sitting_textingI’ve had this post sitting in my draft folder for a while, blinking at me. You’re bound to write me one day.

When I received four emails in two days from girls asking, “How do I meet men?” saying, “I haven’t even been asked out!” and wondering, “Is it wrong to go looking for guys to date?” I figured it was time to bite the bullet and dive in.

I was hesitant to write this because there will be trolls who show up – bitter, angry women who believe there really aren’t any good men left in the world – who will shun, shame and bash what I have to say here. That’s okay. I’m used to it. And I’m not going to let the bitterness of a few ruin hope for the many.

Truth is – I’ve been there. I mean, I grew up in northern Michigan, which is essentially like living on an island since there’s water on three sides and only one way out: Ohio. It was easy to think my options were limited, since dating one of my many guy friends was perilous business (the age-old ‘don’t want to ruin the friendship’ issue).

Like almost everything else I write about on this blog (kissing, dating standards, modesty, submission, men), there are two extreme camps on this issue. One implies women should spend life in their living rooms, skip college, and wait for a man who pursues them. The other vouches for ’empowerment’: citing ‘equality’ as reason enough for women to ask men out on a date the same way a man would ask a woman. Women are encouraged to pursue men and make their availability wantonly clear.

And there we are, God’s women, sitting in between these two camps: one piously citing faith in a very unseen suitor, the other out every evening with a different guy.

What’s a girl to do?

I grew up immersed in ‘purity culture’. I’ve read the books, heard the speakers, gone to the conventions, worn the ring – I know the system. Unlike other writers, I didn’t abandon ship, thanks to the grace of God. But this doesn’t mean purity ‘culture’ isn’t without its flaws. Anytime we try to take a grace-driven virtue and narrow it down to a list of rules, legalism will emerge. And where legalism lives, you’ll see some passionate people clinging to ideas that aren’t expressly biblical.

Then, in true human-nature fashion, there will be another faction who arises to combat those ‘heresies’ with their own extremist views…

…Which leaves us where we are today. How can a godly woman meet men, and is it wrong to even want that? Where is the line between being pursued and pursuing? Should a Christian woman ‘put herself out there’?

As a married woman looking back on 12 years in ‘purity culture’, I think I’ve finally realized the place of balance this issue needs, which is what I’m sharing today.

Simply Wait and Have Faith

I walk to the university bookstore, across the street from Liberty University’s welcome center where I work, and stroll through the ‘women’s devotional’ aisle.

Lady in Waiting… I Kissed Dating Goodbye… Waiting for Prince Charming…

I cringe a little. These books are good. I’ve read most of them. But I see why the feminists gnash their teeth: Are you really  just waiting around for a man?! Well no, of course not, the books argue. We are waiting on God’s timing and filling that time by serving and knowing Him.

Okay, so we accept that at age 18. How about at age 25, seven years later, when we’ve gone on one or two dates and still don’t see the ‘promise’ fulfilled? This is where girls jump off the bandwagon (and I talk about this in The Purity Ring is Not the Problem). They wait and wait, grow in their faith, and follow the unspoken ‘rules’ of their culture:

Never ask a guy out.

Never seem like you’re pursuing a guy.

Just have faith God will bring the right person at the right time.

So they continue serving in their church, attending their ladies’ Bible study, and quietly moving on the fringes of a 20-something world. But inside they begin to wonder: Will I be single forever? Are there any good men out there? Is it wrong for me to LOOK for a man?

There is a stigma on putting yourself in a place to meet a potential spouse. The stigma runs so deep it challenges the depth of faith, saying if we seek out a spouse we are 1) insecure and needy; and 2) don’t have faith in God’s promise and timing. Neither of these statements are biblical.

Seeking for and hoping for a spouse isn’t ‘insecure and needy’ unless you’re seeking the spouse more than you’re seeking God (read Matthew 6, specifically 6:33). Women whose confidence and hope are founded in Christ have open hands to receive God’s gifts, while living fully right where they are (more details on how this is accomplished in Contentment is Not a State of Being).

Placing yourself in company which gives the potential of meeting more men is not ‘faithlessness’: in fact, Abraham sent his servant on a journey expressly to find a godly wife for his son Isaac (Gen. 24). Was Abraham lacking faith for not believing God could bring a Rebekah to Canaan for his son? To the contrary, Abraham was acting on His faith that God wanted a righteous spouse for his child (and in that day, they achieved those ends through arranged marriage – not so the case today). Seeking out godly company is acting on faith: faith that God has a plan and timing for your future, and taking a step of faith in His provision. That involves risk. But it might mean you date someone who isn’t actually ‘the One’.

God Never Said You’d Marry the First Person You Date

“I dated this guy and had my heart broken. Now I’m ashamed, because I’ve lost something I could have given to my husband.”

I got that email and wanted to bang my head against the wall.

God never said you’d marry the first person you date. Every relationship is not meant to work out for marriage. Do we marry our girl friends? No. Do we marry our parents, siblings, bosses, and coworkers? I hope not! The sole purpose of relationships – dating and otherwise – is not marriage. The purpose of relationships is for us to reveal God’s love and grace to the people God has placed in our lives for that period of time.

Jesus talks about this concept in the parable of the Good Samaritan, depicted in Luke 10. When Jesus stated that the two greatest commandments were to “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (10:27), the rich young man asked, ““And who is my neighbor?” (10:29) Jesus replied with the story of the beaten man and the unlikely person who helped him.

The Samaritan was in the life of that injured man for a very short period of time. They probably never became BFFs, bought matching charm necklaces and played Snapchat tag the rest of their days. And I bet they didn’t get married. But during that period of time, the Samaritan showed that person God’s love and mercy.

