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Browsing for a Mate

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In February I was at my friend Katy’s bridal shower. Even though it was the dead of winter, the sun made it look, and almost feel, like spring — perfect weather for celebrating with the bride-to-be.

“How did they meet?” I overheard one guest ask another. “She found him on eBay!” was her enthusiastic reply. eBay?

Oops. It’s an honest mistake; a slip I’ve made myself. I must be on to something. The newspaper described a new reality series about online dating similarly saying, “more than 40 million people are looking for love on the Internet, and finding Mr. or Ms. Right can be as easy as buying a vase on eBay.”

But is it that easy? Is it even a good idea?

I remember when I first heard about using the Internet to search for a mate. It was 1996 and the Web had only recently gone public. Still single and hoping for marriage, I was intrigued. I asked my mentor, Mary Morken, what she thought about the idea. “Why not?” She said in her usual upbeat lilt. “The technology can bring you in contact with a lot more eligible men than you’ll meet where you are. It’s harder to find mates these days. This may solve that problem.”

Mary was well known among my friends as the marriage advocate. She was also brutally honest about the hurdles we as young Christian women faced on our way to the altar. It was she who encouraged me to get creative and “Pull a Ruth.” To her, online dating was one more way to be creatively pro-marriage in an anti-marriage culture.

And to their credit, some of the Christian dating sites are clear that they exist with one goal in mind: marriage.

If you’re single and hoping for marriage but without prospects, it’s hard to resist the claims that these services will help you find: “your soul mate,” “the perfect love you were born to meet,” “satisfying marriage” and more. And sometimes they do. I know from my friend Katy’s engagement, and now marriage, that these services can deliver on their promises.

Pluses

The Internet does some things well. For starters, it’s accessible. That means people from anywhere can use it, making themselves available for you to meet. There are 6 billion people in the world and thanks to Internet dating services, you can take your best shot at meeting the single ones. Certainly more of them than you’d meet in your singles group at church.

The sheer volume of potential matches is one of the draws. Feel like a big fish in a too-small pond? Come swim in the ocean of Internet matchmaking.

My friend Julie did. “It’s great to see there are so many guys out there,” she said. “They’ve seen my picture and read my profile and they’re interested in me. If men are initiating contact with you every day or at least every week and you haven’t dated for a while, that’s a great feeling.”

The Web is convenient and quick, helping you find what you’re looking for — when you have time to look. Like search engines, matchmaking services are programmed to provide results fast. Some within minutes, based on nothing more than your sex and zip code.

It’s affordable. You can join most for a modest fee — a month’s worth of matches for the price of a good pedicure or video game. The speed, accessibility and affordability of the Web can help you find a mate.

So what’s not to love about it?

Minuses

Online dating services are a tool — better at some things than others. It’s important to figure out what they’re good for and not ask more of them than they’re designed to provide. So what are their limitations?

Efficient, but not effective. You might rejoice over 1,000 potential matches. But that’s just the beginning. Now comes the hard work of sorting, weeding and discerning. My friend Katy described it this way, “It was like the neighbor fixing you up with someone. They know you a little, they know him a little and the rest is up to you to figure out. The one big difference is you have no character references and you need to discern that for yourself.”

A steady stream of matches. This can be a distraction, especially for males. Jerry Seinfeld said, “Guys don’t want to see what’s on television — they want to see what else is on television.” With millions of potential matches, how can you possibly know when you’ve found the one? Maybe the village matchmaker wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Premature intimacy. Because you’re initially communicating in writing, it’s tempting to ask deep questions and initiate conversations that might take weeks or months to occur if you were dating face-to-face. “Your heart can get too far ahead of your head,” Katy said. “You have to keep your heart in check and be cautious, even if things seem to be going well.”

Pesky long distance. There’s the obvious difficulty of spending time together when you pursue a match living in a different city. But there’s also the disruption. Paul proposed to a match in a far away town. Sadly the engagement fell apart only after his “soul mate” had quit her job and relocated halfway across the country to live in his apartment (he moved back in with his parents) while they planned the wedding. That’s a lot of uprooting only to be told “you’re not the one after all.” Despite all the newfangled technology and compatibility testing, she got heartache the old fashioned way.

