God answered my mother's prayers. I met my husband at church. Not that skeezy bar with the sticky floors she didn't like me going to on the weekends. When he and I met, at age 25, scores of our friends were already married. We were Christians in the south. I was going to wedding showers before I graduated from college. In the marriage and children race, we were already behind.
Two and a half years after we met, we got married. It was around this time that those annoyingly upbeat Christian dating site commercials started blaring from the TV. The fact we were off the market didn't make both of us any less furious at one website's tagline.
"Find God's match for you."
What a load of crap.
I love my husband, but he's not God's match for me. Such a thing doesn't exist. God is not an omnipotent Yenta, spending His days deciding which coupling would lead to the easiest, happiest, most attractive (white, based on the ads) twosome. He certainly isn't sending down Christian biased algorithms to profit driven websites, so they can do the work for Him.
Because soul mates is something we made up. Not God. Nowhere in the Bible does God, Jesus or the apostles give any hint that there is one perfect mate out there that we should be searching for. Quite the opposite. In 1 Corinthians 7, verses 27-28, Paul famously said,
"...I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this."
That's hardly a glowing recommendation for soul mates.
But marriage is significant in the Bible. The metaphor for Christ's relationship to the church itself is symbolized by a wedding. We, the church, are Christ's bride. There's even a book of salacious love poetry written about a couple on their wedding night (Song of Solomon) that some theologians believe is meant to describe God's love for us. Most humans are born with the desire for relationship, companionship and sex. So what's so wrong with wanting to find a mate that shares the same beliefs as you?
But that's not what these websites are advertising. They're not saying, "here's a site where you can try to find another Christian who may or may not be compatible with you." The lie that they're propagating, is that if you do the "right" things, go to the "right" websites, and believe the "right" verses, God will bring you your match. The verse displayed at the top of one site's homepage, from Psalms, says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." That message essentially says two things; 1) If you're still single, and don't wish to be, you must not be delighting yourself in the Lord enough, and 2) This website can grant you those desires.
That is a lie.
Not just because a Christian dating website, by design, sets you up to select a mate based on things that are less than spiritual. Let's be real, just as much time is spent lusting over profile pictures on a Christian site, as a secular one.
Those desires of your heart are not going to be fulfilled by a website, because it's likely your desires are flawed. To quote the wise and wonderful Tim Keller,
"They [some singles] do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation ... Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires ... A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put -- today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner."
Keller is right. There is no perfect mate for you. Because no one is perfect -- we're all flawed. Whomever you marry will not be your match. "Match" implies two puzzle pieces interlocking perfectly and resting for eternity. That is not marriage. No two people will ever "fit" perfectly. Marriage isn't about finding this mythical relationship. It's about finding someone you're willing to commit to for a lifetime of work, sacrifice and the active (not feeling) love that marriage requires.
That's what makes me so angry about these websites ads. They set people up for an expectation of finding and marrying a perfect soul mate. One who, once they prove themselves imperfect, might make their spouse feel they made a mistake. A mistake that could easily lead to divorce, and the beginning of another search for the "right" one.
It makes sense why Paul would want to spare us from this heartache.
If you're single, and you haven't found a husband or wife yet, it could be because you're not delighting yourself in the Lord. Or it could be that God knows you're not ready yet. Or, it could be that you don't need someone else, and the best way for you to serve God is by yourself. As scary as that sounds, if that's what's best for you, forcing yourself into a marriage would not make you happy.
There's nothing wrong with actively trying to find a mate, online or not. Just know that once you do, there's just as many troubles as joys ahead. My advice? Skip the websites trying to manipulate your emotions. Spend your time finding ways to fulfill the person that God already fully loves and desires, just as they are. You.