"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.
One time, I looked around the church I was attending and realized the incredible number of Godly, Jesus-pursuing, people-loving, Bible-reading single women in the congregation. So I said to the pastor: "how in the world am I ever supposed to know which one(s) to ask on dates, which one(s) to pursue? They all seem equally God-loving, and they're ALL beautiful and fun!" The pastor said to me: "It's simple. Pick one."
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:
1) Does she love Jesus?
2) Do I like her?
3) Would she follow me wherever God calls me in the world?
"If your answers to those three questions are yes, yes, and yes, then MARRY HER."
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?
2) Is he a student of God's Word? Which is to say: Is he both under authority and teachable?
3) Is he being discipled (mentored) and does he disciple others? Is he in community? Does he value The Village? Does he seek wisdom and guidance from both his peers and elders, and does he contribute wisdom and guidance to those in his circles?
4) Does he adore and exalt me (hold me in high regard) for who I am and for who I am becoming? Does he like me? Does he make me feel protected, treasured, valued?
5) Do we see eye-to-eye on Fundamental Things. ***
6) Does he believe that marriage (as opposed to celibacy) is God's best for himself?
7) Does he fiercely pursue purity?
8) Does he desire to communicate clearly and effectively?
9) Where is his treasure?
10) How does he treat his family (or lack thereof); specifically: how does he treat his mom?
***I think we're all entitled to draw lines in the sand about certain issues, and I realize my Fundamental Things may be different than his, or vice/versa. I always want to be willing to listen to others, seek wisdom from God (prayer), and grow (if God's asking me to) in these areas.
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. :)
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?
The second is: How do I tell whether the person I’m dating is someone I can responsibly marry?
The first list is more permissive than the second, because you just can’t tell as much about a person when they first ask you out as you can once you’re considering whether they’re worth marrying.
You mentioned the first issue (not having enough time for coffee shop dates, etc.), but your list was for the second issue.
And you might think the answer to the first issue is: If he seems like the person who will meet the qualifications on the second list, then I should say yes to a date. But sometimes we have misinformed first (or second or third) impressions. Maybe there should be something in response to the first question that helps you choose in a way that prevents you from choosing based on a first impression.
Maybe the answers to the first issue should involve the way in which he asks you out, whether he is respectful of your time when scheduling the date, whether the date he proposes is sufficiently non-lame…and maybe you can ask him some screening questions (e.g. “Maybe. Sounds fun. But first: do you love Jesus? And are you committed to purity before marriage? Those are important to me.”). Anyway, if that’s what you do, that list will be quite a bit different than the second one, I think.
I also wanted to add some questions to your list (for the second question, as I've presented it) .
1. Is this a person I would want to represent me and my family to new friends and my larger community?
(I think you could answer 1-10 on your list affirmatively and answer this one negatively, e.g. if he did not take initiative in finding a career or hated being outdoors.)
2. Does he argue and resolve arguments well?
(Same as before, I think you could answer 1-10 affirmatively and this one negatively if, e.g., he’s not intelligent enough to understand the connections you make when you give reasons for your position or when you make the distinctions you make, or if he has anger issues, or avoids arguments altogether even when they’re important to have.)
And, last, 3. Is he fun to be around, to spend time with?
(I can imagine a godly guy —do people even say “godly” anymore? I haven’t heard it in a long time— who likes you a lot, makes you feel liked and protected, and who wants to do everything the right way, but who just isn’t more fun to be around than is any other friend. Or maybe he’s only fun to be around *because* of how much he likes you and not because of his other interests or who he is as a person.)
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."
You're right, there are lots of good men- which is great and inspiring- but we can't marry them all. I like the quote about us running toward God and looking to see who is running with us, because this gives the idea that we are not only orienting ourselves properly, but are pursuing God in the same way. God can be glorified in so many ways and I think it's important to be with someone who calls to glorify him in a way compatible with what you feel your calling to be.