I was all dressed up with nowhere to go for most of my adolescence. I went to prom by myself, hitting my teenage understanding of rock bottom, when I pumped my own gas in my floor-length gown. I had a longing for someone I had never met, his existence like a mirage, or a shadow, in every romantic setting I encountered alone. Years of singleness gave me plenty of time to develop an unrealistic picture of marriage in my head. I put kind, thoughtful men up on pedestals. I didn’t know then that they didn’t have the balance for that. Now I know, no one does. Americans tend to over-romanticize relationships, which kept me from seeing the simple beauty of two flawed people choosing to love each other. But reality, being the truthful friend she is, slowly removed the blindfold as I started dating after college.
My first step was befriending and encouraging men at the foot of their former pedestals. Friends turned into a few dates here and there, which turned into my first boyfriend. Dating opened a new world of self-awareness and growth for me. I learned it was ok to admit I was wrong. Most of my life, I thought confessing your wrong doings gave them power to define you, but my first boyfriend taught me how owning your faults did the exact opposite. I learned not to care so desperately about my image. I learned to extend more grace to others, and in turn, myself.
Then one boyfriend turned into a couple that didn’t work out, leaving me in a frenzy of self-doubt and criticism. I enjoyed my time with each of the men God had placed in my life, but he was clear that none of them were forever. I thought maybe something was wrong with me. I so badly wanted to find myself in someone else’s story, so I could flip to the end and see if I’ll be ok.
We can seek advice or counsel from others who have had similar experiences, but there has not yet been a story written quite like mine, or yours. So, we step into the dating tunnel, turn on our head lamps, and take each next right step with the person God has placed in our lives for this time, praying, begging God to keep the light on so we can see our feet.
My fear of the unknown, of potentially investing without a clear return, is what makes me want to turn off my head lamp and back out of the tunnel. But God gently reminds me there is no wasted time when we’re following him. Even if a relationship doesn’t work out, He can still use our relationships to grow us and teach us things we wouldn’t have learned if we didn’t vulnerably step out in faith to date.
God can shape us in beautiful, unique ways through healthy dating. I’ve learned life-altering things about myself and God through the men I’ve had the privilege of getting to know. Things that will inevitably make me a better wife, and have already helped me grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
The familiar past has passed and the future is elusive. In dating, and in life, all we can do is take a step of faith. Then another.