On our second date, Jarrett told me that he wanted to marry me. We were 24. He had just cut off all of his dreadlocks and was in his second week of his professional career. I was still in school. Still selfish, still longing to move to New York to pursue modeling. We were a mess.
Although completely sincere, Jarrett's pre-mature marital statement scared me. I had only dated one person prior to Jarrett, and at the time, he and I weren't even in an official relationship. We were new friends, eating ice cream before church, hoping to get to know each other more. So what did I say in response? I said nothing. And the dates that followed, I said nothing. I watched him and I examined his life. I took mental notes and offered up hopeful prayers. I sought advice from my parents and I inquired of their opinions. I watched his decisions, I listened to my friends' perspectives and I waited.
Choosing “The One” is quite a euphoric ideal.
We get swept away with lyrics and memorized movie phrases, but in reality, love doesn't come easy. If it did, we'd all be married. The truth is, not everyone is meant for marriage, and although we hope we will find "the one", we've all experienced breakups and pain. Where once was excitement and happiness, we question the person we are dating and find ourselves wondering... is it me? Am I the one with the problem?
The decision to fall in love and get married is not one that should be made out of vain interests.
And yes, I said decision. Love, according to scripture, is an action, not a feeling
(1 Corinthians 13). The ripple effect of your decision for a spouse is far more complicated than just your mere happiness or self gratification. It requires our careful attention to their lives, not just their words, because our union will have lasting effects and legacy on others- family, friends, children and community.
Our spouse will be the only family member we get to choose. All others are appointed, so it is vitally imporanat that we do not rush in. Trust me, a few exciting months is not adequate time to get to know someone's heart and soul. Let's be honest, there are moments when you don't even know yourself! So, when dating and seeking marriage, Christ must be in the midst. He alone knows hearts and His Spirit will reveal to you who is your best match and who isn't (Jeremiah 17:10).
With all the millions of men out there, who all seem nice and sweet and successful, how are we to know what to look for? How do we know who is God's best for us? I'll tell you what my mother told me when I asked her this very same question about Jarrett. She said, "Trina, do you see Jesus in him?"
A man in Christ is called to love his wife ferociously, just as Jesus does.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" Ephesians 5:25 25
Does he give himself up for you? His benefit, his agenda, his time, his schedule? Does he put you first even when it's inconvenient? Does he go without so that you won't have to? His feelings, his pride, his basketball game? What about you? Are your actions personifying Jesus towards your significant other?
Listen, marriage doesn't change a person's character. If anything, the real person
emerges after the vows are said. This is why over 30% of break ups occur after couples co-habitate. According to the New York magazine report, 14% of couples break up within a year of moving in together and one-third of co-habitating couples head to splitsville by year three. Why? Well, as my dad explained to Jarrett and I during our pre-marital counseling... you won't know the real person until you live with them.
Because we desire to please the Lord, we know that co-habitation is not the answer. Yet, even in the institution of marriage, we know people who are miserable. The couple who seemed so solid while dating are now falling apart after the marriage. We have friends who feel trapped in a relationship that started off so loving and so promising. What happened? Maybe, just maybe, there were some things that weren't honestly revealed or considered during the dating years. Maybe, just maybe, you can save yourself some frustration if you just stop and ask yourself these questions:
1. Is There Joy or Just Toleration?
Deep in your heart, is there joy when you consider the potential of marrying this person? Keep in mind that joy, not happiness, is a product of God's presence (Galations 5:22). I am not talking about butterfly emotions or jokes shared over hamburgers. I'm talking about in your spirit, on your good days and your worst ones... do you feel joy in this person's presence? Does he feel joy in yours? Have you even had an argument? If not, this is an area that needs to be experienced. The heart of a person always emerges through when they are mad. Are his words hurtful and belittling or are they constructive and solution driven? What about your words and your actions? When he said something stupid or forgot to meet you for coffee, or when you took too long to get ready or you insisted that he accompany you to your best friends themed birthday party... is there still joy or are there selfish arguments and attitudes? When choosing a spouse, you are choosing a friend and partner for life, so you better really enjoy that person’s company, in the good and in the ugly! No, you won't agree on everything. You will have your personal interests that won't always align with eachtoher and that's ok. You're two different people. But in the grand scheme of things, do the two of you have joy to support each other in those differences?
