Archive | May, 2012

Dating In Community: What Does It Actually Look Like?

20 May

We’re all in this together…except when it comes to my dating relationship. What?! Why would I isolate myself from those who know me best?

The term “dating in community” has come up a lot lately both in my circle of friends, with my roommate, and as I’m reading more from dating experts.

What does it actually mean?

It sounds like a nice enough concept but sometimes it’s harder than it looks. True confession: I’ve made my home on Boy Island more than once and it’s only after I emerged during the breakup phase of the relationship that I realized that I wasn’t actually letting my friends and family into my relationship. Otherwise, had I let them in, they would have seen red flags months before and noticed how much I was changing and not being me in those relationships, and alerted me to that fact. Would it have made a difference? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it would have likely saved me time being in relationships that were not right for me.

As I watch my friends date and I go out on dates, I notice that there’s this tendency to close off from other people. At the beginning, this is normal. You’re getting to know someone, you’re in the “fun” phase of the relationship, and all you really want to do is spend time with the new person in your life. That’s fine. But after the newness starts to fade, some people (myself included) often make the mistake of staying in their little twosome bubble and not allowing friends and loved ones to be a part of the relationship. Please don’t mistake this: I’m not advocating that dating in community means that we need to tell everyone in our community our deepest darkest secrets or spend no time with our significant others without a third party present. What I’m noticing is this trend to separate off into couplehood quickly without completely understanding the ramifications of that decision. And there are ramifications.

From what I’ve noticed, when a couple becomes exclusively “a couple”, some tend to drift quickly toward co-dependency and then suddenly doing things alone seems impossible. Also, the stable networks of friends and family go by the wayside and often feel neglected and ditched when it doesn’t have to be this way.  If the couple would think about hanging out in group settings once in awhile, finding some close co-ed couples to hang out with (maybe even married people who they trust), getting to know each other’s friend networks…this might actually be healthy. Then dating in community would be possible and breakups might not be so completely devastating. (They are bad enough because of the fact when breakups happen, it’s like losing a best friend. But when you wake up and realize you’ve lost all of your friends, that makes the transition from couplehood to singlehood again even more precarious.)

The pattern I notice (and I’ve been this girl) is that once a girl and guy break up, a girl suddenly realizes she needs her friends but because she’s been MIA for many months at a time, her friends feel resentful that they now have to be there for her when she hasn’t reciprocated the friendship due to her relationship with her former boyfriend. Her friends, being rockstars, often begrudgingly help her through her breakup and then she sees how neglected they’ve been. Then she goes off and does it again. It’s a pattern. We all do it, to some degree because it’s natural to shift priorities, have less time, etc when you start dating. But noticing the pattern and committing to date in community could be a healthier way to date in the long run.

Dating in community to me means not becoming one of those people that gets so sucked into their one relationship that they neglect everything else. Work, friendships, family obligations, self-care time, spiritual time, schooling, and other things that fill your schedule shouldn’t just completely fall by the wayside as soon as someone starts to capture your attention. It’s a delicate balance. It’s definitely not easy.

I have several ideas of how to date in community. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m also a student in this respect, wanting to learn how to do it well.  But what I’m going to do in my next relationship is  to be open about it with various people and let them into the process through prayer, time spent with me and my significant other, conversations, and by asking for accountability in this area.

Sometimes love means having the ability to say to your friends, “I want you to help me date well because I lose myself in relationships. I need your eyes, ears, and knowledge of who I am as I do this.”

What will this look like? 

-Have my friends and family get to know the guy before I’m too serious and get to see us in the context of our relationship. Ask questions. Am I still me? How am I doing on my boundaries I set for my time apart from the new guy? How do I behave when I’m around him? How does he behave? Does he treat me well? So many times my parents have told me after the fact that they didn’t like the way I was treated by many of the guys I’ve brought home to meet them. And they were right. But I wasn’t at a place where I wanted to hear them because I liked my little spot on Boy Island and I didn’t really want to leave. That’s why when dating in community it’s essential that you…

Listen to the answers! If there are red flags, what am I going to do about those? If I’m staying in the relationship because I’m too afraid of the pain of a break up, I need to admit this to my friends and hopefully they will help me make the decision to end things irregardless.

Talk to married people, not just single people. They will help me know if this guy is a keeper and knowing marriage, they will be able to see things that my single friends might miss. Love my single friends. They know me so well. But getting a broader perspective is key.

