Everyone Sucks at Dating

Dating is one of those things that isn’t really mentioned in the Bible but that EVREYONE has an opinion about.  It’s amazing to me how much advice gets tossed around and how often people are told how to date.  …when in fact, no one knows anything about dating.  I don’t write this because I am of the 1% who does know but because I am of the 100% who messes everything up.

Now some would argue, “hey, I dated the same girl since I was 17 and then we got married without every making any mistakes.”  And I would respond, “Congratulations.  That’s great and it also disqualifies you from offering any actual advice on dating, breakups, and relationships.”

I know that may seam harsh, but it’s true.  Those who dated 1 person and married that 1 person by and large live in a fantasy world of what the struggles of dating actually look like for the rest of us.

I am blessed to be a part of an amazing community of about 50 people who are in their 20’s and 30’s and mostly single.  We love each other, pray for one another, and serve each other.

And occasionally, we date each other (enter fireworks and explosives)… (enter more fireworks. more explosives.)

And when we do, THAT.  CHANGES.  EVERYTHING.

Not just for one person, or even for two people.  But for all 50.

And even wilder, take dating out of the equation… if one person simply happens to like another person …and someone else happens to like that person too – yes, THAT.  CHANGES.  EVERYTHING.  Not just for 1, 2, or 3, but for all of us.  Even if one person likes one person who doesn’t like them back.  Yep, changes everything too.  It’s crazy.

People in our demographic get told how to date a lot.  By people who have never been part of our demographic.  They, those who know who to date really well, they tell us we need to ask more people out and that we need to spend more time alone with guys/girls and not in such big groups and a lot of other things like that.

What most of the experts don’t understand is the ripple effects of doing just that.  There’s no taking a girl to coffee and moving on.  No, its taking a girl to coffee and then everyone choosing sides, hearts are getting broken, and group dynamics have changed.  (I’m not saying it should be like this, but it just is)

This group of 50 has actually had about 300 different people at any given time in the last couple years.  But then someone dated someone, and half the group had to leave because they didn’t “approve.”  Then another half of the group had to leave because they liked that guy/girl too. And then finally, if it didn’t work out, another half had to leave to support the one that the ‘jerk’ called it off with.  Even if it was just one date.  And then 25 new people come in to fill their spots.

Sorry, I can’t make this stuff up.  I am part of this demographic.  Is it crazy?  Yes, absolutely.  But it’s just how it is.

NOW… this may not seem like its headed nowhere but hold on, it is…  Some people get upset with people in our demographic for this happening.  They say guys/girls get too invested with each other after a date (or before a date!), they say we are dating the wrong people, they say that we just don’t know what we are doing.  And the ‘they’ are often the experts within our own demographic as well.  Experts are everywhere.

But the truth is – we are real people with real emotions and real feelings.  And unfortunately, often, when those are involved… it does change everything.  And that’s not bad, that’s real.  I wish it was different.  It hurts to see people have their feelings hurt.  It hurts to see one person in a close group hurt another (almost always unintentionally).  And it hurts to see what we inevitably put each other through.  But that is inevitably part of the dating process whether it should be or not.  Can we ease those strains?  Yes, a bit.  But likely, this cycle will continue.  Why?  Well, the answer is the title.

Do I have a point to this blog yet?   Sure…

Everyone sucks at dating.  No one has the right answers.  So rather than telling someone how and what they should be doing, simply: Listen and Show Compassion.

That’s it.  We are all messing up royally.  And no one’s advice has ever worked for us.  So you might as well just support each other and help each other pick up the pieces along the way.  I don’t think people need more answers.  I think another shoulder (to lean on) will do just fine.

I thought I knew what I wanted… and I was only in 5th grade

I remember dating a girl when I was in 5th grade.  We dated for a bit and then broke up.  Some time later, I wished to be with her again.  I remember lying on my bed one night and praying deep and honest prayers that God would bring us back together.

He didn’t.

And I was disappointed.

18 years later, I can be glad He didn’t answer that one.  Actually probably within a couple of weeks I was fine.  But the point is, that often what we want or think we want isn’t what we “really” want.  Not only is God the only one who knows what we need, He is also the only one who know what we truly want, how fascinating.

By high school, I didn’t date too much and didn’t care too much either.  I was caught up in other areas of life that filled me – youth group, friends, sports.  Life was good.

