YOUR TURN—By Antonius Hallmark
I have experienced some of the frustrations associated with dating in God’s Church. Meeting new people, finding topics of discussion, keeping relationships alive with interest and excitement is hard work—particularly given the fact that we in God’s Church are so scattered. Online dating can present many challenges.
Those challenges, however, do not outweigh the benefits reaped by serving one another in God’s Church. I’m here to tell you, if you put forth the effort, you will get so much out of it and find that you are the happier for it. As God says, “[H]e that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto eternal life: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (John 4:36).
Let me explain.
At the end of last year, I began to get to know someone I have known for many years more personally through e-mail. It was a joy to come home and see that I had mail each evening. As a result, I began feverishly putting my every thought down on “paper” in this virtual world, expressing everything—from my interests in the type of books I like to read, to places I’ve visited, to my favorite food. These e-mails started as one- and two-liners that morphed into essays within the space of a few weeks.
The e-mails were starting to take a considerable amount of time to type, so my friend and I agreed we should try conversing on the phone. As nerve-wracking as the thought initially was, we bit the bullet and our first call was made with trepidation. It lasted 16 long minutes! Now I had the challenge of expressing my thoughts verbally. WOW! I had to learn to think on my feet, to formulate my thoughts and responses to her more quickly. There were times it felt really uncomfortable: Periods of silence would engulf the call for a loss of things to say or the fear of saying something the other might perceive to mean something it wasn’t. In time, with a constant prod on myself, I was forced to think outside the box and come up with new and exciting things to talk about.
I wanted us to partake in other activities, so I began to look into the unknown sphere of video dating. This tool allowed me to present new opportunities, not only to voice what was in my head, but also to show it. With more knowledge about my friend and the ability to see her, the door was wide open for us to communicate on a new level. The first time I was able to share my deep love for my violin with my friend was extra special, a real joy. This is where online dating became more interesting and fun.
In my case, this relationship led to the point where, under the direction of our respective local ministers, we began dating each other exclusively. Two months ago we began marriage counseling. Our relationship to this point has been built almost entirely online, across an ocean!
We felt we wanted to share our experiences, as this is a new thing for many of you to undertake. Online dating truly does open up possibilities—including brothers getting to know brothers and sisters getting to know sisters. Following are a few points to help you develop wonderful and long-lasting friendships using this wonderful tool.
Preparation and Equipment
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Just as in our spiritual lives, we must prepare ourselves, armed with God’s Word. Preparing to successfully date online begins with acquiring the right software and basic equipment.
- Download Skype. It’s a powerful online social media tool that allows its users to speak via audio or video conferencing.
- Establish an Internet connection through your service provider—wi-fi preferably.
- Find a Mobile Hotspot to keep the conversation on the go. This can provide a much-needed back-up plan, but is optional.
- Get a USB HD camera (fairly cheap at most stores) or a laptop with built-in camera
- A great pair of headphones with microphone to be able to hear your friend loud and clear goes a long way!
Armed with this basic equipment, you are ready to embrace the power of online dating without too many headaches.
From my experience, successful online dating is like learning to play an instrument: It takes practice. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
You can expect success only with a great deal of effort through sacrifice, planning and being creative.
Online dating requires time out of our busy schedules. But it’s not as much time as in-person dating may take! One benefit of online dating is that it allows you to come home from work, log onto your computer and dial up the individual you want to speak with. This definitely beats having to undertake a potentially hours-long drive to someone’s home—or, in my case, a flight across the Atlantic!
The Bible contains plenty of examples that demonstrate the need to sacrifice: Abraham sacrificed Isaac; Ruth gave up her entire way of life to follow God through Naomi; Hannah gave her firstborn son to a life that would not be his own; and many more.
With online dating, the sacrifice is relatively small. It comes from two individuals who want to take time out of their busy schedules and make the effort to converse. They should both realize that although they may prefer to speak in person, it may not be feasible; so they accept that using the online tools is the next best thing. They should make the best of the technology the Most High has blessed us with! That is easier said than done at times. But as the Nikeslogan says, just do it.
Sacrificing a small portion of my time each day to serve my friend has helped me to be less selfish. It has been an incredible training ground to appreciate her needs, wants and desires, and to help out in any way I can—even if it’s just lending an ear. It gives my friend the chance to share exciting news, explain how hard her day was, or express something new she discovered and to show it so I can appreciate it.
This type of sacrificing allows you to enter into amuch more personal part of others’ lives that you don’t necessarily see on the Sabbath or at social events.
Secondly, online dating takes planning. Most of us have busy schedules. The person you want to converse with may live in a different time zone. You have to plan the proper time to date,as well as the type of date you will go on. Online dating should be more than staring someone in the face and trying to come up with something to say. It’s should be about planning ways to bring joy to the person’s life. Generally, once you have laid some basic ideas about what the two of you like and dislike, you can begin to incorporate those interests into your dating by actually performing the activity of choice.
