It was our second date and we’d decided on dinner at a local pub. We were aiming for casual, a place we could wear jeans and not worry too much about impressing each other. We wanted good food and the football game on the TV. We wanted to feel comfortable, because the whole point in dating is to get to know each other, to see what you have in common, and even (*gasp*) to have a little fun.
“You can’t take him there,” they said. “That’s a place you take a co-worker you only kind of like.”
“You can’t take him there,” they said. “That place is too casual.”
They suggested a restaurant down the road from the pub, a fancier place that was more dimly lit with a more interesting menu. “It’s better for a date,” they said.
My friends, they meant well. They consistently want the best for me, and that appears to be true in even the places that I eat. They wanted me to have a good date, which means they wanted to make sure I had a good time, that I was treated well, that I put my best foot forward.
And all those things happened…at the pub.
I believe deeply in the good that comes when you live your life in a community of people who love you and have your back. I believe deeply that it’s one of the ways that God loves us and has our backs.
But, one of the problems of community is that their voices often get loud. They often get so loud you can hear them even when they’re not around.
Most of the time, believe me, this is good. Because they’re the voices that echo Jesus, the ones that remind you that God’s business is making good out of bad, or that God is faithful even when we are not, that rest is okay. They’re the voices that encourage you to keep going even when you feel wonky and scared and vulnerable. They’re the voices that will shut up and listen when they know you already know all the things they want to tell you.
Most of the time, their input and suggestions and counsel are worth heeding because they’re people who love you and have your back.
Sometimes though, even when your community loves you and has your back and wants only for you to have a good date, the voice that matters is your own.
I knew he was coming home from the beach and would be casually dressed. I knew that I was most comfortable in a place I could wear my favorite jeans, hole in the knee and all. I knew that the food was good, and we’d both be cool watching the pre-season football game if the conversation lulled. And I knew, quite frankly, that I just wanted to go to the pub.
Because here’s the thing, I’m thirty now. I’ve been dating for more than a decade. I’ve been on good dates and bad dates, and the mediocre dates that fall in between. I’ve worried for so long about impressing the guy that I’ve debated about what to wear for more hours than were necessary, and I’ve remained silent when I should have spoken up about things that concerned me, and I’ve not at all been relaxed in the whole dating process.
I was talking to Nickie about this the other day, about how dating is feeling much too much like work and a lot less like fun, and I realized that I have been doing it wrong for so long, and she said, “I say poo poo on what any of us think, though. Do what you want and what makes you comfortable. It’s your life and your relationship, and you live your life well.”
See? Good voices. Voices that love you and have your back.
She’s right, of course. I mean, jury’s still out on the “living your life well” bit, but I don’t think I’m doing a terrible job. However, I have been doing a terrible job of dating, and it is my life, and it is time to do what I want. Or at least, it’s time to start really giving some weight to what I want.
I worry too much though, that is my down fall. I am, more often than not, totally anxiety-ridden. I don’t know what it’s like to be totally relaxed, and I’m not sure I have ever known. When I was a kid I worried about always being the new kid, if I was ever going to fit in, if I was ever going to have real friends who’d hang on even if we had to move again. And so I worried about my clothes and my interests and my speech, because I worried all the time about being liked.
And old habits die hard.
But, I’m learning to put that to death, to be new, to worry less. It’s hard but good work, and I like the person this work is shaping me into. I like the way it’s deepening my relationship with God, and the way it’s giving my faith some real maturity. And I like the ways that my friends are responding to this me that is more comfortable in my skin, when that skin is less polished and a little raw.
So, this is my new mantra: Worry less. And with that, it is a challenge to myself in all the best ways to give myself a little credit, to extend myself a little grace, to trust the person that is exactly who God created me to be.
And it is a challenge to my community, to my friends, to love me even when I may not listen to them and may do my own thing.
Sometimes, believe it or not, worrying less is exactly the right thing.