Excuse my tone… I’ve been reading too much academic non-fiction.
I’ve been dating rather a lot lately and I’ve also been struggling to find a church that I can make my own. With both, I’ve started taking a three strikes approach to my thinking, and while there isn’t a perfect strategy for making these sorts of decisions, my glory days of being a softball pitcher have served me well.
With dating, there seem to be three categories around which my thinking revolves: complete deal breakers, frustrations, and whatevers. Deal breakers include things like he’s-not-a-Christian, he’s-hideous-looking, he’s-illiterate, etc… Frustrations are more along the lines of he-doesn’t-believe-in-predestination, he’s-mildly-unattractive, he-confuses-there-their-and-they’re, etc… Whatevers are he-thinks-all-images-of-Jesus-are-idolatrous, he-refuses-to-run-Ragnar-with-me, his-favorite-book-is-Twilight, etc… All of those things are on my radar, and enough of them combined makes breaking up a pretty good idea.
Strike 1: Divorced (not quite a deal-breaker, because I don’t know why he got divorced, whether he had any say in it, or how he’s changed since… but still a little concerning).
Strike 2: 5-yr-old kid (not quite a deal-breaker, because I wouldn’t mind being a step-parent if I loved the guy, but I’m not one of those chicks who walks around believing I was made to be a mommy, so parenting someone else’s child wouldn’t be my first choice.)
Strike 3: Sat by while another dude hit on me in front of him (borderline between deal-breaker and frustration… I really want a guy who is going to make sure I don’t feel physically threatened… However, I understand that not all girls want a guy to step in in those situations, so maybe he was just trying not to get me mad at him… either way, at least a frustration and possibly a deal-breaker).
So… this whole thing might seem a little silly and overly-structured, but I honestly don’t have confidence in my ability to make life decisions. I know that I make pretty good ones, because I’ve never gotten myself terribly off-track, but it’s still nice to have a frame of reference that can reinforce my gut-feeling about a guy.
Church, now, is a similar thing.
Strike 1: All of the women’s events include pinterest, scrap-booking, babies, or all-three (not a deal-breaker, but certainly frustrating for a woman who doesn’t really enjoy pinterest, scrap-booking or babies very much).
Strike 2: Topical Sermons (not a deal-breaker, if well-executed, but definitely a frustration because it seems like the pastor is trying to make the Bible support his ideas rather than taking his ideas from the Bible).
Strike 3: Woman preaches sermon (not always a deal-breaker, because I’ve seen churches have female guest-speakers, but I am a Complementarian and oppose women being in leadership over men).
When I move on from a guy or a church, I often blame myself for not being able to make it work. I start thinking I’m being too harsh/judgmental and when am I ever going to settle down? But I think looking at things this way and even putting my thoughts into writing sometimes has helped me to see that I do have valid reasons for not choosing this guy or that church.
That all being said, I was thinking just now about how I don’t really take official note of the positives in the way I note the negatives. And maybe I should. Because the three-strike thing isn’t a forever tally of judgment; it’s just a way for me to figure out if it’s even worth it to invest time and energy. And what if a guy or a church has enough positives that it would be worth it to keep trying? Also, what if I am just being an overly-negative person and should have a more positive outlook on dating and churching?
The reason this came up is because I’ve got a date on Saturday with a dude who totally asked me if I tithe in our first-ever conversation. That is a HUGE positive. That shows some real commitment to obedience that tithing is so important to him and it shows he’s at least a little gutsy.
Also, this Sunday, I’m trying out a new church. This one was planted last week by a pastor who I knew while he was going through seminary. He led a Bible study I attended and he even recommended the PERFECT book for me. I’m only now getting around to reading it, but I was taken aback by how GOOD the book is and how relevant it was to the conversations we were having in that Bible study and the stances I was taking. It’s still incredibly relevant because I continue to think about the discussions we had and I’ve never quite come to a settled place in how I think about them. More generally, I read a ton, and it’s uncommonly important for me to be able to talk to my pastor about books. I’ve unfortunately passed by most of my friends in the reading category (not in the sense that they can’t or don’t read good books, but in the sense that they’ve often never heard of the theologians I read and can’t quite geek out about the books that are my current favorites), so I really like being around people who’ve read more books than I’ve read.
Shouldn’t that guy and that church receive +15 to defense, or saving throws or something? It seems a shame that I don’t have a way to account for the awesome positives I sometimes come across. 😉