RATING YOUR DATING WHILE WAITING FOR MATING
Glad About You
November 24, 1996
Last week I was traveling up North and while sitting in an airport restaurant, I decided to take an informal poll on single adults. I asked the unmarried folks this question: “What are you looking for in your future mate?” I received a wide range of responses, from “I don’t know” to a shrug of the shoulders, from a blank stare to “Blue eyes.” For the most part, single adults could not tell me what they were looking for in Mr. or Miss Right. No wonder 50% of all first marriages and 60% of all second marriages this year will end in divorce or separation. We are doing a poor job of spouse selection. Very few of us have the skills developed to do the kind of assessment work that God wants done on this side of the marital equation. But today, singles, I have some words for you. You can leave this beautiful arts complex with the tools you need to make this paramount decision.
Over the last two weeks I have told you that the decision concerning your spouse is the second most important decision that you will ever make. The implications are huge. It is a very big decision and God wants to assist you in making this choice. That is why we call this series “Rating Your Dating While Waiting For Mating.” How do you rate your dating? I want to share with you today three crucial components concerning spouse selection.
The first crucial component is the commitment factor. The Bible says these words in 2 Corinthians 6:14. It is a verse that singles do not particularly enjoy hearing or reading but here goes. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” A yoke is a wooden contraption which would hold together a couple of oxen while they were hitched to a plow. However, if you would put a donkey and an oxen in one yoke, you would have problems. The donkey would be pulling one way and the oxen another and it wouldn’t work. Maybe some of you here are investigating the Christian life and to you that sounds like discrimination. It sounds like God is being capricious and cruel.
Over the next couple of minutes I am going to argue God’s point of view. God is not being discriminatory, capricious, or cruel. Instead, He is being loving, tender-hearted, and intentional. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common or what fellowship can light have with darkness or what harmony is there between Christ and the devil?” This word “harmony” comes from our word “symphony.” A symphony is beautiful music that occurs when the players are reading the same score and obeying the same leader. When you get married, it is fine if you play one instrument and your spouse plays another instrument, but you had better be playing the same music. The difficulty arises when you are hooked up with an unbeliever. The believer might be playing Mozart and the unbeliever, Madonna’s theme song. It just does not gel.
Singles, when you talk about downsizing, if you obey this verse you have eliminated about four-fifths of the possible candidates for marriage. God is not telling Christians to look down their noses in spiritual snobbery at unbelievers. God is not saying that His children are too good to play with unbelievers. God has given us this word for our own good. He has given it to us out of His loving, tender, merciful, and grace-focused heart. He knows that if we marry someone who does not have the common faith that we have, we will be in for a lifetime of heartbreak and a lifetime of settling for things that are second best.
I want to give you briefly God’s point of view on why He insists on spiritual compatibility, why He insists that the person that you marry share the same commitment level that you do to our Lord Jesus Christ. First, God wants us to experience intensive intimacy in marriage. Do you hear that? Ninety percent of the single adults here will get married at least one time. God wants you and He wants me to experience intensive intimacy. Once seekers become believers and they receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, He becomes their friend and ultimately the most important thing in their lives. When they get married, that which is most important, that which is at the depth of their soul must be shared with the person they play with, they sleep with, and they are married to. Do you realize the frustration in a relationship, especially in marriage, when you cannot share that which is most precious to you. God wants to spare us from all that.
God doesn’t care how good looking he or she is or how great their personality is. If they don’t have that commitment to Him and know His Son personally, then He doesn’t want you to get hooked up with them. Can you share the most important aspect of your life, which is a connection with Jesus Christ, with the person you are dating? If you can, that is great. If you can’t, God would tell you to move on.
It is also vital that we date someone, and hopefully marry someone, who is in the same zone we are maturity-wise. I am referring to spiritual maturity. If you are cruising down a black diamond slope taking moguls like they are no problem spiritually as a mature Christian and the other person is still snow plowing down the bunny slope, well, that could cause some tension. Again, you need to marry someone around the same aptitude, the same level that you are spiritually. Let’s say you get married and the black diamond person feels led by the Holy Spirit of God to sacrifice a large block of time and a large part of their finances to the local church and he or she has no problem with this. Well, the bunny-slopers say that they can’t believe they need to give 10% to the church. You can see where that would lead. God insists on spiritual compatibility because He wants us to experience intensive intimacy.
He also insists on spiritual compatibility because He wants us to be able to tap into the same resource when difficulties strike our marriage. Your marriage will be tested, folks. It will be tested spiritually, relationally, emotionally. What happens when you hit this relational sticking point? What happens when there is a barrier there? What happens when you are in one corner and your spouse is in the other corner? If you can’t tap into the same spirit of reconciliation, good luck. What is going to happen when a tragedy strikes? Where are you going to turn? Do you have that same power base?
My wife and I have been married for 14 years and we have gone through a lot together. When Lisa had a miscarriage, I knew the tough time was in her life more so than in mine. I also knew that she could tap into the same power source that I could. And I knew that we would come through it. When our son was diagnosed as having Neurofibrotosis, something that we are still not sure about, that was a difficult time. It is still a difficult time because it is an unknown factor. Yet, we have grown closer together during this time because we can tap into the same resource.
