“I’m seeing this new guy,” my friend told me on the phone. “And I told him right up front that I’ve taken a vow of purity until I’m wearing a wedding ring.”
“What did he say?”
“He agreed and said that’s exactly what he’s decided, too.”
I was a little skeptical. If I had a dime for all the guys I’ve dated in the past who agreed with me completely using their words but then lived out something else—especially when it came to sexual purity—I’d be retired on a Tahitian beach right now, sipping non-alcoholic pina coladas. Okay, I exaggerated a bit to make a point, but I could at least afford the pina colada!
Now, please understand. I’m not singling out guys as being the only insincere singles … I know it happens plenty on both sides. But hearing her tell me about the conversation with her new guy brought back memories of Matt, the guy I met online and dated for a few months, if you can call cross-country get-togethers “dates.”
Right from the start, I spilled out many of my spiritual convictions, including my plans to keep myself pure until marriage. And he so perfectly agreed with everything I revealed to him. I thought to myself, Wow, this guy seems really strong in his faith. I can’t believe how much alike we are spiritually. We have all the important things in common.
Time went by, and I noticed at some point that he wasn’t coming up with any original spiritual thoughts or opinions. It did seem a little weird that we didn’t disagree about any theology issues, large or small, which doesn’t even happen in my own family! Instead, everything I said would be answered by these annoying echoes on the phone, “Uh huh. Yep, I agree … that’s just what I think, too. …”
Doesn’t this guy have any of his own convictions?
As it happened, he had plenty of his own under-the-surface ideas about dating, but none of them jived with mine. Instead of being upfront with me about how we were different and moving on to find a gal who was better suited to him (which would have been a lot less trouble for both of us), he merely strung me along, telling me what I wanted to hear. The best reason I can figure was so that he could get what he wanted from me, which included sex. I know this because, as early as the first time we got together, he was pushing me already, despite our many conversations to the contrary. So much for all his earlier heartfelt declarations. I also think he was looking to fill up emotional holes, and he was willing to put up with me and my convictions in order to not be alone.
I learned some valuable lessons from Matt and others like him in my single days. There are many people who call themselves Christians, but don’t really live any differently than the rest of the world. When you date them, they are good at telling you what you want to hear, instead of being honest and upfront about their intentions and values. Afraid of being alone or not getting what they want (like sex), they pretend to be something they’re not.
And that is exactly what’s wrong with many “Christian” marriages these days. We don’t take the time to really get to know the people we’re dating, but instead rely on what they tell us about who they are instead of deciding the truth by how they actually live their lives.
Is this judgmental to disqualify someone for a dating relationship just because they don’t share the same major convictions? This is the rest of your life you’re talking about spending with someone. This is the future of your children and will impact your spiritual purpose and legacy. As God’s child, you are allowed to make certain judgments about the behavior of other Christians as they relate to you and to the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). We’re not allowed to judge unbelievers because they haven’t been transformed by the power of Christ, and certainly we must be careful about the types of judgments we make in general about believers or about deciding people’s fate, but for sure God wants us to exercise vigilance and discernment in matters of romantic relationships.
Holding Your Cards
My advice for my friend was simple. I told her the best thing to do is to “hold her cards”… to be more reserved about her personal convictions at the start of the relationship. This is not the same as game-playing, but intentionally hanging back in the early stages of a relationship for a long-term greater good.
By strategically holding back for a time, you will find out what the other person is all about by his or her own admission of words and behavior. If you start a relationship with a person because he or she has presented himself or herself to be a God-fearing individual, wait quietly and see how he or she proves this to you without knowing what’s already in your heart.
Gals, if a guy paces the relationship in a God-honoring manner without your input or suggestions, then you’ll know his heart is in the right place even without your influence. But if from the beginning he acts like any other worldly guy you’ve dated and it’s all about him and his fleshly desires, then no need to waste any more of your time with him.
Guys, step up to the plate and be the spiritual leader in your relationships. Draw the lines of your own personal values and then lead the relationship that way. If the woman presents herself as a godly woman, watch and see if her actions match up. Does she respond well to your leading? Does she encourage your purity by the way she dresses, acts, and talks? Does she have her own faith convictions?
I’m convinced that one of the greatest barometers of a single’s walk with God is his or her commitment to purity. If they are willing to forego their own lusts and desires for the greater good of loving God and others more than they love themselves, I believe that reveals a deeper, teachable, life-changing commitment to God. If you are that kind of person yourself, that is the kind of person you should wait for in a mate.
So think about it. If you already know you have strong convictions and standards for yourself, and you desire your future mate to share them as well, there is so much to be gained by holding yourself back a little to observe. You won’t have to wait long in silence before the other person’s actions begin shouting their answers. If you haven’t said too much, the other person won’t know what you are watching for … they won’t be able to be as misleading about themselves. There is much power in not playing your cards too soon.
Julie Ferwerda writes for Christian magazines and websites, keeps up with two teenage daughters and enjoys life in central Wyoming with her husband, Steve. She is the author of the book for singles, The Perfect Fit: piecing together true love. For more info, please visit www.julieferwerda.com.
**This article first published on January 30, 2008.