Friday, February 28, 2014

How To Pursue A Godly Girl

I was looking at the stats for what keywords led people to my blog, and I was intrigued by this one, so it inspired a post.

"how do i pursue a girl from a godly..."

I don't know what the rest of the phrase was, because it was truncated, but whatever it was, I assume the guy was looking for how to pursue a godly girl in a non-creepy but effective way. Google probably directed him to my blog because of this post. So to that guy, if you revisit my blog, and to anyone else who's interested, here is my perspective on how you could absolutely wow the heart of a godly girl and attract her attention.

In what follows, I have chosen to use the first person, "I," rather than the impersonal third person, "she," partly because I am speaking for myself and this is what I really do think, but partly because when I tried to put it in terms of "she," it seemed like no one would believe that a girl could actually think this way. Maybe no one else but me does think this way, in which case this will end up being a bit awkward, as if it was a how-to guide on how to pursue me. Gulp. That is most definitely not my intention, and the thought that it might be taken this way is almost enough to dissuade me from posting this at all. However, I suspect that other ladies are out there who are living set-apart lives, posing a mystery and an almost unsolvable-puzzle to the guys around them. I think of single godly women I know who are absolute jewels, and curiously, they are not getting snapped up. Perhaps some clearly-articulated insights will help.

The territory is completely different--the godly girl cares about other things than your salary or your muscular build. The pursuit is unique--in a very real sense, you must pursue Jesus in order to pursue her. The conquest is on a completely different plane than the average dating or courtship relationship. The prize is not cheap, but the treasure you stand to win is priceless.

The Territory

1) I am pursuing Jesus. I am only looking at Jesus. I am already in love with Jesus. So for you to get me to notice you, you will have to be so much like Jesus that I start seeing Jesus in you. When I start admiring your Christlikeness, my love for Jesus will love Jesus in you. When self has disappeared so completely that Christ is the only thing visible shining out of your life, then you will make it onto my "eligible" list.

2) Do not begin by asking me out. I will immediately be suspicious, and it will cause me to be closed up to you. I'm not interested in going out for coffee with you, or lunch, or dinner, or a movie. But I will be happy to be friendly to you in natural, everyday situations in a group setting, where I can interact with you without being singled out. I have to have a chance to see you, talk to you, and not feel threatened by the possibility of hidden, ulterior motives that you might have. I must see you pursuing Jesus harder than you are pursuing girls, or I will remain closed to you.

3) My heart is like a walled garden, tended and kept and cultivated with great care and attention. The flowers and fruits of my garden are not just for the picking by any casual passerby. I have a lot of practice and motivation to keep it very well guarded, for the treasures inside are valuable and worth protecting. This is not to say it is impenetrable, but in order to be invited in, you must win my trust. You are allowed to knock, but you must also be resilient enough to accept that during the friendship stage of a relationship, I am even guarding it against you. Since guarding my heart is my default position, even the man who is God's best for me will have to come up against the closed door at the beginning.

4) If I like you, think about you often, or begin to feel romantically attracted to you, I guarantee you I will not show it. I will not single you out. I will not flirt with you. Not even a little bit. I will take it to the Lord, lay it at His feet, ask His counsel on the matter, and leave it there. I am waiting for you make the first move. Unless you take the initiative, you will hopefully never know that anything was going on in my heart. My love is like a massive reservoir, and my finger is in the dyke, and I am resolved not to take my finger out of the dyke until I am absolutely convinced that you are "the one." (For when I let my finger out of the dyke, the massive, untapped torrent will all come gushing out--for you--and I need not waste a drop on others.) 

5) A glance of your eyes, the way you move, or the sound of your voice may cause me to feel butterflies in the pit of my stomach. My heart beats faster, I feel giddy with a sort of rare ecstatic emotion, and I become distracted and can't think. However, a handsome, suave unbeliever may awaken the same feelings in me. I know this from experience. Therefore, I take no stock in butterflies. I understand the danger of being swept away by emotion, and how a girl blinded by emotion can make stupid, stupid decisions. I am not about to become a casualty of emotion. I hold myself firmly in check, keeping myself on the safe ground where reason has veto power over emotion. Thus, you must convince my reason and awaken my emotions--a high calling when my reason expects you to be like Jesus before it will relent. 

The Pursuit

Pursue the godly girl by pursuing Jesus. Jesus has someone for you, and that person is hidden in His heart. Seek His heart, and you will discover the rich treasure He has prepared for you. Fail to seek His heart, and you will never find her.

