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For the Gals: 8 Principles for Dating
I recently came across a 20-year-old photo of Phil and me when we were dating. I started thinking about how very little I knew about relationships, men, and marriage then.
Formulating a list of what I would tell myself back then, my advice began with a stern warning to stay away from any man with a mullet . . . but then again, it was the ’90s—every man had a mullet!
On a more serious note, these are eight principles that would have taken much confusion and heartbreak out of those tumultuous dating years. I hope they help you:
1. Repeat after me: “You are loved.”
I am not kidding. Repeat. After. Me. Out loud, often, with conviction. These are such simple words to say, but they have the most deep and resounding impact on our souls if we would just believe.
God says to his daughters in Jeremiah: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." Until you have tasted God’s eternal, steadfast, redeeming love, hold off on looking for a man. You may just end up settling for a quick love that cannot fill your core heart’s longing. Even if you are not currently being pursued by a man, you are constantly being pursued by Jesus.
2. You are less beautiful than you think and more beautiful than you believe.
Our sin makes us ugly. No amount of makeup, clothing, or confident, flirtatious façade can change that fact. It takes a humble, redeemed woman changed by God to admit the ugliness of her sin and rest in her beauty in Christ. We must repent of our pride, our shame, our obsession with our looks. We must believe and embrace who God made us to be: beautiful in his image.
True beauty emanates from a woman who boldly and unabashedly knows who she is in Christ.
3. Consider what controls you.
Is it fear, loneliness, demand for a man, seeking approval, career, money?
Let the love of Christ control you. Pay attention to what is controlling your heart as you wait for a date, are in a dating relationship, or even into marriage. We settle for lesser gods than the one who died for us and love us unconditionally.
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who might live no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:14–15
4. Address your daddy issues.
Most of us have them—wounds on our hearts from our earthly fathers and their shortcomings. Whether yours was absent and uninvolved or abusive and abandoning, don’t let him define who you believe your heavenly Father to be. Even if you have a godly and protective father, he is not God.
You are not looking for a dad-duplicate or a dad-replacement in a man. You have a perfect heavenly Father.
Let Scripture reveal to you who God is as Dad and what kind of care he gives his daughters.
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:13
5. Charm and beauty are not a good dating plan.
"Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30
Often, our grand scheme for how to snag a date goes only skin-deep. We put massive pressure on ourselves to pour on the charm and look cute wherever we go, not realizing that a godly man will also be concerned about inner beauty. God certainly is.
"But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." 1 Peter 3:4
A woman who fears the Lord is one who, despite her desire for a date, fears being far away from God more than she does missing out on a man who is easily fooled by her exterior.
6. Realize you are already submitting—or are you?
Submission is not only for wives. God asks for a submitted heart now, one that trusts in his provision and plan for your life, including dating. Ultimately, dating, and all of life, is about submission—waiting and trusting God and saying as Jesus does, “Not my will but yours be done.”
This does not, however, leave you helpless, hopeless, and hamstrung in the relationship department. A godly woman can express friendly interest in a brother in Christ.
- It is OK to mingle—but don’t manipulate.
- Peruse—but don’t pursue. Let him initiate.
- Take notice of the godly men serving Jesus around you—but never stalk. It’s creepy.
- Cross paths with a man who interests you—but don’t tackle him.
7. Dress to kill . . .
. . . your evil desires and his. We all know what it’s like to be noticed for what we wear. Your desire to draw attention to yourself is vanity. Do not falsely advertise what is not available to anyone but your future husband. Don’t open the door for men to make assumptions about you by what you wear. Help your brothers in Christ by dressing modestly and appropriately (and by all means, neatly, cleanly, and fashionably!) Check your heart for your motives when you dress.
8. Guard your heart.
Guarding one’s heart is still an issue even if no one is overtly vying for it. Watch out for the “might be” snare, as in, "He 'might be' flirting with me and so I’m going to get carried away thinking about every possible place [read: marriage] that could lead."
It is entirely possible to honor God, yourself, and a brother in Christ on a date. Don’t elevate him or the relationship to the place that God alone should hold in your heart. Enjoy, don’t idolize . . . and for goodness sake, relax! A cup of coffee does not necessarily mean a diamond ring is soon to follow.
As a single woman, give your heart fully, wholly, unabashedly, and devotedly to Christ alone.
Be active, vigilant, and careful about how much of your heart you give to a man. Be able to walk away from a dating relationship with your whole heart intact so that your future husband is not robbed of part of it down the road. Prayerfully consider what, when, how much to give away.
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)