When I was in college, someone loaned me a book to help me with my struggles concerning dating relationships - and, in particular, my lack thereof. That book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (IKDG), was written by then-twenty-one-year-old Joshua Harris, who implored young people to pursue God-centered relationships, and to "redeem the time" while they are single (thanking God for the gift of singleness that He gives us).
Well, when I read it back then, I thought, "This book makes some sense. But, since I've never really been one to play the dating 'game', he's not really speaking to me. When I say I want a relationship, I want to pursue the possibility of marriage."
What I completely missed, though, were two very important concepts - waiting on the right timing, and making the most of my time as a single man. As I reflected on my relationship with Erica, I remembered reading that book, and knew that I needed to give it another read - this time, with a completely changed point-of-view. I can look back now and realize that I spent most of my high school and college years unappreciateve of - and often, despising - my singleness, rather than seeing it for the gift that singleness is. Now, I made quite a bit out of my time, and managed to keep following God's plan for my life, even despite of myself; however, I threw away many opportunities I had during that time - opportunities to grow closer in my walk with Christ, and to serve my sisters in Christ in love (too often, I served them with ulterior motives - in trying to subtly "woo", I gave up much of the joy and learning I could have experienced).
In part, I was patient; "I'm still in college;" I would say, "if I'm not dating now, I guess that's okay, because, really, school is my first priority." At the same time, had the chance presented itself, I know I would have dated, even while in college.
But that mindset turned on me when I got out of college. Barely five months after graduating, Erica and I started dating. What I came to realize though, upon reflection, is that I did not take nearly enough time getting to know her, as her friend, before building mental and emotional intimacy - which certainly led us the wrong way in terms of the direction of physical intimacy. Had I taken the time to get to know her, I probably would never have pursued her as a girlfriend - see, Erica is a great, wonderful girl, and friend, but since she is not a Christian, I know I could never marry her. Before we started dating, I knew that she went to a Lutheran university, and that she regularly attended church there and at home, and I made a big mistake - I assumed. Five or six months into the relationship - long after I had already grown mentally and emotionally attached to her - Erica revealed to me that she was not a Christian - that she had many unanswered questions about life, and religion, and that she went to church, in part, to try to help answer those questions.
It took God months to work in my heart enough for me to do the right thing - in some cases, using tearful realizations of who I had become in the past few years, and especially in the past few months.
So, where does that leave me now?
For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I am content being single - I know that I may struggle with patience, waiting on the right timing - God's timing. I know that I may struggle at times, keeping my motives pure when I act in service and love toward my sisters in Christ. But I also know that I have the support of the Holy Spirit, my guide and teacher. I also know that I have the support, encouragement, and love of a very close group of friends - who will hold me accountable, and who will be there for me, even if I can't be there for myself sometimes.
I re-read IKDG, and Josh Harris' words literally spoke to my heart from every page I read. Finally, I had the necessary perspective - no longer could I say naively, "That's not me; that will never happen." It had happened. Even worse, it almost happened again, less than a month after becoming single again. I likely will recount the details of that yet-developing story, but not now. Suffice it to say that, through the grace of God, and through the counsel of my friends - one in particular - I am learning how to handle things in a God-like, God-centered manner.
While I will not be afraid of one-on-one situations with other women, I will not seek them out - especially if doing so has any motive other than absolutely pure, Christ-like love. I will seek first to develop friendships with my sisters - serving them, loving them, helping them to grow, and will expect nothing out of the relationship other than the knowledge I gain - through loving and serving them, I will learn how to love, and to serve, my future wife.
At the same time, my own personal concern will be to fully redeem the time during this season of singleness - continuing to deepen my relationship with God, serving Him by serving those around me, and, most importantly, continuing to prepare myself for Him to work His Plan in my life. I will learn what it means to be a good husband and father, what it means to be able to support a family, and what it means to take the next step closer to fulfilling God's Plan in my life. I know that God has given me a heart for people - and for missions, in particular; however, God also brought me through engineering school, and placed me in Kalamazoo, MI for this season of my life.
Do I know, exactly, why God chose this route for my life? No, not yet. But I am trusting Him with all of my heart; I am purposing not to lean on my own understanding. I am once again trying to acknowledge Him in all of my ways - and I am trusting Him to direct my path.
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