“You’ll be okay. You just have to learn that you’re worth more than settling on a weak man. If he can’t sweep you off your feet, what’s he worth? Not my sister’s time, I know that much.”
My oldest younger brother was to be 21 that February. Hard to believe, but the chubby kid who used to chase me around the house with safety-threatening Power Ranger moves is a grown man who tries to grow scruff on his chin and call romantic advice down from where he stands five inches above my head. The three years that span us now seem inconsequential. And though our lives have taken markedly different paths and we could argue all day about a myriad of topics, on this one we do agree: men need to pursue. I know that’s a scary thought for a lot of men, but you ain’t seen scared until you’ve tried being a woman waiting on a scaredy cat to make a move.
Christ Pursued His Bride
Many places in Scripture defend the principle of manly pursuit. But the one I find most reassuring and beautiful is Ephesians 5, where the relationship between Christ and his Bride, the Church, is said to parallel the relationship between a husband and his wife.
Christ didn’t pursue his Bride detachedly, opting for non-committal ease. He gave all to ransom her, humbling himself in boundless devotion. And as young (but getting older) women who are the recipients of this kind of love from the Son of God, we should be looking for men who, having received that same kind of love, are ready to give it. Anything is less futile.
But what does this look like?
The Friend-Zone Is Not Your Friend
Unfortunately, we can’t all just be like Adam and Eve.
“Yes, I knew Jimmy was the one when I was crafted from his rib, and the Lord put me right in front of him in the garden and he woke up spouting a love poem and naming me.”
True, that would make things a lot easier. But, in reality, the process of getting to know someone well enough to determine to pursue (or be pursued) is a lot more complex. Christian friendships are not merely put in our lives to assess romantic potential; we are here, men and women, to live in humble community with each other.
There is a difference between living in humble community, and living in the friend-zone.
I am convinced this nefarious “zone” is one of the primary enemies of Christian marriage. It’s the place where we stow backup plans and take each other for granted. It’s romance neverland, where we decide we will never grow up and take on the meaning of a responsible relationship.
Boundaries Are Your Buddy
As a Christian woman, know the difference between a healthy friendship based on a mutual love of Christ that builds one another up, and a buddy-buddy situation where you’re being taken for granted. If he needs to unfold his heart to someone, it’s probably best if that’s a mature male.
Don’t let yourself become his diary.
Similarly, don’t treat the men in your life with that sort of disrespect. If there is a man who you call every time you need prayer or a confidant, consider that you may be sowing seeds of intimacy that belong only in the safety of a relationship that’s headed somewhere other than hanging out at the mall.
This is hard for me. I am that quintessential gal-pal at heart, who just wants everybody to feel comfortable. My parents are a huge aid to me in this; look for a mature Christian couple to help you out.
Your Time is Valuable
Invest your time wisely.
If you’re in a scenario where a man is pursuing your time and attention doggedly without openly expressing his intent, ask him to.
Again, this is counterintuitive for a lot of us. I hate to think of asking a guy a question that’s going to fluster him. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it, though. Our time as women should be spent investing full-heartedly in every relationship in our lives; this becomes a lot easier when relationships are clearly defined. There is no gray haze of potential necessary: all of your single male friends have the potential to become something more, but until that potential is expressed, give them all equal dosages of your time.
Your Attention is Valuable
What did he do to grab it?
Did he declare his intent decisively, treating you in a way that values your time and attention above his?
What did he do to keep your attention?
Is he leading in the relationship? Is he checking on you, checking in with you? Is he setting goals, setting boundaries, and continuing to express that intent?
Perfection is not an option, and men are infamous for their lack of communication. However, is he trying? Because a man who will try is a man I can marry. But a man who is paralyzed by the fear of failure, or throws up his hands at the first sign of difficulty? He should probably keep it moving.
Godly Pursuers Pursue Your Trust, Not Your Emotion
The premature emotional bonding of romantic relationships can lead to all kinds of unnecessary pain and heartache.
But settling into a romantic relationship with someone who treats you like a doorknob isn’t exactly ideal either.
Look for a man who wants to gain your trust through appropriate, Godward affirmation and honesty, not empty romantic blather. Look for a man who wants to be accountable to his circle and to yours, and one who puts your well-being and comfort above his own.
And look for a man who, in its place, knows how to show a sweet emotional attachment. It’s a risk for him to put himself out there, but one he should be willing to take.
The Lord Redeems the Time
There is such a balance between waiting for a godly man to pursue while encouraging that pursuit in a godly way… and being a relationship Nazi: “He texted me twice in the last month to ask for directions to Bible study; brother man needs to move forward or get out my face.”
As women, there are gentle ways to remind the men in our lives to lead. We can ask pointed questions, set clear boundaries, and communicate our goals openly. We can do this in a spirit of love and humanity. Not with a finger-snapping attitude that tells the world we are prizes, but in a deep, abiding confidence that the Lord treats us as thus in Christ.
Be patient with your brothers. Be quick to forgive and willing to try. Relationships are not just about what we can get out of them, but what we can pour into them. The Godly man who you patiently express your standards to may not be your future husband, but you may be doing a tremendous service to his future wife. Help him grow.
It Really Is Okay
Listen: I’m right there with you. I’ve known singleness, hurtful relationships and the frustration of just wanting and waiting to be cherished. But, mostly, I know the joy of knowing my brother’s words are true: you’ll be okay. As a believer, you are a gem of incomparable price. Live patiently before the Lord, submitting to the Spirit’s sanctifying work in your life, and let the right Godly man give the right, Godly chase. If he can’t, he’s probably not worth your time.
And your time here pales in comparison to the grand weight of the time eternal you’ll be spending with the grandest Pursuer there is, whether the earthly version comes or not.