Kayaking to Romance

Sep 12, 2002 |Dana Ryan

Dana's lesson: Don't throw yourself overboard trying to find "the right one." Just keep paddling.

“Just where are all the good guys?” I sighed into my warm mug of chai.

“I think they’re on some hidden, remote island,” Carla suggested, causing Meg and I to chuckle.

And that’s how it started, the all-the-good-guys-are-living-on-some-cloistered-island-that-we’ll-never-find routine. We half believed it, my college friends and I, because we wanted some explanation, no matter how far fetched, to explain why we were still single. We had high tandards and we knew it. Were they too high we wondered?

Gallons of tea and chai filtered through our bodies as we discussed the issue of standards with regards to the opposite sex. What were essentials? What could we compromise on? What were the determining factors of a “quality” guy? Hours of debate and conversation resulted in the “Q” factor, a demarcation assigned to men we felt measured up to our list of stipulations.

Unknown to them, a select group of males trod the Houghton College campus with large “Q’s” tattooed to their foreheads, markings only visible to the trained eyes of our foursome.

One evening, as we found ourselves again gathered together to do homework, the “Q” factor surfaced, followed by the remote island phenomenon. Suddenly it clicked. We were spending so much time determining which guys were suitable, that if we did indeed ever find that island, how were we to know they would let us stay? Surely the island men had high standards for their women! Did we qualify for the “Q” factor? Were we women of quality, or did we just selfishly expect these incredible men to settle for less? And then we conjured horrifying pictures in our mind of being banished from the island, our grass skirts swaying dejectedly in the tropical breeze.

On that blustery night, we set out in our kayaks and charted a course for the Isle of Quality Women, wherever that may be. It wasn’t with arrogance or self-righteous holy rollerism that we embarked on our journey; rather we found ourselves driven to seek God’s Truth as women of God. The ensuing months proved exciting as we paddled through discussions about priorities and values. We challenged each other when our integrity faltered and maintained accountability through honest communication.

Today’s culture screams that singleness equals social ineptitude and pressure to claim someone as a significant other mounts from childhood on. Consequently, many first year college students find themselves sucked into the “freshman frenzy” as they attempt to counter the something’s-wrong-with-being-single stigma. This phenomenon is especially strong on Christian college campuses where many students errantly assume they must find their mate before graduating or else be doomed to a life of despondent celibacy. Hence the “freshman frenzy” mutates into the “senior scare” and students scramble to find a partner before the pickings become too slim, overlooking the fact that many wonderful Christians graduate with single status. So, more time is spent searching for that special someone rather than searching out one’s own heart.

My group of friends and I discovered that it wasn’t really our job to track down and harpoon Prince Charming lest he get away. If we truly trusted God, we would trust Him with our opposite-sex relationships and we would learn to be patient. The magazines in the checkout lines may advocate alluring dress, provocative gestures and aggressive actions, but we did not find such qualities to be consistent with biblical principles of holy living. The fruits of the Spirit do not include manipulation, hounding, badgering, seduction or immodesty.

At first it felt uncomfortable and risky to give up control of our romantic lives. How would guys notice us if we didn’t throw ourselves into the melee of suitable young bachelorettes? Would we find ourselves lost in the tundra of lonely spinsters? Would we all start wearing our hair in tight, severe buns? It was a frightening prospect that caused all of us to reel with stuttering apprehension. And yet we kept coming back to the Truth in the Scriptures that admonished us to embrace gentleness, humility, modesty, forgiveness, compassion, and patience.

So we emptied our bags of the “How To” tricks for capturing men and filled them instead with Proverbs 31 specifications. It wasn’t that we weren’t looking anymore. (I tried that ruse once and eventually fessed up to the undeniable fact that being single didn’t mean I had to claim a general lack of interest in the male gender.) We simply found that our time was better spent analyzing our own lives rather than analyzing every Tom, Dick and Harry who happened to cross our path.

Some of our guy friends misunderstood our quest, thinking we had errantly steered ourselves into a misogynistic swamp. Mistakenly, the guys interpreted our hours of dialogue as the formation of a freakish cloister of Old Maid hopefuls. We weren’t men haters and we didn’t thumb our noses at opposite sex relationships, we only knew that for too long, we had failed to apply our rigid set of “no compromise guy standards” to our own lives.

Our island quest also revealed the importance of all relationships, be they romantic or not. It would be foolish to assume that any bad habits practiced in family or friend relationships would suddenly disappear when “The One” sauntered into our lives. Did we respect our parents? Were we willing to forgive? To be selfless? To admit we were wrong? How did we treat the people we were the most comfortable with? After all, they are the ones who see beneath our smooth facades. And when the high-flying, sugar-coated, endorphins wear off in a romantic relationship, you’re left with the not-quite-perfect individual who stares back at you from the bathroom mirror every morning.

Many times, as we paddled, I peered into the water and saw a reflection I didn’t like. But it did improve and I am confident that it will continue to do so as long as I keep paddling.

Alas, we never found the Island of Quality Women, but somewhere along our journey we all ran into kayaks with men inside who had “Q’s” tattooed to their foreheads and we jumped ship. We asked them about the island, thinking they were all expatriates, but none of them had ever heard of the legendary isle.

We’re in different kayaks these days, but we pass each other from time to time with a wave of our paddles and a “thumbs up” sign. Our time of patient waiting paid off and we’re all thankful that we set out that night long ago in search of the Island. We all still like to think there’s an island somewhere because it’s a mysterious and thrilling thought, but we refuse to designate any island as the “Quality Island” for either gender, because acquiescing that would find us stagnating on the shore. And so we continue, because it’s the paddling that’s important, and the searching gazes into the reflective water.

Copyright 2002 Dana Ryan. All rights reserved.

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