Lowering barriers that should remain. Julie confided that she was planning to meet someone she’d been matched with recently. He sounded like a great Christian guy except for one minor detail: he was divorced. And he had a 2-year-old daughter. “When he told me he’d only been divorced a couple of months, I didn’t want to go out with him, but I didn’t want to tell him that. I hoped we’d meet and just not be attracted. I can’t believe how backward that thinking was.” After I encouraged her to reconsider she decided against meeting him saying she likely wouldn’t have made a date with the very same guy if she had met him at church or somewhere else locally.

Overselling what’s good and hiding what’s not.The reality show “Hooking Up” has a frenetic pace that reinforces what it describes as the “frantic world of Internet dating.” Tightly edited, the show intensifies the speed with which women meet, greet and cheat the men they meet online. When they realize how different the guys they’ve chosen are from their online descriptions, they’re understandably disappointed.

Overplaying your soul mate. The dangerous implication is that by doing the hard work up front — of finding someone perfectly compatible with you, your soul mate — you’ll avoid any pain, heartache or even difficulty once you’re married. But lifelong marriages don’t just grow out of compatibility. They happen for one primary reason: commitment.

Not the Only Way

If all you read is the online services’ promotional material, you might believe romance, love and marriage just can’t happen anymore without their help. But lots of people do still fall in love and marry without them.

Though John had friends offer to buy him free memberships, he decided against it. Why? “I don’t like anonymity,” he said. “It seems impersonal. I believe that as you go about in community and in life, God brings someone beside you.”

He’s presently in a serious relationship and talking marriage. They met the old fashioned way — his sister fixed him up with one of her friends. And it turns out they have a lot in common. But that’s not all. They know a lot of the same people. All those connections — the shared context — are hard to get when you meet someone for the first time online. It’s possible to build that with a total stranger, but it takes time and trust. Personal introductions with the help of a relative or friend often give you a head start on the trust building because they come with character references you can verify yourself, from people you already trust.

If you’re going to use these sites keep in mind what they can, and can’t do. And don’t forget a few basics:

Use a Christian site. You don’t have to sacrifice quality of service — some Christian sites are among the best services available — and you’re more likely to find a match with whom you can be “equally yoked.”

Trust, but verify. A long online profile is a fine place to start getting to know someone’s character, but the best source is their friends and family. Get the input of the people who know your match well.

Don’t Rush It. Some counselors recommend spending at least a year living in the same city as someone you’ve met online. It takes time to get to know someone — in their environment — well enough to know if they’re capable of a life-long commitment.

God designed us for marriage. Despite all the roadblocks our culture puts up between us and the altar, He’s still in the business of “setting the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). The ultimate creative spirit, God’s not limited in how He does it. Sometimes He works through a matchmaking service, sometimes He uses a relative or friend to play matchmaker.

Though you won’t find any Bible verses about online dating, you will find principles for doing relationships in a way that honors Him. Seek to honor God in your pursuit of marriage and He’ll direct your steps.

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Before Candice met and married Steve Watters a month before turning 27, she worried that marriage might never happen for her. Back then there was no such thing as online dating. Now meeting someone online is among the top ways singles meet. Hoping to help other Christian singles in this often murky environment find their way to fruitful marriages, Steve co-founded MarryWell.org. Steve and Candice are the co-creators of boundless.org, a webzine of Focus on the Family. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help It Happen and co-author with Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. Steve and Candice blog occasionally at FamilyMaking.com about the link between family formation and spiritual formation -- drawing on 14 years of marriage and their experiences parenting four children.

1 Comment
  • This is great advice! I met my husband on eharmony. Signing up for eharmony was a way for me to give my relationship pursuit to God, as I had been dating non-Christians, but through eharmony I was able to limit my matches to Christian men only – this was a big step for me. It was also positive for me because I had been dating men whose personalities were very unlike mine, and the personality profile I completed on eharmony matched me with people whose personalities and interests were more similar to my own. I was able to exclude people who were too young, too old, had been married, had kids, didn’t have a higher education degree, etc. As a result, I only had a few matches, and my husband was the first person I emailed with and spoke to by phone at length. We met after a few months of emailing and talking on the phone, and we really hit it off and were married a year later. We have been married since 2007 and have a lovely toddler girl. God really used this tool for us to meet, but that hasn’t been the case for my three sisters, who also tried eharmony with no positive results. I agree with Candace to proceed with caution, and only use online dating within healthy Christian dating parameters and by fully giving God this area of your life.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Browsing for a Mate

by Candice Watters time to read: 6 min
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