Dating 101: The only guide I have ever made and you might ever need

My dad always had this open-door policy. No “beware of dog” business on the gate, Although as I think about it, we’ve always had dogs. At one time, we had five. Buzz and her gang. But they were there to keep away other kinds of danger. I never felt as if I couldn’t bring any friend home. And as I think back to it now, it was a very good filter because if I couldn’t bring a man home, then it meant there was a problem somewhere.

I grew up in an environment that encouraged me to have friends. That didn’t pressure me to label any man my parents saw me with as special. And that is a privilege I know some of my friends don’t have. So yes, I could get away with certain things you probably couldn’t get away with!

And even though I made mistakes, I could always come home. I like the word “home”. Home has always been a safe place for me. A place with good memories. A place that is more than a place because it is filled with people and memories and all the quirks that make us a family. Of course, the family has changed over time, all of us have changed over time, new habits, old preferences, but it is still home.

Home is where you are loved. Home is where you love the rules, because they are good for you. Home is where you are completely yourself. Home is where everyone knows you inside out and still loves you.

I understand that for some, home is not your family because believe it or not, families are one of the most dysfunctional institutions on this earth. But maybe God knew about it and that is why He put us in families. To teach us to love in spite of the good, the bad and the ugly, which are all found in families. And sometimes, sadly, the ugly outweighs the good and then it is no more home. Hence the popular saying, home is where the heart is, because home is not confined to a physical space. More than anything else, home is an emotional space. Finding love is coming home.

In many ways, I am still on that journey. And that journey had brought me to many places and led me to many families. The church as God intended, is the world’s biggest open secret. It is this awesome worldwide family that defies logic and transcends every obstruction man has ever put in the face of love: race, language, geography, money, tribe, genotype, politics.

As a missionary kid, I’ve had first-hand experience of what it means to belong to the church. People I haven’t met before who will do everything to make me feel at home. Of course, I will be the first to admit all the messed up things that have invaded the church today. I’ve got first-hand experience about that also, and that is another story for another day, although if you want a sneak peak, I tell a lot of it in fiction. For a long time, I was churchless. I didn’t belong to any local church and that, my friends, was one of the toughest periods of my life. Like I said, long story. But the church as God intended is still the best place to be in this wild wild world. No, it’s not greener out there in the “world”. Trust me, they are not having that much fun.

Did I have a wild phase? How shall I put it? I let my hair down and it didn’t come out like the L’Oreal or Dark and Lovely ads (no offense to those brands. I love their products, actually). But the experience was totally overrated and definitely not as expected. The prodigal son left home thinking it was better out there. But he came back home and the Father was not only waiting for him, He ran to him. That is what home is all about. Love, not rules. Grace, not dos and don’ts.

And this is what I love about being a part of God’s family. There is so much fun when you know you are loved. That is why I could date and be cool (join my email list for more gist and more “grace” stories).

You may be concerned about the nitty-gritty details of how to date in a culturally restricting environment away from your parents’ prying eyes, or undiscovered by your pastor’s FBI agents. Also, you worry about how to date when the whole concept of dating is restrictive in terms of expectations. And maybe even where to actually go on a date (if you live in Accra and you don’t want to eat *sigh). Or what to do, or not to do on a date.

Okay! Dating 101.

And this is where if you were expecting rules, sorry I’m going to have to disappoint you. Because if I tell you to do this and do that, or don’t do this or that, then you will be under pressure to keep all the points. You may even argue about whether I am right or wrong.

Because how you date depends on whom you are. As a Christian woman, you are a Jesus girl. All you do flows from who He is. And the Spirit testifies to only what is true. Think about it this way. Would I bring any man who didn’t please my father to my father’s house? No, definitely not because I want to please my dad. And when I am out dating hot-guy-from-the-mall, would I do anything that I know my dad wouldn’t like just because he isn’t there and can’t see me? No, I wouldn’t.

And let’s even say my dad disagrees with something I do. Would I rant and rave? The stubborn part of me may want to but I always know that no matter what, my dad has got my best interests at heart. So I trust that when he says or does something, it is for my good. And whatever is for my good is really good for me.

There is a higher realm of knowing who you are in a relationship versus do’s and don’ts. As God’s children, we have the Spirit of sonship. And that Spirit is not a slave to fear. That Spirit is liberating. When you appreciate who you are in Christ, you won’t have problems dating the right way because you value yourself and your identity in Christ. You are His child.

So in every sense of the word, let the Spirit lead you because that is the spirit of grace, not the law. Depending on rules of do’s and don’ts are tedious. And where do you draw the line? Because you may have a man who matches everything on your list but you may feel uneasy about him. You cannot rationalise why, but that’s the Spirit speaking to you and leading you. That happened to me. Several times, in fact. It would be much later that I would understand why I was being prompted to drop the guy like a hot potato. Talk about swerving trouble.

So Jesus girls (and gentlemen!), the Christianity we profess must be real. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s not even convenient. It must be who you are. That’s when it becomes exciting (join me for more on this exciting journey of writing my heart out).

If you’ve wondered about dating, or are a bit fed up with how your relationships turn out, maybe it’s time to try again with a new approach. What do you say?

I think this is becoming a series on dating! Let’s see. But I definitely will be sharing more experiences, some from friends. Do share this post and if you haven’t already, join my email list to never miss out on stories where we let down our hair in a good way.

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