Does It Really Matter Who I Date?
Dating has never been a simple task, but choosing who to date is a whole other minefield. Here, the fabulous Emma has offered up her thoughts and struggles with the commitment to only dating Christians. After all, does it really matter who I date?
When I was at school, I wanted two things: (1) to get into university, and (2) a boyfriend. I figured out that a good way of trying to get into uni was to work hard. So I knuckled down and hit the library during the holidays to make it happen. But finding a boyfriend was proving tricky...
At school, my close girlfriends were an amazing group of lovely, caring and also incredibly beautiful girls. They always looked stunning, wore great clothes and were confident in themselves. I was always a bit jealous of how they always had a guy who was interested in them, how there was always someone on the scene, and he was usually sporty, attractive and fun. In stark contrast, I was just the girl that the boys copied notes from in history class. Not exactly what I was after!
If I'm honest, thinking about the priorities that God has in terms of dating did not really enter into my thoughts at this stage. I knew that if I were ever to get married, I wanted to marry a Christian but when I was 16, this seemed like a lifetime away. Surely who I dated wasn't going to affect 'proper' relationships that I might have in the future?
When I was a fresher at university, lots of things changed. The types of boys who had previously been interested in my friends at school were now paying me more attention. A couple of the sporty boys who were popular and fun to be around began to ask me out. They were exactly the sorts of guys who I'd wanted to date when I was at school. I liked it that the cool guys liked me. It gave me confidence and made me feel part of things.
However, right at the same time I began to think more about the priorities that God would have in terms of dating. (It's funny how the timing worked out...!) These guys, great though they were, were not Christians. Did I think it was ok to go out with someone who wasn't a Christian?
My thoughts were muddled. Surely it is ok if it only lasts for a little while and I know where my boundaries lie? Can I try to make God my number one priority while going out with a non-Christian? I still knew that ultimately I didn't want to marry a non-Christian, (not that I was planning on getting married anytime soon!) and realised it might be harder to break up the longer we stayed together.
The Bible doesn't really talk about dating. It talks about marriage, and a bit about singleness, but little about dating. So what was I meant to do? I asked my Christian friends for advice and the overwhelming response was that I shouldn't go out with a non-Christian. I didn't like this. I thought they were being boring, and that they wanted me to be uncool and have no fun. What made it worse was that the boys at my church were totally disinterested in dating. It wasn't like any of them were planning on asking me out, so was I meant to turn someone down and stay single even though I really wanted to be in a relationship?
Things came to a head during the second term of my first year. During one of our college 'bop' events (which was basically a night of cheesy music, fancy dress and dancing) one of these guys came over to me and we started to dance. Dancing turned into kissing, and what made it worse was that everyone had seen it happen. I felt so bad about it, and knew that I had to make a decision.
Was I going to pursue a relationship with someone who wasn't a Christian, or was I going to try to prioritise my relationship with God even if that meant being single?
It wasn't easy. I really wanted a boyfriend, and I was quick to make excuses: "he doesn't mind that I go to church", "my church friends get on well with him", "he even came to church with me this week", "the Bible doesn't actually specifically say that it's wrong to go out with a non-Christian".
But, and this only happened because of God's abounding grace, I began to realise a few things that helped my decision become clearer. Firstly, I began to realise that I have the best thing ever - a relationship with Jesus. I don't need anything else. I don't need popularity, or a boyfriend, or anything else at all. Nothing else will really satisfy me or make me feel content.
My contentment is found in Him and Him alone.
He is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me, and nothing is going to change that.
Secondly, I began to understand that because God has given us everything, through Jesus, our response should be that we live lives that worship him. That means that all of my life should have the aim of praising God. Sometimes this will mean that we have to give things up that we want to hold onto, and it might feel costly. This isn't because God doesn't want us to be happy or is trying to ruin our fun, but it is because he knows what is best for us, and sometimes, even though we don't like to admit this, we just don't see this. I had to give up my desire to be in a relationship because it was going to get in the way of my relationship with God. I had to take the risk that I might not look as cool, or be as popular, because going out with a non-Christian meant that my time and energy would be going into a relationship where two people were ultimately pulling in different directions. It just wasn't going to work.
Even once I had decided, I still found it difficult. But I knew that my small sacrifice was nothing compared to the amazing sacrifice that Jesus made so that I can be in relationship with God. It doesn't even register on the spectrum in comparison.
It really does matter who we date, whatever age or stage we are at. Let's not settle for second best and date someone who doesn't love Jesus. It just so isn't the best thing for us.
We can trust that we have the absolute best thing already.
God gave us the overwhelmingly amazing gift of his only Son, his Spirit lives in us, we have a hope of eternity with our Father who is the King of the whole universe. The more we realise just how amazing this is, the more we realise that this is the most precious gift, and we don't need anything else.
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Emma graduated from Cambridge two years ago, having studied law. She now enjoys working in finance, which comes as a surprise to those who know her. Emma recently moved from Cambridge to London with her husband Luke, and is loving exploring the new city.