Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Amusement Park of Online Dating

Last Summer I was a little bummed about my lack of dating options and wondered if I should put myself “out there”. Wherever “out there” was, I knew that in the very least, it had to be within a certain set of boundaries. I know several happily married couples who met via online dating and ultimately I decided to give it a try. Choosing a reputable online dating website that employed a very extensive (I almost gave up answering the questions there were so many!) questioning process to find the most suitable matches, gave me a sense of the boundaries that I desired. It wasn’t a site where anyone could log in and look around, but the site used a matching system to deliver specific matches to my inbox every morning. I do admit that I was a little skeptical at first and very cautiously dipped my toe in the water. I didn’t post a picture for several days…I wanted to wait and see what this thing was all about. Eventually I decided to post a picture and increase my search area… since I’d “bought the ticket”; I may as well “take the ride”.

From the very start, I set a couple of personal boundaries:

1. I believe that God reveals certain things and it is the man’s role to do the initiating and pursuing, with that in mind, I would only respond to those who first contacted me.

2. To avoid any unnecessary contacts, I would quickly close out any matches that I clearly knew up front would not be a good idea to pursue getting to know.

During 3 months online, I adjusted the search area from within 50 miles of my hometown to up to the 6 nearest states, received over 300 matches, proceeded through the communication process to direct emails with about 10 of them, talked on the phone with 4 and met 3 face-to-face.

It was interesting to see what varied types of men in terms of occupations, physical appearance and personalities with whom I was matched. While I was very hopeful to enjoy the same blessings I’ve seen some of my friends receive from this type of experience, I began to analogize the situation as similar to visiting an amusement park. Although I remained in a very basic “getting-to-know-you” phase with each person, for the sake of simplicity I will refer to each of the following scenarios as a “relationship”.

One “relationship” was like a Fun House. At first the emails were quick, witty, and a lot of fun. When we began talking on the phone I started to wonder if things weren’t quite what they at first seemed. Then we met face-to-face and I saw through the smoke and mirrors. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to find your way out of a Fun House and getting out of this scenario was a little difficult as well.

Another “relationship” was like a Rollercoaster. You know the feeling when you board a Rollercoaster and the harness comes down and is very secure and you feel really safe…then you tug on it a bit and you have a twinge of panic because it’s tight…then you wonder, “but what if the harness unlatches midair”? Well, this “relationship” started off with that sense of security, he was open about his interest in getting to know me and his pursuit of a lasting relationship. We quickly moved through a short time of emailing, a few phone calls and then a face-to-face meeting. Just as a Rollercoaster click, click, clicks on the incline, then swoosh…down you go and it is moving fast! We were off to a fun start. He always had a plan that included some adventurous outing, however, there were ups and downs…we would have a fun date then we’d talk on the phone and our conversations fell flat. We had some highs and lows and twists and turns and very quickly it was all done. Just like an actual Rollercoaster, it was fun for a short time, but you just can’t stay on it too long.

The other “relationship” was like a Ferris Wheel. Everything was smooth and slow and very long as it was in motion. I remember as a child always looking forward to riding the Ferris Wheel because from the top I could see the beauty of the city lights and it was peaceful and relaxing. I would become a little nervous when they stopped the ride to let others on and off and I was stuck somewhere in the middle, unable see what was going on below, I would wonder, “are we stuck” or “what if we get stuck” and sometimes it would feel like a really long time before the ride would progress and sometimes we’d barely move and it was a little scary being suspended and sort of on pause, not really knowing when it was going to flow or if the next time we reached the ground it would be time to get off the ride. Well, this “relationship” reminded me of that…I really enjoyed the time of emailing, though it was filled with long pauses in communication and after a few months of what seemed like starts and stops in the emailing process we did come voice-to-voice and then briefly face-to-face. There were so many long pauses that left me wondering when or if this Ferris Wheel was going to flow or keep stopping and starting or worse yet, stay “stuck” in mid-air.

So, there you have it…my Summer of online dating took me to the amusement park where I had some strange moments, thrilling moments, confusing moments and an all around fun time. I am ever grateful to have met each person. However, during the process I realized that I can do things to increase the volume of people I meet, but I cannot do anything to speed up or mess up God’s plan and His timing. His plans will unfold just as they should.

Exactly as I planned, it will happen. Following my blueprints, it will take shape.
Isaiah 14:24

Today I am thankful for the abundance of mutually encouraging friendships the Lord has brought into my life that keep me entertained socially and growing spiritually. He knows just what I need, just when I need it.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise You forever for what you have done. In Your name I will hope, for Your name is good. I will praise You in the presence of Your saints.
Psalm 52:8-9

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