Wednesday, July 24, 2013

List Burning, Anyone?

When I was single, sometime during highschool, I made three lists.  Each one had certain things listed about what I wanted in a man someday.
The first was the "Must Be" List.  He must be a Christian.  He must hold to the same Theological beliefs as myself.  He must desire purity.  He must love God.  He must want children.  He must believe in homeschooling (or at least be supportive of it).  On this list was the no brainer, duh!, stuff. 

The second was the "Preference" List.  I would prefer if he was ministry-minded.  I would prefer if he was musically inclined.  I would prefer if he was taller and older than me.  On this list were the things that he didn't absolutely have to be, but a man with these qualities would definitely be a better candidate for marriage.
The third was the "Icing on the Cake" List.  I would love if he didn't want to own animals.  I would love it if he liked Mexican food.  I would love it if he enjoyed Lord of the Rings.  This list included many little things that would just make him perfect for me.
Those lists were extensive.  They included things spiritual to hair color, hobbies to not snoring.  I had the picture all figured out, the exact man God must have out there somewhere just for me.  A man He had created specifically for me, my needs, and even my desires.  A man who would be my ideal partner in everything, making my life complete.  And no one less would do!  He would be the perfect mix of poet and soldier with a Richard Armitage look about him.
And then I met Andrew.  Oh my.
Andrew did fill all of the "musts".  But, of course, that was the most basic list.  When it came to the second list, he fit about half.  The third list was painful (I think I listed almost all of the items he filled). 
He was nothing like the man I thought I would marry.  He hunted rattle snakes in his spare time.  He didn't much care to read outside of schooling.  He said "pert near" (okay, that is kind of adorable).  He tucked in his shirts.  The list goes on and on showing all of the ways he was so NOT the man I had dreamed up for myself.
And now I thank God for that.

You see, there is this terrible danger in making lists.  I know, it might help us weed out the infidels, but it also puts this terrible standard on all of the good men around us.  A man we know could be a wonderful guy, and possibly a wonderful potential spouse, but oh no! he doesn't fit item 165 on my "Preference" List.  *crosses him off with a sigh, "He's not good enough for me either"*
One thing I have seen over and over is that some of the best marriages are made from people who are practically NOTHING alike.  They have a shared love for the Lord, but she likes to bike and he likes to run.  She likes camping and he likes computers.  She loves animals and he has allergies.
In our case, I love books and he loves video games.  I love coffee and he loves Dr. Pepper (bleck!).  I love leisurely walks and he loves fishing.  I love flip-flops and he loves boots.  I love shooting a camera and he loves shooting a gun. 
See a pattern there???  ;-)
What I realize now when I look back on those lists is that my perspective was terribly wrong.  In fact, those lists only scream of selfishness.  How he would fulfill ME.  How he would be perfect for ME.  How, in many ways, he would be just like ME!
To steal the words of another writer, "I made a man in my own image".  I never considered how I might need to change to be a better helper to him.  How I might have to bend sometimes to support him.  And even how I would need to step out of my comfort zone to enjoy life with him
Marriage is a sacred thing and, of course, you shouldn't marry just anybody.  There do need to be standards, but not yours.  Instead, seek out what the Lord requires a man to be and also realize that no man will be perfect, just as you are not. 
One more thing you must realize is that no earthly man will ever fulfill you.  He may make you feel so special, so cherished, and oh so loved.  But the Lord has placed a desire deep inside of you that only He can fill.  If you hang your heart on a list that creates your perfect match, it will only be broken.  If you set your contentment on one man's ability to love you, you will only feel like he has failed you.
To my single friends I say, quit being so doggone picky.  And I mean that in the nicest, most certainly-still-marry-a-strong-believer-and-follower-of-Christ way possible.  He just doesn't have to be John Thornton to be your dashing young man.  He doesn't have to be the next great leader of the faith to be a Godly husband and father.  He doesn't need to have poetry memorized to be romantic.  And, I know it's hard to accept, but he doesn't need to have an accent either. 
Fix your heart on Christ in the meantime.  It will be hard most days.  But only He can see your heart, read your mind, and know how best to help you.  No man will ever be able to do that.
To my married friends I say, just keep loving your man for exactly who he is.  God has chosen you for each other.  Remember that God did not put your man on earth just to make you happy.  Encourage your man in the Lord, build him up.  Don't complain about him to others, only praise him (I can't stress that enough!).  Even embrace the differences.  Come on, if I can touch slimy fish and eat venison from a deer that I watched my husband and friends butcher the night before, you can show interest in those things your husband enjoys.  :-)
Honestly, I can only be so thankful to my Lord that He brought me a man who is so different from anything I expected.  God has shown me that He is SO much wiser than me and loves me far too much to give me a man just like myself.  Instead He gave me someone far more perfect and better.  Andrew, His choice for me.
And that really is the story of my life and love.  That God brought together a girl from the city and a boy from the west.  We are bare feet and cowboy boots.  We are vintage lover and snake wrangler.  We are delicate lace and durable jeans.  And we are so in love.
And how God loves us for giving us to each other.


Hannah Grace said...

Beautiful post and beautiful couple! Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your wisdom to help prepare The Single Ones [like me]. It can be so easy to, in a sense, demand for the "perfect man", when really we just need to let go and let God guide us.

Blythe said...

I enjoyed this Rachel and thank you. Being 18 and the age when you start thinking more on marriage my friend and I were talking on the musts.....hahaha after a while I thought "Man,I'm making it almost impossible." I've always wondering that people who enjoy doing different things how they can fall in love. I guess I've always thought that you fall in love over the similarities that you share and enjoy doing together.But I'm slowly coming into reality lately. Great post Rachel it was very insightful,since I've got those lists too.

Natasha Atkerson said...

Thank you Rachel for sharing!
God actually whammed me on this one!
I was thinking about and all of sudden had the thought of-are you all these things you're putting on your list?! So I sat down actually wrote a list out, prayed for my future husband, and then prayed that I would be everything I put on my list for "him". I agree completely with you,
putting a list together of "must have dark hair and be 6'5" tall" is just setting ourselves up for disappointment. Although it IS important, I think, as you said, to make a list of things you won't compromise on-like having a strong relationship with Jesus and being a God lover-that sort of thing.
I do have to say though, I have problems being single trying to understand the whole "opposites attract" thing. I've always thought people had to have things in common, but I guess Jesus is the most important thing to have in common, right?
You guys look like such a sweet couple, may God bless you as you honor Him through your marriage.
A Modest Fashion Blog:

Sarah Rega said...

This was something I REALLY needed to read! I am at fault when it comes to this list making and after reading your post I can see how that having MY list of "preferences" reveals my lack in trust in the Lord and His Great Plan for my life. God has already made my mate, my other half; and by rejecting His choice for me I am rejecting Him.
Thank you for sharing this. It has been a blessing to me.
May the Lord continue to bless you and your godly marriage!

Jess said...

Hi Rachel,
I have two lists... wants and needs... but this was still good to read because even if something isn't on my physical list, it's easy to buy into what the world calls needs, and add it to my mental list! So thanks for sharing your story.


Megan and Abby said...

I can't tell you how much your words mean to me right now. Yes, I've made the lists, and revised as MY desires have changed. I've always been watching guys around me (which isn't right) to see who "God has brought into my life for ME". And if he'd do or say anything that I thought wasn't absolutely perfect, I'd cross him off my mental list.
How selfish I've been! Your post was, in a way, a slap in the face for me. Thank you for letting God use your experience to minister to me and other ladies.