“John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize…. Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.” (John 1;26, 32-34)
A few months ago, I was talking to a single friend who asked, “So how DO you know when you meet Mr. Right — and don’t just say, ‘Oh, you’ll know!’” She was tired of the typical pat answer and wanted something more.
The following Sunday, our pastor preached from the above Bible passage and I remembered the conversation with my friend. Jesus looked ordinary. He was right there in the crowd, looking, average. John had waited his whole life for Jesus; he had anticipated his coming for years, and yet without the sign of the dove descending on Jesus, he would have missed him, because, to look at, there was nothing extraordinary about him. He didn’t have a sign on his forehead, “I am THE ONE.” There were no bells or whistles, fireworks or heavenly hosts, just an ordinary guy, amidst a crowd, who would ultimately do extraordinary things.
I realized that something similar happens with single women, especially if you have been waiting for a long time. You daydream, you pray and fast, you talk with friends, all about the kind of guy you’d like to marry. You don’t know when he’ll come, but you envision how you’ll meet, what he’ll be like, how he’ll ask you out and how he’ll one day pop the question. You can build it up in your head so much that before you know it, you’ve got this fairytale romance going on in your mind, that probably won’t come to pass quite that way. Your future husband may be that ordinary Joe, in the congregation, a few rows down, who doesn’t really turn heads and certainly doesn’t walk on water. He won’t have a hallo and Gabriel won’t come and whisper in your ear, “He’s THE ONE.”
Most single women I meet have standards that are either too high or too low. Either they snub every man that shows interest in them because he’s not spiritual enough, handsome enough, rich enough or he has some mortal flaw. Or, they are so desperate they go out with any guy who has two legs and occasionally goes to church. When I was single, I fell in the later category; because of low self-esteem, I went out with almost any guy who showed the slightest interest in me. But I’ve met many women who wouldn’t go out with Jesus himself, because, after all, he was just a carpenter (and you’ll never drive a Lexus being married to a carpenter!)
My concern with picky single women is that they’ll miss a gem because he wears the wrong kind of jeans or carries a few extra pounds or doesn’t have the books of the Bible memorized – backwards.
So how DO you know? How will you recognize him when he comes. One of my favorite Broadway musicals is Guys and Dolls. I used to croon with the heroin, Sarah, “Suddenly I’ll know, when my love comes along/ I’ll know, then and there…” Will you really know, suddenly, then and there?
As I’ve thought about my own romance with Marvin and those of some of my friends with happy marriages I’ve come up with a few crucial things that go into the knowing: some signs, if you will, kind of like that dove resting on Jesus, to look for if you’re getting serious about somebody and want to know if this might possibly be Mr. Right.
You’ll notice that all of these points assume that you’ve spent some time getting to know each other. I know there are some successful instances of mutual love at first sight and quick courtships. But in general, I am a huge proponent of taking your time to get to know the guy. One of the reasons the divorce rate is so high among Christians, is that Christians don’t spend enough time getting to know each other during the dating season. They are so afraid of falling into sexual sin, that they rush the process and run to the altar. I totally believe, however, that you can date long enough to really get to know a guy AND stay out of the sack. You must be wise, agree on boundaries and have some method of accountability, but it’s possible. We’re human beings, with the Holy Spirit resident on the inside, not animals during mating season! A wise friend once said, “The purpose of dating is to get to know each other, not to see how far you can go without having sex.” My rule of thumb is one to two years; this includes your initial friendship, the dating period and your engagement. As I said, I know a couple of people who met and married a few months later, and they are still happily married. But this is the exception, not the rule.
Here are five things to look for in your relationship, if you are trying to discern if this guy is for keeps. I’m sure there are other important things, but here are five to start with.
Do you respect his walk with the Lord? Whether he’s a new Christian, or a preacher’s kid who got saved when he was 4, does he love the Word? Does he love to worship? Does he hear from God during his quiet times? Is he growing spiritually because he’s teachable and humble?
Do you respect his work ethic? Whether he’s a world-renowned surgeon, or a telephone repairman, does he take his job seriously, giving it 100% when he’s there? Is he respected and liked by his colleagues and co-workers? Does he have ambition to do better and go beyond where he is?
Do you respect his stewardship? Whether he owns a gorgeous home or rents a one bed-room apartment, does he take care of it? Is he a good steward of his money?
Does he respect you? Does he encourage you to dream and then do what it takes to realize your dreams? Does he invest time and/or money helping you to reach your goals? Does he listen to you, respect your opinions and admit that sometimes you know more than he does? Is he proud of you? Does he like “showing you off” – to his parents and friends?
Does he respect your body and take the lead in upholding the standards of purity you have set? Good guys struggle with sexual temptation. If he doesn’t struggle, you should wonder. But good guys will also respect and love you enough to deny their flesh and wait.
Generosity and sacrifice.
