A Foreign Affair

I think a lot of our ideas about attraction and “mating” are very specific to our culture.

Recently, I watched two documentaries on Netflix that gave me some food for thought about how we, as Americans, think about attraction and marriage.

Meet The Patels, centers around an Indian-American actor who is on the cusp of 30. According to his cultural expectations, this situation is unacceptable. So, after some thought, he agrees to let his parents intervene with his love life.  And ultimately, he agrees to a modern-day take on pursuing an arranged marriage.

What I found fascinating about the film was the idea, that marriage is such an important part of his culture and community, that the older generation didn’t leave partnering up to chance.  In addition, there seemed to be an intentional goal of passing on the traditions, morals, and values of previous generations.  It also appeared that this “rite of passage” was/is so important that people created a process to ensure that like-minded individuals could meet and marry each other. I also liked the fact, that the community was vested in making sure that the potential couple was vetted for compatibility, character, interests, etc.

Granted, I say this as an outsider to the Indian/Indian-American community, so I don’t have a grasp on the nuances of reality of this idea. But some of the concepts presented were interesting and compelling.

I grew up in the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” pandemonium, which although good intentioned, brought a lot of confusion and hang-ups to the single, Christian community.

To that end, there is a tendency for many singles to “date in a vacuum”, which is isn’t particularly beneficial.   I think there’s tremendous value in having the previous generation pour into our lives.  And I also think it’s very valuable to have married couples weigh-in on our dating decisions. Through this interaction, there’s an opportunity for people to share their mistakes, successes, and the tips that have helped them weather the storms of life in a partnership.  I feel that we need this knowledge and I wish it was more freely offered and given.

The other film (Love Me), profiled American men, who after various failed attempts at finding love in the States, decide to take a chance on a “mail-order bride” from another country. Yes, this concept is extreme and some of the men are “interesting”.  However, this film made me think.  It made me question the concept of attraction.  In fact, the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” comes to mind.

If we’re honest, there is some level of reciprocity in relationships. The value of  the”goods” is often determined by culture.  Meaning…what we find physically attractive, the amount of value that we place on physical desirability or the ability to provide, etc. is often determined by the society around us.

So, it was interesting to see men, who some would not find desirable in the US, being desired and valued elsewhere. Granted, I realize that the ideas presented in this film are complicated at best. (I am not advocating the mail-order bride arrangement.) However, it did make me think about my American concept of attraction.  Is possible that I, we are missing out on good people because they don’t fit our preconceived notions of what is desirable in our culture.

What are your thoughts?  If you’ve seen the movies, weigh-in.  Even if you haven’t, what do you think about today’s approach to dating and marriage?

Meet The Patels

 

Love Me

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Meg Jay: Why 30 is not the new 20

This. [The time to help a person work on their marriage is before they get married.]

It’s so much easier to build a strong, healthy foundation from the beginning.  But it is so much harder to fix a broken one once the “house” is already built.

Let us not miss out on the opportunity to develop wholeness and/or healthy, God honoring relationships during the single years.

Lessons To My Younger Self-Part 4

LessonsPerson

Pursue Wholeness Not Formulas

(To read the first part of the series, go to Part 1Part 2, Part 3.)

Every couple has a different story.

  • Some people met their spouse while they were steeped in sin.
  • Others met “the one” when they became more active in church.
  • Some met their intended, one year after the date they wrote a prayer of surrender in their journal.

What am I trying to say?

You will find love when you are looking for it, but you may find it when you’re not.  You may find love when you are living at your best, but God may allow you to meet your spouse when you are at your worst.

There is no formula.

To clarify, I don’t think that people are trying to be glib when they give advice. In fact, most are trying to be helpful. However, I think people speak from their experiences or they speak phrases that they’ve heard others say and then try to apply those generalities to the single people in their lives.

So…what am I trying to say?

Be whole.  Be a whole person.

