So I was talking about marriage today with a dear friend and her husband, and at one point long into the conversation her husband said something like this:
"I think it's possible that we're all too caught up in the question of 'who am I supposed to marry?' It consumes the thoughts, discussions, and prayers of so many of us Christians between the ages of 18 and 20-whatever, and I sometimes wonder if there are more important Kingdom Things with which to concern ourselves. I realize marriage is a BIG DEAL and a BIG COMMITMENT, but sometimes I think we make too big a deal of the 'Choosing the One' part of it.
Then one time I was discussing this issue with my best friend's pastor, who leads and disciples a lot of young(ish) Christian men, and he said something similar. He said that to decide on whether or not to marry a certain woman, a Christian man must ask himself these three questions about her:
I'm reducing this conversation to a couple short paragraphs when in reality it spanned a few hours, so I'm leaving out a lot of nuance. But I wanted to introduce those two viewpoints as a segue into some thoughts of my own. They help put into context all I'm going to type next.
I spent the day at their house mostly studying but also thinking about the conversation from this morning. His wife (my dear friend) and I were talking some hours later, and she asked me what I thought about those three questions. As we discussed, I realized I take issue with them (for many vast and varied reasons). She suggested we come up with a list of our own, together, because the question of "how do I know if I should marry this guy?" is important, and we both think it's good to have some sort of tried & true thought process behind our vacillations. The reality is that there's got to be a way for a woman to "filter through" the men asking her out to dinner. I don't mean for that to sound harsh or in any way to undermine the Biblical (and right) concept of submission and husband-as-family-leader. But I do mean it seriously. When a woman is being asked out for coffee on more occasions than she has spaces in her planner and getting "the look" from a handful of guys who haven't even asked yet, she cannot feasibly say YES, YES, and YES to every one of them. That game is exhausting and heart-wrenching and more times than not, fruitless. (News Flash that isn't news at all: the Dating Game is exhausting and heart-wrenching...) She has to have some foundation that helps her decide upon the sort of man to whom she'll say "YES, coffee sounds great; YES let's talk tonight; YES please take me to dinner; YES I want to get to know you."
And, when she meets a guy with whom she can envision marriage, it's important she has an objective SOMETHING by which to evaluate the situation and potential relationship. "Love is blind," they say. And they're right. We get all caught up and infatuated and gooogly-eyed, and we sometimes forget to add in a little logic. I think the butterflies and the heart-eyes are all good and important--I really do. I think the "falling" element of "falling in love" is precious and something to be enjoyed. But all of THAT is only healthy (and fruitful) if the Big Questions have already been discerned, asked, and answered correctly.
As we processed and discussed, we boiled it down to ten questions. Then we thought "man, that's a lot. Can we reduce the list?" So, we did. In the end, I think all the Things we were attempting to get at can be answered by four main questions. But since you're probably curious, I'll tack the "extra 6" onto the end of the list.
1) Does he love Jesus?
5) Do we see eye-to-eye on Fundamental Things. ***
I truly believe the last six are both embedded in and follow naturally from the first four, but I wanted to include them because they are *very* important. Sometimes it's nice to have the "what, then, should follow...?" clearly spelled out.
It can all seem so confusing, so Big, so daunting, can't it? Especially at this age. Most of us are joyful in singleness yet yearn for marriage. We want to be mamas and daddies. We want to settle down and experience stability. We want to know the man/woman with whom we will Do Life and Kingdom Work. And so, I think these questions are at least helpful. They're helping me stay on track and not get ahead of myself...or ahead of God. They're helping me really Listen to the Holy Spirit, who guides my life...our lives.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and convictions. Really, I would. The topics of dating/relationships/marriage are some that I've pondered/prayed about/wrestled with more than any others. I don't mean to make it all complicated. I really don't. In fact, I wish it was simpler than I've experienced it to be. I wish I could say: "the answer to each of those four questions is YES, so let's be done with all the Dating Games we've played our whole lives and just get married already!" But the reality is that it takes two to tango, yeah? So, naturally, it's going to be slightly more complex than me saying YES. First, he's got to ask. And until that day, Lord Jesus give me patience. :)
Addendum: Thoughts from Friends
First, I think it’s important to distinguish two issues. The first is: How do I tell whether I should say yes to someone who wants to go on a date with me?
I really appreciated all Chris had to say. I think I'd even add a 4th question onto his addendum. Something like:
4. Is there CHEMISTRY?
(A guy/girl can "check all the boxes," but if there’s not that level of spark, it ain’t gonna work (in most cases). I must admit that when deciding whether to say yes to a first date, chemistry is one of the two things I use to make my decision. The first is whether or not he claims to be a Christian. The second is whether or not I’m actually attracted to him. The third would be whether I can feasibly fit a date into my stupid school schedule ;) )
I think that we totally spend too much time thinking about marriage and the future when we are exhorted to not worry about tomorrow. It is a natural and beautiful thing though so it is not wrong or evil. But I think "a woman's heart should be so lost in God that a man must seek him to find her."
Yep, I love that quote too. The one about running toward God and looking to see who is running with us. There's something spectacular (I presume) about seeing your calling align with another's calling and then TEAMING TOGETHER for the sake of the Kingdom. And LIKING EACH OTHER while doing so. Woah, how awesome.
hey, i'm jordan.
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