Around college time, sometimes you feel like maybe it’s time to consider what marriage might be.  And once again I would pray.  And be left unanswered.  Eventually I think I stopped praying all together.  Not on purpose, I just didn’t think about it anymore.  I just really didn’t mind being single.  I mean, there were/are times where you wish you weren’t alone but when I look at my life I ponder what may have or might have been, I’m left………

Grateful.

Grateful that God didn’t answer those prayers.  Grateful that God had a plan all the way.  Grateful that in His timing, all things come together for the good.  And that is pretty exciting.

How much does finding the “right person” really matter?

We spend a lot of time looking for the “right person.”  Hoping to find “the one.”  Moving from relationship to relationship until it “feels” right.

And this isn’t all wrong…. But…. What if there is not a “right person?”  As in how we view the right person.  We often feel that if we marry the right person, if we find the one, then we win.  We will therefor live happily ever after because we found them!

Everything in culture says that if you find the right person, then everything will be alright.

But….

When you open the Scriptures, you find very little about finding the “right person” but a lot about who we should become.

I think finding the right person and having a connection and chemistry is important.  But we often allow chemistry and connection to cause us to overlook character flaws.  I can be in the “best” relationship possible with the “right” girl and the best chemistry, but if I have trouble with keeping commitments, honoring girls, or another character flaw – regardless of how great the relationship is, it is inevitably doomed.

Unfortunately, the divorce rate stands around 50% inside and outside of the church despite people finding the right chemistry, the right connection, and the right person.

This is because…

The important thing isn’t finding the right person but becoming the kind of person who can keep a commitment. 

As we make daily choices in who we are becoming and how we are treating men and women inside and outside of relationships, the most important thing is to honor those relationships whether they are at a friendship, dating, or any other level.  And then we will become young men and ladies who are able to keep a commitment and honor another not because we made a promise (that half of us break) but because we have developed ourselves into people of honor and character who truly are able to love for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part.

(Regards to Andy Stanley again who encouraged these thoughts)

Pay Attention to the Tension

I was listening to a podcast by Andy Stanley the other week about choices.

One statement he shared that stood out the most was, “Pay Attention to the Tension.”

He talked about how sometimes we need to take the time to pause…. And ask ourselves questions…. About what we are really thinking, and feeling… and why we are doing what we are doing.

I thought this was incredibly applicable to relationships.  He was speaking on choices.  And relationships are choices.  So yes, I’d say it is applicable.

There are two extremes we can make with tension.  One is to bail.  One is to suppress.  I have erred on both sides before.

The answer to the problem is simple but not always what we would want.  It’s to simply let the tension grow.  And grow.  And grow.  Allow it to grow as big as its gonna be before making your decision.

Sometimes our tension comes from fear and we need to ask ourselves questions and line up what we are feeling with what God’s Word says.  Sometimes our tension comes from our consciences telling us something is amiss and in that case we should take the same approach of asking ourselves questions and lining up what we feel with what God’s Word says.

Is there a tension that needs my attention?  If there’s a tension, pause      ………..       ……         …., refuse to suppress or ignore it.

You know those awkward pauses when you are talking to someone?  Yes, try one of those on yourself.  Make it really awkward.  Look deeply into yourself.  Why are you in this relationship?  Why are you staying in it?  Why are you trying to get out?   What are you looking for?  Why are you looking for that?  Where are you headed physically?  Why are you headed there?

Ask yourself questions.  And listen.  And when there’s a tension….

Pay attention to the tension, don’t try to hide it.

I’ve been in the relationship that didn’t feel right but I didn’t want it to end so I stayed there.  I buried the tension.  I didn’t listen to it.  And eventually I was forced to make a decision I should have made sooner.  I’ve been in a relationship where the physical aspect began to enter and I felt a tension and I had to tell the girl immediately about the tension or I risked burying the tension and doing whatever I wanted.

Guys, if you are leading a relationship, and you are not comfortable in it.  It’s ok to ask yourself honest questions and to pay attention to the tension.  Guys, when you are leading a relationship and you are going somewhere physically and you feel a tension, it is not only right, but you better, pause, and listen to the tension.

Gals, when you are in a relationship, and you are not sure if it is what God has for you, it is ok to listen to the tension and seek wise counsel.  Gals, when a guy is leading you somewhere physically, and you are not comfortable with it, please, listen to that tension.

The tension doesn’t always mean there is something wrong.  Sometimes our feelings can deceive us.  But sometimes that tension might be giving us a clue as well.  That is why we must pause                                           …….. awkwardly pause…….                                               And ask ourselves questions.  Read God’s Word.  And seek wise counsel.

