We have all said them, heard them or heard of them. They are phrases like, “I just need a little space” and “I am not sure if I am ready to be in a serious relationship right now.” Common phrases like these are born out of uncertainty and will likely precede a long, long talk.
These phrases can mask the real issue and often are followed with cheap cliché along the lines of “It’s not you, it’s me” or “I am just under a lot of stress right now.” Sound familiar? Well, if your love interest has ever spoken things like this to you, then you may suddenly become the one under a lot of stress, but more than likely it is him or her, not you.
When someone tells us something like I just described, what they are really saying is that they, like many of us, have a fear of commitment. But what does a fear of commitment really mean? Well, it means precisely what it says.
It means that for some inexplicable reason you or the person you are involved with is not ready to take the next step in the relationship. The fear of commitment has come to be an earmark of young Americans. This explains why the average age of marriage has risen from 21 to 25 or greater in recent years.
But, why are young Americans so afraid of the “C-word?” What causes so many people to fear diving into a relationship completely? I have identified three basic causes behind the fear of commitment:
1. Fear of Failure: More than ever, Americans are growing up in broken homes and the rest of us have witnessed the effects. We want to make absolutely sure that we don’t make a mistake when selecting our life-long mate.
2. Fear of Forever: For some reason, the rising culture is frightened beyond belief with the thought of forever. We have grown up in a society of immense choices and change, and we enjoy keeping our options open in case a better option becomes available.
3. Fear of the Loss of Freedom: Americans have always been freedom-lovers, but young Americans today enjoy greater independence at a younger age. Many find it difficult to give up their personal autonomy in relationships. For a lot of us, forever is not just final it is fatal to our freedom.
Now up to this point, most readers are without confusion or disagreement. You may even be nodding your head in concurrence. But, you might be asking, “What does my approach to my boyfriend or girlfriend have to do with God?”
The answer is: everything. If we are so cautious in our commitment to personal and intimate relationships, we may be likewise cautious in our commitment to our Heavenly Father. After all, He is the one with whom we can have the most intimate relationship of all.
Growing up, a lot of teenagers are made to attend church regularly, giving the appearance of a strong spiritual commitment. However, a recent survey shows that most will not continue in this commitment.
Once they leave their parents home behind, 58 percent of churchgoers will not be able commit to attending church regularly, to read the Bible or serve as lay leaders or volunteers during their 20s. The cause is said to be “a culture of hyper-individualism … shaped by people’s desire to determine their own personal fulfillment.” So, it seems that our approach to commitment has very much to do with our spirituality.
Well, what does God think about all this? Is he really all that interested in having a deeply-committed relationship with us or is he satisfied with a few years of soul searching and self-gratification? Well, you may recall a conversation that Moses had with God in the book of Exodus when God spoke these words:
You must worship no other gods, but only the LORD, for he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you. —Exodus 34:14, NLT
We should be concerned about our level of commitment to God because God is not only concerned about it, He is passionate about it. He desires a deep and passionate relationship with us. It was the first thing he required from His people in the desert and it is still what he requires from us today.
We have to keep in mind that God is a jealous God. For most people, the word “jealousy” is not a pretty word. You might think of a controlling boyfriend who won’t let you go out with the girls or a possessive girlfriend who calls you every five minutes to check up on you.
When we hear “jealous” we think “overbearing” and “suspicious.” We think of the “green eyed monster” described in Shakespeare’s Othello. But, the jealousy that demolishes trust and destroys relationships is not at all like the righteous jealousy of God. Since God has no equal and since no one can ever do for us what God has done, He desires, demands and deserves our total devotion to Him.
God desires an intimate relationship with us. Paul actually tells us that He requires us to be “as a pure bride to one husband, Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2, NLT)
Now for some of us, marriage is a four-letter word, but those who are married can attest that being married to another is no joke. It requires constant attention; it requires giving yourself – all of yourself – to one individual and no other; it requires deep and unabated commitment.
How many of us can say that this is a good description of our relationship with God? To put it into relationship terms – God does not want to date you, he wants to marry you!
So, how do we move from a dating relationship to a marriage relationship with our Heavenly Father? We have to make a distinction between commitment and interest.
A lot of us are interested in God. We occasionally attend a church service, Bible study or campus outreach … if we weren’t out too late the night before. And, when we do, we feel like we have done God a real favor. But, someone has put it like this: “When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
Most of us have mental hurdles to overcome in our personal relationships and our spiritual journey. We have to stop making excuses and start producing the one result God desires – a profound and committed relationship with our spiritual soul mate. Ankle deep? How about plunging in head first and experience the thrill of being literally “over your head” in the greatest relationship of your life!