The following excerpt is from Addie Zierman’s memoir How to Talk Evangelical. One of the structural elements of the book is a series of glossaries defining key evangelical terms and then expanding on them; this is one of those terms.
Dating Jesus – To give up dating for a window of time in order to focus more specifically on your Relationship with Jesus.
Note: This phrase can also be used to diplomatically turn down a date from an undesirable person. “Sorry,” you might say. “I’m dating Jesus right now.”
Felix, for example, is dating Jesus. Theoretically. Also he is sitting next to you in a dark car. You are weepy. Felix is dabbing at the tears on your face with his long fingers. He swallows, and you are close enough to his neck to see the way it makes his Adam’s apple move along his throat.
He is a senior. He is handsome, and he knows that he is handsome. He has good hair and perfect lips and a tall, built body. The girls like Felix and Felix likes the girls and because of this, he has gotten himself into trouble more than once. So in a renewed commitment to personal purity, he has taken his devotion to abstinence to the next level: a dating sabbatical. A break from girls altogether. He is dating Jesus.
Right now, it feels an awful lot like he is dating you.
You can’t see anything outside of the car, though you know that you are in a housing development, one of the rich ones with lots of big trees, lots of little empty turnabouts like the one where you are currently parked. Inside, the numbers on the clock cast a green glow on Felix’s sharp features. He leans toward you so that you are forehead to forehead, and you can feel your heart lurching erratically. He stares at you. You stare at him. He moves so close that you can feel the five o’clock shadow poke against your breathless cheeks.
You inhale sharply and back away. You put your two small fingers against his lips. “You’re dating Jesus, remember?” you say. This is the truth in this moment – not the beating of your heart against the darkness, but the unbreakable promise to God that forms the context behind it. Felix has vowed not to date girls, and you know what happens when you come between boys and their vows.
Besides, you are supposed to be waiting. Waiting for your sort-of-boyfriend Chris, who is in Garden Valley, Texas, also dating Jesus, and consequently, not speaking to you. He is fighting the forces of evil, doing great things for the Lord. You are supposed to be quiet, preserved, watching over the horizon.
Not alone in a dark car with Felix and his perfect lips.
You should have let him kiss you.
If you had, maybe this would not be your story, your journey, your burden. If you had done what you wanted to do instead of watching over the boys and their vows…if you had allowed yourself to be hurt the usual ways that teenage boys hurt teenage girls instead of falling so nobly on the sword of the Spirit, a constant sacrifice, dying again and again to your own desires, then maybe it would not have gone like this.