“No, Justin, that’s not how the expression goes. It’s supposed to say, ‘Good things come to those who WAIT.'”
In our Christian romance culture, wait is a buzzword. It’s popular wisdom to tell singles to wait when it comes to romance…
“Wait for the right relationship.”
“Wait for the right person to marry.”
“Wait for God’s timing.”
“Wait for God to bring the right person into your life.”
I expect you’ve heard quite a few statements like this. I’ve noticed that when I tell people I’m single they often reply with some sentiment about how waiting for the right relationship is a good thing. Sometimes I want to roll my eyes and sigh.
What Are We Waiting For?
Considering how it’s impossible to get married by doing nothing but wait, why do so many Christians speak so emphatically of the virtue of waiting?
The reason actually comes out of our cultural past. From the sixties through the eighties, dating was typical for everyone in American culture. Unfortunately, bad dating habits were typical too. Many people, including Christians, often dated just because it was fun or for social prestige. It wasn’t uncommon for people to enter dating relationships that were unhealthy because doing so was immediately gratifying.
In response, many Christian parents and teachers realized that Christian youth needed to learn to wait for healthy romantic relationships to come in their proper season. So starting in the nineties, many Christian voices started teaching Christian young people to wait. Two and a half decades later, we Christians love to wait.
3 Problems With Waiting
I’m about to tell you 3 problems with waiting that I see in our Christian romance culture. But before I do, I want to say something very clearly. In many cases, waiting for romance is a good thing. I think the Christian voices that have taught us to wait have some very good points. Often, having patience is the right thing to do in your love life. Many problems come from waiting too little. However, many problems come from waiting too much. Here are three big ones I’ve seen:
1: Many Christians wait for God to pick their spouse.
The idea that God has one particular person chosen for you to marry and that He will bring you to that person is popular in our Christian culture. Unfortunately, it’s unbiblical. To get the full explanation, please see my post Does God Have A Spouse Chosen For Me? The gist is that the Bible teaches that God gives us freedom to choose if we marry and whom we marry. We should always choose wisely, having sought His guidance, but in the end, God desires that we freely choose.
Many Christians mistakenly believe that if they just keep waiting, eventually God will bring their divinely-chosen spouse into their life. Since God doesn’t act according to that pattern, some Christians keep waiting for a train that isn’t coming. The better course is for us to realize that God invites us to choose to take action in concert with His guidance and counsel rather than passively wait for Him to do something He never said He would do.
2: Always waiting results in underdevelopment and over-restraint.
From various sources, I’ve heard the following sentiment: Single Christian men don’t pursue single Christian women. I’m not saying that no Christian man ever pursued a Christian woman. I have only to point to my long list of married Christian guy friends to disprove that. I’m saying that, on the whole, Christian bachelors aren’t initiating romantic pursuit of Christian bachelorettes frequently enough. The impression I’ve gotten is that there are quite a few single Christian women who are puzzled as to why they never get asked out by the single Christian men in their circles.
I believe one of the biggest reasons Christian bachelors seldom initiate comes from our culture of waiting. Repeatedly telling Christian men to wait for romance results in two things that discourage them from pursuing Christian women:
(1) Christian men don’t gain the skills for pursuit.
This is a reality I’ve lived through. In fact, it’s one I’m still working to overcome. As a teenager, I listened to the Christian voices that said you shouldn’t even touch romance until you’re ready to get married. So until college, I didn’t even consider myself open to romance. As a result, my skill set for pursuing women was…well…it wasn’t. I had no clue how to pursue a woman in college, even casually. And even once I got to college, I never took action to develop my skills or start going on dates because I had it in my head that waiting was a virtue. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, realized I was inept when it came to romance, and discovered that I was literally losing sleep at night because didn’t know how to fulfill the desire to have a significant other that I realized I needed to develop these skills.
I suspect there are many other Christian men who don’t pursue women on frequent, casual level because they simply don’t know how.
(2) Christian men only pursue very significant interest.
When you tell Christian men that they should wait for the right relationship (the seemingly ideal relationship that could result in marriage) it encourages them to only pursue women in whom they have a very strong interest.
Some years ago, I found myself thinking about a young woman who went to the church I attended. We were barely acquainted, but I knew that she loved Jesus and seemed to be a pleasant person. I thought about asking her on a casual date but didn’t do so for a long time. That was because I didn’t have very strong feelings for her. I didn’t want to get involved in any kind of romantic interaction when I didn’t feel that I wanted to commit to a relationship. Shortly thereafter, two things happened. First, I learned the benefits of casual dating. (For more, see The Good And Bad Of Casual) Second, I had opportunity to spend more time with that young woman. Once I spent time with her, I very quickly realized that she was amazing and I liked her. Once I realized that, I regretted not asking her out months earlier.
When Christian men are told they should wait for the right relationship, it encourages them to avoid casually pursuing women in whom they don’t find a very strong interest. The problem is that casual romantic interaction can grow into a long-term relationship when the two people find chemistry with each other. In waiting for a serious romantic interest, many Christian men may be inadvertently keeping themselves from it.
3: Eventually, you HAVE to stop waiting.
As I said earlier, for anyone to get married there has to come a moment when the time for waiting is over. Eventually, you HAVE to take action…or remain forever single. Yet when I hear Christian voices teaching Christian singles to wait for romance, I almost never hear them also teach how to recognize when the time for action has come and how to take action. I believe this has resulted in a Christian culture that teaches singles to be passive rather than recognize when it’s wise to wait and when it’s wise to take action.
A Time To Wait & A Time To Take Action
The book of Ecclesiastes says this:
For everything there is an appointed time,
and an appropriate time for every activity on earth:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to rip, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NET)
I think it’s reasonable for us to add to the list “There is a time to wait and a time to take action.”
For too long, our Christian romance culture has emphasized waiting to the point of it getting out of balance. It’s time we recognize that both waiting and taking action are virtues. Both have their proper season, and both need to be practiced at the proper time.
How can you know when you should wait and when you should take action? That’s where wisdom is needed. Prayerfully consider where you’re at in your own love life. Ask trusted people in your life for their counsel. If there’s a legitimate reason you’re not ready for romance then it may be better to wait. But if you’re ready for romantic pursuit then you may need to stop waiting and take action.
If the notion of waiting has gotten so deeply into your mind that it’s hard to break from it, encourage yourself by reminding yourself that good relationships come to those who TAKE ACTION.
What do you think? Have you taken action when you should have waited? Or have you waited when you should have taken action? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
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