When a guy picked me up for my first-ever date — at age 26 — I was nervously excited. He was a strong Christian with good character. I thought I knew what I wanted the relationship to look like.
And I was terrified I would mess up somehow.
I just knew I would find a way to make a mistake. Surely, I would move too fast — or not fast enough. Most likely I would ask the wrong question or give the wrong answer to one of his questions.
That relationship lasted only a few weeks, at least in part due to my fear of making a mistake. But I don’t think I realized how great a role fear played in relationships and my life in general.
A few years later, I listened to an earlier episode of “The Boundless Show” podcast. As Lisa Anderson and her roundtable guests discussed how to get a date, Travis Williams pinpointed my problem. “There’s healthy fear and unhealthy fear,” he said. “There’s so much fear wrapped around this issue.”
I remember the first time I heard that episode. Something clicked. That’s my problem, I thought. I’m afraid.
Not the first time I’ve been afraid
Of course, I’ve let fear rule my life in other areas, too. The work of freelance writing usually begins with cold-call emailing. So, when I emailed my first Boundless article ideas several years ago, I included a summary of what Boundless articles had taught me about Christian singleness.
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, then interim editor of Boundless, didn’t take any of my ideas (I’ve since forgiven her), but she asked me to elaborate on my reflection of what I had gained from Boundless. She wanted me to write about how I had processed and worked through my extended singleness.
I hesitated. I hadn’t set out to write something so … personal. I preferred to write something more instructive and less vulnerable. But I also wanted to write for Boundless, and since none of my other ideas seemed likely, I agreed to follow Suzanne’s suggestion — despite my fear of getting real.
“Even before I could read, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a mother,” I wrote. “For many of us, our stories right now don’t match the dreams we have always had. But within that hard reality, I’m learning that life isn’t about my expectations and never has been really. And God’s plan is bigger and greater than any I would have written on my own…”
Because of Boundless, I pushed through my fear of talking about these deep desires.
Healthy fear vs. unhealthy fear
Travis was on to something. We know that God calls His people to fear Him, as in revere, respect, and stand in awe of Him. And a healthy fear of dangerous situations keeps us from taking unnecessary risks. But as humans, we too often fall prey to unhealthy fears that hinder us from living in faith.
“We’re so scared that we just don’t want to even take any kind of steps,” Travis said.
When I went on that first date, and now every time I wonder if a certain guy might be interested, I quickly start worrying I’ll make a mistake. But honestly? It’s not “if” I make a mistake. It’s “when” and “how often” I will make mistakes. I mean, seriously: I’ve made plenty of mistakes in singleness, so why would dating be any different?
“As a believer, you can be like, “You know what? My confidence ultimately comes from my relationship with Christ,’” Travis said.
Christ gives me a surer foundation than simply “trying not to mess up.” When I make those inevitable mistakes, who am I trusting? Who am I really trusting to guide my steps? Am I trusting myself? My own strength or smarts? What a poor alternative for the refuge God promises to be for those who love Him.
Still putting myself out there
Throughout my five years of blogging for Boundless, Lisa and other editors have pushed me to be more specific, more personal. To talk less about abstract ideals and more about where the rubber meets the road. Less about “the top 10 worries single people face” (implying that other single people face them, but not me) and more about “here’s how I struggle with what people say about singleness.”
Even after that first article, I balked at the push to open up. I still found it too vulnerable to talk with even friends or family about my desire to get married and have a family, so writing about it for untold strangers to read didn’t come easily.
But over time, I’ve found that sharing my own struggles helps me, too — and not just in relationships. I’ve blogged about dealing with people-pleasing, feelings of inadequacy, and the pain of missing out. Through blogging for Boundless, I have processed what it means to surrender my hopes for marriage to God and then I’ve reevaluated whether I’ve surrendered them like I thought I had. I’ve talked about my own griefs and struggles in singleness over and over and over again.
In some ways, my life doesn’t look all that different than it did when I started blogging for Boundless several years ago. I’m still single, still hoping for marriage and motherhood. But I know better what it means to trust God while waiting. I know from more personal experience that God leads my steps even when I make mistakes. And I hold more hope and wonder for the future and whatever God will do next.
Copyright 2023 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.