Colossians 2:10 has a beautiful answer to that question.
" of the Deity lives in bodily form, over every power and authority."
I haven't gone on any dates for the past nineteen and half years.
But I chose to not go on any dates specifically these past five months, and my dating fast will end in less than two weeks. What have these past five months been like?
Simply opening up every aspect of my life to God this year, including my love life (which I have been so reluctant to give Him) has been an amazing, humbling, gratifying, humbling, and beautiful experience. Did I mention humbling? God has used these past five months to really let me in on somethings I didn't know - and things I didn't know a dating fast would even bring about.
I didn't know that there were people who struggled with the same things that I did - both men and women. Being on a dating fast and interacting with guys as brothers in Christ has given me the opportunity for amazing conversations with men that I wouldn't have been able to have if I had been over analyzing and projecting my hopes for a relationship on them.
I didn't know about the beauty of being spiritually attracted to someone and their walk with the Lord instead of just being attracted to them based on their outward, physical appearance. Because when you can't date someone, you begin to realize their qualities and observe with a general appreciation of who they are in the eyes of God.
I didn't know about how much God can speak to your heart through scripture. Switching my God journal back from a 'talk at God about guys' journal and back into 'talk with God about life' journal has made an incredible impact on my prayer life. Opening up His word on a more regular basis and hearing Him speak to me through liturgy of the hour prayers and the rosary has also been something I wouldn't have been able to tap into if I had been spending my time obsessing over dating. Over and over I was shocked at the immense amount of love that was just waiting for me in those pages.
|What opening the Bible up felt like to me.|
I didn't know how much I loved my sisters in Christ. Both biological and spiritual, I am truly blessed to know some of the best ladies in the world. And I'm not exaggerating. Spending my dating fast as a time to sincerely get to know some of the women in my life was something I will never regret. I've felt friendships get deeper and stronger than I ever have, and have been inspired by them over and over.
Would I advise going on a dating fast? Yes - on the condition of one thing.
Truly discern. Don't go on a dating fast because you've heard that once you go on one, someone will ask you out. Don't start because you're afraid of what a committed relationship would look like, and scared that you're not ready for that in your life. Don't begin simply because your singles status on Facebook has become a bargaining chip that you throw at God.
Yet be prepared.
Be prepared to be blown away by the way that God can speak to you through countless mediums. Friends, family, scripture, a homily, the rosary, the way a tree blossoms in the spring, or the smell of chocolate cologne (which shouldn't be a thing, but it is.)
|Does this make me smell spiritually attractive?|
Be prepared to meet some amazing people who God will put in your life exactly when you need them. Get ready to be awed by the maker of the universe.
God can reach out and touch you through human interaction, and when those around you are open to being His hands and His feet, it really is a beautiful experience.
Am I glad it's over? Hmm....yes and no. Complicated answer, huh? Let me explain.
I am glad to have experienced one-on-one God time. And letting Him really take a hold of my heart and soul and flood it with love. But that isn't something that is going to go away now that the dating fast is over. If anything, that time probably should increase. Because when you are in a relationship with a human being, your relationship with God can't take back burner. You're prayer life can't become something you just do with your significant other and never solo.
But I do think that stepping away from even the thought of a relationship has really let me define what I want a God-driven relationship to look like before I even begin.
My dating fast, despite the fact that I didn't have to physically give up dating or a boyfriend, wasn't a walk in the park. I had an incredible mix of days where I struggled with my emotions. On a Monday, I would so happy to be on the fast, and by Tuesday I felt like beating my head against a wall. There were some knocked-down-dragged-out-crying-in-the-rain nights with the realization of how much I really needed God in my life. Because, put simply, I don't have it together. It's a challenge.
Father Benedict once said "You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness." Let's go out there and live great lives together.
Well, it's been two weeks since the dating fast started.
It has been a crazy ride in such a short period of time.
When starting out the dating fast, of course I entered with visions of grandeur, a clean and tidy dating fast in which I would automatically fall more in love with God. I mean, how could you not?
Little did I count in the fact that my emotions are at sometimes, ok, fine, all the times, crazy.
This is basically how my dating fast prep went:
The month before the dating fast started: Ah, this is going to be the best thing ever for my spiritual life. How have I not done this before? Get to know people without tons of relationships expectations, and just relax. Cannot wait for this dating fast to start.
The day before the dating fast started: Holy canole. What in the world am I getting myself into. I'm in college. If I don't meet someone now, it is only going to get harder. This is huge. This could be the semester where I meet someone. And I'm going to have to say no because I'm on this dating fast.
Day 1: I got this! Heart to heart talks with God, some scheduled time for the Bible, this is great. This is better than great.
Day 5: Ok, it's hard. In fact, it's really hard. I'm surrounded by available, great guys everywhere I turn. In class. In the library. When I go to dinner. At work. In my social groups. Can I just join a convent? This would be much easier if I could do a dating fast with no men around. I feel like the only safe guys to talk to are those who are related to me and seminarians/deacons/priests. I'm so in trouble if this is how it's going to be for the next four months.
Day 9: Ok, how have I never noticed all these couples before? They are literally everywhere? That kid is in 4th grade and has a boyfriend? What am I doing with my life?
And then I caught myself. Because I'd fallen (again) into the trap that what I needed so badly was a relationship with a guy. I was getting tripped up by guys because I was hoping that there was some potential there somewhere. And frankly, that's pretty darn selfish.
