Friday, March 25, 2005
A matter of trust
Yes, I've tried many methods to meet single women, and in a way all of them worked, at least to some extent. Once I overcame my youthful awkwardness, my manners got sufficiently polished to attract a fair number of single gals. Of the methods I've employed, none netted me more contacts than the Internet. I've used mailing lists, instant messaging, and singles' Web sites, and made a fair number of contacts each way. Obviously, none of them worked out as I'd hoped, with only one going so far as the beginning stages of courtship. Although I've read the testimonials of how this Web site or that chat room allowed Sally and Tim to find each other, my experience has been quite different, so much so that a while ago I decided to completely forsake such methods.
In fact, I've come to the sad conclusion that relying on the Internet or similar mediums as a primary means to meet members of the opposite sex is, at best, extremely dangerous. Yes, I know about couples who met each other online, and I thank God for his great kindness towards them, but I would submit that such cases are exceptions to the rule. Far from proving the rightness of the method, they prove the great mercy of our Lord, who so often blesses us in spite of our woefully imperfect actions and decisions.
If there is any single reason why I have given up on such methods, it is this: the near-total lack of accountability in the online world. Even the "best" Christian singles' Web sites consist of total strangers meeting total strangers, with each one having no way to corroborate the picture the other person is painting of himself or herself. If I meet Sally online, it is an unusual providence of God if she and I have a common acquaintance or some other means to check up on each other, thus leaving me to take her at her word, and her to do likewise for me. During my time online, I learned to adopt an air of ease and openness, and so did many of the gals whom I met, but the fact of the matter is that we all found it to be essentially impossible to put aside the suspicion we had of one another. Looking back, I see that this suspicion was far from unwarranted. After all, how did I really know that Sally was on the level? For that matter, how did she know that I was on the level? It would have taken a miracle to establish any kind of trust, so since the miracle never came, every one of my contacts eventually fizzled and died.
So, now that I've painted such a bleak picture of the Internet singles' scene, you'd be quite justified in asking, "Do you know of any better way? What's a Christian single to do when there's no suitable singles in his church? Attend a singles' conference?" Well, a conference would be somewhat better, because you're actually going to have face-to-face time with people from the very beginning, but there's still a danger with that method: it's still strangers meeting strangers.
There's a much better way than conferences and such. It's nothing new, in fact it's very, very old, but I'll give it a new-fangled name anyway: networking. By networking, I mean "meeting members of the opposite sex through the auspices of trusted intermediaries: family members, friends, church leaders, church friends, etc.." So what's so great about that? Just this: thanks to the connection you and your new acquaintance have through your common acquaintances, you have a way to establish the trust that's necessary to get to know each other. If I have any questions about Sally, I can talk with her friends, her family, or her pastors, and she can do likewise if she has any questions about me. Moreover, this network ought to provide a means of accountability. Now, since Sally and I aren't total strangers--since I know her connections and she knows mine--our connections can keep an eye out for us, keeping us from pursuing our acquaintance in secret or in the shadows. In my opinion, this is not only the best way to meet eligible singles: it ought to be considered to be the only safe way.
"But," you may ask, "what about me? I'm in a church with no suitable singles, and no one I know has been able to introduce me to anyone suitable. What am I supposed to do? No wonder I hang out on the Christian singles' Web sites!" Well, I have several answers to your concerns. First of all, difficult circumstances are no excuse for employing dangerous means, and don't use the excuse that those means seem to have "worked" for this or that couple. Second, our God is all-powerful, and is well able to turn around a seemingly impossible situation. Finally, there is a practical solution to this problem: like-minded churches with unattached singles ought to network with each other to help their singles meet each other. OK, let's say that your church is near Chicago, and you've got an older single guy who's in search of a wife. Perhaps a church in your denomination or association has an older single gal who's in search of a husband. In such a case, I would argue that it would be good and right for the elders of the two churches to make arrangements to get the two in touch with each other, whether through visiting each other's churches, phone calls, letters, or even email. Such an arrangement would be, I feel, far safer and wiser than the "strangers meeting strangers" Christian Web sites, because the two would enjoy the benefit of pastoral oversight from the very beginning of their acquaintance.
Christian, why leave the singles in your church to fend for themselves? Are you not your brother's keeper? Since you are to take care for your single brother or sister, will you not help them to honor God as they seek to enter into the good and right state of holy matrimony? Let us cease to be negligent in this matter, and become diligent to help to bring together those who may prove to be suitable life partners. By so doing, we will help Christian singles to meet each other and build relationships that are built on trust from the very beginning of the acquaintance.