You do not know how many times I was sad about a boy and people quoted Jeremiah 29:11 to me. So many times that now, whenever I hear that verse (regardless of the topic it's being used to support), I think, "why are we always talking about dating?" Even though the verse, in its original context, isn't about dating at all. (It's about going into exile. Not the same thing.)
In a recent post, I Don't Think God Has A Plan For My Love Life, blogger Emily Maynard addresses this idea, popular in Christian culture, that God has some specific, magical plan for how to set each person up with the perfect spouse. She writes about the ups and downs of dating- hope and excitement in starting a relationship, then disappointment and confusion when it ends. Trying to view all these things as nothing more than steps in the process to get you and your soul mate together doesn't make sense.
"Whenever it’s set up like this, marriage is the happiness offered to me at the end of the plan if I just stick it out. This leaves many of us constantly worrying about whether or not we’re 'on plan' currently or feeling shame and questioning God when things go badly."
(And can I just say, when I saw that Emily Maynard had a post titled "I Don't Think God Has A Plan For My Love Life," I knew it was going to be great. I pretty much knew it was going to be so good I would have to link to it from my blog. Seems like everything Emily writes about dating, purity, modesty, etc, is incredibly insightful.)
I'd like to add to what she said by talking about my own experiences believing in "God's plan for my love life." See I used to think that God had ONE GUY out there somewhere, destined to be my husband. One perfect guy.
Or, you know, maybe not. Maybe instead, God's plan for me was to be single forever. Because I never found anywhere in the bible that said, "And to the women who followed God, he set them all up with husbands. Assuming they're straight, I guess."
So those were the 2 possibilities. Either there was this one perfect guy out there, and I was destined to be with him, and my task was to not date anyone except him, OR God wanted me to be single forever.
In other words, if I am living in full obedience to God, praying, listening to God, etc, then over the course of my lifetime I will date either 1 guy or 0 guys.
Breaking up? TOTALLY not in God's plan. But sometimes necessary if I get myself into a relationship without God's approval.
Because I was taught about "purity" and "guarding my heart." In other words, if I date a guy and then break up with him, then I've lost "part of my heart" which was SUPPOSED to be given to my husband.
So basically, breaking up is The Worst Thing Ever. (Or, I guess it's not as bad as being in a relationship with "the wrong person"- but that's a close contest...) To date a guy and then break up damages me irreversibly.
And can I just say, the average teenage girl ALREADY thinks that breaking up is The Worst Thing Ever and she'll never get over it and she can't live without that guy. WHY THE &#@! does the church, in its promotion of "purity culture" and "guarding your heart", say to her, "Yep, you WILL never get over it."
|Not even God can heal you from a break-up. Image source.|
So. Since I believed that breaking up is The Worst Thing Ever, of course it could never be in "God's plan" for me. So, according to this methodology, if I'm considering whether to date a certain guy, I need to pray about it and only date him if God gives an enthusiastic "YES!"
Because you know, if I date someone and break up, surely it's my fault. Surely there was some warning sign I should have seen before starting the relationship- because you know, if we obey God good enough then we will never go through that. It's my fault for veering off God's plan.
To choose to date someone without receiving an explicit "yes" from God would mean I'm following my own selfish desires, unwilling to trust God, not content in my singleness, settling for less than God's best, etc etc. (And, since that relationship is not part of God's plan, God will abandon me and won't give me any help with relationship issues.) If you just wait, then God will set you up with that one magical perfect person and you'll live happily ever after.
If you just wait... and worry about your ability to hear God, and obsess over the questions "is this the one? is this from God?" every time you have a crush, and shut down your emotions...
Needless to say, I don't believe that any more. I believe God gives us a lot of choices, and there are lots of guys out there who would be great for me (but I have a boyfriend so it's not like I'm looking!). And breaking up is really sad and painful, but the pain doesn't last forever or damage a person's heart permanently. It's not The Worst Thing Ever. Seriously. You get over it.
But I'm thinking about how I would have felt just a few years ago if I heard someone say "I don't think God has a plan for my love life." I would have said "NO!" and tried to argue against it, argue that God is all-powerful, etc- but the real reason for my resistance would be fear. If God doesn't have a "plan", if we go through life and make choices and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, and there's not one "answer" for whether any given couple is compatible- instead it depends on the work they put into the relationship... then how can I possibly avoid The Worst Thing Ever?
If I'm on my own, how can I possibly locate that one guy, somewhere on the face of the earth, who's "right" for me? How could I date someone long enough to know if he was it, and also never risk the pain of breaking up?
So... yeah. This whole confused mess is what you get when you tell girls to just "wait" and "be pure" and God will reward them with the perfect guy. This mess of fear and confusion and guilt. This is apparently "God's plan for your life." I don't believe that any more.
I believe the world is not so scary. I believe God gives freedom. I believe God is always with me, and no decision I make can be so unexpected to him that he's unable to work in my life at all because I'm not on "the plan."
And I DO NOT believe that all my life only has meaning because of the plot line in which it leads up to a hypothetical marriage to a guy hand-crafted by God for me.
THANK GOD I don't have to decipher the instructions for some "plan."