Someone asked me if I’d write about my journey from “boy-crazy to my man.” (If you haven’t heard, I’m getting married!)
I didn’t respond to this person’s request for a while, because I was hesitant to share my “love story.” Not because I’m not excited. Boy howdy, I am!
It’s just that I remember all too well how I used to ask married and engaged couples, “How did you get together?!” I’d lean in, soaking in every word, listening attentively to learn the secret.
As they’d share the details of their story, my hopes would rise or fall based on how similar my current circumstances were to theirs (as if God only has one love story script!).
That’s why I want to be careful about how I share this story with you. I don’t want you to hear, “I finally got a guy who stuck around . . . so surely there’s hope for you!”
‘Cause speaking of hope . . . I’ve noticed that lots of you are struggling not to give up hope.
Emily titled her email to me, “Is there any hope at all?” Here’s an excerpt:
My single girlfriends and I grew up in wonderful Christian homes where strong godly marriages were modeled, and we grew up dreaming of being wives and moms someday. We never dated around or tried to attract attention to ourselves and have even been told by lots of people that they don’t understand why we are still single. Neither do we!
I think the reason that we still struggle with boy-craziness is simply out of desperation. It’s not like we each have a hoard of guys hovering around us, and we just have to pick one. Nope, there really aren’t any guys—at all.
So whenever there is the smallest inkling of hope, we promptly do the “spiritual” thing and start praying for him every day, conniving ways to be where he is and give him a chance to observe us in a group setting, and get our hopes up . . . only to be disappointed when there really wasn’t much of anything there in the first place. It’s terrible.
Emily says it’s terrible because there are two kinds of hope—and she has the wrong kind.
I realized that there are two kinds of hope the day I read 1 Peter 1. Check out verses three and thirteen:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
As I read about the “living hope” we have because Christ has been raised from the dead, I realized that there are also “dead hopes.”
And although I’m commanded to “set my hope fully on the grace that will be mine when Jesus returns for me,” I realize that much of the time I set my hope on so much less: a relationship or success or [fill in the blank].
There is hope—not because you’re currently surrounded by hoards of Christian guys (or even one!), not because you’re the most beautiful girl in your circle of friends (or a close second!)—but because Jesus Christ is returning for you, and you will live forever with Him.
There is hope. But there are two kinds: the dead kind and the living kind. Which kind do you have? (You’ll know by thinking about what sends your emotions soaring . . . or plummeting.) What specifically are you setting your hope on? I’d love to hear.
If you can see that yours is a dead hope, dig into 1 Peter 1. As you do, ask God to lift your eyes from your present situation to Him. Repent of (turn from) your dead hopes, and ask Him to help you begin to set your hope fully on Christ, your Living Hope.
Enjoy this lighthearted interview that Brenda from Triple Braided Life did with me.
Brenda: First, tell us a little about yourself – your name, age, where you live, and where you grew up.
Paula:Hey there! I’m Paula Hendricks. If you’d told me as a teen that I’d be 31 and single someday, I think I would’ve said, “Shoot me now!” What a journey it’s been . . .
I live in Michigan (you should too; it’s lovely!). I grew up in the Midwest, surrounded by cornfields (not a fan).
Brenda: Where do you work, and how did you get started in your job?
Paula:I serve as Writing & Editorial Manager at Revive Our Hearts, a women’s ministry calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. I’ve practically grown up here, as I started working at ROH over nine years ago, fresh out of college. It’s a real God-story how He led me here, but unfortunately too lengthy for this post. Ask me about it sometime if we ever meet!
Brenda: Tell us one thing you LOVE about being single and one thing you hate (or your biggest struggle) about being single.
Paula:I love the quiet. “Silence is golden.” It really is.
It’s also nice not to have to wear makeup everyday or worry that my armpits stink or . . . ut-oh. You just asked for one thing. Oh well, that was getting pretty personal anyway.
What I hate: going to church solo on Sundays.
