Listen To Article

I was talking to some of my congregants last week about what I would say in my quippy little blog biography. One of them suggested, “You should mention that you’re single. Who knows who might be reading.”

So. I guess this is the sad state of my dating life now. Who needs Match.com when you’ve got “Reformed Done Daily?”

Not that I’d be too upset about giving up my Match account. For those of you who grew up in happier, simpler times, putting together an online dating profile is “literally the worst.” In this world of a million choices, you can now determine if someone is your soulmate before you go on a single date. So there’s a lot at stake here. And honesty in how you describe yourself…is probably not going to be your best friend.

For example, under “favorite books” do I tell someone I listen to Harry Potter on repeat while I play games on my phone, or do I list a Tolstoy novel?

Under “favorite TV shows” do I write, “I’m far too busy reading Tolstoy to watch TV” or do I admit to having watched an entire season of NCIS last weekend?

Under “hobbies” do I say “see TV shows” or can I turn that one weed I pulled three days ago into a green thumb?

But what I really lose sleep over are those questions with a drop-down menu allowing for just one single-word answer, as if that one word is supposed to explain all the nuance behind who you are.

“Home country:” Single-word answer? Canada. But I’ve lived in Michigan for almost 10 years. So yes, I believe in gun-control laws and universal health care and bagged milk. And I’ll joke about how Canada’s the perfect place. But I’m also not naïve enough to believe that’s true. And while Canada is still very much home, it also feels a little more foreign each time I visit, and I’m not quite sure what to do with that.

“Political beliefs:” Egads. Um. Centrist? I guess? Does anyone actually know what they are these days? Sure, I’m Canadian and a female pastor, so I guess I’m more liberal than some…but also I really admire Jordan Peterson. And I worry about identity politics…and that #MeToo stands in some danger of swinging the pendulum too far. So not quite sure which box I check here.

“What do you look for in a man?” Oof. This is where I feel like I’m letting down the entire female species. I’m certainly not about to give up my career for a bloke, but I have no problem stepping away for a while to have kids. I don’t need to “do it all” – but I’d like to do some of it. And yes, I’m independent and strong-willed and doing decently okay at life on my own, but gosh, I’d love to have a man who’ll protect me and hold doors for me, and, *swoons*, take care of the finances.

Even putting together a dating profile forces me into an identity crisis. If I’m a good Christian, shouldn’t I just trust that God will bring someone into my life when the time’s right? If I’m a strong and happy woman, shouldn’t I be content without a man in my life? If I’m a pastor, shouldn’t I celebrate my singleness as an advantage to doing ministry?

And if all of that is true – if I do trust God, and I am content, and I do have more time to invest in my congregation – is there room enough for me to want a relationship?

I guess that’s the real question. Do we give people enough room in their lives to be complicated? To hold things in tension? Can you want a career and want to be a stay-at-home mom? Can you love two countries at once? Can you value independence and admit it would be nice to have someone cook for you occasionally?

Can you dislike a politician while still supporting some of their policies? Can you be patriotic and admit to national flaws? Can you aim to live a deep, meaningful life, and give yourself grace when you end up on the couch all day? Can you love someone and not agree with all the choices they make?

Too much of our lives today are spent looking at people’s profiles. And not just Facebook or online dating profiles. But the profiles we script onto people. The little dropdown menus of people’s lives from which we select our own words to describe each other: conservative, liberal, affirming, patriarchal, feminist, nationalist, lazy, incompetent, naïve.

And we spend too much of our time trying to write these profiles for ourselves. We want to belong to something, to be part of something, to know who our people are. So we try to squish ourselves into the boxes prescribed for us, even if that means shoving into a corner those parts of us that don’t quite fit. Those parts that make us complicated and messy and force us into having real, actual conversations with each other instead of interacting with a scripted interface.

But real people, with all their paradoxes and peculiarities, are so much more interesting than a profile. Sure, they make life more complicated, but they also fill life with wonder and wit and humor and eye-rolls and aggravation and delight and mystery and joy. Real people fill the world with a bit more of the image of God. Because, after all, isn’t God the most complicated, mysterious, and wondrous being of all?

Laura de Jong

Laura de Jong serves as pastor of Second Christian Reformed Church in Grand Haven, Michigan.

4 Comments

  • Sarina Gruver says:

    This is really good. And fwiw, I think you should be completely honest–the “pulling one weed” bit is funny and quirky. And give a link to this post!

  • JAN VAN KOOTEN says:

    This is a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Laura — thx for putting your words and yourself out there, in more ways than one. And … I’m right there with you watching an entire season of NCIS at a crack; it’s been favorite TV for years. No explanation necessary : ) .

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Well done! “Do we give people enough room in their lives to be complicated? To hold things in tension?” You have captured the essence of what we all struggle with – fitting in, being out, wanting it all, wanting nothing. You continue to astound and I thank God for you daily! And ‘hello’ from Prague!

  • […] to Laura de Jong for filling in for me last time. I was on a tour of Greece with some long-time friends, and with […]

Leave a Reply