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God Changed What I Wanted In A Life Partner

Written By Philip, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

When I was in my second year of university, our youth group went through a half-year course on romantic relationships. During that time, I longed to meet the partner I believe God had prepared for me.

However, when I looked at the world around me, I wavered. I told myself that I just needed to find a girl I liked—even if she didn’t believe in Christ. I assured myself that it didn’t matter much if she wasn’t a Christian, since I could always bring her to church someday.

At one point I ended up dating an unbeliever. Though I had hoped that she might become a Christian, it didn’t happen. Instead, because of our different approaches to life, we really had trouble communicating. Eventually we broke up.

When I decided to go into full-time ministry, I took my desires for a partner before God. By this point I had realized that it was best for Christians to marry other Christians, and I needed to trust God about it—“Dear God, I pray for a partner who would love You more than she loves me. I pray that when I meet her, I’ll love and pursue her.”

Though mature Christians in church introduced me to a couple of potential individuals, I hoped that I would be able to meet her as I went about my daily life. When a few years had gone by—and I still had not met her—I brought my desires before God once again. “Dear God, may You lead me and help me to serve You faithfully. As for marriage, let it be as You will.”

Unexpectedly, I met her while I was working as a research student after I finished university.

Our first meeting occurred by chance. I was at a training conference when a girl came up to me hurriedly to borrow keys for the apartments we stayed in, since she was helping to look after someone. She had only eaten a few mouthfuls of yogurt from her buffet meal before borrowing the keys from me.

At that time, I didn’t think much about it. I was merely amused that she had only yogurt from the wide spread offered at the buffet. I didn’t think we would meet again.

Some time later, I learned that a new intern was arriving at church. When I found out that a church elder was going to pick her up at 6:00 a.m., I offered to go instead. After all, I was young and could save the elder the hassle of waking up early. And I did not want to pass up this opportunity for service.

That morning, I woke up early and rushed down to the train station. When I saw her, I realized that she was the one who had borrowed my keys during the training course. We started chatting and learned more about each other as we made our way to church. “What is your direction in ministry?” she asked me.

I was stumped by her question. I had always thought that a ready heart was all I needed. Someday, when God called me, I hoped to respond, “Here I am!” While I continue to trust that God will use a willing heart, I have also begun to think about and pray for direction in my ministry since that particular conversation.

Eventually I attended seminary in preparation for ministry, and we were able to interact more often. Through our interactions, I realized how intimate a relationship she shared with God.

Then one night, I found myself unusually keen to attend fellowship—because I kept thinking about her.

“Is she the one?” I asked God.

I proceeded to kneel in prayer and tears before God. “Stop me from being reckless if she is not the one for me! I am willing to submit to Your will. Please guard my heart!”

I began paying more attention to her. Her love for God and His people speaks through her words and actions: she serves actively in ministry; she is always warm and hospitable when interacting with newcomers. Her heart of service was particularly evident in her readiness to help wash everyone’s cutlery after meals. From her sharing, I could also tell that God’s Word was very close to her heart.

Over time, I continued to commit my marriage to God in prayer. Through my prayers, I realized that my affections for her were growing stronger. I admired her aspirations, her passion, and her mission. I began to pray for an appropriate time to express my feelings to her.

On the day that I had decided to tell her how I felt, she fell sick. I wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and confess to her as I had planned to, but a friend encouraged me to be unafraid and express what I truly felt.

So I prayed that I would still get a chance to see her that day. We managed to meet, and I took the opportunity to share my feelings with her.

I like you! I like your love for God, your passion and your sincerity. I admire your will and mission. I know that I’m not worthy of you, but I believe that God has allowed us to meet at the right time. I know that love is not based on feelings. It is not reckless, but a conscious decision. Love requires acceptance. As I have been praying about this, I realized that I like you more and more. . .

Thankfully, she felt the same way. And so, we embarked on the road to marriage. Thinking back, she looked very different from the partner I had always envisioned for myself. At first, I was merely looking for someone who believed in Christ, had decent looks, and whom I liked. However, I soon realized that the most important criteria for my life partner is not just that she claims to believe in Christ, but that she truly loves God.

And so I found her, and she has fallen for me too.

Other Reasons Not To Have Sex Before Marriage

I was traveling cross-country with a friend when it came out that I was waiting for marriage to have sex. And I added, “and there’s no certainty I will ever get married.” He stopped the conversation right there, turned to me and said very sternly, “Promise me you will have sex before you die!”

I have a Christian friend who debated for the longest time whether to have sex before marriage like his culture was pressuring him to do, or to wait for marriage like his Christianity had raised him to. He couldn’t find adequate reasons why an ancient book would have relevant answers on this. Finally, one day he told me, “You know how I’ve struggled with it so much. Well, I finally just did it.”

