Nine years ago, back in my struggling single mom dating days, the biggie of all romantic holidays – Valentine’s Day – loomed just around the bend. I had been dating a new guy I really liked, even though I was uncharacteristically slow in admitting it to myself. My heart and my head were struggling to sync up. I didn’t want to let myself fall for this “pastor guy,” but I just couldn’t seem to help myself. He was smart, funny, handsome and loved Jesus. He was everything a woman would want, but I feared the life of a pastor’s wife and held my heart back very carefully.
I had another guy on the backburner just to keep my options open, but ironically, he only seemed to magnify the integrity and intentionality of this cute pastor pursuing me. The other man was my usual “type” – wealthy, charming and a tad arrogant. In my own brokenness, I kept going back to the very same man that would only leave my heart unfulfilled and yearning for something more, much like my ex-husband. I believe, in hindsight, God allowed Mr. Backburner to stay in the picture just long enough to highlight the character of “His” man, and to show silly little me how easy this decision really was.
This season of dating for me had followed an intense period of reflection and an actual fast from dating. One day, it dawned on me: I was only attracted to men who treated me badly. I needed healing, counseling, a dating hiatus and a crash course on identifying a good man. I spent a great deal of time reading, praying and seeking wisdom from wise mentors and strong couples who modeled what a healthy and real Christian marriage looked like. Then, when I was ready, I tried dating again, this time with a dating team to process my emotions and get feedback. This time around, I wanted to follow God’s plan and get it right.
Knowing What You Want
One of the best pieces of advice I got during my time off from dating was to determine what I wanted in a relationship – and what I didn’t want. If you don’t know what you are looking for, then you will settle for any relationship that makes you feel good temporarily. When you have standards, you can actually discern whether a person is a good fit for your personality and for a long-term marriage. A relationship with a person who is attractive to you solely based on looks or wealth will not have what it takes to build a lasting union.
Don’t Compromise On Character
When Valentine’s Day rolled around, my five-year-old daughter opened up the front door early in the morning to grab the newspaper and scared me half to death by jumping up and down and squealing. I ran up behind her to behold the stoop of our front door covered in a wonderland of red roses, scattered petals, a life-size, hand-drawn Valentine, paper cut-out hearts with adorable affirmations, and chocolates – lots and lots yummy chocolates. It was 5:45 am and still dark. Mr. Pastor had been one very busy Valentine.
By 7:15 am that very morning, he called and inquired if I had received his sweet offering and asked me to dinner. We had a lovely meal that night holding hands and giggling like teenagers in a beautiful restaurant. I floated away feeling like a million bucks. All the tender emotions a woman yearns for in “the one” swirled around in my happy little heart. I felt honored, pursued, treasured and special. The smile never left my face. And just like in Jerry Maguire, I think he had me at “good morning” that sweet Valentine’s day.
The other suitor never had a chance. In the proverbial fashion of playing it cool, he dropped me an e-mail around 4 pm saying “Happy Heart Day.” It couldn’t be clearer to me. It was black and white. One man knew what he wanted, and the other was playing the game.
Open Your Heart To The Unexpected
Thankfully, I picked the man who still surprises me. He is the loving and Godly man who decided to climb out of bed in the wee hours of that dark Valentine’s Day morning to decorate a single mom’s door. He is the type of guy who has walked by my side through babies and teens, the deaths of both my parents, miscarriages and health crises. My husband isn’t a perfect man, but his character is solid to the core. I’m so glad I got past my pastor bias and let God lead me to a good man.
Mr. Backburner still calls me every now and then, though I refuse to pick up and always let it go to voicemail. He claims it’s just to stay in touch, but somehow, I think it has more to do with regrets at the one who got away. Maybe someday he will figure out what my husband inherently knew: winning the game of love starts with integrity. Love is intentional, it is creative and, if it involves a woman, it should always include chocolate. Sometimes it also involves taking a chance and letting God make the perfect match.
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