Sucker for a Good Story

Post Author: Collette Broady

1281399898_352838e0a0_zI was married in my second year of seminary, so when I got divorced a couple years ago and re-entered the dating pool, I experienced for the first time the challenge of dating as a lady pastor. I had heard enough stories from my colleagues over the years to expect weird conversations and creepy fascinations. What I didn’t expect was that some of the very qualities that make me a good pastor also make me terrible at dating. I have been raised on the story of God, with Bible stories permeating my life so thoroughly that I barely distinguish them from my actual experiences. I love these stories, to tell them and hear them, and find new ways of interpreting them. My parishioners would tell you they can see and hear that love in my preaching and teaching, and at every congregation I have served, this love has been a strength of my ministry. Here’s the thing, though. Each of these stories, every single one of them, is about how God uses imperfect people to accomplish her perfect will. All of these stories are about how the power of God can change people into something more beautiful, more influential than they were before. And my own experience, in my personal and professional lives alike, reinforces these themes: God can transform people. Which is great, right? I mean, isn’t that part of the pull of the gospel: that it’s transformational? But the conviction that people can change, and that God often works through her faithful people to bring about that change, is a major problem when sitting across the table from a wonderful man, who maybe just has one thing about him that doesn’t fit my needs. If God can change Saul from a murderous persecutor of Christians into the best evangelist ever, God can certainly change my date’s tendency to drink too much, avoid his feelings, or make that same obnoxious and kind of racist joke over and over again. And, here comes the real kicker, God maybe wants to use me to do it! Maybe that’s why this date is happening, as a means of revealing God’s grace and power? In my ministry, and in my friendships, I’ve seen it happen. Words that flow from my mouth, by the leading of the Spirit, make people think and feel differently about themselves and the world. Unconditional love shown to people at vulnerable times enables them to confess long-held secrets and be healed. Being in deep, Christ-centered relationships with people is absolutely life-changing. So, why not in my dating life too? Plus, wouldn’t it be an awesome story to tell from the pulpit, about how the power of God transformed a lackluster date into a life-giving, faith-filled long-term relationship? I’m only half-joking. Of course I know it’s not emotionally healthy to date someone just because you think the power of your faith (and personality) might be good for them. Not to mention, that’s pretty egotistical. So, I’m trying to remember that God may very well work through me to change lives in my ministry, but my personal life is a different story. Especially my dating life. And besides, there’s only one story in the Bible where God calls someone into an intimate relationship to show forth her grace. Remember Hosea and his harlot wife Gomer? Definitely not what I’m looking for. Even if it would make a really good story.

Rev. Collette Broady pastors two ELCA congregations and mothers one ELCA child in Mankato, Minnesota. Both roles are alternately delightful and frustrating.

Image by: Shane Henderson
Used with permission
3 replies
  1. The Rev. Danae Ashley
    The Rev. Danae Ashley says:

    Thank you for this, Collette! I felt this way too– about how the qualities that make me a great priest were a double-edged sword when it came to the dating world. I was divorced for several years before I entered my first church call–to a place across the country where I knew no one and began online dating as a form of recreation just to stop working so much and try to meet people outside the parish. I dated a string of losers (not for God, but for me), ending with the guy I affectionately call “the black hole of emotional garbage” before I stopped and started Jungian analysis.

    Prayers for you, girl! You might be the best thing that happened to these guys, but they certainly are not the best thing that happened to you, even when they make a good story 😉 I really appreciated your honesty about how hard it is.

  2. Cleopatra
    Cleopatra says:

    Pastor Broady… don’t ignore the red flags you mention. It’s easy to use the Lord’s work as a way to justify staying in an unhealthy relationship. I did just that with a man who turned out to be an alcoholic — I thought I could change him. I kept telling myself that God put me in this man’s life and he would see my unconditional love and want to change. The man needed to fix his broken self and come to the Lord in his own time. It was years later when he finally broke the chains of addiction.

    By that time, and through years of Bible study and prayer, God had given me a Godly life partner who has been the biggest blessing I could have never even imagined. God has great plans for you! You may be the spark that ignites the change in your date… but he needs to work with God and do the hard work to “fix” himself. All the best to you!

    Don’t ignore the red flags. I hear in your writing that they are there. All the justification in the world won’t make them disappear.

  3. Collette Broady
    Collette Broady says:

    Thanks, Danae, for your comment and prayers! And for your concern, Cleopatra. To be clear, all the traits I mentioned are from people I dated in the past, not anyone I’m currently with! Fingers crossed, but I think I may have found one who’s wonderful just the way he is.


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