Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.
Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife. There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.
The number one thing has to be that you have to be going somewhere, and that needs to start with following Jesus. Now I’m not saying following Jesus perfectly. That’s a ridiculous standard. But are you overall submitted to Him? If not, you need to try to move there. If you move there, typically He’ll give you some direction. If someone were to ask where are you going – do you have an answer? Does the first part of that answer sound something like, “With Jesus.”?
The second thing you need to think about is the role you have as a man and how to best exercise that role. The idea of headship in a marriage should be exciting and humbling at the same time. With it comes responsibilities. But if I understand that as my role, then I’m better able to become the man I need to be to fulfill those responsibilities.* Or as I heard in a sermon recently – If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.
Let me also state that while both of the above can be hard, they are not only essential but doable. We have to embrace them.
Now, let’s talk about this from a dating perspective.
First of all, you are not – I repeat not – the head of your date. You have zero authority. That doesn’t mean that you can’t lead while dating – see this post for more thoughts on that. But you don’t yet have that role in your date’s life which is important to remember both in terms of pressure on yourself and frankly for her as well.
Secondly, I would advise you that as you are dating someone to ask the question, “Would this person respect my role and come with me?” I could list 100 qualifiers for that statement (this doesn’t mean you command something and she says yes etc) but none of those change the general question.
If the answer is no, then you need to not marry that person. It will not go well.
Here are two “pictures” of that from my own life, one from dating and another from ministry.
After some dates with one woman we began to talk about what we wanted in life, in the near and far future. We weren’t getting real deep here but just talking and getting to know more about each other. In the midst of that conversation she said, “I don’t ever want to leave this town. Ever. My family is here, my life is here. I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t think they would always live here.”
I knew right then that this wasn’t going anywhere. It’s not that she was a bad person or even that she wasn’t a Christian. But that is not my life. I told her that. I would go wherever I thought Jesus wanted me to go. I had to know that we would follow Him wherever, no prerequisites. We stopped dating shortly after.
The other example was in ministry but I think it paints a picture of what it would be like if you married someone who didn’t come with you. In the ministry that I lead it means going to where kids are. We go to their turf. It’s what we do. I lead other people to also do it. Some people do it with me and some don’t end up doing it. I remember a meeting with a volunteer who was struggling. This person said, “I feel like you don’t care about me as much as this other person. You talk to them more. I can tell you are close to them and I don’t feel close to you at all.”
I thought for a moment because they were right. But the reasoning was the problem. I said, “Well it’s not that I like them better per se. I like you. I believe in you and love you. But here’s the difference. They are in it with me. They show up. They go with me as I go. You don’t show up. My job is to lead people in this mission. That’s where I’m going. If you want to be with me – you have to actually come with me.”
Now again, I could list 100 caveats and talk about how this can look all sorts of different ways. But the general truth stands. You can’t make everyone follow you. Jesus let people walk. It’s complicated. Jesus pursues us yes. He left His throne to do it. And yet He doesn’t make people go with Him in response. And He doesn’t chase them either. The rich young ruler walked. A man says, “Let me first go bury my father.” Jesus said “Let the dead bury the dead – follow me.” The gospels and parables are full of this. Sometimes you have to let people you wish would come with you walk. It’s true in life. It’s true in ministry. It’s also true in dating.
Remember that marriage is a picture of the Kingdom (as is Celibacy). They both point towards the Kingdom in unique ways. Part of the marriage picture is this idea of response to invitation.
I would strongly advise you as a man not to marry someone that wouldn’t go with you. You may be thinking, “Bro you have no idea. There just aren’t that many women out there like that.” Maybe. But there are more than you think.
You need someone who will come with you. When I do weddings I always tell the groom that the bride needs to know that he isn’t leaving no matter what, and I tell the bride that the groom needs to know that she is on his side no matter what. I know that both of those will get tested. But they are necessary.
This doesn’t mean that the only qualifier for a spouse is that she would come with you. However I would tell you that it is one of the essential qualifiers and one that often gets overlooked when the woman has a bunch of other qualities that you are looking for.
I wouldn’t advise marrying any woman who didn’t respect you and who wouldn’t have a posture of going with you as you follow Jesus.**
* I first read about this idea of roles then responsibilities on this post. I think it is helpful in seeing that how we view the order of roles and responsibilities is extremely important.
** I would also advise women not to marry anyone they didn’t respect or want to go with