These were the words typed into a Facebook message to me: “Well, kind of like the story of Isaac and Rebecca, when I first meet my future wife, I’ll just know.”
As I read these words in my inbox, I gulped. The guy at the other end of this exchange was a handsome pastor in training with theological insight to rival Billy Graham’s. A 2016 Boaz if you will. And this is what he wrote me a few weeks before we were supposed to meet for the first time.
The weight of his sentence made my stomach clench into a knot because, buddy, I’m no Rebecca.
If you’re feeling sorry that I’d been subjected to this form of Christian dating idealism, don’t be. Even though I didn’t much enjoy the pressure of having to exude Proverbs 31 on a first date with someone I barely knew, there have been countless times when I projected my own unrealistic expectations on many potential suitors. Spiritual zeal like Peter, divine knowledge like Paul, wisdom like Solomon’s, a cute face and great style—all in one person.
In the past, I’ve approached Christian dating with a laundry list of must-haves and crossed men off for deviating even the slightest bit after just a few dates. In that same vein, I’ve been crossed off a few myself. It’s like we’re all in a holier-than-thou version of The Bachelor but instead of getting a rose, you get ghosted.
It’s not uncommon for Christian singles to engage in this style of Dating Survivor while complaining that they’ll never meet “the one” and are doomed to a life of singleness.
I understand why many of us in the Christian dating scene may have our signals crossed. In our quest to uphold biblical instruction about not being unequally yoked and intermarrying (2 Corinthians 6:14, Deuteronomy 7:3), Christian dating has snowballed into a race to find spiritual perfection.
Not only are we looking for someone with a genuine love and relationship with Jesus (and rightfully so), we’re looking for a mate who hasn’t struggled with any significant sin, has spent life on the mission field, only reads the Bible and eats rainbows for breakfast.
When Paul so wisely instructed the Corinthians to not be unequally yoked, seeking perfection was never mentioned. For those of us who didn’t jump on the married-right-out-of-Bible-college bandwagon, we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re called to be the Paul, Naomi or Elijah of our generation.
Before you settle into self-assigned relationship martyrdom, ask yourself if your search for the ideal Christian partner has morphed into idolatry rather than an act of submission to God?
Secular dating culture is known for making split-second decisions on potential partners with a single swipe to the left or right. While we may not be as brash about it, isn’t that essentially what we’re doing when we size up a potential partner for the slightest unchristian quality right off the bat?
To understand the essence of what God created marriage to be, we must first do away with the lofty expectations and standards we bring into our courting relationships. To quote Troy Fink of New Hope Philly ministries, “Marriage is the heavenly ordinance which God has chosen to most manifest the divine romance of the Gospel.” In other words, marriage isn’t about you in the first place.
Before searching for the perfect piece of the puzzle to complete you, understand that we’re all broken and meant to be filled by Christ, not another human being. Instead of looking to be the next Christian power couple, find a fellow soldier to endure life’s battles with.
Just because a partner comes bearing some scars doesn’t make them less of a Godly mate—it just means they’ve experienced darkness and have now found the light—just like you have. Marriage is about sacrifice rather than having all your needs met because the blessing lies in that sanctification.
That said, if you’re going into marriage assuming that the perfect partner guarantees a perfect marriage, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised.
So to all the Isaacs seeking a Rebecca and Ruths seeking a Boaz, just remember: Perfection lies in Christ, not in your future partner.
While aligning your core values and beliefs are undeniably important, chasing idealistic standards will only leave you frustrated and resentful towards something God meant for joy.
Show yourself and your future mate some grace. Instead of looking for a replica of Rebecca or Boaz, look for a genuine desire and love for Christ. If you tear down your barriers and open up your heart, you’ll be amazed at what God can reveal to you in another person.
It may not be perfect but perfection was never our calling anyway.