One of the most frustrating ideas I have bought into for many years is the one that implies a significant other is a reward for good Christian behavior.
It’s this concept we perpetuate that says God won’t give you a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend until you have reached this correct “level” in your faith, as though this significant other is some sort of epic gold star for being a good Christian. Holiness achieved, relationship secured.
When I was in college these ideas seemed to be thrown around a lot (whether explicitly or not):
“You don’t have a relationship because you are not fully committed to God yet.”
“God won’t give you a relationship until you get rid of this particular sin in your life.”
“You are not yet ‘worthy’ of a healthy, godly relationship.”
So when my own relationship dissolved my sophomore year, I wanted to prove to God that I could earn a new one. Whether I realized it or not, I told myself, “If I can just give myself fully to God, a boyfriend can’t be far behind.” I bought into the idea that only “good” Christians, really stellar followers of Christ, were deemed ready and worthy enough for a romantic relationship.
I thought I could earn the love of a man through a committed love for God.
One way this mindset affected me was that it mostly left me feeling discouraged and confused. I would see other girls in these beautiful, healthy relationships and ask myself why God had decided they were ready for a relationship and I was not.
In what ways were they being more faithful, more Christ-like than me?
What had they done to earn that awesome godly relationship?
What could I do to show God how much I loved him and therefore prove how worthy I was?
I spent three years wrestling with these questions, with my faith, and with the question of whether or not this was even a valid idea. Eventually, I sort of settled into my singleness and this idea wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. And then I started dating Tucker.
My boyfriend Tucker is the most wonderful man I know, and an absolutely beautiful gift in my life. But when we started dating, I was not at a point in my life where I would have considered myself “on fire” for Christ.
I wasn’t really regularly attending church or part of any small group, and I had spent the summer feeling burdened by prayer and realizing there was little passion in my relationship with Jesus.
In fact, when Tucker officially became my boyfriend, I had just come out of a month of deep depression and anger/confusion towards God. By my own standards I would not have considered myself “worthy” of a relationship.
And yet here I was in one, a beautiful, life-giving one that in many ways is an answer to prayers prayed over the years. I hadn’t “earned” it, and I probably didn’t deserve it (I still don’t).
We need to stop treating romantic relationships as if they are our reward for following Christ or we deserve them in some way.
Are there times in our life where we are more ready spiritually and emotionally for a relationship than we were before? I think so. But no matter where I am at in my faith, I will always be the sinner who cannot earn God’s love, just like I cannot earn the good things he gives (relationships included).
I want to love Christ simply for the sake of loving Christ, not because I think he will give me a relationship for it.
And I’m thinking that’s not how it works anyway.© Julia Feeser and HelloSoul, 2014.