My Dating Relationship :: What I’ve Learned

We have a unique story, one of redemption and growth and healing. Maybe one day I can write more about our story, but for now God’s asked me to extend to you the things I’ve learned.

*Disclaimer: I’m no expert, and I don’t think anyone really is, but I do believe He’s taught me a lot and that He’s called me to share.

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What spiritual leadership really is.

Before entering into this relationship, I had a huge expectation built up for what a spiritual leader looked like. He would be a teacher and talk about what God was doing in his heart all the time. He would do Bible studies with me daily and pray over me all the time. His ministry would be in the church and he would spend a lot of time there.

For some of you with guys that are called to that place of ministry and have the spiritual gifts of teaching and evangelism and have an extroverted personality, that expectation is probably similar to what his spiritual leadership over you looks like. {I won’t say that praying together often and reading Scripture together aren’t important, because they are, but I will say that those things come so much more naturally to those with different gifts, just as being sure in trusting God comes more naturally to those with the spiritual gift of faith.}

I recently sat down with a friend that’s now engaged, and she agreed that she had the same expectations. It’s funny how we turn even the good desires into harmful cookie-cutter stencils for what God has for us. She reminded me that comparison is the thief of joy, and helped me to see that I was comparing him to someone in my head that wasn’t even real, and comparing him to other guys that God built differently for different purposes.

My guy’s spiritual gifts are generosity and faith and, once I realized the ways he leads me by using those, my expectations began to be labeled as expectations, not criteria. The ministry God’s called him to looks like a power plant. That’s his mission field. So does it all look like what I pictured in my head? No, but it’s better…because it’s what God has made him to do- who He’s made him to be.

I’ve gotten to replace those expectations with ways I see him lead me that I never considered to be important, but that God knew I needed. My guy always points me back to Jesus, especially when I show doubt in His plan for me. His spiritual gift of faith steps in and speaks truth to my worried heart often. He sets boundaries to keep our relationship pure. He pursues our relationship in prayer. He encourages me to use and better my gifts and validates my value in them when I begin to feel insecure and discount myself. He’s not naturally fantastic with putting his feelings into words, but the work of God in his heart is displayed in his actions. He challenges me with the way he gives his time and his money to bless other people constantly with his heart of generosity, as well as giving back to God what’s already His.

He lives his life loving God and I get to watch and do it with him. He sets an example for me, and that’s the way he spiritually leads me.

How to extend grace and what it feels like to receive it.

Let me just be real with you here and tell you that in a relationship of two imperfect people, it’s easy to get frustrated. Some days I’m in a bad mood or I’m a little bit whiney, and some days he’s pretty grouchy too. And that’s just life. But it’s important to always choose to show grace by remembering how often Christ extends it to us.

To be humbled in realizing my own sins and shortcomings.

When you’re with another person for a while, it’s very easy to point out their shortcomings. You may have experienced this with your significant other, or maybe even your siblings, best friend, or parents. And most of the time it’s so easy to point these things out because they’re different shortcomings than our own, but it is so important to be reminded of Christ’s love and forgiveness for us.

To realize that my sins are equal to his no matter how different they look to me takes some serious humbling of myself. I think this is because when I focus on his shortcomings, it takes the spotlight off my own.

To appreciate growth and the period of waiting.

In my season of singleness, I wasn’t so constant in being thankful to be where I was. I complained, questioned, and pitied myself. I was often jealous of my friends with boyfriends and envied their joy. It wasn’t until the latter part of that time that I refocused my heart from desiring a relationship with a man to desiring a relationship with God alone. I chose this almost daily because I realized how detrimental I was being to my relationship with Him and to my spiritual growth by having the wrong focus. I began to wait on the Lord more, not just for answers but for strength, patience, His desires for me, and truth when I kept hearing all the lies in my head about why I was single.

During that time of singleness and waiting on the Lord, He grew me in faith more than I ever thought possible. He healed my heart, knocked down my misconstrued view of love, and showed me what real Love looks like in action and word.

Because of that time that God allowed me to grow and wait on Him, my relationship with God and with my guy are better. I am not the same person, and I see now that if He would have given me a relationship any time before He did, it wouldn’t have been good for me or the guy. I needed to see my value in God first before I was brought together with any man. I needed to be shown what real Love looks like before I trusted anyone else with my heart.

How to be intentional with words from a distance.

With the two of us in separate cities, we don’t get to have dinner together whenever we want and other normal things, so the majority of our conversations happen over the phone. If you don’t know this already, it is a lot harder to show someone you care about them with a text message rather than being with them in person.

Something I’ve loved doing to combat this struggle is to do my best to serve him with my words of encouragement, as well as to be intentional about saying things God has wired him to need to hear.

Over the years and recently, I’ve learned some things about the differences in the ways men and women need affirmation. As a woman, I want to be comforted and feel taken care of. A man, on the other hand, wants to know that we as women appreciate the way they take care of us, to know we feel safe with them, and to hear that we value their leadership. This sounds silly even to me as I type it, but because I have different needs than him, I wouldn’t naturally know to say things he needs to hear otherwise.

How to show I care without saying the Three Words Most Misused.

‘I love you’ is a phrase that is thrown around so carelessly, especially with young people. I know because I did the same thing in previous relationships and, by doing so, became a person who had the wrong view of love.

Love is a choice, not a feeling. When you say, ‘I love you,’ you’re saying ‘I choose to love you even when I don’t feel like it, even when it’s not easy, even when you drive me absolutely insane.’ It’s so important that, when you decide to say this to someone, you know what you’re promising them.

I’m really appreciating this time of not saying those words, but seeing him show me how much he cares and getting to show him how much I do. Because of my story and the way I’m wired, actions speak so much louder than words, so seeing him do things for me, take care of me, point me to Jesus, and do other things to show me he cares has been so sweet and meaningful (I mean I don’t think I’ll ever get used to him buying me coffee). In addition, my respect is higher of him for not saying it before he believes we’re ready, because that’s a form of guarding our relationship and guarding my heart.

How to indulge in differences.

My guy and I are very different, but in some ways the same. We both have chill personalities and are introverts, and we both enjoy peace and quiet and drinking coffee.

At the same time, he loves to go to haunted houses for fun (which…I just can’t), and I love going to my sorority’s dances and dressing up really nice (which isn’t exactly his favorite thing). But we’re willing to do those things for each other for the sake of each other.

How to receive this gift from God.

Especially in the beginning of this relationship, I had a hard time believing that this relationship was real life. By that, I mean I was feeling the weight so heavy of being undeserving and, as a result, doubted the idea that God would choose to bless me in this way. What’s so cool about this is that I am undeserving. As a result of my sin, I don’t deserve any of the blessings God gives me. But He chooses to bless me and give me good things anyway.

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These are just a few things that I’ve learned on this wonderful journey so far. I’ve been transparent and (almost nervously) honest and vulnerable. I hope what I’ve shared with you sheds light on something you need to hear today.

Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!

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3 thoughts on “My Dating Relationship :: What I’ve Learned

  1. Wow Taylor, this is a helpful and insightful post. Hold onto this. You will need in the future. We have been married for over 20 years, seen a lot of couples … and what I read here is true. Be oh so gracious and have done with comparison. Thankful … Blake

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