Brenda: Do you ever get mad at God because you are single? When bitterness, discontentment, confusion, and even jealousy creep into your mind, how to you deal with it? Do you have a go-to person or scripture verse or something else that helps?
Paula:When I’m tempted to think wrong thoughts about God, I talk to myself and pray. It usually starts out something like this: “Thank You, God, that You’re not capricious. You aren’t cruel; You’re not trying to tease me. . . .”
Brenda: What is your biggest pet peeve about the way single women are perceived?
Paula:There’s this lie Christians have bought into that if a single woman will just relinquish her strong desire for marriage, then . . . poof! God will give her the gift of marriage. As if we’ve ever earned His gifts . . .
Brenda: Do you struggle with finding community in your local church? How do you find community in a world that seems coupled up?
Paula:If I’m looking for people who are just like me, yes, I struggle. There aren’t many older single females my age left. But if I’m open to God providing community through people who aren’t necessarily in my stage of life, then I realize how incredibly rich I am.
Brenda: Our perception of you is that you are living a fulfilled, purposeful life as a single woman. You’re not waiting around for marriage, but fulfilling God’s call on your life now. What would you say is your secret to doing this?
Paula:Actually, if I weren’t involved in meaningful kingdom work right now, I’d probably be pining away on my couch with a romance novel and a big bag of candy. I’m so grateful God allows us to play a part in advancing His kingdom here on earth. Not only is it crazy adventurous; it’s an awesome antidote to self-pity. You don’t need a public position to do this: volunteer at your church, rake that widow’s leaves, babysit for your neighbors . . . the opportunities are endless.
Brenda: What words of advice do you have for other single women who want to live with purpose now and not wait for marriage to start their lives?
Paula:It’s not original to me, but if you’re not content single, you really won’t be content married. Begin to live fully in the moment. It may seem God isn’t answering your prayers, but He’s not just answering them the way you want. Ask Him to help you see the incredible ways He takes care of and loves you each day!
Brenda: And some fun stuff!
Brenda: Which do you like best – Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest (or all of it!)?
Paula:None of them. I honestly think I belong on the prarie making homemade soap and fighting off wild bears. But since people are on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve caved and joined them. You can find me @PaulaWrites678 and Facebook.com/PaulaWrites678. (The “678” is reminiscent of Romans 6–8 as the truths in those chapters changed everything about me several years ago.)
Brenda: What’s your favorite drink?
Paula:That’s tough. Right now apples are in season, and I have some mean fresh apple cider in my fridge. Yum!
Brenda: Where would you want to live the rest of your life – beach or mountains?
Paula:Beach. I have a dream of owning a house made of sand—well, at least having a bed of sand with sand floors so I’d never need to sweep the sand off my floors.
Brenda: Do you read more fiction or nonfiction?
Paula:Probably more nonfiction, but my true love is fiction. I’m working my way through the classics now; the last one I read was The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Brenda: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Paula:50/50, according to the tests.
Brenda: What’s something quirky about you?
Paula:I “pluck” (a.k.a. demolish) my bread. I really shouldn’t be allowed out of the house . . .
Brenda: What else do we need to know about you? Where can we connect with you online?
There’s a “truth” I hear tossed around Christian circles that makes my stomach churn. It goes something like this: Marriage is the ultimate reward for living a life of purity right now. Come again? Marriage is a great gift, but it is not the ultimate reward. It can be hard to believe, but God really is the ultimate reward; not a guy, not a relationship, not marriage. More
Last week on the blog I shared what Christian guys think about flirting. After reading that, I anticipate a lot of you wondering, Yeah, but if I don’t flirt, how’s a guy ever gonna notice me? So I asked the same guys to answer that question for you in advance.
The way you act now as a single is how you’ll act as a married woman. You don’t need to “dangle.”
