Are you hoping to get married? Even if you’re not quite ready to settle down yet, do you still feel you might like to get married at some point down the road? What criteria (if any) are you using to find the right person? Are you looking for someone who’s good looking or financially better off, well-educated with an established career, from a stable family, socially or even politically connected? Perhaps all of these? Or are you just hoping to fall in love, with whomever that might be?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24 CEB)
People want love, even if they aren’t thinking of getting married right away. And most have an idea of the other qualities they also might want their future spouse to have. Yet by and large, the primary thing the majority of us look for is to “fall in love,” because that seems to be the holy grail, the golden standard, of relationships–that which is so powerful, so incredible an experience, that we set it up as the be-all and end-all of relationships. And that’s the problem.
It’s not wrong to want to be in love. God created us and our mental, emotional, and relational components into a marvelous and difficult to unravel psyche, so when we find a person who looks into our eyes and reaches right down into our souls and grasps hold of our heart–for eternally it seems–we want to sacrifice anything and everything to keep it. Yet that’s exactly when being in love becomes wrong–when we allocate it, instead of God, the top spot in our lives.
Because the reality is that following, loving, and honoring Christ is–or should be–number one; everything else has to take a back seat to this. So whenever we figuratively replace His primacy with anyone or anything else it’s, “Houston–we have a problem,” because we’ve slipped into idolatry! We now have set up a god, a cause–being in love, in this case–which has superseded God and up-ended our priorities. And no one, nothing else, is worthy of–or rightly capable of maintaining–that position. God and God alone is most important! Why? Because when He’s in charge, we give up the crazy-wrong desires that pop into our heads, but when we tell Him, “No; I’m going to steer this ship,” there’s No One to stop us running it aground and making a mess of things!
Once I kick God off the throne of my life, anything goes–I may think it doesn’t, that there are things I wouldn’t do, but believe me–once I’ve pushed aside the authority of God and under the right circumstances, anything really can go! This is how marriage vows have been broken, families have been torn apart, wars have begun, and thrones have been abdicated–because “in love” is a cruel and unfeeling master! And, it is a misnomer, because rather than being loving, “in love” is the opposite of love; it is selfish. Of course, “in love” is not a being at all–it is an ideal, a feeling, an experience, that we deify if we place it above everything else in our life. So, is it wrong to want to fall in love? No; falling in love, like so many other experiences in life, is not wrong in and of itself. It only becomes wrong when we sacrifice everything else, including our unswerving obedience to God, in its pursuit!
1) But what should we look for in a future spouse? Having said all this, I believe being in love with him or her is a good first step, because being “in love” is actually finding someone whose flaws seem lesser than they do to another person, and whose strengths seem greater than they do to another person. Feeling this way about your spouse will make it easier to remain committed throughout the difficulties you will inevitably experience in your life together. But is that it? Is finding someone with whom you’ve fallen in love with the only requirement for a future spouse? God forbid!
Human nature is peculiar, and sometimes we fall for the wrong person. We can’t command ourselves, “This is the perfect person; fall in love with him or her;” we just fall for whomever we fall for. That’s when our mind and will has to push our emotions out of the driver’s seat, or our life and theirs will become a car wreck! I can fall in love with someone who isn’t the person I should marry–already married, or, for any of a number of other reasons, unsuitable (I used to joke with myself about someone I had fallen for years ago, that it would have been smarter to fall for my fridge!).
2) So, what else should I look for in a future spouse, besides being in love with them? How about the qualities listed above–the fruit of Christ’s Spirit in those who belong to Him? Because the most physically beautiful and personally charming individual can be genuinely abominable on the inside!
It’s like a brand new car body installed over a decrepit chassis that doesn’t actually run; or a home remodel complete with granite, hardwood and stainless steel that has a bad roof, old wiring and leaky plumbing. And while we all want an attractive car, we also want it to run; we all want a beautiful home, but we also want it to be solid underneath the glitz. That’s what happens when we look at a person’s shell–their physical appearance and personality–but ignore their character, who they really are underneath. Because that’s their real self–that’s whom you’re going to have to relate to and live with. And how sad it would be if that’s ugly!
Think about it. Do you want someone who shows you love–who basically does what’s good for you, not them–or someone who is selfish and always does what he or she wants? Do you want someone who’s happy and filled with joy, or consumed with misery or bitter? Do you want someone with whom you can get along, or a quarrelous person with whom it’s impossible to get along; who picks a fight about anything and everything? Do you want someone who is kind-hearted, or someone who is mean; who kicks you when you’re down and gets you where it hurts? Do you want a good person, or someone who is evil at his or her core? Do you want someone who will be faithful to you regardless of what life throws at him or her, or do you want to always be afraid and insecure in their love, worrying whether they’ve been distracted or even seduced by another? Do you want someone who is gentle with you, or do you want a harsh or thoughtless person uncaring of your feelings and even body? Do you want a self-controlled individual whose mind and commitments rule his or her life, or do you want an out-of-control person who cannot be counted on or trusted for anything? Does anyone really want a spouse–no matter how beautiful the exterior or charming the personality–whose real ugly self is hiding under the well-cultivated attractive exterior? Wouldn’t you rather have someone who’s invested at least as much effort in beautifying his or her true self as they have in their publicly presented persona?
Because the truth is that most people looking for a marriage partner don’t get this far. They look at the outside–at the appearance and personality–and stop there. I’m not saying to pick the physically ugliest person you can with the worst personality; that’s absurd because there isn’t a correlation between ugliness and godliness. To the contrary, people who are loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled typically radiate these qualities on the outside, too, and are quite attractive physically and in terms of their personality because these qualities tend to shine through; to radiate throughout and permeate their entire being!
So, are you looking for a future husband or wife? Make sure you go into this with your eyes wide open and look carefully at who they really are–not just the exterior they present to the world–because you’re getting the whole package!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Make me wise. Give me the “eyes” to see inside of people to who they really are. Amen.