By Jorge Castorena, Managing Editor

If there is something that I’ve noticed about college students, it is that we rush into everything.

Don’t worry. This isn’t another article about all the things wrong with our generation and how awful we are. I hate those, too.

I am merely making an observation, and mostly because I see it in myself. I tend to rush into things. I sometimes do without thinking first. And perhaps that is something that comes with growing up; in our eagerness to become and have all that adulthood has to offer, we mess up, and sometimes, we fall on our faces.

Especially in the realm of dating. I think that our single greatest problem is that we try to be in relationships without yet having developed self-awareness, and who we are in God.

You might find it random that I chose to write an article about dating in November, as opposed to Valentine’s Day, or summer. In 2012, Facebook Data Science released a study of the seasonal relationship patterns of Facebook users.  During the fall months, more singles change their relationship statuses to “In A Relationship” and “Engaged” than in any other season. It seems that autumn is the perfect time for love. (Perhaps they surveyed Asbury Facebook users, specifically. Have you seen your news feed?).

Think about it. Summer fizzles out, we slow down and settle into our lives and routines, the leaves are changing, it gets cold and we look for warmth. So, apparently – and according to Facebook patterns – the change in seasons leaves us desiring that special someone, especially because the holidays are coming up, and who wants to spend the holidays “alone,” right?

That’s all very nice and hopelessly romantic (and believe me, I take the crown of hopeless romanticism), but if I don’t have an inkling of truth about who I am, what I want, where I am going and above all, what God’s will is, how can I intimately share of my life with anyone?

So, here is where I place my disclaimer: I’ve been in a relationship since January. Relationships are wonderful things.

And here is where I place my confession: I was not yet seeking wholeness – or fully seeking God, for that matter – when I started my relationship. But God has mercy on His children, and after a lot of hard conversations, some deep healing, discipline and lots of prayer, I find myself a much more whole person than I was 10 months ago. For some reason, God decided to use my dating situation for His glory and to take the both of us through healing and teaching, yet I have to say that it would have been a lot easier and a lot less painful had we sought wholeness and asked some big questions about identity first.

The problem is this: before developing ourselves as individuals and letting the Father show us wholeness, we date people who also haven’t done any of that. What do you get? In most cases, a mess. There is unhealthy codependence, whereby one or both parties find identity in the other person and in the relationship. We cause confusion in the other person, and in turn become confused. We force love to happen, driven to feel satisfied and whole, and in some cases, we fall to temptation.  

In our search for stability, for assurance, closeness, for truth about ourselves and, ultimately, about God, we end up making destructive mistakes. We jump from person to person, and still find very little (usually, zero) satisfaction. We end up more confused about dating and about ourselves. We date out of our brokenness and desire to fill gaps in identity, not out of love. I have been there, I have done that.

I had to learn that we love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19); I had to receive His love first, which brings wholeness, truth and identity, before I could receive anyone else’s or love anybody, and that goes for romantic contexts and otherwise.

Knowing that we are all in different places in our mental and spiritual formations, I realize that dating looks different for everyone. I also realize that this journey for wholeness and fullness of identity doesn’t just happen in a week or a month, or even a year; this walk lasts a lifetime.

We don’t have to rush into it. We have the freedom to defy culture. We can take our time, because we have a lot of it to ask questions about God and ourselves, about who were are and about our brokenness. We need to muster up the courage to look inwardly and begin that journey. Eventually, God willing, we end up finding someone who understands where we are, because that someone is on a similar journey, and we push each other on, until death do us part.

And if that isn’t hopelessly romantic, I don’t know what is.