Seasons Change & Lessons Learned: 4 Things to Remember when You're Dating
Hey guys! Have you ever had this experience... You think you have life ALL figured out and you know the "plan" and then boom. Total redirect and all of the sudden you're like, "What??? What just happened?" Well, that's me. Right now. ALL THE TIME. Let me go back and explain a little. Fair warning - this will take a few posts, but bear with me... the story is GOOD!
So, I know the last time you heard from me in an official "blog-like" capacity I wrote about a dating relationship I was in at the time. Well, that relationship didn't go the way I thought it would when I blogged about it, and I wanted to share my experience with you because I believe we learn through stories and community. And you guys are my peeps. :) I don't know about you, but I was pretty terrified of failure and messy learning, but through this experience I've learned it just isn't that scary. You can be wrong and it won't be the end of the world. Trust me.
I said that at the start because I want you to see the beautiful journey God took me on and how it helped me get to know myself. To see that there is purpose in EVERY relationship, every bend in the road. God isn't responsible for them all, but He sure does use them all. See, I always thought that my first serious relationship would be my last. It was just the way I planned it. It turns out He isn't really interested in my plans. He's interested in my healing and in making me more and more like Him.
I could go into the ins and outs of why my relationship with Tim didn't work out, but that isn't really the point. It just wasn't the right thing for either one of us... As we started dating, there were little "red flags" for me from the start. I want to honor him, here, so let me be clear. When I say "red flags" I just mean things that didn't work for me and my approach to life. Tim pursued me respectfully and was totally himself and I appreciate that about him! The fact that he was straightforward about what he wanted and needed ultimately provided the clarity I needed to make the decision that was right for me. It's just that I had this sense from the start that certain things weren't going to work for me in the long term. It doesn't make them right or wrong, just not right for me. But here's the deal... I ignored them. From the start. Now, why did I do that?
Ladies, I know I threw out some pretty hefty advice in my last post about finding the right one and I have to be humble enough to say I was wrong. I wasn't listening to my own heart. And THAT is the first thing to remember when you're dating:
1. LISTEN TO YOUR OWN HEART.
Why didn't I listen, though? Honestly, there were a lot of things playing into it. He was so sure. Everyone else was so sure. They were so happy for me. It was exciting. It was new. It was my first. There was so much I didn't know about myself and what I really wanted. But my heart knew. It knew what would work for me... My mojo, as it were. My core values. My desires for the future and for what a relationship should look like for me. I want to SUPER stress how personal that is to every person. My desires, my values, my "mojo" are mine. That doesn't make them right for anybody else, but they are right for me. And yours are right for you. And that's okay. I know there can be a lot of pressure these days around dating because quite honestly, we in the church world have just made it WEIRD!! And so if you actually find yourself in a dating relationship there can be a lot of pressure to make it work because for the Love of God, another one might not come along. But let me encourage you... This is the MOST important decision of your life. Don't let anyone else make it for you. And DON'T LET YOURSELF BE PRESSURED!
So listen to your heart. Super practical tip here, but I journaled. A lot. And looking back at my journals was so revealing about what was really in my heart. When you write - especially by hand - your brain gets out of the way and your heart comes out on the page. Try it!
Here's the last thing I'll say about this... your instincts and your heart are almost inseparable. If something feels off for you, it probably is. It's really that simple. Now, that isn't me saying you don't need to be self-reflective. I'm probably one of the most self-reflective people you'll ever meet and if anything, my issue has been that I have always been able to find a way that I could have done something better, so that must mean it's my fault, right? Wrong. What I mean by "if it feels off, it probably is" is this... your instincts (aka your "gut") KNOWS YOUR HEART. Your gut instincts are the best champion your heart has. Listen to them. They are telling you something isn't working for you. Now, it's your responsibility to pray into that and ask God what's up, but you can run with the fact that something needs to be addressed - one way or the other.
That leads me to the next thing to remember...
2. YOUR DESIRES ARE IMPORTANT. DON'T DISMISS THEM.
This was a biggie for me. Like I said, through this process, I got to know myself. A lot. Going into it, I didn't really know that well what I wanted and what I needed. To be completely transparent, the timing of this relationship coming into my life (right after I laid down my need to control) had me thinking that it was just the thing that God had for me. It MUST be His will, right? It was just too coincidental. Well, I do believe it was His will - I believe He wanted me to go down this road, for sure! Just not for the reason I thought.
It turns out it was super important to Him for me to know myself. How can He give us the desires of our heart if we don't even know them? This is almost parallel to "Listen to Your Heart", but the difference here is that I think a lot of us tend to dismiss the things we "WANT" and "NEED" as selfish or too much to ask for. I know this can be a sticky area, so let me draw a distinction between preferences and needs. A man who has blue eyes and can jump tall buildings in a single bound (that's not a thing for me, guys... just playing around here) is a preference. It just is. And the truth is that when the right situation comes along, if that guy can't jump tall buildings in a single bound you'll be MORE than willing to chuck that requirement out the window!
