The Dating Dance

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth...”

Let’s be honest, my love life (if I’m allowed to have a “love life” as a Pastor’s Kid turned Pastor) has, for the most part, been like one of those junior dance recitals you had to go to for your friend’s little sister — children twirling in tutus over and over again, trying not to get too dizzy while wearing way too much hairspray and lipstick.

Sure, they’re doing the same steps as a ballerina, but possessing zero of her grace. There’s absolutely no flow to it, and, though it’s cute to watch, you find yourself stifling a giggle every now and then.

Dance Recital > My Love Life.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been some big swells in the music, moments of elation, just like in the movies, where, if you were watching from the outside, you would think everything was about to fall into place. But for the most part, my love stories have taken a turn for the worse. I’ve been left standing confused and alone (in the rain… with sad music playing softly in the background… or something like that).

The bible says in Proverbs 13 that “hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Or, in the Elyse Murphy translation (ahem, not an actual translation), when we have dreams that keep getting delayed, we have hearts that keep getting heavier. So what do we do when our hope has been overtaken by heartache? When this “opportune time” we hear about feels more like a train that forgot to stop at our station? Or when the dance choreography keeps changing and we can’t keep up with the steps?

My dance started slow, very slow, watching the other dancers leap freely. You see, until the age of eighteen, I wasn’t allowed to date. Pastors Kid, remember? Whether I thought that rule was fair or child abuse, it was the rule.

If I wanted to date, I had to do it secretly and within the confines of an eight-minute bus ride to and from school each day, which wasn’t too effective. Added to that, I didn’t know how to talk to any boy that didn’t share the same last name as me.

But soon after that blessed day of July 24th 2007, the dance changed. Once I left school and had my first kind-of-but-still-not-quite real relationship (turned heartbreak) with the boy I thought would be my leading man, it’s like the floodgates opened.

To be fair, the floodgates consisted less of actual boyfriends (and official changes in relationship status) and more of text messages and awkward encounters, unrequited flirting, skype “dates”, late night phone calls with declarations of my undying butterflies, awkward breakups that weren’t really breakups, and… Well, you get the idea.

Dancing was exhausting. Dancing is still exhausting. So many steps, so little movement.

I have so many stories of ‘oopsie’s’, ‘almosts’ and ‘never again’s’ that I could probably create a book of them. And actually? Maybe one day I will. As I was saying…

When I think about my journey so far, it can be a little depressing if I start to compare. After all, I’m not exactly “Mary Jane” who has always known how to do a pirouette, meeting her soul mate at four-years-old and getting married at eighteen, waiting until her wedding day to hold his hand, of course.

So often we keep trying to find some method to this whole thing, but what if that’s not the way our dance is supposed to go? What if figuring out your own routine is less about learning the choreography and more about trusting your instinct and going with the music?

After all, relationships might just be the messiest part of our existence.

There is no cookie-cutter way to find the one you want to spend ‘forever’ with, there’s no one size fits all. There’s no template, no manual or foolproof system, because, at some point, we’re all kind of foolish at it… in the nicest possible way. Yes, even if we’re in ministry.

And there’s a reason I have so many stories, which are increasingly entertaining for my friends during a girls Taco Tuesday night. It’s not because I keep getting it wrong (granted there are a moments of stupid I wouldn’t mind rewinding), but because I put so much pressure on myself to get it right.

And yet, when it comes to dating, we rush to choreograph the entire recital, instead of just focusing on the next step.

Maybe when it says in Psalm 119, “I am a lamp to your feet and a light to your path,” God wasn’t talking vaguely, but very specifically, to us. Because we do that, don’t we? We insist on lighting the entire pathway before we’ve ever taken a step, and freaking ourselves out in the process. Scripture reminds us that we were never meant to carry the weight of an entire journey, just the obedience of a single step.

We feel so much pressure to commit to ‘forever’ after just one cup of coffee, that we burn our tongue trying to drink it quickly. We forget to breathe, listen, or respond, then we run for the hills at the first opportunity, deciding the answer must be never!  Maybe we just need to remind ourselves that, for right now, the only promise we need to make is that we won’t make any promises, just yet.

Saying yes to a movie, a hike or a last-minute adventure to find the best pizza place in town, doesn’t mean saying yes “till death do us part.”

And I’m discovering that maybe; just maybe, the beauty isn’t in walking down the aisle, although that will be a perfectly beautiful day.

The beauty is in finally learning to dance.

Matthew 6:34 (The Message) “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Elyse Murphy

Elyse Murphy is a writer, pastor, and international speaker. Her experiences of life as a pastor’s kid have led Elyse to write her first book“Confessions of a Church Kid.” Elyse now resides in Los Angeles, working with young adults and ministering as one of the pastors at Oasis Church in Downtown Hollywood. Connect with Elyse on her blog.

Join the discussion

Tiyamike Sharon November 12, 2016 at 9:04pm

Can totally relate.