These days, even Christians don’t understand why—besides “because an ancient book says so,”—anyone would choose to wait for marriage to have sex.

The Bible establishes the ideal situation for sex. God wants us to have it with only one person—our spouse, only after we are married. In the Garden of Eden, God says this is why “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). It says “united to his wife,” which shows they are already husband and wife when they are joined in the flesh.

And then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:16, “And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her?” So the Bible says we are united in some deep mysterious way when we have sex with someone. The way I understand this, the physical bond is meant to solidify the verbal commitment we make to one other person for life.

And usually when people in the Bible do it another way, it doesn’t go too well for them. Like when Abraham sleeps with his wife’s handmaiden because they don’t have faith God will provide a son for them (Genesis 16, 21). Or when Solomon marries many women and they become his downfall (1 Kings 11).

But these aren’t very compelling reasons to the modern person who questions the Bible’s relevancy. The answer seems even more unreasonable if you’re dating someone whom you probably will marry.

So I’ve compiled a few reasons that I’ve come across and become convicted of over the years. I hope they can solidify your resolve, and equip you to have a good conversation if someone asks, just as they have done for me.

1. Set yourself apart from this world

In a world where it’s cool to do good, like starting non-profits and instagramming encouraging phrases, it’s hard to show what makes a Christian different. One way to show we’re committed to the God of the Bible, on top of engaging in social good (James 1:27), is by living by God’s design for our lives, for marriage.

In a world that shames those who finish high school without having sex, abstinence can be a brave move to show we mean what we claim to believe. When we stick to our resolve, it shouldn’t be hard for others to say, “Wow, she’s really living her faith; otherwise why would she wait?” And maybe they will even say, “Maybe there is something to that religion if she’d make a decision like that.” We’ll stand out. And that can be a powerful tool in sharing our faith.

 

2. Demonstrate your commitment to your future spouse

In a world where divorce is commonplace, wouldn’t it be good to have a way to show our potential spouse that we’re committed to staying with them and being faithful? What if, even before we were married, there was a way to show our future spouse that we can be trusted to stay faithful even through temptations or lust for others?

By abstaining before and during an engagement, even when our bodies are telling us otherwise, we offer trust and show discipline to our partner. It lets our partners know in a very tangible way that they don’t have to worry about infidelity. It shows we’re people of self-discipline whose convictions are stronger than our impulses. What a gift to give our spouses as we enter into marriage.

 

3. Shaping our culture

Of course, there are practical reasons not to have sex outside of marriage. These include avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. There are also emotional reasons. One is summarized in the old adage that you give a part of yourself away with each person you sleep with. But I want to say that this is much bigger than each person’s own emotional or physical wellbeing.

This has the power to shape society as a whole.

When we look at this modern world’s hookup culture, we see how it often leads to uncommitted fathers. When marriages are based on pleasure more than on commitment, we see they can lead to divorce when things are no longer pleasant. And we see how both situations can lead to single parent homes.

Then, I wonder, if young people explore vices to fill the hole left by broken households. And maybe, because they lack an example of a love based on a commitment, they take their cues for love from the world. And the cycle spreads and continues to the next generation.

I think much of this stems from our culture’s call for us to be people pursuing pleasure instead of purpose. Our culture tells us we each have a right to be happy and live how we want, as long as we don’t step on anyone else’s toes. Some might say that this is moral living. But our God knows we will grow into better, more complete humans like we were meant to be if we live by more than just “not stepping on others’ toes.”

God wants us to be people of internal depth, of fulfilled promises, self-discipline, and of love based on commitment. And when we live by the standards He has prescribed, it is a better plan for a life of peace and joy that the rest of the world tries so desperately to find. Jesus says He has come so we will have abundant life (John 10:10). And the fruit of the spirit include joy and peace right alongside self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Millions of joy and peace-filled Christians living lives of integrity, self-control, and commitment can set a refreshing example to our culture, which is overwhelmed by brokenness and pleasure-seeking. And abstinence before marriage at this time is perhaps the most powerful way we can exemplify this for our culture.

 

Having said all this, this is not about shaming those who are not virgins. But instead, I hope the above reasons serve as an encouragement because each one of these reasons can be reclaimed by non-virgins. In fact, perhaps it is even more impactful when someone, who once lived a life like the world, goes back to the life of commitment and integrity of the Bible. We can choose to set ourselves apart from the world, demonstrate integrity for our future spouse, and shape culture.

I wish I could to tell you that things will be easy if you simply follow the instructions. But I’ll be honest: it won’t necessarily be easy. The bible has many examples of people who have experienced deep fulfillment but it was while travelling a hard road of commitment and dedication. I hope we can live our lives as a calling card for what God can do in our culture.

