“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
A well-known verse. But would you be interested in a male paraphrasing, overheard from an old Air Force colleague of mine?
“For every sexy woman, there are five guys in her wake who got sick of her crap.”
Crude, perhaps. Highly generalized, certainly. And you have to wonder whether all five of those men were as crap-free as he made them sound. (You’ll notice I called the guy a colleague, not a buddy.)
But if you’re rolling your eyes at a male reading of Proverbs 31, you might be surprised to learn that the chapter was written to men. Women have grabbed it and run with it as a means of educating their youngers (praise God for it), but the audience of the entire book of Proverbs is actually men. Read the book sometime; notice all the invitations for sons to learn discernment, to avoid the adulteress and the dripping faucet, to live as a pillar of wisdom.
And those words are needed.
“Desiring a healthy and vibrant sex life in marriage is a good and even wise thing. But for the Christian it’s not ultimate. As a single Christian man, I desire a spiritually healthy marriage before a sexually healthy one, though I trust the former encourages the latter. Therefore, I’m willing to trust God and wait, not because I want to have the most euphoric wedding night with someone I’m perfectly sexually compatible with, but because I want a healthy, God-honoring marriage after the wedding night with the person to whom I’ve just committed my life.” – Hafeez Baoku
I love it when I stumble across an article that speaks to what I’m pondering. It’s a God thing. Got to be. To him be the glory.
We need to be thinking about the after. When real life and boredom assert themselves over a marriage, it needs to be about more than just tan lines and muscles and things that happen after 10pm, because there’s still a 7am to deal with. Get over their surface. Get under their surface; ask God to reveal who that person really is.
That’s going to require a revolution on our part. A renewing of our minds.
I do not understand my gender’s insistence on being blind to all but physical figure in women. Forgive me, guys, for stereotyping us. But we do have this problem. That Air Force dude wasn’t wrong – we need to be wise. We all know that one bombshell who has had everything handed to her on a silver platter since she got her teeth fixed in middle school. The movies exaggerate her just a little, but she does exist. That’s what “the system” does for looks or talent or connected parents. (I would know. I was a teacher.)
Ladies, I plead with you as well in your search for husband material. Rare, it would seem, is the strapping business suit who treats well anyone he doesn’t need to. You think you’ll be the exception? The internet is drowning in stories to the contrary. I once got to mentor a strapping quarterback who was hitting 9th grade; the attention was already going to his head. Wouldn’t you rather find a guy who values everyone he meets, whether they have something to offer him or not? Who sees people through God’s eyes rather than his own?
Christian singles, do you honestly think that sharing someone’s bed – even within the confines of marriage, as we are commanded – will make up for selfishness, pettiness, or unfaithfulness?
Maybe it’s just me, but I could not imagine trying to be that vulnerable with a wife I don’t trust to chase God.
I know the world is urging you, deafeningly, to look for “sexy”. But what’s really going to leave you thirsty for your mate in the long run?
And what of readiness? Tragically, this is something that a lot of “Singles’ Lists” don’t feature, the readiness to live as God has prescribed. This isn’t Candyland we’re venturing into; it’s more like Mordor. Strife, injustice, and selfishness are running amok in this world. No amount of “kissing in the rain” or surprise dates are going to make that stuff go away, so drop the silly Facebook memes. We need more. We need to understand the armor of God, the ways of wisdom, and most importantly, how to connect with God. We need to be able to hear our Shepherd’s voice.
This stuff is sexy. Godly is sexy. Character, readiness, surrender – this is our shield against the evil both outside and inside ourselves. It creates trust. And if there’s one thing the world and the church seem to agree on, it’s that trust comes in handy in bed. (Or so I’ve heard. I wouldn’t know.)
Having walked the single path for a while, I find myself coming up with five things I wish Christian singles’ doctrine had taught me to look for. Don’t be intimidated; God isn’t waiting to marry you off until you master all these, in large part because you’ll need decades to do so. Neither am I suggesting you wait for the perfect person. That’ll be a long wait. As in seventy years. But I will not apologize for urging you to aim for the top of the apple tree.
