My friend, Amy, came over one summer afternoon and gave me a present. As I opened it and saw it was a book about dating, she said something to the effect of, “I love the way you’re spending your time loving and serving the people in your life, but I also know you’d like to be a wife and mother. I hope this might help you move toward those things.”
She’d given me the book called How To Get A Date Worth Keeping by Henry Cloud. I was thankful for her thoughtful gift, and I’d actually heard of the book before. A guy in my grace group (Hi Jordan!) talked about it all the time after having read it the previous year. His conversations were interesting, but I never joined in. Dating was something that other people did, so I didn’t think I had much to say. But I was definitely curious what all the fuss was about. I told Amy I’d be sure to read it.
And read it I did. I slammed through it within the week, and my mind was officially blown. I’ve been trying to figure out how to list out all the things I learned, but there are too many. I’ll just keep telling my story, and point out where I put into practice something I’d picked up from Dr. Cloud. His goal in the book is to give hope and very practical advice to anyone who feels like their dating life is stuck- either because they don’t date much at all or because they do date, but don’t seem to date people that they’d want to move into a serious relationship with.
My biggest ‘Aha!’ realization was that I had been thinking of dating and marriage as parts of my life that I had little control over. I believed that God was sovereign and in control of my life, and he would decide if I would live life single or married. The funny thing is, I still totally believe that previous sentence. I’ve just redefined some terms and realized that God created us to take responsibility for our lives, to choose to follow his ways, and to take risks with him. Dr. Cloud’s book opened up my eyes to the fact that dating was an area where I could apply wisdom and action, rather than just waiting for it to happen. It was especially interesting to me that I approached other areas of my life with wisdom and action, like getting through college, finding a job, choosing a church, making new friends. I trusted God to provide for me in those things, but I also studied, filled out applications, wrote up my resume, thought carefully through decisions, treated people kindly, and introduced myself to people when I was in a new environment. I knew God would work through my actions and obedience. Why had I been doing absolutely nothing when it came to my dating life?
How To Get A Date Worth Keeping brought up all sorts of questions in my mind. Honestly, parts of it rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t agree with everything the first time I read it. However, as you’ll see in future posts, I eventually came to see the wisdom in the advice that Dr. Cloud gives. It’s amazing to me how often I refer to something his book suggests when I’m talking to someone about his/her dating life. I can’t recommend the book enough, to people that are dating (or wanting to) and even to people who are already married- there are probably people in your life that could use some dating wisdom and support like your single friends or your kids. I’ll tell you a little more about what that looks like as the story continues. I know that supporting someone as they date may seem scary or hard, but trust me, it is SO necessary.
As I mulled over lots of new thoughts, I also started reading every article and book I could find on dating, singleness, and marriage. All that reading created even more thoughts and questions, and being the talker that I am, I ended up having all sorts of conversations with people about what I was learning. Dating was suddenly my new favorite topic and I wanted to know what everyone else thought about it.
Mostly importantly of all, I started talking to Jesus about it again. At some point in my mid-twenties, praying for a husband and dreaming about how God might bring a man into my life just got too sad and difficult. So, although I still had a prayer life, I didn’t pray about marriage, or in other words, what my heart desired most. I get a little teary eyed just thinking about it. God graciously used the books and articles I was reading to ignite a spark of hope in my heart. Maybe I had been mistaken to feel like God’s plan for my life was this big mystery that I just had to blindly stumble upon. The Lord guided me to see that he was so much closer and involved in the details of my life than I could even imagine. He began to teach me that dating and getting married were wise and healthy things I could choose to move towards.
At the end of August of that summer, I wrote out some goals in my journal for the new year (I’m a teacher- fall equals a new year) and included the following:
Be open to dating. Eeek! What does that look like? Guide me Lord!
The subtitle to Dr. Cloud’s book is ‘Be Dating in 6 Months or Your Money Back’, and I hadn’t really taken it seriously when I saw it on the cover. But all that thinking and reading was causing some changes in my actions, and that little subtitle proved to be quite accurate. By the end of November of that year, I wrote in my journal about going on my first ever blind date. A conversation I had at work led to a co-worker setting me up with her friend. It didn’t lead to a second date, but it was an excellent start and good practice. And that was exactly what I needed. Lots of practice. More on that next time.
Click here to go to the third post in this series.