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  • “Midnight Kiss” Chapter 1 – Home Alone

    Posted on May 13th, 2009 admin 1 comment

    Chapter 1 – Home Alone: The complexity of relationships

    Imagine a world where two single people casually meet by the grace of God. As they stand, waiting for the crosswalk light on the corner of Fourteenth Street, they greet each other. The light signals “Walk” and they proceed westbound shoulder-to-shoulder. The man initiates conversation. The woman responds with kind words. They soon discover they are both new to town and currently looking for a church. They want to continue the conversation, so they exchange email addresses. A few days later they meet for worship at Downtown Christian Church. After the service they join a few members for lunch. A new relationship has begun.

    Most Christian singles think relationships begin by completing a five hundred-page questionnaire. After that comes the resume exchange. If everything looks good on paper, the first conversation deals with the best place to get married or the ideal number of kids. That is stupid. Relationships don’t have to begin that way. Try exchanging common courtesy in an afternoon greeting on a busy street corner. Then allow casual conversation to reveal the love for Jesus Christ that you may share with someone you barely know. Exchange contact information. Establish a meeting place. Enjoy beginning a new relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

    But, beginning a new relationship is not that easy! You may say, in a world filled with whackos, what reasonably minded single is going to talk to the first stranger with a warm smile and a few kind words? What is the probability of actually meeting someone on a street corner who wants more than a one-time fling? There is no chance of actually meeting someone who has the same respect for God as me. You doubt casual conversation can reveal the common foundation of Jesus Christ. Chances of so easily meeting a single Christian worth your attention are slim, or so you may think. Since God is in control of all things, there is no need to limit his delivery method for new relationships. God may choose to provide rewarding, life-long relationships through seemingly random, rather bizarre encounters. Beginning new relationships does not have to be so complicated.

    That is the main problem with Christian dating: it is too complicated. It has become easier for college graduates to land jobs with Fortune-500 companies than to land new relationships. The difficulties of getting your foot in the door with a respected company and with a respected Christian single are very similar. Companies won’t hire you unless you have experience, but you can’t get experience unless you get a job. Many Christian singles won’t date each other unless they know each other, but they can’t get to know each other unless they date each other. When it comes to dating, this dilemma leaves a lot of singles unemployed.

    The question becomes, how do you get your foot in the door? How do you get to know singles well enough so that you can spend quality time with one another? How can you possibly get to know another Christian single when your social circles do not intersect? You spend the majority of your life working hard at school or your job. At the end of a busy week the last thing you want to do is subject yourself to strangers at nightclubs or singles gatherings.

    Instead, you stay home alone to watch your favorite movie or read your favorite book again. Maybe you go out with your close friends and have the same conversations wondering when God will provide your knight in shining armor or dream lady. As the clock strikes midnight a carload of singles on the opposite side of town leaves their restaurant and heads home, having discussed the same thing. Two blocks down another single shuts down the computer, turns off the lights and heads for bed. The evening has been enjoyable, but nothing has changed. You are no closer to a new relationship than you were last week, last month or even last year.

    A new approach to Christian dating is needed. It may seem like it is easier for a history major to land a job with an engineering firm than a Christian single to land a new relationship with another Christian single. A new approach to dating can simplify the process of getting your foot in the door.

    The differences between people

    Singles understand the complexity of relationships. It doesn’t take long before two people discover they are different. No two people think alike. The unique differences between people guarantee disagreement. With disagreement comes the true test of any relationship. Will the relationship fail? Will each party go their separate ways, or will the relationship succeed and the two parties grow closer together?

    My first dating relationship failed because of such differences. I was in the eighth-grade. My girlfriend was in the ninth. I expected exclusivity. She preferred an open relationship. I wanted to hang out at the State Fair barns around our 4-H exhibits. She wanted to ride the swing carousel and play in the fun house. I wanted nothing to do with those things, therefore, my girlfriend walked through the midway with another man.

