Written by Jane Merson (Founder & blogger at theunrivaledroad.com)
I recently had a conversation with a young woman who shared some concerns with me about a male friend of hers. Apparently, the thirty-year-old had had a bad experience in a dating relationship a few years ago that has left scars and insecurities that have caused a lasting impact on his behaviour around single women.
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He, who is naturally extroverted, has withdrawn into himself and remains at a safe distance – both physically and emotionally – from all women that he meets in an effort to protect his heart from getting hurt again. This man refuses any physical contact with a single woman – even those he has been friends with for years – other than a handshake, while women who are already dating or married receive hugs. He will not enter into a one-on-one conversation with a single girl, even in a crowded room, but he will comfortably spend time alone with a member of the opposite sex who is already spoken for. And while I respect him for some of the boundaries he has put in place, I worry that his actions are motivated by fear, not freedom.
“He just needs a girlfriend,” concluded my friend, believing that to be the answer to all his problems. But would a relationship really fix those deep-rooted heart issues he’s carrying? Is a girlfriend the solution to the fear and insecurity he is feeling? And how will he ever meet someone if he never, first, allows himself to engage with single girls in any way?
It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that the issues we face would no longer be issues if we were in a relationship; the hurt of previous relationships would be lost in the joy of new-found love; the loneliness we once felt would be swallowed up by our new companion; the feelings of worthlessness, rejection, insecurity and fear would be void in the shadow of our new partner. But peace is not found in a new set of circumstances, peace is found at the foot of the cross. Until we fully expose the wounds in our hearts, we cannot hope for them to be healed. They will always find a way of inflicting further pain unless we get real and raw before the Healer and ask Him to illuminate the root of our problems and allow Him to begin His restorative work.
During a challenging and lonely season in my life I longed for the companionship of a boyfriend, thinking that would ease the pain that I was experiencing on a daily basis. Deep down, I knew I was not the person I wanted to be or was capable of being, but it was easier to find acceptance from a man who I knew was not good enough for me than to acknowledge and take responsibility for the real work that needed to be done in my heart.
That short-lived relationship provided me with the attention that I craved and the shallow compliments that I longed for, but at the expense of deeper wounds that were inflicted on my heart. That man exploited my insecurities to make himself feel better. I offered him empty promises that I hoped I would never have to fulfil in a desperate effort to keep his attention. Ultimately, the two broken people that we were sought from the other something that neither of us could give: healing. In an effort to make ourselves feel better, we caused further pain that continued long after the relationship ended.
I believe, in our effort to help people (often, with the best of intentions) we sometimes forget that the solution to the world’s problems does not rest on our shoulders. It is not our job to form eloquent words of advice or give a rousing speech. We are not obligated to meet our partner’s every need (an impossible task). Our responsibility is to point people to God.
The solution to ANY problem is God.
The solution to EVERY problem is God.
The solution is ALWAYS God.
It may be that God will deem a relationship to be the right solution to what He is outworking in our lives; that is for Him to determine, not us. But we must be careful not to view a relationship, a partner, or marriage as the band-aid that will solve all of our hurts and insecurities. A relationship only REVEALS our issues, it does not solve them. One day the band-aid has to come off and the wounds and scars will remain unless we take them to the cross; to the One who can heal them fully and completely.
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My toxic relationship caused far more problems than it did to bring solutions. But even in good, functioning relationships, there will be times when our partner inflicts pain or wounds us – whether intentionally or unintentionally – and, once again, the solution is found in Jesus, not in our own finite means. Communication, an apology, and forgiveness are all vital parts of the solution that we can offer, but true healing – for both participants – can only be received from Heaven.
I once heard a preacher say, “two halves don’t make a whole; two wholes make a whole.” Anything that we are now, in our single season, we will carry into marriage, so let’s focus on God and finding healing and restoration through Him during our waiting period, so that when we do finally make it to the altar, we have already off-loaded much of the baggage that is currently weighing us down.