Someone was shocked and slightly amazed by a previous post I made in which I admitted that I had never been on a date. The admission was not one of shame … just a statement. Later, in a conversation with a friend he said that surely it wasn’t because of my lack of being asked. Actually … yes. I can’t say that I’ve ever been intentionally asked on a date. Oh, I’ve eaten dinner with and enjoyed the company of plenty of guy pals but none of them ever intended it to be anything more than hanging out with a friend … or at least I was unaware of it if it was otherwise intended. As a result, my weekends are relatively free to ponder the relationships of others and develop my own theories of courtship. From college to the present, I sit in the gates of the city like philosophers of old and advise any who come to listen to my sage advice. Don’t tell anyone, though, that I’m a quack, having never experienced what I preach about.
As a volunteer at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I have a large number of resources at my fingertips to assist me in my research. How would I recognize a man with godly, leadership qualities should I encounter one? How should women encourage men to be the godly leaders they were meant to be? What is a submissive woman? A pile of books was placed in my hands and this weekend I picked one up to answers some of the questions I had been pondering. I eyed it suspiciously … Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? … I was uncertain how this applied to my cause. I don’t want to limit my research to the Single demographic … however, I had been assured that there was much to be gleaned by this gem by Carolyn McCulley. Indeed, I was surprised by the amount of personal conviction handed to me concerning my own single state of affairs. I may have never dated … but that’s not to say that I haven’t dated in my mind.
Elizabeth opens the door and walks into the hall at 11:30 at night. Doors open and eyes peer out to see who just arrived. Soon Elizabeth is surrounded by inquisitive girls from her dormitory hall.
“So … how did your evening with Jake go?!”
“Oh, It was perfect! The two of us had an amazing time together. It felt like a date. It couldn’t have been better.”
Felt like? McCulley warns that if it “feels” like a date and no one has said that it’s a date … then “[i]t’s just two friends hanging out, but one of them wants more.” The danger lies in that while the guy is clear in his own mind concerning his intentions (“just friends”), the woman is not. She’s “dating him in her mind.”
Like a peanut butter sandwich that has all the peanut butter smooshed to one side, McCulley asserts that women have the tendency to “get all clumped up in one corner, distracted by one guy.” When he doesn’t come through to meet our expectations of pursuit, then we are disappointed.
How many times have we witnessed men appear to go through all the motions of dating but never revealing their intentions. They try women on “and then fade away if there wasn’t enough spark to attract them to pursue.” Sometimes this can go on for years between good friends, the men often oblivious to the internal struggle going on in the woman’s heart.
Searching for men of noble character will be addressed later, but for now let us women evaluate our own hearts. Are you dating someone in your mind?
McCulley has laid out a series of questions that may help you understand your own heart.
• Do I talk about him a lot to other people?
• If these other people don’t share my enthusiasm, and even caution me to not cultivate expectations, do I feel deflated and resent their input?
• Am I going to this event or meeting primarily because he will be there?
• Am I distracted in church or small-group meetings because of his presence?
• Do I break other commitments because he’s invited me to do something spontaneously?
• If he doesn’t talk to me or single me out at events, do I go home disappointed?
• Am I jealous of the women he does talk to or serve?
• If he declines one of my invitations, am I tempted to feel rejected?
• When he does pay attention to me, am I so oriented to him in a group setting that I don’t consider the needs of others around me?
Placing such claims on a man is “deadly to our spiritual growth and witness. Because these attachments are one-sided, when the relationship doesn’t occur in the way or time that we want I we usually respond sinfully.
Paul Tripp in his book "Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand" has mapped out this path of sin. McCulley summarizes his point in this way: “Desire leads to demand, which re-labels itself as a ‘need’ and leads to expectation of fulfillment, which when unmet, leads to disappointment, and thus ends in punishment.” One quote from Tripp’s book resonated particularly with McCulley. “There is a direct relationship between expectation and disappointment, and much of our disappointment in relationships is not because people have actually wronged us, but because they have failed to meet our expectations.” Such a paradigm is not only destructive to our hearts now … but will also carry over to our future marriages. “No husband will meet all of our desires, so we should learn to protect our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus by not indulging this cycle of idolatry.”
So if we find ourselves “dating in our minds,” how do we change? McCulley suggests:
• Prayer: Take your petitions to God, for He’s the only one who can change a man’s heart, and this brings His peace to guard our own hearts.
• Pursuit: It’s not our job as women. Instead, we should have the joy of being pursued.
• Prevent Disappointment: Check yourself before you head down the slippery slope of desires, demands and expectations…When you find yourself closing your fist over good desires and making them demands, stop. Open that clenched fist and hold that desire up in prayer.
Remember, this is not merely a matter of wise living … it’s also a worship issue. McCulley concludes that “[o]ur real motivation for guarding our hearts is to preserve our trusting dependence on God with a peaceful spirit, whether we get married or not.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Click here to read the section about The Danger of Dating In Your Mind.