Set Your Standards
A Guide for Finding and Keeping Love God's Way
For anyone who thinks this advice is strictly for women, think again. This advice is holistic, and applies to men and women both in and out of the body of Christ. Relationships with the opposite sex are a gift from God and they are not intended to be hurtful, distrustful, painful and costly. That may seem obvious but here is something you may not find as obvious, they are also not supposed to pull you out of previous relationships with family, be obsessive, all-encompassing or built solely on physical compatibility, interpersonal dependency or lust! Now that I’ve got your attention, Let’s Talk...
One of the things I constantly hear people say is that “A good man (or woman) is hard to find.” I often challenge this statement with the question,” Are you sure you are looking for a good man (or woman)? One of the things I hope to accomplish with this discussion is an open and honest dialogue that challenges what we have been taught, what we have experienced, and what the word of God says regarding this area. I think if most people were being completely honest, they would state, “A compatible man (or woman) is hard to find.” This is because we are fleshly creatures that fall in to sin easily through our flesh. We base our compatibility on many factors including aesthetics, income, attraction, potential and one I know I can personally relate to, an innate desire to change someone into a better version of themselves. That is a difficult one we will address in detail later.
If I was to go back in time to hear my mother’s advice about finding a mate (in my case that would be a husband but in some cultures woman are not teaching their daughters to become a wives)-I believe I would remember hearing her suggest I should find an “accomplished” man or an “ambitious” man but I do not recall being ever being advised to find a “Godly” man. This is by no means a slight to my mother but stated to prove a point. My mother and many mothers like her have hope for their daughters. They wish for them a “life-style” of comfort, care and ease. I say this because mothers are within reason to “hope” for their sons and daughters to get more out of life then what they achieved.
I can say with all honesty I hold great hope for both of my sons. As soon as my boys started noticing girls, I watched and took notice of their "types." I noticed what they found attractive and I looked at what they believed they deserved (in other words who they approached versus who they considered out of their league) in a mate. From witnessing my sons earliest attempts in relationships, including their hurts and pains, I began to pray that God would place in their lives not an attractive, wealthy, fun or outgoing women but Godly, loving women who would draw them closer to God.
Single Christians who are looking for marriage or non-Christian (who I call closet Christians with all of us being made in likeness of God) need to “Set a standard” for companionship that matches as closely as possible to what God had in mind at creation. I’d like to share with you some of the hindering behaviors that either keeps us away from our God appointed mate or keeps us from experiencing peace with the mate we’re with.
1. The first and certainly not the least in hindering behavior is the bold declaration, “I’m not ready for love (or to love again).”
This thought is literally the antithesis of God’s will! This thought process is common in anyone who has experienced lost, hurt, separation or disappointment in a relationship. I call this the, “Never again” that hurts only the one who holds it. Consider what the Scripture says in 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Rejection of love, even conceptually, is in fact a rejection of God Himself. Don’t allow your pain to steal the gift God has planned for you and don’t hold God accountable for mistakes you've made in the past regarding love. God never fails you or disappoints you. If God planned for you a man who wants marriage, and a modest life of church, fellowship and family but you wanted for yourself mind-blowing sex, a good times and someone beautiful to look at- when things go south, you cannot blame God. God gives you free will to learn that you need Him but we use it to create a blame game which is a deceptive act of the Enemy. The first piece of advice I offer in setting your standard is to stay open to God’s gift of love!
2. Another hindering behavior is what I call disordered priorities.
Those searching for love should make love the priority. Consider Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
You can’t learn the quality of a person by how well they fill out their jeans! Setting a standard means shifting your priorities from fleeting to substantial, from aesthetics to quality of person and from fleshly to Godly. If you are presently placing on your priority list of partner “must haves” items like a banging body, dresses to impress, a bit of a freak and a head turner then you must ask yourself how important is finding true love to you really? Better questions to survey will consider their relationship with God, service to others, relationship with others (family, friends, etc.), desire to change the world to God’s glory, and ability to persevere hardships. If you seek the fruits of the Spirit in your mate and find it in them, you have found something more precious than gold!
3. A personal favorite of mine that helps a person miss out on their Godly appointed companionship is the statement, “Their not my type!”
The fact that you have a type speaks volumes to the fact of your frivolity. I know that I will catch heat for this one and many will say compatibility is important for any lasting relationship but I challenge you with this response, who says you can’t be compatible with someone you are not immediately drawn to? One of the biggest mistakes people can make is to live by their emotions and trust their feelings! The Bible clearly states that whoever trusts his own mind is a fool! (Proverbs 26:28) You don’t know more than God. To this end, as a sign of spiritual maturity and trust in God’s plan for your life. I request this- leave room in your head and heart for he unlikely attraction you refute because they are not typically what you go for. Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing yet expecting a different result. Abandon your idea of a type and let God do the matchmaking for you!
4. There is possibly no better way to set a standard in a Christian relationship then to “Let go of past hurts and pains!”
For anyone who believes that your past does not affect your present and your future, you are sadly deluding yourself. The only way to engage in a healthy, Godly relationship is to free yourself from the hurts and pains from your past. For some, this may mean forgiving yourself for past mistakes; for others it means forgiving someone else but whatever the maladjusted feelings may be, they must be completely surrendered to God before engaging in a relationship with someone else. Scripture specifically tells us to cast all our anxieties over to God. 1 Peter 5:6-7 reads: (italicized to show emphasis)
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
The ramifications of not doing so can be detrimental- For one thing, you can attract someone who tries to fix you. This is unbiblical and sets a relationship on an impossible premise to fulfill. Only God can change hearts. Only God is the author of your outcome. Although God may elect to use other people to elicit change, the transformation of hearts, mind and souls is the working of the Holy Spirit alone. Anyone who believes that they can change, alter or make you conform to a certain way of being is essentially playing God with your future. Another problem with bringing baggage into a relationship is that you may enter the relationship assuming the role of a victim; placing the burden of responsibility of your spiritual development on someone else. Many will crush under the pressure of such a burden which can cause greater problems then what you started with. Decide that you are seeking someone who can “help” you develop into a better Christian, not someone who believes they can change you or who you believe you can change.
I’m writing this article with the intent to dispel a myth. Good men and women do exist and they are not hard to find. In fact, I believe they are waiting to be chosen, loved, appreciated and wanted. Finding and engaging in a Godly relationship starts with placing God at the forefront of your relationship. If you are single and pursuing lasting love then you must set standards that reach beyond fleshly desires and extends to include surrendering to what God wants for you. I truly believe that love and relationships are beautiful things. God made His intention for His creation known in Genesis when he made both man and women in His image and created them in purpose to glorify His name. Marriage is part of God’s plan for humanity and the prospect of finding a mate should be a joyful journey. This is the advice I would share with my sons and my hope for your sons and daughters as they venture in the world to find their life mate. I sincerely believe that if you believe in love, make the Bible the criteria for determining compatibility, keep your heart open to who God may want for you, and surrender the hurts and pains of the past- you will not only find your future spouse, but together you will further the kingdom of God by glorifying Him in your union.