When You Know, You Know

When it comes to finding the “one,” I’ve heard many people say that. “When you know, you know.” I’ve always been like, what does that even mean? How are you supposed to know? And is it so definitive? How can you have a perfect peace about committing to something/someone for the REST OF YOUR LIFE, no matter what? And since it is one of the biggest leaps of faith that a person takes during his or her life, what kind of certainty are we looking to feel? How strong is it supposed to be? And will it be qualitatively different from how previous relationships have felt? Or will it be similar but with just maybe one or two other positives that convince you to pull the proverbial trigger and pop the question? And how are we supposed to know that we aren’t supposed to wait longer, and that we aren’t going to meet a better fit for us? How exactly do you truly, actually, know – without a doubt? And can that even possibly happen? So, I can only speak from my experiences, and I’ve lived enough years to see how God writes love stories in a variety of ways within a variety of circumstances and contexts. I definitely don’t pretend to have this figured out. But I did actually get to a point where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Rachel was the one for me. And I think it’s worth remembering and cataloguing how all of this happened, to lead me to the decision to pledge my love and fidelity to her, for as long as we both shall live. Maybe this can encourage others who want God to be at the center of their love story, and can perhaps provide certain examples of what to look for as their romance and relationship continue to unfold. ~ One of the biggest things that clarified that Rachel, and not another girl (in general; I don’t mean anyone specifically) was the one for me was that she knew – and demonstrated that she knew – that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be the one she looked towards to make her happy. To bring her joy. To heal her hurts. To solve her problems. To take away her loneliness. She said it, but she also lived it out in so many ways so that I was convinced she wouldn’t burden me with a load that no man’s shoulders are broad enough to bear. She kept going to the Lord, and seeking out spiritual counsel and mentorship from others, and purposed to become whole on her own – instead of needing me in her life to complete her. I was convinced she wouldn’t burden me with a load that no man’s shoulders are broad enough to bear. I cannot emphasize how huge this was. We both still struggle and flounder sometimes, and are continually striving towards emotional health and well-being. In fact, I’m sure we will keep growing and maturing the rest of our lives in this area. But we are working towards that separately, and not saddling the other with the responsibility to take us there. When you meet a girl (or a guy) who unequivocally conveys this through both words and actions, know they are rare and know they are a keeper. This helps you to get to a point where when you know, you know. ~ Over the course of 1.5 years before proposing, and the six months before our wedding, I can honestly say that zero red flags, warning signs, or major issues arose. And I kept praying that they would, if they were there. Sure, we had to talk out a handful of heavy things, and I personally needed to learn to communicate better. But in terms of her character, integrity, teachability, humility, sincerity, dependence on God, and personal walk with Him, I didn’t have the slightest concern. She was a dime in all of those heart-level areas. It’s weird, as you get older, you truly learn that physical attractiveness and personality (e.g., sense of humor, energy level, intellectual curiosity) are important for a dating relationship, but not as important as everything else – especially in marriage and parenthood. Hopefully, you can have all of the above, but just make sure your significant other has the heart-level stuff in spades. Beyond a shadow of the doubt. This also helps you to get to a point where when you know, you know.As you get older, you truly learn that physical attractiveness and personality (e.g., sense of humor, energy level, intellectual curiosity) are important for a dating relationship, but not as important as everything else – especially in marriage and parenthood. ~ We gave the people we trust in our lives full and complete freedom to be brutally honest about us and the relationship we were in. For example, I made sure that I arranged for Rachel to meet people who have known me for years, and who know my flaws and dysfunctions, romantic inclinations, and what would be good for me (and what would be rough for me). This included not just my parents and my sister, but also my spiritual mentors, my close friends, and people I do life with. We know that plans fail for a lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). I just wanted them to see her around me, and hear her heart about life and faith and her hopes and dreams. I didn’t need their approval, but I did want I felt like if the relationship were a God-thing, the vast majority would be totally on board, because God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). These individuals had carte blanche to ask the hard questions, and pose the worst-case scenarios, and I was definitely open to them saying that they didn’t have a peace about it. They were not to tickle my ears and tell me what I wanted to hear, but to just lay it out there because I knew they wanted the best for me. A few told us to work through certain issues individually because doing so would strengthen our relationship in the future, and so we did. If a handful of people I trusted would have told me that they didn’t feel the relationship was right, I give you my word that I would have broken it off. I would have. Because I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m not going to miss out on God’s plan for my life. I don’t even worry about that anymore. Thankfully, everyone was on board. And that gave me so much confidence about Rachel as we moved forward.If a handful of people I trusted would have told me that they didn’t feel the relationship was right, I give you my word that I would have broken it off. I would have. Because I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m not going to miss out on God’s plan for my life. ~ I’m a guy, and guys tend to be visual (as you know). I am drawn to physical attractiveness. I’m not going to apologize for that. And I do see and meet beautiful girls – single and married - wherever I go. But my heart does not stray. Even a bit. I don’t want to get to know them on a deeper level, on a romantic level. Even when I think about the celebrities that my guy friends and I would playfully pine for back in the day - Avril Lavigne, Jennifer Connelly, Alex Morgan, Hannah Davis, Kate Upton, Jennifer Lawrence – I realized that I didn’t even want to have a chance with any of them. They just couldn’t compare to what I did have in my life. I hope it doesn’t sound too ridiculous that guys talk about this sort of stuff, and act like we might meet them any random day and have a chance with them, but we do. Anyway, I totally would pass on all of them, because I knew that I just couldn’t find a better heart than the one inside the girl I was with. I believed that fully and completely. I knew that to be true, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Talk about clarity, and being convinced about something. I was convinced about that. There was a super catchy song a handful of years ago by a band called “Wheat” and the chorus went “I met a girl I’d like to know better, but I’m already with someone.…” I think about that song sometimes. But I have never felt that way while with Rachel. Because I really feel that I can’t find better, and that there is no better. And I think as we grow deeper in our marital relationship, it will become even truer, because our hearts will become more and more vulnerable, open, and surrendered to each other. This is how when you know, you know. ~ In our relationship, it also felt like God was propelling each of us towards marrying the other. I know that sounds bizarre, but it’s really true. Periodically, I would go through these private mini freak-outs where I would be like, ahhhh:

