Thinking is a great activity which I highly recommend.
(If more people would engage in this simple firing of the neurons, our world would be a much more pleasant place. I am thinking about writing a commercial for thinking with the slogan, “Thinking-You don’t even have to get off your couch to do it!” )
Overthinking is a highly dangerous activity which I would recommend avoiding at all costs, especially when it comes to the dating world.
Unfortunately, it is often the people who most desperately want to please God that fall prey to this devastating practice.
I know this because I am the champion of over-thinkers. Seriously, if tying ones brain in knots were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist. This is not something that I am proud of.
This nasty habit nearly cost me my marriage before it started.
I hope, through this post, to save my fellow over thinkers from repeating my mistakes.
(If you are an over thinker, please read this post in its entirety. I know you like to read, so just do it.)
Last week, I addressed the unfortunate, female complication of “mangriness”–The unstable emotional condition, clouded judgment, and erratic behavior that often emerges when a young woman is starving for the affection of a young man.
This week, I will address the same issue, but from a different perspective. Not all women react to the onset of mangriness by pining after every male within reach, and hastily entering ill-advised relationships.
Some, in a valiant attempt to avoid entering an ungodly relationship, pre-impose a series of strict guidelines for romance and their future mate, which they hope will deter them from falling for anyone but the one.
These regulations can range anywhere from which sort of church denomination he is affiliated with, to his views on courtship/dating, to smaller details such as his study habits, accepted forms of entertainment, even physical traits such as hair style, weight, and fashion sense.
Here’s the potential problem with this approach…in our sincere effort to honor God with our love lives, we may end up placing ourselves under restrictions that God Himself would find ridiculous.
When we lock up our hearts using human, personal preference, we may end up locking out our divinely sent love.
I know this because I almost locked out my husband.
I know this because the Pharisees locked out Jesus, their One True Love, because He didn’t fit their list of man-made qualifications.
I am convinced that some Christian women are single, not because God has called them to be,…but because they never give anyone a chance.
If we truly want to honor Christ with our love lives, we need to learn to ask the right questions and be able to discern between human regulations and God-given guidelines.
The following is a list of tips for my fellow over-thinkers that can help un-complicate our approach to finding the “one” and release us from unnecessary burdens we have tied to ourselves.
TIP #1-There is no such thing as a perfect man.
I will now go all “syllogismy” on you.
- You are going to marry a human. (At least I hope)
- All humans are flawed and imperfect.
- The person you will marry will be flawed and imperfect.
Some Christian girls, in their desire to marry a man of honor, hold their would-be suitors to an unattainable level of perfection. For example, I know someone who has repeatedly rejected the advances of young men due to such offenses as, “I think that one time I heard someone say that he saw a movie that I think they said was inappropriate.”
In our attempts to hyper-spiritualize romance, we sometimes lock out the Gospel, and forget to extend the very grace that our forever Bridegroom has extended to us.
We need to remember that even Christians blow it sometimes. Salvation does not include instant sanctification. (If someone has figured out how to do this, please let me know. It would save me from blowing it 30 to 40 thousand times a day) Christ makes it very clear that perfection is a process that begins here and ends only in Heaven.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9, ESV
We are going to meet our husband right when he is in the middle of these eternal growing pains. He is going to need our love, encouragement and forgiveness to make it through this “earth” stage of his existence.
The right question to ask is therefore not, “Does this man sin?” but, “how does this man react to his sin?” Does he respond with humility and repentance, seeking to restore his fellowship with God and with others?
(Obviously I am not advocating that you marry an axe-murderer because he says he’s sorry. Please use your judgment)
There may not be such a thing as a perfect man, but there is such thing as a redeemed man—a man who understands who he is both outside of and under the grace of Christ, and who daily seeks to pick up his cross and put the old man to death.
Your husband will be your primary partner in navigating through this struggle of the old verses the new. Choose someone who has a good grasp on the Gospel, and who can help you through your own “eternal growing” pains….because you’re not perfect yet either 😉
TIP #2- Do not operate out of fear. Operate out of Truth.
I have always been deathly afraid of messing up God’s plan for my life. This is no way to live. Fear is paralyzing to progress and lethal to joy.
