If you’re anything like me, online dating sometimes feel likes it brings up more questions than answers. We’re not sure we know the rules or believe in the process. It can even feel like a last resort. Believe me, if you are struggling to figure out how you feel about online dating, you are not alone.
I remember wishing my soulmate would arrive on the scene with a clear sign that he’s “the One” (spoiler alert: Carl didn’t come with a sign or a sticky note on his forehead!). I wanted a meet-cute. I wanted to stumble into my own romantic comedy … but without the big misunderstanding in the middle!
And online dating just doesn’t seem to check those boxes, right? It doesn’t feel like the start of your beautiful, romantic story.
I’ve also heard from readers who wonder if it’s wrong for Christians to use online dating. They’ve asked if online dating is like cheating or “playing God.” They wonder if meeting guys through an app is trying to bypass God’s perfect plan and His perfect timing.
Friend, if you are struggling with these same fears of ruining a good story or missing God’s plan, I would love to encourage you with some of the things I’ve learned and discovered about online dating over the years.
My dear friend Hanna and I were talking about this recently and talking about all the “rules” of Christian dating. The thing is -- there really aren’t any hard and fast rules. As Hanna reminded me, the Bible doesn’t even mention dating because people courted and married so young in those days! Of course, the lack of rules leaves us feeling more confused than ever. If the Bible could just spell out exactly what we can and cannot do, maybe give us a map or some boxes to check, then we could know we’re at least on the right track. (Am I the only one who feels this way?)
When I think back to when I was dating, I remember three specific concerns I had with online apps, especially as someone who wanted to focus on Jesus and His plan for my life. So here’s a glimpse of my biggest questions along the way, including the answers that made me believe online dating is truly worth a shot!
One of the most encouraging things I read in my own journey was a quote by Lisa Bevere.
She says, “If you think you’ve blown God’s plan for your life, rest in this. You, my beautiful friend, are not that powerful.”
Think about it -- a dating app isn’t that powerful either. God can work in all situations, even online dating! Meeting someone on an app does not mean God isn’t present in that process or that He won’t be present in our text conversations, our dates, and our relationships.
It helped me to think of the apps as a way to connect to more people. When you think about it, online dating apps aren’t really dating apps at all. They’re introduction apps. They help you talk to more guys, meet some of them, and yes, maybe find your future husband! It was such a relief when I cut through all the complicated thoughts about online dating and saw it just as a great tool for introductions.
Can I really meet a good, godly guy on an app?
Sometimes online dating feels like an endless loop of the same average date at another totally average restaurant. But friends reminded me that dating takes a while in real life too. As Hanna says, your chances of deeply connecting with the first 10 guys you see in your neighborhood restaurant are slim to none. Online dating widens your pool beyond the same guys who visited the same restaurant on the same night.
A few weeks ago, I thought of an analogy that clicked for me.
Online dating is like shopping at Forever 21. Yes, the store is overflowing with things we would never, ever wear. But I also know that if I am patient and persistent, if I walk in with a sense of adventure (and a sense of humor!), I usually walk out with a total gem. You never know what you’ll find until you take the time to look. I believe the same is true for online dating. And I want you to be open to finding that gem!
Of course, you might be thinking, “Steph, I’ve done it. I went on the dates. I met someone, and it fell apart.” Or maybe, “I met dozens of guys, but all the good ones were gone!”
Will you go with me back to Forever 21 for a minute? Here’s the thing: You might have been there last month, last week, or even yesterday, but the selection changes. You never know what’s going to be there until you show up. Online dating is like that too. Maybe you’ll be inspired today to get back on the app. And maybe there are dozens of great guys out there who got inspired to sign back in this week too. You just have to show up and see what’s there today.
But what if this isn't how I want my story to look?
I think every single one of us has had this thought about online dating at one point in our journey. We think, “But this isn’t how I envisioned my story.” And friend, I understand. You want to meet someone in a cute way, meeting eyes on the dance floor at your best friend’s wedding. Maybe you want to bump into each other getting coffee while you’re both home for the holidays or through a mutual friend at small group.
In fact, the very thought of scrolling through faces on a screen to choose your future husband might make you a bit queasy. You’re afraid it won’t work, but maybe more afraid that it will! You don’t want your story to be “We both swiped right.” My friend Carly met her husband on Hinge, an online dating app, and this was her biggest hesitation.
But can I share what Carly realized?
She said meeting on Hinge isn’t really their story. It’s not the cute part because all Hinge did was introduce them. They found out about each other’s existence on an app and then went on to meet in real life. Their real story is the story of funny texts, of him accidentally standing her up, and then him knowing right away that she was his person when he met her on their first date.
And this is a lot like meeting in real life too, right? The story isn’t the part about finding out the other person exists. Carl and I met at work, and work isn’t romantic. A bar isn’t romantic, but the story of your conversation there might be. Math class isn’t romantic, but the cute notes you passed might be the beginning of your story. Remember, introductions aren’t really the cute part. Online dating doesn’t mean you’re signing up for a bad story. The story is what happens next.