…how am I going to handle being around someone all the time (since I was used to being by myself all the time)?

…what if she gets sick of me considering how often I get sick of me?

…what if I just cannot handle being responsible for someone else?

Maybe sometimes in a relationship, you might feel like you’re doing a lot to keep it together, to grow it, to move it forward. And you feel a bit unsettled, or off-kilter, or all over the place, with too many ups and downs. But He would gently remind me that I needed to take one step of faith at a time, and that He would help me. And so with every step, I honestly felt led by Him – wooing her, praying about her, defining the relationship, talking to my folks, talking to her folks, talking about the future, getting permission from her dad, proposing, and getting hitched. And He kept reminding me that He was sovereignly orchestrating the union with everything going miraculously smoothly, and easily, and without unnecessary drama.
Maybe sometimes in a relationship, you might feel like you’re doing a lot to keep it together, to grow it, to move it forward. And you feel a bit unsettled, or off-kilter, or all over the place, with too many ups and downs.
And sometimes in a relationship, you feel like your hands are off the wheel and God is just doing His thing, actively involved in everything, and you’re like “holy crap, this is happening” and you feel good and solid and stable and healthy, and you have peace, and it’s exhilarating and maybe a little crazy but you’re trusting and you feel like your trust is in the proper place. I think the latter is how it’s supposed to be.
While I did experience butterflies, sweaty palms, electric tingles, passionate kisses, and other moments of dizzying ardor and affection, those played zero role in me knowing that Rachel was the one.As I reflect on these memories, I see that getting to the point of “when you know, you know” is not based on feelings or emotions.
While I did experience butterflies, sweaty palms, electric tingles, passionate kisses, and other moments of dizzying ardor and affection, those played zero role in me knowing that Rachel was the one. Zero. I don’t recommend a dating or marriage relationship without those, but it didn’t affect my ultimate decision-making process. Instead, I naturally arrived at a decision after getting to deeply know her heart, praying about the relationship and being observant about red flags, seeking counsel from those who loved me, realizing that she was better and uniquely suited for me than any other girl, and seeing His hand repeatedly at work in all of the details. While my story is simply my story, perhaps there are some universalities that may (or should?) ring true for you as well. Let me know if you have the chance….

In Your Relationship, Does Your Heart Feel Safe?

