Are You Good Enough For Marriage?

When I was in high school and college, one of the things that I battled with constantly was the idea that I wasn’t “good enough”.  I battled this in almost every area of my life.  I saw myself as decent, but not great at pretty much everything.  The things that I did care about (sports for example) I worked my tail off to become great.  But I never saw myself as arriving at greatness.

Nowhere was this more true than with the opposite sex.  I was constantly in the friend zone with the girls that I liked.  I thought I was physically not attractive enough.  Later I thought I wasn’t making enough money.  The list goes on.  One of my go to thoughts was, “I’m just not good enough.”

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Spouse or Robot?

This last weekend I was leading a discussion that centered around the idea of that we are not to be OF the world.  In the world yes, but not of it.  We were discussing 1 John 2:15-17 which tells us not to love the world.  But if we are not to love the world, then we have to know what the world or “Spirit of the Age” is.  If we don’t name it, then it is very easy to get lulled to sleep and passively get sucked into being a part of it.  We came up with three Spirits of the Age: Busyness, Tolerance (which really means accepting anything as truth) and Consumerism.

As I’m sure you can figure out, these worldly trends have a huge impact on us when it comes to singleness, dating and marriage.  Now I’ll spend some time on each of these in different ways in the following weeks but for today, I just want to mess with us a little in case you think these things aren’t impacting where we are going.

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Managing Attraction – I Can’t Help What I Feel

Do you remember who you were attracted to back in your high school days.  Even maybe middle school?  I sure do remember.  I even had a list in middle school – a top ten list. Haha and all ten were so out of my league so to speak.  I didn’t understand how anything worked.  I just knew who I was attracted to and that I wished they were attracted to me.  I spent most of early to mid adolescence in that place.

But here’s an interesting thing.  When you are all “into” someone, they become even more attractive.  It’s as if our attraction scale slides based on how bad we want someone.  This leads to the feeling of “the one” or of “one that I can’t live without”.  I have a post coming soon to talk more about that idea, but for today I want to focus on a different side of attraction.

As I’ve stated, and fully believe, the feeling of attraction is not a choice.  You either feel attraction or you don’t.  It’s not a conscious in the moment decision.  It just is.  I believe we can do things to be more or less attractive in a moment to someone else (more coming here as well) but I don’t think I will myself to feeling attraction for someone.

However, we can manage what we do with attraction.  Attraction does not require a particular action.  And just because we don’t feel attraction (especially 100% attraction) doesn’t require inaction.

Today I want to talk about the first part, because honestly it’s maybe more important.  Just because you are attracted doesn’t mean you have to act on it.

I’ve had a lot of people (probably more women) tell me something to the affect of, “I can’t help what I feel.”  In other words, I’m attracted to this person and therefore I am going to be with them.  This is a very immature way of handling it.  An adolescent way really.  (No offense to our many fine adolescents 🙂 ).  It is not how you make a mature decision on who to marry – which as a Christian adult (read 18 and over) should be the goal of dating.

This is dangerous on so many levels.  First we should not be controlled by our feelings and desires.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t count.  They do.  But I put my feelings and desires up against the Truth of the scriptures and teachings of the Bible and Church.  I don’t just act because I feel.  This is a part of what it means to be mature.

Paul speaks to this when he says in 1 Corinthians 6 when he says that he will not be mastered by anything.  He is talking about sexual immorality but it’s true for all things. The idea is that while I might feel something or desire something, I don’t HAVE to act on that.

This is where the list of qualifiers I mentioned a couple of weeks ago comes into play. Attraction (whether its creating it or being attracted) opens the door.  It means it’s time to find some stuff out.  If I’m attracted that means I need to find out more.  That’s all it means.

If we don’t bring the feeling of attraction under our control and under the Lordship of God we are setting ourselves up to fail in all sorts of different ways.

