By Stuart McDonald December 16, 2009 8:55 am

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and as singles tend to do, we inevitably came to talk about where single people can meet potential spouses. She asked me, “Why does it seem like every man that goes to [our church] is going outside of [our church] to find themselves a girlfriend?” (While we were talking specifically about the church we attended, the same conversation could have been had about any church across America.)

Good question. Why does it seem that so many men go outside of their local church when there may be plenty of “options” inside their church?

First, I wonder if it just seems that way because we tend to more easily notice “outsiders” who come in with a person we know in our church? For example, if I’m dating a new girl, who I met outside of my church, to a Sunday service, people would be more likely to recognize that than if I came to a service with someone who is a member of my church, wouldn’t you think? Perhaps it’s just our perception that there are more people that do it and not actual fact.

But for the sake of the argument we’ll pretend it’s a little of both.

Let me ask this (because I love to ask a question): when did one of the qualifications for dating someone become which church they attend? “Oh, you go to such and such church? I’m no longer attracted to you.” Who would say such a thing? That’s akin to getting mad when a non-believers decides to date someone who doesn’t live in the same neighborhood or work in the same place that they do. It’s ludicrous.

While I think that it can be helpful to have the same teachings and have the opportunity to participate in volunteering at the same place, who’s to say that one person might want to switch churches? At some point, you’ll probably want to be attending the same church, anyhow, why make that such a barrier while you’re dating.

People say it’s hard enough to find a significant other already, so I wonder why they feel the need to put one more stipulation or qualification on their potential mate. It’s not enough that they need to have a decent job, good credit, nice style, a house, a car, a deep spiritual walk, and a commitment to loving their family and friends, but now you’ve also got to go to the same church? Whoa. Do you know how small your number of potential mates just got? You chopped out all the potentials in your area down to the few hundred (if that) who attend your church. That’s the way to play the odds and open your options (rolling eyes).

Who are we to place a limit on who God can bring into our lives in the first place? We pray for this kind of man or woman but then we give God all kinds of limitations and boxes that the person must fit into. Don’t you think He’s well aware of what it is you need in a mate?

Is it possible that your limitations and qualifications may cause God to slow down his timetable for giving you the mate that you desire (or more accurately, the one He desires for you)?

Follow me for a second (and stop looking at me in that tone of voice). If you were going to give someone a gift, one you knew was perfect for them, but then they start telling you that they don’t want this kind of gift with that kind of paper, you’d probably be prone to withhold your gift from them for a little while until they cooled their jets, wouldn’t you? Especially if you know full well that the gift that you have for them is in fact more perfect for them than the gift they think they want. It might be a case where you give them what they need, but because it’s not what they think they need, it gets easily overlooked and cast aside. Then they’re stuck there still looking for the gift that they think they need. Do you think that God might do that to us? I think it’s entirely possible.

I’ve seen this work both ways within my own family. My parents divorced when I was eight, and both remarried within the next ten years, but the ways in which they met their spouses couldn’t have been different.

My mother met my stepfather in the choir at the church they both attended — just what all the choir girls want. They dated and married about a year and a half later. My father, on the other hand, met my stepmother on a blind date, set up by a mutual friend. They dated for about 6 months before he proposed. They didn’t go to the same church initially, but were still on similar levels spiritually, and after growing close decided to attend my father’s church.

At then end of the day, it can (and does) happen both ways. People meet within the same church, get married and live happily ever after. But people also meet at the supermarket, on a blind date, or a friend’s birthday party, get married and live happily ever after. You just never know when and where God is going to bring that person into your life. Don’t get so caught up in thinking they’ll come through one door, when in fact, they could’ve come through another, and are already be standing in the same room. Don’t put limits on God and what he can do. He knows you and always has your best interests at heart.

[Written by Stuart McDonald for For more from Stuart, check out his personal blog and follow him on Twitter]

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