Interesting Scribbles

Dating, Waiting, and God

November 16, 2019

Notes from a talk by Brian Butler on November 9, 2019 at Theology on Tap (part of the RISE conference).

I’m not going to tell you how to date tonight. We have a lot of desires for paradigms and principles, but God doesn’t call principles to marriage, He calls people.

“Make the Lord your only desire, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This psalm isn’t about making a deal with God — it’s about God giving you Himself.

“Man and women who created them” is a title; “Theology of the Body” is a subtitle. A man reflects and refracts God’s light in a different way from how a woman does. Chasity blossoms in friendship. Yes there are moments where we have to white-knuckle it and say no to the immediate thing we want – and I say white knuckle the Cross.

Reverence never rushes the gift. Imagine how horrifying it would be to see a priest run down the aisle and say the Mass as fast as possible — the same principle holds in relationships.

“You have heard it said you shall not commit adultery, but I say if you look at a woman in lust, you have committed adultery with her.” The place of conversion is internal. Sex isn’t just an act reserved for marriage, it is itself a marital act.

Reverence doesn’t rush, but it does move forward when called to. Beauty is revealed slowly: we don’t just glance at a sunset, we gaze at it and take it in. You deserve the same opportunity to be seen for who you are, not just as a potential partner. In modern secular culture, men have been taught to give what looks like love to get sex, and women have been taught to give sex to get what feels like love.

We want to reach out and control things, but God invites us to trust. A reporter once asked Mother Theresa “What place does Jesus have in your life?“ She replied, “He has all the places in my life.” Because of pain or attachment, there are places in our heart we want to hold on to and not give God, or that we want to tell God how to handle.

At the wedding at Cana, Mary got stuff done. She expected a level of obedience when she told the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you”. Not just “listen to him and think about what he says”. Do it. The greatest miracles are internal, they’re about conversion of heart.

Lust is the desire of another person just for their value as a sexual object, instead of their value as a person. In our journey, we come to terms with our weaknesses and with the times and ways we’ve hurt or used one another.

Arguing with God is still prayer — sassy prayer is good prayer. Why? Because it’s honest. Being frustrated because we feel pent up — that we’ve been living right but not getting where or what we long for — and sharing that in prayer is a good thing. Tell Him those frustrations, but then give Him permission to turn our water into wine.

Sometimes God delays giving us things, to stretch our desires for them, so that our capacity to receive that gift grows.

In Genesis, God created Adam before Eve; it doesn’t tell us how long. Personally, I believe it was a few years. During that original solitude, Adam was alone with God and the animals, learning that he was unlike them. He enjoyed being with the animals, but they could never fill the ache for a partner, an equal. The ache during the waiting orients us towards heaven. We are not just made for earth, but for heaven.

“The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes.” — CCC 1733

Attraction isn’t love, but it gives us the raw materials for love. Most of us, given the raw materials to build a house, couldn’t actually assemble it without help from a mentor. Likewise, we need mentorship in other things. Sometimes we have a lot of “stuff” inside us and, lacking a way to talk about it or permission to process it with people who care about us, we can turn to grasping at what was meant to be a gift. In that grasping, the gift is damaged — it becomes stolen goods.

If we are hurt in and through the body, we are also healed in and through the body. The spiritual scars from things like abuse and pornography can be healed in the Catholic ER — eucharist and reconciliation. Lord, I want to be so sensitive towards the human person that I’m broken hearted over those things I used to do.

Reverence to the people around us means all of the people, not just those we’re attracted to. Ignoring people we aren’t attracted to is the shadow side of lust. Because they don’t “do anything for us”, we pass them by instead of giving them a chance to be known.

God didn’t rest on the seventh day because he was tired. He was lingering with creation. He was looking to what was already created without an eye towards new creation.

Virtuous friendship — I want what is good for you, even if it doesn’t feel good to me.


How de we reverence the person before us? The more we look at screens, the less good we become at looking at each other in the eye. Love pushes through the awkward moments. It truly, actively listens to the person speaking.

Pay attention to how a person treats the others around them — there will come a time when they aren’t as attracted to or excited about you. The way they treat others that they’re not as excited about today gives you a barometer for what they might be like in the future.

Love is to will the good of the other. I have to know what is good — I have to pay attention. And I have to make the action of willing it for you. If I’m in a dating relationship, that relationship should make other love and relationships also flourish. You are a better person because of it. In contrast, an unhealthy relationship smothers and damages your other relationships.

The Holy Spirit and the enemy act in opposite ways on people moving towards God. If you feel discouraged in that movement, it comes from the enemy trying to bite you.