    His Asics athletic shoes and nylon warm up suit told the real story; he was a runner, trying to warm things up with my girl. His dark five o’clock shadow at eleven in the morning suggested he had reached the pinnacle of manhood. He was different than me.

    My girlfriend assured me they were only goods friends; yet, I was well aware of the potential atrocities of such behavior. I knew they must have walked several miles side-by-side sharing cotton candy and maybe even the same ice-cream cone. My eighth-grade wisdom knew those ninth-grade boys could not be trusted! I soon ended the relationship. Our differences generated great havoc – way too much for any eighth-grader!

    No matter how old you are, differences between people complicate relationships. People are not robots that respond predictably. Perfect relationships cannot be ordered on-line. If only you could click a few boxes and order the ideal match. Men would order shapely women who spend hours watching ESPN. Women would order muscular men who enjoy touchy-feely conversations. With one click of the mouse the order would be placed, the credit card billed and the package would soon arrive. The Fed-Ex man would politely escort your perfect mate to your doorstep and then life would be lived happily ever after!

    The difficulty of asking someone on a date

    So you meet someone you are attracted to. How do you let them know you are interested in pursuing a relationship without appearing too desperate? Women do not want to come across as tramps. Men do not want to come across as players.
    What if your social circles do not intersect? You may not have another chance to express interest. Your casual conversation is losing momentum. It is time to swing the bat or go back to the dug out. If you don’t make your interest clear within the next few seconds, it will be too late. You’ll soon be on your separate ways having missed a great opportunity.

    If your social circles do intersect, how do you avoid the future ramifications that potential rejection would bring? In the event you ask someone out and they reject your offer, you will feel like a fool every time you see them. School or the workplace will be miserable; especially if word gets out that you were rejected.

    Suppose you have managed to get an email address or phone number. What is the best way to ask someone on a date? Do you start with a short friendly email and hope you get a response? If they don’t respond, do you assume the person is not interested? Maybe they don’t check their email. Maybe they didn’t recognize your email address and deleted your message without reading it. Should you try again or wait a few more days? What about the subject line? Is “Good morning” acceptable? Or, is “Hi” more appropriate just in case they get the email sometime other than during the morning? On the other hand, “Hi” is rather childish and lacks substance. Maybe “Dinner Friday?” gets the point across much clearer. But, that may be too direct. Maybe the best approach is to write an email and ask for a phone number. Calling would be easier.

    So you decide to call. Your heart beats in anticipation. There before you are the ten secret digits that may propel you from singleness into the ranks of marriage. Your problems are about to be resolved. Happiness is just around the corner! You will soon pity other singles. Then you remember that you still have to pick up the phone and command your index finger to dial those ten secret digits. When should you call? Should it be mid-day, early evening, or late evening? What if you get voicemail? Maybe you want voicemail! Do you leave a message? If you don’t leave a message, your number will appear on caller ID. You will look like a coward. If you get voicemail, maybe your call is being screened. Now that you think about the situation a little more, maybe email is the better option.

    Does any of this uncertainty sound familiar? If not, consider yourself fortunate. You are leagues ahead of most singles and much closer to a simplified understanding of dating. You may not have a problem asking someone on a date or making your interest, or lack thereof, clearly known. However, if these numerous concerns clutter your mind, you are not alone. Christian singles well into their adult years struggle with these same questions. It is easy to ask mom or dad to send more money or to ask your boss for a raise, but asking someone on a date feels much more complicated.

    Fear of missing other opportunities

    My friend Isella had been involved in the singles department at church for several months. She was a regular attendee and made an effort to connect with members in her class. After numerous group outings, it became apparent that Isella had gained Mike’s attention. Mike was a great Christian man. He had served in leadership roles within his church singles department for several years. He had also remained faithful to his class through many changes. Although he was a tough marine on the outside, Mike was an easygoing, stable gentleman who placed his relationship with Jesus Christ above anything else. A few man-to-man talks with Mike confirmed that his interest in Isella was sincere.

