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DATING: Run Your Race



This is an excerpt from Ben Stuart’s book Single, Dating, Engaged, Married.

Picture your life as a race you are running. As a single person, you are charging toward the Lord. Devoted to him. Using your gifts, abilities, time, and influence to be a blessing to all people who are made in his image. As you are chasing after him, there will be all manner of people running as well, but in all manner of directions. Some will cross your path right in front of you. They may even be cute! But they are running in a totally different direction, pursuing things other than God. Maybe they’re pursuing money, happiness, fame, or acceptance. In which case you tell yourself, Hey, they’re cute, but I’m not going to try to grab hold of them. Their life is going one way and mine is going another. That’s not a good combination. This kind of evaluation means you are going to let a lot of cute, witty, charming people run right by you, because they are not pursuing the things of God!

But when you are chasing the Lord, after a while you will look up and see people chasing him along with you. As you are running along with those people, you’re going to start talking to a few of them. You’re going to check them out. And it is okay to start running alongside one of them and see if you two have some chemistry. Do I like talking to you? Are you fun to be with? As this happens, you eventually find someone to run with for the rest of your life.

What we are looking for is character and chemistry. You want someone with character. Not someone who simply acquiesces to the existence of a deity, but someone who passionately pursues God and the things of God. You want to be with a man or woman who possesses a deep, God-shaped character. Then you want to look for someone with whom you have chemistry. Someone you enjoy hanging out with. Someone you enjoy talking to. Someone with whom you click.

Character and chemistry. You must have both. Some people only want chemistry. They meet someone they think is cute, is funny, and with whom they can talk for hours. But they bypass deep conversations about core values. Then they get married. That hot, fun, cool, cute couple gets together and then five, six, or seven years later, when they start to make big life decisions, they realize they have a very different set of values. Those marriages struggle and often come apart. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, you can find someone who has a deep, stalwart character but he or she is so boring that after five minutes you run out of things to say. You do not have to do this to yourself. You need both. You want solid, godly character and fun, easy chemistry.

What you should not be looking for is someone to complete you. Dating is not about chasing a person in whose eyes we can find a sense of meaning and fulfillment. That is far too much weight to put on another human being. And that is not how we are built. You are not half of a person waiting for another half of a person to complete you. Jesus and the apostle Paul were not incomplete as singles, and neither are you. No human being will meet every need, solve every problem, heal every wound, or eradicate every insecurity. Those who put pressure on a friendship or a romantic relationship to provide that will always end up crushing the relationship. A relationship is not meant to carry that weight. But you can find someone who has great character and with whom you have great chemistry. Then you can run into the future God has for you together, and that is a pretty amazing ride. That is the vision we are aiming for in marriage: a couple hand in hand, pursuing God together—same direction, same pace, good chemistry. This is what marriage is meant to be. Dating is the modern process of evaluation we use to find that person to marry.

This is no small shift in mindset. One of the great dangers in modern dating is the tendency to adopt a consumer mentality rather than a companion mentality.

What I mean by this is that often when you ask someone what kind of person they’d like to date or marry, they begin to list a set of characteristics. “I want him to be tall, but not too tall. Handsome. Funny. Charming. Great job. Solid income. Sensitive but strong. Confident but also caring. And he should have six-pack abs.” Or, “I want her to be shorter than me with these specific measurements. She needs to know how to have a good time. She needs to be into sports, running, hiking, travel, saving money, and me.” But this mentality causes problems from the start.

Do you hear what is happening when you do this? You are trying to customize your order to get what you think is best for you. This is exactly how you order a burger or curate your playlist. But this is not how you date. Why? Because we are looking for a person to love, not a product to consume. You are not constructing a robot from human parts. That is not honoring the image of God in the other. We all come as fully functioning human beings You cannot assemble one to meet your preferences. That would not be good for you anyway. You would still be a selfish person if you tried to do this. When you date another human, as you grow together you will encourage, challenge, and shape each other. You will have to adapt, change, and sacrifice during this process. The proper question should be, Could I build a life with this person? Could we journey down the road of life together? It may seem like a subtle shift in evaluative method, but I promise you being slightly off angle in the wrong direction at the beginning of your evaluation will put you in a very different place in ten years. The problem with a consumer mentality—looking for a person to complete you rather than a companion to run with—is that it creates a perfect recipe for disappointment and discouragement down the road.

This is an excerpt from Ben Stuart’s book, Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. Click here to grab a copy of this special resource.

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Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.