It’s an unfortunate nickname for the guy I went out with a handful of times this summer, but the name really wasn’t about him. He didn’t work with fish, or smell like a fish, or look like a fish, or spend a lot of his time fishing. It was a nickname given from a conversation earlier in the year about dating and “fish in the sea” and “casting nets.” So, the poor guy I saw a handful of times this summer got saddled with an unfortunate nickname after our first date, after my friend Nickie sent a group message asking, “So, what kind of fish did you catch?”
It got worse when I told the story of how the whole thing had fizzled weeks ago, and Nickie deemed him a flounder because dating him turned out to be kind of bland and a little bit flaky.
It occurred to me after this conversation that this is how I’m feeling about dating in general these days – that the whole endeavor is lacking…something.
My friend Mike tells me that I need to be patient. He says that eventually one of these guys isn’t going to wuss out on going on the adventure with Jesus and me, and he says that’s going to be neat to watch from the outside.
I’m grateful for these guys my friends have married, who have become my friends too, who find ways of reminding me all the time that quality dudes exist in the world.
I was talking Nickie about all this the other night after Bible study. I told her about the conversation I’d had with Mike and his wife, my friend Amy, about how encouraging they had been, and about how glad I was that they were holding hope when I feel like I’m running out of steam. And I told her that I’m finding our little suburb a hard place to be single, and I confessed that there’s sadness around the edges of dating right now that I haven’t felt before.
“I don’t want that to sound for one second like I’m woe-is-me-ing, though,” I said. “I like my life, and I don’t feel unsettled or desperate, I just have been feeling kind of sad and I’m not sure why.”
“I think you miss him,” Nickie said without missing a beat. “I think you’re missing your person, even though you don’t know what his face looks like or who he is, and I think that’s okay.”
And I knew as soon as the words came out of her mouth that she was telling me a truth about myself.
If I’m being honest, I don’t much care for this particular truth. It strikes me as a little cheesy, and it plucks at my cynical nerve. I want to dismiss it, ignore it, pretend that my friend hadn’t said it.
I don’t want to think about it, and I don’t want to feel the sadness of missing anyone, and I definitely don’t want to have to start praying about it. Because when you start praying, things change. And I’m not all that sure how ready I am for things to change.
Because I really do like my life! I like that I don’t have to ask anyone before I make plans, or spend money, or stay in to binge watch Gilmore Girls for the thirty-seven thousandth time. I like that I can pick up and go when someone asks if I have a weekend free.
Can you have dinner this night? Yes. Can you watch the baby this afternoon? You bet. Will you cat-sit this week while we’re gone? I’m in. Can you meet me for lunch so we can talk more about that? Of course. How about you spend a year or so writing a book about friendship and grace? I can do that.
Nickie says that she thinks that she and I probably don’t like the idea of not being able to go exactly at the moment God says go, which is why she struggles in her 9-to-5 job and why I struggle in dating. I think that sounds noble and holy and, for me, maybe only half-true.
I think I fear settling, and I think I’m afraid that dating and marriage will be the epitome of that. I’m afraid that I’m going to have to trade the adventure for my person. And I know how ridiculous that sounds, but that’s the funny thing about fear – it doesn’t care that it’s ridiculous.
I decided somewhere in the last couple of days that I’m not going to let the fear win this time, because I can’t escape the truth and the sadness and the missing of my person. And I believe that God is trying to break further into my heart, that He’s asking me only to give Him another piece of myself, and that He wants only for me to sit in the fear with Him.
So, I’m going to do that. You can call it a fast, you can call it a break, you can call it whatever you want, but I’m going push the pause button on dating for a little bit. I’m going to hang out with my friends and I’m going to be honest with them about my questions and hang-ups, and I’m going to listen to their stories about dating and being married, and I’m going to learn a thing or two from them. I’m going to feel sad when I feel sad, and I’m not going to intellectualize that feeling to make it make sense. And I’m going to be honest with God about those feelings, which means I’m going to pray. I’m going to pray a lot, for me and for my person, and for the adventure.
And I’m going to find some way to believe again that there is going to be an adventure.
Bland and flaky isn’t good enough.