In the last post, I talked about what God has been teaching this single lady about marriage. Read more about that here. Today, I’ll continue with why it’s important for a single person to learn about marriage and how to apply that knowledge to our single life.
Knowing what the purpose of marriage is helps us prepare appropriately for it. It also helps us approach dating differently. If my goal in marriage is to find happiness, then I will only look for dating partners that make me “feel good” or fulfill my whims in order to make me happy. Read: take me out for expensive dinners and buy me roses. But if my desire for future marriage is to further carry out God’s plan for me and sanctification, then I will seek a partner and experiences that draw me closer to Christ. Read: serve at the local homeless shelter and worship together. See the difference?
Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, “You & Me Forever” radically changed my view on God’s purpose for marriage. I strongly encourage you to check out their material here: www.youandmeforever.org (PSSST! They even offer a free download of the book on their app.)
The underlying motivation for marriage drastically changes the behavior in dating, partner selection process, and even the planning and preparation of self before a potential partner shows up.
A dear friend and pastor challenged me awhile back to do a practical exercise in preparation for dating. He pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew a quadrant on it. He labeled each box “Must Have,” “Should Have,” “Could Have,” and “Can’t Have.” He told me to go home and thoughtfully, prayerfully consider and then write down the items I would put in each box for a potential dating partner. “Must haves” are required attributes of my future husband. It’s the non-negotiable items that someone must display such as a personal relationship with Christ. “Should Haves” are desired attributes that are a bit flexible like having hazel eyes. “Could Haves” are flaws that are tolerable such as difficult family members or financial debt. “Can’t Haves” are deal breakers like lying or cheating.
I have made a similar list many times over since about the age of 13. I’m a girl. It’s what we do. However, this time as I went home and contemplated his assignment, I realized how much my desires had changed over the years. When I searched my heart and prayerfully sought God as to what should be on this list, it became obvious why this would be so different than all the other “ideal mate” lists.
Before when I had made similar lists, my objective was to make a wishlist of personality and physical traits that I find attractive. Tall, dark, handsome, charming, kind, brave, etc. I was looking at a potential mate and subsequent marriage as things to make me feel happy, safe, and loved. And while those feelings are a nice byproduct of a healthy marriage, I now realize that “feelings” alone are not the goal.
This time my list took on a completely different shape as I desire to seek God’s will for my future. Instead of looking for someone to make me happy, I find myself looking for someone to challenge and encourage me toward Christlikeness. Now my list includes things like volunteerism, generosity, tithing, spiritual maturity, boldness, etc. It’s not all super spiritual, but mostly it is because character and spiritual roots are what lasts.
If there is one thing I am learning, it is that God cares more about my character, holiness, and obedience than he does about my feelings and happiness. Because I want what God desires for me most, I don’t necessarily want safe and comfortable anymore. Instead, it looks less like financial and emotional security and more like God’s own sacrificial love and eternity focused.
I find myself looking for a husband who has a heart after God’s and can lead me closer to Him, who has a similar spiritual mission in life that I can encourage and support well. I seek a partner whose passion for furthering the kingdom ignites my own as I fuel his desire to serve the Lord. Because of my deep desire for missional living, I find that the things that are on my list are shaped toward that rather than personal security and safety. Your list may look different because your calling is different.
If you are not yet married, I encourage you to seek God’s will for you and make a list like the one I described. Study God’s beautiful design for marriage so you can begin to prepare and cultivate your heart now! If you are married, it’s all the more important to discover God’s purpose for you and your spouse.