God insists on spiritual compatibility for a third reason. He knows that it will present to our children a unified front in childbearing. You see, God designed little boys and little girls to have a Christian mom and a Christian dad. If Mom is praising the name of God while Dad is cursing the name of God, that sends mixed signals to the kids. 1996 is not the time to push your children out onto the seas of relativism and say, “Hope you make it. Watch that wave over there. There is a paddle in the back.”
All this is motivated out of God’s love and tender heart. Is this person that you are considering marrying committed to God? Now some of you are saying that you are not really thinking about marriage, that you are just dating that person casually. Who are you trying to fool? I don’t care if you go out to Sonic for a cheeseburger and a chocolate malt, which I highly recommend about once every six months, in the back of your mind you are saying, “Could this be the one?” Every time we date, I don’t care if it is casual, we are wondering if it could be the one.
The second level of commitment, after their commitment level to the Lord is their commitment to the relationship. Is this person committed to the relationship? Has this person pledged himself or herself to the relationship? A relationship without commitment is like a Harley without handlebars. It might look good and sound good, but you can’t steer it anywhere.
A relationship without commitment, compared to a relationship with commitment, is like comparing a rental car to a car you own. Now let’s take the gloves off and get real here for a second. When we rent a car, we are not really taking care of the car that much. We don’t want any major accidents, but we don’t care if an errant french fry gets mashed in the upholstery or we drip Starbucks coffee on the windshield or get a little door ding. That is not a big deal to us because it is a rental car. No problem, just turn it in. However, if we own a car, we take care of that don’t we? I drive a Ford F150, black pickup truck. I am concerned about that vehicle. Man, when all my four kids get in the car, “Don’t eat!” “Watch it!” Today I parked way away from here because I didn’t want anybody to give me a door ding. Why am I so concerned about my truck? Because, I have something invested in it if. You have something invested in your car, if you own it. A relationship means something more to you when you have something invested in it.
A lot of us kind of want to have the benefits of the relationship without the commitment. A lot of guys here—come on, men, I am going to slam you for a second—a lot have commitment-itis. We are scared of commitment. We say things among our male friends like, “Hey, it will limit my style. She will have me on a tight leash. I will have no freedom any more. I will begin to wear Bermuda shorts and black socks and high top shoes. Yes, honey. You are right, baby.”
I mean, that’s not totally true. But I laugh because I am the same way. I dated Lisa for six years before we got married. And to show you how freaked out men are about commitment, I bought the ring and hid it on top of the refrigerator. But, when I started to think about actually giving it to her, I got cold feet. I hesitated for about a week before I gave her the ring.
It is a step of faith. It is tough for a man to say he is committed. I used to see this about seven years ago when I used to do a bunch of weddings. I worked at a church where I did about 80 weddings a year. I did all the pre-marital counseling. As a young pastor I would invite the man and woman into my office. Usually during the last session of premarital counseling I would say, “Okay, in today’s session I am going to go over the marital vow.” When I had just mentioned the words marital vow, the lady’s body language would show immediate and enthusiastic approval. But when I looked over at the guy he would look like he had been on a 52-foot Hatteras in seven to nine foot seas. He would sweat and turn green. I even saw a couple of them kind of gag. I would go over the vows and the guy could barely say them in the office. I don’t know what it is about us.
But once we do commit to a relationship, that is when real intimacy and authenticity and integrity takes place. I challenge you, if you feel that she is Miss Right, pledge yourself to a position. So commitment to God and to the relationship is the first crucial component when you rate your dating.
The second crucial component is character. Character counts. I want to read to you a section of scripture in 1 Samuel 16:7. Samuel was struggling with the character issue. He was confusing the same things that we tend to. Oftentimes we confuse character traits with personal traits. I will let the Bible explain. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.” I would agree with that. It is important to be attracted to this person but the Lord does not look at the same things that man does. Case in point would be this. How many single women do we have here? Would you lift your hands. Okay, single women, when you are dating this brand new guy, the first question that your girl friends ask you about this guy is, “What does he do?”
How many single guys do we have? Guys. When you are dating a brand new girl, what do your guy friends ask you? “What does she look like?” That brings us back to 1 Samuel 16:7. ”Man looks at the outward appearance….” “But he has got these gorgeous green eyes. But she has this laugh that I just can’t get over.” Those are personal traits, not character traits. Now listen to the last part of Verse 7, “…but the Lord looks at the heart.”
How do you look at the heart? How do you look at character, because character is moral strength. How do you examine it? How do you test it? How do you use it to rate your dating? I think that you have to do the Larry King thing. I am not talking about putting on suspenders and a wild dress shirt. I am saying that you should interview the person that you are dating. Do the tough work before you walk down that aisle. Don’t do the tough work after you walk down the aisle.
