The Do’s and Don’ts of Dating and Singleness

Six practical tips on how to honor God and run an excellent race during your single days.

Introduction

If there’s one Bible verse that Christian singles hear referenced more than any other, it’s Hebrews 12.

“Sad about being single?” says your well-intended married friend. “Don’t worry. Just run after God, and fix your eyes on Jesus!”

Now, it’s possible, the last time someone recommended taking a run after God as a panacea for your painful and unwanted season of singleness, the insight provided new clarity, and you said, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” But maybe, if you’re like me, you nodded politely and thought “Sounds nice. What does that mean, exactly?”

I used to think “fixing my eyes on Jesus” meant staring at my Bible Gateway app screen to the point of clinical eye strain. And likewise, that “running after God” looked like a more frenetic church schedule, with unblemished attendance to the kind of Bible studies that discussed the meaning of meek in Greek. After seeking more understanding, however, I discovered the Bible’s references to running and relationships, are far richer with wisdom.

Looking again at Hebrews in more detail, the verse says: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Regardless of relationship status, we are all running the race at this very moment. In the rest of the article, I’ll offer some thoughts specifically to those who are single or dating, on ways to run the race well.

Starting with what not to do.

# 1 DON’T MAKE MARRIAGE YOUR STARTING LINE

During college, I ran track and specialized in the 5k and 10k races. In the traditional order of events, the distance races don’t start until the end of the day, which makes each track meet a long day of waiting, and also begs the question: “What does a runner do with all that lead-up time?” And the honest answer is,

Absolutely nothing.

First of all, other than skip around the warmup meadow, you can’t really do anything physical, because you’re supposed to save your body for the race. But it turns out, you can’t do much mentally either since just thinking about the race messes with your brain and makes you lightheaded. So instead, you fill the hours with distracting time killers and participate in the following 8 activities.

  1. Sip coffee
  2. Do easy homework, just to make yourself busy.
  3. Apply waterproof mascara, and re-braid your hair 3 times.
  4. Analyze the competition and conclude that their new microfiber red spandex uniforms might help them win.
  5. Visualize the ideal race.
  6. Worry about injury, especially if you’ve been hurt on the track before.
  7. Eat a series of small snacks, like grapes and granola, which taste fine, but aren’t really satisfying, and just whet your appetite more.
  8. Cheer for friends in their earlier events and try not to feel jealous or annoyed as they saunter around taking pictures of their finisher’s medals.

Basically, the entire day is a big lead up to the moment when you march to the starting line, cast off your sweatpants, and gallop into the twilight.

  • A foolish runner expends so much anxious energy anticipating the race, that they have little reserves left over to put up a good fight during the race itself.
  • A wise runner accepts waiting is just a part of the sport.

The Problem with the Starting Line

As singles, if we make marriage the starting line, and believe the “real race” has not yet begun, then we grant ourselves permission to delay important work God has for us. We are already running, and there is too large of a gap between earth and heaven to disqualify ourselves from meeting the needs of the world.

That said, if God calls your name on the loudspeaker (or the still small voice speaker) and tells you to use your gifts and talents in a specific area—be it school systems, sustainable city gardens, or startup companies—it can’t wait on your event calendar, and you must go.

# 2 DON’T MAKE MARRIAGE YOUR FINISH LINE 

One of the lesser-known truths about runners is that they are a bimodal species of people, who oscillate between strenuous training, and shameless laziness. Take a cross country championship race day, for instance. At the smoke of the gun, you run relentlessly, over steep hills and through freezing rain, in a valiant pursuit of one goal: get to the finish line as fast as possible. Alas, you cross the line, and what happens next?

Well not much. You feel pretty useless, although you will manage to do the following 8 activities.

  1. Mingle around the finishing corral reception area
  2. Give celebration hugs
  3. Line up for team photos
  4. Eat a feast
  5. Go back to the hotel and take a nap
  6. Soak in the hot tub
  7. Feel relieved and satisfied that your most important work for the day is done
  8. Let yourself off the hook from all the usual disciplinary routines

Singles and Finish Lines

Finish lines are important for our vision. If runners were instructed to run as fast as possible, for an undefined distance, with no end in sight, they would get discouraged, and easily tire.

Likewise, if the not-yet-in-sight wedding day event is your finish line, the race is dangerously unsustainable. Your hope, in that case, lives only at the mercy of external factors like personal preferences, or variable life timelines. If your hope gets deferred for too long, an insidious weariness can creep into your soul and sicken your heart. On the contrary, when your hope flows from God, the only renewable energy source, you will soar on wings like eagles through all the ups, downs, and inevitable uncertainties of relationships.

Couples and Finish Lines

The second problem with making marriage a finish line is that when the wedding day finally does come to pass, all that motivation and sense of purpose driving you forward during the chase, evaporates at the altar.

How would you feel, if the first time you walked into your newlywed couple’s cottage, your spouse called out to the Amazon echo dot and said, “Alexa. Check “wedding” off the list. And block off our calendars for the next 60 years. Just AM brunch, and PM naps from here in out.” As dreamy as this might sound, that relationship rides a fast track train to implosion. To thrive both relationally, and spiritually, we need to be about something bigger than ourselves by sowing seeds in a field beyond our own backyard.

As singles, we get to choose whether we date people who work the field, or people who play the field. In the interest keeping your heart intact as you run the good race, pursue the former and flee from the latter.

# 3 DON’T SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS THAN THE HONEST PACE

There are many ways to run a race, but the simplest and purest strategy of them all is to run the “honest pace,” giving it everything you have, from start to finish. When the whole field runs honest, it’s beautiful performance, that makes records fall, and stadiums rise. But sometimes, even the most talented runners hold back from running their best. Front-running, you see, means wind resistance, a target on your back, and no guarantees as to who will go with you.

If nobody is willing to lead, then you just jog along, jostling elbows, stumbling on each other’s feet, and scanning the scene with your peripheral vision in case someone makes a move forward. The pace is laggard enough to snapchat selfies to the crowd — that is now upset, at watching their favorite athletes sell themselves short in mediocre efforts. Later, when the results are posted, and the times downright pedestrian, you tell your coach it was all the group’s fault.

What does it mean to “run honest?”

The way we carry ourselves in the various facets of our lives — the company we keep, the commitments we hold, the way we steward our time, money and attention — all come together to create the cadence of the pace we run. Our pace is “honest” to the degree that we are true to ourselves and obedient to who God has called us to be. But make no mistake, the honest pace, is neither nor common, nor easy, especially when single.

There’s an unspoken assumption, you see, that if you were to take off full speed ahead, at the pace of your true capability, that others will no longer be romantically interested in you.  As singles, if we believe this collectively, then we act like a coed jogging club of bobbleheads, looking around at what everyone is doing, and holding back from going anywhere forward, lest we miss out.