    There could be thirty plus chairs arranged around a long series of rectangular tables at dinner and Mike would always manage to end up with a seat next to Isella. In this seat of honor, his eyes would sparkle off his silverware and blind those around him. When the crowd became a little rambunctious, Mike’s chest would poke out a little further. He was on standby. He was there to eliminate the potential threat of airborne croutons or small salad tomatoes. Isella was safe – protected by Mike the marine.
    The potential for a relationship between Mike and Isella seemed probable. Two faithful believers serving in the same church, in the same class, at the same time with many common interests and similar backgrounds were excellent ingredients for a relationship. Mike and Isella even looked like they would make a great couple. Sparks would soon fly and this relationship would soon be ablaze.

    But sparks never formed. The relationship never lit. Mike and Isella continued to serve in the same capacity but Isella did not express any interest in Mike. My curiosity took over again and I had to find out what was going on. I met with Isella. Her honest answers opened my eyes to another side of Christian dating.

    I learned that Isella agreed with my estimation of Mike as a great Christian man. She agreed he was a man of godly character. It was not that Isella was not interested in Mike, but she feared missing other opportunities. If Isella began spending more time with Mike, people would automatically assume they were an item. Isella would then be off limits to other men whom she might enjoy meeting. I could not believe a thirty plus year old adult thought would think this way. I soon discovered that Isella was not alone. Many singles avoid new relationships because they are afraid of missing someone better.

    Many singles, especially those immersed in Christian subcultures, face the same dilemma as Isella. You are surrounded by scores of single men and women who have been transformed by the grace of God and who are actively pursuing his will. You are like a kid in a candy store. This kid has been begging and pleading his parents to buy him candy. Now that he is standing in the center of the store, all he can do is look around. He is awed by the plethora of colors and sweet smells. He is frozen in his tracks. All he has to do is stretch out his arm and pick any piece of candy but he doesn’t move. He has the opportunity of his lifetime but he can’t make up his mind.

    You may have been begging and pleading God to provide that special someone who will be sweeter than sugar. Your prayers have been answered and you stand in the center of a Christian network that offers more variety than you could have imagined. You can choose between all colors, shapes and sizes of Chiclets or Sugar Daddies. Like the kid, you are frozen in your tracks. All you have to do is begin by extending your friendship to another Christian single but you cannot make up your mind. Your fear of missing out on a Fireball tomorrow because you chose a Sugar Daddy today could ultimately leave you stuck with a stale Lemonhead.

    The cat and mouse game

    Years ago I attended a Bible study that met in my parents’ home. Unfortunately, I could not focus on the study because a crazy cat, Nalla, was running all over the place. Nalla wasn’t running to burn calories from her evening portion of Nine Lives. She was playing with a pink toy mouse. Not wanting to play with a dead, easy-to-catch mouse, Nalla created a challenge. She took her front paw and propelled the mouse across the slick hardwood floors. She then chased the mouse, caught it and quickly flung it across the room again. Nalla was having a great time chasing her mouse. Mr. Mouse was alive to Nalla as he flew from one corner of the room to the other.

    Had the toy mouse been made of solid lead rather than pink plastic, Nalla would have had difficulty bringing it to life. She would not have had the strength to throw the heavy mouse across the floor. Catching it would have been a cinch. There would have been no challenge. Victory would have been declared before the game began. Nalla would have chased her tail before wasting time on an easy catch.

    Singles often approach new relationships much like Nalla approached her toy mouse. As soon as you get close to a potential single, you expect it to take off scurrying in the opposite direction. This response will blow the whistle and the game will begin!
    At one encounter, when the cat catches the mouse, the two singles reverse roles. Whoever was playing cat slips on the pink mouse outfit. Whoever was playing mouse then climbs into the cat costume. The mouse sprints to an unknown location. The game resumes.

    Let’s say the cat decides to change roles. The mouse crawls into a cubbyhole expecting the cat to continue the pursuit. But, for some reason, the cat is tired of the chase. He wants to be a mouse. He flees the scene. The game is over.

