Chasing Vs. Pursuing

I recently have received a couple of notes from readers asking for more on the difference between pursuing and chasing.  In other words, we are taught, especially in Christian circles, that we should pursue a woman we are interested in.  But as I have stated here many times, we should never chase a woman that we are interested in because it pretty much ensures failure.

But in our culture and language this can be a really fine line.  Let’s face it, from a purely linguistic standpoint they are very similar and we should probably find other words.  But when I think of these two words in the context of trying to find a spouse, I think they are worlds a part.

So what is the difference?  How do we pursue and not chase?  What does it look like?

Let me take a stab at it.

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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?

Jesus Can Help You Attract Women

For over 20 years I’ve been inviting people to know and follow Jesus.  One of the things I like to do when I have time is to juxtapose two stories from the bible.

The first is the story of the wealthy young ruler who approaches Jesus.  The man kneels before Jesus, offers him some flattery and then asks what he needs to do to have real lasting life.  Jesus first brushes off the flattery and then tells him that he knows the rules of the kingdom.  The man says he”s kept all of those.  So not only was this man well off, but he was apparently a good guy.  But something was still missing.  Jesus then essentially says, “Sell everything you have, and come with me where I’m going.”  The man went away sad because his wealth was the center of his life and he was not leaving it.

The other story is from Luke.  In this story in the middle of the day, after teaching from his boat, Jesus tells Peter to go out into the water and drop his fishing net.  Peter basically tells Jesus that to do so is completely ridiculous.  They had worked all night (the right time to fish) and not caught anything.  But he does it anyway.  He then pulls in the catch of a lifetime.  He has to call others to help.  This was THE catch.  He could have just thanked Jesus and made a killing at the market.  But instead he realizes what is going on and falls to his knees. Jesus says, “Come with me.  From now on you will fish for men”.  Peter leaves THE catch on the beach and goes with him.

It’s the same invitation.  One man says yes and another says no.  One is with Jesus and the other is not. This theme plays out all through scripture.

There’s obviously about a zillion things we could pull from these stories.  But what I want to talk about today is that we as men can actually learn a lot from Jesus about how to approach and attract women.  Seriously.

Jesus was a guy that everyone wanted to be with.  People were drawn to Him period.  He knew His identity.  He was confident, strong, caring, smart, powerful, fun, charismatic, and fully alive.  He was exactly himself always.  He had integrity.  He initiated.  Quite simply Jesus was the most attractive person ever.  Jesus was hot!

Now Jesus knew that celibacy was required to accomplish His mission.  But you can bet women wanted to be with him.  So what can we learn from Him about pursuing women if He didn’t?  A lot actually.

For starters we need to recognize that if we walk with Him we can become all of the things that I listed in two paragraphs above.  If I’m in Christ then I can know where my identity comes from.  I should be becoming more confident, strong, caring, wise, etc.  Of course I’m not Jesus and therefore can’t live that out perfectly, but I should be becoming it.

But more than that we can learn from how Jesus interacted with those he called.

Jesus loved people.  He invited people to join Him, in all sorts of ways. Some joined him for a while and left.  Some walked away.  A few went with Him.  Here are a few take aways in terms of dating.

First, Jesus was inviting people to something.  As a man we need to be inviting the woman to come with us.  They are not the goal.  I’m pursuing a goal and I’m looking for someone to come with me in that.  This is a huge thought.  Women want someone who is going somewhere.  Call it ambition or direction or whatever, it is attractive.  If we don’t know what we are about and where we are going as well as how to communicate it, we run the risk of not being attractive, or of attracting the wrong person.

Second, Jesus asks and invites but He never begs.  This is actually true through the entire Bible.  God does NOT need us.  He wants us.  He loves us.  He pursues us.  But He is not begging us to be with Him.  He invites the rich man to leave it all, but he doesn’t beg him to.  In the same way we shouldn’t beg someone to date us.  Women like being wanted, but they can sense when they are needed.  If we can’t live without them, they don’t want to live with us – at least not for the long term.

