If you’re single, you’ve probably been advised at some point to make a “list” of qualities you want in a spouse.
If you’re a Christian single, you’ve probably gotten this advice even more often, given that we Christians have added spiritual criteria to consider (must be in the Word, must be committed to church, etc.).
Lists are fun to make; they make that future feel right around the corner. And they’re valuable, with caveats. Having to sit down and ponder what really matters in a partner, what would best fit our soul and personality, and how God might want to sanctify our list – all good stuff.
But there was a pastor I once followed for about a year whose congregation consisted of singles of varying ages, and he suggested this:
Make a second list – of things you can live without.
Like, actually sit down and write that second list with the same pencil and paper.
He offered good reasons for this exercise. One is realism. Our future spouse isn’t perfect; there will be quirks, snags, wounds, darkness. Another is grace; we will have to live with all that. Making a list of things we can live without helps drill that reality home, make it tangible.
I don’t want to diminish any woman (or man, though I’m not searching there) who is trying hard to develop these qualities, but here’s a few items from the second list I’d write today.
A Size 0 Figure
Most of the gals who’ve caught my eye over the years haven’t had a Hollywood razor waist. Hair, eyes, smile, character (and yes, personality) – ask yourselves what will really matter in thirty years. If a gal could walk a runway in “Milan, darling, Milan” but lacks any interest in God, I wouldn’t see a lot of peace or intimacy in our future. I’d hope that single women hold the same standard for men.
Shares my fandoms
I used to want to marry a science fiction connoisseur and rabid Seahawks fan. Now I understand that these are “Brandon Things” and that it’s okay to enjoy them on my own.
This may be a “duh” item for some, but since there’s marriage advice on it, I’m guessing it’s not universally known: it’s a mark of personal health to be able to entertain oneself. A couple will need some pursuits they mutually enjoy, and if I wind up with a 12th Woman who knows how to pull off the Princess Leia bun, all the better. But if not, we’ll just have to learn to appreciate each other’s interests. Sounds like a God thing, no?
Ability to Cook
I know a number of Christian gals, both fellow bloggers and in my town, who look forward to cooking for their husbands. Yes, even in this age of third-wave feminism. They think it part of their calling as a wife-to-be. I’m humbled by their convictions.*
But I know there will be days when my future wife can’t pull it off – when the kid-monsters have leached her energy (probably my DNA in action. Sorry in advance, babe), when some new recipe throws out a tripwire, when our schedules don’t jive – who knows. Besides, God’s the one deciding who I marry. He might pick me out a Rachael Ray clone; he might not.
So when those days come, it will be my sacred calling to embrace my gift from God and tell her how happy I am just that she exists. And then go get takeout. I certainly didn’t spend 15 years learning to survive as a single just to get annoyed later over burnt roasts.
I have friends who were dumped when the time came in their relationships to confess past sexual missteps.
I’m bugged. Where was the grace in those dumpings? Where was the Jesus? I get wanting to marry someone who is sexually whole – I pray for that – but the past is the past and my friends had fully repented and recommitted. What more could be done now? I just don’t know. How can we hold against someone a sin that God has forgiven? Are we zeroed in on what we might receive, or are we offering ourselves to God as emissaries of his grace?
There are plenty of other items to toss around on such lists. A great job. Personal hygiene. Traveling. Your list will look different. But I recommend this second list trick, hoping and praying that it will get you thinking about grace today.
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* I realize there’s tension over gender and marital roles. We can skirt all that by remembering that many of our callings are individual ones. Whether a Christian woman feels called to cook for her husband or not, that’s ultimately her business alone.