I'd always thought the problem with dating was that nobody was asking me. But when I came home to a voicemail invitation to dinner, I was surprised how much courage it took to call the guy back.
Confronting our fears is never easy, but God gives us the courage to move past the limited views and sort through the issues at hand. For me, I had to face the fear of getting close to someone and then possibly having the relationship end painfully. It had been 10 years since I'd been emotionally involved, and I wasn't sure of my ability to see men socially without being vulnerable. The courage to date is the courage to know God will guide, comfort, and bless you, even if the relationships don't end up the way you would have wanted them to.
I did call that guy back, and we had a great time together for three months. Then it was obvious that the relationship shouldn't continue. When I realized there was a problem in our communication, I was tempted by the old fear that I shouldn't have allowed myself to get involved. But my prayers gave me confidence to raise the issues. After realizing it was something we couldn't resolve, before we parted I suggested we take some time to remember the good times we'd had together. It was a time of thanksgiving as we spent a whole hour sharing what we'd learned from each other. We both knew we had been blessed. Even though I haven't seen him since, I feel at peace and grateful.
A month later I began seeing someone else, but that ended abruptly when he wanted to date another woman exclusively. Again, we expressed our thanks to each other. In this case, too, I felt humbly grateful for what he had given me. What's even better is that I feel quite free to continue to go out with men.
For all the soap operas written and acted out, it's helpful to cut through the complexity and realize it is natural for men and women to communicate. Why is it important to be open to male/female relationships? Because it is part of welcoming life. God has organized creation as male and female, and we have much to learn from the opposite gender. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote, "Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 516).
The fear associated with relationships is the exact counterfeit of the love of God, who is the divine Father-Mother. To understand the qualities of masculine and feminine in terms of God's attributes is a natural part of our spiritual education. Because our gender in no way limits the qualities we express, we all have the opportunity to see in ourselves masculine qualities such as strength, courage, and a clear sense of direction, as well as the feminine qualities of intuition, generosity, and purity.
One thing that scared me about dating was that I have always been very susceptible to falling in love and being disappointed. Now, I may be just as susceptible to falling in love, but I no longer feel so manipulated by it. There's a natural and essential delight in getting to know someone new, but we can always keep the affection within the context of God's great love for all His children. This spiritual view helps us not to put the burden for being loved on any one person. We love as God loves within the context of reverence for all life.
The assumption that men and women have unrestrained freedom to indulge themselves is a mockery of the Bible's guidelines that have secured civilization through the centuries. The only way I have found that willingness to be obedient is by a more honest respect for the many ways I can express my affection wholeheartedly without making physical demands on my partner. Courtship with a standard of sexual morality is a most creative opportunity that can be filled with humor, humility, surprise, and honest satisfaction. The temperance needed to protect the human heart until marriage vows are spoken is not a hardship, but helps to secure a lifelong commitment based on self-control and honesty.
"...The law of Love rejoices the heart ... " That's another quote from Mrs. Eddy's writings ("Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 12). God's love never stops loving and supporting us before, during, and after romance. It's the basis for courage to do lots of good things.