Pursue the Lord. Pursue your passions. Form friendships with people of the same sex and people of the opposite sex. Pursue friendships with people who are married and people who are single. And yes, if you don’t feel called to singleness (whether for a season or a lifetime), look for opportunities to increase activities where you can interact with like-minded people.

In all your ways acknowledge Him. Learn to believe in the goodness of God when times are good and when times are hard.  But in those times of hardship, know that God has compassion for you. And know that you are not meant to carry life’s burden by yourself. (Galatians 6:2)

Life is a journey, but regardless of your relationship status, learn to live daily for the glory of God.
And that, my friends, are the lessons that I would tell my younger self.

CS Woman

Lessons To My Younger Self-Part 3

LessonsPerson

 

(To read the first part of the series, go to Part 1, Part 2.)

Serve Christ. Period.

Regardless of whether you are married or single, God may call you to church ministry, to volunteer, become a professional break dancer, etc. The possibilities are endless. 🙂

However, when it comes to singles, a number of us are encouraged to see this time as an opportunity for undistracted service to the Lord.  This idea is true and it’s biblical, but pointing out this truth may actually cause singles to focus on the wrong thing.

I am called to follow and serve Christ not because I am single.  I am called to serve Him because I am a Christ follower.  If my singleness allows me to serve in a different capacity than the married couples around me, that’s great, but my singleness should not be the motivation for my service.

Overall, I wish more people would have encouraged me to serve God. Period.

So that’s my challenge to you. Today, how is God asking you to serve?

To be continued…Part 4

Lessons To My Younger Self-Part 2

LessonsPerson

(To read the first part of the series, go to Part 1.)

Pursuing A Romantic Relationship And Pursuing Christ Are Not Mutually Exclusive

If you are an adult, there’s a pretty good chance that you have a sex drive. And there’s a pretty good chance that you have longed for a romantic relationship.

Your sex drive and your desire for romance are not inherently evil. They are not entities that need to be feared or feverishly suppressed in some way.  They are biological drives that are a part of God’s design.  For sure, we can choose to sin when it comes to our sex drives and our dating choices.  But our capacity for romance is not the problem.

Over the years, I’ve heard a number of Christian leaders say things that have implied that you can’t follow Christ and date at the same time. So instead, they’ve encouraged people to focus primarily on Christ during their single years.

But here’s the thing, I think we can fall into a trap when we start to treat dating and romance with a “one size fits all” mentality.  To paraphrase the designer Tom Ford- [One-size fits all, doesn’t fit anyone well].

For teenagers who are not of marrying age, it may make sense to encourage them to focus their energy away from serious relationships.  Because in the words of my former youth pastor, “You will either breakup or get married.” (Most 16 year-olds are not ready for marriage, for them, stirring up passionate desires may lead to sexual sin.)

However, it can be argued that for a person who is in their 20’s (and beyond), marriage may be a practical outlet for the sex drive and romantic desires.

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:6

Instead of telling adult singles blanket statements such as

  • Take a year off from dating.
  • Pursue Jesus, not romance.

Why not encourage us to acknowledge Him in all our ways?

What does this look like?

1. Spend time reading the Bible.

If I want to live a godly life, then I need to find out how God wants me to live my life. There’s no better way to do that than by spending consistent time reading the bible. (I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11) *If you’d like tips on how to study the Bible check out a recent post here.

2. Spend time in prayer.

Specifically when it comes to relationships, if there is someone that you are interested in, ask God for discernment.  But be willing to listen and obey-even if the answer is not what you want to hear.

3. Develop a community. 

Find people who will be honest with you.

Find people who are willing to encourage you when you make great decisions. And find people who are  also willing to tell you when you make lousy ones.

All that to say… if you acknowledge God in all your ways, you may come to the conclusion that you need to take a break from dating.

-Or-

You may come to the conclusion that God is leading you to pursue or accept a romantic relationship with the godly person you’ve been praying about.