The tension is there to make us better.  Tension causes us to search and seek for what is right and what is best.  That’s why it is best for us to listen to it and let it grow.  Sometimes we like to stuff that tension and uneasiness down so we don’t hear it and we simply go on doing what we want to do.  And eventually as we suppress it, it will come out in other ways and will eventually deaden your souls… If we are suppressing what we truly feel and aren’t being honest with ourselves and the choices we are making, our souls won’t be able to breathe.

So if you feel a tension, listen to it and let it grow.  And if it keeps grows… keep listening.

Do you know what I went through just to dial your number?!

Girls wonder why we don’t just call them and ask them out.  It’s not that easy.

98 degrees once said, “It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do, to look you in the eye and tell you I don’t love you.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u02MhWROV8

They could be right.

But there is something else that is almost just as difficult.

That is simply calling the girl in the first place.

I remember the first time I called a girl.  It was in 5th grade.  She was my first girlfriend.  I thought I should call her because that’s what a boyfriend should do.  I also never talked to her at school because I thought that was what I should do too.  So I flirted with her friends during the day and then called her once a month.

I would wait till I was home alone and I would go into my parent’s room where they had a phone with buttons.  The one in the kitchen was a rotary (you may or may not know what that is).  I would dial about 4 of the 7 numbers and then freeze.  I’d get to 5 numbers and hold until the dial-tone started beeping.  I would sit on their bed wondering what I would say.  And then I would do it.  I would dial all 7 numbers, let it ring once, and hang up.

I’m 30 years old now and not a lot has changed.

I decide I am interested in getting to know a girl.  You know, after doing the group thing, the text thing, I figure I should probably call her.

This is where the nerves kick in.

I start debating it in my mind for maybe a week or two if I should make the call.  I mean, it changes everything.  At least in my mind.  And this debate is usually a good thing because soon I can’t debate it much longer or I will go crazy so I decide I must call.

Often a good day to make the call is on a Saturday.  That gives me a whole day.  I spend the morning pacing outside my apartment complex with the phone in hand.  I try to call but it’s too hard.  I pace back and forth until I have somewhere to be.  And then I send a text.  I’ll try again later.

Later in the day, I get ready again.  I grab my phone.

I rehearse both scenarios.  What will I say if she answers?  What will I say if it’s her voicemail?

I rehearse and I rehearse and I rehearse.  I start to dial.  Then I stop.  I pull her name up on my phone but don’t press.  The screen goes black a minute later as I just hold the phone and look at her name.  I walk to my room.  I lay down.  I text a friend, “pray for me.”  I start to dial again.  Can’t do it.  I wonder, ‘are these just nerves or is this God saying “no.”’  I figure its probably me just being lame.

I rehearse again.  I pray.  I dial.

So next time I call, you don’t have to say yes or no.  Just say “thank you, I know what you’ve been through.”

Half Cooked Thoughts at Shari’s with Mark and McCoy

Hey readers!  Remember that time in the Bible when the Apostle Paul said that thing about being single?  I (McCoy) do:

“But this I say by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.   But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.”  1 Corinthians 7:6-8

Last weekend at this wonderful establishment called Shari’s, one of the best dudes I know, Marky Pyatt, and I were chewing on this verse, as well as the lives of Paul, Jesus and those twelve dudes He hung around.  It had started with that typical question:

Me:          So, any girls out there you got your little eye on?

Mark:     Actually, yeah.

Me:          WHAT…really?

Mark:     Nah.  You?

Me:          Nah.

We’ve had this thrilling conversation many times in the two entire decades that I have known him, and it usually starts and ends in the same manner above.  But the difference this time around was that Mark and I were actually quite warm to our present statuses.  The freedom experienced through singleness is not lost on us.

The following conversation is by no means verbatim, but it captures the general theme of what we talked about.

Mark:     Ya know, wasn’t Jesus single?

Me:          I heard that.  Dan Brown would argue otherwise…but go on.

Mark:     …wasn’t Paul single too?

Me:          Apparently so, at least when he wrote to the Corinthians.  And if he was married, I bet she was super pissed about his travel schedule…and the fact he didn’t acknowledge her existence in this letter.

Mark:     Well we’ve been talking a ton in our dude’s group about being more and more like Jesus, which is something we’ve all agreed we passionately want in our lives…

Mark continues and I’m desperately searching for a scripture to take out of context right now to stop that train of thought in its tracks.