  • We can end up dating/marrying someone we know we shouldn’t.  I lost count a long time ago of the people I’ve watched date people they said they never would, simply because they “can’t help what they feel.”
  • We can waist our time pursuing someone we know we wouldn’t marry.  Hard to find the right person while dating the wrong one knowingly.
  • We can set ourselves up to consumer date.  In other words, “I’m not as attracted today so I break up” or “I met someone more attractive so I moved on”.
  • If we do get married we set ourselves up for an affair.  If I “can’t help what I feel” then  what happens when after being married for a while I meet someone else that I’m attracted to?  That will happen you realize.  There are a lot of attractive people.

Attraction matters.  It matters for sure in our context that we live in.  I don’t think we can pretend that it doesn’t.  I think a bunch of verses about beauty fading probably aren’t going to change that.  We aren’t going back to arranged marriages. But while attraction is the starting point its not the ending point.  It’s probably going to be part of the process, but it’s not the end goal.

I want to say more about managing attraction.  Things like how much attraction do you have to have, how do we help ourselves be more attractive so to speak, more on how to flee when you are attracted but shouldn’t be, and some ways to quit comparing everyone to the mystical 15 that I talked about last time.  I’m even going to give a couple of new “qualifiers” that you should look for in someone’s character when considering marriage.

But for today, how driven by attraction are you?  Are you and adult about it, or an adolescent?  Do you control what you do with it, or are you controlled by it?

I Can’t Get The One I Want

I was talking with friend the other day about singleness and he said something that I really resonated with.  He said essentially, “I can get a date, I just can’t seem to get the one I want.”  Man I have thought that a lot.

I think it’s a common theme for a lot of guys.  The idea is that if there is someone that I really want to date, they are unavailable, live too far away, or just aren’t interested in me at all.  There are dates to be had, just not with the someone that I really want to go out with.

First lets acknowledge that in a way, as a Christian guy (or gal) we are shooting at a small target.  Here’s what I mean.  First there are all women.  But that won’t work for obvious reasons.  If we’re honest you aren’t probably going to pursue someone that you are not attracted to physically.  So that narrows the field (I’m not talking about being a perfect 10 here but someone who is in shape and generally good looking).  But even if you are attracted physically you still have to really enjoy each others company.  So the field has already been narrowed.  Now as a Christian however, they have to also be following Jesus.  So someone attractive, who you “gel” with who also is following Jesus.  Add timing and context and that friends, can be a small target.

That being said, there’s a lot of things that “not being able to get the one I want” can mean. There are traps we can fall into, often more than one at a time.  Let’s look at a few.

We can be intimidated by the people we are attracted to.  In other words, when we actually like someone we over think it or make it too big too quick.  Sometimes we’ve gone awhile without being interested in someone and so when we meet someone we mess it up. We become like the excited puppy that pees all over itself.  Or other times it’s a true pattern in our lives.  Whenever we like someone too much we end up giving them power over us and that is as I’ve noted a lot, not attractive to women.

We might have marriage as an idol.  In other words, if I can just meet the right person all in life will be right.  If we do that, whenever we meet someone who could be that person, we often put them in the sentence.  In other words it becomes, “If I can just get Sally all in life will be right.”  This of course isn’t true but it can feel true.  It’s a bad place to be.  Usually it means you have no chance with the girl.  But even if you do somehow miraculously do get the girl you won’t know how to be with her.  We become like the dog that catches the car. Not good.

This “one that you can’t get” is not perfect.  She is not the answer to your main questions in life.  She is not the only one you could marry.  There will be others.  We need to remember that no woman should be the goal or the trophy.  That will not end well.

A second angle on the “cant get the one I want” idea is there are some of us who pick people we can’t have so that we don’t have to actually get someone.  It’s usually subconscious but we can over and over again sabotage ourselves.  These are the folks who are always dating the “wrong” person.  If you always date someone you can’t marry, that’s about something deep going on inside of you.  You need to investigate that.  Maybe you don’t think you aren’t worthy of that.  But you are.

The third angle is the whole consumerism issue.  This plays out all sorts of ways.  Some guys struggle with once they have someone, they need a new someone.  It’s like they are dating an iphone.  When they first get the iphone it’s the answer to all the worlds problems.  Right up until there is a newer iphone.  There will always be a shinier new toy. There is no perfect person.  These folks bail at the first sign of trouble and then find a new person to pursue – who they don’t know well enough yet to see their flaws.

To top this all off we are inundated with all sorts of false advertisement.  I’m speaking here about everything from advertising, to the movies, to porn.  We have a perfect look, perfect romance, perfect performance that we are comparing everyone to.

So when we meet someone who seems to be THE ONE material we either freak out and can’t get them, put them on a pedestal and chase them instead of moving on, or date them until we realize they aren’t as perfect as the new girl (actual or in our mind) that we don’t know yet.

I’ll tell you right now that in my 20 plus years of singleness I struggled with all of the above at one point or another and I definitely believed the lie that I couldn’t get the one I wanted.

So how do we fight this lie.  Here are few quick steps.

1. You have to get your identity in Christ not in getting married or “getting” a particular person.  We need to have our core questions answered by God

2. Realize that biblically speaking there is not THE ONE

3. Begin to believe that you can indeed learn to interact with any woman that you want to.  That you are capable of delivering if it counts.

4. Recognize the truth that no girl that you think you have to have is actually perfect and maybe the girl you “could get” is better than you think.

Which trap do you fall into?  Do you believe that you can get the one you want?

You Are Single For A Reason – But Probably Not The One You Think

In my 20 plus years of being single I’ve heard a lot of reasons for singleness.  Some of it was attempted pastoring or self righteousness, but most times it was attempted encouragement which I learned to appreciate because I knew people loved me.

As I’ve said almost ad nauseum here we in the Christian single culture have basically settled for spiritual platitudes that don’t really deal with the issue at hand – either individually or as a whole society.

One of those is the idea that God has you single right now. This is of course often followed by other platitudes such as “God has you single right now for a reason”, or “Since God has you single right now, take advantage of that”. Or “God has you single right now so be content in that”.

One of the big problems we have in protestant culture when it comes to singleness is a complete lack of understanding of what Paul is talking about when it comes to the unmarried.  It kills us because we keep bringing “the word” to the situation without even understanding what we are saying.  We mix and match scriptures in an attempt to make the current singleness culture fit into our favorite theological leanings.  It ends up being “help us sleep at night theology” that frankly doesn’t help many people live well single or get married.

Now before I say more and make some people really uncomfortable, let me say this clearly for the record – God may indeed want you to be single right now.  No doubt He calls us to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different seasons.  So I’m not negating that possibility in someone’s personal life.

But it is a terrible blanket answer to singleness.  It would mean that God has suddenly in the last 40 years of history decided that people shouldn’t get married until 30 or older.  Or I guess it could mean that for thousands of years people disobeyed God by getting married earlier.  I’m not comfortable with either of those answers.

First off, the bible never talks about singleness as we know it.  It just doesn’t.  In the oft referred to passage in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is answering questions the Corinthians had asked about marriage and sexual immorality.  There was mass confusion and he was attempting to clear some things up.

Paul says a lot of things here but when it comes to the “gift” of being unmarried, Paul is NOT talking about a call to a season of singleness.  He is instead talking about a call to (or gift of) celibacy.  He is saying that some are called to serve God from an unmarried state. He is not saying you have the gift of singleness until you get married.  He is saying if you have it, don’t get married.  That is a HUGE distinction.  

What we’ve done is taken this and turned it into a way to avoid dealing with why we are single.  Or we take other things Paul says in other places and transpose it into this passage.  For example in Philippians 4 Paul says he has learned to be content in all circumstances.  We transpose that to mean, “God has called you to singleness right now and you should be content in that.”  But that isn’t what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7.  He says if you aren’t content (read called, or gifted) in celibacy – Go Get Married!

This is so critical.  Paul is not saying if you are unmarried that you don’t have to worry about the things of marriage.  It would be more accurate to say that one of the ways to see if you are called to celibacy is to ask if you are worried about it.  Otherwise he would be saying that celibate people are better followers of Jesus than married people.  If that were true then no one should get married.

My biggest problem with this is that we end up saying to people, if you are single right now that is where God has you and you should just sit there and be content in it.  That is not what Paul says.

There are lots of reasons our society is where it is in terms of marriage.  Most of it is not God’s plan.

God is not calling you to be insecure around women you like.  He has not given you the “gift” of lack of commitment.  He has not called you to live with someone you are dating instead of marrying them.  He is not calling you to consumer date.  He is not promising you that if you are called to marriage that it will magically happen without your effort.  He has not “gifted” you with the fear of divorce.  He has not given you the “gift” of extended adolescence.  I could go on and on.

We as singles need to quit hiding from our crap in bad theology and the Church needs to get off it’s butt and quit enabling us to do it.  The Church should be the safest place to deal with all of the reasons why we are single, not just the ones that make a nice sermon.

You are single for a reason – lots of reasons actually.  Some of that may be God’s timing or calling.  But a whole heck of a lot of it isn’t.  The way out isn’t mixing and matching scripture to feel better.

Car Shopping And Dating

About six weeks ago my car got totaled.  Actually it got flash flooded out.  (By the way if you have ever wondered how long you would have if you crashed into water before water seeped into your car – answer – not very long, as in get out of the car immediately).

At any rate, this meant I needed to go through the insurance process and then go find a new car.  My insurance company was very fair, and I had a little extra money to spend.  So I went about trying to find a car.  Now here’s the deal, I was committed to not take out a loan so I had exactly what I had.  I also knew what kind of car I wanted.

I visited around 20 different dealers, looked on all the websites (even craigslist).  There were lots of ok cars, but not so much “my car”.  I’m 6’4″ so there has to be room.  I’m in it a lot as most of my job is out of my office.  It needs to run a long time – my last car (not the totaled one) lasted for 322,000 miles.  And I wanted a V6, because, hey, I’m a man.

About two weeks in I found one.  All the cars I had seen like the one I wanted were at least $1500 -$2000 more than I had and this one was no different.  We met, I drove it, but at that time, the dealer couldn’t go that low.  His price was fair, I just didn’t have it, and I had to walk away.

You see the key to car shopping is actually pretty simple.  Don’t quit looking, don’t buy something you aren’t a little excited about (aka spend a fortune on something you don’t like), and always be willing to walk away.

I could have bought a car the first week and it would have been fine – but I would have been disappointed.  I also could have become discouraged – which I actually did.  But I had community and people to encourage me and loan me vehicles etc.  Finally I could have caved and spent more than I wanted to.  But I was able to walk away.

I share this way too long example because I think it totally relates to three traps we can fall into in looking for a spouse.

Let me just come right out and say that I’ve done all three of these things wrong. . . many times actually.

First, we can for sure quit looking.  There’s are lots of ways to get discouraged.  Maybe we go on a lot of dates, but after a while get dating fatigue and we just want to stop trying.  Or maybe we go on no dates and after a while we just quit asking.  Maybe we get our heart broken and we just don’t want to go back out there.  I’ve for sure been all of those places.  The key in my opinion to this is not dating alone.  In other words you need people in your life who walk with you in this area.  People who can encourage you, tell you what they see you could do better, or just let you vent.  But we needn’t give up.

Secondly we can go with something we know in our heart either isn’t right or just doesn’t excite us.  We say things like, “there’s nothing really wrong with her”, or “I know he’s not a believer but we get along great and he’s open to it”.  Now we have to be careful here.  If anything we in our culture have overplayed the whole don’t settle thing and instead often turn to consumer dating where at the first sign of trouble we bolt.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  But I’ve stayed with stuff longer than I should or tried to make stuff work that I wasn’t into, and that’s at best a waste of everyone’s time.

Which leads to the final trap. We have to be willing to walk away.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Again, I don’t mean run away.  I don’t mean that we walk away because of consumerism or because of fear.  But we need to approach the whole deal with knowledge of “I don’t have to do this.”  I can either choose to do it or not.

This is especially key as a guy.  You have to realize that you don’t need that girl.  You may be willing to wait a while for her, or be willing to listen if she changes her mind but that’s different than chasing her.  When we like someone as a guy, we can often get locked in to the point where “getting the girl” becomes the point.  And this just crushes us.  And it makes us less attractive and keeps us from moving on.

We can get in our head that there could never be anyone else.  But here’s the truth.  There will be. To be honest, knowing you CAN walk away, makes it more powerful when you choose not to.  Knowing that there is not this one perfect soulmate, frees you up to choose to be with someone and begin to become that.

The main key to all of this is having our identity and confidence in Christ.  Knowing that I’m ok no matter what allows us to keep risking, not make desperate choices and know that our life doesn’t depend on it.

Which of these traps do you mostly fall into?  What drives you to that?

You Don’t Marry A List

At some point when I was a young Christian single I made a list.  You know the list I’m talking about.  The list of things that I wanted in a wife.  I’m not sure if I was encouraged to do it or if I just did it on my own, but I made it.  Several times actually.  One in college for sure and another one right out of college, a couple of other random times.

There’s a lot of interesting things about this idea.  I mean I get it.  The whole idea is don’t settle for less than God’s best for you.  But there are some serious problems here as well.

For starters there is an entire shift that needs to be made in the Church.  We are often so concerned with getting it wrong, that we don’t end up getting it at all (read that sentence again and apply it to about half of Christianity as we know it – but I digress).

There is the overriding concern that we have to keep people from “marrying wrong”.  I think 20 years ago this was maybe true.  That time is over.  People aren’t marrying wrong but along with that they aren’t marrying right either.  So maybe instead of worrying about settling for less than God’s best, we should worry more about what marriage is, how to know if I’m called to it to begin with, and how to pursue it – then let the chips fall where they may. “The List” might well keep you from “marrying wrong” but it also might keep you from marrying at all.

Secondly the list turns us into consumers.  That’s because the list, while having to do with the attributes of the other person, usually ends up being about me and what I want and expect.  Now again, there is an element of good here.  We should have some standards for who we would date/marry.  But if/when the list moves from the essentials (they must love Jesus) to the personal (they must be joyful) to the trivial (they must be blonde) we start sliding into what we prefer instead of what God commands.  And that is dangerous grounds for lots of reasons.

If we make the list based solely on our needs and wants, we are in danger of making it all about us.  And that is not biblical love or marriage.

Instead we should flip the script big time.  We need to figure out how to love another person vs. being focussed on having to be loved by another person.  Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely not marry someone who doesn’t love you.  But if our focus is on this other person being the answer to our life questions then it will be impossible to love them.  If we get married, our commitment comes from our decision to love them, not the love we receive from them.

We need to get away from this idea of finding this person who will be perfect for us in every way.  This person who will “meet all of our needs and desires”.  This person who will magically give us our worth and value within that relationship.  That’s called an idol.  It’s not the point of marriage.

When we date, or search for someone to date, with that stuff going on we are never going to get married.  No one can live up to that.  And if we do get married then that marriage will be in trouble.

Which brings me to the final problem with The List.  You don’t marry a list.  You marry a person and no matter what you think you know about them, you don’t know anything yet. Even if you can check everything off the right way, you still have no idea how all of it is going to play out over the next decades.

It’s like school vs. the work environment.  There’s passing all the tests and learning the information.  But that’s not the same as putting it into action in real time and real life. That’s part of the adventure of marriage.  It’s what makes your story together happen.  It’s good to pass the test but it’s a lot more fulfilling to live out the actual adventure, failures and all. People, along with their needs and desires, change as their story develops.  You and I are not exempt – neither are our spouses if we marry.

For proof of this ask yourself if you list at age 20 would be the same as your list today. Mine isn’t.  There are three or four things that have always been on the list, but other things have changed as I’ve grown and changed.

What’s on your list?  What is honestly important to you?  Not just the “right/holy” answers but what really matters. . . to you?  What parts are trivial?  Has the trivial ever gotten in the way of commitment?