Here are a few examples I have witnessed

  • I know women who have been advised against diving into ideas that excited them, such as starting a small group at church, because it might “intimidate the single men.”
  • I know men who have resigned themselves doomed to dealing with relationship drama full time because, apparently, “that’s just how it is.”
  • As for myself, I’m not immune either. In fact, I once mentioned my friend, Mike that if I really wanted to get serious about dating, I should probably start by reinventing myself — maybe become more extroverted and edgy, and less innocent and whimsical. In slightly kinder terms, Mike said this was the worst idea he had ever heard because then I would betray myself, and nobody wins.

Now, it can be tempting to make compromises in hopes of winning the approval and affection of the common pack, but you don’t have to.

Instead, run at the pace, at which you wish to be caught. The lead pack always sets the precedent for the chase pack.  If you set yourself on fire for God, and whatever makes you come alive, you will not cease to be romantically attractive. In fact, front-running while on fire makes you certifiably organic, drama free, hard to get.

The right person will not be intimidated by your pace. Rather, if you are equally yoked, they will keep you even more honest. Dating discernment can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be a 50 step algorithm. Start by asking some simple questions. Such as, do we help each other run a more excellent race? Or are we signing up for a lifetime of a 3 legged race hobble?

Now, after 3 Don’ts in a row, you may be wondering “How then, shall I run?”  I have three suggestions.

# 1 DO RUN UNENCUMBERED BY SIN

The 1980’s film “Chariots of Fire,” has a classic opening scene, where a parade of Scottish young men, dressed in white jogging suits, trot barefoot on the shores of West Sands, St Andrews to the sound of triumphant orchestral music.  Even in slow motion, their light and free strides, capture the epitome of unencumbered running. Other runners, however, get a bit more tied up.

In basic running jargon, “speed goggles” refer to the rosy, and often deceptive, lenses that cause you to see the speediest runners of the opposite sex as significantly and more attractive and trustworthy.

In relationships, sexual intimacy gives you “oxytocin” goggles. The trust enhancement, heart bonding factors are ideal for a lifelong marriage commitment, although problematic if trying to see another person’s character clearly. The Bible says to flee from sexual immorality, but unfortunately, the world has no interest in protecting your purity or bolstering your sin fleeing energy. Sometimes, “playing dead” to sin is the more effective option. My personal recommendation is this:

Learn to be unimpressed, to the point of borderline apathy, by anyone or anything that slows you down from running an excellent race. For example, if I am in the middle of something meaningful—like writing this blog post, for instance — Enrique Iglesias could knock on my door, accompanied a team of well-built boy band backup dancers, ready to personally serenade me with the 2011 hit song, “Tonight I’m Lovin’ You,” and I would call out to my roommate with a sigh of annoyance and say “Aimee! Can you deal with that ruckus outside? It’s Enrique the encumbrance, and I have important work to do for the Kingdom of God.”

# 2 DO RUN FOR THE PRIZE

“Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

In April of 2017, Jordan Hasay, a 25-year-old from San Luis Obispo, CA blazed through the streets Boston, clocking the fastest Marathon debut time ever by an American woman.  Now, close your eyes for a moment and zoom back east to Boston.

Its mile 22. The fans line the streets of New England in a roaring tunnel of noise, as the lead pack comes barreling around the corner to the hydration station: their parched throats yearning for Gatorade. And all sudden Arie Luyendyk Jr, of the most recent Bachelor TV season, struts onto the course holding a rose in one and hand a bottle of wine in the other. “Jordan, will you accept this rose?” he asks. “You look tired. Why don’t you come take a break at my place? You can always jump back in the race later and get serious then.”

Hmm. There is a $50 prize purse waiting to be divvied up among the top finishers at the line. Not for a single second, would Jordan consider accepting a single petal. She has trained too hard to even entertain any compromises. Jordan wants to win. Her eyes are on the finish, and she will stay the course marked out for her–which most certainly, does not include a stopover at Arie Luyendyk Jr’s.

It’s easy enough for us to understand delayed gratification when its framed in the context of an earthly prize. And yet the Bible tells us, we store up riches in heaven, according to how we live on earth. “Goof off now, and get serious later” is a commonly accepted, but severely misguided belief among many singles. How we live now, and who we are becoming, matters not only for our marriage on earth, but also for our rewards in heaven. So just like Jordan, stay the course, and run for the prize.

# 3 DO RUN AGAINST THE CLOCK

Few people understand the value of a second as well an Olympic sprinter. In a 100 meter race, the difference between a crown of laurels and a last-place finish can be decided in one-tenth of a second. A sprinter knows that time is not on their side, and the race will over in a blink.

If you are single and desire to be married one day, the chances are, that you will eventually get there. But what you will not get back, are moments abandoned, or days wished away before marriage. Time is a precious God-given gift, equally valuable before and after your wedding day. Thus we need to grasp the unconditional urgency with which we are called to live our days.

Sometimes I have to remind myself, that death is not a question of if, but a matter of when. How many heartbeats, breaths, or laps are left?  I’m not sure. But I am sure, that when I lean into the heavenly finish line, I’ll be running honest.

The Bell Lap

Now, the next time you feel discouraged about your singleness and someone tells you to “run after God,” you can look them in the eye with sincerity and say, “Thanks! I know just what to do!”

So go, and run the race set before you.

  • Run with perseverance and an unshakeable hope
  • Run away from darkness, and sprint towards light
  • Run after truth, and stay the course.
  • Run past evil with doppler effect of a Ferrari
  • Run the honest pace and give it everything you have.
  • Run powered by the fire of the Holy Spirit and let your life leave a legacy like a streak of light in a dark night sky

“The Best is Yet to Come”

Live Testimony Audio from 3/2/2017 at Epic Life.

Speech Transcript 
It’s good to see you guys and I have a confession to make. In my last testimony, I told a story, about the time I moved to Sacramento, “a couple years after college,” to go back to school. What I conveniently forgot to mention, back then, was that in those “couple years after college,” I got expelled from my other school. Let’s dive into that blip on the radar screen. It’s late August of 2013. 

I am feeling relieved, and also, I admit, a little smug, that I finally know what I am going to be when I grow up: A Doctor of physical  therapy. Getting accepted to grad school was a big deal, so I arrive on the first day excited ready to roll. I imagine the next 3 years are going to be full of stimulating discussions, study parties, and extra time for creative research projects.

Well, it wasn’t like that. In the first round of midterms I get flattened across the board, in all 8 classes. That’s  not the only problem. By one month in, I cannot help but notice, that this profession (as a doctor of physical therapy) is not what I expected, at all.

I feel like a bride walking down the aisle, gearing up to dedicate my life and get married to this career, that had seemed really cool in the lead up stages. Except now, the closer I look, the more turned off I get.

