Chances are, if you’ve been single for an extended amount of time, this thought has crossed your mind. If you’ve been single for an extension of an extended amount of time, you’ve probably had someone else take a stab at your love life with a similar quizzical sentiment. In all honesty, I’ve avoided writing about this topic because I’m afraid that the answer might be “yes” and yes in a variety of ways. And unless you fall into extremes like my sister (who is the least superficial person I know) or Henry XIII, there is no easy answer. So if you read the title and followed a link hoping for a tidy list of do’s and don’ts, read no further. You won’t find such an impossibility. You will, however, get a discussion, some thoughts to ponder, and hopefully, a whole lot of Gospel. This will be broken into two parts: one that will focus on character and one that will camp on physical attraction. Let’s get started!
When Christian singles ask for a passage of Scripture to tell them what to look for in a future spouse, they are often pointed to Proverbs 31 if the inquisitor is a dude and 1 Timothy 3 if the question is coming from someone with two X chromosomes. Here are some highlights from each:
If you’ve ever intently read this passage, then you know that the woman described here is accomplished indeed. The passage is advice given to a king by his mother on what he should look for in a wife, and it is used more broadly today as a passage that either offers a standard for women to strive for or a set of characteristics Christian men should look for in a future wife. She is practical, hard-working, loved by all, charitable, fearless, generous, handy, wise, and apparently never actually sleeps because of all the activity in her schedule.
1 Timothy 3
This passage describes qualifications for a church elder or deacon. He is a good manager of his household, a seasoned Believer with proven faithfulness in many areas of his life, and he has a good public reputation. He “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” That is quite a tall order, is it not?
I admire the qualities presented in these passages because they all reflect attributes that honor Christ, and these standards are, in fact, impossible to meet without a heart that has been shaped over time by the gospel.
So how does this relate to pickiness? In reviewing these qualifications, the take-away can often be that this list is an immovable bar that must be reached by anyone a single Christian should find themselves interested in. But here’s the trouble with that outlook: the woman described in Proverbs 31 and the type of man described in 1 Timothy 3 are finished products. We can assume this based not only on their polished attributes, but also in the mentioning of spouses and children and extensive reputations. They have experienced a lot of life and trials that have lent to what has taken shape. Unless you are dating in or above your 50’s, chances are you won’t find this type of spouse. If the Lord wills, you will only ever be dating and marrying an unfinished product. Single gentlemen will (hopefully) survey the available ladies in their life for Proverbs 31 potential, but there’s still a bit of the journey to go before any of us will be Wonder Woman with a Bible. Bachelorettes will do well to look for a budding 1 Timothy 3 man because Captain Wentworth is a fictional character.
And is that not the point of marriage, anyhow? God’s eternal goal in marriage is to reflect Christ and the church. But isn’t a second, yet still important goal to find someone to be a mutual sharpener on their respective journeys with Jesus? For those that marry, isn’t marriage the tool that causes a Believer to be pushed from potential to spiritual success? I was recently listening to a sermon by Tim Keller titled “Sexuality and the Christian Hope” (highly recommend!), and he makes an important point in regards to selecting a mate. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically says that you should be in love with who your significant other is becoming, because if Christ is working in them, that will be the aspect of their life that will allow you to fall more and more in love with them every day. I am by no means suggesting that this concept be used as an excuse to date unbelievers. “I’m just really excited about who they could become” holds no significance if Christ isn’t part of their life to begin with. But perhaps I have come through a season of judging potentials too harshly for not being as sanctified as someone older, more seasoned, or Jesus Christ himself. Us humans are works in progress. Why should we expect to date someone who has it all figured out?
Stay tuned for Part II, where we will talk about pickiness in regards to physical attraction!