How to Date a Non-Believer

I know you. The one who clicked on this link, hoping to read something here that will affirm your current relationship, or the one you want to be in.

I am you. Or at least I was.

The girl who loves Jesus and has an honest to goodness desire to be married, to be a wife and a mom. The one who has been a bridesmaid…a lot. The one who knows her worth and often wonders why others can’t see it. The one who has waited for 4 years, 10 years, 15 years…or more for her “life” to start.

You fill your life with good and meaningful things. You try your hardest to trust God. Small group here, a weekend trip there, a good job. You listen to all the encouragement from your family and friends but secretly still cry about once a week because the longing is so real and the wondering why grows on you with each passing year like an ugly wart.

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You are lovely…but you don’t feel it anymore. You are lonely, on a level that family and friends just can’t fill. And while Jesus is indeed enough…there are still desires.

The world feels like a twilight zone where no good men exist and the ones that do, oddly enough, look right through you. An alternate reality to the one you dreamed of growing up. You are living in a world where everyone else’s life seems to have kept going and yours somehow stopped.

You feel left behind. And alone.

Then…he comes along. The one who finally sees you. I mean really sees you, the woman in you and he thinks you’re beautiful. He makes you feel special. Somehow, over some course of time…you let him into that place inside where the void has caused gnawing pains for years. And suddenly, miraculously, almost overnight, the pain goes away.

There is only one problem. He isn’t a Christian. He does not have a personal relationship with God…and you most certainly do.

I have been in love once (and infatuation once) with men who didn’t share my faith. I did not go looking for them, they found me. I worked in close proximity to them and an initial attraction grew into an appreciation for their company which led to a date. The rest is history.

Let me say something. Girl, I do not judge you for falling. A LOT of people will but most people have not walked your road, or rather stood there in the middle of it while everyone else zoomed by.

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I have. I honest to goodness have. I am 35. I am still unmarried. I am still waiting to have sex. I know your experience.

And that is why I will never, ever judge you.

But, I must warn you. The road you are on, or about to embark on doesn’t usually turn out good. It can. I have actually heard of a few situations where a non-believing partner has a genuine conversation after starting to date a believer. I’ll get to that.

But first, let me tell you, from my experience, how to date a non-believer.

1) Get ready to be mad, a lot

If you come from a God-fearing family, this situation normally upsets a lot of people. Be prepared to feel the most misunderstood you have ever felt. You will get mad at them for not “supporting you” but how can they, really? They are afraid for you and don’t know if you will have the ability to let your brain (and faith) triumph over your heart. Most people don’t. So, they will get mad and you will get mad back.

You will also get mad, or more likely hurt, every time your new man doesn’t show up at church. Every time he doesn’t listen to that sermon you sent him. Every time he says one thing but does another.

I don’t like being mad at the people I love, but somehow these situations seem to cause a lot of that.

2) Get ready to miss God

In order to for the relationship with non-believer-guy to grow, you will have to meet him the middle. And you will because it feels so good to finally be bonding with someone you actually like and who is male!

You will have long talks and walks and kisses and it will all feel good. So good, that you will forget for a little while, how much you need God.

Your prayers will become almost exclusively about the relationship and the salvation of your guy. Your time in church, if he does join you, will be spent wondering the entire time what HE is thinking. Forget actually growing in your own faith.

You will probably stop worshiping the way you used to and maybe even stop hanging out with your friends as much. Why? Because nobody else understands and this guy just feels good, and he is enough. 

For now.

But the day will come when the newness wears off and you will wake up to realize that you miss God. You hear His voice in the distance and it actually sounds, wonderful. More wonderful than you remember.

Because your Loving Father misses you too and will never leave you, He will begin to woo you. He will convict you with His loving-kindness.

When that moment comes, the moment that you know deep in your gut that your guy is doing this whole church thing “for you” and that it has never really turned into something that he is truly interested in for himself - your heart will start to feel like you are betraying your Lord.

Up to this point there has been an honest-to-goodness agreement between you and God. God, I really think you are using me in his life. If it ever becomes clear that he is not interested in the faith, I will walk away, I promise. I do love You, Lord, more than Him.

(Are you wondering yet how I got a hold of your journal?)

When this moment comes, you have three choices.

1 – Lie to yourself and go on ignoring all the signs that your man really doesn’t want to get to know God and look only for the smallest hints that prove otherwise.

2 – Renege on your promise to God. Sorry God, I choose him, but I still love you too!

3 – Break-up with him

3) Be prepared for heartbreak

I’ve chosen #3. I have an annoying inability to lie to myself and by the grace of God, my heart is still the most enchanted with my Savior King, even when I love someone else.

This is when it turns ugly. The breakup happens and it hurts.

Have you ever cried so hard you’ve had a migraine? Get ready for that. Have you ever been so grieved by a loss that you lost your appetite, for weeks and weeks? That might happen too. Have you ever had a sense that something just broke inside you that is unrepairable? Have you felt true depression?

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Breakups hurt no matter what, especially when people have fallen in love. But there is something about praying for the salvation of another, that makes your heart attach to them is a different way. There is something about letting someone go not knowing if you will ever see them again, not even in heaven, that causes a there-are-no-words-kind-of-sadness in a way that other break-ups don’t.

I literally remember telling one of the loved-me-didn’t-love-Jesus-guys, in tears, that I can’t imagine spending my life here with him only to not spend eternity with him. He had compassion for my sadness but no understanding of my words.

I’m more haunted by that than anything.

4) Gird yourself for some serious guilt

After it’s over you will experience a sense of shame and guilt. It will be greater in proportion to how long you let the relationship go on and how far you went physically. Even if you kept it relatively short and don’t sleep with the guy (my situation both times) you will STILL feel bad for letting someone fall in love with you, only to eventually tell them that you are walking away for a reason that was there from the very start. 

Yuck.

OK, I WILL WRAP IT UP

Listen, sister. I’m writing you this article today because unlike the rest of the world who will try to tell you "Just don’t do it," I’d rather give it to you straight and say if you do insist on going down this road – be ready.

I don’t know the real numbers, I wish I did, but I bet 1/50 get saved (if that) and 20/50 break up. Where does that leave the other 29?

Unhappily married.

Of the few stories I’ve heard of where a partner has a genuine conversion experience, two things are always true. #1 – they don’t have sex. If you sleep with someone while trying to win them over to Christ you can FORGET IT and #2 – the honest interest in God on the part of the non-believer happened right away as if God was really already working in their heart before you showed up. If months pass and there isn’t much change – that’s a bad sign.

My advice to you, sweet, lovely, lonely, amazing, worthy friend is simply this. Do not go down this road unless you are sure that you can deny your heart what you think it wants when the Spirit speaks up. 

And honestly, do you even want to make that choice?

It was way, way harder than I thought it would be.