From the time I was a child I remember dating being established as something taboo. It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t godly. It wasn’t something I was going to do. And it wasn’t something I ever did… until two months ago.
I’m in a relationship. I’m dating. I have a boyfriend. I’m twenty-six and it’s taken me nearly two months to let those words roll easily off my tongue, and it’s not because my boyfriend, Aaron, is not a good man. He is. A very good man. It’s because when Aaron said I want to pursue you, I ran smack up against a wall—a towering, fortified wall labeled DATING.
I’m an adult. Rationally I knew that dating wasn’t wrong, that I was free to make whatever choice I wanted to make, that I didn’t even need anyone’s permission. Yet emotionally, something about it still felt off, still felt taboo. Aaron waited for days without hearing from me while I tried to find the edges of this wall or a crack I could chisel my way through. So many times in the past two months he’s been gracious and patient, honoring me and my need for space while still telling me I’m worth the wait. A lesser man probably would’ve given up and walked away, and I wouldn’t have blamed him. But he hasn’t, and this is what I’ve discovered thus far.
That wall was a wall of self-protection. From a young age it built itself up around me like a fortress, promising me safety, but the truth was it was a false protector. It kept me boxed in and isolated. It whispered lies that said love isn’t safe and it’s easier to do everything on your own. It made me afraid of becoming an inconvenience. It convinced me I liked being independent and that with my strong personality and vision I would be too much for anyone to handle. It told me love may be for other people but it wasn’t for me. But God’s been smashing through those lies and slowly carrying away the rubble.
This wall was reinforced by my own pride. Other girls outside the wall date, but I’m not like them. One brick stacked on top of the lies. I don’t want to be like them, to sink down to their level. Slather on the mortar. Girls that need boyfriends are needy and insecure. Plunk goes another brick. Like the Pharisees I added rules beyond God’s original intent. I got caught up in a religious spirit. I became judgmental and critical and decided what manner of living was holier than another.
But here’s the truth: I was wrong.
Truth: All these beliefs were just my rationalization for why that wall should be there.
Truth: I was scared of being vulnerable, of tearing that wall down and being exposed.
Truth: With the wall gone I’m not exposed because Y’shua is my strong tower, my protector.
Truth: Even if I offer my heart to another (any person in any kind of relationship), Y’shua still holds it in His hands.
I’m not all the way there. I’m still hesitant. It can still feel scary to keep moving forward. I often make Aaron wait on me while I figure out if I’m ready. But I’m also learning to step out in faith and take risks, to open up my heart and be known bit-by-bit. And what I’m discovering is that dating—that shallow, flirtatious, emotionally-driven pastime of our culture, the kind that is motivated by self-seeking gratification and bails at the first sign of trouble, the kind I was afraid of taking part in—that is nothing like what Aaron and I have chosen. We use the word dating because it’s easier than having to explain, but we’re not really dating. Maybe we’re courting, although that word can carry a wide range of connotations too. In some ways whatever we use as a label doesn’t matter. We are pursuing relationship intentionally. But it’s not like what I feared. I haven’t lost myself in the midst of it; I’ve become myself more fully. I haven’t been distracted from the Lord; I’ve been pressed more fully towards Him, compelled to trust and surrender in new ways.
Our relationship is long distance, so most of our time together is spent over the phone and writing letters. And while that has it’s inconveniences and won’t be ideal for long, I do like the fact that it forces us to be intentional about communicating. We’re not just caught up in activities and physical attraction. We have to hear each other’s hearts or we have nothing to go on. But that’s a good thing. We listen to each other and we come back, clarify, and listen some more. We discuss values, family history, theology. We open the Word and pray, continually surrendering ourselves back to Y’shua, asking Him to orchestrate and lead, because nothing about our relationship has been conventional. But then again I don’t like convention. In a way, even in the midst of God rooting out my pride and pushing me to join the ranks of the daters, He still surprises me. He takes something conventional and rewrites it into something that’s not. He puts together a story that I couldn’t write or even know to ask for. But it’s a good story, because everything that the Father gives is good. So without knowing the end I’m grateful. I’m grateful for Aaron, for his friendship and for his more-than-friendship, for being known by him, for the way that dating has been healing for my heart, and for the way he tells me I’m worth it. I just might be starting to believe it.