“Ross, promise me you’ll have sex before you die!”

If I were to give a response to our culture that says this, it would be “I’m promised to something deeper than my own pleasures. I have promised myself to my Creator who has included me in a plan that is building me into a more substantial, fully-formed human of integrity, promise, commitment, self-discipline, and joy. I am becoming a person built to thrive in heaven forever.”

Don’t Live to Get Married. Live to Live.

Written by Debra Fileta, USA

Debra Fileta is a professional counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. She’s the creator of True Love Dates, which reaches millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships.

 

“All I want in life is to get married.” Her eyes welled up with tears as she told me about her one and only desire in life. I had just finished up a speaking engagement, when this 23-year-old woman came up to me to share a little about her journey.

She had been born and raised in a Christian home and from the time she could remember, she had been brought up with the mentality that her sole purpose in life was to find a man and get married. But when things didn’t seem like they were going according to plan, she started to panic.

Hers was one of the many conversations I’ve been having lately about marriage. Not just because I’m married. And not just because I’m a professional counselor who happens to specialize in relationships. But because this year in particular, I’ve been purposeful about gathering many different perspectives about marriage for my new book, Choosing Marriage, coming out this May. It’s a book for both singles and couples, so it’s been a necessary part of the process to “pick the brains” of both crowds as I tackle this important topic.

But something that has caused me take a step back is the realization that we live in a culture that idolizes marriage. We don’t necessarily respect it, but we sure do idolize it.

It’s not that I didn’t recognize this before. Growing up in Christian culture and then topping it off by going to Christian college, dreaming about marriage was commonplace. Some even joked that they went to college just to get their “MRS” Degree. It was the “ultimate goal” of a Christian single. It’s what you lived for. One day, you would get married, and then life would finally begin.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring marriage. In fact, it’s a desire placed in us by God Himself (Mark 10:6-8). I, for one, have been known to encourage men and women to be honest about their desire for marriage and then follow that up by engaging in healthy dating relationships and interactions with the opposite sex.

No, what scares me the most is not our desire for marriage, it’s our expectations of marriage.

 

Expectations Vs. Reality

I believe we put marriage on a pedestal expecting it to do things for us that it just can’t do. In gathering data for my book, I interviewed 1,000 singles and 1,000 married people asking them their perspective on what marriage was like. Needless to say, the results were fascinating. What singles think marriage will be like, compared to what married couples report marriage to be like turned out to be completely different things. In topics of sex, communication, conflict, and intimacy—what singles thought marriage to be like, was very different than what couples reported marriage to actually be like in those particular categories.

And when our expectations of marriage meet the reality of marriage, we end up disappointed. Devastated. Disillusioned. And sometimes, even divorced.

We have a generation of people who are entering marriage with high expectations coupled with low understanding. In fact, over 96 percent of the married people I surveyed reported that they believe singles don’t really know what they’re getting into when it comes to marriage. And who could blame them? It’s something that’s not being taught.

We spend so much time glorifying marriage, yet such little time preparing for it. Such little time getting to know ourselves. Such little time healing from our past. Such little time understanding what we need in a relationship. Such little time differentiating healthy relationships from unhealthy ones. Such little time determining the kind of people who are a good match, and the kind that aren’t. Such little time setting goals. Such little time living life abundantly.

And when the rubber meets the road and reality hits, that very thing that we put on such a high pedestal comes crashing down.

 

Resetting Our Expectations

I believe the first step in preparing for marriage, is getting our expectations right about marriage. Because Jesus doesn’t say that “life abundantly” starts when we get married, He says it starts when we enter relationship with Him (John 10:10). For the believer in Christ, life abundantly is happening right here, right now, in this very moment—no matter what your relationship status. The abundant life is taking place in the interactions we have with the people God has already placed in our lives. The abundant life is learning to share the love of Christ with those in desperate need of receiving it. The abundant life is found in catching a glimpse of our calling and taking steps to fulfill that calling no matter what our relationship status. The abundant life is lived out as we seek to become more like Christ in everything we do.

It’s so important to get this right: marriage may be a beautiful part of your journey, but it’s not your final destination. Not even close. For those of you who are living to find purpose in a relationship, I’m here to tell you that that’s not going to happen.

When we see relationships as the last step on our road of purpose, we find ourselves facing a wall of disappointment with nowhere left to go when we finally arrive. As one young woman put it in an email to me, “I thought marriage could give me all that I was lacking, but when I got there, I realized I was still lacking”. Marriage may be an avenue in fulfilling our purpose, but it is never the final destination.

We need to seek God’s purpose for our lives far beyond finding a spouse, allowing His will and His plans to be the course that guides our lives and influences our direction. Rather than asking what God can do for us, we need to look to Him in seeking what we can do for Him. In this is true purpose.