Jesus, even though it saddened Him, let people walk away.  When the rich man walks Jesus doesn’t hesitate and say something like, “Hey wait a minute.  You know what, you obviously kind of like me and I want this to work out.  So how about you sell half.  Heck bring the rest with you and we’ll use it.”  He lets him walk.  It is good to pursue a woman.  It is a terrible idea to chase her.  Jesus was not (and is not) a stalker.  He is not waiting for us to make His life complete.  No one should hold that power over us either.

The reason we know Jesus loves us is that even though He doesn’t need us, He wants us. Some people say yes to that and some say no.  The truth is that you can’t love anybody that you have to have.  Love is a choice, not a compulsion.

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.

Car Shopping And Dating

About six weeks ago my car got totaled.  Actually it got flash flooded out.  (By the way if you have ever wondered how long you would have if you crashed into water before water seeped into your car – answer – not very long, as in get out of the car immediately).

At any rate, this meant I needed to go through the insurance process and then go find a new car.  My insurance company was very fair, and I had a little extra money to spend.  So I went about trying to find a car.  Now here’s the deal, I was committed to not take out a loan so I had exactly what I had.  I also knew what kind of car I wanted.

I visited around 20 different dealers, looked on all the websites (even craigslist).  There were lots of ok cars, but not so much “my car”.  I’m 6’4″ so there has to be room.  I’m in it a lot as most of my job is out of my office.  It needs to run a long time – my last car (not the totaled one) lasted for 322,000 miles.  And I wanted a V6, because, hey, I’m a man.

About two weeks in I found one.  All the cars I had seen like the one I wanted were at least $1500 -$2000 more than I had and this one was no different.  We met, I drove it, but at that time, the dealer couldn’t go that low.  His price was fair, I just didn’t have it, and I had to walk away.

You see the key to car shopping is actually pretty simple.  Don’t quit looking, don’t buy something you aren’t a little excited about (aka spend a fortune on something you don’t like), and always be willing to walk away.

I could have bought a car the first week and it would have been fine – but I would have been disappointed.  I also could have become discouraged – which I actually did.  But I had community and people to encourage me and loan me vehicles etc.  Finally I could have caved and spent more than I wanted to.  But I was able to walk away.

I share this way too long example because I think it totally relates to three traps we can fall into in looking for a spouse.

Let me just come right out and say that I’ve done all three of these things wrong. . . many times actually.

First, we can for sure quit looking.  There’s are lots of ways to get discouraged.  Maybe we go on a lot of dates, but after a while get dating fatigue and we just want to stop trying.  Or maybe we go on no dates and after a while we just quit asking.  Maybe we get our heart broken and we just don’t want to go back out there.  I’ve for sure been all of those places.  The key in my opinion to this is not dating alone.  In other words you need people in your life who walk with you in this area.  People who can encourage you, tell you what they see you could do better, or just let you vent.  But we needn’t give up.

Secondly we can go with something we know in our heart either isn’t right or just doesn’t excite us.  We say things like, “there’s nothing really wrong with her”, or “I know he’s not a believer but we get along great and he’s open to it”.  Now we have to be careful here.  If anything we in our culture have overplayed the whole don’t settle thing and instead often turn to consumer dating where at the first sign of trouble we bolt.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  But I’ve stayed with stuff longer than I should or tried to make stuff work that I wasn’t into, and that’s at best a waste of everyone’s time.

Which leads to the final trap. We have to be willing to walk away.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Again, I don’t mean run away.  I don’t mean that we walk away because of consumerism or because of fear.  But we need to approach the whole deal with knowledge of “I don’t have to do this.”  I can either choose to do it or not.