    Sometimes another mouse intersects the path of the cat. The cat may decide to chase the green mouse instead of the pink one. The pink mouse gets to the end of the room, looks back and sees that the cat is no longer in pursuit. He runs back to the cat, stands on his hind feet, wiggling his nose and front feet, but the cat is no longer interested. He is now playing with a new partner. Chances are that a yellow mouse will soon intersect the path of the cat. The green mouse will also look back and see that the cat is no longer in pursuit.

    The cat and mouse game makes relationships between singles unnecessarily complex. You don’t always know if it is your turn to play cat or mouse. You don’t know how fast you should run, or how hard you should hide. This game is especially complex when you violate the rules and the game ends prematurely. You are left standing alone wondering what went wrong.

    Unrealistic expectations for marriage

    The premature expectation to marry has permeated the dating philosophy among Christian subcultures. The thought is that singles should not date unless dating will lead to marriage.

    This approach has created unrealistic expectations in the hearts and minds of singles. These unrealistic expectations lead to one disappointment after another. When dating relationships do not result in marriage, dreams are shattered.

    When new relationships are approached with the end goal of marriage, singles rely on a faulty set of criteria for deciding whether or not to enter the relationship. Rather than extending fellowship, the single is required to first make a decision regarding the feasibility of marriage. This decision is made largely on external criteria with no consideration of what really makes someone a potential mate.

    Many singles have bought into an approach that requires them to observe other singles before initiating a relationship. Environments where observation before initiation can work are rare. There is certainly value to observing people over time. Simple observation can expose tremendous insight as you learn how people interact with others and handle certain situations.
    Ideally, people will have the opportunity to observe others for a few hours each week. That ideal environment is rare. It is limited to church gatherings where there are many singles. Furthermore, there is a need for interaction! That doesn’t always happen at church functions. This need for observation has turned the place of worship into a meat market. Rather than focusing on God, church has become a place to check out the supply of singles. If the supply is low, it is easy to hop to another church. This thinking has complicated Christian dating and skewed the purpose of church.

    The reality is that life does not present many opportunities for Christian singles to observe each other. Singles work hard and are immersed in a secular culture most of the time. Small groups and home studies provide biblical instruction and spiritual fellowship. They are not meeting places for Jack and Jill. After working, studying, sleeping and commuting, free time is limited. Christian singles should not limit themselves to observation before initiation. Doing so reduces the available singles population to those involved in the local congregation. It also causes singles to lose focus on why they are in church in the first place.
    My friend Carmen was a student at a large Christian University. She could have worshipped at the campus church, but she found a small congregation away from school. This church welcomed her into their fellowship and gave her many opportunities to serve. Unlike the campus church, this congregation had a very small singles population. Nevertheless, a few local singles called this church home.

    Carmen was a prime target to fulfill the marriage expectations of a long-standing member of the church. Brian was a young man who grew up in this church. He had been outside of town but had limited exposure to the rest of the world. Brian had unfortunately experienced the pain of divorce in his early twenties and was left to raise three children on his own. He was in need of a loving Christian wife.

    Above the congregational chatter was the clear suggestion by the pastor that Carmen would make a great partner for Brian, and vice-versa. With this endorsement, it wasn’t long until a serious relationship between the two began. Two Christian singles had met at the same church. It seemed obvious that God had orchestrated the meeting. Brian’s prayers were answered. Carmen’s desire for love had been met. Expectations for marriage were high.

    Two hundred and fifty miles away Carmen’s parents were not pleased with the situation. They thought Carmen was far too young to accept the responsibility of raising a family. They traveled from out-of-state to meet Brian and his family. During this meeting Carmen’s father made it clear that he did not approve. Brian understood but made it clear he intended to marry Carmen.

    This disagreement hurt Carmen the most. She did not understand her parents’ position. Brian was a Christian who was serving in the church. Carmen had faithfully sought a church family, began serving and met Brian. He was one of the few single Christian men in the church. Of course he would make a great marriage partner. The vast difference between Carmen’s path in life and Brian’s meant little to a young woman blinded by the expectation of marriage.

