Through all my years of singleness, I have received little attention from the opposite sex. But if you think that has made me desperate, you are mistaken. Last week this was put to the test when something new happened. In a public place, a man I didn’t know struck up a conversation with me. We talked, he complimented me, and he asked if we could go out for coffee some time. I was entirely unprepared for his question, so it was difficult for me to formulate a response. But, our conversation had informed me enough to know my ultimate answer.
When I was young, I was so desperate to be noticed by men that I made more than a few stupid choices. I’ve grown up a lot since then, and have lived the last decade somewhat resigned to being invisible. So, the recent situation caught me by surprise. I am not a person who is gifted with the ability to think on my feet and say the right things. I usually speak without thinking and say foolish things, only to come up with the perfect thing to say later, when it’s too late. I’ve had a week to think it over, and I am still not sure what to say to the man who asked me out. I know it is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. My problem is that I want to explain my answer, but it isn’t an essay question.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:14
Being single at forty has not made me desperate; it has made me steadfast. I am resolved not to get involved with a man who doesn’t put God first in his life. If he hasn’t surrendered his life fully to following Christ, I cannot trust him with my heart. I am afraid some might think I am playing hard to get. But here is the truth of the matter: I am not playing. I am hard to get.
I have learned some lessons the hard way. Though at times it seemed that God spared me the full consequences of my mistakes, I am determined not to repeat them. I have only had one romantic relationship in the course of my life. There was some other foolishness, but nothing that could be called an actual relationship. The one relationship was with a man who called himself a Christian, but after he dumped me, he moved on to a woman who had ridiculed me for my faith. He married this woman who was not only different from me, but who had disdain for the way that I lived. I had been prepared to marry that man, but he didn’t care whether he married a godly woman. I had known that something was wrong with his claim to have a saving faith, but I was desperate to be loved and to be married. It was a narrow escape, and I am thankful to God for His hand of rescue. Seventeen years later, I know to be wary of men who profess faith, but show no evidence of it in their lives. And I have learned to trust my gut, because I remember what it felt like when the Holy Spirit was fighting me tooth-and-nail.
We are called to evangelize and disciple others. But I do not believe that God wants us to use potentially romantic male-female relationships for this purpose. Jesus instructed us to love one another and not to judge others. But the Bible also instructs us to guard our hearts and to not enter into partnerships with unbelievers.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!
I know the question that some of you have: how can I know someone is an unbeliever when he says he has faith? One of my co-workers was afraid that I expected a man be able to pass a test on Bible trivia or theology; that’s not necessary. Genuine faith is described and explained throughout Scripture, and we have the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment. No Christian lives perfectly, but those who are truly committed to following Christ live differently from those who are not. This difference is discernible.
I do not require a man to be an expert in theology in order to date me. I would not be put off by a man’s new faith if it were pure and devoted, even if he had a lot to learn. But a faith that is cultural, a faith of words that do not penetrate the soul, that is not a match for me. I will not expose my heart to being wooed by someone who I cannot marry. It is not a game that I am playing. I strive to live a life surrendered and obedient to God. The Bible isn’t just a “Good Book.” I believe that the Bible is true, and that in it, God Himself instructs me as to how I should live. I will not consider entering into a dating situation with a man who does not share this conviction. As a result, I may be “hard to get” for the average man. I will do my best to be polite about it, but I will not apologize.