DTR – Define the Relationship (or It Will Define You).

How have you changed the most in the last year?

Do you see that you are more prepared to lead someone?

Are you (on some level) grateful that you have been allowed to grow so much before entering a covenant?

These three questions were asked of me in an email recently. I had not given much directed thought to sitting down and sorting through how God had changed me with a “someday marriage” in view, but after thinking over my last (and by far, worst) relationship for a time, I am thankful for what God has taught me…

I’ve learned that the worst moment of God-honoring singleness is far better than the best moment of a self-seeking relationship.

I’ve learned that a “Proverbs 7” woman can pretend, for a time, to be a “Proverbs 31” woman, but eventually the truth will be exposed.

I’ve learned that one should always avoid a relationship with anyone who is not an adult mentally or emotionally.

I’ve learned that one-sided love can only go so far.

I’ve learned that someone who displays dishonesty and selfishness in the little things will do the same for the big things.

I’ve learned that you should only pursue someone who genuinely respects you.

I’ve learned you should only get involved with someone who knows what lasting, sacrificial love is (not just in word, but action) and can be committed and loyal to another person.

I’ve learned that every romantic relationship…
…takes a tremendous amount of work, care, wisdom and attention in order to be a success, much less survive intact. If you are dating someone who believes there should be no work involved, you need to find someone who understands reality.

I’ve learned that if you aren’t putting forth a considerable amount of effort, investing your time, energy and self to understand, support and encourage the other person in order to demonstrate your love and to help your partner become more like Christ, then your relationship will never be all it needs to be.

I have learned to pursue only givers, not takers. They will drain you of life and make you believe that you are in the wrong for asking for anything.

I have learned that I must set my minimum standards much higher than what I have settled for in a potential partner.

I have learned that a person who is resistant to the working of God, who ignores His leading and teaching and who puts limits on what parts of His teaching she will obey or sets parameters on what she will sacrifice for Him is not the kind of person that makes for good wife/girlfriend material.

I’ve learned the value of owning your wrongs and apologizing. You can tell a lot about the size of someone’s inner character by how quickly she repents…or if she ever does.

I’ve learned that loneliness, boredom or panic are never valid reasons for a relationship. Neither is an emotional experience alone. One view of relationships in Christian circles is found quite often. The reasoning runs like this:

God wants me to be happy.
This person makes me happy.
Therefore this person is from God.

What’s wrong with that view?

Wrong word. Replace “happy” with “holy” as the priority, and everything else falls into place.

When the “hard work” of a relationship begins, or infatuation fades, a person thinking that it’s all about the laughs and fun starts trying to find ways to escape to happiness. It’s very much like those “God chasers” who run from church to church trying to find the next experience. If they don’t feel the “tingles and goosebumps,” they assume God isn’t moving, at work or present in that place. Relationship chasers have a similar mindset. They live for the high moments, run from person to person, rebounding again and again, seeking the “butterflies,” but they never quite find lasting peace. There are those people who always need people with them to validate them and can’t be alone. I have seen the damage this type causes firsthand…

If you’re dissatisfied with yourself when you’re alone, you will be just as dissatisfied with someone at your side, it just may take a little longer for you to discover that fact. Bring God to the center of your thinking and allow Him to set your priorities; He’s the only one who can satisfy fully.

I’ve learned that the love of another, like the love of God, should urge, draw and compel us toward holiness. If God gives something, it will always draw you closer to Him, and He offers strength and guidance along the way.

It’s not easy, because to live like He lived and to love like He loves requires that we die to self like He died. We must seek to be faithful to Him, not our personal desires.

In The Sacred Search, Gary Thomas writes,”If your dating relationship is sustained by sin, what will sustain your marriage? Doesn’t it make sense that if you shut God out to do what you want to do in one season, you’ll keep doing it in the next season?”

God’s gifts are primarily about Him, not us. When we make it all about us and not God, or just put our own desires a tiny fraction ahead of (or even with) His desires, we set ourselves up for failure.

It’s like the Promised Land. The land was never the priority; God was. Henry Blackaby wrote that the land was the means by which Israel would know God and enjoy living under His love and care. It was the expression of His love. It was always intended as a means to know God, but the people focused on the land instead of the Giver of the land, and it led to a tragic spiral away from Him. It was always about knowing Him and making Him known.

Marriage is the same. It’s a vehicle to know God, to become more holy, to live with a fellow, clay-footed human and love him or her (and be loved in return) as a reflection of Christ to each other. It’s about becoming more like Jesus than ever before. It’s co-preparation to stand before Him one day. It doesn’t end there; marriage is to be a demonstration of the Gospel to others as well.

How well I love her will be determined by how well I know He loves me. And the only way I can love her better is to love Him more and more.

Honestly, my desire is that one day, a person will say or think, “Oh…God loves me like Dustin loves his wife.”

I define love as a choice to seek the greatest good of another regardless of the cost, and I see that is nothing short of a picture of Christ’s sacrifice.

I had lived with these dreamy notions of romance (which aren’t bad), but they were devoid of a grounding in the hard, yet rewarding, work. At times, I wanted someone with me because I was lonely, now I want someone to help me become more holy. And I want to be able to do the same for her.

I am grateful for all the ups and downs of the last year, yes. At times, it’s not the path I would have chosen for myself, but had I known where it would lead, I would have walked it more willingly. I really would have. (Of course, had I the opportunity to turn back the clock a few years, erase my error and everything with it and never be faced with the wasted time and the last disappointment, I would do it.) Where I am with God now is a completely different place than a few months ago. And my relationship with Him is better and deeper than ever before. I love Him so.

As a testimony to God’s work, I can say, with absolute certainty, that the one He has chosen for me will be getting a much better and much different man than she would have gotten a year ago…and I prayerfully trust that He is drawing that woman of God closer to Himself even now.


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