What I'm talking about are the non-negotiable needs you have... and those oftentimes show up in desire, not preference, but desire. Let me just tell you the way God told me. One morning I was talking to Him about all of this and He said, "You know... What you WANT is important to me." I asked Him how my wants were tied to my needs and He said, "Look up the definition of the word "want"."
So I did. It turns out one of the definitions for "want" (in both verb and noun form) means to lack something ESSENTIAL. So here's what He said to me,
"Baby girl, those things that you WANT are there to point you to things you NEED. You WANT what you NEED. I created you that way. That's why it gives Me so much pleasure to give you the DESIRES of your heart. I made you to desire what will make you happy. Happy has gotten a bad rap in My Church. Yes, Joy is essential and it is a gift I have given you, but I also want you to be HAPPY. Like, over the top, happy! I'm a good Dad that way."
So, what is it that you desire? Don't be afraid to face that question. Don't be afraid that you aren't going to get what you want/need. Be brave enough to answer those questions WITH GOD AND WITH YOURSELF. And then believe that He wants to give that to you.
And this takes me to lesson number 3...
3. DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET OUT THERE.
I know this is somewhat counter-intuitive (especially with our Christian culture), but I think the biggest single thing this did for me was free me from the fear of getting it wrong. Cuz I did. And I survived. I thought this was headed one way and it was headed another way. I misread the tea leaves, you know? But that's okay! I learned SO much about myself and about what's really important to me.vI'm realizing I'm an experiential learner so that means life is just going to be messy sometimes and I'm going to be surprised. I'm getting to where it doesn't take me off guard anymore. I'm learning to roll with it. That doesn't mean that is going to be everyone's story. There are absolutely people out there who don't have to date more than one person ever, but I feel like that might be the exception rather than the rule.
It's an unusual fact, but I heard once that we humans only know what we WANT when we see what we don't want. It helps clarify and crystalize what is REALLY important to us. Now, that said, you should absolutely approach this with a lot of prayer and do everything (including dating) with an attitude of worship. Worship is risk, surrender and sacrifice. We were created to worship God with our lives and this part of it is no exception. So, if you're just dating every guy you meet to distract from having to face yourself, then let the Holy Spirit talk to you about that. But on the other hand, don't hide in your house and be scared to try something that may or may not work. Tim and I are still friends and I respect him. He's a good man - just not my good man. But that isn't a judgment on either one of us.
The other part of that is to GRAB HOLD of the things you learn about yourself in the context of relationship. There are things that you WILL NOT see except IN a relationship. News Flash: I'm not perfect, y'all. I didn't do everything right and I walked away from this knowing things in MYSELF that I want to work on with Jesus. And that's gold. There isn't a replacement for that. I'm a stronger, more complete person as a result of this process and this relationship than than I was before. Only God can do that!! That's why I say to involve Him in every step. Which is the final thing to remember...
4. INVOLVE GOD IN IT ALL!
I've said this already, but it's SO IMPORTANT! I'm gonna say it again. Going back to living a lifestyle of worship. Worship is loving God, risking it all to step out in faith when you hear Him, stopping when He says stop, going when He says go, giving Him the place in your life of honor. Not because you're afraid of messing up or displeasing Him. I know this fear. I lived that way for a LONG TIME!! But I finally got free of it this year! I just don't fear displeasing Him anymore. He loves me too much. BUT! I don't WANT to displease Him. My desire has changed. I WANT to make Him HAPPY! Because He's loved me so well.
So involve Him in it. Not because He wants to run your life. Quite the contrary.... Oh, I guess I have to get into this subject. Let me just say it again, God isn't going to make this choice FOR YOU. It's not a post in the Army that you have to fill when they call you up. It's the most intimate, life giving relationship you will have here on this earth. And if He forced you hand, you could always blame Him when something went wrong. He's not in that business. He's in the business of giving us free will. So, He's not going to choose for you, but He is a GOOD FATHER! And He knows you better than anyone including yourself. So talk to Him about it. And then listen. Do a lot of listening. A LOT of LISTENING. (That one's hard for me, that's why I stress it.)
Okay - this may officially be the longest blog post ever, but I was kinda passionate about it. Can you tell? When I learn something, I just want to shout it from the rooftops so others can benefit from my dances in the mud puddles. Hope this helped, guys! I love you all and I'm looking forward to sharing more with you! I've actually started a new, exciting journey that I'm going to be chronicling over the summer so stay tuned!
In the meantime, stay cool, my friends. Stay cool. ;)