Thursday, April 26, 2007

When Dating Gets Real - For the Young and "Old"

This article appears in the Catholic Standard & Times this week. It's directed to teens (but could also apply to teens at heart ;) How can I bring God into a dating relationship? What a powerful question — but I feel I should warn you right from the start, that's dangerous business. Once you let God in, there's no telling where things might end up. In the immortal words of Kip Dynamite, you just might find your "soul-mate" and be ridiculously at peace for the rest of your life. First off, I think we should revisit just what we mean when we speak of the reality of God. I think this is key, because the world can often distort the true image of God. The clear waters of our baptism can get a little muddied by our personal sins, and a true image of God can get twisted into something either scary, distant, or always wagging a finger at us when we mess up. Is that God? Let's go back to the beginning. Remember when you were 5 or 6 years old, and the world was one big wonderland? Everything was a gift then, wasn't it? From a snack to a bike ride to snowflakes. Here's the thing: We need to see everything still as a gift, as something flowing from the Giver that is meant to bring us joy. That counts for people, too. So as you grow older, meet new friends, start dating, the best attitude is to see in everything the gift that God wants to give. A mystic named Caryll Houselander once said, "Every ordinary thing in your life is a word of God's love. Your home, your work, the clothes you wear, the air you breathe, the food you eat… the flowers under your feet are the courtesy of God's heart flung down on You! All these things say one thing only: "See how I love you.'" Wow.

So who is God? Ultimately the One whose love is the seed of all loves. If that's the case, how could we not have Him as a part, and, indeed, the heart, of all our relationships, especially the ones that have the spark of love in them? If we keep God (a.k.a. Love) out of our relationships, then what are they based on? Startling News All that is good, true, and beautiful participates in God. When you see a great movie that moves you, and you talk about it, you're sharing in God. When you go to visit your boyfriend's sick grandfather, or go to Mass on a Sunday with your girlfriend (a great idea) you're living in God. When you walk in the fields together and you're struck by the beauty of creation, you are both sharing in the beauty of the Creator. If you're an honest seeker of the good, the true and the beautiful, then you already have God at the heart of your relationships. The next step is naming this — acknowledging Him — not being afraid to admit that He's the One you want at the heart of your dating. (It's a great way to clear away superficiality and pettiness, trust me.) Letting God into our dating is a real adventure. It keeps things real, and wakes us up to the miracle of our uniqueness — the uniqueness of everyone, every shade and texture on this coat- of-many-colors that is the human family. That is not easy, especially for teenagers with the weight of peer pressure bearing down. But we must look into each other's eyes. We must return to that innocence and openness that we had as children, looking, seeing, receiving the gift, not grasping at it. If we see dating as sharing in God's gifts, then life will become that adventure. There's a line at the end of Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God." Wow. Take that one to the dating scene. Make respectful love the first move, not lust, and you'll find God in the center of that relationship. Let the journey begin.

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