When I was 17 years old, I began my collegiate career by attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The largest Christian college in the world. While there is a mixture of different beliefs and cultures in the community, the majority of people that attend are self-proclaimed Christians. With this, comes the conversation of marriage and the “Ring by Spring” mentality.
Almost every freshman in the school (and most other Christian universities) comes in with the expectation of meeting their future spouse. I was no exception. I remember constantly scanning the room for the cute boy that would fulfill my perfect relationship fantasy. The dream was to meet freshman year and be engaged the summer after our junior year. Then we would plan the wedding through our senior year and have the ceremony two weeks after graduation. It just seemed like the perfect plan.
Things didn’t happen that way.
Sure, I met my boy freshman year and thought we’d be together forever. And then we weren’t. And then I met a new boy the beginning of sophomore year. A little behind my timeline, but I figured we could still get engaged at the same point and it would all work out. But then it didn’t. And slowly my lifelong dream of the perfect relationship began to unravel right before my eyes.
A mindset started to arise between myself and my friends who were also believers. We were done with the heartbreak, done with giving away pieces of our souls to men who were not meant to be our husbands. We refused to date again until we were positive that the man we were with was going to be our future spouse. It was a plan that would avoid any and all heartbreak and ensure that we could give the utmost of ourselves to the man we would soon love.
As this mindset settled in, I began a commitment to pray for my future husband for 31 days. I was not prepared for how emotional this journey would be. Over the course of those weeks, I found myself being swept away, absolutely head over heels for a man that I didn’t even know. God began to speak to me about him. About how he felt the same love for me, though he too did not know who I was yet. He told me about how my future lover would pray for me fervently and how he was on the edge of his seat waiting to meet me. I was overcome with joy. I could not wait. It was such a strange and foreign concept to be so in love with somebody I didn’t know, but I was even more determined to wait and not date until I knew who he was.
You can imagine my surprise when I met another boy. No, this is not a post about my newest boyfriend and how he’s my soul mate and we’re going to be together forever XOXO. Actually, the story with this boy also ended and once again went against my perfect relationship fantasies. But the reason he’s so important is because he came with some very shocking instructions from God. I was told to date him, and I was told to not worry about whether or not he was my future spouse. Here I was, fresh out of a whirlwind spiritual romance and ready to wait as long as I needed to, only to be told less than two months later that I should date this other boy regardless of whether or not he was my husband. It made no sense. What about the man who loved me? If this boy isn’t my husband, aren’t I just preparing myself for heartbreak in the end? Why would God want me to be romantic with someone that was meant for another woman?
It turned out the answer was simple: I needed to let go of control.
The no dating rule had been my own decision. God didn’t ask me to do that. God never told me that dating was bad or that I needed to have a ring on it before having a deep, meaningful relationship. He just wants me to trust him to know what’s best for me and stay pure in the process. He wants me to be pure in my emotions. He wants me to guard my heart. He wants me to be able to grow in love for another person without the expectation that in return I’ll receive my dream of a family. He wants me to learn how to become close to a man at a balanced pace and keep my own wants and desires out of the picture. He wants every single step to be ordained by Him, having complete faith that it will work out for the best.
The biggest thing I learned in this last relationship was how to let God take the reins. For the first time in my life, I went through a breakup that didn’t devastate me to my core. As God lead me to protect my heart, I walked out with all of myself intact. Sure, the separation hurt, but the joy of the Lord was my strength and the hope I had in Him left me flawlessly whole.
God may be calling you to wait. He may be asking you to not date anybody until your husband comes around. But God may also want to give you situations in which to learn. He may be wanting you to grow in His perfect love for you through the imperfect love of another human. Don’t put your own expectations on what God wants to do in your life. His plans are perfect, and that will be true regardless of whether or not you’re dating in the waiting.