I was talking with my friend Tammy the other day and she shared an insight after reflecting on a recent romantic relationship of hers - an insight which I thought was completely profound. And I asked her if I could blog about it, and she said yes. So here I go. Overall, I feel like a lot of people struggle with figuring out whether a person they like, or the person they are with, is right for them, is the one for them, is best for them. Whether it'll last, whether it'll stand the test of time. Or whether it will end in heartache or heartbreak. And perhaps awful, avoidable regret. And perhaps the more relationships you've had, the less likely you are to just throw yourself into it and go for it and see what happens. Because you've been wounded before, and scars remain, and walls remain that have been build up for protection. All of this is natural. So it's perfectly normal to wonder, and to think hard about it, and to analyze situations and behaviors and responses, and to get input and advice from mentors and friends and parents, and to do all that you can to make sure that the decision you make is the right decision. Of course, we can never be sure. We can never guarantee that it's going to work out and that "happily ever after" will be our reality. Life is broken and people are broken and things get wrecked as much as we wish and beg and plead and try for it not to happen. But we based on what we know and what we can find out, we still want to be wise before we step out in faith, and before let our heart completely go there - to full-on commitment with no backup plan, to forever and always no matter what.
Life is broken and people are broken and things get wrecked as much as we wish and beg and plead and try for it not to happen.
Many of you know that I think, and I overthink, and could drive myself crazy if I don't intentionally stop my brain from working and racing. But when it comes to relationships, I don't think I'm alone there - many of us drive ourselves crazy thinking and overthinking about the girl (or guy) and how things have been, and how things are, and how things might be, and what are the good signs I'm picking up on and what are the bad signs I'm picking up on, and is this really going to work out in the long run.... But maybe it doesn't have to be this hard. Maybe we're doing it all wrong. Maybe it's just a matter of three simple questions we need to ask ourselves in order to pretty much give us clarity about whether she (in my case) is worth pursuing and winning now and every day for the rest of my life. I (and probably you) don't believe that there is only "the one" out there, but rather simply "the one for me" (or you). Okay, three simple questions: 1) Am I physically/sexually attracted to her? (chemistry!) 2) Do our values/principles align? and what may be the most important one... 3) Does your heart feel safe (in her hands, or in his hands)? Let's talk about Number 3 because I've already covered Number 2 in detail and I could go on about Number 1 for a long-winded while (and will probably blog about it in the near future). We need to remember that our heart automatically knows when it is safe. You know how it sucks when you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around someone? That's something you feel in your heart. You know how it's so rough when you have to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone who might react badly to you? You feel that in your heart. You know how it is one of the worst feelings ever when you run into someone who hurt you badly in the past? Again, it's like a suckerpunch to your heart, you definitely feel it there.
You know how it sucks when you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around someone? That's something you feel in your heart.
And so we need to listen to how our heart feels, and what it is telling us. Our thinking and over-thinking, however, just cloud our perspectives and complicate our situation and pull us away from what we probably intuitively already know deep down inside. Even though one of the greatest pieces of wisdom ever is to watch over our *heart* with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). And so we get all messed up because we don't listen to and live from what our heart is naturally, reflexively, autonomically telling us. Instead, we get lost and confused and irratic and unstable and paralyzed because we are listening to and living from the hot mess of our mind instead. Which is where all of our emotions and situational factors and rationalizations and defense mechanisms and memories and bad experiences and worldly wisdom and risk management skills reside.
Let's say you are seeing a boy. Let's say you've definitely gotten to know him for a while. Right now, you should ask myself, "Does my heart feel perfectly safe in his hands?"
So how might this work in practice. Let's say you are seeing a boy. Let's say you've definitely gotten to know him for a while. Right now, you should ask myself, "Does my heart feel perfectly safe in his hands?"  Maybe you say yes, and you're ready to commit. Maybe you say yes, but you know you need to put in more time together before you can commit. That's okay - it's important to take that time. But if even early on, your heart says to you, "Honestly, no" - you should listen to it. It knows something is amiss. It can tell. And it's just trying to save you some time and (probably a lot of) pain. Maybe it won't tell you until after a while, but it *will* tell you. You can spend more time in the relationship, but eventually you'll realize what your heart was saying was right, and then it will finally click in your *mind*, as your mind flashes back in a myriad of ways and vividly shows you the proof. That the relationship is over (or needs to be over). Dead in the water. That it's totally not going to work out long-term. I don't think this is too much to look for. For our heart to feel perfectly safe in the hands of the one who is for you (or for me) forever. "Does my heart feel safe?"  That is the most important question to ask yourself. Image source: https://ghshospital.org/sites/Granville/Uploads/images/Community%20Support/Health%20Tips/Heart%20in%20hands.jpg