Interview them. Sit down in a non-romantic situation and ask them questions like this: “What would you say your former boyfriends (girlfriends) would tell you is your weakest character quality and why?” “What are you trying to change about yourself over the next five years?” “What are your goals?” “What is the most important thing you feel in a relationship?” Then you will see him or her begin to show you some character qualities, some moral convictions. Interview the other person. Need I say that before you do the interview process, pray about the situation. Larry King does not pray before his interviews, obviously, but I want you to pray that God show you what you need to know.
Also, interview you. Ask yourself questions like, “Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person even if this person never changed?” You see a lot of us marry the potential of someone. “Oh, I am going to marry him because look what he can be. He is not there yet, but look what he could be.” Ask, “Do I want to have a child who acts like this person?” “Do I want to become more like this person?” You will!
Next, play a game with the person that you are dating. Just play a game. It could be putt-putt. It could be tennis. It could be cards, dominos, checkers, whatever. Why? It is important because, when you are competitive with someone, it will bring out the real part of a person’s character. Even if you don’t play golf, just ride around with him for 18 holes and you can see if he is cursing and throwing clubs or behaving how you would wish. Even playing games like Candyland, Ken and Barbie. Character is crucial. It ultimately determines how he or she will treat themselves, how he or she will treat others and how he or she will treat one’s children.
So commitment is important, character is important. The third crucial component is chronology. Chronology. Chronology can be defined as the science of measuring time. That is why I will say it and spray it and wheel it and deal it right up here from this Plexiglas lectern—take it slow. Do the calendar thing. Wait at least a year before you get married. Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 13:5-6, “Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. When the sun came out the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no root.” Jesus was simply saying this. You can’t tell if a plant is really going to produce a lot of crops and fruit until you watch it for awhile. Some plants look good. They spring up quickly and the die. Other plants, might take a long time but they are for real. Jesus said this. Time is crucial. Do the chronology thing. Why should you study the relationship concerning time. I want to give you four quick reasons.
- Time allows infatuation to fade. Time is kind of like a good pair of 501 jeans. After you wear them for awhile, they begin to fade and really fit perfectly and become so comfortable. It really lets you see the real stuff that has made Levi great. Infatuation, if you give it time, will fade like those jeans. It will fade and after it fades, you will begin to see whether it is infatuation or love. Is it real or is it Memorex? Infatuation usually concentrates on one aspect of someone. “I love your hair. Your hair is so beautiful.” That is infatuation. Real love and attraction focuses on the entire person.
In Genesis 29 the great patriot Jacob saw Rachel. Jacob was smitten. He saw Rachel and the Bible says that on the first date he kissed her. After he kissed her, Rachel’s father steps in and tells him that if he wants her hand in marriage Jacob would have to work for him. And Jacob, to make a long story short, worked for 14 years just to marry Rachel. I think that that was enough time to allow infatuation to fade. The Bible does not say to date someone 14 years, it does say to study the person to see if what you feel is real love.
- It gives us more confidence about the relationship or it gives us more
questions. Time is like a good bird dog. It flushes out character weaknesses like a bird dog flushes out birds. You give it time and what comes out could be a good thing or a bad thing. Also time shows you if the person is really on fire for the Lord or is it just lip service. Are they attending church just to get the marriage job done or do they really love God and talk to Him daily and walk with Him? That is what time does.
- Time gives you an opportunity to allow your friends and family to do the
thumbs up or thumbs down thing. This is not always 100% accurate; however, if you are smitten like old Jake was with Rachel, but really just infatuated with superficial things, they can point that out. Look at this, look at that. They might give you thumbs down, but they might give you thumbs up. If they give you thumbs down, it doesn’t mean that you have to separate at that point and break up. Just sit back and look at the situation. For the most part, this is a very, very good test. But if you don’t give it enough time, you can’t expose this relationship to these various friends. It is kind of an accountability situation, if you will.
- Time broadens your experience base. It really does. When I married Lisa, I had no doubt concerning how she would react in various situations because we had dated for so many years. We had a wide range of experiences that we had gone through. I knew she loved me for me not for what I did or didn’t do. She remembered me in high school scoring at will. She remembered me in college sitting on the bench every single game. She didn’t love me more when I was an all-star compared to when I was a bench-warmer. She loved me because of me. And Lisa loved me when I was working volunteer at a church making about $8,000 a year and she loves me now. She would love me if I moved to the jungle or if I hit it rich in some scheme and made 10 trillion dollars. I don’t worry about it. That is the kind of confidence I have in her love.
My brother is a Singles Pastor. He holds to the diamond/jungle theory. When you are dating someone, you had better make sure that they are going to be happy with you if you put diamonds all over them or if you take them to the jungles of Papua, New Guinea. If you are dating someone who says they just have to have that dress, or that model Mercedes or make so much money, head for the hills. Don’t look back.
So the next time you happen to be in an airport restaurant and you see some skinny guy taking an informal poll among the unmarried folk and he asks you what you are looking for in your future mate, don’t give him a blank stare, don’t shrug your shoulders, don’t say that you don’t know. Look back and with confidence say, “I am looking for that the Bible says, commitment, character, and chronology.” That is the only way to rate your dating.