Another two Cents:

I think one of the reasons that some people discourage singles from dating is because they have seen or experienced some very painful relationships. But my question would be, in those situations, did the two people involved seek to acknowledge God in all their ways? Were they seeking to glorify God in their actions and words or were they caught up in the thrill of romance?

And another thing- I truly believe that if we acknowledge Christ, He will guide us. In my experience, God has made it clear to me when a relationship was not in His will.

I’ve come to this realization…

  • because after getting to know the other person, I realized that we didn’t share the same values or life goals.
  • because my friends and family expressed concerns and reservations.
  • because I didn’t have a peace.

Real Life Example:

There was a time when I was dating a godly guy, but I kept feeling like I needed to end the relationship. The feeling became so strong that I ended up telling my boyfriend that I needed a week of separation.  During that time, I prayed about the relationship. After the week was over, I knew I needed to break things off. In hindsight, I know that decision was a good one, but at the time, it was hard to let that relationship go.

Again, I believe that God will direct us on how we should live our lives. The tricky part is will we listen?  Will we obey Christ when it is easy and when it’s hard?

To be continued…Part 3

Lessons To My Younger Self-Part 1

LessonsPerson

Every so often I reach out to friends and family to see if they will share their stories on my blog. When I do, I often ask them to share lessons of what they wish they had known in regards to relationships.

This time, I’m going to direct that question to myself.

Over the last few months, I’ve come to some realizations that I wished I had learned earlier in life.  If I had, perhaps I would not have struggled with my singleness so much when I was younger.

You Are Physically Attractive And Attraction Is Not Just About Sexual Desire

Sound familiar? These principles are from the recent blog posts- Laws of Attraction: Let’s Get Practical Part 1, Part 2.

I’m introspective, analytical, and I often draw conclusions based on the information/circumstances around me.  This analytical personality can be beneficial, but sometimes the conclusions that I’ve come to are based on false assumptions.

A false assumption that I’ve been holding onto for years is…

Men pursue attractive women. Therefore if a man is not pursuing me, I am not attractive.

I am not a “serial dater”. In fact my romantic calendar has been somewhat blank.  Although, I know that one’s worth is not found in a multitude of admirers. I would be lying to say that I don’t want male attention. And at times, the lack of Christian suitors has been a blow to my pride.

Side note:

And it doesn’t help that more often than not, the men who’ve been the most aggressive about their intentions, have been non-Christians.

(The whole issue of Christian-friendship-dating-ambiguity is another topic for another day…a future post. However, as a woman who’s been on the receiving end of said ambiguity, the experience can be frustrating.)

-But-

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that attraction is more than an equation of pleasing symmetry and harmonious parts…physical beauty. It’s a little more complicated than that.

I wished that I had realized that sooner.

I wished that I had realized that a man’s lack of interest wasn’t due to my lack of physical beauty, witty conversation, or whatever.  If I had realized that attraction is complex, I probably wouldn’t have taken “rejection” so personally.

So, if you find yourself in a circumstance of unrequited affection, try not to take it personally.  Just because someone is not pursuing you or isn’t romantically attracted to you, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

Contentment Is Not The Absence Of Desire

Single people come from a variety of backgrounds.

  • Some are young, old, have children, etc.
  • Some singles are very happy with their “relationship status”, but others struggle…

For those who struggle, we’re often told that we should be content in whatever state we find ourselves.  But what does that mean?

For many years I thought the following was true:

Being a content single means that you will no longer desire (or struggle with the desire) to be married and/or have children.

I no longer believe that this is what it means to be content.

I believe that being content means to believe in the sovereignty and the goodness of God no matter your circumstances. Sometimes those circumstances are pleasant and other times they are painful.  And singleness is sometimes painful.

Pain is not necessarily bad. In fact there will always be some measure of tension when we long for something we do not have.  And many times God uses that tension to refine us.

