didn’t.

I knew stuff was off.  All the things that I thought were holding me back, actually weren’t.  I had completely lost my way in this area of my life.  I remember thinking over and over again, “No!, No, No, No.  This isn’t right.”

All of it kind of came to a head and instead of going home, I sat in my office all night.  I literally sat on the floor and cried.  The anguish was real.  I told God, “just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.”

I was 35 and I was lost in this one.  I sought counsel and God provided.  People stepped up, mentors fought for me and frankly I had to do some hard work.  It was humbling.  It was awesome.  God changed me.

As I listened to “Outside Looking In” I smiled.  It’s a great song!  But I’m glad I’m not there now.

If you are in anguish may God step into your hurt.  May you one day be free from it.

Here’s the song Outside Looking In

Don’t Just Aim For “Christian” Singleness/Dating/Marriage

The first thing you are required to answer if you are dating someone and you go to church is this, “So are they a Christian?”  Then if you answer yes, your next goal is to date in a Christian way, and then of course have a Christian marriage, and raise Christian kids.  But here’s my question – what does that actually mean?

One of my favorite scenes in the Bible happens in John 6. Jesus starts out by feeding the 5000. For an encore He walks on water.  Now the crowds figure this out and so they show up to greet Him and the disciples.  The conversation goes essentially like this.

Jesus says, “You are here because of the miracle yesterday.”  They say, “Um obviously.” Jesus says, “You need to work for the stuff that lasts, not the bread that you need more of.”  They then ask what they need to do.  Jesus says, “The work of God is this, to believe in the one whom He has sent.”  In other words, “Stake your whole life on me.”  Their response is classic.  “Give us a sign that we may believe.”  He of course refuses and they all leave.

Here’s what’s funny.  If Jesus would have answered the work question with any sort of job, they would have done it.  If He would have said, “Stand on one foot and dig a ditch 100 meters while saying the levitical code backwards,” they would have tried to do it.  But actually staking their life on Jesus, not so much.  They didn’t want much to do with Him.

This is a constant battle as we think about singleness, marriage and the Church and really any other area of life.

It is easy to get wrapped up in formula and for that matter religion.  The real question is, what is your identity in?  Are you, your relationships, friendships, singleness, marriage and church about Jesus?

We end up with the wrong goals.  We want a family centered church.  Everyone wants a Christian marriage and certainly to have a Christian household.  And if you’re single, then your job is to not have sex (because that’s not Christian) and if you do date, do it in a Christian way.

But this can be a trap for all of us.  It doesn’t matter what you call it, or if you follow all the rules, if you don’t actually walk with Jesus.  It gives us the wrong identity and it can make us come up short.

I’m not saying all the rules or ideas are wrong.  For example, not having sex outside of marriage is right.  It’s Biblical.  It’s from God.  And the truth is that if I’m following Jesus, He is not going to lead me to have sex unless I’m married.  But the problem is that I can abstain from sex and still not follow Jesus.  It’s not the having or not having of sex that makes me about Jesus.

This is so important as we are seeking a spouse.  We can’t just say, hey that girl/guy goes to church so it must be good to go.  We can’t just date, go to church, be in a small group, not have sex, and call it good (although again, those are all good things).  The real questions are more like, “Is this other person really trying to follow Jesus?”  “What is the fruit of this person’s life?”  “Does it seem like Jesus is in this?”  “Am I brought closer to Jesus by the relationship?”

But this goes way beyond who to date.  What do we want our marriage to look like?  There are so many marriages that are “Christian” more in name than in action.  Marriages without fruit and growth.  Marriages where we are “good people” and “plugged in” but yet don’t really seem to be about Jesus.

And finally, the Church get’s wrapped up in this too.  They get so concerned about the nuclear family, marriage and single people not having sex, that pretty much that’s all they are about.

We end up with our identity being in a religion, self-righteousness, our kids, family or marital status that we miss actually walking with Jesus.

Our first call is to know and love Jesus.  This is true regardless of literally anything else in our lives.  This is what brings us together.  It’s what makes US the family that matters most. It is what keeps things like marriage and family from becoming idols (whether we have them or not).  It’s also the hardest thing to do.  Which is why Jesus calls it work.

