I was surprised and delighted to receive your letter. What a privilege it is to be able to have this opportunity to correspond with you. I hope that this finds you well, and that you have decided to either start training for half marathons now or to never start at all (you’ll understand what I mean eventually).
I must admit, I had a little chuckle to myself when I read your question: “Should I even bother with relationships?”. Classic you (me)!
To be fair, I don’t think you were expecting a reply, so maybe your lack of creativity in asking a once-in-a-lifetime question to your future self can be forgiven.
And I think you know why I can’t divulge too many details about the future and hence won’t answer your question directly (see time travel 101). However, let me instead take this chance to write to you some advice regarding that very topic.
Firstly, forget agonising about whether you are “called to singleness” or to marry. If you are single now, then you are called that way! Everyone is called to singleness until they get married. Duh. It’s a truism, yes, but it does mean stop with the ‘either/or’ mentality!
Let’s get real though, from a purely statistical perspective, you will get married (it’s merely statistically speaking; I am not giving anything away, OK?). So, let's talk about what needs to happen between where you are now and that likely (in terms of the percentage of the general population) possibility.
Some groundwork to get going: what does Scripture say about dating? Not a lot and I (we) think this is interesting. Yes, most first century marriages were arranged by the parents, but it’s not as if marriages based on the choice of the individuals didn’t exist (there are a number of historical examples).
It would not be unthinkable for one of the apostles to write, at least as a side comment, about the process of choosing a wife or husband. But they don’t, and, like I said, that’s interesting.
While the silence on the process leading up to a wedding is ‘deafening’, the instructions, exhortations, and commands on what to do after your nuptial agreement is rock concert multiplied by jet plane multiplied by rocket ship launch levels of LOUD.
Rather than tell you how to end up with the right person, the Bible tells you how to be right in your marriage to the person you end up with!
So on your journey into singleness, dating and all that, have this thought at the forefront of your mind: barring extreme circumstances, a husband and a wife who are both submitted to God can find every tool necessary for a healthy and wholesome marriage in the pages of the Bible.
For Christians, the secret to a good marriage is not based on similar tastes in music, opposites attract-style personalities, or the fact that you both enjoy dressing up in lycra and cycling side by side along the city streets at 8am on a Sunday morning (as an example)! Instead, it’s based on obedience:
- Wives, submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ.
- Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church.
So, we can know that success isn’t based on compatibility but on obedience. Does that mean you need to propose to the next Bible-believing, single female with a pulse?
No. First of all, it’s pretty vital that you and the “potential one” have a firm agreement on biblical marriage — that cannot be under-emphasised! How do you both understand and plan to obey Ephesians chapter 5, for example?
Secondly, you are free to choose who you want to marry! Determine compatibility based on factors that are wise and sensible. Here is a suggested list of topics to discuss in a suggested order of importance:
- Church connections
- Future aspirations
You can add your own topics as well, I trust you! Only keep each one in perspective.
Well, I think that’s all I want to share for now. I have high hopes for you in this area of life! One of my (our) favourite quips comes from the mind of Soren Kierkegaard who said, “life has to be lived forwards, but understood backwards”.
Remember God is sovereign!
P.S. I forgot to talk about timing. Look, I’ve given you (1) assurance that obedience, not compatibility, is the ingredient to success, and (2) some guidelines for how to choose. You do not need very long to figure out whether someone could be a good match. Take longer than a month but, if you are not long-distancing, don’t take longer than a year and a half of dating. And make your engagement as short as possible. That’s all.
Based in Christchurch, Joshua is married to Jacinda and enjoys writing as a way of keeping his thoughts in order. He also freelances. You can contact him via the bird site (Twitter) @I_do_words