For some unknown reason, every now and then I lose my sanity and choose to dive into the online dating scene. I’m not really sure what it is that sparks this craziness other than probably boredom and a bit of loneliness, but I can tell you it doesn’t take long to remember precisely why I never do it for long. Just in case you haven’t had the “pleasure” of this experience, let me see if I can sum it up for you.
Online dating is a tedious process wherein you must choose potential suitors from an enormous database of individuals. You search through images and profiles to find those you find attractive in some form or fashion, chat briefly online, exchange information, talk and or meet in person and then decide if you wish to move forward.
Oh, sure. It sounds innocuous enough except that, as with any online interaction, the reality of who a person is doesn’t necessarily equal who they present themselves to be in the virtual realm. The old adage “you can be whomever you want to be online” is absolutely true. Between decades old pictures and accounts stolen from others in order to be used by some Russian or Algerian prince who is “only trying to give you his millions”, the prospects become pretty…well…disheartening.
To be fair, though, dating through any avenue is difficult. It is inevitable that our own insecurities cause us to create “alternate” realities of who we are either in the way we look, act, or feel about certain things. Sometimes, we even completely mask who we are in hopes that our failures won’t become clear to those around us and then we end up losing our true identities in the process.
The song She Used to Be Mine, from the musical Waitress¸ speaks eloquently to this dilemma and it was in these lyrics that I found some truth about myself and my faith.
I am, as the song says, imperfect. I am broken, hard on myself, emotionally messy, and have been known – perhaps more often than not – to be lonely. Life hasn’t given me what I had hoped for and there have been many times in my life that I neither recognized – nor much cared for – the person who stared back at me from the mirror.
For much of my life, I allowed the words that were thrown at me by others, the circumstances I found myself in, and the way others treated me to determine who I was and what my life would be. Life was, as Sara Bareilles so beautifully wrote, carved out for me and I chose to believe that reality rather than to risk the insecurity of changing it.
But during a recent online chat with a potential beau, I realized that had all changed. That is more of the “used to be” me than the current me. Not because something miraculous happened, but because of the persistent indwelling of the Holy Spirit which slowly eroded the false identity that the world created and opened up a clearer understanding of the life that God had created for me.
As the Holy Spirits presence in my soul has grown, I have become more willing and able to make bolder choices; to stand up to those who bruised and abused me or to walk away from those for whom standing up would be misconstrued or destructive. I learned how to fight for myself, to recognize my strengths, to hear God’s still small voice guide me and not question it, and to accept that my unique brokenness and messiness has been molded into a beautiful masterpiece.
Ok. I know what you’re wondering. What in the world does all of this have to do with online dating?
I am so glad you asked.
You see, the thing with online dating – and I suppose dating and life in general – is that we are all marketing ourselves; painting a picture of ourselves to others to try achieve a desired reaction, i.e., getting a date. But as I chatted with a man who wanted a “proof of life” photo to prove that I was in fact the person I represented myself to be, I realized for the first time that I am at home with who I am. All of the mess, all of the insecurities, my aging self, and my brokenness has all been blended together to create a person that is uniquely Gods and I don’t need to be bullied or coerced into being something less than that.
Because of the things I have seen and been through, God has given me the ability to be truly empathetic to others. I can not only put myself in their shoes, but truly feel the aches that they feel so that as a Stephen’s Minister, I can walk with them through their challenges and struggles.
Because of the mercies and graces I have been shown, I am able grant these same mercies to those around me and to see a God that is bigger and more wonderful than our society often likes to portray. I can rejoice in the fact that His perfect will is sometimes painful to us individually but is wholly loving and just.
And because of the trials God has carried me through, I can be proud of the strong woman God has created me to be and know that the perfect people I need and desire to have in my life will be added when the time is right – in God’s perfect time, not mine. In the meantime, I am strong enough, good enough, and “reckless, just enough” to be the capable, independent woman I am and that being this woman is not a negative thing.
As I reflect back on the off and on relationship I have had with online dating, I am grateful that I no longer feel the need to actually “market myself” – to craft a profile that will attract a certain type of individual in hopes that he might be “the one”. Instead, I feel comfortable showing this online world who I truly am without fear of not being “good enough”. There is a fire in my eyes that God has placed there and that fire will not only attract the right person to my life, but will be the fuel that enables me to continue developing into even more of a beautiful “mess” than I already am.