If you want to be able to reach up there, climb up there yourself. As you’ve heard before, singles, train. It’s the responsible thing to get started now. Prepare now.
Find someone who…
1. …knows the spiritual disciplines
Prayer and Bible reading are, of course, essential. I wouldn’t blame a woman for shooting me down if I didn’t do these things.
But the truth is, not only are even eager Christians barely scratching the surface there, but there is more. Richard Foster classifies things like solitude, simplicity, confession, and celebration (amongst others) as spiritual disciplines. Whaaa? Some of us didn’t even know these things needed practice. But I have found intentional value in all of them.
I would recommend Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Seek out the Biblical arts of getting closer to God and taking part in what he’s doing. And look for someone who has at least started integrating them into their walk.
2. …suffers well
You don’t want to be five years and two kids deep in a marriage, wake up one day to excruciating trial, and hear your spouse go “Wait, what?? The Christian life involves pain?” and lock themselves in the bathroom or garage. Or at least I don’t.
There’s always a bit of a shock to discovering the Christian path has thorns. But one huge benefit to my single season is that my shock came during that time, where it wouldn’t inflict collateral damage on a wife or kids. I got to skip live-fire training. I remember groaning at age 24, “man, life is hard; some people just don’t win in this life”. That was a very good thing to realize before marrying, because I had a chance to prepare – to rejoice in trials, turn to God for strength, and find silver linings and opportunities every day. I hope to marry someone who can be a similar shelter, putting on a God-powered smile, teaching the kids to be grateful for what they have and use it inventively.
3. …gets spiritual warfare
Am I saying turn someone down who doesn’t know this stuff? Not really.
But this is an undervalued trait in most Christian singles’ books. Some people are weirded out by spiritual warfare, or by those who obsess over or abuse it. Yet I’ve found it to be vital in my life, both in fending off Satan’s attacks and wrangling my internal life into submission to God. You don’t need to start with Ed Murphy’s Handbook of Spiritual Warfare (good grief, what a tome), but even someone who knows the basics is an unspeakable blessing.
Be that person yourself. Read about the authority Jesus gives us to renounce oppressive spirits. Learn how to bring God’s truth, out loud, against the foul whispers directed at your soul. Even if it’s just knowing how to pray off a vague sadness around your house instead of shrugging and turning on the TV, seek what God is offering. You’re going to want to protect your family.
4. …is moving in the same direction
S/he could be a warrior poet with unimpeachable Christian character and still be a bad match for you. Not every believer is given the same calling you are, or anything remotely close. We’re not all called to be missionaries to Tanzania, or soldiers, or politicians. Ask whether that “sexy” believer you’re looking at is well-equipped to ride whatever ripple effects God’s call brings upon your life.
5. …is open to change
This is the most non-negotiable. Hands down. It’s like a blanket cover of the previous four – and anything else you can think of. Making your spouse more affirming, more patient, more industrious, more frugal, better at the “little things”, you name it – if the other person is broken before God, they can be transformed. You want that in a mate.
On the other hand, I don’t care how hot a woman is – if she makes excuses for her life or puts her own happiness ahead of God’s, I’m not touching her with a twenty-foot plank. Massive turnoff. It can only spell trouble for a marriage. Ladies, feel free to say the same of a man. If he refuses counsel or the movements of the Spirit, drop him like a hot potato. The only place he can lead you is over a cliff.
Be willing to wait until the right material shows up.
Yes, I know. You almost want to cry out. Wait some more? Yes. I am unapologetic in saying this. There are absolutely times when singleness is the better option. I don’t like it either, but I suspect I’d like the alternative even less, if God is telling the truth. We just have to trust that he knows the options best.
And how can we turn down yet another chance to train our trust muscles?