This is especially key as a guy.  You have to realize that you don’t need that girl.  You may be willing to wait a while for her, or be willing to listen if she changes her mind but that’s different than chasing her.  When we like someone as a guy, we can often get locked in to the point where “getting the girl” becomes the point.  And this just crushes us.  And it makes us less attractive and keeps us from moving on.

We can get in our head that there could never be anyone else.  But here’s the truth.  There will be. To be honest, knowing you CAN walk away, makes it more powerful when you choose not to.  Knowing that there is not this one perfect soulmate, frees you up to choose to be with someone and begin to become that.

The main key to all of this is having our identity and confidence in Christ.  Knowing that I’m ok no matter what allows us to keep risking, not make desperate choices and know that our life doesn’t depend on it.

Which of these traps do you mostly fall into?  What drives you to that?

Why Men Struggle With The L Word

Last week I wrote about how all men question their sexual prowess.  If you haven’t read last week’s posts, and you are a guy, I’d strongly encourage you to do that.  We ended the sexual prowess post talking about the real question we need to be answering – “Am I a good lover?”

I believe as men we often struggle with love and intimacy. I think as a single this can become a huge deal in our life.  Often we can go long periods of time without touch or loving words.

I want to say more about physical touch soon, but today I want to focus on the problem we have with the words, “I love you.”

I’m not talking about the way we say it most of the time.  I’m not talking about the sarcastic, bro fake intimacy, of “I love you man” crap.  I’m also not talking about “I love you” when we mean, “don’t be mad at me”. Nor am I talking about the “I love you” when we mean I’m desperate for you to like me.

I’m talking about being able to say it and mean it in the straight forward, no excuses, expecting nothing back, “I love you.”

This is frankly just hard for a lot of us.  There are a lot of reasons and it goes way deeper than the whole macho stereotype.

For starters many of us never heard it from our fathers.  This isn’t to say our fathers didn’t love us, although there are many of us who do come from that.  What I mean is that they didn’t know how to say it either.  Moms said it to us which is good when you’re little but if you only hear it from her you’re in trouble because “I love you” becomes feminine.  And most guys don’t want to be that.

When we don’t hear it from a man, when we become men, we don’t say it.  And I’m not just talking about saying it to a woman.  I’m talking about saying it to your parents, to your friends, to a mentor, a disciple, to your kids.

It’s like when it comes to the surface we kind of swallow it.  There are still times in my life when I know it’s what needs to be said and I choke it back.

Saying I love you – especially saying it in a serious way – requires vulnerability. What if you say it and don’t hear it back?  We can often be afraid to “go there” even with those close to us.  It feels risky.  It feels like I’m opening up some part of me that I’m not sure I want to expose.

The truth is that you can really only be a good lover if you are secure in who you are.  And the only way to be secure is to know that you are loved.  Ultimately only one person can answer that.

Let’s say that you had a 10 minute meeting with God.  In that 10 minutes God (who knows your whole life – all that you’ve done, all that you want, all that you are doing and dreaming) is going to tell you what is most important to Him that He wants you do know. What do you think he would tell you?

I’ve asked a lot of people this question.  Mostly people say something the effect of, “He’d tell me this was good or this was bad, or that I need to work on this or that.”  Some people say, “I’d hope He’d tell me why this or that happened.”

But I’m convinced that what He would do is spend the entire ten minutes telling you He loved you.  Oh if we believed that!  Oh sure we know that God “loves us”.  We know it theologically, heck even logically.  We can quote it, preach it and put it on a bumper sticker.  But living out of it – that’s a whole other thing.

Part of the reason we have a hard time saying it, is that we have a hard time hearing it.  I know this was true for me for a long time.  It was like when someone said it to me I would kind of squirm inside.  It stirred something but I didn’t know what to do with it.

As a guy we need to work through this area of our life.  How comfortable are we at receiving and giving out those words?  As a single person we often don’t have a built in place to do that, but we have to develop it anyway.  We have to become lovers.  It’s part of becoming a true adult.