I briefly entertain the thought, that maybe I’m making a big mistake, here. Then I  cut the thought out of my mind. I already wrote the tuition check! I tell myself this is standard cold feet; it’s time to get work, and rescue my grades. 
Highly motivated by the fear of failure, I give it my all: I spend my early mornings in the labs, and my late nights roaming the streets of Alameda!with flash cards. And of course, I pray. “God, please do not let me fail.” I say. “But if I am going to fail, or if you don’t want me here, I would rather you make me sick, it doesn’t  look like my fault.”…. Be careful about declaring bad theology!

The night before the first final exam, out of nowhere–I get violently ill. I take the finals anyway, and a couple hours after the last exam, receive an email summoning me to the dean’s office. I walk in, and sit down, and they hand me a box of Kleenex.  

“Well Chrissa, we know you tried really hard, and you came really close, BUT…” They go on to inform me that I failed two classes, one of them by two tenths of a point, and the consequence is expulsion. Expelled? I think to myself. That kind of stuff isn’t supposed to happen to me. 

But it did.

That afternoon I say goodbye to my classmates, pack up my apartment, and drive to my parents house. Awake that night, I try to reconcile with how it was that I could pour so much of myself into something and still miss the mark. Naturally, I have some disappointment to deal with, here. But  I want to get over it, already. So after the Christmas vacation, I set my eyes on a different school in Sacramento, and divert attention and hopes elsewhere

Part 2: The Bachelor 
Okay. Here’s another confession. I cannot stand the Bachelor TV show. Contrary to popular assumption, it’s not because I think it’s too unrealistic. Based on my early/mid twenties dating experiences, I find it a little too realistic. Basically, after grad school, there’s a dramatic dating elimination hunger games going on in my life. All the contestants are stalking each other on social media. Girls are crying; guys stressed because the girls are crying: And I am in the arena, praying for wisdom, because I’m so confused. But when my prayers are answered, I realize, Oh, this  is not complicated.

Simple math. If the sum amount of my pain and your stress, are consistently greater than that of my happiness and your peace—it’s just not a good fit. 

With my new found logic, I exit the the bachelor hunger games arena—but not scratch free. 
Part 3 Disenchantment: 
Not only am I torn up, but I start to wake up to a disenchanted reality full of deferred disappointments. In my experience,

 The longer you stay drunk by the comforts of a lie, the worse the hangover is when you wake to the truth.  

I feel like I went to sleep in Disneyland, and woke up in a Linkin Park music video, that keeps reminding me “I tried so hard and got so far, and in the end it doesn’t even matter.”

I look back over the last 3 years—what was supposed to be the big launching into real adult life— and I see failure and heart break.

 In addition, I have an overwhelming awakening to the concept of choice. I recognize that even with good intent, I don’t always make good choices. Mistakes are painful and I’d rather not make them anymore. Thus, I decide I’m going to work really hard to not to make any wrong choices.

Part 4: Refinancing the Heart 
Unfortunately, I don’t trust own decision making mechanisms, anymore, so I’m on the hunt for permission and validation. I want someone to tell me what the right answers are, and give me some reassurance that I’m doing a good job at life.

But I don’t get this reassurance. And even when I do it’s not satisfying; it never feels like enough. Because I never feel like enough. Then, God gives me an analogy.

My heart is like an economic system, currently on the brink of bankruptcy for 2 reasons. 

 a) My identity stocks are owned by 95% earthly shareholders.

b) My self worth is outsourced in either performance or people.

I have learned: Acquiring the value of our self worth, has to be, a passive income inside job between us and God. Only then can then can we operate in freedom and generosity.
So I go about refinancing my heart, and continue my quest of making only right choices.

Part 5: Constant Vigilance
My next approach, is one of constant vigilance. I believe that if I can simply gather enough information, analyze the situation to (near) death, and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible—than I can outrun the unknown , escape criticism, avoid mistakes, never get hurt, and excel in all my endeavors. 

For a little while I think I have a high functioning undercover strategy working out for me—until I get coffee with Eric Waterbury. He looks at me like an X-ray and says “if you keep doing this, your life will stay small, but it has the potential to be powerful.” After the denial wears off, I see he has a point: my constant vigilance is shrinking my life and faith. 

See, FAITH as defined in Hebrews is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance in what we CANNOT SEE. But, indirectly, I have been saying to God. “God, here is my circle of trust. It’s roughly the size of a human eye—so that limits us to  what I can see. On a good day it expands to the size of my head–meaning only what I can think of. God, I want break through! But don’t break my borders.” 

MEANWHILE, on Sunday, Hillsong United comes on, and I’m belting out “Spirit lead me, where my trust is without borders.”

Once again, I am convicted. 

Part 6 The Central Story
Finally, a few months ago, I reach a point where all of these convictions converge to trigger the question:

 “Is this the kind of story I want to tell with my life?”

Everyday—whether I document to my diary, or post to Instagram—my actions, beliefs, and decisions are telling a story—for which only I will be held accountable for at the end of this life.  

If I’m honest with myself, the central themes of my story right now, look like…

Mistake prevention, perception management, sin avoidance, social media upkeep, and, idea hoarding.

I  don’t read this genre for fun. In literature and film, great stories never start, or end, with flawless characters, or perfect plot point destinations. A great story happens, when a character wants something, badly enough that they are willing to face fear, doubt, and conflict, to fight for it. Also, for a story to work, it needs an element of uncertainty. Otherwise, we would no longer feel compelled to turn the page, or click next episode, at one in the morning. 

As the dots connect, I realize, that maybe, achieving perfection is not the purpose of my life story. In fact, maybe, the goal of not making any mistakes, IS the mistake. That’s the very thing my keeping my real self, and all my ideas, locked inside and away from the world.
Also, if I really do ask the Holy Spirit to lead me down a path that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, or no mind has imagined—then I simply do not have time to live a story limited by the fear of failure.

Part 7 His Kingdom Come 
Presently, in the process of letting go of perfection, my vision has improved – both near and far site. I can see present reality more clearly—because I am no longer afraid to look at it. I can also see my dreams for the future more vividly—because, I now aim to choose curiosity over despair, when facing the not yet charted transition territories.

 There was a time, not too long ago, when I felt crushed by the weight of the “not yets.” I asked God: ” How do I deal with: the people not yet healed, the hungry children not yet fed, the debts unpaid, my stories not yet published, and the deep longings of my heart not yet fulfilled? These questions used to haunt my story. Now these questions drive my story.

 I have accepted that between reality and dreams, a gap in some form, will always exist. Afterall we are here on earth and NOT yet in heaven. But now I see that inside the gap is our invitation to carry forward the greatest story ever told. 
 It’s a battle, where we face darkness with torches of light; 

an adventure, where we slash through thickets of lies with swords of Truth.  

