in pursuit of critical and compassionate living and thought. in surrender to courage & delight of Christ.
This post is about a very long “minimum requirements” relationship list.
Its two-and-a-half pages long, and many more years in the making. Here’s how I ended up with it, and why its so dang long.
I have now been asked a few too many times to post this list. I kept it private between myself and those close to me, because it is well…private! I thought. However, I’ve come to understand that we’re all curious what’s on each others’ mental or subconscious “lists,” and that sharing what’s on ours can be encouraging, helpful, challenging, and yes, sometimes hilarious conversation starters. Through these conversations, I’ve come to conclude that there’s nothing really all that private about these lists – we all have them in the back of our brains for better or for worse. They are shared and yet secret (much like the ‘rules of dating’ I guess?!) and the more they come to light, the closer we come to being gracious companionship with each other in journeys towards different kinds of companionship, and in understanding who we are regardless.
What’s not on the List? Here’s a couple examples…
This List is about who I want to be for a romantic relationship, and about the kind of person I would want to be with. I use it to take an inventory of whether the important qualities are “present in progressing,” rather than “perfected and complete”. With this list, there is no such thing as “arriving” at a finish line. Its a barometer of becoming. I want to grow deep and wide in the things on this list, having each little bit of it bud more and more in me all the time. In the same, I use the list to make sure my eyes are on what matters, and to keep my “standards” in line with what is most important. I look for people who have all these things in growth – the qualities are “active” within them, and like-minded priorities for them. I want someone who expects these things of me, and no less.
Its a purposefully almost-impossible List. Progress on this List cannot be achieved except through the changing inner-redemptive work of Christ. After all, why should we strive for anything we can seemingly achieve on our own? If Jesus will be the centre of any relationship, He must be at the centre of us. For as impossible as it may seem, it was created with the closest of friends and mentors in mind whose lives I admire, and whose relationships bring me into a more beautiful becoming.
I have always been a proponent of list-free dates. But this list is not about dates, its not about a bar set for a first or second date, or for someone to be immediately upon first meeting. Its about the people I, and someone else will become to become one.
This List met me in season. It existed in pieces of memories, things I’d learned, commitments I’d made, and hope for goodness I’d watched, heard of, and read of wherever the Holy Spirit was. It was necessary for me to write it down.
I think courage, compassion, and critical thought and actions should extend to every aspect of every type of our relationships. For myself, this has also meant a lot of unconventional dating choices. Like the time I conducted a controlled experiment on myself using multiple online-dating platforms to get a sense of whether I am perceived according to what’s really important to me. Or my refusal to build mental fantasies about anyone, or the weird accountability practices I have made with trusted friends to keep check of reality in progressing relationships (anyone else have Ratio check-ins?!).
But at some point I got way off. Its not that I made any very overtly consequential choices, or even looked way off to others – but I thought, spoke, and walked every part of my relational-self in fear, insecurity, people-pleasing, comfort, and lack of internal self-discipline. I turned down spaces of healing, and neglected the rest of wisdom and Christ-centred dependency in trade of nice-sounding possibilities, and “harmless” opportunities that were no where in line with God’s leading for me at that particular time. And so, at some point one summer, a great many latent frustrations, insecurities, and old and new pains culminated in revelations about myself that I was not proud to keep up. No longer, I said. No longer will I get so easily swept up by men that are not good for me, or by relationships in which I will not grow in the directions God leads me. No longer will I allow others to influence me to make priorities of things that do not reflect radical trust in God. No longer will I be afraid of my insecurities instead of standing in hope. No longer will I make this easier for myself today, instead of better for myself tomorrow. And a list was written. And it will be continually refined.
It is my hope that this List is a conversation starter. What’s on your List?