Several years ago I made a wish list for the qualities I would like in a husband. In Christian circles young women are encouraged to write down the top qualities they would like in a man. I certainly see the reasoning in this. Good qualities are important. Even in 1 Timothy, chapter 3, Paul listed the qualities that a man should have to pastor God’s sheep.
Qualities are character traits that a man possesses. He may or may not have been born with the good traits we all admire and desire. He may have gone through a long and difficult refining process to get them, and/or he may be currently going through the fire – a diamond in the making. But we all know that good character is what makes a man and bad character is to be avoided.
So, let me be clear; I’m not against having a strong sense of values and praying that God will give us a spouse who has godly traits. However, I’ve seen some of these “wish lists” and it is clear that sometimes these list end up being a shopping list of wants. I’ve seen lists naming everything from his height, his mannerisms, his bank account, his house, to the way he dresses, the way he talks and a host of other things. Frankly, I find this to be idealistic thinking and it can take us in another direction away from God’s intended goal. (You can read here about the dangers of unrealistic expectations in an excellent article by Brittany Rust.)
I know some will disagree with my aversion to lists saying that you have to give God something to work with. And yes, I agree…sometimes. But in most cases, God is more concerned about the motives of the heart. Exactly why do you need to have a man who fits your list? Could there be a little bit of ego in there? What if he doesn’t have a big house, bank account, or big muscles? Would it appear to others that you couldn’t catch a “good one?”
The first time I made a list, I kept it at my bedside table. Then one day I read the story of Solomon in the bible. He had just been made king after the death of his father, David. He had a dream in which God told him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” God was essentially asking Solomon for a wish list! Us girls would be all over that! We could give him our list of 50 traits we would like to have in a husband. Wouldn’t that be grand?
But let’s see what Solomon said: “You have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a child and do not know how to carry out my duties…So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”
What? He had a blank check! He could have asked for money, houses, a big wedding, exotic vacations and faster chariots! But instead, he asked for something that would benefit God’s people and kingdom – wisdom.
God loved that! In fact, his response to Solomon was, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself…I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
After seeing Solomon’s heart and God’s response, the Holy Spirit softly asked me, “Now, do you really want to come to me with a list?”
I got it. Sweet sister, do you see the heart difference here? One says, “Give me everything I want,” the other says, “Give me a heart to love the people you give me.” Needless to say, I tore up the list.
A few years later, time had passed, I still didn’t have a husband and all those testimonies about women making lists started to get to me. (As if God is waiting for that list so he can get to work on getting us the man we ordered!) So again, I fell for the list theology.
This time I made a list of 27 traits. It included a Christmas list of everything I would like in my husband package. I was pleased to see that I had changed in the past 5 or 6 years. All the physical attributes of a husband weren’t even in the first five anymore! (They were further down the list.) I was really getting really spiritual!
But one day God spoke to me again about the list. This time the message was different. He said, “You’re trying to make a man in your own image.”
I took to scripture and read in Genesis where God formed man in his own image and it was “very good.” God knew exactly the traits that would resemble the creator. Man being made in God’s image is foundational to our core beliefs as Christians.
Then God began to expound this to me: When we make a list of the kind of man we want, and present it to God, we are essentially presenting him with a man we’ve created in our own mind. We have “formed” an image of what we think would be the “perfect guy.” We’ve stepped into God’s territory and designed a man with all the traits we perceive to be “good.” The only problem with this is our definition of “good.” We think of “good” as something easy, attractive, and low maintenance, while God thinks of “good” as something that accomplishes his perfective work in our life. His version of good involves iron sharpening iron, testings and even afflictions. God’s ways are higher than our ways.
Forming the image of a perfect guy starts us down a slippery slope of playing God. Not only do we start a habit of judging men who aren’t that image, we start a lifelong journey of criticizing the men in our life that don’t meet our expectations. We hold them to the impossible standards and image that we created for them.
But the bible is clear that where the spirit of the lord is there is freedom. Freedom for a man to be who God made him to be, freedom to go where God is leading him and freedom to grow in the timeframe that God designed for him. Real love gives that kind of freedom to a man because as the bible teaches, real love is not self-seeking. There is no freedom in making someone a slave to our list.
The man God has for you (and me) may not be perfect. He may not be rich or look like a movie star, but we can be assured that he will be the right guy for the job of making us like Christ. He may not have the exact traits I wanted, but he will have the traits God finds needful for me. He may not be the exact package I hoped for, but I’m certain that God will provide a marital union full of joy that I never dreamed possible.
So, do I have a list for my future husband? No. But do I trust that if my heart is right, and if I ask God to make me a good helper for the man he has for me, He will do for me as he did for Solomon and give me some of the things I didn’t ask for? Yes, I do. Because he is a good father who delights to give his children the desires of their hearts.
And we need to remember, we are just children. If we give him a list of traits in our twenties that we will regret in our fifties, we need to give God full license to over-rule our immaturity and give us the person that will be a lifetime mate in all the seasons of our life. God’s goal is not to hand everything over to you on a platter. It is for you to grow in wisdom!
God planned all your days before one of them even came to be. He made his “list” for your life. You can be sure, if you match your list against his, you’ll quickly agree that God has the better list. It is sure to be full of qualities for a joyous marriage that will benefit us, our children, our future generations, and the Kingdom of Christ.