And it’s a romance, of God’s outrageous, everlasting love for us. 

    Alas, together in this story, we rally, with patience and urgency, for His kingdom to come and His will to done. 

 You guys, the best, is yet, to come!

Chemistry Clarification

Demystifying the loaded term of “chemistry” with 8 definitions of the word.

Nomenclature: What is chemistry, anyway?

We tend to assume “chemistry” is an intuitive concept; a couple either has it, or they don’t. However, a conversing with a number of different friends about “chemistry,” I concluded almost none of us hold identical definitions of the word. For some, chemistry simply signifies inexplicable, irresistible attraction. For others, chemistry means inside jokes and frequent thinking along the same lines.

Since definitional discrepancies can quickly lead to awkward or painful misunderstandings, it’s time to roll back your sleeves, put on some lab goggles, and dive into a chemistry analogy. Because not so ironically, chemistry happens to be a lot like, well—chemistry. Read on to learn about just eight of the many types of chemistry connections, as well as their potential hazards.

#1 – Helium

Helium brings buoyancy to the party balloon, nobility to the periodic table, and a new level of high octaves to human vocal chords. With inhalation helium makes people feel light and giddy while also causing chipmunk like speech. Indeed, some couples bond over buoyant bubbly flirtation and helium-like high pitched laughter. While typically fun, excessive helium inhalation may cause headaches.

# 2 – Hydrogen

In its elemental gaseous form, Hydrogen receives the highest possible flammability ranking from the NFPA. When a balloon full of hydrogen comes into contact with a flame, the result is immediate combustion. Similarly, all it takes for someone to claim “hydrogen chemistry,” is a single nocturnal romantic encounter of flying sparks. I hate to burst the hydrogen happiness bubble, but the flame from the hydrogen balloon demo is normally quite short lived.

# 3- Oxygen 

 It’s colorless, odorless, and invisible—and yet, absolutely vital for life. Over time, oxygen has become the relationship metaphor of choice for modern pop music. In 2007 Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks sang a duet with the opening line “Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air.” Throughout the song, Jordin complains of shortness of breath, and questions whether she can stay alive while apart from her man.  Five years later, Jason Derulo released the song Breathing, where he too doubts his own survival. People connected only by “oxygen chemistry” live as though their relationship is constantly on the verge of death and in need of revival through CPR or mouth to mouth resuscitation.

#-4 Covalent Bonds

Chemistry is not limited exclusively to romantic partners. Characterized by stability and sharing of negatively charged electrons, the covalent bond is akin to a platonic covenant friendship where even the most negative burdens are shared with one another.

#5- Strong Acid + Weak Base

The phrase “opposites attract” holds true for a variety of reasons. The author and researcher Henry Cloud believes, “we are drawn to those who possess what we do not, so we can internalize and own that trait for ourselves.”  In some cases, the trait we have yet to develop becomes all the more attractive when existing inside of another.

#6  One-Sided Equations

 Unfortunately, romantic chemistry equations do not always end up with equally balanced coefficients. When one person brings the heat, and the other party does not reciprocate, the disrupted equilibrium throws the whole equation off balance. In cases of unrequited love, the chemical reaction arrows point one way only and the yielding result is pain.

#7- Lab Goggles

Party goers have beer goggles; cross-country runners sport speed goggles, and the average Christian college female, wears guitar goggles. Whatever the particular form of rose colored glasses may be, “goggles chemistry,” happens when one aspect of a person becomes the filter that positively enhances everything else.

#8- The Blue Ember

Mainstream chemistry wisdom tends to emphasize “the flame feeling” as one of the surest sign chemistry. While a flame is bright and hot, it’s also fleeting, and streakier than a shooting star in the night. Embers on the other hand—when intentionally kindled, and stoked with care—glow beautifully for a very long time.

Signs of Interest

 

Reasons NOT to google the phrase “How to know if a guy likes you,” and thoughts on the distinction between attraction and intention. 

“Dear Chrissa, after reading  the comprehensive guide to texting men, I’ve been wondering…I’m texting and hanging out a lot with a guy who’s showing all the signs of attraction. How can I tell if he’s interested in more?” – Anonymous blog reader.

The Problem with Subtleties 

Indeed, this reader is not the only girl who has tried to figure out the question of a guy’s signs of interest; in fact, it’s so common, that the google search “how to know if a guy likes you” will conjure up over 30 million results. Full of hints and clues, each one of the articles claims to hold hidden secrets to the male subconscious mind.  Articles advise women to watch for signs like a 1 mm pupil dilation in the absence of light, a subtle posture shift, playful punches to the upper ⅓ quadrant of the left arm, intense eye contact, shifty eye contact, dry mouth, sweaty palms, or the way he acts differently in the presence of his friends and second cousins.

 The checklists are overwhelming at best and neurotic at worst. While the suggestions may hold a few nuggets of truths,  I remain doubtful that encouraging women to fixate their hope on subconscious unintentional subtleties will accomplish anything in the realm of relational health or mental well-being.  

These articles  are supposedly about men, but they were written for women, and by women, who most likely double majored in reverse psychology and irrelevant over analysis of men studies. As a result, a paranoid population of the females seeking advice, believe that they too must earn academic degrees in complex man code as a relational prerequisite.

Here’s what the online articles forget to mention: attraction and intention are two separate things. 

Sadly, many women believe if they are single it is because they are not pretty enough. Seeking solutions at Sephora, they buy brighter bronzers and blacker mascaras with the assumption that a more attractive cheekbone structure will solve her “problem.” 

Ladies, I sugar coat not, the odds are in your favor that others have long since noticed your beauty; however, your faulty reasoning perpetuates the destructive  not enough lie. Also, there’s a much more prominent reason why your looks are probably not “the issue.”

Cupcakes and Salsa

See, it’s quite possible for attraction to exist without the intention of romantic pursuit; this is perfectly normal, and happens all the time. For example, when shopping at Safeway,  I am attracted to the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes;  I look at them with lust and longing every time I walk in. However, I have no intention of courting the cupcakes to the checkout stand. I fear the wheat gluten will reject me—because sometimes it does— and the thought of risking a sugar coma drama dynamic comes at too high a cost.  On another note, keep in mind the possibility of the “salsa picante effect.”  Salsa picante appears unapproachable because it sits on the top shelf as though it’s trying to play “hard to reach.” The Salsa feels unwanted or unattractive, but ironically, it’s just so hot, it’s intimidating.

Cake and salsa aside, all this serves to illustrate, that the quest for “knowledge of attraction” can waste time and mental energy. Even if someone does match all criteria of the top ten signs of attraction, this does not make them automatically interested, or for that matter obligated, to start a relationship with you.

Sure Signs of Interest

Alas, I can already hear the readers asking: “Is there ANY way at all, of knowing whether a guy is interested? Well, yes. After a bit of qualitative research of a circle of council much wiser than that google, the results are unanimous. Drum roll, please.

