A group of women, mid to late twenties, are sitting around a table; some are married, others single. The conversation turns, as it so often does, to the apparent issue of there being surplus single girls to single guys. According to my anecdotal statistical knowledge (ie, hearsay) this is a worldwide phenomenon, and never is it more prevalent than in Christian circles.
An offshoot of this needle-in-a-haystack scenario is the creation of an enigmatic breed of elusive, eligible bachelors who seemingly have their “pick of the harem”, albeit a culturally inappropriate metaphor. And, far from staving off their swooning fans with a giant-sized copy of “Every Man’s Battle”; there seem to be an awfully large number of NCG’s (Nice Christian Guys) who have developed an ongoing habit of indulging themselves with this attention. Moving rapidly from one intense friendship to another, they (unwittingly?) wreak emotional havoc throughout the female contingent of their church community and beyond.
His reputation precedes him
“Apparently, there is this one guy, in ministry (of course), who has the reputation of leading every single Christian girl in Cape Town on,” says Lisa*. “Oh I know exactly who that is,” nods Carrie* knowingly. “I stay far away from him; apparently everyone who meets him falls in love with him.” The curiosity of the rest of the group mounts. As Christians, we dance tentatively around the edge of what could be called gossip. The flesh is dying to jump forth with juicy accusations; we subdue the desire, though with not nearly as much force as we know we should. Lerato* adds the comment that she knew a girl who moved into the same street where he lived, just to be near him. Bingo! I’ve heard that story before; I know exactly who it is. But later some of the facts don’t add up and I realise that there is an exact replica of this roving Romeo preying on innocent hearts in another suburb.
Our immediate reaction is shock, disdain and a pithy comment or two on poor witness. On closer examination though, the questions have to be asked: Is it all the NCG’s fault? Is he really the big bad wolf who should know better than to let himself loose, knowing the damage he will do? If there are two sides to every story, what role do single Christian women play in contributing to this scenario? And, regardless of who is at fault, how can we as women better equip ourselves against shattered expectations?
Romance by the Book
In a perfect, unfallen world the answers are quite simple. The single man understands the female psyche, and withdraws immediately upon sensing any attraction towards him which is not reciprocated. He makes it perfectly clear, through word and deed, that he has zero intention of marrying her or even considering marrying her, ever. When he is in her company (group setting of course), he makes himself as repugnant as possible so that she is repelled of her own accord. The female, though open to the notion of finding a suitor, is by no means desperate. By God’s grace, she is fulfilled in her relationship with Jesus and does not complete a mental gene-fit test on every single male specimen that comes her way.
“The problem is that I genuinely felt that there were enough signs from him to indicate a level of interest,” says Grace*, speaking of a particular situation where she feels she was led on by a Christian guy in her church. “Invitations to black tie functions, a wedding at an overnight location, regular time alone; not to mention being told that I was very special; that if he’d met me earlier things would be very different and so forth,” she says. “I honestly wasn’t sure how he felt. I was interested, and didn’t want to not allow myself to invest time and emotion when it could grow into something – you don’t know if you don’t go there.”
Sally* admits that sadly she has found herself in that exact situation more than once. Daily emails, single movie dates, intimate conversations on matters of the heart and late evening phone calls all pointed towards developing relationships; yet nothing ever materialised beyond this, leading to confusion on her part. “I think I knew deep down that if they really liked me they would ask me out directly – and they didn’t,” she says. But equally, they were being so intentional about getting to know her on a one-on-one basis that she thought it must be more. On one occasion she led bible study with a guy where it wasn’t very likely that they could be together…yet he was so flirtatious and “couply” that it was hard to tell if it was circumstance or false promises. “I have to say that all the guys were quick to ask out the girl they liked and are now either hooked up or married…so there is a lesson in there: if they like you, they’ll ask!”
In both Grace and Sally’s case, it’s obvious that the man in question needed to take on the responsibility of being clear, of making intentions known from the start, and not spending emotional and physical time with someone they knew they weren’t able to follow through with. “This is complicated though, as hanging out with someone is how you determine whether you want to be in relationship with them or not – I wouldn’t want to pressurise a guy into saying “yes” or “no” right from the get-go,” comments Sally.
Grace however feels that she probably should have pulled back earlier, and that she also had a responsibility to do that, and to expect more. “Doubting your self-worth and wanting something you can’t have has a lot to do with it. It’s easier to have a surrogate someone than no one…loneliness and desire for excitement play a big part; being a hopeless romantic and always thinking the best of someone is also a factor,” she says.
Sally says she could have better guarded her heart with loads more prayer. “Make sure that Jesus has all of your heart; that he’s at the centre of everything and that you keep communicating with Him about all these potential heartbreaks,” she says. “Thank Him for all the amazing things He gives; keep seeking Him in His word; have your girlfriends remind you how much God loves you and how much they love you too.”
Grace has resolved to not give away her heart without commitment. To not be at someone’s beck and call; to be wise and draw a line quickly. Of course, she says, this is very hard when you like someone, and you want to spend time with them because you like them. “I’ve made my peace with the fact that Christian men are sinful too!” says Grace. “And I’m walking the road of learning how to truly find my contentment in Christ, and not look to relationships to find that. I’m looking for the right guy, not just any guy.”
Anchor your heart
John Thomas, a boundless.org author, adds that joy and excitement over a potentially budding relationship is perfectly normal. “The concept is God’s idea, and it’s good. God gave us all the potential for affection, both giving and receiving, so we want to celebrate it in the proper context, not immediately wish it away,” he says. These hopes and emotions need to be anchored to Christ however, so they won’t be tossed around in all directions every time a different wind comes along, he says. “When our feelings are “anchored” – submitted to the Spirit and in scripture – we can rejoice in them without guilt or shame.” This by no means makes believers immune to hurt and heartache, as most of us can testify, but that which is a result of an unanchored heart will be significantly reduced as Christ fills emptiness only He can satisfy.
The answer, as it is to most of our problems in this modern-day world, and which will probably take us a lifetime to grasp, is to allow our hearts to become more captured and captivated by the person of Christ. This will make us less prone to run after everything that “seems” fulfilling, whether a relationship or anything else. The awesome thing about being a Christian in this situation is being able to ask God for wisdom; to help us to sort the good from the bad, the wise from the foolish. We will become more discerning about our actions and our choices. And Mr Bachelor of the Year will find his playing field reduced to a rather arid little patch of ground.
An expanded version of this article will be published in Radiant Magazine, together with some practical application advice.
* Names have been changed