Things went from:
"Oh! What a great guy! He opens doors and doesn't cuss and is super into his faith."
"Hmm...what would our relationship look like."
"Thank you Lord for a man of God who serves you with His heart. Strengthen him on his journey and help him do Your will."
There is a great story about three men who go out for a walk on a summer evening. As they stroll through the park, they walk past a young woman in a revealing top. The first man immediately averts his eyes, doesn't acknowledge the woman's presence at all and continues on the walk. The second man indulges in the beauty of the woman for his own good, and cranes his neck to stare at her as she walks past. The third man acknowledges the woman with a friendly smile and continues on the path, and takes a moment quietly pray Psalm 84:1 - "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!"
This can be applied to dating fasts too.
The first approach is to totally avoid guys at all costs. You can't date 'em, you don't even want to see 'em. This results in always wearing earbuds and sunglasses and may or may not include frequent midnight McDonalds runs for food incognito.
The second approach is to go all out. You're on a dating fast, but dating is flirting. Dating isn't texting. You're just lining the options up for when you are done with the fast and in for the feast.
The third option is acknowledge the beauty that God has created in this world (including guys in your life) and thank Him for them. And then, continue along the path.
So, that's the goal for the remaining weeks. Acknowledge and appreciate, then find total fulfillment in God alone. Pretty lofty goals, but with God all things are possible.
Any thoughts? Tips or hints for dating fasts? (pass them over, I will take anything you can give me.)
I love love.
Romantic comedies, Disney movies, life chats about relationships, engagement stories, wedding pictures.
My soul sister is Anna from Frozen because of her jump-in-head-first love mentality. (spoiler, that doesn't end well for her.)
So it may come as a shock that the idea of a dating fast has been on my mind quite a lot recently. And that this semester I'm going to begin a search for authentic love.
And that doesn't just mean no dating. It actually entails a lot.
Whoa. Giving up going out? Flirting? Stalking a guy emotionally (and on Facebook)? Giving up planning out your future children's names and how they will look so cute in baby blazers and chuck taylors? Deleting that secret Pinterest wedding board?
|What will I even do with all my time now?|
I spent my last two years of high school anxiously waiting for college to finally get here just so that things could be different. I spent freshman year with my fingers crossed that if I could get the right friends, do the right activities and be at the right places at the right times, things would change for the better.
A.K.A., I'd get a date. Let's be real here.
Family gatherings or life chats with friends quickly turn to a potential relationship discussion, followed by questions about when I was finally going to go out on date.
|"Don't worry, you'll find someone someday sometime"|
I was living in a little world where I was looking for just the right guy, and in the mean time, I was an incomplete person, waiting for my better half. I felt as if something was missing - something from my life was not there, and when I found that one piece of the life puzzle, it would all fall into place.
And I was right.
But it wasn't a guy who was going to turn things around and lead to sunset-gazing, hand-holding, long-walks-together wonderfulness.
It was the guy.
Or specifically, this guy.
Because I had quickly forgotten in the span of my freshman-sophomore years that I am a daughter of God who is beautiful, unique, and worthy of love. I had forgotten that I was worth more than I could ever imagine. "More than how many girls wish they were me or how many guys wish they had me. Regardless of who I thought I was, the reality was is that I deserved someone who would give up their life for me." (And if you ever need a pep talk this is the one.)
And I had Him. But I'd just brushed Him off into the corner to pull out when I felt like it.
I had let my "God journal" become my "Guy journal." I had so many talks with God on the walks back from class about if He could just work this one out than I would for sure make my daily Bible reading a priority again. And I just needed a spiritual guy leader in my life to help me out.
The one day, I heard a question that shook me.
"If the guy of your dreams were to walk into your life right now, would you even be the kind of girl that he would be looking for?"
And I honestly had to say no. I had spent so much time creating a list of characteristics that I was looking for that it had skipped my mind that I should be working on those virtues too.
Enter the dating fast.
No dating for this Spring 2015 semester. No mentally stalking guys. No pinterest binge nights and rants on how I had everything ready for my future wedding but the guy (which, it turns out, is a pretty important part).
I'm giving God this semester not because I've given up on being found by a great guy. Not because I've dated guys a lot during high school and college and have been burnt by it. Not because I've broken up with the concept of love.
|Nope, not the reason|
But because I want to first fall in love with the man who died to get to know me. Because I'm tired of walking into Mass and scoping it out for potential guys of interest. Because I want to know what an authentic God filled relationship would look like.
Because my life needs some silent time to find out what the voice of God even sounds like...so that when He says "There's the one" I know who is talking. Or that if He says that and points to His son, I can respond without hesitation.
I am in no way saying that dating is a bad thing. In fact, it's very good. You usually can't end up with a great person unless you go on some dates with 'em.
But I don't believe I'm going to be looking back on this fast in five months and saying "Darn it, growing closer to the Lord and treating people like brothers and sisters in Christ was such a waste of time. Wouldn't do that again."
Is it going to be tough? Heck yes. But one of my favorite women of God, Saint Catherine of Sienna, once said, "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."
No one one their death bed looks back and wishes they hadn't gotten to know God and His children better.
So, what are your thoughts? Have you, too, struggled with emotional chastity and dating obsessions? Let me know in the comments below!