Not succumb to pressure by others to make a quick decision but have fun dating and getting to know someone. It’s not helpful when people start throwing out the “M” word wayyyy too early. Not helpful at all. You can tell your community to “SHHHH!” if they are doing this to you. I’ve had to say that before to others.

-To Facebook or Not To Facebook? Funnily enough, part of dating in community has now become all about social networking. Do we share this info about our new dating relationship with our social networks and how? When? Trying to make a good decision about “going public” is huge in the context of dating in community. Thinking about and discussing this topic is important. I will blog more about this another time.

There’s a lot of other ways to “Date in Community.” Have you done it? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? I’d love to hear so that we can start idea sharing and help each other grow.

How Jury Duty Landed Me What Could Possibly Be My Dream Job Or Joy In The Midst Of Trial By Jury

4 May

I’ve often said that God has a funny sense of humor, especially when it comes to the events that play out in my life. For months I’ve gotten very close to some promising job opportunities, almost every time to have the door shut in my face. I’ve been on a quest to try to discover what it is that I’m supposed to do with my talents, gifts, and passions. Meanwhile, I’ve plugged away at work, trying the best that I can with the knowledge that I’m underemployed and could do so much more. So instead, I poured myself into my second job and out into volunteer activities – life group leading, counseling friends on relationships, and, sometimes reluctantly letting God test me in the areas of patience, joy, and trust. Throughout this time, I’ve been through some very hard seasons of growth. I’ve learned to let go of relationships that I had to realize weren’t working the way I’d hoped. I’ve had the rug ripped out from underneath me just when things were starting to get good. I’ve learned what sacrificial love looks like in my life (re-read blogs if you don’t believe me). I’ve learned how to date in Christian community, take risks, love when it hurts, and want the best for the people I’ve dated. And I’ve tried to be a voice in my community when it comes to loving people well, to date, and to breakup well (if it comes to that). It’s been quite a journey and I’m so thankful for those of you who have been on it with me.

But, despite all of these facts, I NEVER in a million years thought when I walked down to Courtroom O to report for jury duty on a civil trial that I would also be walking into my next job. How could I know that less than a month later I would say yes to working for a company that specializes in online dating and wants to specifically grow one of their websites aimed at Christians? Who could have guessed?! But God knew.

I met my Jury Duty Friend (who shall remain nameless for the time being because I haven’t asked her permission to be a part of my blog) the first day. Funnily enough, we got on the topic of online dating. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had decided to join one of her parent company’s websites merely weeks before for trial (mostly because I realized I hadn’t been following my own advice that I’ve written about being actively available and taking the risk). We talked about that and joked that my one month membership was almost up. I joked about giving her my resume because she said she might know of a position opening up at her company… Little did I know that this conversation would bring me to accepting a job that not only will allow me to have a free membership to her website but will give me crazy opportunity to be influential in the realm of Christian dating and offers me so much beyond all that I would even dream for a job in terms of benefits, time off, perks, and bonus structures.

Now let’s get this straight. I’ve been vacuuming up pee water (the worst aspect of my current job). Now I will be assisting top executives and hopefully have a chance to write some of the ideas I’ve shared here to the Christian subculture at large. Who could have guessed? I’ll tell you who. God.

He knows me so intimately. What I need. What I want. Where I find my joy. Where I don’t. I’m not saying this job is going to be the end all be all, but when your book about sacrificial love and community has been on the back burner, when your blogging about the same topic has slowed, it’s nice to have the mission reinforced by getting a job where you will be paid to think about these things and to interact with people on the forefront of these issues. It’s nice to be reaffirmed. There’s so much more to say about this journey I’ve been on. I’ve been trying to discern where God wants me, agonizing over whether I should take another competing job using other passions of mine, and then watching the deal for this job just keep getting sweeter and sweeter. To have a great company want you is a glorious thing. When not vacuuming pee water, I’ve loved my time at my current job. In some moments, I’ve felt trapped in a web of my own making.

