During college, there was a time where I spent three years being mostly single.
Prior to that I had been in a couple relationships, ones that ended in a lot of hurt. So in the three years that followed, I used a lot of energy envisioning how I wanted any future relationship to go.
I spent deliberate time thinking about what I needed out of a relationship, my standards for the kind of person I would be with, who I was regardless of my relationship status, how to navigate physical boundaries, etc. And while this may seem like a lot of reflecting, I just wanted the next one to go really well. If I’m being very honest, I wanted it to go so well that I would never have to go through a breakup again.
Therefore I knew that, in addition to all this planning and thinking, there was one thing I could do to guarantee a good, lasting relationship: Pray about it extensively beforehand.
Before my three year stint as a mostly single person, I had not made much effort to pray about the men I had dated before actually dating them. “It’s just dating,” I remember telling myself (mostly in high school) and therefore was not a big enough deal to put much serious thought into whether or not the relationship would actually work (you can probably guess how well that frame of mind turned out for me).
So after those few relationships inevitably dissolved, I made the decision that next time I would secure God’s seal of approval beforehand and thus not have to go through any more heartache.
Needless to say, this is not what happened.
Before I began dating my now ex-boyfriend, I did what I said I would and prayed about it. A lot. I prayed what I imagined were typical dating prayers, ones that consisted of me asking doors to either be opened or closed with this man, for us to be on the same page about dating or not, etc. And every time, it seemed, another door would be opened or another feeling confirmed.
I definitely held onto the idea that if God was leading me into this relationship, it was going to be the relationship. I mean, he knew my heart, right? He knew I didn’t want to go through another breakup, he knew I had worked hard to know myself and know God and know what it means to be in a healthy couple. If I was so keenly trying to follow his guidance, he would reward me for that. Wouldn’t he?
It’s important to point out that just because I was thinking this way did not mean I necessarily felt ready to be married, and I wasn’t naive to the reality that sometimes it just doesn’t work out with someone. But you could say I was looking for a sort of insurance plan, one I hoped would protect me from any future heartbreak. I took what I thought to be the green light as God’s way of saying to me, “Don’t worry, this won’t crash and burn.”
And while that relationship didn’t exactly crash and burn, one year later it ended. And I immediately knew I would never be going back to it.
What had happened? Why had it ended if God had led me into it? Had he really led me or had I just imagined he did? Did I even know what being led into a relationship meant? Do I even know now?
Sometimes it’s hard not to feel tricked by God. To have spent years hoping and praying to not suffer yet another breakup, to trust God with my heart which had so often been discouraged and sad and lonely and longing for a permanent person only to have God seemingly pull the rug out from under me and say, “Just kidding.” And of course, this mindset has made it difficult not to feel apprehensive about future relationships I perceive God leading me into.
Because of this situation, I had to reevaluate the way in which I trust God with my heart and desire to be with someone.
I think there is this idea that if two Christian people are dating intentionally and then break up, they weren’t following God’s leading and shouldn’t have dated in the first place. And while this can be true in some cases, I think it could also be true that God will deliberately lead us into a temporary season with someone (and I say this based on my own experience and observations).
Trusting God in these “temporary seasons” is a lot easier when it comes to things like a job, a living situation, etc. It’s much more difficult to accept this about relationships. However, if we genuinely allow God to lead us into something, only our utmost good is ever the result (breakups included).
For me, this means that next time I feel drawn to a relationship in that deliberate, nudging way, I will do my best to trust the God who leads me simply because he is good, not because I am guaranteed something lasting.
Someone once told me that God wants what’s best for us even more than we want what’s best for us.
I’d say that’s a pretty good insurance plan.