Three reasons why we sometimes feel tempted to date unsuitable people and what we can do to hang in there.
Ok so I know that I am definitely aging myself now, and as a caveat I would like to say that I was a very young child when I first heard the Bonnie Tyler song Holding out for a Hero, but the opening lyrics still resonate in my head, corny as they are:
Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn
And I dream of what I need…
I need a hero,
I’m holding out for a hero till the end of the night
In this song, the woman is looking for her hero, she asks where are the good men, the gods, the ones who will stand up to injustice, the man who would save a woman from anything or anyone that threatens her. And she is waiting for that man to come along, she is holding out for her hero, she is not compromising with anyone less.
So this post is in no way a lament about the lack of good Christian men, read my earlier post on this for why I disagree with the whole concept of a scarcity of suitable Christian partners. Rather I wanted to write about the other temptation facing many Christian singles, that of settling. Rather than holding out for a hero, or the man or woman God has for us, when we have been waiting a long time it can become so tempting to settle for the non-believer or the semi-believer. This is when we settle for a person who, deep down, or maybe not even so deep down, we know will not draw us closer to God but rather could potentially lead us further away.
For those of us who have been waiting any decent length of time for our spouse to enter stage left, we can have periods when we feel just so tired of waiting. Periods when we may start to doubt God’s good plans for us and when we start to look around to see is there anyone, anyone vaguely suitable on the near horizon. Sometimes a person appears in our lives who we know is pretty far from what a God-loving, dependable, kind, decent, Christian man looks like, but we start to entertain romantic thoughts about them regardless, particularly if they have shown some reciprocal interest in us.
Recently I found myself in this situation and I was praying about it, asking the Lord ‘why do I still feel tempted by men who I know are unsuitable?’ and ‘Lord where is the man you have for me?’. ‘Why is it that these wrong guys come along but not my ‘hero’ for want of a better word, and more importantly why do I find it so hard to wait, to hold out for the man you have for me?’.
As I thought and prayed about this three reasons came to my mind as to why I, and maybe some of you, might still be tempted to settle for Mr Right Now rather than Mr Right, so here they are-
The first reason I think as to why we find it hard to walk away from someone who we know probably isn’t the right guy is that we all get lonely at one time or another and it feels good to be wanted, to feel special. It feels good to think that somebody likes me, that maybe there is still hope for me, maybe I am normal after all. However this reason is based on the premise that unless somebody shows interest in me there must be something wrong with me.
The truth is we are special and wanted all the time, because we were planned, made and chosen by God before one of our days came to be (Psalm 139:16). We have been and will always be special and important because we are sons and daughters of the living God. Secondly, the issue of hope; hope and faith are the result not of what we see but of what we believe, according to the Bible. We are exhorted continually to be hopeful, to hope for what we do not see or not yet have. So regardless of whether many people or no people come along and want to date us we should have hope because of whom we are hoping in. Our hope is in the Loving and Living God, our Heavenly Father who promises that he will take care of us even until our old age. He promises that He has prepared a life of good things for us and that he will work all things together for our good.
The second reason I think that makes us hard for us to walk away is that there is a small part of us that thinks what if this is it? What if there isn’t a hero, what if I am holding out for nothing, holding out for a life alone? Is it really possible that after all this time there is still someone for me? Someone who really has a close walk with the Lord and who I will be attracted to?
Doubt in the goodness of God and His plan for our lives and doubt about whether or not our prayer for marriage is one He will answer, is one of the most common struggles single people face. This is because the lie of the so called gift of singleness has been propagated, expounded and spread by the church itself, typically by married pastors. There has been a terrible misuse of the words of Jesus and the words of Paul that have lead to the notion that God imposes singleness on people against their will. This is a pernicious and evil lie that has done more to discourage and dishearten Christian singles than any secular lies ever have (for more on that see my earlier post).
Why is it that people are encouraged to pray for a child because God does not want any woman to be barren, or for healing because He doesn’t want people to be sick, or for a job because no one should be unemployed but not for a spouse? It was God who said in Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone. If it was not good for Adam to be alone in the garden of Eden before the fall, then surely in God’s first best plan none of us should be alone either. I think that we should be praying and believing and thanking and trusting God for a spouse if this is our hearts desire and I strongly believe that if we stand in faith God hears our prayers and He will answer them somehow. I also believe He will be enough and more than enough for us in the waiting. Jesus never let anyone down in the New Testament, God the Father never failed to keep a promise in the Old Testament, and the Holy Spirit is with us always. Quite simply God keeps his word to us and He will not fail us because He does not lie. He does not want us to give up hope and marry a non-Christian because we doubt His good and wonderful plan for our lives. The devil wants this, not God!
The third reason I think that some of us find it hard to walk away Mr Right Now is because we may be drawn to men who are unavailable and unsuitable because of childhood relational patterns. Research on attachment and brain development tells us that our brains are hard-wired for attachment from childhood. However if we had to perform to earn love through doing all the right things, usually for the opposite gender parent, we can think that love looks hard to get (for more on this check out this book on relationships and attachment theory, as well as this great book and this one). Because we got so used to dancing this this dance, so to speak, as a child, when we become an adult and encounter an unavailable man not only does it feel normal and comfortable but we can also confuse it with love. We take our places on the life’s dance floor with one person pulling away while the other pursues and on and on. But it is not a healthy dance, because love isn’t something that we have to earn. Love, the Bible tells us, is a gift, freely given. Our Heavenly Father loves us as we are. We do not have to perform to earn His love and acceptance, He loves us as much on our worse day as He does on our best day. The Lord doesn’t hide from us, He isn’t elusive and He doesn’t play games. The Lord can help us to dance a new dance and learn new, healthy, confident ways of relating so that when an unsuitable man comes along we can say thanks but no thanks.
So what can we do to hang in there? Firstly I think that when we feel tempted by Mr Right Now and we find holding out for our hero to be a challenge we should not be surprised. One of the main strategies the devil uses to take Christians out of the game is through marriages and relationships that lead us away from the Lord, or at the very least lead us to take our eyes off Him. But the Bible promises us that if we go to Jesus He will provide us with a way out. Instead of trying and trying to resist the devil in our own strength, constantly thinking about our spiritual armor, or if we have read the Bible enough or gone to church enough or prayed enough, we should just take our broken, weak and damaged selves to the cross. Here we can say Jesus I am weak but you are strong, thank you for loving me every second of every day of my life, thank you that you will bring me through this. We are called new creations for a reason, because Jesus died to set us free from our past, including past ways of relating to other people.
So today relax, close your eyes, breathe and think deeply, about who you are in Christ and the character of our Heavenly Father, the best Dad in the world. Meditate on His love for you, breathe it in and out, you are loved and chosen and valued and important to Him and nothing you do or say will ever, ever, ever, change that. It is only from the place of security that we can start to make better choices, overcome our fears, maintain our hope and create new ways of thinking, new neural pathways.
When we are secure in the Lord we can hold out for our hero, for the man God has for us. We can take small steps in the right direction when we know and internalize how loved we are and every step, no matter how small, on the right path is step further away from the wrong one. So, take a little step down the right path today, hold off on a text message, stay away from social media, leave the phone in another room and see where it leads you. God bless you richly and I know that as you follow the Lord’s path and trust in Him you are not only one day closer to meeting the person God has for you but you are one day closer to meeting our true hero, Jesus, and spending a glorious eternity with the Lord. God bless you today and if you need prayer please let me know.