My thought is this.  What if we didn’t worry about Christian singleness/dating/marriage.  What if we worry about trying to follow Jesus and all of that will take care of itself.  I get the dangers of that statement, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Are your relationships Jesus centered or just “Christian”?  What kind of marriage or singleness do you want?

Approaching Women

A few years ago I was sitting at a party with some friends when I ran into an attractive woman I knew who goes to our church.  Kind of in jest I asked her if she felt like church was a meat market.  In other words were guys always asking her out.  She looked at me incredulously and said, “No because it’s not like any guy is actually going to do anything about it.”

I wrote about this a while ago, but this deal of guys not actually approaching women is a very real issue in our “Christian” culture.  There’s a plethora of reasons for this.   But some of it is that we are just not trained as men on what is a good way to approach women.  The older you get the more important this becomes.

I’ve talked some about approaching women online.  I want to offer some thoughts about doing it in person.  Now most of this I learned by doing it wrong – a lot.  So don’t think I’m some sort of guru.  Also, keep in mind that I’m not trying to give you a formula.  I actually think you coming up with one at first could be good.  But the problem is if you give a man a hammer, everything becomes a nail – and that will backfire.

First and foremost is having our identity in Christ.  Go back and read last week’s post. This is essential.  If you aren’t working on this, nothing I say here will work.  You’ll just be faking it.  Now that doesn’t mean you have to get it perfectly before you can do this, I don’t mean that at all.  But you need to be working on your insecurities and fears in light of your relationship with Jesus.  If you’re not then this isn’t going to end well – even if you fake your way into marriage.

That said, here are some keys (remember all we are talking about here is the initial approach).

  • When you see someone you want to approach – act quickly.  Don’t be in a hurry but don’t over think it.  Don’t let it build up.  When you make eye contact and she smiles – you have maybe 15 seconds max to act.  Otherwise you send one of three messages – that you aren’t interested, interesting, or you are afraid of her.  All bad.
  • Body language is everything.  Women naturally pick up on this stuff.  Learn to control yours.  If you are slumped over or in a submissive posture or jittery – that sends the message you are afraid (which you might be but that isn’t the point).  Don’t be rigid – but don’t be cowering.
  • Along with that, make eye contact and keep it.  Smile.  Again not in a forced way but smiling means warmth, and comfort.
  • Talk to her like you’ve always known her.  Really almost like she was your sister.  At ease.  And talk slow.  When we get nervous we speed up.  Dead give away.  Be thoughtful and intentional.  Think taking a walk instead of going on a run.  Seriously.
  • Ask questions.  It can be good to have a couple of questions ready.  These should not be deep questions.  They should also not be critical questions.  In other words, what did you think of the sermon followed by a critique of it = bad.  Think fun questions.  Which brings us to:
  • Fun is good – always.  That doesn’t mean “ha ha” fun necessarily.  But girls are attracted to fun. They are stressed out enough emotionally already – they don’t want that from a guy – they want the guy to be the escape – where they can relax.  Fun is your friend.
  • Don’t apologize for talking to her.  Don’t say things like, “I’m just kidding”.  Don’t act like she holds any power over you.

Keep the following thoughts in mind.

  • It’s no big deal.  Keep remembering that
  • There is always someone else.
  • You have no idea who she is or what she’s about.  You want to find out – that is why you are approaching her.  You’re investigating, not asking her to marry you.  You are a high quality person – is she?
  • Attraction (sexual tension & fun) + comfort (safety) = date*.  Think about it.
  • In the beginning less is more.  Don’t ask her out the first time you talk to her.  If you can, you want to be the one to end the conversation. Maybe something like this, “I’m glad I met you (or you met me – if you can pull that off).  I’d like to talk more.  Do you have email (a card, phone number) etc.?”  This whole thing might take three minutes.

