I’ve been wondering for a little while how a single Christian person can safely and effectively approach dating and I’m still scratching my head. I’m talking about adult singles, not teenagers.
They have their own challenges to deal with, but what about singles who are separated or divorced? Widows and widowers? Singles with children at home or grown-up? And even mature singles who never married?
I wonder how they approach the dating scene, especially now that COVID seems to have changed the landscape for the foreseeable future. I’m interested because many of my male and female friends are now single, and I have always been suspicious of online dating especially.
Thoughts on Dating in General
First of all, I really don’t know if dating is a good idea. The most enduring relationship starts as and continues to be a friendship, and that can start organically at a source of common interest. That could be sports, church, a concert, or a wine tour.
Whatever is truly interesting to an individual, he or she will automatically be doing that thing. If another person is already there, not on a date but just because he or she likes doing that thing, they are both there because they truly like eating/playing sports/listening to that type of music/going to church.
But date? We can all pretend to like an activity for about an hour. Well, some activities. Maybe if you’re not sporty, it’s hard to convince someone that you love playing tennis as you repeatedly miss the ball, and your serve is kind of whacky.
And dating comes with implied romantic expectations, doesn’t it? I mean, the average movie or TV show suggests that people wind up in bed fairly early on. They get that part out of the way before deciding if they even really like each other.
Maybe I’m just cynical, not having dated for nearly three decades, but as I listen to my friends describe their experiences with dating sites, my faith in online dating is virtually nil.
And yet, there are few opportunities to meet anyone we haven’t already met thanks to these new protocols to reduce the risk of spreading disease. So, what then? I can’t imagine how one is supposed to meet another person without manufacturing the opportunity through — well — the internet.
It’s the fortunate person who happens to meet a good match because a new employee transfers in from out of town and they wind up working together and sparks fly etc., etc. Or a single parent moves to the same town as another single parent and their kids go to the same school, so they meet outside while waiting to pick up their respective kids (or grandkids).
Common Experiences from Dating Sites
Just one example of online dating frustrations comes from a girlfriend who regularly receives messages from guys who fail to either read her profile or to respect what she’s saying. No smoking, no drugs. But they are social smokers who also do pot.
She mentions her expectations — a guy who is available but not in her pocket. Someone responds with “I’m often out of town and a bit of a loner.” Are they even literate? For the book-loving nerdy woman, who wants to do book studies with a would-be partner (this is a real thing), literacy is kind of important.
What does Scripture say about communication? “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Take time to listen to another person or to read his or her profile at the very least. Don’t rush into contacting someone on the basis of his or her looks.
Another girlfriend wrote that she was looking for a man who loves Jesus and that she isn’t very sporty. Responses came from atheists who were also avid sportsmen seeking fit, sporty, outdoorsy women.
Ugh. Why? “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Is this the problem — too many cowboys and cowgirls trying to live their best lives now without belonging to any group, listening to wise teachers, and unwilling to grow in community? We all need community.
The Online Community?
This is why I would be cautious of this descriptor — an online community. With online anything, there is distance and, potentially, a level of safety from discovery or from harm. That depends on how much information one is willing to give away, of course.
There is also the danger inherent to anyone who doesn’t understand how easily one can find a person using clues divulged online, or of being exposed by sharing a picture.
Another lady posted her picture and realized that some of those looking at her profile visited her store regularly. Mask or no mask, she could no longer hide the fact she is a Christian single looking for healthy companionship and love.
And that “community” is not policing itself. It is not reaching out to protect participants. One has to be vigilant for one’s own sake; respectful. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
There were no computers or online dating sites in the Bible, yet this could have been written by Paul to any of the lonely hearts out there acting out of fear, feeling isolated and rejected, rather than out of good sense derived from the Lord’s direction. He will tell us one way or the other what way we ought to go, even where this technology is concerned.
Finding the Right Person Today
There is no easy answer for the single woman or man seeking love in a pandemic, cut off from clubs and society. Christian singles are turning more and more to the internet, but they would be wise to keep a few things in mind:
1. Wisdom begins with God (Proverbs 9:10). A profile devoid of any mention of Christ tells you something right away, so avoid that guy.
2. Real love has been amply described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 and by Jesus himself, talking about its sacrificial nature (John 15:13). There is no greater love than this kind of friendship can offer, not even romantic love.
A strong marriage will begin with the willingness to give oneself, one’s comfort, for the benefit of the other person. When each one is a disciple united by Christ, they mutually uplift one another.
Yes, they need to have common interests, but the essential part of their relationship is their obedience to Christ. So, how are you going to know if a person is loving in the ways Paul and Jesus described?
3. Read between the lines. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). I’m no expert. We must show mercy towards others, but that is not the same as being vulnerable or trusting.
What does a profile contain and what does it not indicate? We can all infer (with some logic) that a 50-year-old person with no kids who never married might have grown accustomed to having his or her own way.
Even if this individual wanted to marry but has not been led by God to a partner, habits develop. One grows fond of a certain way of life. I’m not stereotyping anyone; this is an experiential observation. If I’m wrong about you, then others are going to know it by the way you lead your life.
Just Take Care in Dating
Please, if you do decide to try online dating, be safe. Go somewhere public and do not drink alcohol. Never leave your coffee or soda unattended. Let a few people know where you are going and with whom.
Feel free to look up the person you are going out with and to judge by first impressions, which come from the Holy Spirit on the back of wise observation. You’re not dismissing a person, but the possibility of danger.
Use reason, be compassionate, but trust the Lord’s leading and not a sob story about that may not be true, just coercion…. you’re not hooked yet. Don’t go there if you don’t want to.
For further reading:
How Should Christians Approach Dating?
Is Singleness a Lesser State Than Marriage?
Does God Give the Promise of Marriage to Us?
Why Is the Phrase ‘You Complete Me’ in Marriage Misleading?
Why Can’t a Romantic Relationship Fulfill You?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/oatawa
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.