So here I go. On to hopefully give my ideas, share my wisdom, and love a whole new group of people. Who could have planned that? A God who knows me, loves me, hears me when I call, and makes the path of life known to me. I am so thankful. Here’s to new journeys, new growth, and to jury duty, a seemingly boring universally known-to-be horrible situation which most people complain about openly even though it is our civic duty and really, privilege , which I actually loved, and which completely changed my life. 🙂

Guess What Happened When I Didn’t Eat For Three Days…

1 May

Sunset near the beach I was at during the fast

I fasted for three days before Easter. No food, just water. I’ve never done anything like that before and while some might think it to be crazy, I did it in solidarity with my church after our pastor invited us to participate. It wasn’t a competition, although I was surprised that so many people I talked to felt like they had failed when they had to break the fast because of medical reasons. Fasting should always be in order to get closer to God, and it did just that for me. When you don’t eat for three days, every time a meal comes around or even when it doesn’t and you think about your stomach, you have no choice but to think about God and realize we are not promised much in this life and yet we seem to have ample amounts of food.

Being that it was holy week, I thought about the sacrifice that Jesus made for me more than once. I can’t believe he was able to do forgo food for forty days and be tempted! I at least was able to avoid food places and keep my refrigerator full of unappetizing things, but to have bread dangled in front of me or all the power in the world offered to me so that I could change my circumstances would most definitely have been too much. By the end of day 2, I couldn’t get Chic Fil A out of my mind! I had been a strict plant based eater for two months before the fast and suddenly, all I wanted was chicken. My roommate and I even hatched a plan to get it the day after we broke the fast, which happened to be her birthday. (We ended up first going to the one in Hollywood but some half marathon prevented us from even getting close and although it was way out of our way, we ended up at the USC Chic Fil A savoring our chicken sandwiches.) Needless to say, I got a little sick after that and decided that was NOT a good idea. Note to self and to the rest of you: break your fast slowly and if you’re going to Chic Fil A the day after breaking it, be sure to not get the biscuit sandwich AND the chicken nuggets. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

Throughout the fast, I did something I hadn’t done before. I prayed three times a day. Some call it “praying the hours” and it comes from a tradition where you can connect to God during meal times (there’s a lot more to this. Google it if you want more info). Prayers mean more when you realize how reliant on God you actually are. I started to see God as a provider and I was so incredibly thankful. My words came alive. I meant them and my hunger made me focus on each one in a deeper way. Sometimes I’ve heard about fasting that your hunger is deeper than just a surface level. That was true of me. I realized how much I needed to hear from God on so many issues in my life. I wanted clarity on career decisions and movements. I needed help seeing myself realistically as loved and forgiven. I wanted to give him my regrets and shortcomings.

In this sweet time of communing with my God, I learned to get out of the way.

Because I was more tired than usual, I couldn’t keep up the break neck pace that I so often set for myself. I was forced to slow down. In a year when the word I’ve chosen is “Aware”, nothing made me more aware of God and of myself than not being able to eat for three days. Suddenly everything became more focused. While I would think about what I was going to eat at the end, I was also forced to think about that moment and how I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be yet. And in that, I let go. I had to. Otherwise the food cravings would have driven me crazy. Day 2 I was ready to give up. Day three though, I felt fantastic. I had some mysterious energy that drew me forth. I wasn’t needing food or anything tangible to make me happy, I was just happy because I could be. It was definitely a new freedom that I really enjoyed.

My favorite moments from the fast were on Good Friday. We had an awesome service at church and many came to be together in community to experience the evening together. We took communion around a large table. Everyone when up individually and had their own sacred moments kneeling in front of the bread and juice. I found my eyes welling up with tears from the beauty of it. Oh how desperately we needed God then. Sometimes we pretend we don’t.

The fast taught me that I’m actually not in control of much in this world. My attitude, yes. My blessings, no. Those are all from God. Every morsel of food I buy. My car when it works and when it doesn’t. My friendships. My singleness or the relationship I have. My family. My money. All the dreams I have for my life. All the ones that didn’t come to pass for one reason or another. It all belongs to God. Taking those few days to pause and remember that changed my rhythm.

Suddenly I find myself reaching out to new people I wouldn’t have met before because encounters don’t feel like chance anymore. I’m more grateful for each day. While I don’t want to waste time, I also have learned to enjoy little moments a bit more than I had previously. I’ve encountered “slow” and I’m not as afraid.

I’m sure the fast’s purpose will continue to become evident to me as time goes on. And I might even try to do a fast once a month for a day just to remember all the lessons I took away and to connect again in those special moments with a God who loves me for all that I am. I know in a deeper way that just to be created and to enjoy that creation is enough. And it’s from that place I want to live my life.

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