  1. He asks you out on a real date.
  2. He tells you he is interested.

If this is your case, congratulations! But if not—and if you prefer to let the guy be the  pursuer—then relax, be patient, and relish in the freedom of playing the part of the pursuee. Make friends, listen to people’s stories, live life, and never again google how to tell if a guy likes you.

The Comprehensive Guide to Texting Men

9 texting tips to avoid unnecessary drama, and help you make sense. *Disclaimer. This guide is not FDA approved. Based on personal experiences, observations, and anecdotal evidence of friends. 

The written word is one of my favorite modes of communication. It’s delightful to feel as though I can slow time and craft the exact phrase to say what I mean. But in regards to texting, this preference has landed me in trouble a couple of times in the past. Men and women have different modes of thinking, and therefore we don’t always communicate or interpret messages in the same way. While this guide is geared more towards the single woman, if you have a brother, boyfriend, father, friend, husband, or any other man in your life with whom you desire to stop getting lost in translation with, read on.

# 1 Separate your questions

 Women tend to speak in paragraph narratives, naturally stringing together the dots of far-flung content all in the one breath. But our male human counterparts, however, excel in the laser focus of single tasks and can find this habit frustrating. Thus, over time, I have learned to avoid compounding my questions. 

A standard compound question text: “Hey! how was your day? Are you hungry? I was thinking of swinging by the grocery store to pick up some dinner food. Should we meet at Trader Joe’s or Chipotle? Unless you want to go straight to the movies? BTW, did you check the showtimes for Ghost Busters?”

Despite your well fired shotgun round of six questions, he will most likely respond to one, saying something like, “yes.” or “I already ate.” Now your feelings are hurt, and you’re both lost all because you forgot that men are single question organisms.

The better alternative: “Hey,  A) Are you hungry? B) If so, would you rather meet up at Trader Joe’s or at Chipotle? C) What time is Ghost Busters?  D) [insert a brief but kind ending signifying positive anticipation about catching up when you see him].” Discuss the details of his day upon your arrival, and for best results, divide the questions into different texts altogether.

#2 Practice “Emoji Integrity”

If used well, emojis can bring a sense of fun and facial expression clarity to the texting threads :). However, never leverage an emoji to launch you into a false realm of relational reality. For example, if you send dozens of kissing faces but have yet to extend your arms in a physical hug, the discrepancy sends a mixed message. Likewise, if you frequently “sob” detailed renditions of your latest tragedies via screen, but never share a single vulnerable word to their face, it’s a little weird and invites misunderstanding. Keep emojis as consistent as possible with your live emotional expression.

#3 Say what you mean

The dark side of the intuitive sensitive personality type that so many of us women possess, is an innate temptation to avoid awkwardness or confrontation by describing situations in a circuitous manner. In doing so, we essentially expect the guy to act like God and read our minds.  

The indirect and circuitous text: “Sorry I acted so hysterical earlier. Some gender-specific physiological circumstances  are subjecting me to a greater spectrum of moods… Think about it: How would you feel if you spent an entire month building a state of the art facility chicken coop. But due to the moral code of the hen, and the apparent tentativeness of the interested eligible roosters, the egg went unfertilized, and the construction employees held an emo-punk themed demolition party to rip the chicken coop to shreds in fits of hysteria, mourning, and rage? Anyway, that’s how I feel. It would be nice if you could support me by depositing more of my preferred love language currency in my emotional bank account—if you know what I mean 😉 …” 

 Well, he does not know what you mean. There is a slight chance this could go over successfully in person, but over text– especially if it involves apologies, or asking for something specific–just get to the point. You can always fill him in with a metaphorical illustration later. 

The better alternative: “I felt sad earlier because you neither read my mind nor picked up on my subtle cues. I assumed everyone knew hysterical came from the root word hyster, meaning womb. But I was wrong. I’m sorry about my emotional outburst and act of assumption.” [Hit send, begin separate text] What I meant to say is: I’m on my period. My serotonin/mood levels are  < normal. It would mean a lot if you could provide me with an extra hug for the next 4 days. Thanks :).” And there, in half the words, half the confusion, and double the effectiveness, you delivered essentially the same message.

# 4 “Haha.”  is not an intentional withholding of affection

 Many women place a portion of their self-esteem on the man’s ability, or willingness, to express sheep-like laughter, ie the BAAHAHAHAH, in a timestamped written form. Now, I enjoy the  genuine chortling of a sheep laugh, but if your jokes require constant reassurance sandwiched in “tears of joy” emojis, take a moment and put yourself in his shoes. Seriously, is he the type of guy that would read a text and think to himself… I’m  upset so I will disguise my anger with my stealthy ‘2 ha revenge tactic’ and deprive her of the 4 HAs she craves?”   If this sounds anything other than completely ridiculous, you might have a deeper problem— 0r you’re texting a drama sheep. Realistically, people text at all odd hours of the day, often under limited attention. The guy might have glanced at his phone between sets of squats at the gym and the effort for one more HA would have disrupted to the workout/ recovery ratio. Haha. If they are present when with you in-person, don’t worry about it.

# 5 In the case of an argument, abort mission, and call

If both of you get lost in a thorny thicket of misunderstandings, don’t muddy the waters even more with a complex texplanation. Like a driver in an emergency, pull the conversation car over to the call box, unbuckle the pride restraints, hit the call button or skype icon, and exercise your vocal cords.

# 6 Do not search for hidden meanings     

While careful scrutiny in some areas of life can lead to insight or wisdom, in texting, over analysis is downright dangerous. The content meaning is subject to interpretation and often skewed by your own emotional state. On a day of brimming self-confidence and high hopes, a simple wink face could be read as wildly flirtatious ;-). On the other hand, during a self-perceived bloated or bad hair day, the same guy could text “you looked great,” and you will see a code of sarcasm dripping with underlying meanings of ugly. Symbolism, tone, and allegory are great for English class (or chats with your favorite bloggers) but in this case, it’s unlikely you’re texting Shakespeare. If he says, “you looked great,” or “I had fun,” he probably means exactly that. No more, and no less.

#7 Avoid “text purgatoryat all costs

 In the traditional Roman Catholic faith, purgatory is a place of suffering and waiting between heaven and hell.  I define text purgatory  as the obsessive and shackled place of angst one enters (usually in the realm of a new or insecure relationship) while they await the response, of either acceptance or rejection from a particular and often elusive, person of interest.

The road to text purgatory is paved with ambiguity and a series of premature text confessionals.  Two intentionless, noncommittal co-ed companions, for whatever reason, throw emoji integrity to the wind and exchange the deepest details of the heart.  If sharing occurs like conversational clockwork during the most vulnerable waking hours—ie last thing before going to sleep and first thing upon wake up—textual tension and perceived emotional intimacy skyrockets. Thus if the mysterious, and now idealized, person falls off the grid for a mere 24 hours, the waiting period between responses—much like purgatory—feels life threatening.  