Consider, when it comes to music, sometimes the most beautiful moments in a musical piece is a moment of dissonance- a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord merriam-webster . Just like in music, sometimes the most beautiful moments of life can be a season of- clashing or unresolved desires.

I’ve spent a lot of unnecessary energy trying to resolve or take away the dissonance of my singleness.  However, I’m not sure that God was asking me to resolve my dissonance. Instead, I’m learning how to live in and embrace the dissonance.

I’m learning how to surrender in the midst of an unresolved desire.

So, if you are a single person who struggles with your singleness, it’s okay that you struggle. Your mission is not to eradicate that sensation, but instead embrace the dissonance.  Let that struggle refine you.

That being said, if you find yourself becoming bitter and resentful, don’t struggle alone.  Find someone-a counselor, a mentor, friends, etc. to help  you walk to a place of wholeness.

And realize that this struggle is a journey. It’s not a fixed moment in time, a life altering decision. It’s a day to day decision to believe in the sovereignty and goodness of God whether you are in a state of pleasure or pain.

To be continued…Part 2

Laws of Attraction: Let’s Get Practical Part 2

BoyMGirl2

Disclaimer: I believe…

  • in the sovereignty of God.
  • that God’s timing is often not our timing.
  • that no one can provide a surefire-money-back-guarantee on how to find the love of your life.

-However

I think that some of us could use some practical advice about attraction and dating. So, if you will indulge me, here are my two cents.

(To read the first part of the series, go here )

5. You Might Have To Be Proactive (especially if you are out of school)

If you’re like me and you grew up in the church, inevitably, someone will tell you that you need to just “wait on God” and when the time is right, God will bring that person into your life.

In all honesty, I think this approach is strange, especially since we seldom apply this kind of logic to other areas of our lives.

If I said that I wanted to find a church, a job, or even a hair dresser (which we all know is hard to find), few people would tell me that I should just pray and wait for God to fulfill my desire in His timing.

Let me say something that bears repeating (or at least needs to be put in bold font 😉 )

Being proactive doesn’t mean you are desperate. 

And for those who are no longer in college, the reality is, there may not be a large pool of potential dating partners in your social settings (work, church, apartment complex, etc.).

In fact, in the book How To Get A Date Worth Keeping, Dr. Henry Cloud remarks that the college experience creates multiple opportunities to meet potential dating partners due to demographics and social activities. But upon graduation, those great demographics and social activities tend to  dry up. Which means if you want to meet like-minded people in a similar age bracket, you might have to be proactive.

Being proactive can be as simple as joining a co-ed organization (e.g. a sports team or a  meetup group) to something more intentional like going on a blind date or meeting someone online.

However, if you make the decision to try to “put yourself out there”, please remember…

6. Don’t Take Things Too Personally (especially in the “getting to know you stage”)

Just because the object of your affection doesn’t want to sweep you off your feet and ride off into the sunset, doesn’t mean that there’s something horribly wrong with you. Sometimes when romantic opportunities don’t work out, it can be a good thing. You, and the other person, may not be a great fit for each other.

For example, when I was in college, I went on a few dates with a fellow coworker-scandalous…I know. 😉 Although he was cute, friendly,a great guitar player, and really nice, we didn’t share the same convictions about God and other areas of life. Since I was (and am) looking for someone who shares similar values, we didn’t go beyond the friend stage.

And to be honest, when I look back at the other relationships that didn’t pan out too well, I’ve come to realize that it was probably for the best (kind of like the old Garth Brook’s song “Unanswered Prayers”).

It’s been my experience that if we seek God and prayerfully seek His guidance (and listen to the warnings of friends and family), we can spare ourselves a lot of misery and heartache. Sometimes not getting want we want can be a blessing.

And finally, just to clear up any misconceptions…

7. It’s Okay To Be Single

I think that when some people say, “I found love when I wasn’t looking for it”, what they really mean is “I was open…not obsessed.”

