I am in love with a wonderful God-fearing woman that I was in a relationship with. We called things off because the timing in life right now is not good for both of us. But I hope to resume a relationship with her with the intention of marriage in one to two years. We are good friends, but I want to know this: How should I prepare myself in order to take her hand in marriage later on?
Thanks for your question. I do have some thoughts on how you can prepare to be a good husband to this woman at a later time, but before I get to those, let me push back just a bit on your notion that a lack of perfect timing automatically means you should wait a year or two to get married.
You've not mentioned what the "timing" issues are, so I'll tread lightly here, but generally when a man and a woman are in the position of wanting to marry one another, and assuming that it is appropriate biblically for the two of them to be married, I normally would advise 1) that they get married sooner rather than later, and 2) that they prioritize a godly relationship and marriage over "logistics" and other life circumstances rather than waiting to marry until the logistics are perfect or life circumstances are more accommodating from a worldly standpoint.
Why? First, couples in your situation tend to assume too easily that because they think they will eventually marry one another, it's something they can just "do later." Circumstances and desires can change quickly in the absence of a genuine commitment, especially when it's the guy asking the woman to wait one or two years for him to be "better situated" to marry. A lot of women might decide — rightly — that being asked to wait that long to see what happens isn't a fair request or isn't worth it. No one — especially guys — should assume that a potential spouse will just wait around to be available whenever it suits you to marry.
Second, the decision whether and whom to marry is one that will fundamentally affect the lives and ministries of both people involved for the rest of their lives (around 50 years if we assume normal lifespans) or until Jesus returns. It is a decision that will dictate many, many other decisions over the course of one's entire life. In other words, it's generally more important — especially when two people are certain they want to marry one another — to prioritize and establish their marriage in a godly and wise way than it is to delay and even jeopardize the possibility of marriage to accommodate secondary concerns (like waiting until you are financially comfortable to marry, or putting marriage off for years so both of you can finish particular degrees at particular schools at a particular time).
Third, when two people know they want to marry but put it off, it normally puts them in the position of being in a very long dating relationship. (I know you said in your question that you called off the official relationship, and I'll talk more about that in a minute.) As I've written before, long dating relationships (more than a year or so) are very difficult to pull off without sinning in the form of engaging prematurely in physical and emotional intimacy meant only for the context of marriage. Putting off marriage in service to logistics or other secondary circumstances — and putting one another in the way of very strong temptation — is often an unwise choice.
Finally, marriage is a great thing! It tends to grow and mature and sanctify us. It teaches us about God and about ourselves. It broadens our perspective on life and ministry, and it's a wonderful gift from God.
All right, enough of the pitch for marrying sooner. If you and this woman plan to wait a year or two before you officially date again and/or marry, here are three basic thoughts on how to prepare well.
Follow Jesus deliberately and seek to grow in godly manhood. The best thing you can do for your future wife is to grow in your walk with Christ and in godly manhood. God has given us instructions in His Word about how to be godly husbands and men. Study Ephesians 5:25-33 and 1 Peter 3:7 for God's idea of how to be a godly husband (as well as the example of Christ in His servant leadership of His people, chiefly in the cross). Look at 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for a description of godly manhood (as revealed in the qualifications of elders — leaders in the church).
God has also given us the church and other means of grace to mature us in Him. If you have not committed to and joined a strong, Bible-believing church, do that. Serve in the church. Find an older, more mature brother in Christ and get in a regular accountability and discipleship relationship. If you get married, you will be the spiritual leader of your home (Ephesians 5:23). The best thing you can do for your wife and family is to grow in Christ yourself.
Develop discipline. This one is closely related to the first suggestion. Start now in developing discipline and habits that will stand you in good stead as a husband. Too many single guys basically live like teenagers right up until they get married and then wonder why it's a rough transition.
Learn to manage your household and your time, and use both to serve others rather than yourself. Pursue holiness and sexual purity in your life, and discipline yourself to use technology in a wise and godly way. Get on a budget that allows you to give sacrificially to your church, and stay on it. All these pursuits will teach you skills and maturity that will be helpful to you in marriage, no matter who you marry.
Treat your future spouse as a sister in Christ, with absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:2). Finally, during this interval before marriage, make sure you do not treat the woman you want to marry as though you've already married her. In your question you said you have "called off" the relationship, but you also said you remain "good friends." That can mean a lot of different things, so make sure that in the amount of time you spend together, the things you talk about and the way you treat each other physically and emotionally, that you do not try to enjoy the benefits of marriage before you have made that commitment to her. Remember that you will reap in marriage what you sow before marriage. Make sure you build trust rather than undermine it.
I will pray this is helpful to you as you navigate the coming months.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.