How comfortable are you with “I love you”?  What did you learn from your father about “I love you”?  This weekend is father’s day.  Could you call your dad and legitimately say, “I love you”?   How do you feel when a man says it to you now?  A woman?  How do you receive it?  How comfortable are you with saying it? When it comes up in your heart do you speak it or swallow it?

If you had 10 minutes alone with God what would He say to you?

Are You Good In Bed?

Earlier this week I shared about three questions that all men wrestle with in some way.  “Are you good looking or not?” “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?” and “Do you have a small or big penis?” All of us have answered these questions in our head, but almost no one has answered them out loud – at least not in any meaningful way.

And yet how we answer them affects many aspects of our lives, none more so than how we interact with women.  This is because all of these answers affect the core confidence we need that in order to pursue, attract, and eventually love a woman.

These questions have to do with three areas of our life – our self image, our shame, and our sexual prowess.  I’ve written a lot about our self image, and I wrote this week about our shame.  Today I want to talk about the third question.  So buckle up men.

The issue of having confidence sexually is gigantic in how we feel about ourselves as men and therefore how we interact with women.

First, let’s just admit that this is true.  Men are about performance.  This is why everywhere you turn you see sexual enhancement drugs, workouts, and techniques.  A man’s greatest fear is failure.  As Eldrege says, every man is asking, “Do I have what it takes?”  No where is this more true, or more scary and vulnerable, than sex.  Nowhere!

Every guy is asking the question do I have what it takes to be good sexually with a woman. In simple terms – “Am I Good In Bed?”  Every Guy.  Our answers are all jacked up.

Most of us began to have the question answered when we were very young.  There are so many factors.  Do you have a father that even broaches the subject?  What happens in the boys restroom in elementary school?  What are you comparing yourself to?  The guy next to you?  The guy who developed before you?  The guy in the porn video? (Average age a male sees internet porn for the first time is now 11).  It can also be affected by our view of sex, abuse, being emasculated by peers or parents or both.

Sometimes the answer is that we are “small” and that we don’t have what it takes.  Often we get no answer at all.  Almost never do we get a positive answer in the right way.

So we of course go and try to answer it.  We might dominate women or become extremely sexual to prove our prowess.  This is the guy who lives for sex and is always out to, “get some”.  We might seek to control the answer by fantasizing or looking at porn.  But this usually just brings about shame, and can undermine the question once again.

And in the Christian culture, for the most part, we are told to bury it, kill it, or starve it.  In fact, we are told basically, “Don’t look, don’t touch, don’t explore, but don’t worry you’ll magically know what to do when you get married.”  It’s like there is supposed to be a Christian switch when it comes to sexual prowess.  Don’t have any, and then man up and have it.  Really?!

It seems to me that most Christian guys end up in one of two camps.  Be a Christian but have sex anyway which leads to the obvious problems.  Or, we go without touch, without intimacy and therefore end up freaking out when we get to it. Sex becomes this taboo thing. We end up having fear and passivity around women, especially a woman we are really attracted to.  We don’t know what to do, partly because we aren’t sure we could do it – as in literally “do it”.

We live in a culture in which the average guy gets married at  28-29 years old.  What that means is that in the Church we are asking a guy to go about 15 years of his life (during the most crucial time when he is answering all of his life’s questions – including this one – for the first time) to not have sex.  My contention is this:  We can ask him to not have sex, but we CAN NOT ask him to not have an answer to this question.  Because he WILL answer it.

While this affects how we interact with women, its much bigger than that.  This answer affects how I do other things in my life.  It affects how I relate to other men, how I relate to my own body and self image and even how I interact at work and play.  This question matters.  I would submit that even if I’m called to celibacy in the kingdom, I’d still better have an answer to this question. It’s crucial no matter what.

In my next post I’m going to take a stab at what I think the Christian community can do to help guys answer it.  But before we can get help, we need to check what our answer is to the question right now.

