In this post I am going to address something that should really be central to this blog, but is not. That is, the question of genuine care and concern for your spouse as a requirement for getting married. The reason that I never talk about this is simply because I do not understand it. I am so aware that many of my prescriptions might sound like exactly that: prescribed, and cold, as if there is a mathematical formula to choosing a spouse. Ironically, I have been thinking of starting a series on marriage formulas – I’m being totally serious!
I’ve spoken a lot about “feelings” because I understand feelings. However true selfless concern – I’ve never understood how that fits into the dynamic of relationships, and whether or not it can be “drummed up” at will.
However I’ve recently had a few thoughts/revelations about this.
To illustrate the points for this post I am going to share with you (in very, very vague outline) a couple of real-life stories of my real-life interactions with real-life men.
Looking back over the years, as implausible as this may seem, I am quite reassured in my single status as I sincerely don’t think that there was a single person that I have ever met (who was single when I met them), whom I could productively have married, bearing in mind all that I want to be. Seriously. Out of all the inappropriate crushes I had, and all the Christian guys I met, not a single person – except for this one certain guy. From my current perspective, he has been the only man who has even almost come close to what my husband would need to be. Apologies if that sounds somewhat arrogant, as if I am in this high place evaluating men as not being good enough for my standards. It is not like that. All these guys whom “I could not possibly have married” include some of the loveliest guys, who far exceeded me in character. However many of these guys were not Christians, and of those who were, only this guy seemed to come close to something that would be suitable for me. I was so aware of it at the time, and I knew that I could not afford to squander this opportunity. Yet ultimately I walked away, and emphatically so.
Because I was so aware of it, even at the time, and because – surprise! – I am still not married now a few years later, I still go over it in my mind. Was walking away truly the right thing to do? Was it just my pride that was affronted? (As usual!) Actually, a big – no, huge – aspect of the thing was that I was not at that time praying for my marriage. Prayer for my marriage to me equates to a big investment of time, and at the time I was focused on establishing my businesses. Since then I have come to realise that lack of prayer will kill any potential relationship with anyone whom I might consider romantically, possibly before any such relationship has had the slightest chance to develop. That said, I do believe that walking away was the right thing to do with this particular guy – more intense prayer would simply have revealed this earlier. While superficially the idea of a relationship between us might have seemed feasible, it would probably have ended up being disastrous for both parties – not least because he did not strike me as being particularly huggie!
This is the single biggest reason why I now see that it was right to walk away: because I did not genuinely care about him. Genuine care and concern is an investment. However it is not free. Here is the crazy thing I have realised: that with him, as with everyone else, the potential for care and concern was there. As a person, I want to care about people. However, because it is selfless, it represents so much vulnerability on my part, even if it is done from a distance as with prayers, even if the other person does not know. This is the astonishing thing I have realised: without knowing I was doing it, I was measuring the amount of effort and sacrifice it would cost me to be truly concerned about him, to invest my prayers into his life, against his true character as a person, and I unconsciously decided that he was not worth it. It is not about the worth that he might have brought to my own life, or whether he and I might eventually have gone on to get married. It was about whether he was fundamentally worth that kind of investment. In fact, it was a measurement of risk: the thought of all my time and effort versus the risk that he might eventually not be as excellent as he seemed, and my prayers might end up being in vain. I just could not afford to take that risk. It might have been that if someone else did take that risk and go ahead to make that investment of time and prayer, he might have turned out to be worth it for her. However, for me the risk of failure was just not worth that investment of time.
In the interaction between us, I had already been the one to make all the effort, and all the sacrifices. He and I were blatantly checking one another out, however there were never to be any overt romantic overtones, so I am not talking about making efforts or sacrifices in a romantic context.
In a more recent situation, once again I have been faced with the question of whether or not to invest my prayers into someone else’s life. However, the difference is that this second man has already made efforts and sacrifices – once again, in a totally non-romantic context. It may well turn out that I end up feeling my prayers and concern have been in vain. However, because this person has already made selfless efforts and sacrifices, (not necessarily directed at me) I am thinking that at worst my own effort will simply balance out his own efforts; at the very worst we will simply be “even”. The efforts concerned that this other person has invested indicate to me a certain selflessness in his nature. Therefore, characterwise, I already know he’s “worth it”. So I can afford to invest my concern. Once again, this is not about whether or not I will marry this second guy, or otherwise actively benefit from my own prayers or concern. It is about whether he is fundamentally “worth it” -and that question has already been answered before I have even started praying.
So thinking about this reveals to me something about myself, and how I decide to invest care and concern into other peoples lives. I would have loved to have found an excuse to invest my time and effort into the life of the first guy. He seemed to be “all that”. He was the kind of person who would have made my family phenomenally happy, if I had married him – what relief, that to everyone’s amazement, Tosin had actually made a sensible marital choice! I think that he was somewhat surprised that I walked away, because he assumed that what he was was enough to keep me keenly interested. However I have heard of too many men who seemed outstanding before marriage, only to be revealed as ogres within it. This represents so much vulnerability for me: I need to see evidence of excellent character. If I had even heard of his acting selflessly towards other people, totally unrelated to me, then that would have convinced me of his fundamental worth. This is all the more true in those situations when people seem to be demonstrating bad character: I need those memories of previous excellent character to convince me to keep holding on, to keep investing friendship, kindness, prayer. Otherwise, that time might come, all too quickly, when I eventually think: “You are simply not worth such a great investment of my time”.
That does not sound very unconditional Tosin! Well to be honest it is not. I believe that the actual choice of spouse, as well as of close friends, has to be conditional based on what people are. It is within the marriage that we then commit to loving them unconditionally, when to a certain extent they have already demonstrated who they truly are.
The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Photo of Blue rose by Glady on Pixabay