It suddenly dawned on me the other day that it will be just over a year ago that the book I co-wrote with my good friend Rachel, ‘The Dating Dilemma’, was released. I remember the build up to it, the release date being pushed back on numerous occasions, and now, it’s been out for a year.
The people who have read it have by and large said it has helped. As you write, you often wonder if you are writing anything useful, but the response has been incredible. Students, teenagers, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, single people, new Christians, ‘veteran’ Christians, mentors, church leaders, people who have dated for years and people who have just started dating, have said it has helped them think about their relationships, God and how they can date well. It has been humbling to know that it has helped people connect with God more.
But do relationships really matter?
Off the back of the book I started a charity in order to help people think about their singleness, dating choices and theology of relationships through courses, our website and speaking engagements. It has been tough in many ways. When it gets hard, when the funds are not coming in and the opportunities to help people are not as frequent as I want, I wonder if I heard God correctly, or if relationships do matter as much as I think they do. Anyone else worried that they may be missing the target sometimes?
A few Sundays ago I was leading a course with some teenagers at a church about dating. One person asked me ‘what is your definition of a perfect relationship?’. Usually you can guess what sort of questions are going to be asked – we Christians seem to face similar issues and problems – but I had never been asked this before.
However, I didn’t have to think and I found myself speaking without needing to pause to form an answer. I said something along the lines of ‘often we see on TV, or on Facebook an example of the “perfect” couple smiling, laughing, showing us how in love they are. But it is easy to be perfect in a moment; it is easy to be perfect for a quick picture or for a tweet. So let me save you some time, there is no perfect relationship.
We all have things about our bodies we don’t like, we all have things about our personalities that aren’t great, we’re all trying to seek God more and cut things out of our lives. There are no perfect people, so there is no perfect relationship. Rather, a good relationship is when two people realise they need to put the work in, that it won’t always be easy but will work at it, make sacrifices for each other and enjoy each other as we learn to be honest about who we are.’
As I drove back home, hoping I was more inspiring than crushing, I felt sure that it is true. Relationships are important, romantic relationships can make us feel secure, happy, and impact those around us in a positive way. But relationships of all kinds are at the core of everything, even if it doesn’t look like it to begin with.
Business deals are done over dinner. Politicians need summits to meet and chat. Job interviews are done face to face, team meetings over skype are cost effective but no substitute for chatting by the water cooler. In a world that says we can connect through social media, and we need to raise our individualism and ourselves above all else and rely on nobody, the desire to connect authentically is still prevalent everywhere we look.
Am I sure relationships matter? Of course! If we can learn to build good friendships and date well, we can learn to marry well, parent well, treat others well and be good colleagues and neighbours. Dating well and avoiding hurt is important, and building good relationships are needed in order to make us thrive. Knowing that we can’t just wait for the perfect Facebook relationship to come along, but that we can learn to maintain a loving relationship is key.
So through the doubt, frustrations and worry I will continue to teach, write blogs and promote the book, because seeing people’s eyes light up when they know that God cares about their relationships and wants to bless them with good ones matters. Showing people that singleness is not a disease matters. Showing people that God wants a relationship with us and wants us to love our neighbour matters. Relationships matter.
By André Adefope
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