I am dating someone who lives 3,500 miles away, with a 5-hour time difference between us. This presents huge obstacles. We have to plan beforehand to know when we have more time to spare to participate in a more strenuous activity and when time is short and we must keep it brief. We have to plan to sacrifice! We must plan to rise early in the morning or to speak later in the evening. Whatever the case may be, we are always mindful of giving God the most quality time, the best part of our day.
Mine is an extreme case, but I make it work, and you can too with effort and planning. This leads me to my third point.
Once you’ve established the likes and dislikes of an individual through conversation, act on them. For instance, if you are both interested in going out on a dinner date, then go to dinner online. If you were doing it in person, you would drive up, get out of the car, knock on the door and say, “Let’s go get something to eat!” This is no different. You call up, they answer, you ask, “Are you hungry?” and you both get something to eat and come back and share with each other.
My point is, bring the things you would normally do in person that you most enjoy or just have to do, to a virtual world that you both can see and share and have a good laugh over.
Make these experiences work for you. Have a breakfast, lunch or dinner date. Whatever time zone you and your friend live in, make the most of it.
I have found that instead of going out and bringing back food to eat in front of my companion, it’s more fun to prepare it in front of her. I set my laptop up in a nice position in the kitchen and start from scratch, and she will do the same. As we bring out the ingredients, we talk about them. We share the next step in our cooking process. If I’m preparing curry, I show her all the spices and the amounts I use. She shows me how she cleans her meat, and gives tips on how to tenderize it before cooking. We clean up, then bring out more food for the next stage in the preparation of the dish. We help each other figure out what’s missing and how it could taste better. The process can be very extensive—we could be in the kitchen for two hours. And sometimes we laugh until the cows come home.
Often we realize how ridiculous we are being,but that creates even more fun. We aren’t afraid of sharing in one another’s mistakes, because that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you shared something in your life with the other person and gave them the opportunity to do the same.
Another example is dancing. Believe it or not, dancing is not just about two coming together and spinning each other round and round. There are many types of dancing, just as there are many types of music, with individual preferences. One may like dancing more than the other. But if one of you likes it a lot, make it a part of your life—step out and give that individual time to show you what they can do. Personally I am not a dancer, but my friend is an excellent one. It was very uncomfortable for me to stand in front of a camera and show her that I dance like I have two left feet and am as stiff as a tree. But after two sessions, and much needed encouragement from my experienced partner, I move like the wind now! We pump up some good music and dance in front of each other until we are exhausted and our breath is heavy with silly laughter.
Sports is another thing you can share. I love tennis, and my friend is also a tennis freak. So what did I do? I put my camera on the tv, focused it and made sure everything was in view—all she sees is the action. I increase the volume so she can hear the commentary and the sound of the ball smashing against the rackets—and viola! a day out at Wimbledon! Just recently she and I watched Andy Murray beat the pants off Djokovic. We cheered on both players. We commentated on the match. We spat out and threw down when Andy let himself go on occasion, and we appreciated the efforts of Djokovic’s game in what turned out to be a thrilling match. We watched the entire game together on Skype, and we had the best time developing our friendship further.
Another big one on my list is to share our musical talents with one another. I can play my violin or she her guitar, and we will critique one another on how we did, what we heard, what could be different, how the expression of the music felt like to the another, what the music said to us. Sometimes it’s just to soothe the mind. Overall, it helps us both build confidence in our technique and fine-tuning of our ability to play in front of an audience.
A plethora of enjoyable online dating options exist. Here are just a few to consider:
- Wine and cheese tasting
- Online shopping (link sharing)
- Have a fashion show with the items you purchase from online shopping!
- Share in exercise routines and goals
- Share in dietary preferences, nutritional information
- Have a movie night
- Go to the park (virtual)
- Go on a walk through your town (also virtual)
- Share articles from the pcg and Trumpet websites
- Have Bible studies based on these articles
- Show one another how you garden
- Perform such tasks as showing each other how to do plumbing, electrics, painting, etc. (I did this recently when my friend was decorating her living room)
- You might be able to even show your date what you do for a living, bring them to work, or show them what you do through video conferencing!
The list goes on and on.
Online dating can be a fascinating experience. It provides the opportunity to eliminate many distractions associated with regular dating because you are focused on what you see and hear on the screen only.
Don’t let the obvious hurdles distract you from giving up your time to someone who needs it. Use online dating as a tool to get to know someone in a unique way, and you will overcome many social barriers in your life. You will also establish and develop long-lasting friendships.
Many of you may think that these experiences are silly, but much joy and happiness has entered into our lives as a result of persistent sacrifice, proper planning and abundant creativity. It is now time for you to share in that joy. Take action and jump on the online dating bandwagon. Time is short; your life is a fading flower. Why not use it to date frequently online, and get to know those just a click away!