By the grace of God, God has blessed me with a very strong imagination. This is possibly the single biggest gift that God has given me, and is at the root of absolutely every skill in my life that I am grateful for. As a child I read and read (and read and read and read!) and that was mostly to feed my imagination. All my ambition, all my yearnings, even this blog itself is largely a product of my imagination. However, this same powerful imagination has also been in many ways my biggest weakness, because I have never learned to control it. Regarding relationships, this has affected me in many ways. The most deadly and destructive example of this is that for many, many years I’ve used that same imagination to think up, and then meditate upon, worse and worse sexual fantasies in my mind. For these same years I’ve struggled, prayed and fasted endlessly about this and finally, by the grace of God and through meditating instead on the Word of God I can honestly say that these evil and demonic fantasies no longer have a hold over me. (It is not like I’m the victim here, this is a big fat sin in God’s eyes.) I know that this is a huge issue for others as well as myself and by the grace of God I plan to write a blog post about this in a few month’s time, to help anyone else who has been struggling with this.* However, this particular post deals with another negative expression of a powerful imagination.
When I see a guy, who is smiley and cute, and seems to be “all there”, then it is so easy for me to imagine us being happy together. If he smiles at me, then it is so easy for me to imagine us smiling at one another throughout our marriage. I can imagine us holding hands, walking along, talking, having deep discussions. My imagination takes over completely and I find it hard to truly see the man as he is, truly evaluate compatibility. All I can see is the smile, all I can think about is how strong his hands appear to be, all I can imagine is the thought of us gazing deeply into one another’s eyes. Let me make it clear that this does not happen with everyone, by any means. We are talking only about those guys who happen to smile “at the correct frequency” to touch my heart. They are quite scarce in the general population and as Christians they are even more scarce. So if I did manage to find someone like this, hypothetically speaking, if this man and I managed to kick up any kind of friendship, I know that I would spend the entire time smiling at him. My behaviour towards him would be motivated not by sensible considerations of what should honestly exist between us, and how to carefully move forward, but rather by the incessant pull of those marital yearnings.
As I write this, it occurs to me that there is of course nothing wrong with dreaming of a beautiful marriage. Of course there is not! Of course it is good and right to have a strong vision to use to direct your steps, in marriage as in all of my other dreams! The problem though is when this vision is so uncontrollable that it influences and overtakes everything else. The added issue with marriage is that with everything else it is an issue of exerting my will, my determination and my hard work on inanimate objects who do not have any mind of their own to resist my will. However, with marriage I will be dealing with a full-grown man who has a mind, a will and an opinion of his own, and who can, and will resist if he wants to, even to the point of insisting that we both follow his own wishes – and as a man, as the husband, as the head of the home, this is his God-given right. There it is, written in clear, irrefutable black and white in the Bible! This is why I have got to put my big imagination to the side, to truly examine things as they are. These are questions I have to be able to answer honestly: do we truly share the same values? Or is there the possibility that X years from now, when he expresses his wishes they will be the exact opposite of my own, and I will be forced to go along with something that I completely disagree with? Even as Bible-believing Christians, that is, even as genuinely Bible-believing Christians, there is still so much scope for disagreement or focusing on different things.
Are we truly going in the same direction: Do we pursue Christ in the same way? Do we have the same kind of dreams in life? Will he think I am “over the top” in my dedication to my dreams – even if he invests just as much into his own dreams – does he think that there is a “sensible limit” that a woman should recognise in life? Will he want children before I do?
Because I yearn for marriage so much (and think so much on the joys of marriage etc) my feelings are there, always there, ready and willing to be deployed against any suitable looking man. The readiness of these feelings plus the power of my imagination plus any suitable looking man together equals = ding dong FEELINGS/falling for him!
Further questions to ask: Who is this man really? What are the priorities that he professes? How do those compare to the priorities that I can actually observe in his life? These are the things that call for a cool head. Does he have an accountability circle? How seriously does he take serious matters? Is he careless and casual in flirting with girls; does he demonstrate a casual attitude to relationships? There was someone I used to know from a certain (Christian) context. Once I saw him in a very different context…when his wife was not there. He got chatting with one of the ladies present, and then the two of them proceeded to talk and laugh and banter, going very close to the point that I would consider flirtatious. To be fair, he was capable of doing that very same thing right in his wife’s presence – and he did do it, many times, and he equally “did not bat an eyelid” when she did the same thing with other guys. There is nothing actually wrong with this per se, and human beings are human beings. However…. And then on another occasion I winced as I listened to this same man describe the reason why he had been encouraged to pursue this same woman (his wife). In short, because she was “hot”. Now I am of course mindful that I myself have very recently written a couple of posts where I have jokingly referred to myself as “hot”. It is more than a joke, I am serious, I want to be deeply attractive to my husband in a physical way. But then to state that this would be the single overwhelming reason why he should be determined to win me? No. My life is first and foremost, overwhelmingly about the pursuit of Christ, and I want a man to want me first and foremost for this, as this is similarly and overwhelmingly my own first criterion for choosing my husband – so that long after “hotness” fades, Christ will remain.
Thinking further about what I’d be looking out for: Which friends does he cultivate? Does he choose friends who are “cool” and “fun”, or is he careful to seek out friends with strong principles? I don’t want to suggest that being “cool” or “fun” are in themselves opposed to acting with strong principles. In fact, a huge premise of this blog is that it is very much possible to demonstrate both; to be cool and fun, AND to be driven by strong principles. I hope that by now any potential Huggie-Wuggie candidate will know that I expect him to demonstrate both (thank you very much!) And then how many times I have come across people who demonstrate neither fun in their attitude NOR the slightest integrity or spiritual maturity! What I am talking about then is his overwhelming priority for choosing his friends, what he says to himself in his “heart of hearts”:
“Above all else, my friends must be…”
I know also that it is a matter of growth in these things, of continuous improvement. So there is only a slim likelihood of anyone being “all there” from the outset. However the question is how fast he is growing, how he is striving to improve. For instance, as I’ve only just understood the various points about friendship, if someone had evaluated me on the basis of my friendships 5 years ago, they might have found me wanting.
At the very least, for myself, I have to insist on someone who is already at the point of striving as hard as he can and constantly pushing himself in holiness and Christ-like character. This is one area that I cannot wait for him to grow into, in case I am waiting indefinitely.
So then, back to those friends. What are their priorities? How are they likely to influence him in the future? There is a statistic that someone is 75% more likely to get divorced if one of their close friends or family first gets divorced and apparently the divorce of a close friend increases the probability of someone’s divorce even more than the divorce of a family member does. See here for the direct research, and also here, for a Google search on this subject – and oh look, apparently “getting married” itself might also be contagious – I have personally seen that with my own eyes….) It is funny how even as adults we are so susceptible to peer-pressure. From hanging around with the people that he hangs around with I might not be able to tell you categorically that yes, this person will get divorced, or that person will not. However, I might be able to get a certain sense of how serious each person is in life generally, the level of commitment they give to their endeavours, the integrity they pursue in living their life.
*For anyone who needs it, this is what I have found to help. I found a relevant passage of scripture and I recite it out loud to myself for 30 minutes every day. Please note the “every day” part. This is the passage that I use: Romans Chapter 6v11-14.
Here is the text in full: (NKJV)
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Goldfish photo by Hans on Pixabay