Not I: The Ideal Woman?

Let’s take a minute to discuss our flaws. It may seem a little odd to start a post this way, but I need you to allow me to explain. Growing up, I took it upon myself to try to be as perfect as possible. Well, sort of. I pursued academics with all I had within me because that was a world I understood. Not too concerned about those around me, I joined clubs, participated in other extracurricular activities, and volunteered in my community. The aim was not to get into an Ivy League school, but it was at the same time. I enjoyed studying, clubs, and volunteering. If those things just so happened to be what the top universities looked for, then it was a win-win.

“Growing up, I took it upon myself to try to be as perfect as possible.”

It was probably in high school that I began to see myself as different from my peers. The distinction was noticeable—not bad—just noticeable. I enjoyed serving at the local soup kitchen and taking part in charity walks on the weekends. It was easy to get so engrossed in a novel that half my day was spent reading about fictitious people in faraway lands. What’s more, I found satisfaction going to church and rehearsing for an upcoming skit instead of planning what I would wear to a party. In those days, my priorities were different. I was different.

The thought of becoming a “perfect woman” didn’t enter my mind until college. While on the grounds of Howard University, I could be any person I wanted to be. College was the time to reinvent myself. I could go by a different name, switch up my personality completely, or fake a backstory about being from an exotic country (accent included). The point is that the possibilities were endless once I set foot on that college campus. Nevertheless, while some minor things changed, I still basically remained the same. The biggest difference? My desire to achieve perfectionism reached its peak.

“College was the time to reinvent myself.”

I sought to become the kind of woman a man couldn’t resist. I desired the lifestyle of international travel, dinners with dignitaries, and more than enough money in my bank account. Like a shapeshifter, I found myself conforming to what I believed would appeal to my love interest at the time. Has that ever happened to you, fellow navigator? To read more, I talk about it in my book. The constant twisting and bending left me feeling like I had no identity. To be even more transparent, I felt like my identity was closely connected to my crush of the week.

After college, everything changed. Again, I changed. It was not until an event led to me abandoning many of my worldly possessions that I realized what was most important. Instead of trying to be the ideal woman, I pursued God with all I had within me. More than just going to church almost every day of the week, I spent time in intimate prayer and Bible study. It dawned on me that the ideal woman is one who finds her value in God. Eventually, I’ll have to part with my money and the things of this world. But, when it’s all said and done, my soul will have to spend eternity somewhere.

Fellow navigator, I no longer desire to be anyone’s ideal woman. It’s taken some time, but I’ve come to a place where I am content being me. Upon entering a dating relationship, I make my flaws and imperfections known. Sometimes, my strong sense of self-awareness leaves the other party taken aback, but I’m not concerned. I’m tired of wearing a mask—tired of the show we so often put on to get someone to like us. Yes, this approach has blown up in my face and caused a few men to turn around and leave quickly. However, the one who stays will be worth it.

What do you say we stop with the charade? I’m not suggesting we lay all our cards out on the proverbial table the very minute we meet someone of interest. Rather, I’m saying let’s be intentional about showing our real selves to those we encounter who we believe could be good life partners. Fellow navigator, do you play a role when around a dating prospect? Did you end up showing your true self? How did that unveiling go? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, Temptation is Real…Like, Really Real

I recently heard a sermon about David’s fall at the hands of a woman.

That’s not exactly how the preacher put it, but it’s essentially what he was saying. David, a man after God’s own heart, stumbled and fell because he desired something he couldn’t have: another man’s wife. David, a king with hundreds of thousands ready to die for him, faltered because of one thing: another man’s wife. What does this chapter in the book of his life teach us? I take from it two things. First, he’s human. Second, temptation is all too real.

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that no one is above being tempted? Even Jesus, the Son of God, was faced with moments when he could have simply given into what Satan was offering him (food, power, and riches). Can we stop and take this in for a minute? Lucifer went so far as to try to get Jesus, the Lamb of God, to forsake his own Father. If that doesn’t put things into perspective about the power of temptation and the lengths at which Satan will go to deceive us, I don’t know what will.

Now, Jesus had just come off a fast. (Read Matthew 4 for the full story!). He was weak, and food would have been great. Nevertheless, he resists the devil’s advances and responds with Bible verses. Three times Satan tried to get Jesus to give in, and three times the Prince of Peace refused. He stood his ground and thwarted any plans Satan had for him that day.

Let’s be real: we don’t come close to being Jesus. When a beautiful, caring man enters our lives and whispers all those sweet nothings, most of us are all too eager to plan forever with him. When that same handsome man appears to have everything we’re looking for, we may be quick to ignore the fact that he’s missing the most important criteria: a relationship with God. I think it’s fitting to write about this, fellow navigator, because it’s a situation that I have found myself in one time too many.

