Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Have I Got the Girl For You!" - Handling Setups

Sometimes I get e-mail because of something I wrote. One e-mail came because of an article I posted online titled, “Are We Obligated to Marry?” The article was in reaction to another writer saying that the churches’ responsibility to singles is to get them married. The person who e-mailed me found my article helpful because she was in a situation in which people were trying to set her up but she didn’t feel that she was ready to be in a relationship. She asked me some direct questions that I won’t repeat, but in answering her questions I began to think about how we handle these well-meaning people who try to set singles up.

I’ve had so many people try to set me up with someone that I can’t remember how many times it has happened, but it always goes in pretty much the same way. Someone walks up to you and says, “Hey, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.” At this point, you don’t know that they are trying to set you up. Many times, it is someone we know, but we don’t really know them that well, so we assume that they want our opinion on something or they need our help with something. Then they drop the bomb. “I know this young lady. She’s a really nice person…” It’s an immediate letdown. We thought they were coming to us because they respected us for our ability to do something or because they wanted to take the time to get to know us better. Instead, they just want to fix us.

After the initial disappointment subsides, you can sort of nod your head and assure the person that it’s okay for them to suggest you get to know this nice person. And if you aren’t like the person who e-mailed me, you might even feel a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe there is someone out there for you after all. But then they drop the second bomb. “She’s a Christian, but she doesn’t go to church.” Or “she’s divorced, but it was all his fault.” Or my personal favorite, “she has low self-esteem.”

There’s almost no way you can get out of these conversations without feeling worse than you did before. The worst thing about it is what it reveals about what the people trying to set you up think they know about you. The statement, “She’s a Christian, but she doesn’t go to church,” for example. Just what do you think someone like that has in common with me? I attend church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday nights. I sing in the choir. I work in Awana. I teach Sunday school. I maintain the church website. I attend church associational meetings. I think there just might be a problem.

Or take the “she has low self-esteem,” statement. If you know anything about me, you should know that isn’t going to work. What do you expect me to do about it? Fix her? If she can’t figure out how to fix herself, she’ll be worse off after spending time with me.

Of course, we can’t tell the people that. We can’t tell them that if they had spent more time getting to know us (and probably the other person as well) they wouldn’t see it as such a good idea. Then there’s the fact that some of these setup situations have worked for some people. It’s that fact that keeps us from dismissing them outright. Commonsense tells us that the friend of a friend is more likely to be our type than a stranger and it seems like our friends ought to have some idea of what kind of person we would like.

The thing is, there’s never any harm in making a new friend, no matter how unlikely it is that that person is our future spouse. But at the same time, we should not allow ourselves to be sidetracked by these setups. Some people have this idea that all singles are capable of doing is looking for a spouse. There is a big difference between desiring a spouse and being consumed with the search. God has called us all to his service. Whether we are married or single, the most important thing is for us to be doing those things that he has called us to do. If he sees fit to put a suitable person in our life, whether through the recommendation of a friend or some other means, that is great, but let’s not lose sight of the service he has called us to.

What bad setups have you experienced?