Dating Divorced Christians and other Practical Dating Tips
Written for www.AdamMeetEve.com by Juliet Roberts, author of Safer Christian Dating
Are you dating (or interested in dating) a divorced Christian? Read this article, but first read 1st Corinthians chapter 6.
(I admit this is a rather long article full of important info. on dating Christians, but if you are in a hurry, I suggest that you scroll down and read only the "Practical Dating Tips." All names/places in this article have been changed to protect peoples' privacy.)
Practical Dating Tip: When it comes to dating safety I tell singles to never scrimp on due diligence. Don't trust your emotions. Trust God. Don't believe what you want to hear. Believe the truth. Ask God for wisdom. Getting a dating background check is part of that wisdom, especially when meeting people by way of the Internet. Also very important: if you decide to use an online Christian dating service, I recommend only using Christian dating services like ChristianCafe, because they are owned and operated by Christians.
Practical Dating Tip: When dating a divorced Christian "be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." James 1:19 Please do not assume that you have some magic answer to heal the hurt they feel inside. Also do not assume that you are the answer to all their needs. Only God can heal the hurt or provide deep and profound restoration. He may use you in some small way, and if He does, your ears and your gentle compassion will probably be His first instruments. Listen and love!
Practical Dating Tip: C'mon guys, don't be shy, women really and truly are just people. As a deaconess and the "BIG SISTER IN CHRIST" to hundreds of Christian singles; throughout the years, I can tell you the single dumbest question I get asked almost every Sunday, at every Friday night singles bible study and at any other singles gathering. The question goes something like this: "Juliet, I'm dating (or want to start dating) 'so and so' and I was just wondering if women like ____________________ (fill in the blank)?" I smile. I clear my throat. Then I usually say something like this: "I don't know, did you ask 'so and so' if they would like ____________________ (fill in the blank)"? Then I explain to them (usually a young man who is shy about talking to women) that God made each of us as individuals, unique in almost every way. Their question is like asking "Do mothers like ____________________ (fill in the blank)?" It depends of course on the individual mother, doesn't it! Not to pick on the young Christian men in our singles group, but I very seldom get asked: "Juliet, I'm dating (or want to start dating) 'so and so' and I was just wondering if men like ____________________ (fill in the blank)?"
Practical Dating Tip: Tall ladies, loose the high heels! You just might get more dates. Or at the very least guys tend to talk to women who are not taller than them. This is of course only my observation based on my own experience. I love people. I love be available to listen when someone has a struggle or problem. And then I pray for them with detailed knowledge and empathy. About four years ago I broke a heel off in the church parking lot, so that Sunday I wore my flat-soled basket ball shoes that I keep in the trunk of my car. WOW! What a difference two inches made. I am just under 5'9" with no shoes on. So I found that guys are more comfortable standing around talking with me in flats than if I am high-heeled-up to over 5 feet 11 inches tall. And my tired feet are more comfortable now, too.
Practical Dating Tip: Gentle is as gentle does. To be used of God we need to loose the superior attitude. There was only one PERFECT person that ever lived. He is the same PERFECT person who died on the cross for all our sins. Be gentle as He is gentle. Do not assume that if a person has had a rough time in life that they somehow deserve it more than you. I know that often guys (especially competitive guys) tend to be more goal oriented and women tend to be more relationship oriented. Don't make someone your goal. Make them your friend. Don't assume that you have the solution to their pain. For example, male golfers view the game as great competitive exercise with a social undertone. Female golfers view the game as great social interaction with a competitive undertone. Start out slowly. Trust must be earned. And it can be lost in an instant usually after some judgmental or harsh or self-righteous comment. I have ministered to divorced, widowed, hurting or guilt-ridden singles whom, like everyone else who is no doubt IMPERFECT, have very sensitive wounds.
Treat their wounds with gentleness and you will win a friend!
When I attended public school, us four kids lived in town with my mother during the school year and out on the farm with my father each summer. Lucky us! Vince, the town bully, lived just down the gravel road from us. He made our lives a living hell year after year, until the day my GENTLE kindness won him over. Towards the end of my seventh grade Vince wiped out on his bike one afternoon. He limped past our house with all his skin raked off the side of his face, shoulder and forearm. I took him into our bathroom and sent my brother Davie to fetch Vince's mother who was, as it turned out, home drunk on the couch. For over an hour I gently cleaned his wounds with warm water and baking soda. We are talking major, stinging road rash! With a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers I removed well over forty or fifty pieces of shale, thorns and broken glass. By the time I had wrapped his arm in a couple of clean pillow cases; Vince was convinced that picking on me and my family was not going to happen ever again. In fact, he actually started coming over to hang out with us.
