I've been single for several years and went through a period when I thought every new guy I met was God's one for me. After realizing how wrong I was through a few painful situations and feeling the Lord tell me to stop focusing so much on a future spouse, I swore not to be distracted again. I set aside my interest in marriage and managed to (mostly) forget about it.
Fast forward several months, and now I've met a guy in my Bible study. I admire his relationship with the Lord, find him intelligent, interesting and attractive. For the first few months I avoided him like the plague because I didn't want to regress into being preoccupied with whether he was "the one." Even when I sensed he was interested and trying to get to know me, I refused to reciprocate in order to keep distance and not get ahead of myself.
After a few months of this, I think I warded him off for good. But now I'm wondering if I made a mistake. To prevent myself from becoming too hopeful over him, I think I closed down any possibilities for a friendship developing. I want to be hopeful when I meet future men, but I don't know how to do it without going overboard, so I end up squashing things before they start.
How can I be excited/curious/giddy about prospective relationships while maintaining a level head? I want to be hopeful without being too hopeful.
I suspect a lot of women would agree that figuring how to befriend potential mates without going overboard is one of the deepest problems, or at least challenges, in the single season of life. Though there aren't "10 Commandments of Dating and Relating" spelled out in Scripture, the God who created us male and female, for the purpose of working together to take dominion over His creation and bear the fruit of children within marriage, has much to say about how we interact. The best way to know how to relate to male friends when you're hoping one of them might be your future spouse, as well as to gauge a right amount of hope, is to study the Bible.
God's Word says a lot about this perplexing process of getting married, and it is perplexing and even frustrating. It's essential that you submit all of your hunches, inclinations and feelings to what God has revealed to us in the Bible, because the Bible is our source for life and godliness. The New Testament is rich with "one another" verses that show how we are to relate to one another in the context of the family of God. The verse most directly related to your situation comes from 1 Timothy where Paul tells him how he should interact with believing men and women of all ages. He writes, "Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity" (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
He doesn't tell him to avoid anyone. We're called to brotherly love and love of neighbor in the church. Jesus said, "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 12:7). Think about that.
How would you like a young man to approach you in friendship? I suspect you would be delighted to meet a marriageable man whose character is evident in how he treats you as well as how he treats everyone he encounters; who is kind and caring; who is genuine and mature; who is lighthearted because he's trusting in the Lord, etc. In the words of Jesus as He concluded the parable of the good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37).
Conversely, think of the times you've met a guy who is obviously scanning the room for available women, or one who talks only about himself, or who ends a conversation with you abruptly when another girl appears whom he thinks he'd like more. What about a man who avoided you like the plague? Such unkind behaviors are selfish and hurtful. They're also contrary to the life of love we're called to live when we are a new creation in Christ.
You're right to want to stop being preoccupied with wondering if this man or another is "the one." But the way to do that is not "avoiding him like the plague." Far better to be so occupied with knowing God and loving His Word and growing in grace and maturing in faith that you're able to relate to eligible men as a secure-in-Christ, godly woman who is genuinely interested in them as men made in God's image, as brothers in Christ, and yes, as potential husbands. To think only of that last piece, apart from all the rest, distorts the process.
What might this look like in your life? I think it means being prepared with a meaningful question or two that goes deeper than pop culture, the week's social activities, or the weather. For example, the next time you see him, you should smile, say hello, and after the initial greetings, ask him if he's read anything lately that's been spiritually challenging or edifying. You could ask him what God is teaching him through his work. These questions may seem too deep, but remember, you're in a Bible study together at church. That means you're part of God's family together and should be growing as a brother and sister who are charged to encourage, exhort and challenge one another. It is in the context of this mature Christian friendship that good marriages form.
To this end, I pray Romans 15:13 for you, that "the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" — hope, not in marriage, but hope in God.
Copyright 2014 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.