The Beauty of Being Vulnerable in Relationships

Ive been thinking a lot about one of C.S. Lewis's most famous and most profound quotes: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~ *The Four Loves* Deep down, I know that in order for a romantic relationship to really work, both individuals have to be incredibly and constantly vulnerable. And it's definitely scary sometimes. Which makes it not easy. But, as we've all learned, the things that are worth doing and worth keeping are never easy. Amazing is not easy. And I definitely want amazing, in all areas of my life.
Deep down, I know that in order for a romantic relationship to really work, both individuals have to be incredibly and constantly vulnerable.
It's really quite fascinating to witness the reciprocal interplay of vulnerability between a guy and a girl. Let's just say at the beginning of a relationship, that it is ideal (traditionally) for the man to initiate and the woman to respond. For instance, he goes up to her, and renders himself vulnerable by complimenting her, or trying to start a conversation with her. In his perfect world, she reciprocates by smiling, engaging with him, continuing the dialogue, and possibly rendering herself a bit vulnerable by complimenting him, or touching his arm, or holding his gaze for more than a few seconds. And then maybe he is feeling pretty good about his chances to get her number, or taking her to coffee, and so he puts himself out there, and asks. And perhaps she says yes. All along though, she could hesitate. Deflect his attention. Pretend to be busy. Say she has to go. Reject him outright. But, everything seems to work when both are vulnerable, and take risks (and, of course, there is chemistry!). But nothing works if someone pulls back, or puts up a wall, or freaks out, or runs away.
Everything seems to work when both are vulnerable, and take risks (and, of course, there is chemistry!). But nothing works if someone pulls back, or puts up a wall, or freaks out, or runs away.
And then I think about daily communications between a boy and girl in a relationship. Texting, email, or in person. And how it works best when each is vulnerable with the other on a regular basis. If I say something super romantic and sweet and vulnerable to her, and she doesn't say something in kind, there is the strong potential for my feelings to get hurt. And for me to pull back. And to put up a wall. Basically, I really needed to hear it back from her, and she just didn't give me what I needed. And so now I need to protect myself and try to keep her from hurting me in the future, because I kind of held my heart out there, and offered it to her, but she didn't treat it delicately and lovingly. Rather, she was flippant with it, she was casual and maybe even a bit callous with it. And it was painful. But now let's say that maybe the next day, or in two days, or next week, she does say something super romantic and sweet and vulnerable - putting *herself* out there...and because of my recent hurt feelings, I just choose to not reciprocate. Maybe I am afraid, because of what happened last time. Maybe this time I want to teach her a "lesson" so she knows how it feels. Whatever the reason (and neither are good and healthy!), I won't tell her what she wants to hear, what she is hoping to hear in return. And, of course, this will lead her to put up a wall, and to protect her own heart from being hurt by me (and perhaps others) in the future. All of it is this such a delicate dance, with me stepping forward, and hoping she steps forward towards me as well...and me stepping back if she doesn't...and then perhaps I'll try again in the future, and hope she returns the sentiment, but if she doesn't, the wall I build will be a little higher. Again, to prevent me from being hurt as bad (or hurt at all) the next time around. And she does the same if I don't reciprocate.
Sometimes our desire to compliment and express our love isn't purely an unconditional gift for the other person. Rather, it is because we want to and need to hear it back.
It's interesting how we all need to be reassured, sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot. Sometimes our desire to compliment and express our love isn't purely an unconditional gift for the other person. Rather, it is because we want to and need to hear it back. Sometimes I feel like I can step outside myself, and watch the battle unfolding in front of my eyes: with one side being my doubts and fears and insecurities, and the other side being the kind, loving things I want to believe about myself - and need to hear from others to strengthen that belief. If we keep letting the quantity and quality of love we receive dictate the quantity and quality of love we give, we remain a pawn at the mercy of circumstance. Which can often lead to our lives devolving into a complete mess. An absolute, complete disaster of a mess, possibly sabotaging and destroying some of the really good things we have going for us. And we also have to remember that we've set up various walls from past relationships, and past wounds and current dysfunctions - and that they often still remain in front of us if we haven't truly dealt with them. We know we want to be completely free to live and to love with reckless abandon, but we realize over time that somehow and in some way, we just can't. At least not fully. And it's just really, really rough because it makes us feel stuck and it keeps us from God's best, the best that is out there for us.
If we keep letting the quantity and quality of love we receive dictate the quantity and quality of love we give, we remain a pawn at the mercy of circumstance.
And maybe we realize that our current friendships and relationships can help us to get closer and closer to that freedom, but on the flip side, we see how they can also pull us farther and farther away from it. We give others that power by simply entering into friendships and relationships. They benefit us greatly and in so many ways, but they are not without tremendous risk - and that is what C.S. Lewis is trying to convey. I guess this brings me to my main point, which is that I want to be the best boyfriend/significant other/fiancée/husband/lover ever. And I feel that in order for me to be that person, I need to develop the habit of being fully vulnerable in how I live and how I love. Because this draws it out of others, and it encourages others to break through their walls and try to be the same way. And to push past their fears of being rejected or dismissed or ignored or otherwise hurt. This is what leads to authenticity in friendships and relationships, and the best that is out there for us. Friendships and relationships simply cannot be amazing unless each person in them is genuine and open and candid and real. Really real. And so even when I don't feel like it, I know I need to keep pressing in, and keep expressing love. I need to be able to say, "I miss you" if I am feeling it in my heart, even if she isn't able to say it back at that very moment. I need to be bold in talking about the things "we" want to do in the future instead of what "I" want to do in the future, even though saying "we" is scary because "we" is never guaranteed. I need to be courageous in saying over and over again that I believe in us, now and long-term, no matter what, even when stupid fears sometimes creep in and cause me to struggle. I need to share what is on my heart without holding back, and without hesitating or hedging. And every single time I am brave, it becomes a little easier to become brave the next time. Because I'm building into a habit, I'm building into how I always want to be. How I always need to be.
Best case scenario, when she wants to withdraw and set up walls, my persistent and constant love will keep her from doing so, and draw her out. And she'll do the same for me when I want to withdraw and put up walls.
Best case scenario, when she wants to withdraw and set up walls, my persistent and constant love will keep her from doing so, and draw her out. And she'll do the same for me when I want to withdraw and put up walls. And together, we'll continue to work through things, and walls from the past will slowly but surely start to come down as well. Until honestly, there are no more left standing, and there is complete freedom to fully love, and fully be loved. And this will make all the difference in the world, and usher us into the absolute best that we can be for ourselves individually, and for each other. Image source: http://bit.ly/2vxGP4p

