Last night one of the elders here in Estonia, who has been an internet friend for a few years but not someone I had ever met personally until this feast, gave a presentation on mate selection. As someone whose singleness is relatively proverbial and whose difficulties with regards to dating and courtship are fairly legendary among all who know me or may even know of me, I cannot say I particularly looked forward to the subject matter but rather felt obligated to attend given the fact that even slight acquaintances feel it necessary to give unasked for advice and encouragement concerning the matter. When one’s single status is that glaringly obvious to everyone around, clearly something must be done about it, whether that is deep reflection or reading, or anguished private prayers about one’s own heartaches and the unintentional damage one has inflicted on others because of one’s own marked incompetence in matters of the heart .
The gist of the seminar was a contrast between the unwise decisions that people make when they are infatuated and a wise and cautious approach to love and marriage that involves deep and serious reflection and the acquisition of self-knowledge as well as insight about one’s potential partner, with the goal of firm commitment based on a footing that is not strictly physical and emotional but spiritual and intellectual as well. As someone who has tended to be very dedicated in the practice of acquiring self-knowledge and seeking to understand those around me, that part of the presentation was certainly worthwhile from a personal perspective, and in speaking to others there who were married, it was clear there was some tension not only among those of us who were unmarried and tragically so, but also among those who were married. For example, one of my new friends from the feast commented on the fact that he and his wife were still in the infatuation state and, as relatively recently married people, still had much to learn about how to make marriage work between the two of them. I certainly wish them both well, as both of them are lovely people who are fun to be around and who possess sound insight and intriguing perspectives. I spoke as well with a Latvian woman who is married to someone who does not keep the Sabbath but who brought her daughters to the feast, and who, since her daughters range from an adorable but somewhat shy three year old to teenagers, has likely been married for some time. She must be at least my age, if not a little older, and her comments were focused on the recognition that there are no ideal people and that we must be committed to making relationships work even where there are differences, like the difference in faith that came about when the wife became convinced of the need to practice Sabbathkeeping while the husband did not have the same conversion.
It is clear that there is something defective in the way that the world around us views love. We view chemistry as destiny, feeling that God must bless whatever feels right and whatever we are spurred on to do by our longings and attraction. Yet, as many of us know all too painfully, our longings and attraction will get us into all kinds of trouble. They are certainly not unmediated gifts from God, but are rather aspects of our personhood that have suffered mightily from the fallen nature of mankind. To the extent that we are all bent and twisted by the lives in which we have lived and the world in which we have grown up, we cannot rely on our own natural inclinations to lead us where God wishes us to be. Certainly, our longings are a reminder that we were created for relationships, regardless of the difficulty we may face in finding them, but they are not necessarily a sign that we were created for relationships with the people that we are attracted to or the sort of people who we long for. We must judge those longings by an exterior standard, and must recognize and deal with the fact that our longings may often be contrary to the laws of both God and men, and to the extent that we are committed to being continent with those laws, we must curb our own longings despite some considerable pain to ourselves, in the hope that God will grant us the favor of relationships that fulfill our own considerable emotional and relational needs while being blessed by scripture, relationships that require a great deal of work and growth, but that are also sanctioned and blessed by God and men.
In dealing with this subject of considerable pain and frequent embarrassment, I often ponder to myself what are the biggest barriers to finding lasting love and relationships for me personally. While I do not consider myself a particularly attractive person, I have certainly known my fair share of people showing interest in me, if not always the same people or at the same time as I have been interested in. Certainly there are considerable barriers, not least of which is my somewhat extreme native anxiety and timidity and the horrors of my own personal background, to the formation of loving relationships, but even those areas would provoke a certain sense of compassion and tenderness with someone of a tender and gentle heart. Certainly my own extremely well-developed intellect also presents difficulties in being well-understood, but again, someone with a dedication to the acquisition of knowledge and possessed with the gifts of a good memory and a quick mind would not find such difficulties to be impossible to surpass either. For me personally, I both possess the deep longing that I search for relationships despite my keen awareness of the difficulties I often possess in them and also have enough realism to understand that any relationship is likely to involve a lot of work, which I would consider worth undertaking with someone who was committed to me, and committed to taking the time and doing the work that would be necessary to create a happy and mutually beneficial life together. And that is the rub: how does one find such commitment in such a disposable world where people who are difficult and complicated are given up on frequently before the work of making a worthwhile life together has even begun?
 See, for example: