So you’re thinking about getting married.
Not necessarily today, but someday. Maybe even in the not-too-distant future. What are you looking for in a husband or wife? If you’re a Christian, you’re probably looking for someone who shares your faith.
Michelle says, “I am looking for someone who will run the race with me — and that we will be better together than we are separately.” Abel adds, “I’m looking for someone with shared delights, visions and goals.” And Rachel says, “I’m looking for someone who makes me better for the kingdom.”
Beyond the same-faith thing, what should you consider as you keep your eyes open for someone to marry? There are a lot of ideas floating around out there: Marry your soul mate. Find Mr. Right. Wait for your fairy tale ending.
But what does God say? Here are five comparisons to help you focus on what’s important as you seek a spouse:
1. Soul Mate vs. Help Mate
In 2001, a study found that 94 percent of young adults planned to marry their “soul mate,” a person whom they felt was meant just for them. In “Soul Mates or Sole Mates?” Gary Thomas explains the origin of “soul mates”:
Our culture has embraced a rather absurd notion that there is just one person who can, in the words immortalized by Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, ‘complete us.’ This is a disastrous mindset with which to approach a lifelong marital decision.
“The notion of a ‘soul mate’ is actually pretty ancient. Well over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato surmised that a perfect human being was tragically split in two, resulting in a race of creatures sentenced to spend the rest of their lives searching for that missing other who can complete them.”
Finding a “soul mate” is based entirely on a subjective gut feeling. The problem is, when that feeling fades (or you didn’t have it in the first place) you may wonder if you married the wrong person and believe your soul mate is still out there.
Help mate, in contrast, is defined as: “a helpful companion or partner.” In Genesis, God established the concept of a spouse — particularly a wife — being a helper. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” (2:18).
God designed marriage for mutual benefit — of the man and woman — and mutual glorification — of himself. In establishing woman as man’s helper, God based marriage on service. Paul revisits this in Ephesians when he says women are to submit to their husbands and men are to love their wives (5:22-23).
Marriage isn’t about finding someone who makes us feel good (although that’s definitely a bonus in marriage); it’s about learning to lay down our own desires and love another well. As you search for a spouse, look for someone who serves and someone you can serve.
2. Fruit of Life vs. Fruit of the Spirit
We all notice people who “have it all.” The attractive ones. The ones with a good job. The ones with awesome people-skills. These characteristics produce fruit in this life: wealth, popularity, status, a nice house, cool friends. But accomplishments are fleeting and say little about the person’s character.
When seeking a spouse, look for the fruit of the spirit (listed in Galatians 5:22) to be present in the person’s life: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” All of these “fruits” are priceless in a marriage partner. More importantly, they are evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in the person’s life.
When I first got to know my husband, Kevin, I immediately noticed the kindness and gentleness he showed toward everyone he met. He was also a faithful son, church member and employee. These things, along with many other good qualities, convinced me that he would make a good husband (and father). And I was right.
3. Mr. Right (Miss Right) vs. Mr. Righteous (Miss Righteous)
There was a time when I looked for the Christian man with the fewest mistakes and best moral resume — the one who had been valiant and never wavered. Through meeting some godly men who didn’t fit that description, I learned something: The sin committed wasn’t as important as the repentance and restoration that took place afterward. A person who could accept God’s forgiveness and grace and walk a new path had as much to offer as someone who had committed fewer trespasses.
Don’t overlook sin issues in a potential mate, but also consider how a man or woman deals with his or her sinfulness. Does he realize his need for a Savior yet also pursue holiness? Does she refuse to let her past mistakes define her and instead seek her identity in Christ? These attributes are precious to God.
Speaking to religious leaders about the sinful woman who washed his feet with her tears, Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:37). Those who have stumbled often have tender hearts toward their forgiving Father.
If you’re the one with “a past” or ongoing sin in your life, deal with it. Repent, seek forgiveness and allow God to shape you into a righteous person who will be a blessing to your future spouse.
4. Crush vs. Compatibility
If you’ve ever had a crush, you know the drug-like euphoria such an attachment can create. A crush is defined as short-lived feelings of infatuation for someone. Many of the relationships portrayed on TV fit this description, with the characters acting romantically on their feelings.
Compatibility gets past an emotional high to navigating the practicalities of daily life. Do you use money in similar ways? Do you like being awake at the same hours of the day? Do you love being in groups of people or spending quiet evenings at home? No two people will be compatible in every area — and sometime opposites do attract — but a healthy dose of compatibility reduces conflict in marriage and increases joy.
And don’t forget about spiritual compatibility, as this article from FamilyLife points out:
For a Christian, the most important of these issues is spiritual compatibility. Since marriage is a spiritual relationship, your spiritual compatibility will influence the quality of your relationship more than any other factor.
5. Fairy Tale Ending vs. Faithful Ending
During the 1990s, many of us were introduced to a new generation of Disney princesses — Ariel, Belle and Jasmine. We also met the handsome, confident men who swept them off their feet. These princes didn’t necessarily have good character (or bad), but they offered the women “happily ever after.”
In “Trading in Your Fairy Tale” I wrote:
Even though a fairy tale is defined as ‘a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands,’ it seems Christians have bought into the concept when it comes to romance and marriage. We’ve confused the ‘fairy tale ending’ with what God offers us — the faithful ending.
The “faithful ending” is what happens as you pursue faithfulness in every area of life, including romance. As you keep your eyes open for a spouse, be faithful to obey God’s commands. Be faithful to pray for your future husband or wife. Be faithful to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit — even in your dating life.
Proverbs says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (18:22). God is rooting for good marriages to happen. A relationship forged in faithfulness gives God a starring role in the romance.
As you think about must-haves for your future spouse, focus on finding someone who draws you closer to Christ and makes you better for His kingdom. Look past world-inspired ideas of what leads to lasting love, and embrace God’s ideals. Marriage is His idea after all — why not do it His way from the start?
Copyright 2015 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.