I hesitate to share this 1, because
I am angry. It’s usually not a great idea to share things written in
frustration and 2, it’s very personal. But I am going to share because I
believe the lesson has implication beyond just my situation.
On and off for 10 years I have
been part of the world of online dating. I’ve met some nice people, had a
couple relationships, encountered some interesting people and received some
hilarious emails. I do face book posts that I call “adventures in online dating”
where I share some of the more humorous messages I receive. I view the online
format as a way to connect with those that you would not meet otherwise in
daily life. To be honest, I hate it. Hate might not even be a strong enough
word. So why do I continue to put myself voluntarily through something that I
so strongly dislike? In short, because it
develops something in me that would otherwise remain undeveloped. It serves
as a gym, so to speak, to develop, use and train muscles that would otherwise
By nature I am an introvert, and
on the shy side as well. It is NEVER fun to me to meet someone for the first
time. In fact, it makes me more anxious than I can even describe. I am ashamed
to admit that I have cancelled first meetings more times than I can count
because the anxiety overwhelms me. No doubt the poor guys pick up on this
anxiousness and believe me, it makes for a very long and awkward meeting. I’m
guessing you are cringing even reading this! To be honest, lately I have had a
series of bad first meetings (I don’t call them dates but refer to them as
A couple were completely my fault as I just wasn’t able to push past the
anxiousness. A couple were simply because we weren’t a good fit. I have to say
that this has been frustrating, discouraging and makes me want to give up hope.
Now before you feel sorry for me and try to fix me up with your great uncle
once removed, let me tell you why I am ok with that.
Ten minutes into the last meet
and greet I had, I knew that we were not going to be a match. For a variety of
reasons. Later, when the guy launched into an animated, detailed description of
his new cooking gadget, I knew I was in trouble. His passion for food and
cooking was evident. He joyfully described what he would cook and what spices
he used and how cooking was his favorite thing to do on a winter day. I tried
hard not to let my eyes glaze over or my face to reflect the fact that I
couldn’t have cared less about his cooking. What I ended up saying was that I would
rather scrub a toilet than cook! Probably not the best thing to say but it is
the truth. I explained that I was not even close to being a foodie and I
actually didn’t care anything about food or cooking. Again, the absolute truth.
Before I had left the parking lot I received a text saying that he didn’t think
we were compatible. I agreed. The thing is, this is still a rejection of sorts.
And it is soooo easy to walk away and think “what is wrong with me?” Most women
would be thrilled to have a guy who wanted to cook for them. They would be
thrilled to have a guy who wanted to try out new restaurants because it means
she wouldn’t have to mess with dinner! It is so easy to walk away from an
encounter where you are not chosen and feel like it is your fault. Because you
are somehow wrong or not normal. To think thoughts like- if I only talked less.
If I only asked more questions. If I would have only not said this or that. What
we are really saying when we think like this is: if only I hadn’t been myself.
Let that sink in for a minute. If I hadn’t been true to who I am, maybe ______
would have liked me. If I hadn’t said what really represents me, maybe I would
have had a second date.
I did feel like this for a few
minutes. Then I questioned myself. Was it wrong or bad not to love food? No, it
isn’t. Is not being a foodie a character flaw or going against God in some way?
No, it’s not. Does saying that I am the furthest thing from a foodie that you
will find accurately represent who I am? Yes it does. This awkward encounter
was a bit of a turning point for me though. Food was really important to this
guy and he wanted to share that passion with someone he dated. Perfectly
acceptable and understandable. Food is not important to me but some other
things are and he didn’t share those things. Instead of viewing it as me being somehow
wrong or rejected (he’s good and normal, I’m not) I viewed it as we just
weren’t right for each other. No one was bad or wrong, just not a match. My
“self” muscle is indeed developing! See, there is no shame in being true to
yourself. If fact, this is what God wants for us. If God knit us together in
our mother’s womb and we are fearfully and wonderfully made, then he certainly
knows what he created. And it is telling that he didn’t create us all alike.
Even though we have some commonalities, we are all different creations. Hair
color, eye color, skin color, height, personality, likes and dislikes set us
apart from each other.
Part of growing and maturing is
learning what makes you tick. What you like and dislike. What you enjoy and
what you can’t stand. Too many of us have molded ourselves into a shape that we
were never supposed to take. Our parents may have pushed us to play soccer when
we really loved to dance. We may have studied one subject when we would have
preferred to go another direction. People want us to act a certain way so we do
it to keep peace within a relationship. We eat food we hate because we don’t
want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It is possible for us to lose who we really are
in the process of life. Part of my journey over the last 10 years has been
getting a handle on what makes me me. Coming to accept what I like and what I
don’t. What I want in relationships (and not just dating relationships). Learning
that it is ok to say what is important to me and what is not. Learning to be
genuine with myself and then with others. This
is authentic relationship- when we know who we really are and that is what we
offer to others.
