I love getting emails from my readers. I am totally happy to be the recipient of the hard questions, the “dumb” questions (that aren’t dumb at all), and to be a source of encouragement for such wonderful women.
I got to meet one of my readers recently. She introduced herself to me and briefly mentioned a friend we have in common, but wasted no time before getting down to the heart of things.
“I have a boyfriend,” she almost whispered, “and I have no idea what to do about it on the World Race.”
I grabbed her arm and like best friends in the hallway at school, I pulled her outside where we could talk freely.
She told me about the guy, and we talked about life on the Race, and together debated the pro’s and con’s of the decision that lay in front of her.
A few days later she emailed me, telling me that she ended it. She wanted to see what God could do with her undivided attention, and so she laid the relationship down at the altar where so many pre-race relationships have bravely come to rest.
But at the end of her email was a question. You could tell that it was a sheepish one—one that she really didn’t want to ask, but really wanted the answer to:
“Is it normal to feel like a bad Christian for going through a break up? A lot of Christians I know have only dated one person and then they married that person, and I almost feel like damaged goods.”
Fuming in indignation, I barely finished her email—climbing up on my soapbox, ready to fight for my new friend.
We have these ideas, these phrases that we say—rules that we think dictate the game of relationship, and the part we think we’re supposed to play.
We have a vision in our head of what a Good Christian Relationship should look like, and the exact way it should fall into our laps.
We are inundated with advice about marriage, each anecdote and well-intentioned word from the wise pointing us in a different direction.
We’re told not to settle and to wait for God’s timing, then told that nobody’s perfect and soul mates are a myth. We’re told to let the men take charge, and then see Ruth lying at Boaz’s feet—wondering if that’s the ticket to a happy marriage. (I’ve never actually tried that, so if someone wants to give it a shot, I’d love to hear how it goes.)
We see the Christian stories that fill our bubble and scour for recurring patterns, thinking that if we have enough faith, and forgo that last drink that God owes us something—that he’ll give us a husband (most likely a youth pastor because what other job could a Christian guy have?)
A + B – C = good Christian husband.
But there is no foolproof formula. We’re people. In every single area of our lives we get it wrong. We choose safe options, dumb options, and good options that turn out not to be best, and I don’t know why we should expect anything different in our dating lives.
The other freeing news is that our God doesn’t live inside of a lamp.
There is not a baseline requirement for a good marriage. No checklist of perfect behavior is going to guarantee a certain outcome. Which is frustrating because it means we can’t work the system. But it also means that our mistakes won’t be counted against us. Our God is a God of redemption—NOT a God that declares damaged goods.
You don’t get some kind of Christian merit badge for only dating one person. Yes, that’s a nice story, but there are a million stories that God is capable of writing and that’s just one of them.
God is more creative than a formula, and we get to sit back and be utterly amazed at the way he works all things for the good of those who love him.
This may mean you meet your husband tomorrow, and it may mean your story ends differently. But regardless of how the story unfolds, if we stick close to Him and keep saying yes, it’ll be a really, really good one.
And just like the rest of life, we’re not expected to always get it right.