    Carmen began to see that she had not yet experienced life. She had never even held down a full time job and paid her own car insurance. She had a lot to learn about life before committing herself to marriage and motherhood. She started to see that she walked into an environment filled with unrealistic expectations, including her own. She later decided to leave the relationship.
    Brian’s situation was unfortunate. He needed to broaden his horizons by building relationships with people outside of his local church. Both he and Carmen would have been better off building their relationship as friends, without the expectation of marriage.

    Unrealistic expectations for marriage add to the complexity of dating. There is nothing inherently wrong with meeting people at church. Church is a great place to meet other Christian singles. The problem is when new relationships are based on the expectation of marriage. The thought of marriage should not even be in a single’s mind as he or she begins new relationships. Keep the idea of marriage out of your head when building new Christ-centered relationships.

    Complexity of dating

    Relationships do not suddenly become easy once the world of dating is reached. An entirely new sphere of issues complicates dating relationships. You discover the differences between people are more pronounced than you thought. Mannerisms that were once cute are exacerbated and become annoying. You try to keep your mouth shut at this point but you eventually bubble over and your real thoughts surface. Your words hurt and damper the mood. Simple conversations can turn deep, on a dime, and your differences are exposed. You wonder how you managed to get paired with such a weirdo.

    As you discover more of your differences, you are reminded of the fear of missing other opportunities. Other couples seem to be more aligned and you wonder if your better match is waiting for you. You notice an attractive woman during your lunch break. Your eyes meet and stay connected for a few seconds longer than comfortable. You look away, but not for long. Once again your eyes meet the most attractive person you have ever seen. You remember that you are dating someone else. You leave the restaurant and wonder if you should turn back. You keep walking and wonder why such encounters always happen when you are already dating someone.

    You and your date go out for dinner that night. As you look across the table you can’t stop thinking about your lunch encounter. Have you missed another opportunity? Your date senses something is bothering you. She raises the question and you share your experience. The silence is deafening. Will you be accused of cheating? Will you be comforted? Will you learn your date had a similar experience? Maybe you should have kept your mouth shut because nothing happened.

    How the silence ends depends on the character of both you and your date. How the conversation resumes provides much insight into the strength of your relationship. Your honesty is rewarded as your date smiles and says, “Well, you’re with me tonight!” Your attention is focused back on the amazing person sitting across the table. You breathe a sigh of relief and marvel at the complexity of dating.


    1 responses to ““Midnight Kiss” Chapter 1 – Home Alone” RSS icon

    • Very insightful words in this book. It made me reflect on how I met my wife – I guess the major difference in my generation compared to today was that we didn’t have a laundry list of expectations – we had expectations but they were short and most relationships grew over time and worked out. I really think that the amount of marriage problems today including the high percentages of divorce is having a huge impact on the more educated youth that have major reservations about marriage. Thus they choose to make a longer laundry list to the point of disqualifying many candidates for a long relationship. The love that is gained through a man and wife in marriage is much different than the type of love experienced in dating and even the first few years of marriage. Singles searching for that perfect match may be (and most likely are) chasing the wind. All of us have issues that are on most everyone’s disqualification list and from the searcher’s point of view are not worthy of an investment. If we had the mind of Christ and accepted people as they are, invest time in them and allow a long term relationship to develop – it will occur sometimes with the most unexpected partner. God is in control and some singles keep waiting for the perfect mate when they may have passed many that were sent their way. As the water was rising to the roof of the house in a flooded community the last hold out, a wise educated man awaited the Lord to save him from the rising water. One boat came by, “No I am waiting on the Lord”, the second boat came by with the water still rising, “No, I don’t need a ride I am waiting for the Lord”, as the water lapped his feet he cried out to the Lord ” I trusted that you would save me” The Lord responded that He had sent two boats already and he chose to wait longer. While this is a silly story I think some folks wait for the perfect boat thus passing opportunities to develop that lasting relationship.

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