hristian dating in the twenty-first century is a complicated thing. The relationship scene today is vastly different from the prior generation. I live in a different world than that of my parents. They met in college, dated, fell in love, and have been happily married for 28 years. Growing up, this was the picture I had for my life. However, it began to change as I got older.
As a young girl, I never fantasized about my wedding. I didn’t visualize flower arrangements. I didn’t foresee the ceremony or the tiered wedding cake. But the one thing I did think about was my future husband. I remember praying for him when I was 13, that God would lead us to each other when the time was right. I always assumed this would be in college. After all, most people my parents’ age met in college. It seemed like an obvious path.
When I began college in 2002, I fully expected to meet this intended future husband of mine. I didn’t have to be married in college, just so long as I was engaged come graduation. I had to be a little flexible, after all. By the time my junior year rolled around, I realized this was not going to happen—college-aged men and women appear to have different relationship expectations at this stage. I had a few friends who got married in college or shortly thereafter, but they were not typical.
We Do Not “Date”
Let me educate the generations outside of my own. People my age do not “date.” We still have significant others, but these relationships seem to evolve more through group activities than through casual dating. In the generation before mine it was common to have a date at vespers. This didn’t happen when I was in college. I never knew anyone who got “asked” to vespers. In fact, you were usually teased about it if you did.
Although my generation (at least in my opinion) does not date, we still fall in love. Sometimes it happens through relationships that evolve naturally. Enough group interaction creates a couple. Other times, we fall in love with our friends. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. I have been lucky to have many close friends of the opposite sex throughout the years. But with these great friendships also come complications. Feelings sometimes get confused. I have been on both sides of unrequited love, and it usually ends painfully.
Through all this confusion, how are we supposed to find true love? If relationships simply evolve, how do we know when it is right? If we don’t date, how are we supposed to find a spouse when we are ready? I’m still searching for the answers.
It may seem as if dating only other Adventists would simplify things. Why complicate relationships by dating outside the church? But not every Adventist is the same. In fact, there are varying degrees of “being Adventist” today. There are conflicting political views. There are Sabbath-keeping differences. And although the older generations may not want to acknowledge it, there are many young single Adventists who are drinking and/or having sex. So a young Adventist has to consider how important these issues are in a future relationship. Even dating another Adventist brings its complications. Although marrying an Adventist is important to me, I in no way judge others for marrying a Christian who may not be an Adventist. It’s a personal choice.
Postcollege, immediate availability of other singles goes down—Adventist or not. Church can quickly become a dating service on steroids. Every new guy is pounced upon. Girls can easily go from friends to competition. On the other hand, church can be what it presently is for me—a group of people that I identify with. Instead of competition, I find people who support each other. Instead of fighting with or over the new girl, they try to incorporate her into the existing group. Instead of a rival, the new single person becomes a new best friend. It makes it difficult to be lonely among such a family.
I have had the relationship conversation more times than I can count, both with family and with friends. It is amazing how single people can spend so much conversation discussing relationships. And it’s the same complaints: “Men don’t ask me out.” “It would work if we weren’t friends first.” “It would work if he were older, if he were younger, if he wasn’t so liberal, if he wasn’t so conservative, if I could get him to open up.”
When It’s Right
But I’ve come to the conclusion that when it’s right, it’s easy. You won’t agree on everything. You’ll need to make compromises. You’ll still have to deal with personal baggage. But when it’s right, it just fits. I’ve always had the philosophy that a relationship should be more fun than work. The healthy relationships I see exemplify this.
Personally, I’m still waiting and praying. Even through all my doubts I do believe in true love. There’s a great movie line that says, “There’s someone out there for everyone—even if you need a pickax, a compass, and night goggles to find them.” And I’ll add to that: allow for God’s guidance.
Single people must make an effort, but don’t be blind to those whom God puts in your life. In my search for love and happiness I consider this time in my life to be a plot point. It’s crucial to my journey, but just leading me to something wonderful. For finding love on this earth gives me a very small glimpse of what God ultimately has in store. Whether I have a husband or not, boyfriend or not, God should always be number one. For in Him I am truly complete.