Thursday, July 7, 2011

to have a list or to not have a list.

over the past weeks i have been thinking a lot more about lists. i have always been a list person but over a period of evaluating and reevaluating life, goals, and standards, i have spent time writing down things that are good and things that i don't ever want to settle for (again).

i decided to spend part of my day off catching up on relevant magazine and this included reading an article called "should you have a list?". i had never really considered how it was a negative idea because i've heard leaders and pastors say so many times to make lists of what we want to look for in a future spouse or in a career or in life goals, etc. author stephanie s. smith made a few points i liked in this article that i thought i'd share with you.

"We begin to view relationships as utilitarian rather than a mutual commitment, and lean toward consumerism by comparison shopping. We hold out on a perfectly good date because of the possibility that there’s someone better out there, or brand individuals on first impression according to whether they fit our type or not.

"[M]aking a list can be a healthy exercise, shaping expectations according to biblical standards, guarding against settling for less and identifying specific virtues that will not be easily mistaken for shallow, generic chemistry. But a list can also backfire if we become “married” to our ideal rather than remaining open for God to usher His intended for us into our lives. If we become fixated on our list as an authority rather than a tool, this attitude betrays a consumer mindset that is more concerned with shopping suitors than viewing each person as the gift that they are.

"For all our dating dilemmas, the essentials are simpler than we think. A potential spouse should be of the opposite sex, single, saved by Christ (2 Corinthians 6:14-15), actively pursuing sanctification and able to spur us on in doing the same as “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). I don’t think it’s wrong to hope and dream more specifically, or even to pray more specifically, but the bottom line remains: Only God knows who your type is, because your future marriage is in His hands. In the meantime, whether you have a written list or a mental ideal, hold it loosely in an open hand and let Him do the orchestrating.

"[T]ake your list and turn it around on yourself. Aspire to cultivate in yourself all the things you are looking for in a spouse so that when you finally meet, you will be in a position to attract his or her attention.

"When we flip the switch on our dating expectations, we learn that a Christ-centered relationship is one that reflects the very crescendo of the Gospel: self-giving love. It’s an attitude marked by service, sacrifice, trust, commitment and fidelity. Self-giving love, the antithesis of a consumer mindset, teaches us to view our future spouse as a precious gift and to anticipate such a gift by developing Christ-like character in ourselves that will someday bless them."

in her article, smith mentions donald miller's blog post "what are you looking for in a spouse? why not create a list?". his article brought tears to my eyes because i too, like his finance, am striving to find my "dream come true" - no doubt, many people would identify with this. my favourite parts of his post are:

"Most women start dreaming about their husbands at an early age, and that became more and more clear to me as Paige and I fell in love. I wasn’t just a man, I was her dream come true, the man upon whom she rested her hopes. It was frightening, I confess, and God knows I have failed and will fail again and again. And yet I am thankful for a woman who had vision, who wanted the best for herself and her family. Though the challenge of becoming the man her list describes frightens me, it’s a challenge I accept. I love this woman. And I know it’s in my power to be her dream come true, or her worst nightmare. I want to be her dream come true. I accept that agency fully, and defer it to nobody.

"What is great about creating a list like this is it gives a single person a filter through which to weed out candidates that don’t fit. Paige confesses she didn’t have a lot of faith anything like this man could exist, and we’ve both grieved the men of lesser character that she entertained, even as we have grieved my own sordid character, before I knew the good women I spent time with were beautiful and sacred and yet belonged to other men who would honor them and grieve my neglect for their beloved."

that last line wrecks me. just going through the healing process from a break up and reflecting on the insecurities that came up from not getting a full picture of the relationships of his past, i don't just want to be someone's stepping stone, and i don't want to be "stained" by past relationships that fail and that i then must carry the burden of into a marriage. of the hurt i feel from this break-up, that shame and embarrassment of having shared certain things with someone who i wanted to be - but turned out not to be - husband-potential is the most painful.

donald continues, saying,

"I’d advise any young girl or young man to create a list like this, and to have faith and sacrifice each day to honor the man or woman who will fulfill those desires. For Paige, this meant seasons of loneliness, seasons of going without, seasons of doubt. Perhaps this will be the gift you will give your spouse, your loneliness, your steel determination to endure though your faith is weak."

while the list i wrote recently is extensive and was partially done in anger (although getting that out on paper allowed me to feel a huge weight lifting), it is pretty on par with what miller's fiance, paige, wrote him. all of the things she said are things i also desire, and some i had never thought of, although i would add a few things too. my list of "tier 1", uncompromisable traits (and some things that are small but i don't want to do without) would be (including and adding to (in italics) paige's list):

I want someone who…
- loves God with his whole heart and is in constant pursuit of Him
- wants to talk to me everyday, 30 times a day if that’s what I need that day.
- can’t wait to see me again
- is always thinking about me
- surprises me, in good ways from the little to the big
- plans dates and adventures for me
- follows through on what he says he’s going to do - commits and completes
- is consistent in his actions and behavior
- doesn’t disappear
- reassures me of his feelings for me with his actions and words
- wants the whole world to know how he feels about me, isn’t afraid to show it or say it & takes great pride in being my man, and in my being his woman
- puts me first, after God.
- is not afraid of my sensitivities, scars and wounds but wants to be a part of healing them
- always makes time for me no matter what else is going on
- pursues me
- is transparent with me and doesn't make it a big deal when i ask questions about his past
- properly courts me before and during our relationship
- knows how to always make me laugh
- desires to have a big family. and if that's not his original desire, he is willing to make that his desire because it's most important to me
- educated, interesting, motivated, and hard-working
- has a great relationship with his parents (whom i also want to love)
- loves to travel and has a heart for and wants to make a difference in the world
- understands when something is important to me and is willing to compromise to also make that important to him
- will be my partner in ministry

** this list isn't meant to say that i didn't have those things already. some were present, some were not. just setting some standards in writing!

who knows what's next for me in the love department.. well, who, but God. as i said in my happiness project post, i just want to fall in love with Him. i have been seeing more and more how that was His intention, to really show me how His love and protection is much, much more sufficient than what a man can provide (not to demean men, but they're just not as capable as God, can i get an amen!?)

related to this, something that i love - and totally desire - is how pastors like judah smith and perry noble speak about their wives, saying that after years of marriage their wives are hot, and talented, and how they wouldn't want to do life without them. while you would hope these would be the natural responses, it is so beautiful to hear them take such great pride in their women. i want to be that woman. i want my husband to need me, want me, think so highly of me, and i want to be his partner in all things, especially ministry.

finally, one other off-shoot of this reading endeavour was michael hyatt's "how to become your spouse's best friend". not that i am in a position to make my spouse my best friend, seeing as that person does not exist right now, i do believe that it is most important that the person you marry is your very best friend. working on the surveys for mike's book has really made me think about how important this really is. why wouldn't i want to marry someone who is the most important, appreciated, trusting, wonderful buddy of mine; someone who i can share anything and everything with; who gets joy from and enjoys participating in similar things; knows me inside and out; and who wants the very best things for me, and ultimately for us as a couple?

i love thinking and reading about this stuff. more than ever, i am stoked to see what God has for my future, because i've tasted His amazing protection and affection for me, and i am comforted to know that He has big, phenomenal plans and an even more phenomenal man for me. as i always say, why would i want anything less than what the Creator of the Universe has in store for me? it's going to be good. it's going to be great!!!

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