Joy should be a product of your "togetherness". You should be energized and supported by each other's involvement in your life. Arguments are natural, but do they lead to solutions or aggravation or toleration? It's something to consider. Sex doesn't solve problems. Physical intimacy is a blessing... Hallelujah! But if the physical is the core staple of what you enjoy about each other... beware. Being physically attracted to one another is not a shallow thing. Kisses are sweet and hugs are reassuring, but they aren't the source for true and lasting joy.
In action and in intentions, there should be a mutual sharing of joy between the two of you. Search your heart and consider the past examples you've experienced together. Are there unanswered questions about his intentions, integrity or honesty that bring doubt to your heart? Do you find yourself hoping that he will change? Does he find himself hoping that you will change? If you answered yes to these questions, please don't overlook this. Hesitations are a part of life, but doubt is not a fruit of God's Spirit. Reflect on your relationship. If there is joy, you won't have to search very long.
2.Do You Talk About Your Joint Futures Together?
I'm glad your date last week was amazing, but if you're only ever talking about the past, how do you know each other's expectation for the future? Do you know what his long term goals are? Does he know what yours are? Do your career plans and family structures complement each other? Are your expectations about finances & lifestyle similar? In the book of Amos 3:3, we read, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” Most certainly, no, they can't.
The person who will most compliment you will do so in line with what God has for you. Agreement will not be a struggle, but it will require mutual willingness. If you do not know “who you are” or “where you are going”, then it is going to be difficult to know if someone is compatible with you. Thus conversations about the future are vital. They open up the door to self discovery and long term compatibility.
3. Are Your Beliefs and Convictions Equal?
If you are uncomfortable in circles where there is social drinking, you might not want to marry a man who enjoys a beer or two. If he feels that women should stay home with the kids and you want to pursue a career, odds are, you might not be the best fit for each other. Romans 14: 13-15 says, "I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the LORD Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean". Paul is simply saying to be considerate of other's life styles. We each must be respectful of other's choices, but joining in a relationship where core beliefs are conflicting could potentially be detrimental.
Our belief system is foundational to how we make decisions for ourselves and others. The Bible teaches us to be “equally yoked”. In the institution of marriage, God desires that two become one. In every good marriage there must be “oneness” in what you believe about God and His will for your life, if He is to be the one leading your love. Christ must be at the center and you both must be in eager agreement of this. It's more than agreeing to disagree. Sometimes, this is a necessary statement, but there are areas where unity is mandatory. There must be “oneness” in how you both live out your faith and to what degree you want your faith to impact your daily decisions and future children and household. To be “equally yoked” doesn't always equate to equal knowledge of scripture, but it does mean that you both share the same core convictions and beliefs that will affect your living, your loving and your family.
4. Do You have the Seal of Approval?
Our families love us and they want the best for us. Our mothers are praying for beautiful grand babies and our fathers are seeking the Lord to send us a man who is worthy of our hearts. Your friends want to dance at your wedding and take selfies to celebrate your happiness. So be very observant if one of your trusted loved ones share concerns about your significant other. If multiple family members and friends are worried about your relationship, then that should cause you to take a step back in reflection and consideration. Remember, your heart is important to them. They aren't trying to stifle your life, they want to protect it. Loving family members and true friends want all of God's goodness for you, so it is important to take into consideration their perspective and advice on your relationships. Remember, listen to them with love and take their concerns, and yours, to the Lord in prayer.
5. Are You Both Pursuing More?
Is your significant other a hard-worker? Selfless? Humble? Generous? Honest? Full of integrity? Eager to grow and learn? What about you? Are you aware of areas in your life that need more of Jesus? Are you willing to be corrected in love and supported in developing into the person God has called you to be?
As we progress in life, we should be growing. We shouldn't be the same person we were last year or last month. You should be each others biggest fan for growth! If your potential spouse is growing and you aren't, this could be a danger to your future. How do you expect to stay relevant if you aren't growing together?
Don’t settle for someone who isn't interested in what God has planned for your life. I promise, your sexy swagger is not enough to keep a man's attention over a lifetime. There will come a day when your looks won't hold up in the context of life's issues and terrain. Neither will his. Ladies, it's so important to have a boyfriend, and especially a husband, who will encourage the gifts within you, beyond simple outward compliments. Stay humble and seek Christ to grow you deeper as an individual and together. It's these characteristics that build the foundation for trust, intimacy and unconditional love! No dress or hairstyle can make up for this type of connection or support.
Love well my friends!
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