 The best-known antidotes to text purgatory are as follows: Say what you mean, be smart with your heart, fix your eyes on heaven, and immerse yourself in a life on earth so full of real people and joyous happenings that you even forget to look at your phone from time to time.

#8 Don’t use texting alone to discern character

If you text someone so often that they basically live in your purse next to the chihuahua, it’s deceptively easy to believe you truly know them based on the quantity of what they have shared (or vented), or the extent to which they have “listened.” But equally as easy, if all you do is text, is for your own mind to fabricate a picture of what their listening actually looks like. Now, is it possible he sits in a bean bag clutching a mug of tea  in one hand and an iPhone full of only your captivating messages in the other? Sure. But if that’s the case, you probably won’t stay pen pals for months on end. Words are important, but the colors of true character shine brightest when backed by actions. 

#9 Remember texting is just a tool 

Don’t get me wrong,  I am not against texting.  In fact, I probably enjoy a decent bantering text thread more than the average person. Texting can be logistically useful, help people maintain long-distance relationships, and it provides a realistic way to connect with friends or family amidst work week busyness or travel. However, texting should never make or break our relationships;  it should act as a tool to magnify what we already have.

And some stories, I believe, are best saved for in person. The courageously shared riches of a human heart are too valuable to be held inside a 2 mm pixelated static smile, a short line, or a fleeting moment of attention.  In person we laugh, we cry, we cringe, and turn red, or get surprised, and stumble over our words as our voices crack, and we try again to say what we mean. We can’t rehearse and edit our responses, which admittedly can feel quite scary. But life happens in real time, live right now as we speak. So never flee the awkward at the expense of the real. It’s the collective experience, even in the mess, that makes life beautiful.

From Friend to Fiance to Family

The unusual story behind how my parents met, became teachers,  got married, and arrived at the Priory.

“Paul-have-some-more” meets “Sylvia-head-in-the-clouds”
(translated Cheyenne nicknames, in reference to his huge appetite, and her thoughtful nature respectively)

They first shook hands in the Los Angeles airport, before flying to Montana for a year of volunteer teaching. The recent Loyola Marymount graduate Paul Trudelle was tired, and in need of a change: He was tired of the competitive rat race of the premed track,  tired of the crowded smog bubble of Los Angeles, and definitely tired of the dating game. He had set out his plan to  spend a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and apply for medical school upon his return.

Sylvia Elek appeared tired too; she boarded the airplane only after facing significant resistance from other’s attempts to dissuade her from leaving. It made little practical sense in the eyes of peers, colleagues and family. Why would a well-educated woman with job opportunities in sunny, safe, Orange County voluntarily choose to live in a place with high crime rates, below zero winter temperatures, and a nonexistent paycheck? Nevertheless, she felt compelled to go and signed up for the trip anyway. Both Sylvia and Paul actually requested to volunteer in Alaska, and both of them (much to their original dismay) were stationed in Montana instead. 

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Friends for a Lifetime

At first, the polar opposite duo showed no signs of sparks. Sylvia acted reserved around new people, kept a diary, and possessed such an innocent nature it nearly classified as rebellious.  For example, throughout high school, she played the famous card game “BS,” unknowingly, and with exuberance, in its long form. Whereas Paul, a textbook extrovert, and enthusiastic master of ceremony of the volunteer orientation, led Sylvia to question whether the town of Ashland ( population 300) could possibly meet this outgoing guy’s massive social needs.

Although as it turned out, even with the complete lack of nightlife and provided entertainment, meaningful social connections were not a problem. Bonding over teaching, cross country skiing, guitar songs, dart games, or small town basketball, the group of eight volunteers became fast friends. In a land wrought with much poverty and alcoholism they did not escape their dosage of trials and tragedies, yet through that, Paul and Sylvia found those years–filled with laughter, learning, and life–as some of the richest they have ever had.

Educators by Trade

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Before they ever fell in love with each other, they fell in love with teaching. They shared the hallway across from their classrooms and collaborated on lesson plans, helped each other set up labs, and shared the inevitable disaster story. They cultivated an organic friendship rooted in the simple joys of quality time–and by November, Sylvia saw romantic potential. Unsure of what to do, she consulted Paul’s roommate Mike for advice. Using the  analogy that boats are meant to sail the sea and not sit in a harbor– Mike challenged Sylvia to risk vulnerability, and tell Paul how she felt already.

Over the next few weeks, Sylvia worked up the courage to follow through with a unique strategy. Leveraging the close proximity of the airline seating arrangement, she confessed her feelings from 10,000 feet above the ground on their way home for the holidays. Paul thought she was sweet but didn’t trust his relationship track record, and quite frankly, at the time, Sylvia just wasn’t his type. “I like you as a friend,” he said, “but I’m considering the priesthood.” Sylvia had no comeback. Paul’s statement had been true at one point,  but we still give him a hard time about this line to the day.

A Contract Renewed
They started the spring semester right where they left off–just as friends, but Sylvia’s feelings never quite died. As the school year came to a close, the volunteers faced the decision of signing a new contract as paid employees or heading back home. Sylvia stood at a crossroads. While she had grown immensely, and enjoyed the friendships,  the only returning volunteer member, was Paul: a good friend, but also a painfully unrequited crush. Seeking wise counsel yet again, she consulted a mentor. “Oh, you gotta come back,” he said with great conviction. “Think of the students and the group of new volunteers. ” Thus after more time in thought and prayer, she signed the contract to return for another year, but let go of any expectation of joining Paul’s future.

From Friend to Fiance 

One afternoon in July, things changed. Abruptly. Midway through a heartfelt spiritual and intellectual conversation, Sylvia shared a word of wisdom that resonated so deeply with Paul that it shook him awake. Suddenly, like Paul of Damascus,  the scales fell from his eyes, and he knew he could never let Sylvia go. “It just hit me, like–here is this wonderful woman, she’s my best friend, knows me better than anyone else, and she has a rock solid faith in God. I would like her to be my wife.” And so, acting on what he describes as none other than the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he proposed.

“Would you like to spend the rest of your life with me?” he asked. He had no ring in hand; they had never been on a real date, and yet she said yes. The previous hour, or even the previous minute, he had no plan of popping the question, yet he was full unparralelled peace. “If someone had asked me the following day ‘is there any doubt this woman will even stop loving you for the rest of your life?’ I would have confidently responsed ‘absolutely not.’ And I know that to be true, even more to this day.”

