In college I had a list. You probably know the one I’m talking about. It was the list. The list that promised me I could (and would) find the man of my dreams. The list that held every quality I desired in a husband. The list that I tucked away for that special day—the day I met him and we lived happily ever after.
I remember exactly where I was when I made that list. Over
dinner with girlfriends we carefully crafted our lists. We talked through a
variety of qualities, goals, and personality traits from the necessity of humor
to ministry aspirations. The list was long and broad even down to the color of
his hair. I liked brown hair.
But what my 21-year-old self failed to realize at that
moment, and in the passing years, was that over time my list slowly began to
look like a male version of me. In my feeble mind, the perfect man was
everything I was, only he carried a Y chromosome. He needed to be serious, but
not too serious. He needed to be a deep thinker, but not too deep. He needed to
be a stronger personality than me (and I defined what strong looked like). He
needed to be this and that…and the list went on. Every guy I met in those early
days was subject to the list. If he didn’t meet the requirements, he didn’t get
very far with me. In my mind, my list was infallible, a sort of “word from the
Lord.” I heard stories of women who met their husbands, and then after checking
him against the list realized that he met every bullet point. I wanted that to
be my story, too. And that was my problem.
You see, a list might tell you what you want. But it might
not always tell you what you need. This is where God comes in.
Tim Keller, in his excellent book The Meaning of Marriage, says that marriage is ultimately about our
holiness, not our happiness. Yes, marriage makes us happy. But it also is one
of the God-ordained means that we grow in godliness.
If the purpose of marriage is to make us perfectly happy,
then maybe the list could work. But that's not what marriage is for, as Keller
says. My husband is exactly who I didn't know I needed. And my life is better
because of him. When he proposed to me, I hardly knew him. We had only been
dating for a few short months. I knew some important things about him, like the
fact that he was a Christian, a leader, and a godly man. But besides that,
there were some things about him that I thought weren’t exactly on my list.
Yet, there was something about him that drew me to him and made me desire to
follow him and be with him. In the bliss and hype of planning a wedding I put
my expectations aside and accepted all of him. Unfortunately, after we got
married those dormant expectations came out with a vengeance. While there were
some “list” qualities that didn’t emerge until after we were married (like his
humor), there were some irrelevant ones that were simply absent. And I did not
always respond well to their absence.
I did not fully understand that my husband was given to me
by God as a gift. When God created both of us, he knew what the other would
need. When I learned to get over my preconceived expectations and started
embracing him for the God-given husband that he is, I noticed something about
myself. Not only was I growing in godliness, but I was happier as well.
Keller also says that we need to spend more time focusing on
being the right person, instead of finding the right person. Basically, we need
to spend more time focusing on ourselves than on the endless quest for Mr. or
Miss Right. Instead of honing in on a list of expectations that no person can
ever adequately meet, stick to the essentials and grow as a believer first. So
I guess what I’m saying is throw out the list (or at least pare it down), and
get to work. Grow in godliness. Grow as a Christian. Grow as a committed church
member. Those things will serve you far more in your quest for finding that
special someone than perfecting your list.
I wish I had spent more time on the above than dreaming
about a list before I got married. I needed to trust what I list could never
tell me, essentially that God perfectly created my husband for my good and my
sanctification. God is in the business of making marriages and sustaining them.
And while my husband does possess some qualities of that list I made all those
years ago (at least the ones I can remember), he has a lot of other really good
ones I never thought about. And yes, he does have brown hair.