For starters, here’s a comment a married man happened to leave on the blog this past week:
To my single sisters, the way you act now as a single is how you’ll act as a married woman. You don’t need to “dangle.” My wife attracted me with her conduct and her heart. —”Book314″
And from the single guys:
A girl can show she’s interested just by responding with interest when I talk to her or by being casually, but clearly, open to do something with me—even if I just invite her to do something in a group.
I’ve learned that most girls naturally show they’re not interested just by not showing interest when any opportunity, no matter how small, arises for us to get to know each other more. If she’s interested, I’ll usually see a smile when I ask her to hang out with other people, or she’ll love spending time talking to me whenever we’re in the same place (or at least not seem like she just wants the conversation to end). Those two things are huge.
She could just be friendly and feel like I’m a safe guy, but her interest shows she’s open to me as a person. It allows me to initiate further to see how interested she is. —Justin
From a guy’s perspective, a girl speaks more through nonverbal than verbal: the way she dresses (modesty), carries herself, and interacts with people speaks much of her character. It is those qualities that “attract” or pique interest in a guy that is seeking a God-loving woman. —Tony
It’s a good thing to be friendly and kind instead of far off and distant. Some girls can have it so strongly in their minds not to be a flirt that they end up overcompensating and coming off as cold and uninviting to guys.
If a girl doesn’t act like she even wants to be around me, then I usually take that as a strong indication that she is not someone I should ask out on a date. On the flip side, when a girl is obviously being flirtatious and trying to gain attention, it tends to turn me off. I want to date someone who is grounded in Christ and not looking for their affirmation in a relationship. —Trevor
If a girl is interested in connecting, but I haven’t initiated conversation yet, I usually know she’s at least interested in learning more about me if she doesn’t immediately look away when we meet eyes—even if it’s just for an extra half second. I appreciate little signals like that that are obvious but would go unnoticed to someone else in the room. Otherwise, just trying to initiate out of thin air is difficult because, as strong as us guys can be, we’d like to limit the amount of rejection we get, if possible. —Justin
I wish I could tell this to every girl I meet: In 1 Peter 3, Peter talks about the beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit. This is not the beauty of a quiet and gentle personality! Many girls seem to get hung up on this and try to be sedate and not talk and end up being miserable.
When a girl knows who God is—I mean really knows, not just talks about Him—she will have a peaceful spirit. She knows God will see her through and she trusts Him, so she is not going to “give way to fear” (1 Pet. 3:6). Therefore, she is not clingy to guys. She looks to God to satisfy her first and knows a man never fully will.
This is beautiful and incredibly attractive to mature Christian guys! It is hard, because you cannot see what God has in store for you, but God does not need your help (a.k.a. flirting) to bring the right guy along. —Andrew
Great stuff, huh? Now you’re probably wondering, What now? What do I need to change?
I can’t answer that for you since I don’t know you personally, but here are a few questions for you to think through or ask someone who sees you interact with guys:
Do I “dangle”? Is God’s love real and personal to me, or am I seeking attention from any guy who will give it to me?
Am I afraid to talk to or smile at guys I’m interested in? Have I gotten the idea that it’s more “spiritual” to stay far away from them and hide the fact that I like them? (Check out Proverbs 27:5 if so.)
If you’re like me, you want to “crack the code.” What do guys—particularly Christian guys—think of flirting? I asked some godly guys I know, and here’s what they had to say. (Something I learned from their input: it doesn’t take much to get their attention!)
Interest in flirts is fleeting. Attention for girls who don’t flirt starts slow but lasts. Even flirting guys respect girls who don’t.
Love and pursue Jesus as your number one priority, and guys who want a godly wife will notice. But that’s not really a good reason to pursue Jesus . . . it’s just a side benefit. —Ben
Don’t be afraid to be friendly to a guy you may be interested in. Nothing wrong with making conversation and being cordial. Don’t get carried away, and don’t over-think everything. —Mat
Interest in flirts is fleeting. Attention for girls who don’t flirt starts slow but lasts. Even flirting guys respect girls who don’t. —Sudhir
When is flirting helpful?