The story is always the same. We meet, get to know each other, talk about every nonsensical issue under the sun, then eventually make our way to the serious topics. This is the make it or break it moment in determining if the relationship will live or die. In most cases, the feelings of “love” fizzle as we realize we’re not as compatible as we thought. We’re not pursuing God in the same way. We don’t have similar views on family or how children should be raised. We don’t think about marriage and the role each other will play the same. How can a relationship lead to forever when we don’t see eye-to-eye about these vital topics? It can’t. And it doesn’t.

I mentioned David earlier for a reason. Before I say what it is, let me just state that relationships are difficult to navigate. We are deceived by our eyes and mind to think that what we don’t want is what we need and vice versa. Temptation rears its ugly head each and every time we think we are strong in an area. It uncovers our weak spots, takes advantage of us, then leaves us high and dry to pick ourselves back up after we’ve fallen to the ground.

With regard to David, even though he could have had any single woman in the nation, temptation in the form of lust led him to pursue a married woman. He was captivated by Bathsheba’s naked form and, not being where he should have been (fighting with the army), he gave into the temptation. This critical moment caused him to take other actions that would lead to his downfall. (I encourage you to read the story in Matthew 4 to get the full context.)

Temptation rears its ugly head each and every time we think we are strong in an area.

I’m no Bible scholar, but I believe we’re all susceptible, like David, to having weak moments. (After all, we are human!) We see a man we want and go after him with reckless abandon. It’s not until after our hearts have become tied to this person that we discover the skeletons in his closet. He may be married. He might not believe in monogamy. He doesn’t believe in marriage. Or, the one that causes many women strong in the faith to waver, he might not have a relationship with God. Period.

It is temptation that leads us to a place of indecision about what to do next. We weigh pros and cons and try to find ways to make the relationship work. Slowly, after reflecting on all the good feelings we had with this man, some of us decide that life with him is better than life without him. Translation: We choose him over our convictions. Why is this important? Why should we care? Aren’t relationships supposed to be about compromise? Yes, compromise is a key word when it comes to relationships. But, if we must compromise the beliefs that make us who we are, then we are living a lie.

Remember that story in the Bible when Jesus talks about those people who would come and say how they did all those things in his name? What did he say back to them? He said he would tell them to depart from him because he didn’t know them. Yes, they did great things in his name, but their hearts were far from him. Translation: They professed him and did good deeds, but they didn’t really know him. If they knew him, they would have had a relationship with him. If they had had a relationship with him, they would have obeyed his teachings. If they had obeyed his teachings, they would not have entered into relationships with men who didn’t know him because he clearly states that being unequally yoked is not what’s up.

Fellow navigator, relationships do require compromise. However, when compromise comes in the form of ignoring our deal-breakers, we shouldn’t do it. They are called “deal-breakers” for a reason. That good man you want more than anything, the one who makes every other guy before him look like a chump, is not worth disobeying God. I know that not everyone might receive this message; I didn’t write it for everyone. This blog post is one written from a place of vulnerability as a reminder to myself and women like me who have been tempted to give up on faith because they question if another good man will present himself.

What are your thoughts, fellow navigator? Have you ever found yourself in this place? Tell me about it!

Not I: Forsaking My Beliefs for a Man?

It seems like we just met yesterday. He was tall, had an athletic build, and charmed me off my feet. We conversed in English, French, and Spanish. We spent hours watching movies, laughing about silly things, and talking about our future. I enjoyed every moment of our time together; it just felt right. However, we broached a topic that brought my happily-ever-after fantasy to an end.

“By choosing to stick to my convictions over all others, I’ve said goodbye to many men.”

Fellow navigator, please hear my heart. I’m not condemning those in mixed-faith relationships. If you are able to make it work, then more power to you. My purpose in telling that very real story is to illustrate a situation I’ve found myself in on more than one occasion. I meet a man. We hit it off. Then, we end up at a crossroads because our beliefs don’t align. By choosing to stick to my convictions over all others, I’ve said goodbye to many men. They were decent guys who would make just about any woman happy, but they were not for me.

If I say that my faith is a major part of who I am but hide it from the one I claim to want to spend forever with, then it never really held such a high place in my life. If I openly profess Christ to total strangers but fail to talk about him to my partner, then I am no better than Peter before the crucifixion. If I continue being with a man who denies the existence of a God I know to be real and true, then I am just like Judas and lead a double life.

“There is grace.”

There is grace, fellow navigator. God can change the heart of anyone at any point and time that He so chooses. I don’t doubt this. My apprehension comes when I knowingly enter into a relationship with a man who is at enmity with God or has his own views about faith that completely differ from mine.

There must be something in the water, fellow navigator, because I hear similar stories of women who’ve had to choose between a seemingly good man and God. Based on those I know, the ones who chose the former live good lives but have strayed from the faith. The ones who chose the latter continue to live on their own terms but have yet to say “I do.” It begs the question of why God would allow women who willingly choose Him to remain single…but that’s a post for another day.

Fellow navigator, have you ever found yourself in a position where you had to choose between God or a guy? What did you do? If you’ve tried having a mixed-faith relationship, how did it go? Tell me about it!