This pet fear of mine manifested itself in some ugly ways when I first began seriously talking with Kyle, (now my husband.) I was absolutely TERRIFIED that I was doing something wrong and potentially messing with God’s plan. What if he wasn’t the one and I threw off God’s whole timeline for my life by spending time with him!? What if he wasn’t the one and GASP, I accidentally married him!?
I kept expecting to see some flashing light from Heaven or miraculous sign, perhaps a golden halo appearing around Kyle’s head, to let me know that I was doing the right thing. Nothing happened….other than my husband being unbelievably sweet and me being blissfully happy when I wasn’t worrying.
(Extra bonus tip: You will most likely not experience a miraculous sign to indicate your that your beau is the one. You may however, experience a sensation similar to walking on air.)
As a result, for the first few months I felt physically ill a good deal of the time. I actually had to run to the bathroom a few times because my nausea was so intense. Once, while sitting in my office contemplating my fears, I almost passed out. (I told you I am the champion of overthinkers.)
I finally broke down and told my husband what I was going through, and we agreed to take a break so that I could have some time to pray things through. The following week was one of the most awful, yet enlightening weeks of my life. My mom helped to clear through the fog when she encouraged me to discern what part of my emotional chaos was driven by fear, and what was driven by truth? She then asked me a series of simple, yet clarifying questions which set me on the path to freedom.
Her: “Is he walking with the Lord?”
Her: “Are there any red flags, or God-given reasons why you think you shouldn’t date him?”
Her: “Are you attracted to him?”
Her: “Is your relationship sexually pure?”
Her: Ok, then, there is no harm in going forward with this for now. These feelings aren’t coming from Truth, they’re coming from fear. I think that you are afraid to except good things from God because you think you don’t deserve them or you think they will distract you from God. Sometimes, God wants to give you good things because He loves you.
((INSERT HEAVENLY CHOIRS SINGING))
It was like a giant light had shone onto my soul and a thousand pounds had just been lifted off of my proverbial back. Instantly, it became clear that I had been allowing myself to be dominated by a set of falsehoods and fears that were keeping me from enjoying a good gift that God was trying to give to me.
For a while, my idea of walking in the will of God had looked like a soldier walking through a mine field. One wrong step and BOOM! I’m outta there.
Due to this faulty mind set, I evaluated everything as a potential for disaster, rather than as a potential for joy. It is hard to enjoy something when you are constantly afraid it is going to blow up in your face.
Fear had distorted my vision and kept me from seeing Kyle as he actually was….a very good thing.
Of all people, Christians should be able to clearly see and evaluate situations,
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
Walking in the will of God should look less like a jaunt through a mine field, and more like a dance with your Beloved. In my brief exposure to dance during college, I learned that dancing well means completely surrendering to the lead of your partner. Not a limp, helpless surrender, but one born of graceful confidence. A kind leader would never purposefully swing you into danger and allow you to dangle there.
If we start to step outside of God’s will, we can be confident that He will let us know and gently pull us back into step.
The worst way to dance is stiff, trembling, and self-conscious. We will be miserable the entire time and cause our Partner a great deal of pain and frustration. It is only when we learn to trust the heart of God and confidently surrender to His loving leading, that we can enjoy the music and accept the good things He sends our way.
So, as you learn to waltz in step with your kind-hearted God, know….
It is NOT a sin to get to know someone if you’re not 100% sure that you are going to marry them. You CANNOT know whether or not you’re supposed to marry someone if you never take the chance to get to know them.
If we are dating the wrong person, He will let us know and gently pull us back into step.
We do NOT have to feel like failures, or like we have ruined God’s plans, if the relationship does not end in marriage. Sometimes God allows us to enter situations that don’t turn out like we expected because there is something invaluable He wanted to teach us.
God is BIG ENOUGH to redeem any situation and use it for His glory and our good.
One of the most painful experiences of my life was a relationship that ended in a confusing and heart-wrenching breakup. At the time, I felt like my life was over and that it would be preferable to curl into a small ball and die. We had done everything “right”…by the book, but it still hadn’t worked out. In retrospect, I was able to see the invaluable lessons that God pulled from this short-lived romance. I am actually thankful that the relationship happened, and that it “un-happened.” I wouldn’t be the same without it.
