June 30, 2014 by Kara Nichols
Twenty years ago I acquired my first boyfriend. His name was Travis. He rode a skateboard and had blue hair. We would meet at up Jr. High youth group on Wednesday nights or at a friend’s house to hang out. He gave me my first hickie while on the back of a church bus coming back from the beach with the youth group. I stayed up late into the night applying flesh-toned acrylic paints (no joke) to my neck trying to cover it up. It didn’t work and the next morning my parents were mortified, and rightly so. I was only 14. I was banned from seeing Travis but I just went on to the next guy. And the next guy. And the next guy. Falling further and further down the rabbit hole of serial dating until POW! Suddenly it’s been an entire two decades of dating and what do I have to show for it? Layers and layers of heartache with some good times sprinkled in. And now like an archeologist, I’m digging up the past, brushing off the dirt, trying to make sense of my dating history.
Excluding a few stray years here and there, I’ve been in a relationship with a man – either casual or serious – for the past TWENTY YEARS. (Happy 20th anniversary?) I used to say that I dated so much because I worked better in a team. But to be honest I was depending on the affection of these guys to keep me moving. To make me feel alive. To be my muse. To be fair, I have dated some rad guys but even with them it still ended in a break up, which is taxing on the heart. And I just don’t think I can’t handle much more heartache.
Just like anyone else, I’m not sure what the next twenty years holds for me. I already have a cat so I figure I’m on the right path toward being a spinster. But there are days I long for a best friend and partner. If I date again, I will be doing it differently. Instead of jumping in fast, I want to take it slow. Instead of giving my heart away, I want to hold it close. And most importantly I want God to be at the center of the relationship and actually bring God glory through the relationship.
I think of my sweet nieces, who are all relatively close to the age I was when I started dating, and I want to protect them. If it were up to me I wouldn’t let them date until college and even then I’d be at the house cleaning my gun when the guy came over. Picking out a boyfriend should be a lot important than say, picking out a new pair of shoes, which is the level of seriousness I took with my dates as a teenager. If only I knew of the heartache and sad memories I would be weighed down with. I just wanted to have fun and feel loved. Now, armed with the knowledge that only God’s unconditional love can truly satisfy my heart, I feel like I have a chance at happiness whether I’m single OR in a relationship.
Last night I spent 20 (ok maybe 40) minutes updating my dating profiles on a few websites and by then end of it I laughed to myself and said out loud, “I would totally date me!” Which I think is half the battle, really, because In the past I had a low self-esteem and would try to mask that by being in relationship. I found my worth in men instead of God.
I can’t help but think of Sarah’s story in the Bible. She was unable to have children for many years, and God blessed her with a son when she was an old woman. And she became the mother of the nation of Israel! That’s the kind of God I worship. Sarah’s life teaches me that when I feel doubtful or afraid I should remember what God said to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV)
Here’s what I’m clinging to: God gives me hope and a new future (Jeremiah 29:11) I am dearly loved no matter what my relationship status ( Col. 3:12) I am being transformed ( 2 Cor. 3:18) I am confident (Phil.1:6) I am valuable to God ( 1 Cor. 6:20) I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)
Whether you are single, in a relationship, married, or divorced, my advice to you, as someone who has spent the last 20 years dating: Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:23) I’ve tested this and found out the hard way that it’s true. In some ways I will be paying the consequences for the rest of my life. Do me a favor and think twice about who you shack up with, and who you choose to love. And always remember, and this is one I have to constantly remind myself of, only God can satisfy your heart completely.