Why You Should Choose Someone Who Is Pursuing God

So, I mentioned in my last post about girls and standards that I believed a shared faith is so essential, at least to me.  I mentioned that she should be headed in the same spiritual direction as me, and she should earnestly try to live her life with integrity in all areas.  And I think it's a very reasonable standard to have, and one on which I could never compromise.  Why?  Okay, here goes.  And I really hope to express this in a fresh, palpable way. As huge of a fan as I am of life, I am also acutely aware of how very, very difficult it is to do well, and to not irreparably wreck yourself and others along the way.  Growing older is hard, dealing with the mortality of your parents is hard, handling school and work stresses is hard, dealing with your own personal junk and insecurities is hard, and relationships are hard - even if you are with your absolute dreamgirl, the one you know God made you for, and the one who was made for you.  And life is full of inconsistencies, and unpredictabilities, and instabilities, and so much that you can't possibly control.  And of course you can't control how a relationship will progress or turn out, but I think you can find a girl who makes it so you don't need to try to control anything.  Because she is all about living for Him, and surrendered completely to what He wants for her.  And you hopefully are all about living for Him, and surrendered completely to what He wants for you.
You can't control how a relationship will progress or turn out, but I think you can find a girl who makes it so you don't need to try to control anything.  Because she is all about living for Him, and surrendered completely to what He wants for her.
I feel that relationships end for many reasons.  Because people just don't want to put in the hard work to make them last forever.  Because people think that the "feelings" of love should always, always be there, even though the reality is that feelings are fickle and fade, and require intentional, constant effort to be rekindled.  Because people think that there is someone else out there better suited for them, even though they were convinced this was the best possible person for them when they got together.  Because people think that they need to scrape and claw and salvage whatever "life" they have left, and that means getting rid of whatever it is they feel might be holding them back. It has been said that you can't trust a man without a limp (referencing Jacob in Genesis 32, and how he wrestled with, and was then injured by, an angel in order to break his pride and will, and lead him to growth and maturity).  To me, when it comes to relationships, that means in order for me to trust her (as much as it is possible to trust a fallible, flawed, and partly dysfunctional human being like myself and like everyone else), I need for her to have been broken in some way by Him, and especially by the Cross - which Christians believe is a symbolic representation of understanding what we truly deserve as those who rejected and hated God with our attitudes and choices, but who have graciously been forgiven and given the gift of life, and love, and today.  If she has been broken, then I can have faith that she is not all about herself, and her goals, and her future, and the nice, comfortable little life she wants to build.
If she has been broken, then I can have faith that she is not all about herself, and her goals, and her future, and the nice, comfortable little life she wants to build.
Rather, if she has been broken then I can have faith that she is more concerned with what God is concerned about.  Like, unconditional love.  Sacrifice.  Commitment.  Others before oneself.  Widows and orphans.  Those on the fringes, those who have been marginalized.  The narrow road, rather than the broad one which often leads to destruction.  Words and actions that build up, instead of tear down.  Being swept up in something bigger than herself, something that transcends the silly daily dramas we often get wrapped up in that really don't matter in the grand scheme of things.  Obtaining her identity from what He says about her, instead of from her physical beauty, or athleticism, or the scene she is part of, or her line of work, or American cultural standards of success, or from how she wants everyone to view her. And then there is integrity.  I'm a social scientist by trade and a keen observer of human behavior by nature, and so I firmly believe that past performance is the best indicator of future performance.  I need her to have a track record and consistent pattern of making good, healthy, life-affirming choices.  Not a track record of choices made on bad days and nights which really convey sentiments like "Screw you, God" or "Whatever, it doesn't matter" - where she does things just because she's in the moment, or she's mad at the world, or things have been really crappy and show no signs of improvement, or because she needs to numb herself from the harsh realities of life. I need her to not want to hurt God by doing stuff that makes Him sad.  Because that gives me confidence she is not going to want to hurt me by doing stuff that makes me sad.  And I really need her to feel that deeply, to where she can't possibly turn her back on Him, or on me, by proceeding down a pathway of wrong and painful choices just to get through, just to survive, just to eek out whatever shred of momentary comfort or happiness she can get.
I need her to not want to hurt God by doing stuff that makes Him sad.  Because that gives me confidence she is not going to want to hurt me by doing stuff that makes me sad.
To be sure, I must be clear that I am talking about a pattern here.  Because we are all going to make mistakes.  Possibly huge ones, with consequences that will last the rest of our lives.  But overall, she has to know that there usually always is a right and a wrong, and not as many grey areas as the culture would have us believe.  And she must desire with all of her heart to do what is right, because somehow - on a cosmic, transcendent level - it matters.  I know it matters to God, because He has provided a standard for us to try to emulate.  And it matters to me, because honestly I will find it so very attractive.  And it should matter to her, because it leads to blessings, and peace, and the fullness of life. While a girl like this doesn't guarantee a successful relationship, because life is complicated and we cannot manipulate it to turn out exactly how we want it to be, it definitely does increase the chances of things working out, and working out really wonderfully well.  Not that choosing a girl is like making a safe bet.  That's the last thing I want, because I'm not going to get fireworks, and butterflies, and shortness of breath, and can't-imagine-my-life-without-her intensity of feelings, and the essence of true, passionate, romantic love if I just choose a safe bet.  I just mean that I won't allow myself to fall in love with a girl who isn't moving steadfastly in this direction. Because that is the way I am going.  And we need to be able to do this adventure together, in step with each other, all the way to the end.
I'm not going to get fireworks, and butterflies, and shortness of breath, and can't-imagine-my-life-without-her intensity of feelings, and the essence of true, passionate, romantic love if I just choose a safe bet.
Image source: http://hd-tattoos.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/black-cross-tattoo-3.jpg

What Should We Have In Common If We’re Dating?

