When I was in high school and college I was a stone wall. Seriously. If you get told you’re intimidating by guys more than a handful of times over the span of a couple months, that might be something to think about. I was so afraid of being fooled, rejected and hurt because someone might find me lacking, less than or not ____enough. These fears and insecurities led me to be most attracted to the guys who were magnetic - people gravitated towards them, knew them and respected them. I looked for someone I would feel proud to be seen with, someone who had out-of-this-world high potential, and someone who was smooth and articulate in the way they spoke and presented themselves.
I thought that if I was chosen by the guy who “had it all together;” who was adored and wanted by many, then I would be seen that way too. I thought that if a guy had the image and confidence I craved, it might rub off on me and make me feel more valuable. If a guy like that saw me and chose me over everyone else….that would make my insecurities disappear. Because that would mean I was worth it.
My idea of the person I needed was borne out of my insecurities, rather than out of my security in Christ, who I was created to be, and what I have to give in a relationship. My insecurities were healed only when I started being more vulnerable with God, letting him into my fears and believing His truth about my value as my affirmation and identity. I am so thankful that He’s done His work in me since, but until I recognized my issues and opened my heart up for Him to heal, my insecurities would take charge and send me running towards the wrong kind of people.
When I graduated from college, one of my best friends challenged me to start going on dates with the guys who asked, no matter what my initial thoughts were. And when I stopped ruling out guys who may not fit the type I thought was best for me, I started learning more about who I was. When I took the pressure off myself to find a spouse, and started going on dates for the simple joy of getting to know myself and others better, I found that what I really wanted was someone who, when stripped of his platform, his friends, his success, and everything but his heart, displayed solid character and deep devotion to Christ - a solid foundation on which to build a relationship and a life. And I realized that if I wanted to find a guy like that, I needed to first look closely his character - because it’s the state of his heart (that foundation) that will prove his surface-level behavior trustworthy and consistent. I know that no one is a finished product and lives this perfectly. We are all human. But we serve a God who redeems and restores and transforms and calls us to holiness.
So, here are the things that I believe speak most accurately to that kind of man (or woman, for the guys reading this). :
1. He lives a resounding Yes to God.
There’s a difference between the people who live that way and the people who long to live that way. I've met a lot of people who truly long to live their lives for Christ. They talk about it. They dream about it. They write about it and preach about it. However, when they get into the nitty gritty of actually living that out, it becomes less of a priority because of the cost of saying yes to God. They haven't built that muscle of obedience because of what it costs, so the foundation beneath them crumbles every time they try to build on it. The cracks in their character are too significant to uphold the person they long to be.
When I meet someone who lives his life saying Yes to God, this means he is living in intimate relationship with Jesus, seeking Him, talking to Him, listening to Him and obeying what God is asking of him. Now. Not in the future. Regardless of his feelings, his circumstances, or the opinions of others, he is committed to seeking God first and responding with obedience to whatever God asks of him. If this is true of him, I can trust that when it comes to making decisions in marriage, we will both submit to seeking Him first and then walking in obedience together, rather than trying to fight for our own agendas.
2. There is fruit in his life now.
The beautiful thing about this one is that it indicates that this guy does say yes to God and lives his life for Him. If we live in obedience to Christ, our lives, our homes, our workplaces and our communities reflect that. The Bible is pretty clear on what kind of fruit to look for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. When someone is living surrendered and his life has been transformed by Christ, the fruit of the Spirit should be evident in the way he treats others, the way he speaks, the way he works, the way he builds and engages community, and the way he spends his time when he’s not being "watched". And this fruit should be a natural overflow of his heart, not something he talks about doing or does only when there’s some kind of social return or recognition.
3. His "future glory self" excites me and I want to invest myself in his journey of becoming that person.
In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes:
"Within this Christian vision of marriage, here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and say, ‘I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!' Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse should then give him or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory.”
Oh man, I love this thought. One caution I would have, though, is that some of us tend to get caught up in being attracted to the future potential we see in someone rather than their present reality. If that’s you (it definitely has been me), this is where the first two points come in: If they say yes to God and there is fruit in their lives now, you can trust that they truly are on their way to becoming this person. They are submitting themselves to the work of the Spirit in their lives. It is in this kind of surrender and devotion that we "can be certain that God, who began the good work within them, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Phil 1:6)".