Well, that is how hurting Christians are, especially divorced Christians or Christian women who have had an abortion, their wounds sting emotionally. So treat them with gentleness and you will win a friend.
It was a typical Sunday morning at church. The Christian singles in Sunday school were all excited about an upcoming singles retreat. There were about 120 singles in our class and only about 75 bunks available at the Christian singles retreat. Sure not all of us singles went each year, but usually those who wanted to attend the 3-day singles retreat and paid on or before the deadline were assured of a place at the retreat. My new friend, Nancy, actually got her check in 3 weeks early because she was so excited about attending her first singles retreat as a new Christian. We were going to be in the same cabin and sit together during the teaching times, at meals and hang out together during free time. I was excited about the singles retreat, too. But that was before I walked outside after the church service and spotted my friend, Nancy, talking to our singles Sunday school teacher, Monroe.
Nancy looked very sad as Monroe handed her check back to her. Then she started to cry.
Monroe merged into the crowd of bible-toting Florida Christians that were exiting the main sanctuary after another rousing sermon.
I caught up with Nancy in the church parking lot and asked her what was wrong and could I help in any way? My first thought was maybe I should loan her some money for the retreat because her check bounced. But it was not about her check. It was about her. It turns out that Monroe had just finished telling Nancy that our church does not allow divorced singles to attend the singles retreats or even be a part of the singles group on Sunday mornings. In a nut shell Monroe told Nancy: "Dating divorced Christians is a sin and allowing his singles to be dating a divorced Christian is a sin. He told her that his young, impressionable Christian singles might become led astray by a sexually experienced and no doubt desperate divorced Christian woman like Nancy. Once having tasted the pleasures of sex, Nancy could not be allowed to start dating his Christian singles. For Nancy was clearly a defiled and predatory divorced woman."
Nancy was devastated.
We sat in her car and Nancy told me how she had gotten married at age 17 with her mother's permission; Nancy and her new husband were both non-Christians when they got married, he had started cheating on her almost immediately after the honeymoon; and by age 19 Nancy became a Christian and started going to church more and more, she even tried to get him to go to church; then he soon divorced Nancy and moved on to greener pastures.
Nancy just cried and cried, saying it was not her fault, she had tried to be a good wife and make him happy. Turns out, she later learned at the divorce hearing, that he had actually been divorced once before even though he was only 21 when Nancy married him. Nancy felt so rejected. Like nothing Nancy could do could make him happy so he would stay with her. "Now I get rejected all over again," said Nancy as she tore her check into smaller and smaller pieces. "Back then I get rejected and divorced for something that is not my fault. Today I get rejected for something that is not my fault. I did not choose divorce. Today I get thrown out for being divorced. I really wanted to pop that arrogant Monroe jerk right in his pompous smart mouth."
In 1st Corinthians chapter 6 God states that a person is free to remarry if he or she gets divorced from a non-Christian. Did Monroe or the stupid rule-makers at church bother to ask for Nancy's divorce details? No. It was "one size fits all" and who cares about the exact details. Monroe can say that he was just following church policy, but I say church policy is not as important as what the Bible clearly teaches.
Nancy was crushed by the awesome weight of discrimination against divorced people. Nancy was a new Christian who had just got to the point of being able to trust people again, who had been taught that Christians are to "accept one another just as Christ accepted you." Romans 15:7 Here she had come to church expecting to find love and acceptance and make lots of new friends. What she got was far from Christian love. In fact the hypocrisy of the situation came to light about six months later when it came out that self-righteous Monroe had been having an affair with a woman in the choir, his wife chose divorce over forgiveness because this was not the first affair that Monroe's wife found out about in their twelve years of marriage. Plus, it turns out that the single Christian man who was helping Monroe to lead our singles group was not as pure as Monroe had said "his Christian singles" were. This single Christian man had slept with three of the single Christian women he had been dating over the course of two years, acting as if it were the women's fault for being so attractive. The one that tops the list is the Senior Pastor who had set the tone of discrimination against divorced Christians. The Senior Pastor's son went to Moody, graduated and served as Youth Pastor at another large evangelical church. It was less than five years, and he ran off with the church secretary, divorced his wife, and left her to care for their two toddlers all by herself. "Jesus wept." John 11:35
If you are a Christian man it is hard enough to understand the Christian woman you are interested in dating or befriending. Let alone dating a divorced woman like Nancy who was so deeply hurt and betrayed and rejected that even if you dated her one day she might lash out at you, testing your will to be "slow to become angry." It is my experience that men tend to be simple, easy to understand, straight forward logical creatures. Men also tend to offer logical solutions when all they should be doing is keeping their mouths shut and their ears open. Women like to be listened to, especially, if you are dating a divorced woman like Nancy. For the most part guys are logical. That is good. That is how God made them. Women on the other hand tend to be more complex, hard to understand, more intuitive emotional creatures. So which type is "right" or "best" or God's favorite type? The answer is absolutely "both". God don't make no junk. Hurt takes a long time to heal. Dating divorced Christians too soon after their divorce can be a problem. Be a divorced person's friend and let them heal. In the case of Nancy, all she wanted to do is "belong" and to call her a desperate divorced woman out to lead all the "pure, innocent singles' astray was just plain cruel!