My friend Mo recently mentioned how she wouldn't date a guy who wasn't into the same type of music as her, and so it got me thinking about our standards for the persons we want to date, and/or fall in love with, and/or spend the rest of our lives with.  Sometimes I feel like my standards for a girl are incredibly - no, insanely - high.  And we all know some people who pretty much have no standards.  But the vast, vast majority fall in between those extremes - we know ourselves, and we have an idea of what we are looking for based on certain preferences - but those preferences are sometimes colored by social expectations and even cultural caricatures in the media.
I can't speak for every guy, but I personally want to be spellbound when I look at her face.  I want there always to be the potential of all of my thoughts falling completely out of my head when I look at her face, even if we've been together for months or years.
Near the top of the list belonging to pretty much every guy I know is the requirement that the girl be physically attractive to them.  We must remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what you think is hot or cute or pretty may not be what another person thinks is hot or cute or pretty.  I can't speak for every guy, but I personally want to be spellbound when I look at her face.  I want there always to be the potential of all of my thoughts falling completely out of my head when I look at her face, even if we've been together for months or years.  There is this great scene from one of my favorite movies "The Family Man" involving my favorite actor, Nicolas Cage.  He and his wife are together at night when the kids are asleep, and he seems to just rediscover her face, her features.  And he can't help but marvel at her, and be completely floored by her, and realize how lucky he is to be with her. Jack: Oh, God, you're beautiful. Annie: Thanks, Jack. Jack: No, I'm serious. You're really stunning. Annie: This is good stuff. I want you to keep this up. Jack: You were always a very pretty girl in college. There's no question about that. But this...You've really grown into a beautiful woman. Annie: How can you do that? Jack: What? Annie: Look at me like you haven't seen me every day for the last 13 years. I know what that's like.  I have felt that way - without it letting up even slightly.  It is so wonderful, and I don't think it has to necessarily fade with time.  It is out there, and when you have it, you realize what a complete gift it is.  To feel that way about someone. Okay.  Like my friend Mo, commonalities in music preferences definitely, definitely matters.  Music helps me through my days.  I think of A Day To Remember singing "I'm always screaming my lungs out, till my head stops spinning...playing my songs is the way I cope with life" - and it is so raw but so true sometimes.  Actually, much of the time, at least in my life.  And with music and certain songs and artists mattering so much to me, energizing me, consoling me, providing company to the emotions of my solitary heart through poetic metaphors and descriptions, I really need her to not only just understand, but largely feel the same way.  Not that I am going to love every song or band she loves - I want us to be different in some respects so we can introduce each other to new music and keep things fresh....  But yeah, if there is an artist who regularly does something to me with the music they create and lyrics they write, I really, really, really want her to like them too.  Because I will want to talk about it.  I will want to rock out to it on road trips with her.  With or without the windows down, but definitely at the top of our lungs! I will want to listen to it in the background while we kiss softly before falling asleep together.  I will want to go see them live, and take her with me, and have her as excited as me about the show, the event, the experience.  And I will want to text her lyrics that remind me of her and that steal my breath because they are so freaking perfectly written and sung.  Or write them on the bathroom mirror to start her day off with a smile.  If there is no real connection over music, it's a dealbreaker for me.
I will want to text her lyrics that remind me of her and that steal my breath because they are so freaking perfectly written and sung.  Or write them on the bathroom mirror to start her day off with a smile.
Particular shared interests.  This actually matters a ton to me as well.  I want us to be able to enjoy quality time together doing things that we both love.  Because of course then we get to enjoy the activity, which brings us individual joy, and we get to enjoy each other, which brings us corporate joy and strengthens our bond.  For me, I really, really need her to be into fitness through adventure.  Some girls are into fitness, and go to the gym six times a week.  Some girls are into adventure, and have wanderlust, and just want to get out there to see all that the world has to offer.  I need someone with whom I can rock climb random cliffs in Yosemite, or hike up to basecamp at Everest, or snowboard the Alps with me, or carry a 40lb overnight pack three miles down a trail to set up camp under the stars for a meteor shower.  This is my life, in part.  This is how I experience God most powerfully and most viscerally, and it is in these environments that He speaks most clearly to me. And girls who are into this sort of thing tend to have another quality which I find incredibly attractive - they are low-maintenance!  They can just throw something on, pull their hair back into a ponytail, and go.  Gaaahhhhh.  That right there is just perfection.  Seriously.  Girls like this would also do well on the missions trips I love to take every year, where you are often living out of a backpack and don't have a lot of creature comforts around at all.  Because the trip isn't about you, it's about pouring yourself out to help and bless and serve those around you.  Doing missions is my heartbeat, and I need someone who can thrive with me in those situations, and not struggle mightily missing home and what home has to offer. A love for kids.  This is actually very important to me, because I hang out with kids all the time.  Children, teenagers...mostly known through church or church-related activities.  We have pool parties, we play sports, we go to the beach, we watch movies, we give the parents date nights out.  We just have fun.  I have unlimited energy around kids, and just love to love on them and invest in them and show them that a life after God can be full of awe and wonder and excitement and adventure.  And I just need for a girl to feel the exact same way - so we can make a difference in the lives of young people who desperately need and benefit from solid role models.  I am going to keep doing this the rest of my life, regardless of whether I have kids of my own.  It matters so much.  It changes them, and it changes me.  So, yeah, if she's not into hanging out with kids sometimes, it's another dealbreaker.
I have unlimited energy around kids, and just love to love on them and invest in them and show them that a life after God can be full of awe and wonder and excitement and adventure.
------------ Finally, a shared faith is essential.  I will go over this extensively in a future blog entry - and try to convey it in a fresh, unique, and gripping way - but basically, if she is not headed spiritually in the direction I am headed, and if she does not earnestly try to live her life with integrity in ALL areas, there is no chance for anything romantic to develop.  Even if she is the most beautiful girl around, who loves kids, and is into the same type of music as me, and we share a ton of interests.  Again, I'll flesh this out much further in the near future. These are just some of my standards; I definitely have more that are quite important to me.  But I wouldn't even consider being with a girl unless these four were met.  You might think that they are too specific.  Or even too general.  Or just right.  I would just say that these have always, always mattered to me - since my early teenage years.  Think about what you specifically hoped for when you first started dating.  Have your standards changed?  Have they become narrower or broader?  How have your dating experiences affected those changes?  And what have you learned?  Are standards even a good idea, or do they unnecessarily decrease the possibilities and lead to a myopic view and value of guys/girls?  Or, do they keep a person on track so they don't waste time with or give away their heart over and over again to the wrong person?  I really would like to hear your thoughts. Image source: http://bit.ly/2vq76m2