“But what about intentional dating? Didn’t YOU do that, Phylicia?”

Why yes, yes I did. I don’t encourage frivolous dating of guys you see no future with. But I also don’t encourage girls to make slap judgments about men based on appearance, hobbies, or first impressions. The facts are, you can’t always know if a guy is marriage quality until you’ve gone on a date or two. Yes, that might mean going out with a guy who is not your ‘type’. It might mean giving a guy a chance. It might mean ruining that ‘perfect report card’ by NOT marrying the first person you date.

And that’s okay.

Am I saying ‘date losers’? Um, no. I have confidence that my readers are in God’s Word, loving Him, and seeking Him – which will give them the wisdom and discretion to see through a loser.

But if you’ve pursued a holy relationship with someone (one of the reasons the physical standards of Christian relationships are so important) and it doesn’t work out, you aren’t ‘ruined’. You learned something about yourself, your weaknesses, and what needs to change. Even Josh Harris agrees with this point in his book, Boy Meets Girl. Relationships are an opportunity to receive God’s grace and refinement, and to give God’s grace and mercy. And if it doesn’t work out – carry on.

We’re Going on a Man Hunt

Here’s the thing: there is a difference between going to a horse auction and bidding on a particular horse.

Great analogy, I know.

Purity-cultured girls think expressing any interest in a man at all equates to pursuit, and ‘thou shalt not pursue’ has been engraved as the 11th Commandment – right next to #12, ‘Thou Shalt Not Kiss’. Listen: expressing interest in a man, especially one who expresses interest in you, is neither ungodly nor ‘unfeminine’. Yes, we live in a forward culture that writes numbers on napkins. But don’t overreact and expect a man to guess your interest level in him – then complain when you don’t get asked out on a date! This idea is an offshoot of the arguments for ’emotional purity’. Emotional purity – not allowing your emotions to dictate your actions, and submitting your thoughts to God – is a fantastic endeavor and is definitely a biblical concept (2 Cor. 10:5). But emotional purity does not mean we deny emotion and interest altogether.

Was Ruth ‘unfeminine’ for approaching Boaz?

“That was a different culture.”

Yes, it was, but God fulfilled His plan and Ruth’s desires within that culture. And we live in a very ‘different’ culture as well. Whether you like it or not, the guys you have to choose from live and operate in this culture. Not in Victorian culture. Not in ancient Jewish culture. In this culture.

…Which means we have to operate in this culture, too. I’m not saying we compromise purity, holiness, and upright living by throwing ourselves at every schmo. I’m saying we seek holiness while being realistic about the times in which we live. And in these times, men don’t usually show up at your parlor door, flowers in hand, after seeing you at the barn-raising last week. This isn’t Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

In these times, single men and single women go to college, get careers, become entrepreneurs, attend large churches, get involved in community, and cultivate hobbies. They are busy. They move a lot. Today couples don’t always have their parents’ stories: the stories of attending the same high school and growing up in the same small town. Today, the young men in small towns might leave for the city. They might bike across the U.S. They might go to the Philippines as missionaries.

If God’s will is for you to get married, He will definitely bring that about in His timing. But I also believe that God brings His Will to fruition in our lives as we cooperate with Him in humility (if you’re a Calvinist, you’ll disagree with me on that point). If God has given you a desire to get married, and you don’t see any prospects on the horizon, why is it wrong to look for opportunities that both fit your passions and may also enable you to meet more men?

Is this a lack of faith?

Is this selfish?

I say it is neither faithless nor selfish, and here’s why: if the desire for companionship is a God-given desire (Gen. 2:18, Ecc. 4:9-12) and we are entrusting those desires back to God (Psalm 37:4) instead of setting them up as pseudo-gods in our hearts (Col. 3:5), the opportunities we pursue will serve to either fulfill that desire or strengthen our faith in God’s timing.

I’ll leave you with four things to remember:

Distrusting God’s provision leads to desperation.

Faith in God’s provision leads to contentment.

Self-motivated choices result in confusion and lack of peace.

God-motivated choices result in wisdom and peace.

I can testify the truth of all these things as I look back on my singlehood. When I distrusted God, I began to feel desperate. But when I trust God’s timing, took the step of faith and gave a chance to the man who wasn’t really ‘my type’ – He wrote a love story I could have never imagined.

A Christian woman doesn’t put herself out there in the sense that she asks men out and writes “Call for a Good Time” in Sharpie across her forehead. She puts herself wholly into Christ, and His work in her life acts as an advertising agency to God’s men. As she pursues God’s calling in her present position, God may choose to move her into a locale that provides more opportunities to meet His sons – and she can be ready and willing to meet them!

Practically, what does this look like? I think this opens a lot of doors women are slamming shut. I think it means looking for co-ed Bible studies. I think it means joining new groups in your community, trying out new hobbies and developing new interests. I think it can mean taking up that offer for a blind double date. I think it means letting yourself be set up by a friend. It could mean trying out online dating. It means women stop putting God in a  box and expecting Him to magically bring someone into their lives, by faith, without taking any action on that faith.

God is all-powerful, and for some, that ‘magical appearance’ could be their story! But He also gave us a free will, within His Will, to act, live, and interact with other people. Take Him up on that opportunity.

If you are living in God’s will, worshiping at His feet, obediently listening for His calling, you can be trusted to make a move that will honor God without denying the desires within your heart. God already knows your heart. Trust Him with it, live freely, and don’t be afraid to take the risk that love will always be.

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