In an explosive article on the Washington Post, writer Janelle Harris brought up a topic that many single Christian sisters have only dared whisper in their prayer closets. In the piece entitled “Pastors tell black women to be passive and wait for love. I don’t believe in that,” Harris tackled head-on the message preached to women in many churches around the world that women should passively wait for a man to find them instead of actively dating with the intention of marriage.
In the meantime, she explained, they are told they should focus on “preparing” themselves by praying, going to church, learning how to cook and clean, get out of debt, volunteer their time to ministry-related events and anything else that does not include actually going on a date.
My single clients and friends tagged me in the article, blew up my DM and begged me for my thoughts on the piece because they know that not only am I a matchmaker and dating coach who works with black Christian women but also a preacher who has been preaching since I was 17 years old.
I discovered that much of what we learned in church about dating, men and marriage wasn’t really helpful.
I decided to share how I help my clients, who have been waiting well into their 30s, 40s and 50s, finally come to understand the truth about what it takes to meet their mate.
What I’m about to share really deserves an entire book to unpack, but it’s my hope that it will help answer some of those questions that have kept you awake at night and let you see that you have much more control over your destiny than you were taught to believe.
Here are their stories.
Meet Imani, a Baby Boomer in her 50s, who was recently getting back on the dating scene after a long marriage and horrible divorce. She was conflicted about online dating. She was a life-long member of a church that preached God did not want them dating outside of their denomination.
The church organization created an online dating site, but for someone like Imani, who was almost 60 years old and looking to re-marry, the pickings were slim.
“I saw the same three people on the site, and none of them were people I wanted.”
She asked around at her church if anyone knew of eligible singles they could introduce her to, but people acted surprised that she even wanted companionship. She was told that since there wasn’t anyone on the dating site or within the church, God must want her to remain single. Let that marinate.
Although only in her 30s, Akilah told a similar story of being told to accept her singleness as God’s will for her life. This was meant to comfort her, but it only confused her because the same people prophesied that her ex-boyfriend was “The One.” They even continued the claim after they’d broken up. Seven years later and still holding on to that belief in the back of her mind, she learned her ex-boyfriend had moved on—all while she was still praying and waiting.
“I was devastated,” she told me. She began to feel like her dreams of marriage and family were quickly slipping through her grasp.
Andrea was a powerful speaker, who had herself preached the “wait on the Lord” message to women at conferences. She’d also prophesied to other women about God sending them a husband and watched them happily become brides while she remained a bridesmaid. After a broken engagement to someone who walked into her life, claiming he’d found his good thing, she began to feel disillusioned.
“I’m starting to feel like we’re being brainwashed,” she confessed to me.
To help these sisters, I had to teach them what I myself had discovered when I was single. After the disappointment of a broken engagement, a relationship with a cheater and years of no prospects at all, I discovered that much of what we learned in church about dating, men and marriage wasn’t really helpful.
And though there were scriptures used to enforce these teachings, most of it was simply opinions. They were opinions that were delivered with authority in a space where we were taught that people who are leadership should be obeyed—even if we disagree with them.
Here are the three common dating fallacies preachers often teach, and here’s why they’re keeping you single.
1. “He That Findeth”
When I ask many sisters why they’re not dating when they really want a husband, they tell me, “but the Bible says, “He that finds a wife finds a good thing. Men are supposed to look!” These women are referring to Proverbs chapter 18, verse 3, which has been used in many singles conferences to admonish women into thinking that:
- they shouldn’t look for a husband
- they should already be a wife when he finds them, which basically means they should know how to cook, clean, submit and be a man’s helpmate
The reality is, the “he that findeth” dating advice is based on improper exegesis. Preachers use it as though it was a prescription for how one should get married; instead, it’s a description of how God wanted men to treat their wives. They were to value them and see them as a sign of God’s favor instead of property (the way many women were treated in Biblical times). There’s nothing in this scripture prohibiting women from actively dating for the purpose of finding a husband.
Furthermore, the original audience for the Proverbs was men. Somehow, someone turned them around and used them to instruct women on how to behave. My point is, we’ve projected our own cultural and gender norms on this scripture to provide an impossible standard for women to live up to, and it was originally intended to be a celebration of how amazing women already are.