When You Have Wandering Eyes and Thoughts

There are beautiful girls everywhere. They are on the treadmills at the gym, they are in the produce section of the grocery store, they are employees where you work or students where you go to school - they are everywhere. But if you are in a relationship - if God blesses you with a relationship, you had better be all about that other person and not have wandering eyes. It seems easy to slip up. Really easy. Maybe you won't start a conversation that leads to a secret date and then an affair, but the Bible teaches that even if you so much as look at another woman with lust, you've committed adultery. I don't want to slip up. I am scared of slipping up for fear that I will ruin the best thing He's ever given me (and when you've waited on God and your dream comes along, you know it's the best thing and you never take it for granted). I am also scared that I will place a wedge in between Him and I, and I can't handle that distance, I can't do life without Him as close as possible to me.
When I was single, I would see a beautiful girl and my mind would - in the span of just a handful of seconds - create this warm, witty, wonderful conversation that I'd have with her.
When I was single, I would see a beautiful girl and my mind would - in the span of just a handful of seconds - create this warm, witty, wonderful conversation that I'd have with her. Now that I'm in a relationship, I don't let my mind go there. And I have to be really careful when someone new who I could be attracted to comes into my life. The feelings of attraction are not sinful at all, but feeding them is. And our nature is to feed them, to see where things could possibly go. We do this by intentionally making eye contact, by holding their gaze, by making them laugh, by flirting, by a gentle touch on the arm, by physical closeness. All of this seems so innocent, but if you're in a relationship, you are playing with the fire of unfaithfulness and in time I figure that you will get burned. I don't know, but that is what I am thinking, based on other real-life stories I've heard. So, in these situations I have found that something must be done got to cut off your mind at the legs, so that it is not able to run with potentially sinful thoughts. And that something is actually pretty easy, but it feels like a bummer when you do it because it kills all possibility. Which is exactly what you know you want, but goes against the nature of the flesh - which craves attention and personal interest and sexual tension. I am all about my girlfriend, and I couldn't feel more strongly about her. But I also don't trust the sinful bent within me. So, I have learned that when you meet a hot girl, you should - as soon as possible - casually mention that you are in a relationship. That is it.
The feelings of attraction are not sinful at all, but feeding them is. And our nature is to feed them, to see where things could possibly go. We do this by intentionally making eye contact, by holding their gaze, by making them laugh, by flirting, by a gentle touch on the arm, by physical closeness.
About nine months into our relationship, I went to a work-related conference out of state and a hot girl started talking to me around our banquet room table. And I realized that I was enjoying her attention. And I remembered how John Eldredge writes in "Wild at Heart" that due to intrinsic insecurities that guys have, we look to girls to validate us - to make us feel like men. We deeply desire their attention, and their affections, and the affirmation that they give. Donald Miller, in "Searching for God Knows What," similarly speaks about how we no longer listen to God tell us who we are, we look to and need others to tell us who we are (and thereby give us worth). I don't want to live like that, and we are not called to live like that, and I knew that a decision was laid before me. I could talk with her and subconsciously allow my mind (and maybe her mind, which by the way would dishonor her and lead her on) run wild with thoughts of romantic possibilities, or I could cut off my mind at the legs and make it clear that I wasn't looking, that I wasn't interested, that I was taken, and that I was all about the relationship I was in. So, as soon as an opportunity arose to say something like, "My girlfriend and I...." I grabbed it. And I could somehow feel in the air that she was let down (not because I am this super attractive guy who makes all the single ladies swoon - that is far from the truth). And she didn't really talk to me the rest of the conference, even in passing. But I was thankful. Because I did the right thing. I felt lighter, I felt cleaner, and doing the right thing kept that wedge from coming in between God and me, and that is worth everything. Image source: http://bit.ly/2wdmhjr

