Though women aren't the target audience for this book, we can listen in and hopefully, while eavesdropping, glean some valuable help for marrying well.
Sometimes we learn best from someone who has lived through the worst. And so it is that Voddie Baucham, a man who grew up surrounded by divorce, remarriage, more divorce, illegitimacy and more, has much to say in his book, What He Must Be ... If He Wants to Marry My Daughter, about choosing a mate.
Baucham takes his cues about lousy husbands (and fathers) from his own life experience. His cues about excellence in these areas come from Scripture. He writes:
I believe God has spoken rather decisively in his Word about what our daughters should look for. Moreover, I believe there are some non-negotiables that our daughters must be looking for. There are some things a man simply must be before he is qualified to assume the role of a Christian husband.
Given the sky-high divorce rate among believers, knowing what those things are before you fall in love seems like a good idea.
For instance, he must be a Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14); he must be committed to biblical headship (Ephesians 5:23ff.); he must welcome children (Psalm 127:3-5); he must be a suitable priest (Joshua 24:15), prophet (Ephesians 6:4), protector (Nehemiah 4:13-14), and provider (1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 2:5).
A man who does not possess — or at least show strong signs of — these and other basic characteristics does not meet the basic job description laid down for husbands in the Bible. [Hyperlinks added.]
Having been married myself nearly 12 years now, I can attest to the wisdom of Baucham's advice. The more biblical your requirements for your future spouse, the more likely your marriage will be to thrive. But knowing something's a good idea, and actually doing it, can be two very different things.
For all my agreement with this book, I almost didn't stick around long enough to appreciate it. What He Must Be is a message from one dad to another. Sadly, whether for reasons of divorce, different faiths, geographic distance or mere disinterest, many, many singles who hope to marry well are going it alone. So what will they think of this book?
At first glance, I suspect they'll share sentiments similar to R. who wrote me to say:
One of these days someone's going to write a book about how to do this "courtship" thing when your dad isn't Christian. The issues require SO MUCH MORE than a few sentences in parentheses; it's worthy of a whole book. I come across books like this, and it leaves me feeling I don't stand a chance of marrying a godly man: All the good ones will be taken by women fortunate enough to be blessed with Christian fathers who are fighting in their corner.
When I first started reading, I felt the same way. With titles like "Don't Send a Woman to Do a Man's Job"; a whole list of non-negotiable, seemingly impossible "musts"; and the assumption that Dad is on the scene and actively helping his daughters find good husbands, I figured the book would get a rise out of all but the narrowest group of readers. Baucham's not even talking to young men, but about them — to a roomful of dads. But that's OK.
Though women aren't the target audience, we can listen in and hopefully, while eavesdropping, glean some valuable help for marrying well. Given the way so many tend to go with the cultural flow of recreational dating, back their way into marriage and only then mourn the fallout, a book that gets people's attention isn't such a bad thing.
And once he has your attention, Baucham does indeed have a lot of good things to say. WHMB promises to do three things: 1) help women know what they should look for in a future husband, 2) reestablish the importance of parents' (especially dads') active participation in the courtship process, and 3) remind women of their dependence on God.
The first and third promises are golden for any single woman hoping for marriage. It's that second promise that's hard for many to swallow. As much as I agree with Baucham's three-part thesis, and as much as Steve and I plan to do for our daughter what he and Bridgette are doing for their daughter, Jasmine, I know that's not a possibility for a lot of single Christian women. If you're among them, I say take what Baucham writes and apply it, where possible, to father-surrogates. There are many things a dad should do that could be done by a pastor, brother, brother-in-law or mentor when Dad isn't available.
Just because you don't have what Baucham's proposing in the way of a protective father doesn't mean you're condemned to marry ill. Far from it. Baucham himself acknowledges that the standard he's raising is high:
Only God can bring about the kind of change necessary in a young man to prepare him to be the kind of husband the Scriptures portray. Thus, reading this book should drive young women to their knees as they plead with God to make a man like this and bring him across their path.
And they can plead boldly, knowing it's their heavenly Father that they're praying to. As good a job as Baucham, and other dads who read him, plan to do for their own daughters, women without the help of an earthly dad can rest in the care their heavenly Father provides. (Ruth, being one of the best examples of marrying well without the benefit of a father.) No reason to fear that you're out of luck. Where you are weak — and in this case, lacking a dad to advocate for you — your heavenly Father is strong. He can provide!
So what kind of man should you hope he'll provide?
Of the first quality Baucham writes,
In many areas I am willing to give and take when it comes to young men to whom I will give my blessing in pursuit of my daughter's hand. I am willing to abide a short man, a poor man, an unattractive man, even a man who is not a Texan (Lord, forgive me). However, I cannot give my consent to a man who is not a follower of Christ.
And it's not enough that the man made a profession of the faith at the front of a revival service. Baucham delves into what it means to be a "true believer." Such a man is "Regenerate, Repentant and Reformed (he's not speaking doctrinally, but about his attitude toward sin). He details all three. About Repentant he writes,
True repentance is the result of an accurate understanding of the significance and gravity of sin, coupled with an overwhelming desire for remission of that sin through the person and work of Christ and a turning from sin and dead works to faith and obedience.
The other traits include being prepared to lead (and lead like Christ), being committed to children, and the four P's: He must be a Protector, Provider, Prophet and Priest. Again, words that may make some readers trip. Thankfully, Baucham takes the time to explain what these ancient words, and concepts, mean.
Whatever words we choose to use, it is clear that a young man must be ready to represent his family before God (as a priest), represent God before his family (as a prophet), meet the needs of those in his household (as a provider), and place himself between his family and all who would do them harm (as a protector).
A young man who is worthy of a wife will have a clear understanding of the covenantal nature of marriage. He will also have a healthy apprehension when he thinks about the magnitude of his responsibility should he assume the role of husband and father. He must know the weight he is taking on his shoulders and be willing to accept it. He must be a man who is willing to endure hardship for the sake of his family should he be called upon to do so.
Can any man be all this? Let alone a 21-year-old guy? Not apart from the Father. Whether your dad is an active participant in this search or not, this is where we must place our hope, with an eye on the young man's trajectory.
Just as Baucham's writing is highly motivated by his own conviction — as a father, for the sake of his daughter and sons, and as a pastor, for the body of Christ — to help families form well, so my review is motivated by my concern for single women hoping to become wives. It's to them, as they navigate the murky relational waters of our culture, that I plan to pass along my well-worn copy of What He Must Be.
Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.