Nothing can happen without God. God can open my heart to you far better than you could ever contrive to do so yourself.

If you come up to me and declare your love or state your intention to win my heart, I will immediately direct you to my father, so be prepared to talk to him first. However, I will respect you for your courage and honor, whether or not anything comes of it.

If instead you invite me to go on a date, I will hem and haw and look for some excuse to refuse. This is not because I am necessarily opposed to you, but because I am uncomfortable with the method. Why? Because I know the power of emotion. When you fall in love, you cannot simply hit the "undo" button and go back to the way you were. And I know that certain situations (like being alone with a man in a romantic setting, hearing his compliments, and looking into the warm depth of his eyes) are favorable to finding Cupid's darts suddenly lodged in your heart. I intend to not place myself in a situation where I could be overpowered with more emotion than I can handle, unless I have already decided (with my father) that I accept your pursuit and will allow you to begin to win my heart.

If I have accepted your pursuit, feel free to pursue! Discover the techniques that delight my heart more than all others. Bring me flowers and chocolate, invite me to do things, write me love letters--and I will write them back--but don't stop there. Do the things with me that we both mutually enjoy because of our fervent love for Christ. Press me towards him by inviting me to labor with you in hours of prayer. Encourage me to take strides forward in evangelism, in humility, in studying the Word. The more you make me love Jesus, the more I will love you for it. On the other hand, the moment I sense that you are competing with or diminishing my love for Jesus, I will begin to withdraw from you. Nothing can interfere with my relationship with Him, for He is supreme, and He has already won my heart.

The Conquest

Winning a godly girl's heart is unlike any other kind of conquest. The worldly conquest involves chemistry, impressing her (with cars, biceps, etc.), and experimenting to see if you're compatible. The nominal Christian conquest involves seeking God's will, saving yourself for marriage, and resolving tenaciously not to let it fall apart. 

But winning the godly girl's heart is altogether beyond these things. 
  • Without diverting her gaze for even a moment from Jesus, but rather establishing and directing it towards Him even more fully, you have successfully positioned yourself where she can also see you, and where drawing towards you would only bring her nearer to Christ. 
  • Without lessening her overwhelming love for the altogether lovely One, you have only strengthened her love for Him while at the same time allowing her to discover an increased capacity for love that includes you, too. 
  • Without diverting her full-throttle pursuit of Jesus Christ, you have so inspired and challenged her by your own wholehearted sprint towards the Savior that you have lent wings to her feet and a smile to her lips, until she is convinced that as long as she was near you, the two of you would cheer each other on towards Him. 

How did you do that, sir? Surely it was only by the enabling power of God himself. That was a conquest, indeed, and you have won a treasure indeed.

Edit: Material added 4/19/2016

It came to my attention through some of the comments that I was writing the above with the assumption that the reader wasn't actually a godly man...just someone who needed to be MADE godly, who was merely tacking on Jesus as one more attraction in the typical worldly list of salary and good looks and so forth. And therefore my expectations came across as extreme and exhausting. However, assuming that the guy IS godly, assuming that he DOES follow Jesus with everything he's got, there would be a whole different dimension to this blog post.

Though I trespass greatly on your patience by the length of this section, let me go back and just take that detail into account and explore my points again. In what follows, I am technically speaking of a hypothetical guy, but the Lord has also given me the privilege of meeting and knowing guys who actually do live this out, and so there is a real Mr. X and Mr. Y and Mr. Z of whom I am thinking in composite as I write what follows. (Not to imply that these steps are actually currently happening between me and any real person, just that the type of guy I'm talking about really does exist. And I use the pronoun "you" primarily because it's a parallel construction to the "you" I used above, not because I'm subtly hinting to a particular person.)


The Territory

1) In spite of my wholehearted pursuit of Jesus, I can't help but notice that my path has crossed with this guy who is absolutely in love with Jesus. Jesus is shining out of you. In fact, you have far outpaced me in your hot pursuit of more of God. If I were to describe you to someone, I would simply have to say, "He's just a lot like...Jesus." And my heart begins to burn with the realization that here, indeed, is a man who is definitely on my "eligible" list. If you were to pursue me, you would be encouraged. No longer am I praying, "Oh, Lord, please don't let him notice me or think of me;" no longer am I thinking of the most graciously-worded refusal that I can come up with if you were to approach with any more intentions than "just friends."

