Anyone who knew me in high school knew I was obsessed with this mystical creature called "My Future Husband." I wrote over 40 letters to him. I talked about him all the time. I made many decisions with him in mind. And I had no clue who he was.
I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted in a husband, but my ideal man seemed to shapeshift to whatever guy I had my eye on at the moment. I knew I needed to have standards, and I needed to be able to expect some non-negotiable character traits. I just didn't know what those were...what really is most important in a guy?
A lot of the guys I had crushes on---who at that time seemed like promising, Godly young men---have ended up being total losers. So how can you look at a young man and have a decent idea of what kind of a husband he'll be after you're committed for life and he's not trying to impress you anymore?
I creepily observed my husband Peter for a full two years before he began to pursue me. He wasn't the overly romantic type during courtship (no flowers or fancy dates), but I had a pretty good idea that he would be a keeper long-term because I saw the makings of a good husband before and during that period of observation. In this list I'll brag on my hubby a little as I describe what I mean by that.
2 1/2 years and almost two children later, I don't know a lot about marriage or everything about my husband, but the time certainly counts for something. I've learned that there were some things I thought were important but proved not to be, and there are some things that I didn't think were important that have proved to be absolutely essential.
In my previous post, I talked about the "Finding My Mr. Right" fallacy and what to do if you find yourself married to "Mr. Wrong." This post is primarily addressed to single women who are trying to figure out what to look for in a man.
I acknowledge that sanctification is a lifelong process and it is completely unfair to expect any man to be perfect; only Jesus can be that for us. However, there are some things about a man that I think we can expect to already be present if he is to be considered "marryable." We can expect growth and fruit from his branches as long as those branches are at least already present.
Does he really love Jesus?
Jesus. The person.
I'm not talking about ministry. I'm not talking about theology. I'm not talking about feelings/experiences. I'm talking about Jesus. Does the man you're considering actually adore the risen Christ?
If you're not a Christian, this requirement will not mean anything to you. In fact, you should not be in the market for marrying a Christian if you are not a Christian. Please consider the words of 1 John 5:12: "Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." You are desperately missing out today and for eternity. I beg that you seek Jesus.
Yet even if you do identify yourself as Christian, this requirement still might not seem that important. I have some questions about that:
1) How can you expect someone to love you unconditionally if he himself is empty of the unconditional love of Jesus? He is not free to love you with everything he has because he still desperately needs love that you cannot offer him.
2) Who is he modeling himself after? A football player? Will Smith? A nice guy at work? You're selling yourself short if you think someone can pull off servant leadership without constantly looking to the Suffering Servant himself.
3) The difference between Christian and non-Christian is, biblically, life and death (see 1 John 5:12, quoted above.) Indeed, even if you have a nonbelieving husband it is possible to have a good marriage and to raise your children well. But if you still have a choice in the matter, please consider deeply the implications of marrying someone who is not spiritually alive.
If you think your husband candidate really loves Jesus because he's on the track for ministry or missions, I also have some questions for you:
1) What is he doing right now to know Jesus and tell others in his life about Him?
2) When you walk away from a time of "good fellowship", is it all because he talked about future ministry or poked fun at poor theology, or did he actually talk about his own personal current growth and struggles? When you ask what God has been teaching him, does he give you vague concepts or is he able to tell you specifics that prove is actively pursuing Jesus?
In short, if a man is doing nothing of value in his mundane right now, he probably won't ever truly do anything of value, no matter how lofty his position might be someday. Additionally, if his worship experiences at church (no matter how emotional or passionate) are the only times he worships, something is very amiss. If a man raises his hand on Sundays that means nothing if he never uses that hand to open his Bible on the other days of the week.
Does the man work hard?
I read recently that the construction industry in America is in such great need of workers that we are having to outsource to foreigners. Americans simply are not willing to get their hands dirty. It says a lot about a man's humility if he gets strong by using a shovel instead of lifting a dumbbell...but I'd better stop here because I think I'm getting into "preference" territory. I know plenty of Godly men who work desk jobs and go to the gym.
(Let me just also throw in the fact that Christ was a carpenter for 30 years. I really believe there's something particularly Christlike about a man willing to lower himself to do a dirty job.)
You know you've found a good man when you read Proverbs and he keeps coming to mind. Is he faithful? Can he hold a job or commitment without getting bored with it and walking away? Does he work when he needs to but doesn't want to? (Notice that his work ethic is probably closely tied to how willing he is to work on your marriage.)
Because of the decision we made to start our family when neither of us had college degrees, and because Peter is insistent on me being a stay-at-home mom, this has looked like some really difficult times of figuring out what we could do for a living. When Peter's job was slow, there were times when we were going around town turning in applications everywhere so he could get a second or even third job to make ends meet. But God has been faithful and Peter worked hard and he is now the owner of a very successful business that supports our family well. I feel like most guys our age would have simply collapsed under that kind of pressure because they don't want to lower themselves to do less-than-glamorous work.
How does he treat family?
I'll just say it: I knew Peter was a loving man because of how he treated his mom and how he treated my grandparents.
I read an excellent article recently that talked about how a litmus test for someone's understanding and application of grace is how they treat children and how they treat the elderly. The family is the perfect context for finding the character of a man because how a man acts at home is how he really is.
Peter had no experience with kids (Stephen was pretty much the first baby he held!) but I knew he would be a good dad because of how he loved my grandpa. He talked to him and enjoyed his company. He talked to me about how much he admired Pappaw and before things got really busy for us he made it priority for us to go to my grandparents' house every Friday night to spend time with them.
