Dating by numbers

Some time ago Portsmouth University advertised its courses with the slogan: “What comes after the Internet?” Unfortunately the answer does not lie in any of their courses, or those of any other university. Innovation cannot be taught, only inspired and encouraged.

Many things in life are not located on any map, there is no guidebook, no ‘x’ marks the spot. They cannot be summed up in a whistle stop visit or captured on a postcard. There is no one hour audio guide available in ten different languages with special versions for children in German, Italian and English.

Romance is one of those things.

We want answers to all of our questions, but the more we look the more we find more questions to our answers. I flippantly wrote my guide to Christian dating recently, it took me quite a while to write and I removed bits I thought were too quirky or liable to misinterpretation. And still a few people thought it was out of line, they were fuming until the humour hit, if it hit at all.

I wrote it because I felt there was a need for clarity in the romantic interactions between guys and girls in church. I’ve got a couple of half written posts stored where I try to bring light to the subject, plus a short story that I hoped would illustrate with ease what I was struggling to say. In the end I opted for satire. I hoped to gentle show the eccentricity of our habits, but inadvertently I think I took on another liability we too easily slip into: wanting step-by-step instructions for every part of life.

I’m currently buying a flat and no one has told me how to do it. All the easy guides I find are either too complicated or don’t fit the specifics of my situation. Everyone I ask adds more factors into the equation. And I end up doing things in the wrong order and then rushing to catch up.

When it comes to relationships I want the idiot’s guide. I want the full colour illustrated edition with helpful footnotes and explanatory captions. I want it to be a dot-to-dot drawing, or one of those paint by numbers kits. I want someone else to do the hard work for me.

The latest talk in the Love is a Verb series focussed on singleness (more on that soon) and dating and the part that hit me hardest was exactly this point. Expect mess.

In the confluence of emotions and attraction between two people there will be mess, and the awkward outworking of this in thoughts and words and actions will not be straightforward. A bit like the reason no one can provide a simple guide for house buying because the exceptions out number the rules, no one can tell me how a relationship can and should pan out.

I tell someone I’m interested, but they are not. As hurt overshadows hope I wish it could be easier.

As the the girl I like walks off with another, I want to know how to stop this happening next time.

But maybe some things in life should be hard. Maybe the challenge and the climb, and the opportunities to bail out make the summit more of a joy.

Maybe the mess of the beginnings will remind us that mess is not washed away by rings and ceremonies and matching bible covers.

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Relationships revisited

When I started blogging I slightly accidentally stumbled into the label of being a relationship blogger. This wasn’t a title I wanted, nor what I wanted the blog to be.

But then again, I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted the blog to be. So for the first few weeks relationships was what I wrote about and that was what people wanted to read. However, I’ve got a small confession to offer to you: I don’t know much about relationships, I just make it up. Yet the more I talk to people, the more I read, the more I realise that this is a subject that people want to talk about, as they too feel as they are making it up as they go along. And regardless of the number of relationships that people have been in, or the experiences they have had, the questions remain.

I recently asked someone what it was about those early relationship related posts that they appreciated. Apparently it was because I was being brave. In talking about issues with openness and honesty I was doing something that other people weren’t.

I don’t feel particularly brave, the number of times I held back from saying things because I was worried about being open in so public a forum, and the frequency with which masqueraded the point I sought to make. On top of all that I was speaking about these issues online partly because I so patently fail to broach them in conversations face to face, they live in the solitary confines of my mind.

Since those early summer days I’ve returned to tales of romance and attraction from time to time but I’ve mixed it up with bits of politics, theology and the occasional more philosophical post which only 27 people read.

Over the next six weeks my church (Christchurch London) will be covering sex and relationships in a Sunday sermon series. And this news has had a mixed reaction. People I speak to individually are quietly fascinated to hear what will be said, but in groups there’s a fair dealing of groaning and scepticism.

What I intended to do is blog alongside this series. Each week I’ll post some reflections and thoughts on the talk, along with a link to the audio for those who don’t go to Christchurch. But I also want to cover some other topics, I’ve got a few lurking in the back of my mind which I plan to cover, but I want you to provide the topics as well.

I want to write with honest and openness, and I hope to create a space where you can join me and we can discuss issues which intrigue and terrify us, and all too often tend to define us.

So please let me know, in the comments here, on twitter, facebook or carrier pigeon, what you want to talk about. It can relate to dating, singleness, lust and temptation, or just about any related issue you have on the mind. And if you want to guest-post during this series, you’d be very welcome, again just pitch me an idea.