2) I have already watched you pursue Jesus with focus, tenacity, and zeal. It is clear that you're pursuing Jesus harder than you're pursuing girls. I have run into you here and there and I have seen you living for the glory of God. When we have had the occasion to interact or collaborate on a project, I haven't felt like you had ulterior motives towards me or other girls. When you were unaware of being observed, I have seen you doing things that were honorable and showed your character, and my respect for you has gone up again and again in these little moments that you were unaware were even significant. You didn't begin by asking me out--but now that I have had time to see all these things about you, you are more than welcome to ask me out.

3) You have handled the friendship stage of our relationship with discretion and honor, without ever once making me feel like you were going to scale the wall of my garden unbidden or take from its fruits by coercion or manipulation or subtlety. Now I trust you. And therefore I might cautiously begin to offer some of the deeper things, some of the hidden things, some of the tender things from my heart, and as you treat those things gently I will bring more things bit by bit--starting with words, the places we go in conversation, the amount I let you see of the things are truly important to me. Everything in its proper season: there is a time for everything, and little by little this garden in all its beauty will unfold and the gates will open.

4) You have made the first move, and so now I no longer have to suppress my every emotion and place this possibility again and again before God and leave it with him. So if I feel like there is a spark in my eye, I will let it flash out to you with a twinkle and a smile. If I feel like being near you, I'll go ahead and sit by you. That hole in the dyke has been allowed to trickle forth with its first few drops. Get ready, because the flood is coming.

5) When my heart beats faster, and I feel giddy with a sort of rare ecstatic emotion, and I become distracted and can't think, it's about you--and no longer do I suppress it or turn it off or take no stock in it, because my reason and my emotion are together on this one: Reason says emotion is allowed to go there for you, even if reason gets carried away with it in a torrent that sweeps me off my feet. 

The Pursuit

You have pursued Jesus long before you ever pursued me, and he has begun to pull out some of His hidden treasures for you, one of which is a gift that He has kept specially for you.

At the same time, He opened my heart so that I reciprocated when you initiated pursuit. 

My father couldn't be happier to contemplate having a man of your caliber dating his daughter.

And I am totally on board with the idea. So now I'm delighted to sit down with you in a romantic setting, look into the warm depth of your eyes, and let Cupid work his magic.

The thing is, our friends think we come up with the weirdest dates. Why would we want to go to an all-night prayer meeting, or stand outside of the local nightclub at 10:00 on a Friday night and hand out tracts and witness to the people standing in line to get in? Why are we both totally psyched about planning honeymoon ideas like going to the slums in Nairobi or the garbage dump in Manila to pour out our lives for others? How is it that we get excited by sitting down for an afternoon to write letters of encouragement to the persecuted church or put together a care packet for the orphans we're sponsoring? Our friends don't understand it at all, and yet we're as giddy as little children at Christmas doing these things.

The Conquest

As we walk forward together, I marvel before God at the incredible gift He has given me. 
  • Somehow you never seem to divert my gaze from Jesus for even a moment to shift it on yourself. It's an incredible thing to see your humility in constantly exalting Jesus Christ and your willingness to point me continually towards Him without regard to yourself. But because we're both drawing near to Jesus, we are by default drawing nearer to each other. 
  • I find that my love for the Beloved of Heaven has not diminished at all by you being in my life--because in the process He has increased my capacity to love so much more than I ever dreamed possible, that neither one of us feels the least bit like the other person is competing with our First Love. 
  • Your relentless sprint towards the Savior is something that lends wings to my feet and a smile to my lips. You have led and discipled me, inspired and challenged me, and never once did you divert my full-throttle pursuit of Jesus Christ onto lesser objects. When we're together, we find that the two of us cheer each other on towards Him and towards the glory of God.


Is that still exhausting? I hope not. It's not meant to be--it's meant to be just a picture of living the Christian life. (Is the Christian life exhausting? Not to the one who knows the grace of God, Isaiah 40:28-31.)


A practical point that I think it's important to clear up: Where I said I would "immediately direct you to my father," I think that needs a bit of qualification.

I come from the conservative subculture that embraced courtship. In the two years since I wrote this post, I have come to see some of the unrealistic parts of the model that I grew up with, and realize how some of them were still sticking in my thinking at the time of the original writing and need to be clarified. I imagine this will also help to shed light on anyone pursuing a girl from this background.

I know of a lot of stories where in order to start a courtship, the guy had to know that he wanted to pursue a relationship with the intention that it would end in marriage, and the girl had to say yes to courtship with the knowledge that the guy was pursuing her with the intent to marry her.