From my perspective, it’s perfectly acceptable to put yourself in situations where the odds of finding a match are stacked in your favor. That being said, sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, great haircuts, and witty conversational banter, we still may find ourselves unattached.

This situation can be frustrating, hard, and painful.

My solution is…proactively wait.  Meet other people. Pursue your passions.  Own your feelings and desires.  You may not meet “the one” on the time table that you hoped for, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fulfilling relationships or even learn how to have healthy relationships with the opposite sex. The key is to seek balance. Don’t obsess, but don’t repress.

Hope this information helps. 🙂

-CS Woman

Laws of Attraction: Let’s Get Practical Part 1

BoyMGirl2

Disclaimer: I believe…

  • in the sovereignty of God.
  • that God’s timing is often not our timing.
  • that no one can provide a surefire-money-back-guarantee on how to find the love of your life.

-However

I think that some of us could use some practical advice about attraction and dating. So, if you will indulge me, here are my two cents.

1. You Are Physically Attractive

Everyone may not find you physically attractive, but there is someone who does. In fact there’s probably someone, in your current sphere of influence, who thinks that you’re pretty awesome

But…

2. Sexual Attraction Is NOT Just About Physical Beauty

Despite what reality television would have us believe, not everyone is trying to date the hottest person they can find. To be honest, sure, most people want to date someone they find attractive, but they (we) are usually looking for other qualities too.

Think about it, consciously or unconsciously, we put potential partners through a filter.

Is the object of our affection…

  • single?
  • gainfully employed?
  • emotionally stable…?

Do they…

  • share my religious beliefs?
  • share my values?
  • bathe regularly….?

So here’s the thing, if you’re finding that you are not getting the kind of attention you would like,

Consider the following:

  • Are there any areas of your life that need improvement? If so, it might be time to do a little work.

-However-

  • If after talking to a friend (who’s not afraid to be honest with you) you come to the conclusion that you’ve got your act together. It might be time to take a look at your social environments.

After all…

3. Like Attracts Like

Simply put- We enjoy being around people who are similar to us.

For example:

  1. Healthy people like healthy people.
  2. Ambitious people like ambitious people.
  3. Religious people like religious people.

And so on…

So, as I said, take a look at your social circles.

What do you have in common?

  • Are you around the same age?
  • Do you have similar drives and interests?
  • Do you have similar life goals and values, etc.?

Because if you don’t, the likelihood that there will be a mutual interest for both parties is small.

What I’m not saying is dump all the social activities where you are around people who are “different” than you (e.g. church, small group, volunteer organization, your job).

But, what I am saying is that it would be a good idea to seek out social situations where you are not the proverbial “odd man out”. Because the more you hang out with like-minded people, the more likely it is that you will have positive relational experiences.

This dynamic is so important, because…

4. Our life experiences tend to have a domino affect on our self-esteem

Most of us don’t like to be repeatedly rejected.  So the more positive experiences (romantic or otherwise) that you have with the opposite sex, the more confident you’ll feel.  In turn, that increased sense of confidence will make it more likely that you’ll be attractive to other  people.

And another thing… (To be continued in Part 2)

 

Chronicles of a Missionary-My Journey To Peru

Letty

Meet Letty

I have known CS Woman for a number of years and much more personally within the last few. I’ll try to keep this from getting too lengthy, as my 30+ years of life have been full-hahaha…

Currently, my family (husband, 3 children) and I are living in Peru serving as missionaries, bringing healing to the broken systems of education and religion.

Where I Came From

I grew up in Southern California in a home with both parents and three siblings. About the time I was in junior high, my parents were having troubles, so they reached out to some friends, who led them to a very good Bible teaching church. From then on, I spent my weekends and vacations learning more about the God I always knew existed, but finally, I was able to know Him better and more personally. Life was peaceful.

