Sunday, October 2, 2011

Proverbs 31:30

After our talk last week about the ideal age to get married, the Juniors have been discussing this question at length on our online forum. It's truly interesting to see what different kids think, whether based on their parents' experience, their current relationship status, or perhaps their perception of what love is (sometimes clearly influenced by Hollywood).

I threw in my two cents, saying that at 25, I know people my age who are basically just big kids and also people who have essentially been mature adults for 5 years or more (sometimes happily married and with kids). Me? I'm somewhere between the two, I guess.

This all got me thinking... just what is important to look for in a significant other?

When I was in high school, my one criteria was simply "does she acknowledge my existence?" I'd fall head over heels based on little more prompting than eye contact and a smile. This inevitably led to some awkward and painful reality checks, when I realized that I'd put so much energy into a crush on someone who was merely being friendly. Though I was totally oblivious at the time, I've since been informed that I, myself, disappointed a few girls who mistook my friendliness for interest.

Fortunately, we grow... though high school crushes (check that--crushes at any time of life) can be painful and exhausting, we learn a lot about ourselves and what exactly we're looking for in another person. Why am I single today? It's more or less my choice--I'm still searching and waiting for the right person.

Who is the right person?

Well. I could go through the checklist of characteristics and interests that I built up in my mind during college, but ultimately, none of that matters. Minutiae. Yeah, it'd be great if she has a good singing voice and if she appreciates animals, but those are just trivial details in the scheme of things. Here's what does matter:

Faith. It's as simple as this: The most important relationship in her life needs to be her relationship with Jesus. A solid marriage is much more difficult to maintain if the center is something fleeting, something temporary or elusive. Financial security? Jobs? Even your own spouse? All of these things are important, but the moment that they become the center of a marital relationship, the foundation starts to crack because those things... anything other than God... they are limited, flawed and they just can't hold the weight of something so important as marriage.

One might say to me, "Nate, it's unfair to put this kind of pressure on a poor girl--it's easy to say God should be the center of your life, but as sinful humans we all fail to live that out consistently." Absolutely right. I'm in the same boat. I screw up so often and create so many idols for myself. I'm not looking for perfection... I'm looking for someone who is aware of her brokenness. Someone who recognizes how things should be--that Christ should be the center, but who is forthcoming about her failings. I don't want someone who acts like she's got it all together (and at the same time, someone who doesn't allow herself to wallow in despair or self-pity--someone who knows and accepts the love of Christ).

Marriage is a partnership, and that includes a strong element of accountability. A husband and a wife must be unfailingly vulnerable to each other, open about their struggles and sins, forgiving, and solution-minded: looking ahead and not behind (doesn't 1 Corinthians say something to this effect?). This is not to say that after 60 years, a husband and wife will have stopped messing up, but that over the course of those 60 years, they will have supported each other and helped each other to grow in relationship with Christ, even through very difficult times. This only happens if both partners are striving toward the same end--relationship with Christ--even in their broken, imperfect ways.

A second characteristic (yet related) is wisdom: This is different than intelligence... different than being well-educated. I am looking for someone who thinks things through before acting and speaking. Spontaneity can be fun, but rash decisions often lead to disaster. I know from experience just what it can cost a person to speak or act out of anger; to do or say something without first thinking. I am working so hard to be a patient and thoughtful person (having been at times very impatient and thoughtless), and in my mind that is an infinitely desirable characteristic in a significant other.

This is what I'm looking for. This is what I'm waiting for, praying for. I suppose that on my end, I need to try and develop these characteristics in myself, because if these are truly the characteristics that I'm looking for in a woman, she'll be looking for exactly the same things in a man. I need to strive to be a man of God, a man who some woman somewhere is praying to meet.

God provides. He's got a plan for my life and I absolutely must trust in this plan even at times when I feel frustrated, impatient and lonely.

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