I spent over a year praying earnestly he would like me. I met him when I was only a freshman in college, and I immediately fell for him. In my mind he was everything a godly guy should be: He loved the Lord, was an active member at his church, served in campus ministry, led a Bible study, mentored other guys, and even got up to attend a once-a-week 6 a.m. prayer meeting. I just had a feeling he was “the one” for me.
When this young man graduated and went overseas to serve on the mission field, I prayed that when he came back he would fall for me, too. I prayed, and I waited. But when I saw him for the first time after his return to the States, my hopes were shattered. He clearly was not interested in me. When he came to visit mutual friends, I made sure my weekend plans were cleared to spend time with them, but he treated me no differently than he did anyone else. I even worked my way to sit next to him at a baseball game. Nothing. When I got back to my dorm room after the weekend was over, I broke down in tears. I felt helpless. I knew I was not supposed to pursue him, but what is a single woman supposed to do?
1. Make yourself available.
Now as I look back on that time in my life, I realize I did everything I could have done without crossing the boundary of becoming the “pursuer.” Since the man is called to pursue a woman in a dating relationship (Proverbs 18:22), I knew declaring my feelings for him or asking him out on a date would have been wrong.
The following year, the man who became my husband sent an email to me from across the world. He was a Marine — stationed in Japan. His name was Grant. I had met him in high school but had not spoken to him since. In the email, he asked me how I was doing and what I was doing. When I responded, I kindly answered all his questions. After I hit “send,” I was overwhelmed that I had not asked any questions about him. Afraid of “pursuing him,” I had ended the email without expressing any sort of interest in him or opening any avenue for him to respond. I was not available or open. I quickly typed up a follow-up email asking him a little bit more about what and how he was doing. Our relationship took off from there.
It was not until later that he told me, “If you had never sent the follow-up email, I would have never written back. When I read your first email, I thought you weren’t interested in getting to know me.”
While a guy is called to be the pursuer in a relationship, a young woman is not just to sit back and do nothing. Most men need to know that a girl might be interested before asking her out. If she likes him, she should give him visible signs of that without being immodest or overbearing. Smiling at a guy to let him know you like him is not the same as trying to make a guy like you. The book of Proverbs is full of warnings to young men about avoiding women who flirt or charm by seducing with their eyes, words and dress (Proverbs 7). A seductive look is not the same as a smile. And a heart of kindness is not the same as a flattering tongue. Kindness wants the best for the other person even if the relationship doesn’t develop. Flattery thinks only of self and quickly fades away.
So remember that it is OK to express your emotions when they come from a heart that desires to honor God (Philippians 4:8). Spend time with mutual friends, ask him questions, be open and share about your own life as you would with any friend. A single woman who is trusting God does not have to compromise her godly femininity to get a guy to notice her because she trusts that any potential relationship is in the Lord’s hands.
2. Affirm him within the dating relationship.
Even the most confident of men may struggle with being nervous around the girl they are dating because regardless how smart a man is, it can be difficult for him to understand the rich complexities of a woman that are so different from himself. These differences are what he likes about her, but how does he get to know her?
If a guy has asked you out, he is pursuing you — at least in the beginning. He’s interested in knowing you more. You do not need to worry about overstepping your bounds by helping him get to know you. If he has a quiet disposition, draw him out by asking his opinion on things, sometimes even if you already know the answer. He went to all the work of planning the date; now do your best to make it fun! Affirm the things you respect and admire about him. Even if you discover no romantic interest and the relationship ends, ask yourself: Did I affirm him along the way? During the time he spent time with me, was he encouraged to be a godlier man?
As the relationship progresses, if he is important to you, his family will be important, too. At least they should be. Get to know them as much as you are able. If he has younger siblings, play with them. If he has older siblings, engage them at family gatherings. The mark of a godly, young woman is that she embraces the family and the home (Titus 2:4-5). This begins with opening your heart not only to him, but also to the people who love him (even if they are very different from your family).
3. Trust the Lord, not your feelings.
When I was in college, I thought that I knew who “the one” was for me. I was wrong. Even if you are trusting the Lord, sometimes it can be difficult to discern your own feelings versus God’s will. Something can feel right, but the Lord can completely close that door. Elisabeth Elliot, in her book Quest for Love, when advising a young woman not to trust her feelings said, “The difficulty is to keep a tight rein on those emotions. They may remain, but it is not they who are to rule the action. They have no authority. A life lived in God is not lived on the plane of the feelings, but of the will.”
While feelings do play a part in the dating relationship, they are not primary. This is why it is crucial for young women to have older women in the church as mentors. They can help discern “make it or break it” character issues in a young man, a point of growth, or even something to be admired.
And just as it is important to be available to whom God might bring into your life, it is also important to give any current relationship to the Lord.
When I was dating Grant, I struggled with fears like, “What if he breaks up with me? What if this is too good to be true? How will I handle the heartbreak?” My mom offered wise counsel to me when I shared my fears with her over the phone: “Hold the relationship with an open hand. Give it back to the Lord.” That set my heart free! There is great security in trusting the Lord with your heart (Proverbs 37:5-6). It does not mean that dating isn’t hard, but God is in control, and you can trust Him (Psalm 31:14-15).
4. Remember God has your best in mind.
There is a Garth Brooks song that goes, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayer.” While I do not agree with the overall thoughts in this song, I often think about that one little phrase as it relates to God’s providence in my life regarding relationships. There were many ardent prayers I prayed as a single woman, and now I am so thankful God did not answer the way I asked. While there is nothing wrong with praying for God to answer a specific prayer (in fact we are encouraged to do so in Matthew 7:7), the attitude of our hearts should be one of surrender and trust.
When God does not answer our prayers the way we desire, we must cling to the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Even when no one is pursuing you and all you see are years of singleness on your horizon, you can trust God knowing that what He has in store for you is much better than anything you could hope for yourself, even when it doesn’t seem better.
Being married is a good gift from God. But so is being single. And God uses all the ups and downs on the journey to teach us what it truly means to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
“He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Copyright 2015 GraceAnna Castleberry. All rights reserved.