Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Dena's Rules for Dating

Hearts. Pink and red. Cupid. Mushy cards. Flowers. Candy. Love and romance.

Everything around us screams Valentine’s Day right now.

I’m not sure what feelings this holiday evokes for you. Maybe you are relishing the excitement of a new relationship. Maybe you are in the silent days of waiting for someone special, waiting your turn to celebrate love. Or maybe you are reeling from the pain of a shattered relationship, simply trying to hide from yet another commercialized holiday.

I have endured the last nine Februarys. ENDURED. Buried my head in the sand hoping when I woke up it would be over. Watched couples all around me completely lost in each other’s eyes while I sat in a corner alone. Mustered the strength to take one (or all) of my kids on a date while longing for someone special to take me on a date. Prayed, wondered, doubted when God would decide it was my time.

This year, I actually look forward to February. While it’s difficult to build a relationship when you are busy chasing kids, I am blessed to have my very own valentine this year. A new season. A huge blessing in an incredibly difficult year. A kind, considerate man who loves me AND my kids.

An answered prayer.

Maybe you aren’t yet where I am in this crazy walk, but one day you will be. Wherever you are, whatever season, I have a few thoughts on dating. Don’t short-change yourself. Don’t settle for less than the best. Be willing to listen to a few words of advice from someone who has been in the trenches for a very long time.

Wait. I know what it is to be lonely. I know what it is to feel utterly rejected, to wonder if you will ever be loved. I know what it is to be the only single in the midst of a room full of marrieds. The pain and anguish and loneliness are overwhelming.

I know what it is to dread February 14 every year, to wonder when it will be your turn to receive those beautiful flowers like all of your co-workers. I know what it is to watch all your friends get married while you wait…and wait…and wait.

But that’s exactly what I encourage you to do: wait. Wait until you’ve had time to heal from your broken heart. Wait until you are satisfied with God and God alone. Wait until you’re completely satisfied in your life, whatever it may look like right now.

Wait until you find someone who has also waited, who has taken time to heal. Wait until you find someone who is satisfied in life as a single. Wait until you find someone who is ready to follow God’s purpose, regardless of what it may involve.

Love is patient…and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 4, 7b

Love God. As I alluded to above, make sure you love God. Make sure He is in proper position in your life.

Are you seeking Him and His kingdom? Have you allowed Him to take your past, your mistakes, your pain, and use it all to transform you into His image? Have you allowed God to take all the broken, shattered pieces of your life and fit them back together into something beautiful? Have you tested Him and found Him completely faithful throughout your wilderness?

If so, you may be ready to move forward. Just make sure whoever you decide to date has done the same thing, has spent time getting to know the Savior and being transformed by Him. Make sure he is also seeking God above all else.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

Friendship. It may seem strange, but before you decide to date, make sure you have a solid friendship. There will be times when the butterflies are absent, when the newness wears off. That’s when you must have a solid friendship upon which you can fall.

Take time to get to know him, all his quirks, his outlook on life. Is he there for you when you are down? Is she available to listen when your life is uncertain? Is he kind at all times? Is she considerate of your needs and wants?

Relationships are difficult, but when you are with your best friend it makes life so much easier. Friendship is the foundation of any love story.

Can I tell you a secret? Last spring, I was driving to work one morning, thinking about my friend. I felt certain God was on the verge of bringing someone into my life, a certainty like I had never had before. I became sad thinking that if there was a man in my life I wouldn’t be able to have Roy in my life in the same way. And that’s the very moment God hit me between the eyeballs with His truth.

My friend of 30 years? The one who has walked this ENTIRE nightmare with me? The one who endured many of the same things as I have? The one who has pursued me for NINE years while I was oblivious to him? The one who has fought for my affections even when I rejected him time after time?

He was right before me from the very beginning.

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? Proverbs 20:6

Love and Respect. Two powerful words, words that make the difference between “till death do we part” and divorce court.

Does he love you as Christ loved the church? Is he willing to lay down his life for you? Would he be willing to sacrifice everything, to surrender his very life to protect you? Is his love for you pure and complete? Is he willing to put aside his own desires to put you ahead of himself? Is his love for you constant and unconditional?

Does she respect you? Does she give you honor at every turn? Does she see your goodness, your purity? Does she always speak highly of you, in private and in public? Are her words those that bring life? Does she seek to build you up, never tearing you down?

Can you freely and openly talk to each other about everything? Can you lovingly confront and ask for change, ask for your needs to be met? Are you comfortable discussing every topic? Can you bring up difficult topics without fear of repercussions?

If love and respect flow freely, hold tight.

So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

What about kids? Many of you, like me, are entering into this dating thing with kids in tow. It adds an entirely new dimension to building and maintaining a relationship.

Over the years, I have met more than one man who professed his love for me, but really didn’t want my kids. It wasn’t necessarily my kids; it was just that they really didn’t want to raise more kids.

My kids and I are a package deal. Period. No questions. If you love me, you will love my kids as your own. It’s nothing more than I would expect of myself.

Roy has two teenage kids of his own to throw into the crazy, chaotic mix I already have. But he always treats my kids as his own. They have so enjoyed having a man around, a man who always speaks kindly, supports them in their activities, loves them as his own. I enjoy seeing them interact with a man, a strong man who is tender enough to show his love for them. I enjoy watching them build a relationship with a father-figure and do father-son activities (shop for some unmentionables?!?! So glad I got out of THAT one!).

My kids love him, and he loves them. What a blessing!

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

Don’t rush. It may sound like waiting, and it’s similar. But, this nugget of advice is on the other end.

You’ve found someone. He has waited until God healed his heart. She has made sure God is at the center of her life. You’ve built a friendship. Love and respect flow easily between you. The kids are loved by you both.

Don’t rush. The temptation is to jump right in, to put a wedding date on the calendar and bring it full circle. But I encourage you to take your time, to do things right. Maybe there’s never a perfect time, but make sure you are listening to God, following His lead.

Have you taken time to make sure the walls are down, to make sure you know each other well? Are you completely convinced God has created you specifically for each other at this specific time? Are you fully ready to commit whole-heartedly without reservation?

Take your time. There’s no rush, no hurry. If he truly loves you, truly wants to spend the rest of his life with you, he will not only respect your desires but encourage you to take your time.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

I don’t know what Valentine’s looks like for you this year, but I promise God is still in control. Let Him heal your heart, and one day you will rejoice as February rolls around.

He is good…always and forever!