Do you have what it takes to be good sexually with a woman?  Where does that answer come from? How have you tried to answer it?

Shame Crushes Confidence

I know of a wise older gentleman who asks men that visit him three questions: “Are you good looking or not?” “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” and “Do you have a big or small penis?”

It’s kind of funny. It’s sort of offensive.  It’s for sure brilliant.

How a guy answers those questions is everything.  Does he answer honestly – even with himself?  Where does the answer to each question come from? They are all relative questions – what is it that guy comparing his answer to?  When was the first time he answered each of those questions?  What answer has the world, his dad, his God given him?  Every guy has answered those questions in his head – just not out loud.

Most men spend their life affected by their deep seeded answers.  They either run from it, avoid it, cover it up, or rail against it with anger.  The kicker is most of us have the wrong answer, or at least the wrong idea of what the answer means.  Very few of us own our answers.

They are the type of questions that haunt our confidence in who we are as men.  We often look for the answers from women.  It’s why single men don’t act  and why married men are afraid of their wives.

The kicker is this, most women don’t really care that much about any of those questions. But how you answer them will affect everything you do with women – whether you are married or single.

These three questions (or similar ones) get at the heart of three areas of our life that we are insecure about.  Our self image, our shame, and our sexual prowess.

I’ve written a lot about our self image, including when it comes to how we view our looks. Later this week I’ll write about the sexual prowess question.  But today, I want to focus on the second question.  What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?

This question has to do with shame which flies in the face of the gospel.  For some there is fear of being found out, for others the fear of being disqualified.  Many have been carrying it as a secret for a long time.

The funny thing about the worst thing you’ve done question is there’s a good chance it’s not actually the worst thing you’ve done.  It is however, what you are most of ashamed of.  But most of us have never actually said this out loud, to anyone.  Many have not even said it to God. Shame is a powerful tool of the enemy.  Shame means we are unreconciled with God. Think about that.

Shame causes us to look away when we shouldn’t.  It causes us to withdraw, back down or act out when we think it might be exposed.  What we hide in the dark, makes us afraid of the light – and freedom (as well as confidence) is in the light.  Worst of all, it holds us back with Jesus because He brings light to everything.  As a secondary problem it holds us back with people – including the opposite sex.

Shame crushes confidence.

The only way to crush shame is to bring it out into the light and deal with it.  It’s the only way to know which parts of it are our fault (so we can repent) and which parts aren’t (so we can heal).

We have to start with the truth that Jesus is serious about both forgiveness and healing.  If we don’t believe that then we will spend our whole lives in the dark.

You see the follow up question to what is the worst thing you’ve ever done is this, “Do you know that you are forgiven for that?”

Either the cross took care of every sin or took care of none of it.  There really can’t be any in between.  So if I think that Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us, then I have to figure out how to believe that I’m forgiven for the worst thing I’ve ever done.  We know it intellectually and biblically. But most of us don’t live out of it at all.

Here’s the truth.  Because of the cross, you are forgiven for everything you’ve ever done, everything you’re doing, and everything you ever will do.  That’s either true or we are screwed.

There are also some of us who are carrying shame because of something that happened to us that we have falsely interpreted as our fault.  Again, the only way to get at this is to bring it into the light.  Once it’s in the light, we need to know that Jesus, through the power of the resurrection makes all things new.  There is nothing that can’t be made new – nothing.

What does it mean to bring something into the light and deal with it?  I think it means bringing it before God and someone else.  I think to own it means to share it with someone. This can obviously be dangerous.  But we have to take the risk. If we don’t have community, pay a few bucks and see a Christian counselor – hey married people do it.

If we don’t then we will continue to shrink back.  Shame will keep us dating no one (or the wrong people), fearing commitment, or if we do somehow get married, insidiously impact our marriage.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?  Who have you told?  Do you know you are forgiven? Really forgiven?