Whether he earns $40,000 or $240,000 a year, does he make financial sacrifices to bless you? Does he pay the bill at the restaurant, surprise you with flowers, pick you up and pay for the gas? I am NOT encouraging you to look for a Sugar Daddy, but I do believe that the willingness of a man to sacrifice for his girlfriend is a crucial test. God asks husbands to lay down their lives for their wives – to literally die for them if necessary, and to daily die to themselves to help their wives to thrive. If a guy can’t buy you dinner when you’re dating, he’s not going to all of a sudden turn into a wonderfully giving husband who will get up in the middle of the night to attend to a sick child so that you can get some sleep. If he’s selfish when you’re dating him, he will be more selfish when you’re married to him. Ladies, I do NOT mean that the guy should neglect his rent so that he can take you to a five star restaurant. That’s bad stewardship. I DO mean that dating you should cost him and it should hurt his wallet. He should be happy to deny himself his daily Starbucks or those new slick Bose speakers he’s been looking at to bless your socks off on your birthday.
Does he drive the full way to pick you up, or does he routinely ask to meet him half way? Is he willing to hang out with your family and friends, even if it’s a little awkward, because it’s important and it makes you happy?
Look for the small and large sacrifices along the way. Good, Christian husbands can attest that it takes a lot of sacrifice to make a marriage work. They die to themselves daily to be the servant leaders in their homes. You should see signs of this in your dating days. It will not magically appear after your honeymoon.
Love gives, and if the guy doesn’t give out of his time, energy and money, he doesn’t love you.
The approval of those who love you the most.
One of the reasons so many girls wind up with the wrong guy is that they date in a vacuum. In our modern culture, women go away to college, often settle down afterwards in a city far from home and in those post college years, they start thinking about marriage. If they bring the guy home to meet their parents, it’s after they have given their hearts away and perhaps their bodies. As a result, if the parents see any red flags, it’s too late. You don’t really want to hear what they have to say because your mind is already made up. You’re marrying him; the thought of breaking up is just too painful and seeking your parents’ approval is more perfunctory than it is genuine.
The better way is to get your family and friends involved right away. As a matter of fact, I believe the best way to date, especially in the initial stages, is within a group: going out to dinner with friends, going to movies with other couples, going to a friend’s barbecue, together, hanging out at your parents’ home for dinner and movie. In those initial months, when you like a guy, but you don’t know what God is saying, it is best to date out in the open, doing group activities with those who know you and love you the most.
I know in some cases your parents are deceased, or unavailable or they live too far away to bring a boyfriend home for a casual dinner. What about your best friends? Those closest to you in your church family? You want people to meet this guy who have your best interest in mind – and his too. People who are not on Cloud 9, who can see clearly and who have discernment. If it is possible for your parents to meet him in those early stages, don’t discount your their opinions if they are unsaved. Fathers have an uncanny sixth sense about men interested in their daughters. Yes, they can be too protective. But deep down inside, most fathers want to see their daughters happily married, and whether they are saved or not, they can smell a rat. My father always knew when boyfriends wouldn’t stay around long. He just sensed their lack of serious interest. I wish he had lived long enough to meet Marvin, and see a man truly loving me, but they’ll meet in heaven someday, and have plenty to talk about! (My father was saved shortly before he died.)
You don’t need to be alone all the time to get to know each other. The myth of dating is that you need hundreds of hours of one on one time, having intimate dinners, cuddling in each other’s apartments and enjoying romantic picnics together to get to know someone well enough. And you do need time alone, but not every day and every evening. The majority of time, especially when you first meet, should be with other people. The guy does not need unlimited access into your life and heart. Keep it simple, upbeat and light by having other people around. That will help you to guard your heart and those other people will be a source of confirmation of what God is saying.
After a while, when your friends and family offer an opinion, LISTEN. “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” (Prov 12:15)
You do not have to heed advice based in racism or other ungodly biases, but if someone close to you questions the guy’s character or his true feeling for you, listen and respond wisely.
Confirmation from God’s Word.
It’s easy to deceive yourself and believe that God TOLD you that this is the guy, when it really is just you hoping and wishing that this is the guy. That’s why it’s dangerous to rely on this test alone, but it is important for you to try to hear from God, and even to ask Him for a Scripture confirming His will.
As I got to know Marvin I saw what a gem he was; he was passionate about God and heard from Him regularly; he had a great work ethic; he was humble, teachable, mature and wise. In so many ways, he was too good to be true. BUT, I was not romantically attracted to him and that bothered me. Attraction is not the most important thing, but it is important. So I was praying about that one day, asking God to do something in my heart if this was the right guy. I didn’t want to make a mistake and let a good thing go. And God lead me to a scripture: “Don’t judge by his appearance or height … The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Sam 16:7). God spoke to my heart, as clear as day, “Don’t worry about being physically attracted to him. Seek to know his heart and everything else will fall into place.” It felt like a thousand pound weight had been taken from my shoulders. I asked God to show me Marvin’s heart, and I fell in love with it. And soon I fell in love with all of him. By the time we were engaged I was very attracted to him, and today I truly find him the most handsome man alive.
The Love Factor
So are you in love with him? Can you imagine life without him? Do you want to be with him all the time? Do you love his company? Are you a better person, a better Christian, because of him? Yes, all of those exciting feelings should be there. To this day, my heart skips a beat when I hear Marvin walk through the door. If you marry the right guy, those feelings won’t go away – for very long anyway.
One last word. All of this goes both ways. I have already started praying for my sons’ wives. The thought of them marrying selfish, self-serving, immature women who don’t truly love them breaks my heart. I am praying that God will spare them of heartache and preserve them for good, Godly women who will love God and love them with all of their hearts. Be the kind of person you’d like to marry.