Is divorce the unforgivable sin that some church-folks like Monroe seem to think it is?
No more so than any other sin. It is just more obvious, hard to hide. Sure God hates divorce, but he loves divorced people just as much as any of us other sinners.
To be like Christ, which is what being a Christian is supposed to be about, sometimes all you have to do is love a person and listen and accept them at the place where they are at. Don't try to change them. Don't try to lecture them or solve their apparent problems. Just love them and listen. I know this is true from experience. Because when I was a really young adult, the pastor of my mother's church was very Christ-like toward me. And it changed my life for the better!
That year, the year of our senior prom was the hardest time of my life. After the date-rape I claimed that Ricky, the boy I had known since the 5th grade had raped me on prom night. He claimed that I was drunk, that I agreed to have sex. Looking back on that night, I should have never gone to the prom with Ricky. He was always very wild and irresponsible, but I reasoned that school was ending and I deserved to have some "wild" exciting fun before going off to college. When he brought out a pint of whisky called Old Grand Dad on our way home after the dance, I told him it smells like shoe polish and I would not drink it. So at Seven Eleven he bought a quart of Hawaiian Punch and I started with one gulp of punch for every tiny sip of whisky. Next thing I knew my dizzy head was laying on the bench-seat of his truck and Ricky was on top of me slobbering all over me. I kept saying "no" and tried to push him off. "No, Ricky, stop it, we shouldn't do this. No."
To make a sad story short: the DA would not bring charges against Ricky; I got pregnant; my parents, the pastor of my mother's church, (my father did not attend church back then, but he does now), and Ricky's parents all decided that we should "marry for the sake of the unborn child." Our marriage went from bad to worse, and living with my parents did not help. I felt violated, betrayed, and cheated out of my BIG dream wedding day where everything was supposed to be perfect including the man I married. Our small/secret wedding was a big rip-off. I hated and deeply resented Ricky for it! Ricky was not perfect, but the truth is, neither was I. But oh how I hated Ricky for ruining my life. For a very long time, even after his death, I would take no responsibility for ruining my own life. The whole time that we were married Ricky felt like a giant guilt trip on steroids. Ricky was very passive about everything. Even the smallest decisions were too much for him to make, which drove me crazy. I had to assume leadership. All he did was go to work, come home, eat and fall asleep in front of the TV. That went on for about six or seven weeks. Then I had a miscarriage the morning after Ricky was killed.
Ricky's closed-casket funeral was almost a total blur to me. The Pastor made some comment about how he was sure that God let all crop duster pilots into heaven especially those pilots that could fly as well as Ricky. Then something about: Quick thinking on the part of Ricky's cousin, Mike, kept the rest of their corn fields from becoming a total loss. To contain the blaze they first circled the blazing helicopter with a water tanker--the kind that is used to keep the dust down on dirt roads. That did some good but not much. Then with a front loader tractor they scraped a fire break around the helicopter blaze, and then an even wider fire break around the burning pieces of Ricky's crop duster plane. Not much water was left to put on the fires and those fields are pretty far from the town's volunteer fire department. And on and on about what a hero Ricky was for avoiding a school bus full of farm kids, etc.
After a while I started seeing my old boy friend from summer church camp, but that did not last very long. He went off to college. I became more and more depressed. Our tiny farming community did not have a professional counselor to help me with my grief and depression. The pastor of my mother's church turned out to be a good guy to talk to about twice a week for nearly a year. He was so loving and kind and non-judgmental that he was like a big red arrow pointing to Jesus.
Ok, so what is the point of my sad story? The point is that just one wrong choice at the wrong time can ruin your life or at least cause so much hurt that you might wish you were dead. But Romans 8:28 is true. God does work all things for good! And staying single the rest of my life is still way better than being forced to marry Ricky. Of course I am always open to whatever God's will is, either to remarry or stay single. And that is called living a victorious Christian life, trusting God with everything, even the future.
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