Flirting is usually helpful within the context of an already-established relationship. However, I don’t mean that flirting is all the relationship is made of. When I see a “relationship” that consists of nothing but bantering back and forth, trading sarcastic comments, pretending to overreact to something the other person said, and alternating between clinging to each other and pretending to be mad, I know it is not a good relationship. You need a foundation of honesty to build a good relationship on, and flirting is almost all pretending. —Andrew
How is flirting harmful?
If I am flirting and then not pursuing her, I am playing with her heart. Shame on me. Unfortunately, I do this sometimes without meaning to. —Matt
It can make you act differently than your real personality, until you don’t know how to be real anymore.
It will attract guys to someone who isn’t real.
It can be a waste of time.
It makes you look shallow/desperate.
It is self-focused, rather then Christ or others-focused.
You don’t really learn to communicate.
What do you think of a girl when you see her flirting with another guy?
Ugh! It’s fine to have fun with guys, but don’t lead them on. Don’t use guys to get a need in your heart satisfied. Be satisfied in Christ fully, and then have a great time with the guys. —Matt
What do you think of a girl when you notice she’s flirting with you?
I am torn. I so love the attention, but I know it’s superficial. I know at the end of the day I am not really cared for; I am possibly being used to have her needs met. —Matt
Personally, I don’t always notice flirting unless it’s really obvious. At that point I would say it’s not very attractive. —Justin
First, I like it! A lot! God has created a desire for emotional closeness with others of the opposite gender, and it is fun! However, God has created us to enjoy the opposite gender within the context of marriage, and I want to be careful to not arouse those feelings too soon.
Second, it causes me to be wary. I don’t want a girl to get emotionally attached to me, and flirting is usually a sign that she is emotionally needy. I will almost always pull away more, because I want to be friends with girls that know to run to God and not guys.
Third, I want honest, meaningful, and fun conversation. Flirty conversation is rarely honest or meaningful, even though it can be fun. If a girl seems to only be able to relate to me in a flirty way, I don’t really see any point to it. It is certainly not going to keep me around her as much as a good conversation would.
Have you flirted with girls? Do you? If so, why?
Yes, I have. I try not to. It’s fun to stir up the emotions of a girl and fun to get my emotions stirred up . . . but in the end it doesn’t help anything. I like the attention, and she does, too. Where is the line between having fun and goofing off with someone of the opposite sex and flirting? I don’t know. I love to have fun, and I love to have fun in the company of girls. —Matt
Flirting has been a confusing thing to me . . . and something I tend to enjoy more than I would like to admit. —Micah
I struggle with flirting. Flirting is so easy to do, especially when you want someone you like to notice you. But at the same time it often has a self-seeking reward. I want her to notice me, so I flirt with her. We need to be careful that we are treating people in a respectful and God-honoring way. Flirting should not be the basis for love—it is a risky thing to place your hopes in. —Brad
I want honest, meaningful, and fun conversation. Flirty conversation is rarely honest or meaningful, even though it can be fun. If a girl seems to only be able to relate to me in a flirty way, I don’t really see any point to it.
What do you think girls should know about flirting?
First and foremost, a guy can’t meet your needs. Only Jesus can. Love Him with all of your heart. —Matt
That if she wants real, honest, mature friends, she needs to be a real, honest, and mature friend. I would tell her that flirting is not a good basis for a friendship, and certainly not a relationship, and even when it can be added, it should be added in small amounts. —Andrew
Don’t. Enjoy their company, but don’t seek to get your needs met through them. Let them pursue you. Respond to their attention, but don’t give your heart away. —Matt
What do you think of a girl when you see her flirting with another guy?
Usually it causes me to stay away from them. I want real relationships in my life, and it is hard to get past the pretending stage of a flirt. I also don’t want to be distracted; it is very alluring to have a girl focus on me, even if I know it isn’t real, and I like it. I don’t want to use her to satisfy my desire to get attention.
