Why do I try to compare love to what I know is a fake imitation? Perhaps it’s because society has misconstrued love for infatuation. It has replaced what the Bible says about relationships with perceptions of Instagram filters, #relationshipgoals, and seemingly perfect dates. That if we don’t feel the butterflies, have the Hallmark version of our prince riding in on a white horse, or present a boyfriend/girlfriend mentality that could be found in the inner pages of Cosmo then we’ve done something wrong. That we begin to question why our love is different, why it hasn’t happened yet, why it doesn’t appear like everyone else’s, why it isn’t like the movies.
I remember when I used to dream what being in a relationship would be like. How doing the cute things everyone posts on social media would make me feel. What it would be like to finally change my status on Facebook from “single” to “in a relationship” and how everyone would react. The feelings I would get to finally have someone during Christmas when it seems that loneliness is at its finest. But then I began to realize that not only were these thoughts vain in who I was/am and what I eventually want to enter into with another person, but they also gave me a vain and distorted view of what I should accept/receive/allow from them.
And God began to speak to my heart that before I would ever enter a relationship or try to grow within one (friendships included here friends!!) I needed to understand what He and His Word said about them. To exchange my cloudy mirror of relationships and dating for show in for a brand-new transaction of what God says about this love.
Because although I’ve written a lot about love on this blog before, I don’t think I’ve even come near to fully understanding it.I have come to the conclusion that throughout my singleness, in praying for a future spouse, I may have had the idea of love all wrong. Sure, I wanted them to love Jesus more than me, be taller, attractive, love working out, serving others, etc., but what I should have understood before all of those things was the “why?”. Why should I be in a relationship? What does the Bible tell me about this kind of love (and not my friends comparative love life, social media’s presentation, or even my families expectations and feelings of remorse for my impatient but I stated patient waiting)? Why do I want to be in a relationship anyways and is this something I am really called to? And if I’m being honest, I’m still trying to figure all of these things out, but I’m also learning to do so in a more open, freeing, and Christ-like mentality.
Open, in the sense that when someone comes along and maybe they don’t check all the boxes, I will give them a chance. That just because they don’t meet the worldly standards of what everyone else says is right or fits their bill of love, perhaps I should analyze if they fit that of Christ’s, for isn’t He the one that matters after all?
Freeing, in that I now know I do not need a relationship to complete or define me. Before the relationship Adam had with Eve in the Bible, God had already given him a place, purpose, provision, identity, and parameters- all BEFORE it was “not good for man to be alone”.
Christ-like mentality in that I know no relationship I ever enter into will be perfect or like what the Disney movies tell me it will be like. That just as I have flaws, so too will they, but God never asked for perfect people. He asked us to love broken ones that together in a cord of three strands will not be easily broken. That as they struggle with their struggles, I will not judge them, for who am I to judge someone just because they sin differently than me? And as I share my vulnerabilities, I will trust him who God has entrusted me with.
Even on the hard and off days where the relationship doesn’t seem right I will fight against the world that tells me “maybe he isn’t the one” and listen to my Father above who can give me that command if that’s His will to do so. That just because a small argument may come, I will not base the sum of its purpose in my life on a silly matter that weighs so much less than the total of all the good memories we have shared together. That just because every day isn’t sunshine, fun, and rainbows I will learn to realize even God too got frustrated with His people, but He loved them anyways.
So, to my relationships present, past, and future, know that I am still working on this, but that I firmly believe and owe you these things:
· A love that sees the purpose of entering a romantic setting not for satisfying my own needs, but for being a helpmate to bring one another closer to each other and Christ.
· A trust that takes the risk of love even if it isn’t foolproof to work out, because who knows if a man will succeed other than the one who created him?
· A faith that places God above you (yes, even you) and helps you place God above me, yes even me.
· A hope that knows even when the bad times come, you don’t give up. After all, just because something has a ding in it doesn’t mean you throw it away. We all have things we have to grow through together and that’s part of the loving process.
And how does God define these relationships? These friendships and pursuits of the ones we want to become the most intimate? The goals and statues we wish, ask, pray, might I even say beg to have? He reminds us that His love must be enough first and then all other things will fall into place. We were not created to be alone, in fact, we were created for community, but when it comes to relationships and what God thinks, I believe he tells us this:
ü 1)Only when Jesus is the first and most important relationship in our lives can we then be granted access to any type of relationship with others. And this is not to say that He withholds any good thing from us, because we know that He “withholds no good thing” (Psalm 84:11), but it is to reiterate the point that until we and our identity are found in Christ alone, we will be looking to mere men to fill a gap that only He can satisfy.
ü 2)Once we have this personal and intimate relationship with Him, we must never lose sight of it even when we do enter into relationships with others, regardless of if it is a friendship, romance, or business partner. Relationships are imperative to our growth as Christians, but they are a gift from God, therefore, we must honor Him first.
So, what does this look like as contrasted to the worldly definition of these status updates and Snapchat streaks of romance? This looks like putting God first even when it means disappointing or placing your significant other on hold to focus on God. It looks like not confusing worshiping God with worshiping your partner and instead, learning to worship God while you love your neighbor as yourself (and not the other way around). It looks like the Biblical definition of marriage where the two become one not because a husband is greater than the wife and the wife owes him that, but because they are mutually submitting to one another in order to each grow closer to God as they bring out their best interests. It is being willing to give everything for that person not because you feel the love of butterflies but because you feel the love and compassion that God gave for you on the cross now poured out for you to lay down for that other person.
Although I for one can say that the words “dating” and “romance” are not specifically found by that search in the Bible (trust me, I’ve tried), I can tell you that God does desire for you to enter into these things when it is the right time for you. Just because my best friend is getting married in three months, for instance, doesn’t mean that I need to freak out because I’m not (in fact, I freak out at just the idea of getting married right now (can you say hello I still need to adult enough ????????)). Just because you’re still single after 25 years and everyone in your family looks at you like you’re crazy doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be in a relationship. Just because you don’t know what you’re doing in your first relationship when it comes doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong if it looks comparatively different to the outside world; in fact, that’s probably a good sign that it looks more like Christ and a lot less like the fake perceptions of the pleasures and lusts that Netflix and chill first dates tend to give off.
Real relationships are made up of learning to look past their sins and not seeing them as greater than your own(this is not a cop out to excuse inexcusable behavior or abuse though by any means). They look like sharing with your friend, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend when you are upset because you value authenticity and honesty over hurting someone’s feelings (I too need to take lessons here)! They reveal that at the center of any core relationship, Jesus must be found intimately and separately or that fire will be blown out faster than you can say whirlwind approaching. And at their completion, they involve the willfully giving away of oneself at the detriment, love and honor of another person. Just as Christ gave His body for us, that alone demonstrates how we should partake in relationships of any sort with others.
That’s true #relationshipgoals found within the heavenly realm of who God says they are with and what they consist of.