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

What To Do When You Just Aren’t Into Them

Here’s a crazy thought I had today.  I’ve been dating (or trying to) for over 20 years.

Now there are lots of stories here, many of them fairly entertaining.  But one thing that is true of all of them, in the end, for all of the dates, none of them worked out.  Which leads me to something I haven’t talked about yet.  Ending stuff.

Now I haven’t been in a lot of long term relationships and in some ways those were actually easier to figure out.  I mean if you’ve been in the relationship and then it is determined that you are not going to get married, well then as painful as it might be, at least there is clarity of some sort.  But what I have always struggled with is how to cut it off early on.

For example, at what point do you owe an explanation?  If you meet up one time and then we don’t go out again, do I need to call you and explain why?  Two dates in?  Three?

I have often failed miserably here and I’ve been failed by the ladies as well.  Why is this so hard?

A lot of it comes from passivity really.  In other words I can easily justify in my mind that the other person probably isn’t really that into me yet anyway so it’s no big deal.  But that is so weak.  I’ve been that guy.  The one who took you out three or four times and then just didn’t really call you.  That’s not ok.  This happens all the time.  So here are some thoughts about what to do and not do.

First of all if you go out with someone and you just aren’t interested don’t keep dating them.  I would occasionally fall into this trap.  Usually it was because I liked the person and didn’t really have anything to say bad about them.  I just wasn’t interested in dating them.  But if I had to do it again, I’d just tell them that – not exactly like that maybe but something close to it.

I was seeing one gal for a while and then I left for a month.  While I was gone I realized it just wasn’t really there between us. When I got back I called her and we chatted.  She was great and we both agreed it just wasn’t really a match.  It wasn’t that anything was wrong with either of us, we just weren’t going to pursue it.  But this was a lucky example.  Most of the time, one person is more into it than the other person.  This leads to the second reason we avoid the conversation.

We don’t like hurting other people.  But the problem is that it is actually less hurtful to have a one time conversation.  Now girls and guys avoid this different ways.  Guys just kind of disappear, which is pretty gutless.  Again, I say that having been “that guy”.  Ladies typically mishandle this by coming up with reasons to say no – that aren’t no.  “I’m not free that weekend” or “I see you as a friend“.  We both need to just say it.  “You’re a great person, but I’m just not attracted to you.”  It hurts a little but it’s clear and it’s over, hopefully.

The truth is, for the most part, if you are not attracted you are probably not going to be.  I’m not saying it never happens that you become attracted later, but you probably won’t be more attracted by continuing to “half-way date” them.  Again I think I’ve fallen into this many times.  I like the person and think they’re great.  They love Jesus etc. so I keep trying to be attracted.  This is typically a waste of everyone’s time.  It would be better to walk away.  And you know what, if you walk away and then decide, “wait a minute I really like them” you can call them back and see what happens.

Finally when we are on the other end we need to assume the best and move on.  If he doesn’t call you, there is not some mysterious reason, he’s just not into it.  So move on. If she always has a reason to not hang out, she’s not really that busy.  If a girl likes you, she’ll find time.  So move on.

We can save ourselves a lot of time and a lot of hurt if we are just honest.  So learn to man up (or whatever a woman calls that) and just end it if it’s not going anywhere.  We owe the other person that.

So how are you at ending stuff?  How do you handle when a person is into it and you aren’t?  What about when you are into it and they aren’t?