I wrote this a few weeks ago and have been sitting on it. Probably not to overwhelm my readers with too many posts. Now however, you get to read my sappy new love post.
I know that a few of you (women readers) have requested a sappy love post. Which I guess I’m willing to oblige. But only because I’m currently in the early stages of romance, and willing to do stupid things that my future cynical self will regret.
However I’m not really all that keen on telling you everything there is to know about my lady friend and how we got together. That may be a story for another day. But probably it’ll just be a story for real life.
But I will tell you what I’m finding interesting about being in a new relationship.
A lot of what I’m finding interesting is how much singleness tempered my view of my life. Somewhere along the way I moved from being reluctantly willing to be single if it was God’s will, to being willing to be single, to planning my life and shaping my relationship to the world around my singleness.
I spent less and less time preparing myself for being in a relationship, and more and more time training myself to be content in Jesus. Which is a worthy pursuit for any person really. But I was doing it especially in regards to relationships. I would remind myself of the benefits to God’s kingdom of singleness. And would think about how to be a productive single in the world, especially where most Christians my age are married and procreating and managing their procreations.
All this means that now I’m in a relationship, it’s taken me completely by surprise. Usually any voluntary significant life shift is preceded by thinking, planning, deciding and committing. This felt more like “There’s a girl, she’s great, we like each other, we’re gonna go out, we’re going out, wahoo! Oh, I’m not single anymore.” Now I’m left trying to sort out how you do this relationship thing when I’ve spent the past few years of my life trying to do the singleness thing.
However while I say I hadn’t thought much about being in a relationship I had spent a lot of time thinking about marriage. Over the past few years I’ve done a lot of sermons on sex, I’ve preached at a lot of weddings, and I’ve done a few bits and pieces on singleness. This has meant that I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage. How does one do marriage? What’s its purpose in God’s plan? Is it good? How do you celebrate marriage as a single person?
Seeing as I’ve had that also in my head, I now see that a lot of my paradigm for dating comes out of my view of marriage. If the role of the man in marriage is to love his wife as Christ loves the church then my role in dating is to mirror that love in an appropriate way. To serve my girlfriend as Christ has served me.
Right now, it’s not too hard. At least it seems to go alright from my end. I’m so excited about her that I’ll do anything. Nothing is a chore. Everything is an honour. And she can do almost no wrong. So serving, and loving, they’re easy.
I know that this state of new love though will not last. Unless we’re the most extraordinary couple in the history of the world, things are going to get harder at some point. So I’m excited about establishing the habits of love and service now that will find their true worth when my selfishness is trying to assert itself in the relationship.
The danger in all this thinking about dating through the lens of marriage is that dating is not marriage. In many ways that’s obvious. But I’m sure the temptation when thinking about dating this way is that you can hold on to a dating relationship tighter than you should. The commitment of dating is not till death do us part. And it shouldn’t even be till the person I’m dating becomes someone I don’t want to date anymore. It should be, at least for the Christian, till it is better for our love of Christ and our service of his Kingdom that we are apart.
I’m sure that sounds terribly unromantic, that the needs of the Kingdom should trump the desires of the couple, but Christ always comes first.
When getting into this relationship, I had one or two minor freak-outs about losing my effectiveness in the kingdom because I got into a relationship. I started saying to myself regularly: “Christ my sufficiency; the kingdom my priority.” I wanted to remind myself that the sufficiency in Jesus that I was seeking in singleness is the same sufficiency I’m seeing when in a relationship. The same commitment to the kingdom I was cultivating by myself, needs to characterise my dating relationship.
If we can both work on our Christ sufficiency and kingdom priority, then hopefully we will both emerge from the other end of this, married or single, more complete in Christ and more committed to his work than we were when we entered. If that happens then this will have been a fruitful relationship.
She’s great. Christ is better. Building our relationship is excellent. Building the kingdom is better.
Christ our sufficiency, the kingdom our priority.