Why You Need Confidence in God to Have a Healthy Relationship

One of the character traits that stands out about Nehemiah is that he was so secure. And confident. But you can tell that the confidence isn’t in himself – it is in his God. It’s just crazy how his heart broke for Jerusalem, and he prayed hard and fasted and made sure the Lord’s hand was on this idea he had to rebuild the city walls. And from that point, he walked in so much confidence – asking the king not just for time off from his job but also letters for safe passage and supplies, rallying the people when their strength started to falter, confronting the nobles and officials who were cheating their fellow countrymen just to line their own pockets, and ignoring constant mistreatment from Tobiah and Sanballat. In so many ways, Nehemiah could have felt overwhelmed or incapable and just bailed on the entire project. The very fact that the people looked to him alone and counted on him alone for leadership and initiative and encouragement could have drove him over the proverbial edge. But he didn’t freak out. He just continued making forward progress, doing what he believed God wanted. I am sure that as a human, Nehemiah struggled in certain ways, but those struggles did not seem to disable him from accomplishing the Lord’s work. They did cause him to pour his heart out to God in prayer, and beseech His help on a daily basis, which we all need to be doing. But I am just moved and inspired by his steadfastness throughout the entire story. I want that and need that so badly in my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence in God lately, and I’ve determined that when it comes to doing a boy-girl relationship really well – I mean really well – this quality is absolutely critical. I can only speak from the guy’s perspective, but there are many parallels for girls – and so if you’re a girl, let me know your thoughts! Okay, here’s what I think I’ve figured out:
When I struggled with insecurities or interpersonal conflict or significant stress as a teenager, I usually just isolated myself in my bedroom and didn’t talk to anyone, and gave my immediate family the silent treatment because I was mad at the world.
My relationship – and my goal of making it the best relationship ever - needs me to be stable – emotionally and psychologically and spiritually. This does not mean that I shouldn’t be vulnerable when I struggle and share with her what I’m wrestling with, and it doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle – we all will and we all do. It just means that hopefully I struggle less as I become more mature, and that my coping mechanisms are largely healthy rather than dysfunctional. For example, when I struggled with insecurities or interpersonal conflict or significant stress as a teenager, I usually just isolated myself in my bedroom and didn’t talk to anyone, and gave my immediate family the silent treatment because I was mad at the world. I basically pulled out and bailed from life. Not good, I know. This would last for days, during which time I worked through things in my mind, and eventually got over whatever the issue was. I know other teens coped by yelling at their parents, or abusing alcohol and other drugs, or rebelling through promiscuity or other shortsighted adolescent behaviors. These adaptive responses may be normal when considering our developmental immaturity as teenagers, but they are definitely not healthy nor God-honoring. As an adult in a long-term relationship, I still struggle on a personal level with various issues – but I have realized that even if I want to, I can’t resort to my old-ways of dysfunctional coping. I can’t put up “walls” to shut everyone out, because my girlfriend – and others who care about me – want to be there for me and feel helpless if I push them away through silence or sullenness. Now more than ever, it seems, I have to do what is mature and right and appropriate and conducive to growth in my relational skills and abilities. My romantic relationship will sputter if I am a jerk to my girlfriend when I am dealing with personal junk. My Christian witness will crumble if I withdraw and seclude myself from social interaction when I am having a day when I feel like I can’t handle life. My own spiritual walk will start to disintegrate as well. Plus, honestly, I believe that with the Holy Spirit in me and Christ living through me, I shouldn’t have any excuses to be less than God-honoring in my speech and actions and attitude. I don’t care what I’m dealing with. The right thing to do is to be surrendered to whatever He is doing (as painful as it is), to acknowledge the reality of whatever I’m wrestling with, to humbly accept it, and to get beyond myself by trusting Him fully to lead me through the valley into green pastures. Like David said (and oh man, this is one of my all-time favorite verses), Psalm 27:13 – “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” . So, this brings us back full-circle to confidence in God. I am realizing that if my confidence in God is not rock-ribbed and completely solid, I am going to allow the devil and the world various footholds in my life and in my dating relationship and, unfortunately, into a marriage and family (if I am blessed to have children). This is a really big deal. If we are spending our lives praying for and waiting for The One, we don’t want to be caught with our spiritual pants down – and not ready to confidently proceed into the roles of a spiritual leader and priest of the household.
If we are spending our lives praying for and waiting for "the one," we don’t want to be caught with our spiritual pants down – and not ready to confidently proceed into the roles of a spiritual leader and priest of the household.
What is my life like when I am doubting and fearing and a complete mess because I’ve taken my eyes off of Him or failed to keep nourishing myself with His Word or through His people? Well, it sucks. In every way. I get anxious, and I find myself less able to watch my words, and I say things that betray stupid insecurities, and I am moody, and I get caught up in worldly worries and concerns which choke everything else out. What is more, I can’t sit still, and I can’t hear Him, and my quiet times are complete crap, and I get suspicious, and I stop looking for and seeing the best in others, and I get critical and judgmental, and I’m always sizing up others so I feel better about myself. And I waste myself in human effort to make myself feel better about who I am or what I have or what my future will be like, and who I am and what I’m here for starts to become really foggy. And basically, there is just no peace or joy to be found.
...I am wasting myself in human effort to make myself feel better about who I am or what I have or what my future will be like, and who I am and what I’m here for starts to become really foggy...
I am sad to recognize all of this in me, because I really thought that I’d have conquered all of it by now. I know that sounds ridiculous and naïve and even prideful, but I was like – man, I went through so many years in the crucible, where He was shaping me and refining me through so many trials…and it stinks so much that still, even now, the potential for all of that nonsense is there. And so what that shows me is that every single day, I need to be intentionally doing whatever I can to make sure I am growing in my confidence in God. Every single day. Or it will start to erode, slowly but surely. Can you imagine what this is like for your dreamboat when you are a complete insecure mess on a regular basis? It’s not fun. I can’t be the man God needs me to be for her if I am like this. I am not going to be the father I want to be to my children if I am like this. And I don’t think I invite God’s favor on our relationship, marriage, and family when I am like this and I haven’t been purposefully doing what I know I should be doing. Prioritizing Him and seeking Him first and foremost (Deuteronomy 4:29). Feeding myself on His Word (Job 23:12). Praying and practicing His presence (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Camping out on His promises (Psalm 56:11, Hebrews 13:5). Insulating myself from the world’s negative influences (1 Peter 4:4). Deflecting Satan’s arrows with the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). As I close, I just want to be clear that I know it’s not all about “manning up” – which is contrived, hollow confidence that does not last. That is not a house built on the Rock, but a house built on shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-29). I also know that I am going to continue to grow in this area for the rest of my life – just like you are. And, I am going to have bad days – which are perfectly okay to have. I need grace, and so does everyone else – desperately and constantly. I am talking about the big picture, and I am setting in front of me what I believe is a realistic goal to attain. I want my life to be deeply marked by confidence in God like Nehemiah ‘s, so that I can live a similarly meaningful and uniquely appointed existence – powerfully impacting the lives of others, glorifying God, and being a light in this dark world. Image source: http://bit.ly/2wPSGiJ