The attempt was to avoid "practicing for divorce" by refusing to adopt mere "casual dating," but the unintended result was that many relationships had to go from zero to "practically engaged" with no space in between. This is a huge gap to bridge, and what if you don't know a person well enough yet to know you're ready to go that far? And yet if the only way to have enough access to the person is to start courting, it means the guy has to at least say he's willing to go all the way, and the girl then has to accept based on the idea that it's going to go all the way, and if it doesn't, the couple and all their relatives and friends are heartbroken at the failure, as if it was practically a divorce. And so this whole model ends up tending to commit the exact same error that it set out to avoid.

Therefore I have concluded that it's not necessarily the model I want for my own relationships, particularly in the way that it skips the whole "getting to know you" stage and acts as if it doesn't exist or isn't needed. Case in point: I grew up feeling quite threatened by even the thought of someone asking for my phone number. Looking back, I realize that I felt threatened because I had bought into the courtship model so completely that I myself didn't have a category in my head for "just getting to know you." There was no such thing as that. Why would a guy want to get to know me unless he wanted to marry me?

Now, if a guy came up to me out of the blue to declare his love or state his intention to win my heart, then yeah, I would probably still direct him immediately to my father (and I would be flattered if he was on my eligible list and give him every possible encouragement, or I would be creeped out if he was just a mediocre shallow person or a stranger and I would use the excuse to have my dad do the dirty work and tell him off). BUT--I have come to the realization that most relationships will not start that way, and in fact it would be rare to find any that did. Relationships start way more organically than that. There's a stage at the beginning where you're just getting to know each other, which I didn't always know about.

And so what I want to clarify is that I would NOT immediately direct a guy to my father if he merely asked for my phone number or wanted to go out for coffee. There's a place for casual conversation without trying to turn it into the beginning of a courtship with all the formalities that typically wouldn't come until the time of the engagement.

[Just another whole area where it's easy to overlap and confuse true godliness with mere cultural expectations.]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spiritual Photosynthesis

He says, "Walk by faith."

I say, "Yes Lord. How do I walk by faith?"

He says, "By looking unto Jesus."

My mind starts imagining walking down the trail and seeing not evergreens and aspens, but Jesus; not mountains, but Jesus; not bighorn sheep and deer and chipmunks, but Jesus; and if I was a cartoon character, you would see the big question mark appear above my head.

He says, "No, it's not like that. It's using a different organ than your eyes. Consider photosynthesis."

The plant is not "seeing." [I had just read in a biochemistry textbook that both vision and photosynthesis happen using the mechanism of an action potential across a membrane. Amazing!] Just by being exposed to the light, the plant conducts photosynthesis. All the machinery is there. All it needs is light. Exposure to the light sets the machinery going and causes air and water to be formed into glucose. The plant is bearing fruit. Out of the most unlikely of materials, sugar! And all because God Himself put the machinery there, and God Himself provides the delivery mechanisms for light, air, and water.

So I just need to be exposed to the light, live in the light, bask in the light.

Jesus is the light.

The key to my fruit bearing is not my exertion, it is my position. Imagine a plant, in the dark, trying to use force to push electrons across the membrane and split water and stick carbon molecules together. That's about as laughable as me trying to bear fruit in my own strength. That would require the plant to have a vast extra number of moving parts that would cost more energy to use than they produced, not to mention the problems of how they would get electrons in the first place, and how all that extra stuff would fit into the cell.

What a difference it makes to simply let the leaf "look" unto the light. Suddenly all the problems disappear as the elegant, compact machinery of photosynthesis hums naturally into action. The light provides the energy. The light, in fact, is the energy, and therefore all the parts work. Does the plant "feel" the effort and the weight of what it is doing? No more than I "feel" the operation of the action potential across the membrane in the cells of my eyes in order to see.

Has not God provided to me the means and the power for bearing fruit? And is it not surely even more efficient and elegant than chlorophyll or mitochondria or rods and cones?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Discerning God's Will for Practical Choices and Direction

Sorting through the ambiguity of popular wisdom 

I have faced some choices lately regarding a couple of opportunities that could take my life in vastly different directions, and I have struggled to be able to discern what was God's will so that I could know what to choose.

In the midst of praying, fasting, and weighing the pros and cons of various options, I never felt like I could come to a clear conclusion. I felt like I was caught in an endless swirling fog of not knowing, second-guessing, and doubting. Which was the right path? Which one was God's will for me? This circumstance seemed to indicate favorably on option A, but what if the timing wasn't right? What if something I couldn't see was coming down the road if I went that direction? Certain other circumstances seemed to indicate favorably on option B, but what if that was God's second-best? What if I was just being led by what I wanted? Then there was always the possibility that it might not be option A or option B, but some unknown option C that I might discover if I waited long enough. I honestly couldn't distinguish between "feeling led" and plain old desire. I would come to a sense of peace about deciding one way or the other, but then I would ask myself, "Is this just because I'm hearing what I want to hear?" And I was thrown right back into the mental turmoil, going around and around in circles and not getting anywhere.