If you are not good at this at all, here is what I’d suggest.  I’d practice.  I know that sounds funny but really.  It’s like golf.  You have to go to the driving range before the course.  Don’t ask for everyone’s number.  Just meet them.  Catch how that feels and how you react. See what works for you.  Build sort of a formula for you.  Once you do that, assuming you are working on the identity piece, you won’t need a formula long.  Have fun.

 

* Formula adapted from Mystery’s Attraction + Comfort = Seduction

The Myth Of The Christian Soulmate

This last weekend my fiancee and I were discussing our attempts to read Christian Fiction. First, what does that even mean exactly?  Fiction written by Christians?  Fiction about Christians? Is it always about white people living in the old west?

At any rate, one of the biggest genre is the Christian Romance Novel.  So I decided to go to my favorite resource for books, Amazon.  Wow!  Ok, here we go.  For starters apparently only Christians can write “religious fiction”.  Anyone else I guess either never writes fiction or they just don’t get a section.  Then we get to the breakdown of different types of “Christian Fiction”.  There are 183 books under Biblical fiction 3700 books under historical fiction and . . . wait for it. . . almost 8000 books under Christian Romance.

Moving past the fact that most of these appear to be about Amish people let’s get to why I’m bringing this up.  The Christian culture has been inundated with a false sense of romantic love.

It’s not really about the books which even most Christians don’t read.  It’s about the fact that we play along with what the world says and just Christianize it.  The world says that I have to have another person to be complete, that there is someone out there for you who is exactly right for you.  We say, God has someone for you.

This reminds me of back when Christian rock was getting started.  Here was the sell.  “Hey man did you hear these guys?  They are just like Metallica man – except Christian.” Really!?

One of the things that drives me the most crazy about all of this is we are never first. Never. Everything we do is a freaking reaction to what we see as “wrong” with culture.  There’s hard rock music, let’s make a Christian version.  There’s romance novels, let’s make a Christian version.  Ahhhhh.  The latest is of course, there’s online dating so let’s make a Christian version.

The truth is we should have thought of most of these first.  But we didn’t.  Worse though, most of the time “our” version isn’t as good, and we end up preaching mostly to the choir. The most effective way to make a difference as a Christian artist – don’t get labeled as one.

But here is my point today.  We have invented what I call the “Myth Of The Christian Soulmate.”

It’s everywhere.  Christian Mingle’s about section reads, “The ideal place for Christian men and women to find friends, dates, and even soulmates.”  I can’t count the times in my 20 years of singleness that someone has said something to the effect of “God has someone for you” or “God just hasn’t brought you the one yet” or “Make sure you wait for “the one” God has – don’t settle”.  What could be more paralyzing than that last one?

All of this is some sort of weird cross between romance novel, misplaced Calvinism, and what I call Help You Sleep At Night Theology.  And it is no where in the Bible.

In an attempt to encourage the hurting and lonely, as well as be protective (and often controlling) of the flock, we end up giving platitudes that aren’t really helpful in the long run and just aren’t true.

There is nothing in the Bible about soulmates.  Nothing.  It is not there.  There is nothing about how to find someone to marry.  There are some, and I mean only some, principles for marriage and getting married.  But there are no promises about God bringing you a spouse, let alone a perfect one.

The soulmate idea is bad for a lot of reasons.  The idea that I’m incomplete without someone and if I just find this other person I will be whole.  No person can fill that role. We need to be complete in Jesus.  That doesn’t mean that because we have Jesus that we shouldn’t want a spouse.  But a spouse (real or wanted) should not be put in the savior role.

It can make us mad at God.  If He has my soulmate and hasn’t brought them to me, then it’s His fault.  This is also a convenient way to avoid any responsibility what so ever. Perfect.

Finally, judging every encounter through the soulmate lens pressurizes the whole process. Some of us can never even get into a relationship at all because no one “meets” the soulmate criteria.  Others think everyone they fall for is their soulmate and then when it doesn’t turn out they have to either try desperately to hang on or beat themselves up for “missing it.”

As I’ve said before, I believe that God can and does send people into our lives.  But guess what, we get to choose what to do with that.  And isn’t that what we want anyway?  Isn’t it more romantic to be chosen than to be destined?