Just before our second Valentine's Day since beginning to date, I had purchased Melissa a present that I was was ecstatic to give her. We had been dating for almost a year and a half and I wanted to show her how much I cared about her. I had put a lot of thought into what to get and did a little research so she was getting only the best.
The day before V-Day I could barely contain my excitement and begged her to allow me to give her the gift that evening. After some begging and my best impression of a puppy finally said yes. I ran up to my dorm room, grabbed the carefully rapped box and ran back down to the common room of my dorm where she awaited this amazing gift. She took the present and unwrapped it and I was excited to receive praise...
"You got me a Bible Commentary for Valentine's Day!?!?!?!? Did you not get any of the hints I had dropped about jewelry???"
This was not the reaction I had hoped for. A fight ensued about how insulted and offended I was versus how unromantic and stupid my gift was for Valentine's Day. I now can admit she was right...I bought her a necklace two days later but that night began an important lesson for both of us beyond thinking through gift choices.
There was actually a second reason why the gift of a Bible Commentary wasn't thought through enough beyond the obvious.
When it came to encouraging Melissa to grow deeper in her relationship with God I failed to consider the fact that possibly she didn't connect with God in the same way that I did. Up until that point in my life I had kind of put God in a box and had understood that connecting to God meant going to church once a week, spending devotional time reading your Bible every day along with a devotional or commentary to provide deeper insight, spending time in pray and then participating in a mid-week Bible study. This "formula" had worked for me in the past and again, I just assumed that was the way for everyone to connect with God.
When Melissa rejected my gift my first thought had been fear that, "I'm dating a girl who doesn't want to connect with God!?" Yet, that couldn't have been further from the truth. She insisted God was important to her but that instead of studying the Bible all the time she enjoyed connecting to God by taking a walk or painting. We spent the rest of the evening debating whether or not that "counted."
Shortly after that, I had to read a book called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas that proved me wrong on both counts of that argument that evening. In the book, Thomas talked about that in a similar way that people have different personalities or learning styles we also relate to God differently. Take some time and look through all the different ways God connected to people throughout the Bible - a whisper, a booming voice from a mountain, a pillar of fire, a cloud, a hand writing on a wall, in dreams, in visions, in the flesh and blood of Jesus and more. All different but yet the same result...God drew people to Him.
We have to have a lot of open communication and flexibility about that time spent. It looks different every time and we have to always ask the other person what they are feeling and thinking. Sometimes we talk deeply about a Bible passage or sermon, which I prefer, and other times Melissa has been honest about her mood and feelings and we just read a passage and silently reflect.
Sometimes when we pray together Melissa would rather pray in her head instead of out loud. At first, I was offended by that but I needed to learn to just let that go and allow her to be her quiet, shy self. It isn't any less a prayer offered silently instead of out loud. The point is praying together. Who cares what that time looks or sounds like.
Don't put God in a box...connecting with Him can look so different to so many people. Whether you are single, dating or married, it is so important to take some time to understand how you connect best with God. (And that way may change over time...) But then, don't project that one way onto everyone else around you. Be open to how creative God is and how others may connect differently with Him.
Not only will doing this save you from some conflict or coming across as legalistic but it will also allow you to see God from different perspectives and take your understanding of Him and how He works to an even deeper level.
P.S. To check out Sacred Pathways, click on the image below to head to Amazon.com