“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
–Louis de Bernières, Captain
“I want you to go on a dating fast.” As soon as the words left my spiritual director’s (SD) mouth, I was relieved. I had been needing/wanting to do this for way too long, but never had the actual courage to hold myself accountable to it. But that relief turned to panic as soon as he finished his sentence. “Until the end of the year”. The end of the year?! That’s over six months. True to form, I tried to negotiate, “How about ninety days?” He laughed and simply said, “No.”
At no point in my dating life (except just before I started dating at 15) had I ever been that long without a date. It wasn’t really intentional; it just happened more than I had ever planned, and it became part of my life. I was fine without a boyfriend, without a date; I have always enjoyed my alone time and sometimes have actually preferred it. However, dating, as I have written about before, wasn’t always goal-oriented. The focus wasn’t always on finding a Godly man who cared about my salvation, it was more often than not a means to an end–masking boredom, having fun, hiding loneliness, or avoiding fear. Yes, so much of my dating history really includes a lot of selfishness (sorry, guys). So when my SD suggested (strongly) that I take a dating fast, I ultimately had no idea what I was agreeing to or what I actually would face as a result. But wow did I have a lot to learn.
So what is a dating fast? Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s a break from dating. Now, don’t let me fool you; my SD had to spell out in very clear terms what that meant for me, because my idea of dating and friendship (with males) was very blurry. It’s easy to excuse a cup of coffee as a meeting between friends; yet, usually between men and women, one of the parties has a different intention.
I have had friends who worked with FOCUS, and I knew about their dating fast obligations as first-year missionaries. (Lisa Cotter wrote a great post on this). But aside from that, I didn’t know anyone who had gone on a dating fast. But then again, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have a spiritual director, so those numbers weren’t very reliable. But here I was… about to quit dating (in all its “many forms”)… for greater than half a year. WHAT?!
I am not sure what inspired my SD to make this recommendation (just kidding…it was God and my ridiculous dating history). And in jumping fully into this, I was forced to learn what life was like on my own terms and to reevaluate what it meant to date with marriage in mind. I had to restructure the ideas of what a relationship looks like, and what kind of man I wanted to spend my life with. I mean, that’s the point of the vocation to marriage, right—to grow in holiness? No reason to go into it with the wrong intentions or selfish hearts.
Little did I know how much my heart would expand in such a short period of time, and how much pruning God needed to do. It took about 24 hours before God graced me with the wisdom of appreciating the importance of intercessory prayers. Any fears I had could easily be offered up for a specific individual I wanted to pray for intentionally. There was so much to learn simply by allowing God to love me and heal me, all the while learning to love my Beloved entirely.
Because a dating fast is so rarely discussed but important for so many individuals, I decided to put together a series of posts that I will share. What a beautiful journey this life is, and what an amazing adventure it can truly be when we submit and obey without knowledge of the end.
Lord what wilt Thou have me do? Behold the true sign of a totally perfect soul: when one has reached the point of giving up his will so completely that he no longer seeks , expects or desires to do ought but that which God wills.
Betsey Sawyer is an attorney and adjunct instructor in Mississippi, and works for Women of Grace as the Mission Advancement Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo courtesy of Eliza Kennard Photography).