I’m really excited to introduce James Benjamin. He’s a smart and caring young man who loves Jesus, and provides a unique perspective that I can’t. I’m looking forward to learning from him, and I hope you enjoy it as well. -Nathan Charlton, Of Life and Men Editor.
Where do I even begin? I’ve just set sail on this voyage, I can still see the dock behind me, and the wind has barely hit the sails. I’m 21, entering my first ever relationship, with a girl who is way out of my league. To be blatantly honest, I am freaking out. In a world that is full of perfection and technology comes the ability to hide behind so much. Vulnerability and authenticity are now the things that everyone craves but nobody wants to offer, or at least be the person to offer it first.
Dating in a World of Screens
My parents, or anyone that hasn’t dated in 10 years, will have a hard time understanding dating in the 21st century. The world of technology that is texting, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and now this blog post is a whole new challenge. In a world where we hide behind screens, we are struggling to learn how to be personable and vulnerable. We spend hours editing a photo and making sure our profile is aesthetically pleasing. We compose Facebook posts like we are submitting them to our professors for a grade, and worry more about how many likes we get than how many solid, stable relationships we have in the real world. Dating is hard when you are trying to make yourself seem perfect. Who wants to date someone who pretends to be perfect? I don’t.
So back to the part where I am 21 and entering my first relationship ever with a girl who is beyond amazing. She loves the Lord, she loves kids (especially kids with special needs), she gets along with all my closest friends, we have the same sense of humor, we both pick up on things rather quickly, and that is just the beginning. She sounds amazing, right? Then why am I so afraid to let her in? A little background on how we got to where we are today: as most relationships start this day and age, it was a friendly Snapchat war that developed into texting on Snapchat, that developed into iMessaging, that developed into hanging out together, that developed into “I like you, I like you too,” that developed into real dates, and that developed into lets DTR and make it FB official. Now here we are nearly 3 months later. I have a girlfriend. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.
Moving Beyond the Superficial
Letting people in is hard to do because we are trained to show people our facade. Our thin, cheap, easy to see through exterior that we all hold up with pride. It’s decorated in our best clothing, designer sunglasses, and the hottest smartwatch available. Guys, we have to stop, and I am most certainly including myself. Our wives and girlfriends need us to be vulnerable, show emotion, and cry. Jesus freaking wept, and so can you! Everything is not going to be okay 100% of the time, and if you are under the impression that it is, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
During my years of singleness I have observed both failed and successful relationships, and I have romanticized what my ideal relationship should look like. As I have prayed to God about my future spouse and what I would like, He has shown me many of those attributes in my girlfriend. He knows my heart’s desire, and I obviously wouldn’t date someone if I thought I never wanted to marry them. But with that said, she is going to fall short. I am going to fall short. And I have to be okay with that. Neither of us will be perfect. Dating is all about letting the other person mess up and catching them when they fall, just like how God catches us. We need to be there to encourage and lift each other up, because if you aren’t lifting up your significant other, then someone else will. When we realize that our significant other is not perfect, and we let them know that they can stop pretending to be, a lot of pressure falls off and the relationship can thrive. It can thrive in a mess of imperfect people chasing after a perfect God.
From Here On Out
I remember being in youth group and hearing my pastor talk about praying for your future spouse. I thought that was odd, but so interesting. I had talked to God about it a little in my teens, but over the last couple years I started to take the conversation more seriously. I don’t know if the girl I am dating now is the girl I will marry, but God knows, and he has brought us together for a reason and for a season. I don’t know how long a season, it could be for weeks, months, or years. All I know is that I need to be thankful. Thankful to God and thankful for her.
I am extremely selfish. I have accepted it, and I am working on it. When it comes to love languages, quality time is at the top of my list, and gifts is at the bottom. Giving is so hard, but when you look at the Gospel, it’s what God did for us. He gave his one and only Son. Relationships give to one another despite the pain, despite the heartbreak, despite the anxiety, despite the rejection, despite the fear, despite the embarrassment, despite everything. We are to give of ourselves, and that is exactly what I am learning to do. Learning to give up my time, my finances, my security, and my comfort. I’m learning to give up everything for her, just like God gave up everything for me.