Ask Margot-Is her pastor leading her on?

Her pastor speaks to her daily, but refuses to date; what’s really going on between them?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I have been in phone conversations almost every night for the last seven months with my pastor. We are both in our mid 50s and both divorced. We talk about family, his prison ministry, things in general. He has been extremely helpful in me growing spiritually and in serving the Lord. I have asked
You should keep walking—right into the arms of another man.
why he has never remarried and he said only if the Lord brings him the Godly woman who could understand his dedication and obedience to the Lord.

He asked me not to tell anyone because of his position at church and to protect my reputation. He made it clear from the beginning that he doesn’t go out on dates with anyone. What makes him continue talking to me, and will this lead to a deeper relationship? Could he be doing this behind closed doors because he wants to be certain of our relationship before he acknowledges us in public? At times I feel he is fighting what he feels for me. He is aware that I would like to remarry someday, but have indicated that I want a Godly man and together we can serve the Lord. Can you provide some advice?
– Walking the walk, waiting for the talk

Dear Walking,
I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but I think you should keep walking—right into the arms of another man. Now, before you think I’m being unkind, hear me out.

There are two possible reasons for your preacher’s behavior:
  1. He’s not emotionally available.
  2. He’s using you.
Let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt since he is a man of the cloth and say it’s the first option. For whatever reason (and there could be a litany of them!), he simply is not ready for a relationship.

Regular readers of this column know my rap on this: People always tell you who they are. And he’s told you loud and clear. You say he “made it clear from the beginning that he doesn’t go out on dates with anyone”. And he’s backed that up by not seeing you socially. So from where he’s sitting, he’s been honest with you about his situation and you have continued to accommodate him.

Even a man who’s not ready for romance enjoys a little female companionship. So who can blame him for calling you? And, since it sounds like he’s attractive and stimulating, who can blame you for enjoying his attention?

But here’s the rub: You want more than he is willing to give. While he thinks he’s been loud and clear about his intentions (or lack thereof), you look for the slightest indication that he’s interested. We all do it.
He’ll either back off or step up.
Heck, I’ve done it multiple times! That’s why I know what I’m talking about.

It always played out the same. He’d be attentive and enjoy my company immensely. But any time there was the slightest hint of romance in the air, he backed off quicker than a cat in a roomful of rockers. He told me – several times – that he wasn’t interested in a relationship. But every time he did something nice for me, or said I looked pretty in something, I was just sure he was going to profess his undying love for me any minute. Guess what? It never happened.

The last time I found myself in this situation, I made a serious effort to be the one to put on the brakes. When it became clear he wasn’t available in that way, I walked away. It took a while for me to figure it out, but I finally realized that if Mr. Right isn’t available RIGHT NOW, he’s actually Mr. Wrong. Three months after I walked away from this guy, I met my husband. Your results may vary, but I’ll tell you this much, you won’t find the man of your dreams if you’re emotionally attached like you are to your pastor.

My advice: Start cutting back on the time you talk to him. That means not every night and not for as long as normally speak now. If you have a spiritual issue you’d like to discuss, make an appointment to chat about it at his office. Week 1, it’s every other night for an hour. Week 2, it’s two nights for 30 minutes. Week 3, it’s one night for 15 minutes. When he asks what’s going on, just tell him you’ve decided to focus more on finding a fulfilling romance with a Godly man. He’ll either back off or step up.

This won’t be easy, so don’t hesitate to pray for strength and focus. Go to Bible study, attend cultural events, join a book or knitting group. Fill the time you would have spent chatting with him with people who are willing to have a public relationship of any kind with you. Building a rich life of your own is the best way to attract a mate. While you’re at it, pray for your preacher, too, that he finds whatever it is for which he is searching.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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