This is the second part to this post. The first is available here
Sometimes, if someone is aggressively pursuing excellence, even if they start off on a lower footing, as it were, compared to someone else, they might quickly overtake this other person, and zoom past, if that other person is not running as fast. For instance, if someone is standing still at a distance of say, two miles ahead, and someone else is running forward with all their might, it does not take much imagination to see that the runner would soon overtake the person standing still. This would remain true even if the person ahead started walking forward slowly…moderately…even quite briskly. So I believe it is with character. I believe that the single best thing that you can do for yourself is to marry someone who is committed to running as hard as they possibly can after character, maturity, holiness, purity…everything! As people, no matter how excellent we are at any given time, there will ALWAYS be plenty of room for tremendous growth. Sometimes you will meet people who seem absolutely lovely – even perfect…but they are not striving, perhaps because they don’t think they need to strive. Please don’t marry these people – unless God specifically says otherwise. I think that you would be setting yourself up for a “What happened to the man I married?” scenario. Admittedly, it is possible for anyone to “wake-up” at any time during marriage, and suddenly resolve to start running. In this case, you could count yourself to have gotten lucky. However, I personally do not want to have to get lucky within marriage. Admittedly you could also pray. In marriage you should be praying for your spouse anyway. I know I would rather be praying prayers of gratitude and joy, endlessly thanking God for my amazing man: “So worth the wait God! I can’t believe how much You love me Father!”, praying that God would continue empowering him to be a better and better man (which equates to a better and better husband!) This to me would be greatly preferable to praying prayers of semi-resentment: “Father, please give me the patience to wait… but Father please wake him up…and soon!”
On the other hand you could meet someone who is clearly a lot less perfect…and is also not appreciably striving after Christ-like character. DEFINITELY don’t marry these people (unless again God says otherwise). I think that what you would be likely to end up with is a marriage that is difficult from the outset; you would not even have to wait for years or even months for their character to deteriorate.
I think that this is what many people end up with, and I believe that this is why many people complain about their spouses from the very beginning. I always wonder how people can enter into these kinds of marriages with their eyes open. Once again, of course these spouses can “wake up”, and you can pray.
I think that depending on what kind of spouse you marry you might get to know different Bible verses very well: “For with God, nothing shall be impossible!” Luke 1v37 – this might be for someone who has to pray a little harder, shall we say!
Or you could find yourself spontaneously, joyfully erupting into: “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall always be on my lips!” – Psalm 34v1 – possibly reflecting a happier marital experience… – which one would you prefer to have as the verse that most honestly reflects your own experience?
A further alternative: you might meet someone who is clearly striving and running after character etc as fast as they can….but whose level of character, maturity or discipline is not quite developed enough for marriage – that is, you meet the person from the analogy above who is 2 miles behind. I personally think that ideally, you should wait to know someone for a full two years to fully assess their character, see how they are striving etc before considering them romantically. This will hopefully also give you an idea of how consistent they are in their striving, their faith generally. If after two years it is clear that yes they are striving, but no, they are not quite there yet, then I would start praying seriously, but refrain from anything that resembled any kind of romantic relationship, perhaps try to build a wise, holy, cautious friendship.
“But Tosin, I feel as if I would love to strive more after Christ, but I just need a spouse to encourage me…someone to hold my hand!” Undoubtedly, people like this exist, and we are all surely influenced by those around us. I would personally prefer to find someone who is already “on fire”, but who knows, perhaps they may have caught that fire from someone else? I guess this is where the two years thing comes in – how far have they come in the time you have known them? Do they look as if they are eager to push through, but just don’t know how to do it? And then also you will need to pray and pray (and pray and pray and fast and pray further – can’t pray too much!) as with any potential spouse.
I should also state that this is of course not an exact science – anyone who seems to be excellent and seems to be striving can also change for the worse during marriage.
Above all of this, and all my blog posts, or any blog posts, any advice etc – prayer and the teachings of the Bible must come first and foremost. There might be a potential spouse who appears to be excellent to start with, and is correctly striving as they should be – but God still says “no”, or somehow God Himself seems to be shutting the door after much prayer (like if for instance Mr Potential Husband got married. I would take that as a divine sign – or at least, that is how I chose to interpret it when it did actually happen to me – although to be fair, the man in question was not actually a Christian!)
On the other hand, there might be someone who is not quite as advanced in maturity, or striving quite as hard as you would have preferred, and yet the more you pray, the more you realise that God is definitely saying: “He’s the one!” (This has never happened to me, so I can’t honestly say what it feels like). Either way, God definitely knows best. The thoughts in this post are just meant to be a helpful general guide.
So the single best approach I can find to the solution of whom to marry, is to seek out someone who is striving the hardest to be like Jesus. Personally I want to hear the passionate exclamations torn from the depths of his soul, I want to see the exertion on his face, when he declares that his utter determination is to live for God. I also want to hear where he’s been in his faith, what he has experienced or overcome, so I can evaluate for myself – are his proclamations about faith and living for God simply good, correct Christian theory, or have they genuinely been born out of the crucible of desperate personal experience? I’ll leave you to judge which one would be better…! 😉
I also need to see the fruit of his supposed strivings. That is, surely some aspects of my life will clearly demonstrate that I strive after God as hard as I say I do, and that I did not start this striving yesterday. This will likely be the same for everyone. (That said, however, we have to be careful to not equate “visible good works” with “a truly Christ-centred heart”.)
1 Corinthians 9:24:
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
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