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Day after proposal grins. 1979

The following day when their friends heard the news, they claimed to have seen it coming all along. Paul and Sylvia’s parents, however, showed slightly more surprise with the unexpected phone call to announce both an engagement and a request for the blessing in hindsight.“Dad I’m engaged!” said Paul over the phone . “Congratulations son,” said Claude calmly, before silence fell the other end of the line. “Do you mind if I ask, to whom?”

The Sound of Wedding Bells

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A year later they rang in their wedding weekend with a rehearsal dinner at a theatrical production of “The Sound of Music.” On  July 26, 1980, they married in Corona Del Mar, California. To keep consistent with the beat of their musical theme, Sylvia walked down the isle to organs attuned to the Sound of Music wedding processional. It’s almost as though  they sought to set the stage for a future where they would move to a land where the hills were alive, and have a bunch of kids that would fight for space on the bed to sing along with the film at least four times a year– but they denied it in all the interviews.

The Happiest Hotel on Earth

Two years later, with one-year-old Steve Trudelle in tow, they decided it was time to return to their native golden state of California. But not southern California. With pasty white skin, runners bodies, and an innate aversion to traffic, they craved a land with shady trails, starry skies, and wide freeways in golden hills. They prayed–asking God specifically for science/math jobs at a Christian school in northern California–and took action, making an appearance at a private school job conference at the Disneyland Hotel.

Despite Paul’s ability to befriend and conversate with just about any living being, the desirable job prospects looked bleak. One could argue that after hours of striking out, the natural reaction would be to slip out the back door in discouragement. But their bodies stood in Disneyland, the happiest place on earth where according to Walt Disney, “all of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” And their spirits dwelt with Christ, as coheirs in heavenly realms. There’s nothing natural about that combination.

From a place none other than inside of the elevator, they bumped into  Father Christopher Senk, from the Woodside Priory — a Benedictine, college prep school, founded by Hungarian monks in the hills of Portola Valley, CA. The chemistry was immediate. A week later Paul and Sylvia drove through a tunnel of trees along Alpine Road, growing more enchanted with each turn. Over the next few days, they dined with students, enjoyed the hospitality of the monks, and participated in a series, of what turned out to be, successful interviews. Shortly after, Paul and Sylvia accepted a shared teaching position, moved on campus, and never looked back.

The Present
Today–33 years, 6 kids, and 3 grandkids later–Paul continues to teach science at the Priory. Seventh graders and freshmen visit his classroom during recess to let the shocking power of electrically transform them into hair-raising trolls. They ask questions about the galaxy, and request in class commercials to gawk at the flaming brilliance of the exploding hydrogen balloon. It never gets old. In fact, Paul genuinely enjoys education to such a degree, that he recently admitted he hopes heaven is not just cheesecake and music, but also a place full of teaching and learning–two of life’s greatest joys.

And then everyone graduated from the Priory, and we all lived happily ever after.

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Johnny’s Graduation May 2014

Well, that sounds ideal, except I have to get back to the story .

Epilogue 

Truthfully, we did enjoy many happy memories worth mentioning:  finding satellites with green lasers on the trampoline,  basketball championships, graduations , and road trips in the club wagon van. But we also lived as a colony with eight different personalities in a 1200 square foot space; conflict and chaos comes with the territory…The midnight evacuation as the El Nino flood waters surged through our hallways; the horror of watching flames engulf our first ever new van or plagues of strep throat: that’s only the beginning of the list. We also disagreed on occasion: about chores , R rated movies, church attendance, and curfews, to name a few. We learned a lot along the way, and to be honest, we are still learning. And… such is family life. Such is growing up. It appears a family balancing act of provision, protection and pulling back the slingshot to let the kids spread their wings and fly off into to their own unique futures.

The inspiration in the Example
My parents have shared many stories with us over the years, but to me, the story of their volunteer years is one I never tire of hearing. I suppose in part because the fact that less glamorous road that turned out to be unexpectedly romantic. But more so because I see a common thread of courage and faith. I saw it with my Mom forging forward to Montana on her own, and in her boldness to face  rejection in the airplane. I saw it in my Dad’s proposal, and his choice to pursue his real passion of teaching.

And through it all,  I’m inspired to watch and learn how God worked to open doors in their lives, with more blessings than they ever could have imagined.

Without further ado, I would like to raise an anniversary glass of bubbly water to my parents as they celebrate 36 years of marriage. Cheers to many more.

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*Seven fun facts

  1. Sylvia took a break from classroom teaching to raise the six kids but she has since returned to the Priory as a math tutor.
  2. At some point in time, each Trudelle sibling (now ages 20-34) has harbored a secret hope that they too might be so fortunate as to skip the dating confusion by having a friend that becomes their fiance over the course of one conversation.  It has yet to happen. But 50% are unmarried, so stay tuned!
  3. The family is now spread out in Seattle, Fremont, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Portola Valley, and Indiana.
  4. Since the Bay Area has exploded in population, and Paul and Sylvia are still averse to traffic, they cope by spending as much time running or hiking Portola Valley trails as possible.
  5. Paul and Sylvia volunteer at church as marriage mentors and believe all couples should experience serving together for romantic bonding and character building. Oddly, they advise modern couples to actually go on dates before popping the question.
  6. To help them understand the middle/high school recess jargon to keep up with their students, my siblings and I make a point to educate them on the current hot new idioms and phrases. So, if anyone walks by the house and hears an interaction like this:  “Hey BAE, how was your day?” “Not too sketch, the B period class discussion was lit!” –don’t worry, it’s just modern language practice.
  7. They still watch “The Sound of Music” every year.

 

 

 

Confessions of a Drama Shepherd

A musically interactive thought essay on invisibility, authenticity, drama, and why he might not actually belong with you. Based roughly on my collegiate era. *Addressed to women but may be applicable to men. For the best reading experience, save links and songs for the end. 

Part I: Lyrically Defined
I did not know such a thing was possible, but the notoriously dreaded DTR, just got worse. Flustered, at my mental blank space and inability to communicate, I lost footing on the trail, flew airborne and landed my new skinny jeans, directly into the dark, December mud. As I sat there, hidden by the ground, I realized the moment of incoordination and camouflage, illustrated my emotional state perfectly. “Oh get it now,” I began as I tucked my ballet flats back under me. “I feel, exactly like Taylor Swift in the  You Belong With Me music video skit!” He raised a perplexed eyebrow.  “Oh come-on,” I said, in a rare moment of cheeky sarcastic weakness. “You listen to her in secret. Anyway. I’m that girl  who knows all your favorite songs and you tell me about your dreams and fears… the one who understands you, been here all along…. but you just can’t you SEE-ee…” My melodious monolog faded out as I transitioned to serious, concise mode.

“What I’m trying to say, is–sometimes, I wonder if have a burlap sack over my head, because I feel like I’m sort of an invisible sidekick. And that no matter what I do, or say, that you never really see me.”