And who knows? We might just run into a spouse along the way—this I can personally vouch for. But nevertheless, purpose is not dependent on this possibility.

Marriage can give you perspective—but not purpose.

Marriage can bring you a helper—but not healing.

Marriage can offer you comradery—but it can’t complete you.

Only Christ can. And if you can’t find those things standing alone, you certainly won’t find them in marriage either. But for those of you who can grasp these things before marriage, you’ll enter marriage more fulfilled than you could imagine.

And two fulfilled people in a marriage makes for the best kind of marriage.

So don’t live just to get married. Live to live. Live to heal. Live to grow. Live to learn. Live to serve Jesus. Right here, right now, where God has placed you. Because life abundantly doesn’t start once you get married. Life abundantly is happening now. So learn to live life well, and you just never know who you’ll meet along the way.

When Did You Last Stop for A Coffee Break?

A month and a half ago, I got a message from a friend who was newly married and in grad school. Life was busy, he told me, and asked how my husband and I managed our time when we were first married.

I gave him some sage having-been-married-for-three-years advice, which can be summarized as spend time with God and spend time with spouse. The truth was, I really wasn’t the best person to ask at the time. My husband was working full time and freelancing on the side, and we were smack dab in the middle of a trans-Pacific move.

Leading up to this decision, my husband and I had thought and prayed a lot about moving. Given our skills and passions, we felt that, not only would be good for our family to spend time in the area I had grown up in, but that there would also be unique gospel opportunities.

And so, for weeks I packed and cleaned, broke down in tears, watched my two-year-old toddler . . . and packed and cleaned some more. “Quiet time” with God was virtually non-existent. In the whirlwind of life, it was easy to forget why we were moving in the first place.

My husband and I got cranky at each other. I felt like I was doing more work than he was, and he thought the opposite. My toddler watched people come take away his bookshelves and furniture while his parents told him again and again, “I don’t have time to play right now.” No wonder he threw a few more tantrums than usual.

At one point, after exploding at the employees of a not-so-helpful network provider, we decided it was time for a coffee break. The toddler was at the grandparents’, and we escaped to a quiet corner of a coffee shop to re-connect.

As we talked over one by one the things that bothered or worried us, we realized that in the grand scheme of things, none of those things were that important. We could afford the small fee that came with not cancelling our internet properly. If we sold the car for less than we had hoped for, it still wouldn’t put much of a dent in our plans. If worst comes to worst, we could throw those extra bookshelves away instead of making the drive to the local second-hand store.

As my husband and I spent time processing our emotions together, we realized that God had already provided everything we needed. We had money in the bank (more than we had hoped for), we had a place to stay after the move (with family, rent-free), and we both had prospective jobs lined up (with people we really liked). Everything else was, ultimately, trivial.

We re-iterated the reasons we were making this move and the many instances of affirmation by trusted brothers and sisters in Christ. Both of us believed we were doing the right thing as a family. And if this move was for the sake of the family, it was silly to let the move get in the way of family.

After finishing our coffee, we prayed, asking God’s forgiveness for our negligence, thanking Him for His amazing providence, and asking Him for guidance as we moved forward.

It felt good to be on the same page again. My husband recognized and affirmed the work I was doing, and I did the same about the sacrifices he was making for us. We promised to hold each other accountable in terms of Bible-reading and prayer. And we decided that we would both consciously make time for undistracted play with our child, even if that time had to be shorter than one would like.

 

Setting aside time for God, people and coffee

Our coffee break didn’t necessarily accomplish anything on our “to-do list.” But it was so necessary and so good for us. Just like I told our newly-wed friend, even in the midst of life’s chaos, we need to make time for God, and make time for our spouses.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It’s hard to submit when we are so caught up in our own ideas of what needs to get done that we don’t spend time with the other person. Making time even in the middle of a hectic schedule is sometimes a form of sacrifice, but one that often comes with its own reward.

The Bible also says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:4-5).

I had been stressed over the move and all the things I thought we needed to get done. Not all of them had a monetary value, but most of them were things the world expected us to accomplish. But God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Honoring our marriage took faith in that busy time. We had to trust that God would take care of us even if we didn’t finish everything on our to-do list, even if we made some drastic mistake or forgot something of utmost importance. We had to trust that God knew our human limitations, and that He would look out for us even as we took an hour here or two hours there to reconnect with our spouse, to serve each another, to see to our child’s emotional needs.

In the end, by God’s indescribable grace, we made the move. We’re still not entirely sure how everything worked out so well, except that God blessed us with incredible friends and families. And that He pushed us to take a blessed coffee break when we most needed it.