I’ve only really been on two first dates. Most of my romantic endeavors have been completely imaginary in the sense that I imagine them and the object of my affections knows nothing about them. The unimaginary stuff is mostly the quick switch from “we’re just friends” to “we’re in a relationship and it’s serious” without so much as one outing consisting of dinner and a movie. I don’t actually lament my lack of first dates, because they tend to be way too pressure-packed for the merriment they ought to be.
My first first date had all the potential to be amazing because the guy was a teacher at a private Christian school. He was active, fun, and had a good heart. He picked me up and took me to an Italian restaurant, then to a U of A basketball game (that we watched from third row behind the U of A bench!).
The problem with this first date can be summed up with one particular moment, I think. We were at the restaurant.
“What do you think you want?” he asked me. “The spaghetti’s my favorite here.”
I glanced through the menu and found about 8 things I wanted.
“I’m feeling really indecisive,” I said.
“I’ve only ever had the spaghetti and the pepperoni pizza. Both are good,” he replied.
I quietly tried to narrow my choices for a minute or two then gave up.
“Would you order for me?” I asked.
I know that’s a ridiculous thing for me to do to the guy on a first date, but I sometimes just hit a wall and I would rather eat something horrible than decide. I don’t know why. I’m just that way. Had he known me for more than an hour at that point, he would have trusted me when I told him that there isn’t anything he could order that would make me unhappy. He didn’t trust me, though, and instead spent the entire meal worrying that the spaghetti he’d ordered was somehow not good enough for me. It was fine.
His worry is understandable, but unnecessary. He was putting way too much pressure on himself, which is kind of what happens on all first dates.
My other first date was to a movie (I think we saw The Grudge) and everything was fine, but there were those awkward moments when my date didn’t know if he was allowed to hold my hand and at the end of the night he sort of asked permission to kiss me (without actually asking). Of course by that time I’d already bluntly told him that there wouldn’t be any sex (I know. I’ve worked on my tact a bit since then, but it could still probably use some work.) This particular date was way better than the first first date, but there was still too much pressure. The real reason he asked if he could kiss me wasn’t because he had to have the kiss. He asked because he was afraid of ruining it. I was feeling the pressure too, which may explain why I so idiotically busted out my no-sex policy. Maybe we both should have calmed down a bit.
A no-pressure first date would be delightful. I’m not convinced they exist, but I suspect that going on a first date with someone you already know is significantly better than with someone you’ve just met. Then again, I’ve only been out with men I’ve just met. You know what’s great, though? After being in a relationship for a while, that pressure subsides.
So I was thinking (I’m about to venture out into the dangerous but tantalizing land of analogies) – one of my recurring mistakes in my relationship with God is applying the first-date pressure all the time. It’s stupid, but something I do is think about all of those past warm fuzzies and the magical moments I’ve had with God, and chase those. I think about that one time when I grew more than I ever could have imagined, and that other time when I saw God more completely than ever before, and how my affections were stirred, and I try to duplicate those times.
I’ve known God for about 9 years now. I’m not sure what it is about those 9 years that give me the impression that God is going to dump me, but I think my greatest dysfunction right now is fear. I’m afraid of ruining it. Theologically, this lands us in “perseverance of the saints” waters, but I kind of shy away from this particular debate. The first church I went to had a seminar explaining the heck out of this debate, and now I despise thinking about it. So instead of going through the logical support for each side, I’m going to examine the question that gets to the heart of my fear, which is whether or not my Abba – someone I’ve loved, opened up to, and tried to obey – is waiting for an excuse to abandon me. My head tells me that He died on a cross for me which shows quite a bit of commitment. Yet my heart says that He’s too good for me – that He’ll find someone better and I’ll be alone.
Earlier, I wrote that first pressure goes away eventually in every relationship. The thing is that I’ve been on a 9-year first date with God. When am I going to trust that He loves me? Why can’t I believe it?