I asked a trusted older Godly woman for counsel and wrote her an email describing the whole story of all the options, all the circumstances, and which way I was leaning in the midst of all of it. I'm pretty sure my confusion leaped from every line. She invited me over to her house and we talked.

Kindly, lovingly, and very pointedly, she asked me a couple of questions.
  • Have you studied out the will of God in Scripture? 
  • "What examples do we see in Scripture for how people knew what God wanted them to do?"
I replied that I had read some things on knowing the will of God, but that there were so many conflicting opinions it seemed impossible to really figure it out. And regarding Scriptural examples, I offered, "Um, they heard his voice?" 

My friend got more specific. 
  • "Where does it say in Scripture that we're supposed to 'feel led' to do something?"
  • "Where does the Bible teach that God uses 'a sense of peace' to show a person His will?" 
  • "Does the Bible say that circumstances that 'fall into place' are an indication of God's will?"

My mouth fell open. I was speechless.

The Bible doesn't say these things.

This is popular wisdom, but the Bible doesn't actually say it. If this didn't come from Scripture, where did I get it? Where did we all get it? This is common Christianese. I have heard it all my life. But if it isn't Biblical, is it right?

Suddenly, in one moment, all my criteria was reset for discerning the will of God.

So what does the Bible say?

  • The Bible clearly reveals God's will for our character
  • Regarding our choices, there is a lot that is left open.
    • Some people received divine leading that was obvious or miraculous 
      • Noah being told to build the ark
      • Moses at the burning bush
      • Paul and Barnabas being separated by the Holy Spirit for missionary work
    • In the vast majority of cases, people were left free to choose. 
      • Adam and Eve were allowed to choose to eat the fruit or not 
      • "Choose you this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15)
      • "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life" (Deut. 30:19)
      • "Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways." (Prov. 3:31)

The question still remains, though, "How do I choose right?" It's all very well when it comes to choosing between good and evil. That's not hard to discern. The problem comes in when we have a practical, everyday decision that does not present a moral dilemma.

For example:

  • Buying a car, a house, or another large purchase (e.g. an instrument, or electronics) 
  • Selecting your college major
  • Taking a job or changing careers
  • Moving to a different place 
  • Choosing whom you marry (assuming it's a Christian)

This is the realm where all the subjective, ambiguous popular wisdom often comes into play. "Well, I was just feeling led to do this." "I was considering these two options, but this was the one I had peace about." "I couldn't believe the improbable circumstances that led up to this opportunity, so it must be God's will."

This is also where incorrect thinking can leave you bound, ineffective, and off-track. If you subscribe to unbiblical reasoning, you can end up making a worse decision than an unbeliever in your shoes would make.

What does the Bible say about making decisions in these practical areas?

  • God's word offers you the wisdom you need to make good choices (e.g. Proverbs)
  • God gives you the responsibility to decide
  • You are free to choose
  • You are even free to consult your own desire in choosing

My background in conservative Christianity taught me something so opposite to this that it feels almost shocking to even say it. But I believe that if you look at Scripture, it really does support this.

Buying things

"She considereth a field, and buyeth it." (Prov. 31:16)
"And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance...Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee." (Ruth 4:4-5, 8)
Wisdom would counsel you not to go into debt (Rom. 13:8), not to co-sign a loan (Prov. 6:1-5, 11:15, 17:18, 20:16, and 27:13), and not to oppress one another (Lev. 25:14).

Choosing your work

"Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:" (Exo. 20:9)
"Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded." (2 Chr. 15:7, see also Jer. 31:16, Hag. 2:4)
"The people had a mind to work." (Neh. 4:6)
"And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." (Psa. 90:17)
"Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening." (Psa. 104:23)
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecc. 9:10)
"And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;" (1 Thess. 4:11, see also 2 Thess. 3:10-12)
Wisdom would tell you not to be lazy (Pro. 18:9), to prepare your work (Pro. 24:27), and to not start something you can't finish (Luke 14:28-30).


"And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose;" (Deut. 18:6)
"He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him." (Deut. 23:16)


"This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry." (Num. 36:6)
"But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned;" (1 Cor 7:28)
"The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." (1 Cor. 7:39)