I am always somewhat bemused when folks ask me for dating advice. Is it that they see in me a font of wisdom, experience, and a treasure chest of great advice? …yeah…OK…that passes pretty quickly. More apropos is the naval expression: “any port in a storm.” The storm of dating confusion is upon them, and I happen to be the nearest port; and that’s ok. If you are a parish priest long enough, you have had this conversation hundreds of times and often you know how the different stories turns out. So, perhaps there is a wealth of advice in the stories.
Not that long ago, during such a conversation, the person told me that they had been “ghosted.” Ghosted? And now the person had “submarined” them. It was confusing to them, and they wanted to gain some insight about how they should respond. Should they “bench” them, ignore them, or cautiously engage with them? Meanwhile, I am still pondering the term “submarined.” Our conversation needed a sidebar while these terms were explained to me. In case you are unfamiliar with these terms, here are the current definitions.
- Ghosting – The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone you are dating, but no longer wish to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave you alone, as opposed to simply telling them you are no longer interested.
- Submarining – After ghosting someone, to suddenly “come to the surface” and re-contact the person
- Benching – Benching is when you start dating someone you think is nice and who has potential, but you’re not crazy about them. You don’t know whether to keep dating them or dump them and move on to the next one. This is where benching happens; instead of going for either of the above polarized options, you put your date in your mental “maybe” folder and “bench them” so you date around to see what else is out there.
Love, dating, relationships – it is all very complicated. True – but what does all this have to do with ghosting God? “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” I wonder if these trending terms of modern relationships might describe our pattern of “dating God?”
You’re in a high school youth group at church or at your local Catholic high school. Then comes college and new alternatives. Maybe at first you “bench” God. Sunday mornings are for post-Saturday night sleeping. No problem. There is a Sunday evening Mass at the college chapel… unless some other invitation arises, or one realizes the pressing need for academic attention.
After a few weeks of benching, during a conversation with your parents, they ask, “Are you going to church?” You think to yourself, “really???” You wish they get the hint and leave it alone. You take care of your own life, thank you. Did God just get ghosted in a roundabout way? Next semester when things were a bit off the rails, did you find yourself in prayer? Did you just submarine God?
But then, this is all just my speculation…right? I used college as the backdrop, but I could have used business, life at home shuffling kids around to activities, and any manner of other settings to raise the same points. We are a people called to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” But are we people who ghost, bench, and submarine God in whole or in part?
If we were on the receiving end of the ghosting, benching, or submarining – what would we think of the quality and honesty of the relationship? I suspect none of us would be thrilled about it. Likely we would be suspicious about motives, intentions, or sincerity. But the good news – or better put, the “Good News” is that God is on the other side of the relationship. I don’t think God is thrilled about being treated in such ways, but God loves differently than we humans. God loves wholly and completely. God loves for better or worse. God loves beyond measure and in all times, never ghosting, benching, or submarining. God invests time, energy, and his whole self into the relationship. God holds nothing back.
God holds nothing back. It was this realization that led St. Francis of Assisi to understand that such love demands a response. Francis wrote, “Therefore hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that He who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally.”
How we do that in our lives is the challenge. How do we respond to God and to the relationship with God? I have no set answer for you. But it seems to me, we can look to the relationships we value – and then consider the time, energy, and emotion we put into the relationship to build and maintain the relationship. If weekly, you give one hour out of 168 to building and maintaining your relationship with God…what term would we use to describe that? Ghosting, benching, or submarining do not seem quite on target; perhaps a bit of all three, all at the same time… as though we are ghobencharining God.
How we love God, that is the half of the gospel. “The second [commandment] is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This just asks the corollary question: are we people who ghost, bench, and submarine other people in whole or in part? Are we people who hold back? Are we people who love as God has asked us to love? That’s the key: are we people who love as God has asked us to love?
Take time this week. Begin with prayer and ask God for the gifts of wisdom and spiritual insight. Then reflect on the question: Am I a person who loves as God has asked me to love? That it probably the best “dating advice” I can give. It’s a beginning. May it shine a light that directs your time, energy, and emotion.