It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of meeting someone online was novel and more than a little sketchy. I’ll never forget the first time I saw You’ve Got Mail, which made the process seem cute, literary, and possible. In fact, looking back, it’s possible that I tried to inject a little of that sensibility into my relationships. My first boyfriend and I exchanged daily emails for months of our courtship.
With all of this preparation, you might think that I would have been on the cutting edge of the online dating movement, but I wasn’t. It could be because I’m not often on the cutting edge of anything (I like to stay at least one phone version behind to give them a chance to work out all of the bugs), but I think that my reluctance to create an online dating profile had more to do with my romantic nature. I wanted a good story, a “meet cute” I could talk about for years to come. I didn’t love the idea of telling people a computer algorithm matched my significant other and me before we’d awkwardly met for coffee.
But as the years wore on and I remained single, dating online continued to be the go-to advice for acquaintances at holiday parties, and friends with kids. The idea of hopping on eHarmony or Match began to look more like a lifeline, if not a Nora Ephron movie.
I tried eHarmony, and then Match, with limited success. I regaled my friends with stories of the people who contacted me, and a very small part of me continued to hope that it might work after all.
Last Christmas, I read a book calledby Suzanne Burden, Carla Sunberg, and Jamie Wright. It’s about some of the ways that the church has blamed Eve, and women in general, for the fall. It’s about the ways that men and women are meant to work together, as God dreamed up when we were created. I cried reading it on a plane between two medical students. Instead of reclaiming Eve, I realized that I needed to reclaim Adam. I had given up on finding a man with God’s heart; I had given up on looking for the image of God in the men I met.
Not long after this, over Ethiopian food, a friend suggested that I try Tinder. Like many people, I had thought of Tinder as an app to secure casual sex, but my friend had experienced two meaningful, long-term relationships using Tinder. I thought about it for a few days, and then I downloaded it to my phone.
Last January, I spent the month going out on Tinder dates. As I looked at the pictures, I would whisper: You are created in the image of God, or sometimes, You are worthy of love and belonging, whether I was swiping left or right.
At the beginning of each Tinder session, I reminded myself that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. I didn’t have to “like” anybody I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to continue in conversations that made me uncomfortable, I didn’t have to go out with anyone, and I didn’t have to agree to second dates. These might not seem revolutionary, but for me, they were life changing. My dating strategy had always been to give people the benefit of the doubt, to always agree to a first date (or even a second) so as not to rule out anyone with potential. It was freeing to tell myself that I didn’t have to go out with someone I wasn’t attracted to, and encourage myself to listen to the voices that urged caution.
My first Tinder date was in a bookstore. He was a writer, a photographer, and filmmaker, in town for a short time. We chatted for a few days, until I was sure I wanted to meet in person. We agreed to meet in front of the books of one of his favorite authors. I got there early and listened to my heart pound while I waited.
But once he arrived and we started talking, my nerves melted away. It was good to feel heard and seen. It was good to be understood. We sat and drank tea and talked about Tinder, and about our past dating experiences. I was as comfortable as if I was with an old friend.
I drove home with a smile on my face. Tinder did this, I thought. I shook my head. God used Tinder to do this.
I did not find great love on my Tinder quest. I saw that first date once more, and every second with him was a gift. I went out with people I would have never met on my own. I met someone who took me to a hockey game and became my boyfriend for part of the year. As I went, I continued to remind myself: these people are worthy of love and belonging. As I went, I reminded myself that I am, too.
These days, I’m not holding so tightly to my idea of what a good story looks like. I’m trusting God a little more with the whys and wherefores, and daily reminding myself that I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m allowing myself to believe that God can use anything to accomplish His goals for the world, and for each individual. I’m allowing myself to believe that sometimes He even conspires with Tinder.