Have you ever done that? Held on to someone for so long that you punished other people for his sins, ability to commit, rushed intimacy... or yours?
As much as I love Taylor Swift, Blank Space is not how we are supposed to date. It's not fun, or funny. Just because it's normal doesn't mean it's moral. Just read Dickens' classic novel and you'll see the other side of the story.
I've read the Gospels a few times and Jesus doesn't really offer dating advice about how to get over the one who got away. I do know that disappointment is the result of - you guessed it - great expectations. I do know that there's no such thing as expecting too much from God, that high expectations in Jesus is called faith. I do know that He offers anyone who is hurt and imprisoned the same thing: healing and freedom. In order to see the doctor, you have to show him the thorn in your side. The Lord can't heal you unless you admit where you need his touch.
So what happened? Where does it hurt?
For almost all of us, it's because someone didn't love us the way they were supposed to. Bad things happen because God gave us freedom and people made not-so-good choices.
I used to think there was something incontrovertibly wrong with me. Like I had a spiritual and romantic dysfunction. My great expectations let me think "something's there" that isn't. My too-high expectations led me to want something too soon. Disappointment morphs into hurt which grows into anger that saturated my life and I didn't know if I could ever be satisfied. Even now, I'm sometimes fearful of ever having heaven because I'm going to spend the rest of my life... mad. My relationships fell apart because I was too much for the guys who weren't ready, or sometimes not enough for the guys who were.
When you spend your days trying to be desirable to someone who did not want you, you will spend your whole life feeling unwanted and insufficient.
That's not just in courtship. Sometimes our friends and even our parents make us feel that way. But guess what? You can't shame yourself for what other people did wrong. What if you didn't do anything wrong? You've learned, I guess, to keep your heart more guarded. But that isn't because you sinned. Maybe you're imperfect but it's not like you were shoving God out (the definition of sin.) Someone else shoved you out and I'm sure it hurt. Can you forgive yourself for being naive? Of course you can. Can you forgive them for being scared, for not being where you were, for not knowing how much they'd hurt you? Can you allow God to sweep you out of the puddle and into the security of His love, His faithfulness, regardless of how other people treat you?
Of course you can.
God wants more than that for you. It's not as if He left you destitute. Look at all the people around you, there to provide the love you need. God wants you to not rely on other people's affections - and yet He surrounds you with plenty of it in your parents, friends who know you, even teachers and coaches. He wants you to not rely on your own looks, charms or even intelligence. He wants you to be so detached from an image projected for all the world to see, and focus on the faith that He is real, that you can be happy and content with whatever He gives you.
No, that doesn't mean you're going to have to marry someone ugly. (That used to be my greatest fear.) It means you have to have faith that you will find happiness even in a situation He brings you - not one that you strive for.
It took me a long time but this is how I learned not to live like I was just looking for someone to write in a blank space, how not to date like Miss Havisham...
1 | Texting
I don't text more than one guy at a time (even as friends) if I have feelings for one of them. Jury's still out on whether I think guys and girls can be friends at all if they're unmarried but I think it has to do with the state of your heart. If this is an issue for you, stay tuned, or read Sarah Swafford's Emotional Virtue.
2 | Group Dates
I try to only hang out with guys in groups, not alone. This is harder if you're older and easier if you're younger. If you're a recovering date-a-holic like me, it's worth the creative energy.
3 | Pray for the right things
I try to pray honestly, not with empty words or flippant desires (Matthew 6:8). Pray for happiness, not marriage. Pray for separation from the wrong things, not dependency. Pray for fulfillment in Christ, not a satisfied ego.
4 | Set your course
Determine a road to future happiness. Maybe you're not there yet, maybe you are. Start sowing hope. In one month, what do you have to look forward to? In one day? What bliss are you looking for one year from now that has nothing to do with who is with you (besides the always-there Spirit of God)?
This is for anyone who has ever felt regret, longing, heart break, loneliness. If you're lost, looking, or just feel like a loser. You might be troubled. You might feel defeated. I'm praying for your peace. I'm praying for you to know the joy of salvation. God is. God knows. God cares. God loves.
God is enough.