When we turn down an opportunity out of fear, we turn down an opportunity to grow.
*EXTRA TIP*: Over thinkers often have a hard time accepting things from God because we feel that we don’t deserve them, shouldn’t need them to be happy, or fear that they will become idols.
—We don’t have to deserve them. We can never deserve them. God gives us good things not because we are good, but because He is good…and He delights in our enjoying of them. (Ever read Song of Solomon?…Warning: May include adult rated materials.)((1))
–No, technically we don’t need anything outside of God’s amazing grace to be joyful and complete. This doesn’t mean we need to deny ourselves of everything that is pleasurable in order to be holy. Paul specifically warns us about people who prohibit such “good things” as marriage. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” ((2))
-Did you catch the last part of that verse? “Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with Thanksgiving.” Idolatry is a choice. We do not have to let the good things God gives us get in the way of our fellowship with Him. If we turn His gifts around into thanksgiving, they can ENHANCE our fellowship with Him rather than detract from it.
-TIP #3- There is no command which says, “Thou must totally understand thyself before thou art hooked up with a man.”
Let me just start this out by saying there may be some legitimate situations in which God calls us into a period of singleness for meditative or reflective purposes. Let me also say that I think a good deal of the time when someone says, “I just feel like I need to understand myself before I can add someone else to the mix”….the person is an over thinker and is inadvertently making it up.
Again, I say this from personal experience. After I graduated from college, I had several men show interest in me. For various reasons, however, things just never worked out. Due to my overthinking nature, I immediately assumed that there must be some flaw within me that God needed to mend before any romance could successfully progress. Obviously, my relationship with God must need some work, or He would have let things succeed, right?
I then proceeded to self-impose an indefinite time period of “God” ordained singleness upon myself until I could be sanctified enough to deserve romance. (Sounds a little extreme, but I know that I am not alone in this endeavor.)
I recently found a letter that I had written to my husband during this time and cringed. I was not only hurting myself through my over-thinking, I had been hurting him.
My actions represented a complete misunderstanding of how sanctification works. We were never meant to go or GROW alone. God gave us the picture of the Body of Christ to represent our absolute dependency on others to function and develop properly. Separate a limb from a body and it tends to die.
Marriage supercharges this analogy when God commands husbands to,
“ Love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-26
Marriage was not designed to be the joining of two perfect people. Marriage is designed to be the joining of two broken people, who together, form a living, breathing picture of the Gospel for a watching, hurting world. Husbands are the ultimate iron on our iron. God selects our spouses because they are the best tools for helping us grow out of our old selves and into the Image of Christ.
I can personally testify that there has been no one in my life that has helped me to see Jesus more clearly, or helped to free me from my habit of overthinking, than my husband. God knew just what I needed to move me to the next level in my relationship with Him…so He gave me Kyle.
If I had tried to wait until I reached an acceptable level of perfection before I deemed myself worthy of a relationship, I would have missed out on more than marriage….I would have missed out on a lot of Jesus.
If you have currently assigned yourself to a period of singleness or “figuring yourself out,” take some time to come before the throne. Ask God to show you if these parameters have arisen from His Spirit or from your over thinking.
*Extra tip:* Sometimes, overthinkers may fear entering marriage because we are worried we may desire this sort of love for selfish reasons. If this is you, relax, stop thinking so much. You want to be married because you are a woman and God designed the heart of woman, “To be romanced…and to unveil beauty.” ((3)) You crave the affection, adventure, and the security of a spouse because you are exactly as God created you to be.
-TIP #4-Give the poor guy a chance–
Just because love doesn’t come to you in the precise package that you had always envisioned, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Your Prince Charming might not arrive in a horse-drawn carriage, holding a law degree and carrying the keys to a house with a white, picket fence. He might come in a beat up, red pick-up truck, wearing torn blue jeans, and holding the keys to a tiny parsonage in rural Arkansas with an unknown future in ministry. Mine did.
And he is SO MUCH better than the dream I had for myself. When our husband is sent from God, he will always come better than we imagined. No matter what else he looks like, he will always come looking like Jesus.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FINAL INSTALLMENT OF, “5 THINGS EVERY SINGLE, CHRISTIAN GIRL SHOULD KNOW.”
2) 1 Timothy 4