Being the curious person that I am, I love to read all the books and blogs, watch inspiring sermons, and listen to thought-provoking podcasts. It's been such a season of learning for me that I thought I'd put together a post summarizing some of what God has been teaching me (especially when it comes to dating, waiting, and singleness). I've organized everything into four main lessons God's been teaching me.
1. Focus on seeking first the Kingdom, and go deeper in your life of worship and faith.
I'm listing this lesson as #1, because it's foundationally important to navigating any and every season we face, whether it's singleness, dating, marriage, parenthood, etc. Seasons of waiting and transition offer us unique opportunities to deepen our roots of faith, and trust our Good Father in new ways. Ask Him what He's calling you to do or learn in this specific season of life (even if it's unwanted). How is He calling you to serve? How is He equipping you for where you are (and possibly what's ahead)? How can you be faithful right where you are? There are so many things happening behind the scenes that we can't see. But no matter what season we find ourselves in (and no matter what season we may be longing for), He's inviting us to discover who He is and all He is capable of doing in and through us. Get lost in that discovery process and allow Him to change you in the midst of it.
2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind and the refining of your character.
This isn't an easy one, I know. But as I mentioned in lesson #1...God cares about our growth and transformation. In fact, as Nicole Reyes said in one of her videos on following God's call on your life, God cares more about inward transformation than He does about outward promotion. Be open to His work in you. Ask Him what areas He wants to grow and prune you in. Focus on filling your mind with His truth, His wisdom, and not what the world tells you. There are so many lies I've believed that have caused me to live (and date) from a place of discontent, discouragement, fear, and frustration, rather than hope, faith, and victory in Christ. As a single, if we can learn to cultivate a mind that overflows with joy and hope and faith, we will then be able to produce that fruit in dating and marriage, too.
3. Become a good steward of your emotional health.
Pain from our past can prevent us from living in freedom and stepping into all God has for us. Unresolved pain and bitterness in our lives becomes bondage. Ask God if there are any places or areas where you need healing. Then take the time to do what's necessary to truly heal where you need to heal, so you are fully ready when God does bring the right person into your life. I think it was Steven Furtick who said that if you're not ready, you can turn the right person into the wrong person. That was convicting for me! I've also been learning it's important to be a good steward of our emotions while dating. This means keeping in step with the Spirit, as well as dating in community, so we aren't tempted to rush ahead, and we aren't blinded by feelings of romance or infatuation. Being a good steward of our emotions means being aware and able to recognize what we are feeling, but also knowing how to put our emotions in their proper place and be guided by faith over feelings.
4. Be faithful and FLOURISH!
Seasons of waiting and transition have gotten a bit of a bad wrap. And I get it. I'm the first one to admit that I'm certainly ready to leave the season of singleness behind. ;) But I also know God desires for us to be so rooted in Him that we can be faithful, fruitful, and flourish in all seasons, not because of whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, but because we are trusting and relying on Him fully. He is the one variable that does not change. And He promises to give us all we need for this day. And the next. And the next. Whether we are single or married.
One of the ways I focus on flourishing in my faith is by setting goals. I use Lara Casey's Powersheets process to set a vision for my year and then set Christ-centered goals that support that vision. Doing so helps me to cultivate what matters and know I am doing all I can to live this life as fully as I can for God's glory, right where I am. It also gives me a vision for my future that I can focus on when I'm making decisions and determining where God is leading me (and this includes dating!). For example, I know I want to build a marriage that's centered on Christ, and that I want the main mission of my marriage to be to seek and serve God together. That vision is going to influence who I choose to date and what I'm looking for in a partner.
I love what Danny Silk said about having a vision and building relationships around vision in his book Keep Your Love On: "When two people establish the pillar of vision in their relationship, they share the knowledge of one another's identity and calling, as well as their joint vision, and remind one another of these things on a regular basis. When seasons of difficulty, pain, or loss come up, the pillar of vision strengthens a relational connection and protects it from being thrown into survival mode."
Even in singleness, the vision we have based on the unique way God has created us will influence the decisions we make and help us to persevere through the hard and dry seasons of life.
I think all of these lessons could be summarized simply as this: be faithful and obedient right where you are. I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Ruth, and I think her life is such a beautiful example of that. Even facing loss and hardship, she was humble and faithful and trusted God to provide and do what only He could do. She did all she could with what was right front of her, remaining loyal and steadfast. Our faith often requires us to do and act and trust before we know what the outcome will be. But we know who DOES know the ultimate outcome, and that frees us up to keep moving forward in obedience. We can be like Ruth and do all we can with what is right in front of us, trusting our Father with where we will go from here.
I hope these lessons are an encouragement to you today.
(And I'd love to hear what God's been teaching you lately, too!)
Resources that inspired this post: videos from Nicole Reyes, Instagram encouragement from Jessica Hoffman Shakir, and books like The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas, and Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk