Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A letter to my daughters… (part 1)

(your mama loves how you refuse to take yourselves too seriously)

You are getting to that time of life when the future is nearer than it was before… which could probably be said about any time of life, given the flow of time and the nature of the future. But still, you know what I mean. You are getting to that place where the future begs decisions of you, and you are forced to decide, or to decide by not deciding, what to do next. You will do something next, whether it is on purpose or as an unavoidable reaction to events as they unfold.

You are starting to have ideas about what you want to accomplish, what you want to spend your lives doing. This is good, necessary, in fact. People say you have to have a dream. I’m not sure that’s right, exactly, but it is good to have goals and ideals to strive for, as long as you are flexible and allow the Lord to guide you and don’t get upset and angry if His plans turn out to be different from those you had made for yourself.

I am so happy that you are not boy-crazy, either of you, and that your lives are not dominated by an overwhelming “need” (perceived need) for a relationship with the opposite sex. There are so many women who cannot see themselves as individuals, who must have a male in their lives to make them feel worthy. It is a true virtue to let the Lord develop you as an individual and leave the marrying or singleness in His hands, according to His will.

That said, I wanted to tell you a few things about finding a husband, in case you ever decide to do so.

The first thing is, of course, the most important. He has to be a believer and a follower of Christ. This is non-negotiable. You are daughters of God, and you have no part in an intimate relationship with someone who does not share in this fellowship. The Bible says it this way: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:15. It is a terrible sadness for a believing woman to be married to an unbelieving husband, to live as his wife, loving him, cooking for him, bearing his children, and all the time knowing that he is headed for a devastating eternal destiny separated from her and from God and from all that is good. And speaking of the children, your chances of teaching your children the truth about God and having them accept and believe what you say are severely hampered if your husband does not agree with what you believe.

So, we have established that any potential potential person has to be a Christian, and yes, I meant to write potential twice, meaning, “If he has the potential to become a potential.” But there is a sticky issue here, too. There are a lot of men who masquerade as Christians, particularly in Christian settings, in order to score a nice wife. Be on your guard. I can think of three women I know well who were duped in this kind of a situation… and that’s right off the top of my head. I could think of more if I tried.

How do you know if a guy is a real Christian? It’s not an easy task. A tricky guy, particularly one who has grown up in the church, can put on a really good show. So can one who feels the need to convert (or to appear to have converted) just so he can get you.

Here are a few ideas you can use to guide you…

1. What is his commitment to honoring the Sabbath? Does he take church attendance seriously? This may sound legalistic and judgmental, but please hear me out. Does he like to go to church? Or is he always looking for an excuse to skip? When he is at church, does he restlessly go through the motions, or does he seriously enter into worship, prayer and discussion of scripture? When debating the scriptures, does he have any real insight, or does he just mouth back pat answers? Is he excited about new things he discovers about the Lord, or is he negative and argumentative regarding spiritual issues? I am not saying that a person who goes to church is good and one who doesn’t is bad, because we all know that isn’t always true. However, a good man will love opportunities to learn about God and worship Him. On the other hand, someone who does not treasure fellowship with the body of Christ may not be part of the body of Christ, and that, after all, is exactly what you are trying to discern.

2. Does he walk along the edge of the line, or does he seriously seek the face of God? What I mean is, be looking for his attitude… is he always thinking about what he can get away with? Does he try to mimic the world and be as much like it as possible? Or does he strive to honor God because he loves Him? Does he read his Bible on his own, because he wants to? Or does he slam out an obligatory 5 minute read when he thinks somebody is looking? Physically, does he push you to get as much as he can without actually jumping the fence into sin, or is he committed to a purity that starts in the mind and trusts the Lord’s timing? (Granted, you should not be at a point where you know the answer to this last question if you are merely determining whether he has potential to become a potential, but what feeling do you get about this? And, very importantly, what is his history with other girls?)

3. What are his friends like? This is pretty huge. If his friends are committed Christians who encourage him in a righteous direction, you are much safer than if his friends are edgy and questionable. It is likely that he will continue to have guy-time with his friends after he is married, so if you don’t like his friends, you need to consider that. If you think his friends bring him down, he might not be the right man for you. On the other hand, if he has friends who hold him accountable and motivate him to take part in godly pursuits, it could be a very good thing. The significant thing about his friends is that he chose them. Analyze his choices and evaluate what they say about him.

4. What does he do in his spare time? I would stay far, far away from a guy who is always recreating on the computer, and from one who plays video games excessively. The computer is downright dangerous, as it is a cesspool of available free pornography. Video games are just plain annoying. A real God-loving, God-fearing Christian takes part in other pursuits: church activities, fellowship with believers, physical activity, exercise, appreciation of nature, music, volunteer work, helping his parents around their home, etc. This is not to say that a scholarly fellow who spends his time studying on the computer is bad, and (conversely) I know of someone who actually met her husband while they were volunteering at VBS, and he turned out to be an abusive porn addict, so you have to be careful here. Be prayerful and be on your guard. What he does when he is not with you is probably even more important than what he does when he is with you. If he keeps secrets about his spare time, if he guards blocks of unaccounted time when he is not working but still wants privacy from you, put up your antennae. These things do not bode well. Obviously (in the end) a good husband will need you to leave him alone when he at work, in business meetings, etc. But his spare time should be something he mainly wants to spend with you, and if he isn’t spending it with you, he should have no qualms about being transparent about where he is spending it. Secrets are only OK if they involve surprises that he is planning for you. In other words, secrets need to be temporary and short.

5. How does he treat his parents? A godly man will respect his parents and treat them with honor. If he is disobedient, rebellious or belittling toward his parents, run like the wind. This is an easy sign that he does not care about God’s commands or His promises (Exodus 20:12). Obviously there are some caveats here. If he has really difficult, demanding parents, he may need to assert his independence sometimes (respectfully), and this does not mean he is not a Christian. However, if this is the case, you also need to consider whether you can live with difficult, demanding in-laws for the rest of your life. You need to consider these things. Often, young people in love think they are just marrying a person, when in reality they are marrying into a whole family. The family into which you marry can bring you great joy or great pain for many, many years.

6. What does he like to talk about? It is a very good sign if you overhear him having spiritual conversations with people, discussing the scriptures with believers and sharing about Jesus with those who do not know Him. Pay attention to his chosen topics of conversation, and not just the conversations he has with you. If he is trying to attract you, he will naturally and understandably gear his conversations with you toward things you like to talk about (…until you are married, and then he may feel that he has won the conquest and no longer has to try; this is just reality). But… listen to his conversations with others. This is very important, and it will give you a better idea of what he really likes to talk about, which is what he will end up talking about after he has won you. So besides tipping you off to the condition of his heart where the Lord is concerned, this exercise can also help you determine basic compatibility, even if he is a Christian beyond all reasonable doubt. If he only ever talks to people about sports or cars, and these things bore you to tears, look for someone else.

7. Does he take a role of spiritual leadership? This is pretty key. Even if he is a Christian, if he is not your spiritual leader, you could end up a frustrated wife. If he is not a Christian, he will be unlikely to actively lead in a Christian setting. Does he pray aloud? Does he pray for you? Is he a leader in his spiritual fellowship group? Does he encourage you in your walk with the Lord? Again, all these attributes can be faked in the short term, so their presence is not a guarantee, but the lack of them is a big danger sign. I knew one woman who married a “baby Christian.” God convicted her to break up with her boyfriend because he was not a believer, but then he got converted, so she married him. In the end, she said it was often difficult because she was the one with the church background, the prayer life, the knowledge of scripture, the ingrained convictions of right and wrong. Ultimately she had to do a lot of the spiritual leading in their home, and she said it would have been a lot easier if she had married someone of a more similar spiritual maturity.

These guidelines are for the first stage… how to determine who has potential to become a potential. He has to be a lover of Jesus, no compromises. These guidelines are to help you determine whether there is any potential for potential. Next we will talk about where you go from there.

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