In searching for the right man to marry, don't look for perfection. You won't find it. Look for someone who strives to be more like Jesus.
My husband, Jason, and I started dating when I was 17 and he was 19. (For the record, this isn't a path I would recommend. Since we were unable to be married until we graduated college, we set ourselves up for a lot of frustration and struggle by plunging into romance before we could move toward marriage. Waiting on God's timing is another post for another day.)
I don't think my man would mind me telling you that 19-year-old Jason was a little rough around the edges. He had trouble controlling his temper. He knew he wanted to serve Jesus but hadn't worked out the specifics and sometimes still wrestled with desiring a career outside of the ministry. He didn't have the details of being a great husband and father all figured out. When we said, "I do," four years later, he still had many areas of his life that needed Jesus' sanctifying work.
When Jason and I started dating, I had plenty of rough spots myself. I had only known Jesus as my Savior for two years and was still learning basic disciplines like reading my Bible, praying, and confessing my sin. I liked to be in charge of everything and everyone. My goals for the future centered on education and career. I had a tendency to be manipulative and controlling. When I married Jason, Jesus still had a lot of work to do in my heart and life.
When I think back to those early days of our relationship, I realize that neither of us seemed like great marriage material. But now, ten years later, we're happily married and committed to a Christ-centered marriage. How can that be? Because we are what we we’re becoming.
Nancy and Dannah put it this way in Lies Young Women Believe:
"What you choose to do now will either form habits you have to break in the future or habits that are helpful to you. Galatians 6:7 says, ‘Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap,' If you plant corn, you're not going to soon have turnips tumbling out of your garden. In the same way, every action has results. If you plant to please your own desires, you'll reap a crop of consequences. If you plant to please God, you'll reap joy, peace, and everlasting life" (Lies Young Women Believe, 166).
If I had been waiting for the perfect guy, there's no way I would have considered Jason. (For the record, if he had been waiting for the perfect girl, he would have dumped me pretty quickly). It's not that our standards were low, but we were both looking for someone who was actively seeking to become more like Jesus.
I've been reminiscing about those early days of dating lately because of a comment I shared with you yesterday. In case you missed it, here's part of what one reader wrote.
"Christian females should at least be open to going out with guys who ask them out. They wouldn't do it if there was no good reason—they thought the two of you got along, had things in common, you were both single, etc. Relationships have to start somewhere. Also, Christian guys aren't and cannot be Jesus. We will at best be an imitation of Him. Christians are supposed to lead lives like Jesus. We won't ever be perfect, so give us a break and accept our imperfections, i.e. don't aim to date the actual Christ—give those who want to model their lives on Him and lead someone else in this walk a chance."
Well said. I think it is great advice to stop looking for the perfect guy and to ask God to bring you a fella who is working toward becoming more like Jesus. How will you know if an imperfect guy will make a great husband? Here are six clues to look for:
- He is a Christian. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I had to say it because this is an area of no compromise. If you're dating a guy who isn't a Christian, he isn't likely to come to Christ simply through the passing of time. Plus, it will be impossible for him to sow in the things of God without knowing Jesus.
- He is a part of a Bible-believing church. Church involvement is so important for spiritual growth. A guy who doesn't recognize the value of the accountability and fellowship a church provides now may never get plugged into a church down the line.
- He reads the Bible. Look for a guy who reads the Bible on his own and does not depend on others to give him spiritual food. God's Word is the most important tool we have for learning how to become more like Jesus. If a guy isn't reading it, how can he shape his life after it?
- He takes sin seriously. A young man who sees sin as no big deal isn't likely to become a husband and father committed to purging patterns of sin from his own life. You won't find a guy who is sin-free, but make sure he understands that sin has consequences.
- He ministers to others. We are all called to minister to fellow believers and those who don't know Christ. If a guy isn't serving anywhere, he's probably not going to adopt a ministry mindset after marriage.
- He has someone holding him accountable. Look for a guy with a network of accountability. Does he have a pastor or youth pastor? Does he have a Christian mentor? Does he have a friend or group of friends who love Jesus and challenge him to grow in his faith? We all need accountability as we work to be more like Jesus. You can't be your man's conscience or his only source of encouragement to be Christlike. Make sure there are others spurring him on toward righteousness.
You're not going to find a guy who lives out his faith flawlessly, but we are all sowing the seeds that determine what our lives will look like. Set your sites on a fella who is planting the seeds of righteousness.
I want you to know that Jason and I still haven't "arrived." Unfortunately, we don't have access to the kind of seeds that would allow us to produce lives that imitate Christ perfectly. But together, we continue to work toward loving Jesus more, sinning less, and serving Him with every corner of our lives. I wish the same for each of you.