It's hard to tell how a man treats his mom when the people he tries to impress aren't around, but how respectfully a man speaks to and about her really does count for something. After 19 years of living together, Peter had seen his mom's bad side, and she's seen his, so the mom-test is a good one when possible. I don't think Peter has ever said anything derogatory about his mother. Additionally, the way Peter's mom talks about her son also clued me into how much they love each other, and it gave me the idea that he would really love me and treat me well.
Is he good at repenting and forgiving?
E-Harmony would never match Peter and I. Aside from Costco trips and Tom Cruise movies, we share no hobbies. Our styles of communication differ greatly. Our love languages are not the same. Our personalities clash. It's not the cute kind of "opposites attract." We argue and disagree all the time.
But as long as we both possess one trait, we will thrive: repentance and forgiveness. We're good at saying "I'm sorry" and we're good at saying "I forgive you." And we're good at meaning it.
Even on the day I wrote this, Peter and I had a really ugly spat. However, instead of fuming and holding grudges for days, about an hour afterwards we both apologized for sinning against God and each other and were able to have a really sweet evening together.
This really does fall under the umbrella of being changed by the Gospel. I expect us to both grow in our repentance because that's what's happening all the time as every Christian is made more like Jesus. If there's no continued repentance, there was never any salvation, so repentance is something every Christian should be good at and growing in.
I would much rather have a man with an occasional temper who is very good at admitting that he's wrong and working to improve than a man who is easygoing but always thinks he's right. The first man can only become more kind and the second man can only become more of a jerk. Repentance and forgiveness is essential for the longevity of any good relationship.
I'll add here the importance of being a member of a local church that practices church discipline. I can rest easy knowing that if Peter (or I!) were to stop this process of repentance/forgiveness and fall into sin, or if we were to withdraw from other believers, he/I would be pursued quickly, lovingly, humbly, and persistently until the issue was resolved. Church discipline happens on a weekly---if not daily basis---through accountability groups and deep relationships within the church. I know that heart issues are addressed, and if confrontation is spurned, the proper steps would be taken to bring us to repentance. As my pastors say, the purpose of church discipline is not punitive but restorative. So a man's submission to other members and to elders in the church is absolutely imperative (though sadly, most churches don't expect such submission and do not practice church discipline!)
Is he a man of prayer and a student of the Word?
Especially since we've begun parenting, I've seen how important it is that my husband and I are unified in our beliefs on the depravity of man, who Jesus died for, God's priorities in ruling the universe, the Holy Spirit's work, and the sovereignty of God. It would be very difficult for my husband to comfort me about God's hand in something if we believed differently about the extent to which God's hand is in things.
That said, I know many Godly men who believe differently than I do, and I know many immature boys who do agree with me theologically. That's why there are other requirements.
But even more than specifics that are not essential for salvation, a husband candidate should be a student of the Word. I don't mean that he attends Bible college or wants to go to seminary. I mean that he must love the Bible because it's God's Word. Joking about the Bible or speaking of theology light-heartedly should make a candidate lose points. A marryable man is one who reads, studies, meditates, and memorizes scripture because he realizes that he needs it.
I knew Peter was a student of the Word because he talked about it...a lot. Whether he was discussing theology or witnessing to someone, he quoted scripture. He was slow to explain things with "Well, it's like John Piper says," and quick to explain things with "Well, 1 Corinthians 14 says..."
I think the most admirable thing I noticed about Peter was when he encountered a theological topic on which he did not yet have a good understanding. He surely did read books and listen to sermons about it, but by far the main deciding factor was scripture. He memorized an entire book of the Bible that he knew dealt largely with that topic because he wanted to have an in-context, full understanding of God's heart on the matter. This taught me that my husband is on the track for pursuing truth, so I can be confident in his leadership of our family in whatever theological issue we encounter in the future.
In these 2 1/2 years I've already seen this fleshed out in two areas in particular: 1) involvement with a local church, and 2) family worship. When we got married these weren't things that were really on our radar, but as we've encountered each issue, Peter has sought God through prayer and the Word and has led our family well. I don't know what we'll have to sort through next, but I trust that my husband will take it seriously and approach it biblically and humbly, because that's what he's made the habit of doing in the past.
I noticed these things about him over five years ago. Now Peter's commitment to prayer and scripture looks differently than it did back then because he has a lot more on his plate. However, my husband remains a man of prayer and student of the Word and is growing still.
This list is not exhaustive. In five, fifteen, and fifty years I might re-evaluate this and make some changes. But I think, timelessly, these four questions must be able to be answered with a resounding "YES!" before a Godly woman should allow herself to be pursued by a man.
I also think a woman's loved ones should be able to answer a resounding "YES!" to these questions about the woman herself.
And finally, pray for your future husband!
Unfortunately, manliness is becoming a lost art in many churches and there is major shortage of genuine discipleship. Young men tend to not be teachable, and older men tend to think any young man who shows any interest in the Bible needs to go be a pastor. The result is a bunch of tweeting 20-something-year-old kids who think they know everything but in reality know oh so little of hard work, diligent prayer, reverent study, valuing family, or adoring Jesus. So what must waiting women do when all the guys are losers? Change churches and find a system that's producing real men, maybe, but most certainly pray.
God responds to prayer every time, because even when we pray for unbiblical things the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and changes the gobbly-gook we said to things that are actually consistent with God's Word, then God answers them (see Romans 8:26-28.)
This blows my mind because each day I spend with my husband I get to see answered prayers from my mom since before I was born, myself since I was in 8th grade, and the countless friends and relatives who had been praying for my future husband too. There is never not value in praying for your future husband.
What would you add or take away from this list? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today