August 6, 2013

Pursuit: Vertically and Horizontally


I think every woman can relate to an inner desire to be pursued and delighted in. It starts from the moment we play dress-up, twirling around the room in front of our daddy, vying for his attention, seeking him to affirm our beauty. Then we grow up... and we still have that need. It doesn't diminish with age, and often we go looking for in dating relationships, then in spouse.

Maybe it's just me, but I think our culture doesn't really encourage men to pursue women anymore beyond hook ups, friends with benefits, or the torturous "just friends". Instead, it's common for women to do the pursuing and the chasing. But the older I get and the couple of relationships I've been in, the more I realize that I'm really bothered by the lack of pursuit on a guys part. I'm going to even be a bit bold here and say, that for women, it can mess with our identity and how we see God. Allow me to explain what I mean...

If you've ever been that girl, or are that girl right now, who's been sorely disappointed by the lack of pursuit in past relationships, I'm willing to bet that you've had one or all of these thoughts drift through your head: "I'm just not enough." "I'm too much for him... I'm overwhelming him... I should back off." "I don't have anything going for me... I'm too dull... too boring." "I'm not worth his time or his trouble." Or maybe this nasty cycle resonates with you: "I'm not valuable enough. Because if I was, he'd pursue me... he'd cherish me... he'd treasure me... but he doesn't... and it's all my fault because if I was valuable, then he'd want me... but he doesn't. I'm not valuable, and I'm not worth it." That record plays over and over and over again in your head until it's got you in the fetal position, crying yourself to sleep. I'd know, since I've been there, done that (hopefully, never again...). In that moment it feels like your heart is being brutally attacked.

But all those thoughts... those whispers from the enemy... at their core, are an assault on your value and identity. They're not true. And as a daughter redeemed by Christ, He's always pursuing you. Jesus proved this to us at the cross, where He gave His all. He suffered horrific torture and death all so we could spend all of eternity with Him. That was THE ultimate pursuit of all time, and He did it all for you. He did it all for your heart and your soul. And in turn, He wants you to pursue Him. He doesn't need you to pursue Him, but He wants you to.

I believe when you're pursuing Christ and you're letting Him pursue you, that need will be fulfilled. Christian women have favored this verse for a long time, we stick on stationary, bookmarks, and coffee cups...
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4
At first glance it's easy for us to think that the verse means God will give us whatever we want, but I don't think that's what the verse was ever intended to mean.

Now do I believe that God places specific desires and callings in our hearts that will come to fruition? Yes. Absolutely. But, I think this verse is talking about our deepest needs. Not our need for clarity on our career paths, not our need for a spouse, not our need for kids, or the house with the white picket fence... those are not our deepest needs or desires. They merely point to them. Our deepest needs and desires are to be fully known, fully loved, fully cared for, and fully accepted, without the hindrances of our fears, anxieties, or shame. Take a look at the first part of that verse again: "Delight yourself in the Lord." To delight in means to take pleasure or joy in. So here, we see the Psalmist saying "Cultivate your ultimate joy and pleasure in God!" And when you do so, "...he will give you the desires of your heart." When our joy and pleasure is in God, the desires of our heart will indeed be met, because it's then I will be fully known, fully loved, fully cared for, and fully accepted by the Creator of the universe! How awesome is that?! I don't have to wait until I have a ring on my finger and man by my side, or kids running around, or my ideal job (as awesome as all those things would be and may be in the future) in order to have my desires met. My desires can be met right here, right now by delighting myself in the love of Christ. By pursuing Him!
It starts to matter less and less who is pursuing you when you are passionately pursing the God who crafted your beautiful feminine heart. -Coleen York
This is what pursuit looks like vertically (between each of us and God), but what about horizontally (in our relationships with men)? Clearly, pursuit is important... perhaps I could get away with saying it's vital for us. As I just talked about, it's so important that we're seeking to have our deepest needs and desires (i.e. to be delighted in) met in Christ, not in relationships, but that doesn't mean when we are dating (or courting or whatever you want to call it) that there doesn't need to be a level of pursuit in that process. So...

My Challenge to The Girls:
  • Be Honest. If a guy asks you out and you don't want to, then kindly decline his offer. I know it makes you feel like a lousy person, but you're doing the right thing. You don't want to date someone out of pity. It's unkind and disrespectful to him.
  • Don't Get Over-Analytical Over Coffee Dates. Repeat after me: "It's just coffee, not a marriage proposal." If a guy asks you out for coffee, for the most part, he just wants to get coffee with you. That's it. He's not looking to get down on one knee at Starbucks while you sip your macchiato. Jane Austen was right when she wrote, "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment." Keep your heart in check, a clear mind, and godly mentors who will help you in doing so.
  • Ask for Clarity. Often well-meaning Christians preach to us single-gals that we're to sit and wait until a guy pursues us, but often this leaves us feeling like our hands are tied and unable to do anything about it. If you happen to strike up a friendship with a guy which begins to feel like it's becoming something more or has great potential, but he remains silent about it, then I'd say there's nothing wrong with asking for clarity, for the DTR (Define the Relationship) conversation. You have the freedom to question his motive and where he sees this relationship going.
  • Know You're Attention/Presence isn't a Free-For-All. Don't just give out your number to anyone who asks. Realize that your time, phone calls, conversations, etc. are valuable and not every guy should have access to them. It's ok to play a little hard to get, because it tends to weed out the guys who are genuinely interested in you from those who are just playing the field and aren't all that serious.
  • Don't Settle. As God's dearly loved daughter, you do not need to settle for mediocrity. Wait for a man who takes the time to pursue you. Who gets to know you, the real you. Who values you as Christ does. Marriage is about mirroring the Gospel to one another and to others around you. Wait to marry the man who understands and commits to that standard.
My Challenge to the Guys is Mainly One of Action. Realize that pursuit is a big deal for women. It's a mark of authenticity and intention. Good, thriving relationships don't just fall out of the sky. It's popular advice to tell men that in order to pursue a woman they have to "study" her. However, that's only a part of what it means to pursue. Pursuing a woman involves action as well. You cannot sit and study her, and then never put your knowledge into practice. That's futile. In all likelihood, over time, she'll move on or your relationship will grow stagnant. If you find a woman who loves Jesus whom you're interested in (and you're a man, not a boy, because I'm one of those girls who believes boys shouldn't risk playing with/handling a woman's heart), then by all means, step-up to the plate. Do something about it! Initiate, Initiate, Initiate... Pursue, Pursue, Pursue! You "study" a girl in order to learn how she likes to be pursued (it's not the same for every girl by the way), and then you act.
…they have a name for guys who just study things about a person they like, but don't do anything about it---They're called bachelors. -Bob Goff in Love Does

9 comments :

  1. Woohoo, I totally agree with you! It's really frustrating to feel like I am doing all of these points above but there's nobody pursuing. It's like a guy will see there's work involved and he doesn't want to do it (not every guy, but males in our society are definitely like that).

    Anyway, thanks for your words! It's definitely encouraging knowing other gals feel like I do and want to do the same things.

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    1. Mmmhmm. I think both men and women have a challenge in this =)

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  2. preach, preach, preach. love this, Natalie.

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  3. Love, love, love! Thanks for expounding on Psalm 37:4. Good stuff!

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  4. I LOVE this post! Seriously...Thank you so much for sharing this. By the way, I love that Austen quote. It's so true!

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    1. She does have a lot of wisdom that Jane woman, doesn't she? ;D

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  5. This is an absolutely incredible perspective on the situation. Thank you for sharing!

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