4. We share a common vision
Tim Keller says that:
“Ultimately, your marriage partner should be part of what could be called your ‘mythos.’ C.S. Lewis spoke of a ‘secret thread’ that unites every person’s favourite books, music, places or pastimes. Certain things trigger an ‘inconsolable longing’ that gets you in touch with the Joy that is God. Everyone has something that moves them so that they long for heaven or the future kingdom of God and give themselves to that vision. Sometimes you will meet a person who so shares the same mythos thread with you that he or she becomes part of the thread itself.”
This is the kind of comprehensive attraction you should be looking for in a future partner. While some of this chemistry is formed and built through friendship over time, some of it is also found in that mythos - the way you were innately created to connect with God and with others.
A couple that often gives me wise counsel said one of the best questions you can ask when evaluating the potential of a relationship is: “Is this a person you can stand in awe of God with and together run after him full speed ahead?” That really put things into perspective for me. That ‘secret thread’ connects us, moves us to long for heaven and stand in awe of God and then run after Him - together. That common vision is what I want.
So, these are the main four things I look for that are all interdependent but I want to add two more that I have found really important from watching marriages I respect and admire:
5. He is safe; I can just be me.
My insecurities used to be heightened by the guys I was interested in because of the value they placed on their public image. It seemed so attractive to be with the guy who was “at the top” of whatever social circles he moved in, but that came with certain expectations. It was exhausting trying to keep up - trying to prove myself - because I was never able to just be me. Unguarded. For me, one of the clearest indicators that I feel safe with someone is that I show my silly side. You guys...the less guarded I am, the funnier I get. For some of you that’s hard to believe. But others of you have been there, seen it with your own eyes and have brought it out in me even more. My closest friends and family see that side of me all the time because they’ve gone the distance and have proven themselves to be safe. I don’t have to be anyone but me when I’m with them. And it is a gift to be with and be known by those people.
6. He perseveres through suffering with hope.
"Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.…(Romans 5:4)."If there is anything that I've seen consistently in the marriages around me, it's that it's not all romance and fun. There are a lot of hard things that happen in our lives - things that are out of our control, things that send us reeling. I want to find someone to spend the rest of my life with who doesn't run at the first sign of trouble. Someone who perseveres with hope because he trusts and rests in the sovereignty and goodness of his heavenly Father. I deeply value when someone can look back at dark seasons and painful experiences and recount God’s faithfulness and name who he is today because of God’s work in his life during that time.
And there you have them. The 6(ish) things.
I really believe that choosing to look for these indicators of character widen your pool of people to consider, while simultaneously narrowing it. There are some really incredible people out there; I've gone on dates with guys I may not have considered years ago because I began to look for compatibility on these deeper things, and I’ve gained some great friends as a result. I’ve also said no to dates with people who may have been at the top of my list before, because they have some cracks in their character that make for a crumbly and unpredictable foundation.
But, let's be real and practical for a moment: You're not going to know all of this or be able to evaluate and draw sound conclusions about a person on Date #1 (usually). Though it’s tempting to figure it all out as fast as you can so you don’t waste your time, try to stay open to the process. It can be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. On the first couple of dates I simply practice asking: "Based on what I know now, do I want to know more?" And then let the rest unfold from there. But most importantly, it takes staying sensitive to the Spirit’s voice and following His lead. I've found that beyond looking at these 6 things, it is ultimately Him who gives me peace to keep moving forward, or calls me (or the other person) to step back when the timing or relationship isn't His best for either of us.
And just one more thing before you go set up an online dating profile! Please ask yourself:
“Do I have the kind of foundation that’s worth building on?”
Because, as they say... "like attracts like.” So, if I want to find this kind of person, it's important that I am this kind of person - one who says and lives yes to God no matter the cost, one whose life bears fruit because I've surrendered to and been transformed by Christ, and one whose "future glory self" excites others! I want to be that person who creates safe space for others to truly be themselves, and who runs to God first when things get hard as I "suffer" with hope. One crumbling foundation + one solid foundation doesn’t make for a solid one. Both foundations need to be solid to make one that's worth building on.
If any of this resonated with you, or you'd like to share some of the things you look for, please leave a comment below or shoot me an email! I would love to hear from you!
Cover photo by Lindsey Cram: www.lindseycram.com