Learning these things about
myself has given me a new understanding of God as well. If you are a Christian,
you have a relationship with God. He works in us and desires to touch others
through us. Not us as in simply humanity, but us as in us personally. God’s
desire is to use our specific bents, gifts, personalities, passions, and
attributes to affect the world around us. But imagine how difficult that would
be to do if we are always working against our true self. If we apologize for
who we are or what we like or we cave in every time we are criticized for our
passion or personality. If we constantly second guess our choices and wonder if
we should have said let’s have Italian instead of saying you want Mexican food.
It’s mighty hard for God to “use” us to affect those around us if we don’t have
an understanding of who we are as individuals and through Him. We need both.
Opposition will come and if we don’t have a knowledge and belief of who we are
and what we are about, any push will cause collapse.
For me, online dating has been
the format that God has used to develop this sense of self in me. Though this
process I have gotten to know myself well enough to know what is important to
me in a dating relationship. It wasn’t always this way though. In the
beginning, I didn’t have my voice yet and anytime I received push back, I
caved. I have to admit that I wasn’t very successful in being true to myself.
Through the process of responding to messages, meeting people, and being forced
to either stand or fall, I began to develop my muscle in this area. It is far
easier for me to never encounter people, rather than have to be firm in who I
am. When you are alone, you don’t have to defend what you eat for dinner, what
you watch on tv or what time you go to bed. You do not have to defend your
choices because no one is questioning you about them. This touches something
very deep within me. If you are not typical in some way or another, you will be
questioned and possibly pushed or made fun of. We see in many aspects of our
world. If someone is not physically perfect, has a disability, strong values,
beliefs or morals, or is different in some way, you can guarantee they will
face some type of pushback for it. When this happens, our choices are to cave
in on ourselves, collapse, doubt, find fault with ourselves, or stand firm (but
yet flexible) in who we are. Because the world consists of people, we will
encounter people who push against us and question us. We can either isolate
ourselves so we don’t feel uncomfortable or we can develop our “self” muscle.
Online dating has been the gym to develop those muscles for me.
Yesterday I received an
unsolicited email from a guy who said that I had him right up to the part where
I said that “grammar and punctuation matter” (yes I said this in my profile
because, well, they do!). He then went on to question why I would limit who God
could use to show love and while I may be smart, I am not wise. He continued to
chastise me saying that I think I know what I want but God knows what I need
and I am restricting Gods work. Wow. Unfortunately, I am used to emails that
are rude, criticizing, argumentative, and even berating, because some people
cannot accept a polite no thank you and want to argue about why what is
important to me matters. I’ve learned what is important to me in a dating
relationship and I am strong enough now to stand by this. But unsolicited
chastisement that implies I am somehow missing God was another matter. After
some self-checking, I decided to write back. The victory for me in this was
that I was angry. Sounds strange doesn’t it? I tend to get upset about things
but rarely get angry. This time I was angry. For this guy, who know absolutely
nothing about me, to assume that I had not even considered God in the dating
process was arrogant. Years of conversations between God and I regarding the
dating process have taken place. Years! To assume that just because I have
“filters”, so to speak, for a romantic relationship somehow limits God is
preposterous. I wrote back an email saying as much. Then blocked him! My voice
is developing, my sense of self is developing, my ability to know I’m ok with
God and stand firm where he has me is developing. I don’t know how much longer
God will have me in the gym of online dating, but I do know that it is serving
a purpose in my life.
I don’t share this God Thought to
vent about online dating. I share it to put forth the idea that although we may
be a God follower, we can still have areas of weakness in our lives. Under
developed muscles if you will. These areas of weakness will look different for
each of us. It could be that your “no muscle” is weak. You simply can’t tell
anyone no. Or say no to food. Or no to doing things that you don’t want to do
or aren’t in your best interest. Maybe it’s the ability to control the tongue
and what comes out of your mouth. Maybe, like me, it is the ability to voice
your thoughts or stand up for yourself.
Quite possibly you have found
yourself in situations and wondered why you are there. Or still there, if it
has been for a period of time. You are doing everything right yet you are still
in a frustrating situation. I encourage you to consider that maybe God has
allowed you to be in certain situations because they serve as a workout for
you. Quite possibly, you are developing muscles that otherwise would remain
undeveloped, and quite frankly, useless.
I can’t honestly say that
understanding God’s purpose in dating for me has made everything easier. It’s
not. At all. But having the understanding of why I am there allows me to work
with the process rather than against it. And that is definitely easier.
If you find yourself in God’s gym
of some type, hang in with it. Don’t quit, keep pushing. Growth is always a