The Invisibility Complex
In that moment I finally described, out loud even, a phenomenon I knew all too well. Feeling unseen, or unheard is a silent systemic ache or an oft undiagnosed asymptomatic pain. In my case, I tiptoed through the first few years of college with what I call, an “invisibility complex.” I believed myself an insignificant person, postured my presence accordingly, and not surprisingly, manifestations appeared everywhere. Students plowed into me at the cafeteria because they “didn’t see” me. My speedy whispered conversational contributions stopped short, because friends “couldn’t hear” me. Relationships halted because of the guys unusual red flag that he kept “forgetting about” me. I didn’t stay in the shadows forever, but for a long time, I lived with a belief that I could manufacture value, or earn worthiness– if I hustled for it

 The Multicolored Personality Peacoat
Every human enters the world with a “dream and personality coat,” woven with threads of God given gifts, quirks, and talents to steward. I consider the average extrovert akin to a bubbly and outgoing Joseph of the Bible. Their personality shines like a sequined dreamy tunic with multiple aspects of self-stripes on a visible display for public understanding. Introverts, on the other hand, possess the same varied spectrum of colors, but they wear the dream coat inside out. Processing the world internally before sharing discoveries, their hearts resemble a well-guarded castle or labyrinthine maze. If the colors stay hidden for an extended time, the risk of the invisibility complex runs high.

Regardless of whether you sport the traditional tunic or the reversible personality peacoat, not EVERYONE will see the color wheel of your persona; that is okay, and even expected.  However, when debating about who you belong with, there is one key question we conveniently forget to ask.

Can this person see you? Beyond your physical self too, do they see who you are? That answer is important. Because what a person sees is not a mere accident. What we see reveals a part of our character.

Every day the world exposes us to thousands of visual, auditory and tactile stimuli, only a fraction of which will register in our conscious attention. How then do we determine what we see? The desires and priorities of our hearts will tell our eyes what to see, our ears what to hear, and our minds what to remember.

Picture walking into a house with three friends. The interior designer will notice the color scheme; the new mom spots the baby pictures; the CrossFit guy catches protein powder label; my eyes beeline to the bookshelf. These examples may sound trivial, but the eye to heart connection can serve as a brutally honest indicator of where one’s eyes are actually fixed. For example: If a guy claims he’s on the hunt for a  “holy helpmate suitable,” but deep down he seeks more of Shakira holyhips don’t lie type of gal– his heart won’t lie to his eyes. Likewise, ladies, if you pretend to search for an equally yoked Christian guy, but secretly you pine for an exquisitely yoked Christian Grey, you will end up in the gray area.

Part II:  Herd Mentality
Now, keeping in mind the significance behind what we see, consider these 3 questions before arriving at any conclusions about belonging together.

1) Are you Falling for a “Drama Sheep?”

IMG_7984There’s a reason why the “psychological thriller” genre captivates the cinemas and bookstores alike, or why video games like “Call of Duty” gross in the billions. The narrative of the human experience is a battle between good and evil, thus making the desire to take part in an epic adventure, a natural, and even necessary part of being alive. Unfortunately, many people misuse the desire by transforming into “drama sheep” and flocking to emotionally demanding romantic partners. Drama keeps its victims prey with complicated puzzles of mystery and a high dosage of intoxicating emotion. Ironically, after riding a hot&cold roller coaster with the energy vampire, the drama sheep now sits on life’s sidelines incapacitated to fight the epic battle they once craved.

2) Are you Playing the “Drama Shepherd?”

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By convincing  yourself you know where someone else belongs, it’s tempting to step in and play the “drama sheep shepherd.” As though in a great act of (false) humility and heroism, you can herd this guy away from drama queens and straight to you–the innocent princess of sanity and good cheer. But stop. This  Red flag is treacherous trouble and bound to breed bad blood. Guaranteed, the fastest road to the drama sheep farm is by acting as a drama shepherd first. It’s not your role to play. In this case, let Jesus, or your pastor, be the good shepherd.

3) Is it Time to Say “Bye-Bye Blind sheep?”

Over the last couple years, several of my female friends have shared distress about a particular situation: Her man of interest talks about the woman of his dreams (painfully in front of her), with a list of qualities that matches her in an uncanny way, yet he appears blind to who is in front of him. The frustration is like a steady series of indirect rejection blows; I understand as I’ve walked that road a couple times before. However, now, I don’t consider those types of situations even worthy of analysis. Because the reality is simple.

If he cannot see you—or is not at least interested in turning your personality peacoat inside out to try to see your colors–he does. not. belong. with you. Blindness is too feeble a platform to launch into a life long journey.

The Crossroads of Real and Fake

When I was about twenty-two, someone suggested I improve my dating “game” by  becoming “less nerdy, and less quirky.” Naturally, because feigning dull captures the interests of God’s best gentlemen. Well, not exactly. Actually, that might be some of the worst advice I have ever heard. One reason being, self-denial of the liberty to delight in the wildly wonderful world of words (and wit within reason), would render me a living oxymoron: a true fake. ‘Fake’ and ‘unknown’ sound like haunted, lonely places to spend forever and always.

But still, feeling invisible is unpleasant, and typically it leads to a temptation to engage in one of two coping strategies. The first is hiding. But the other–a technique even more covert than hiding–is performing your way to the center of attention for acceptance. Performing is the wolf is sheep’s clothing. It appears harmless, works  in the short term, and honestly, it’s not that hard. The fake self is easy. Being easy is easy. Showing up with integrity is a more challenging battle, but in the long run, always the better choice.

Are We out of the Woods Yet?

Ultimately,
The lucky one who belongs with you, must be a person who CAN SEE you. And not because you sang a slightly whiney back porch ballad to convince him. But because with eyes open, he noticed. His eyes, mind, and heart arrived in agreement that he found what he sought, knew what he found, and loved what he saw. If BOTH of [you] see, and share a matching medley  of life visions, in multiple senses of the word, then–if I may be so fearless as to speak now (my opinion)– by all means, let the sparks fly.  Begin  a new romantic and enchanted fairy tale love story that’s sweeter than fiction, where all of your wildest dreams come true as you ride a white horse, (or maybe even a dark horse) into the starlight in style! 😉

Love and Lighthouses

Everyone wants to be loved. But in order to be loved, we have to be known. And in order to be known, we must also be seen. Allowing ourselves to be seen, while also learning to see deeply into others, is a process developed over time.

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In the meantime, imitate the lighthouse: it neither hides its light nor carelessly throws itself in front of all the buoys and boats. A lighthouse just beams. Eventually, people see it. Shakira seekers and flickering flings between the deceived and the drama sheep are, unfortunately, probably here to stay. But don’t despair. Breatheshake it off  and remember: you already have access to a fire. Your authenticity in Christ is most brilliant flame you could ever burn. Kindle it.