Dating is difficult. Ask anyone. It is confusing and anxiety-ridden at times and can feel extremely lonely and isolating. It is also wonderful. Meeting someone that you potentially could spend the rest of your life with is exciting! Butterflies and anticipation of discovering the new can actually literally make you weak at the knees. Dating is also ever-changing. Gone are the days of random encounters and introductions in public venues; now we have turned to social media and dating apps to meet our (maybe) Mr. or Miss. Right. So, what does this mean to us as believers seeking an authentic and meaningful connection through platforms most often akin to dishonesty and meaningless garble?
"So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." – 2 Timothy 2:22 (ESV)
The Bible is clear, we should seek to find righteous, long-lasting love; not simply passionate and lustful attraction. Now, I want you to know that this does not mean that your relationship cannot be full of passion or attraction (maybe lose the lust). God wants you to be attracted to your partner physically, emotionally, and spiritually. However, we should put a lot of weight into how kind, spirit-filled, and pure of heart the person we are pursing is. This matters! Not that physical attraction doesn't, but when the hard times hit (and they always do), you are going to need someone who can wade the waters with you and is not just nice to look at. I know this from experience.
My long-term partner looked exactly like James Dean. I'm not sure I can explain to you how incredible with was for me for a long time. I L O V E James Dean. He is my favorite actor and if I were to close my eyes and try to envision the perfect man, it would be him. His look; his care for others; his love of art, music, and literature; his lack of self-involvement, all of it ticks the boxes of attraction for me. Here's the trouble though: the man I spent years pouring myself into because he looked like a dream, had none (or very little) of the other qualities that made James Dean so desirable. He ticked one box and that was the box of passionate and lustful attraction that my flesh really craved. In the end, I was met with a lot of heartbreak when attraction didn't turn into faithfulness and reciprocated love.
That's the problem with dating in the social media age. Everything is superficial. Everything is fast-paced. Everything says, "Go, go, go!" when we should slow down and get to the heart of what's at stake: our hearts. Sure, for years and years, since the end of mass arranged marriages, dating has hinged (at least initially) on physical attraction to the other person That's why men (or women) would approach someone in the coffee shop or supermarket and introduce themselves. Social media is different. Social media thrives on filtering life through the lens of what is desirable.
In person, you can hardly ignore someone's personality and heart when really getting to know them. It just comes out and though you might want to compromise because the idea of them is too good of a prospect, it's rarely hard to escape. Social media, however, gives everyone the opportunity to filter their worst traits and create a rosy picture of innocence and compatibility. Unfortunately, this is not only happening, it is encouraged. Our true selves aren't acceptable on the main stage of dating apps and snapchats. We must constantly appear to be who society says we should be; or, face the dreaded "swipe left".
Friends, this is so contrary to God's plan for us. He wants us to be slow to judge; to see the person for who they are, just as He does and not how society wants them to be seen. He wants us to slow down and not go, go, go at the speed of light; missing something He may have laid out just for you. We shouldn't be seeking to find our match by refreshing pages of faces on a screen. We should be seeking the hearts, actions of another person that fits ours like a glove. We should be seeking to get to know others, not just to fulfill (like I spent so much time doing) a physical attraction that you think could mean so much more; but a real, lasting connection that uplifts God and brings us closer to Him and His plans for us.
"Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." – Hebrews 13:4 (ESV)
We want to honor God with our relationships. We want to make them last. We want to fill those lonely spots and ease the anxiety of finding the one we are meant to be with. We don't want to be confused. We want to have butterflies. This all comes when we seek the person and not just the face; when we understand that attraction must be a compliment to compatibility and not just a substitute for it. When we stop looking for perfection online and seek authenticity in front of our eyes. It comes when we are bold, courageous, and unafraid of the wait because we know God's timing is perfect. It comes when we are following what is pure and true rather than what is fun and new. It comes when we start looking more like Christ and stick to others that do too. Dating might not be easy. It might look different than it used to; but, if we follow God's checklist for attraction, we can navigate the dating world with confidence and joy.