Anjelica Farino June 12, 2016 at 4:48am

Thank you for this, Elyse! I am in this season where I've gone on two dates so far with a gentleman who has been pursuing me. We don't know each other well, but instead of feeling tempted to run or dive in fully, I am reminded that I can take it one step at a time. Checking in with my heart and being honest throughout it all! We definitely were not created to carry an entire journey. Great reminder!

Teadra Zarate May 17, 2016 at 3:23am

I needed to read this today. Thank you so much for your post; it has given me hope and encouragement.

Nomps May 16, 2016 at 10:48pm

I need a follow-up to this article. Rather timely.

Nandipha May 16, 2016 at 6:17pm

Yesterday whilst driving around my area, watching the stillness of the ocean, I had an "aaa.haaa" moment. Thinking about the reasoning behind our parent's words about "waitng for the right moment, the right time" for that significant other. That time we thought they're depriving us of a greater life and greater feeling of being "inlove" whilst we didn't even understand the word "love" itself. I had a train of thought about how I moved from one boy to the next, carrying the heartache to the next relationship, falling inlove and out of love instanly. wrecking my brain trying to figure out why my "Mr" isn't responding to my calls or whatever the case maybe. Sleeping with a heavy heart and having a glass of wine to try a numb the heavy heart. This I have watched it going through from one relationship to the next. Thing is, many of us young women, are going around looking for validation, we don't even give ourselves time to know who we are. We've taken whatever society sells to us and chase those standards. This leaves us in a whirlmind of confusion leaving us more damaged. the day I stopped getting into a relationship for the sake of having butterflies and rosey cheeks whenever they call, Is when I got to understand God's love for me. When I understood that I am royal, My Father is the King of kings and therefore I need to preserve myself for the prince. I meditated on falling inlove with myself everyday more that falling inlove with a text " I love you" from someone who doesn't even understand what the word means. Now I dance freely to the music without worrying about the choreography.

LeAndra May 15, 2016 at 12:48am

Oh this is such a breath of fresh air! I'm glad this is normal! Thank you for sharing!

Vicki May 15, 2016 at 12:46am

I'm an older single in my 40s. When I hear my 20-something coworkers talk about marriage plans or how their boyfriends are talking marriage, it makes me examine my own feelings about marriage. To them, marriage is like a real thing that could actually happen. It's like they seriously believe it can happen to them. I don't know when, but I think at some point in the last 20 years I lost faith in marriage as a real "thing" and not just a Disney movie trope. I think God is showing me that this is an area of my life where I need to have more faith - where I need to restore and shore up my faith.

Chloe Somerfield May 12, 2016 at 9:21am

Oh Elyse, this is such a good article. Thank you for sharing! We really do put so much pressure on ourselves to get it 'right' hey? But I love what you say about learning to dance and finding your own rhythm. As someone who didn't grow up in the church, my experience was very different... until church legalism and religion set in and the fear of missing 'the one' creeped into my heart. Thankfully I was able to let go of that... but this very topic is something that needs to be addressed and shared with many young adults around the world. I believe we've put way too much hype and pressure on this subject which has prevented many people from just trying to 'bust a move'. I even wrote a blog post about this myself which I'm publishing soon - so I think you're definitely onto something. :) Thanks again! x

Chloe -

Sarah Heath May 11, 2016 at 11:39pm

This is my story almost exactly :) Especially having attended a Bible College, there was soo much pressure to find the right one and get engaged right away. I lost so many good friends that way. I wish someone had told me to just take it easy and enjoy the pizza and conversation without trying to push the other person into a commitment.

Great post! Thank you for the reminder! Even now that I'm happily married I still need to take the pressure off myself and my husband to be a certain way or do certain things, especially in the name of ministry.


considering May 11, 2016 at 3:31pm

Thanks for writing. I enjoyed reading it and found it interesting. I specifically found this line intriguing. "Saying yes to a movie, a hike or a last-minute adventure to find the best pizza place in town, doesn’t mean saying yes “till death do us part.” I should say I am 26 years old and have not dated. I feel unsure about whether I want to be married, though I long for that companionship as many do. I am told by my friends to go on dates, there's nor harm or commitment, but I often fear that I a cup of coffee would mean "till death do us part" given my age and the fact that so many of my friends are married and already having kids. I feel like dating is a fast track to marriage or heartache, neither which I'm sure I'm ready for. I had it ingrained in me that the only reason you date is because you think it will lead to marriage, and you are to stop and ask yourself "Can I see myself marrying this person?" every step of the way. I still think this is true, but terrifying! What do you think? Do you think this is true? If so how do you deal with fear or pressure. I would appreciate your opinion as someone who has had more experience dating than I.

Meridith May 11, 2016 at 11:58am

I loved every moment of this post and nodded my head all the way until "Jesus said in psalm 119"... The psalms weren't written by Jesus. David penned these words of Yahweh, our Heavenly Father. Please check your bible and theology when quoting scripture.

With love and support,
A female who survived seminary who lives and breathes women serving with excellence in ministry.

JJC May 11, 2016 at 10:36am

Oh boy. this is me.