"Why can't I just go out, for fun?! Just for a movie? It's not like we're going to get married." I was so frustrated with my parents. This was the first guy that I would actually enjoy getting to know better. How embarrassing it was to have to turn him down because my parents wouldn't let me date outside the Church. I could not understand it. There were good guys in "the world." A few of them really seemed to be of higher character than some guys I knew in the Church. I felt this was my decision to make.
This was not the first time my parents and I had disagreed over this, and it was not to be the last. Somehow they always won, and I never dated anyone outside the Church through high school. I did go on a lot of group outings with friends from church, and also spent time alone with guys in the Church. Camps, Feasts and big church activities were the highlights of my high school years. But for a long time I never completely understood why my parents kept me from dating in high school.
An older friend of mine shut down my main argument one evening during my senior year. I was complaining to her about my parents' decision relating to dating guys in high school. I told her about a few guys that seemed awesome at my high school. They seemed to have very high morals and were smart, kind and interesting. I told her that there were some guys "in the Church" that I could not respect because of their attitudes or their hypocrisy in going to church but not living God's way. I told her: I have not found anyone in the Church that I could see myself marrying—and besides that—what are the chances? There's one guy my age in my area, but he is more like a best friend than a marriage candidate. Church sizes had decreased, church activities were few and far between, and young people were all so spread out. How can you date someone who lives three states away?
I had so many objections and I was at a loss for understanding how one could possibly find a mate against all those odds. I pondered aloud, "What if God has chosen for me someone from outside the Church?" She calmly but deliberately asked, "Why would God do that to you?"
She helped me to see what I already knew but did not want to face. We should trust God, looking to Him, not our own reasoning. He wants us to be happy and fulfilled in marriage. If we ask Him in faith, He will find the right person for us who will be compatible with our beliefs. Marrying outside the Church brings with it many problems to overcome from the start—problems relating to worship, prayer, the Sabbath, Holy Days, Feast times, holidays, children, foods and more. God does not want us to bring upon ourselves more challenges than are already there by choosing a mate who does not live His way. It was hard for me to accept, but I finally did understand and commit myself in faith that God would choose someone for me in the Church.
It's not hard to date someone outside the Church, but dating is the precursor to marriage. I did not want to start a relationship that I could not finish. I did not want to date someone that I could not marry. It was not worth the pain that it would cause that other person and me. I decided to stick with this decision as I started college. I feel this is one of the best decisions I have made.
During college, when I was out with a group of friends, I met the man that I was eventually to marry, and he wasn't in the Church. Daniel soon became a great friend. He taught me to swing dance, we studied together, and sometimes we had lunch or dinner together. We didn't hang out with each other frequently, but we kept in touch and would talk and spend some time together. After a while he told me that he was interested in me, but I told him right away that it would not work, and I was interested in someone in my church. Over time we talked about how important it was to me to marry someone of the same faith. It was very hard for him to understand, but after much discussion he came to respect my decision and remained a great friend.
Over our many talks we discussed music, world events, history, travel and even religion. He asked a lot of pointed questions about my faith. I answered his questions as best as I could, striving to show how the Bible was the foundation of my beliefs. I never tried to convert him. I knew that was God's job for those that He chooses. All I could do was represent His truth the best that I could.
One day I mentioned our church Web site so that he could learn more about the Church. I never thought that God would use me to call him. I'd had friends in the past who seemed interested but never would follow through. We live a very different way of life, and it is very difficult for most people to accept the way God commands. One day he said he would like to come to church with me. I was happy but as always, very cautious. I was afraid he might be coming only because of me. It made me very wary about getting too close in our relationship, and I remained steadfast in my resolve that my future mate would live God's way.
Daniel did come to church. He came again a few weeks later. He asked fewer questions of me, because now he could find the answers himself. Daniel began to follow the food laws, keep the Sabbath, attend on Holy Days and study the Bible more. As he came into the Church, I struggled within myself. I tried to be discerning and cautious in case it was not a genuine and long-lasting conversion. I prayed often that God would do His will and give me the strength and wisdom to see and accept that will. If Daniel was not being called, I wanted to know as soon as possible. If he was, I wanted to know that too. Over all this time I had begun to truly love him, but I knew I could not be happy long-term if we did not share the same faith.
Over time, and through many trials, Daniel showed that his conversion was true and his dedication to God unwavering. It was after one particularly severe trial with his parents that I felt I could be pretty sure that he was serious. We became closer. He attended his first Feast alone in France, as he was studying there for a fall semester. The fact that he went by himself was another test that he passed. I began to really believe that God was truly calling him.
Since those early days he has remained true to God and His way. We attended ABC together in 2003, where he made the final decision to counsel for baptism. At that point we knew for sure. We married in the fall of 2003 and are now incredibly happy living God's way. We pray together, worship together and, one day, will bring up our children in the truth together. VT
So, what would I tell you?
I learned many lessons in this relationship, and I would like to pass along a few of those to you:
• Never assume that God is calling the person that you are interested in. It is safer to assume that He isn't, so that you maintain your distance in the relationship until you can be absolutely sure. This is hard, but possible if you pray about it and commit yourself to this decision before you are in the situation.
• Maintain the friendship, but don't let it progress. Don't start something that you can't finish. It is very hard to break away from someone you've gotten close to but who does not come into the Church. During this time you could miss out on other great converted people. It is possible, if you make the choice, to end up with the wrong person and miss out on someone more fitted for you. Do your best to let God choose someone who is just right for you.
• Never use a dating relationship as a means to convert someone. Some guys or girls might come to church and not eat pork or keep the Sabbath just to be with you—if they believe that will keep your relationship going. It is not necessarily true conversion. God makes that decision and calling, not us. I have a close friend whose boyfriend felt so strongly about her that he said he would "join the Church" and be baptized for her. He would live the way of life that she chose. She recognized the trap and made the right decision, even though it was the hardest thing she had to do in her life.
• Go to camp, go to the Feast, go to big events in God's Church and have fun! Make a lot of friends and trust God to show you the right one.