When your friendship consists of nothing but flirting, you end up in a relationship based on neediness. This is not solid ground for a friendship or a relationship. This is not a healthy way to relate to others. The purpose of a godly relationship is to glorify God and point others to Him! —Andrew
How do these guys’ thoughts change your outlook on flirting? Do you still feel like you need to flirt in order to get guys’ attention?
(If so, come back next week for “But If I Don’t Flirt, How Will He Ever Notice Me?”)
You’ve asked about flirting. And asked. And asked.
I Can’t Hear You
I’ve pretended not to notice. Not because I don’t care, but ’cause:
I feel disqualified to answer. I mean, if you only knew. In high school, I remember leaning forward so my (male) biology partner would . . . (you can figure it out.) Yeah, I wish I had a do-over.
As a teen, I’d regularly attend a summer camp where my aunt served as the cook. She’d watch my interactions with guys and accuse me of being a flirt almost every year. (I always denied it adamantly, by the way.) I’m a huge fan of being friendly and have always loved to make people feel welcome—regardless of their sex. So I dismissed her concerns.
Flirting is foggy. How are we supposed to know when we’ve crossed the line from being friendly and having fun with a guy to flirting with him? And is flirting even necessarily wrong?
I fear making you feel paranoid about whether others (like my aunt) think you’re flirting or not. I want you to be yourself; I have no desire to make you feel self-conscious whenever you’re around a guy.
But it’s an important question. You want to know, and I want to know. Is flirting harmless—could it even be chivalrous—or is flirting plain ‘ole wrong? There are a whole lot of different opinions out there.
But Flirting Is Natural. And Fun.
Let’s face it. Flirting comes naturally (please tell me I’m not the only one). And flirting is fun—especially when it’s returned.
Well, I should clarify. It’s fun in the moment. Afterward, it’s usually plain ‘ole depressing ’cause (let’s be honest) we did it to get a certain result and then . . . nothing. Nothing really changes.
And let’s be honest: Just because something’s “fun” and “natural” doesn’t mean it’s best. I mean, when you were little it was “fun” and “natural” to:
pull your little sister’s hair.
refuse to eat your peas.
stand on your chair.
say “no” instead of “please.”
But that didn’t make it right.
So today I’m taking the plunge. I’m going to get a conversation rolling about flirting.
What Is Flirting, Anyway?
First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when we throw around the word “flirting.” For the sake of this discussion, we’ll go with the Dictionary.com definition. Flirting is to:
toy or play with another’s affections.
deal playfully or carelessly.
Ouch. Sounds a lot like, It’s all about me, doesn’t it?
As fun and “natural” as flirting is, it’s also contradictory to who I now am in Christ.
Funny, though, how we can convince ourselves we’re actually building that guy up with our smiles, words, and playfulness. We can almost think our flirting is chivalrous.
But based on this definition, here’s one conclusion I’ve reached about flirting:
Chivalrous Flirting Is an Oxymoron.
Huh? Come again, you ask?
Okay, let me break it down for you.
Chivalrous means “considerate and courteous.”
But based on Dictionary.com’s definition, flirting isn’t considerate of the other person; it’s completely self-centered. (If you’re not sure about that, read through the definitions again, and ask if you’d want a guy to treat you like that.)
That’s why “chivalrous flirting” is an oxymoron—it’s completely contradictory. And as fun and “natural” as flirting is, I’d have to say it’s also contradictory to who I now am in Christ. Why do I say that? Philippians 2:3–5, for starters:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
The next time you catch yourself flirting, I dare you to ask yourself why.
Why Do I Flirt?
I asked a few people why we flirt. Here’s what three people had to say:
Panic that no one will pay attention causes the urge to flirt.
While we flirt, someone is positively responding to us and accepting us, so we’re encouraged to continue.
I think part of it is the thrill of the chase. Flirting is not just to get a person, but to get a reaction. Sometimes girls flirt even with a guy they don’t really want.
How about you? Why do you tend to flirt? When you dig deeper, what’s really going on in your heart?