Dating is weird.
As I put thoughts to keyboard to talk about dating for the You Are Here series, I must admit I have been experiencing a wide range of emotions. Or, as reGROUP Director Kailey Newkirk would say, “I have a feelings wheel about that”. Dating can be difficult, confusing, terrifying, and messy. It can also be really fun. I remember lamenting to my own counselor over my lack of romantic prospects and, at the same time, dramatically opposing his suggestions to try online dating. To be honest, I really just wanted a man to spot me from the other side of the produce section at Publix and tell me that he couldn’t help but feel drawn to me, then we would date for a few months, and he would whisk me away to a secluded tropical wedding venue.
My therapist smirked, took his glasses off, and said, “Lindsey, you are a therapist. You work in an office. Alone. Your other job is in jail. You don’t like to go to bars and most of the single people at your church are female. Why are you so afraid of trying something that actually works?”
Hm. He had a point. A really good point, actually. So I gave it another shot. After a year or so of going on dates set up by some brilliant engineer’s algorithm, I had given up. I didn’t trust that God actually had my desires and best interests at heart. After a constant stream of failed first dates and speaking at the last You Are Here speaker series, I went on one. more. date. This was going to be it. I was giving up after this one because it was pointless and I was feeling tired, hopeless, and sad about the state of masculinity in modern America.
I have now been dating my “last first date” for five months. We’ve met each other’s families, exchanged the “L” word, and are moving toward marriage. He’s an amazing man and our relationship is quirky, fun, messy, difficult, life-giving, compassionate, humbling, and super nerdy.
There was a season when I didn’t want to date, and I wasn’t ready to date either. There was also a season when I questioned my desire to date and be married. I remember listening to Teaching Minister Zach Van Dyke’s sermon on sex earlier this year when he said (I paraphrase) “If you want to serve Christ with an undivided heart, stay single. If you want to be transformed into the image of Christ, get married.” What if I want both of these things? What if I am terrified of both of these things? How do I know?
I have read a lot of books on dating by Christians and non-Christians alike. Most of the authors offer horrible advice like “stop dating until you know it’s the right time to date” (What does that even mean?!) or, my personal favorite “you just know when you know”. Every time I have read or been told something similar, I have felt deficient or broken in some way. Does everyone else know something I don’t know? What if I don’t know when I know? The best guidance I have received from people offers no advice at all, just honest truths about their experiences and what they have learned along the way.
Dating isn’t a game.
It’s a process of getting to know yourself just as much as you are trying to get to know someone else. As un-romantic as it sounds, I believe it is another one of those experiences that God uses to refine us into who has created us to be. It’s a very imperfect and unpredictable process, and no two people’s experiences are alike. Sometimes your fake tooth falls out in a sandwich (yup, that’s a true story) and sometimes you get to meet a pretty incredible person who just isn’t the match for you. Sometimes you get your heart broken and sometimes you get a glimpse of what could be possible. It’s not a formula or a science; it’s messy, because it involves people - messy, beautiful, weird people - just like you and me.
Lindsey Coates will be speaking on dating at the July 18th You Are Here and she is also the Ministry Coordinator for the women's campus inside of the 33rd Street Jail. You can get in touch with Lindsey to ask her for the full details on that fake tooth story, 33rd Street, or dating in general, by emailing her at email@example.com.