Mark:     …and don’t get me wrong,  I love the idea of finding someone to do life with, to love, to have kids with someday but Jesus didn’t really seem to have that in His priorities when He gave the Great Commission.  No, He said to go and make disciples. 

Me:          And he didn’t really mention making sure to get married first, to have a helpmate, a partner, or whatever, who is going to make your assignment of making disciples easier.

Mark:     No.  I think they just went out. 

Me:          Well dude I’m tracking along with you here.  I don’t think either one of us is saying we should sign our lives away on the dotted line of chastity and singlehood this moment, but that if Paul says it is a good gift then I don’t want to invalidate that gift too quickly.

Mark:     And I don’t want to feel entitled to something that was never promised to me.  Let’s say we knew we were going to be single for the rest of our lives, and God told us this in a Christmas wreath that was burning but not being consumed, then wouldn’t we be more adventurous with our faith, take more risks and through it all be more focused and committed to the Lord?  After all, the disciples and the apostles were pretty productive bachelors. 

Me:          Mother Theresa took some risks and was quite the little bachelorette as well.  It’s almost like there is a huge conflict of interest when on one hand you’re married, but on the other you are fully devoted to the Lord.  I think you can probably do both, or at least I’ve been told, but aren’t we in an advantageous position RIGHT NOW?

Mark:     Hmmmm…

Me:          Maybe we have the “gift” of singleness.  I mean we’re still chugging along as singles doing life, and I think we’re getting pretty good at it.  Besides, if you don’t have the “gift” of singleness does that mean by default you have the “gift” of togetherness or marriage?

Mark:    Maybe not…I’ve seen a lot of bad marriages.

Me:        Ditto…sounds like a conversation for another day

               …check please?

What Love between Real Life Superheroes looks like

I was 17 years old and on the search for a college.  My first official visit – Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.  Both of my sisters went or were attending there so I decided to visit as well.  There was a talent show that night at the school and I heard that a really cool band was playing.  Turns out they were more than cool, they were the most amazing crew I had ever heard and instantly were my favorite band.  One of the guys was tall, played basketball, was the epitome of cool and could beatbox and rap like none other – I told my sister Angie I wanted to meet him so we could be friends.  She said she couldn’t introduce me because she didn’t know him.  I told her to do so anyways.  She refused.

12 years later, that guy is one of my best friends.  And not only that, he’s my brother-in-law.  Will and Angie started dating a year after my failed attempt at being his friend.  I looked up to Will.  He was a role model, a best friend, and a mentor, wrapped up into one person.

Me and my other sister Kelli would get together and figure out how we were going to secure Will as part of our family.  Obviously, we wanted him to marry our sister but we said regardless, we are finding a way for him to be our brother.

A couple of years later, he was our brother.  And the 3 of us siblings became 4.  We live in 3 corners of the states (Oregon, LA, and DC) but we see each other as much as we can.  We aren’t only family.  We are best friends.

Angie and Will’s 8th anniversary is next week on November 27th.  Their marriage is one to admire.  One of extreme faithfulness, commitment, support, and encouragement through incredible highs and lows.  Not only do I love being around them, I learn what a marriage should look like.  I ask Will questions and he answers with wisdom, grace, openness, and experience.

Sometimes, after getting to know someone, the admiration can wear off, the holding someone in high esteem can fade.  But to me, Will hasn’t become less of a role model, he’s become a superhero.  He has his flaws, sure, but if you knew him, I think you’d agree.

Last year at this time, I was in LA to celebrate Thanksgiving with Will and Angie.  Today, I am in LA to see Will and Angie as well.  Unfortunately it’s not under the circumstances I would want.  Will is fighting an aggressive cancer and next week on November 27th, he will be having surgery to remove a rapidly growing tumor.  I thought I would be visiting to spend time with, encourage, talk, and play games with Will and Angie but instead I have come to watch Will live in excruciating pain, observe him as he sits and sleeps in the same chair for 24 hours, and watch my sister cry unanswered prayers as we wonder what the purpose of this is and what the outcome will be.

It’s not a beautiful thing to witness.  But sometimes true beauty can only be seen through the lens of pain.  And the faithfulness, support, encouragement, and undying, self-sacrificing love given by spouse to spouse is something so very painfully beautiful.

We search for a lot of things in a spouse.  A lot of things that come and go.  But in the end, in the times things are difficult, the thing each of us will want most is someone who is still next to them.

Go Team Gray!  I love you.  www.goteamgray.com/about-the-story/