This is the second part to this post. The first is available here
Well when the idea for last week’s post first occurred to me, what struck me most was the fact that I needed to insist on an excellent husband. The thought of possibly conceiving children etc did not even occur to me until I was actually writing the post. And then that idea just completely took over the post as I realised how important and relevant it was! Definitely not something that I can afford to ignore if I have decided that a husband is a matter of the highest priority! So then this post is going to focus on that other aspect: the fact that yes, a husband is necessary, but no, I simply cannot afford to waste time/frustrate myself with a poor choice. When I say “an excellent husband needed”, I mean a husband of fantastic character. I definitely DON’T mean any of the things that people often talk about when they describe “an eligible bachelor”. I am not talking about his career prospects, or his financial status or the kind of car he drives – or doesn’t drive, whether or not he owns his own flat, or the clothes he wears. I am also not talking about his choice in restaurants or his ability to take me out to have a great time. None of the above! Absolutely none of the above!
What I am talking about is his commitment to openness and communication, his determination to make the marriage work, his willingness to be reasonable, his “listen-ability” – that is, his real listen-ability! We can all pretend to be listening and paying attention. We can all make the right noises at the right times, even ask the right intelligent questions – without truly taking on board what the other person has said. If the other person offers constructive criticism, then being able to listen also involves having the necessary humility to assess ourselves honestly, and make changes where necessary. These are the areas I simply cannot compromise with. I know that no-one is perfect. I am certainly not perfect. However character is something that I personally hold very highly for myself, and through countless failures, by the grace and empowerment of God, I persevere. God in His mercy is helping me daily to grow, to understand more about how people work. This is what I also desire from my husband.
If I know that no-one is perfect, and I myself cannot offer perfection to a husband, then clearly I cannot insist on perfection from a husband either. However, it does need to be someone who is pressing forward in this direction himself – as hard as he can.
It is not that there is anything wrong with any of those other markers of eligibility. However, for myself, some of them I would actively refuse or reject. For instance, a man with great career prospects sounds like a great catch. However the thing that occurs to me is the amount of time he would need to invest into his career to truly excel – time that I would prefer him to spend with me! This is also true with markers of financial success, like a lovely car, a great flat, being able to afford expensive restaurants. I look at these things and I see money, and where I see money I see work, and where I see work I see time that might otherwise be spent talking and laughing and holding hands. This might sound a little hypocritical, because I never stop talking about my big dreams and how ambitious I am! In fact, it is precisely because of these big dreams that I have actually decided that a husband is totally necessary, after all! Well I guess in my dreams there is space for accomplishing these dreams with my husband, or alongside his own goals. We could work on my dreams, or on his own – although I do quite like my own dreams, it does have to be said!
This is why I feel it is so important to insist on great character – because you need the marriage to just work. It is a bit like insisting on the best quality tools, rather than trying to save money by settling for mediocre flimsy rubbish which will then cost you lots of time (and extra money) when it does not work properly, it does not do the proper job, there are a number of parts missing when you get it out of the box. This is how I need my marriage to be – I just need it to work, to work reliably, to work excellently. I have to be confident even as I am walking down the aisle that by the grace of God this is going to be excellent. Or you could say that an excellent marriage is like an excellent car: reliably getting you to where you need to be. In this analogy a bad marriage would be like a bad car: you spend so much time running after the car to make it work reliably that you never actually get to where you need to get to.
The point of insisting on excellent (top quality) tools is so that you don’t have to spend all your time thinking about the tools themselves and trying to get them to work as needed, but you can rather concentrate on the job that the tools are supposed to help you accomplish. This is how it is with marriage – the marriage is the tool, although to a certain extent it is also an end in itself. This does not mean that you can take your marriage or your husband for granted. Even the best tools need maintenance to keep working their best. I guess this is the complication for me in this issue. When I say that I “need” an excellent husband for the sake of my dreams, this is in the sense that the marriage – the communication, the intimacy, the extra perspective from someone else’s eyes – will be a tool to get to where we both need to get to. However, when I say that I want a husband for the sake of holding hands, this is in the sense that the marriage will be an end in itself. So then I guess the question is how to go about finding a husband for the sake of building a marriage which will be an important tool to help us both achieve our (God-given?) dreams, but where at the same time the marriage itself will also be an end goal, so that if necessary we could discard all other goals and focus on the marriage alone.
This is why the husband needs to be excellent: because his excellence of character is the one thing from him that will best dictate how excellent the tool of our marriage is. Ideally his character will meet with my character and “iron [will] sharpeneth iron” Proverbs 27v17 and together it will fashion an excellent tool which will be of reliable and dependable service and benefit to us both.
It can be considered “expensive” for these reasons: it is this kind of quality of character that will really make the marriage work well. Being able to say what you need to say without needing to tread on eggshells. Mutually being able to express your needs and trust that your spouse will listen to you. Being able to talk honestly together for the sake of working together in trust and respect to build your future together. This is top-quality because it is not the kind of character that happens by accident, but to be sustained over a period of many years it needs to be carefully cultivated and pursued with all his vigour and determination. All these other factors – the way he dresses etc, his choice in restaurants – the things that so many other people seem to focus on – or accept as proof of marital potential – all these are like window dressing – possibly like fancy decoration on the hilt of a plastic knife. These other factors present themselves as being of high value, but the real high value is in the internal character of the man. I don’t need any fancy decoration. I just need a good solid sharp metal knife that cuts and cuts reliably, without breaking during use.
As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
If the ax is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
Then he must use more strength;
But wisdom brings success.