Unfortunately, by the time I turned 19, curiosity got the best of me. After a few too many parties and too many boyfriends, I found myself pregnant, unwed, jobless, without an education and well… lost. I think I had convinced myself that I could have my cake and eat it too by doing all the things other people my age were doing, while still going to church playing the “good girl” role.

However no person can serve two masters, either you’ll serve yourself and do what you think is fine and fulfilling or you’ll serve your Creator who knows you better than any other person alive. (Matthew 6:24)

I came to the realization that I was serving myself.  I thought that I was trusting in God for my future, but in reality, I was still clinging to my desires and even my insecurities.  In short, I had made a mess. After hitting rock bottom, I knew that I needed to truly surrender to God.

So, I made a decision to take care of my child the best I could (by getting some schooling and a decent job). I also learned to focus on knowing God so well that I could hear His voice leading me instead of my own. 

Fast Forward To Today

God restored my situation. During a time of separation from the father of my child, I grew stronger in my relationship with God. It was during this time that my ex became a Christian. Eventually, we started dating and then decided to get married.  I’ve now been married for almost 11 years and two more children have been born to us. My story doesn’t end like most people’s but it sure did begin the same way…

For 4 consecutive years I trusted in man after man to make all my insecurities go away, to make me feel loved, and to make me feel beautiful. But the truth is that even though I am married to a man who loves God and our family more than his own soul, a man who is my absolute BFF, I still can feel lonely. Sometimes, I still feel like I’m not good enough and I still feel unloved. But now I know that whether single or married, life has its challenges.

Advice To My Younger Self

If I could do things over again at the ripe old age of 18, I would have cried more when I was lonely. I would have listened better to the brokenhearted and I would have consumed my time with studying, working, drinking coffee, and staying up late talking with friends instead of making some of the choices I had made. That being said, I was able to get my life back in order when I was 19 years old. I completed two semesters of Dental Assistant School, which allowed me to quickly get a job to provide for my child.

But honestly, had I had more time, I would have liked to have done things differently. Once I got married and the rest of the family came, there was no time for college, post-graduate studies or dreams. There was no time to save up, travel, and see the world. That’s what I would have done if I had more time…

Now that’s not to say I don’t love my life. For me, God was able to take my situation and make me into the person that I am today, but I had to learn through some painful lessons.

Life is hard and we will always be challenged to want more, to want better. But we need to entrust our lives to the One who knows better and knows all. He’s a good God and now on the other side of it all, after the pain and heartache I caused myself, He has restored much of what I thought I missed out on.

Embrace today, for no one knows what tomorrow holds. 🙂

Whose line is it anyway…

I have to admit that I was a bit of a late bloomer or at the very least I felt somewhat ignored by the male population in my high school days. But after I passed the city limits of my hometown  and set foot on a fairly large university campus 8 hours away from home, something  changed. All of a sudden guys were talking to me. In fact some were even asking me out… on a date. 😉 This new-found attention was mildly shocking, nerve-wracking, and pleasant all at the same time.

It was during this phase of my life that I became acquainted with the time-honored tradition of the “pick up” line. Some of the lines were flattering, creepy, and just plain awkward, but memorable none the less.

So what’s your line?

If you’ve fallen prey to this timeless dating ritual, do you have a favorite one, a memorable story to tell, or perhaps a cautionary tale?

-Or-

Perhaps you were the giver, not the receiver.

Share your story in the comment section below.

One of the pick up lines that sticks out to me, from my college days, was uttered by a white radio television film major with glasses. We had some time to kill before we went on stage for a choral performance. After some mindless banter, he said,”You look like Lauryn Hill and if you told me that you sang like her, I would fall in love with you.”

I’m pretty sure awkward silence ensued, because I’m not particularly gifted in the art of  flirting. And even though I probably managed to say something, a love connection was not made between me and the RTVF guy. But I still remember this scenario and I still admire his guts 10+ years later. 🙂

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