Let all things be done decently and in order. — I Corinthians 14:40 (NKJV)
Okay, let’s get this out in the open from the start. Yes, guys have lists. Gals have lists. Everyone has lists — or maybe they should.
Recently, a lonely and distressed young lady shared her relationship frustration with me. When I asked what type of guy she was looking for, she said, “I don’t know, but I’ll know him when I see him.” To me, that’s like aimlessly driving around Florida in search of Yellowstone Park. If I want to see Yellowstone, wouldn’t I be better off loading it into my GPS, researching the fastest way to get there, and then hitting the road? Of course! So why wouldn’t I do the same with my relationship pursuits?
Having a list of relational preferences is not bad in and of itself. Whether we admit it or not, we all have preferences of some sort. For example a tall person may prefer someone who is also tall. A health nut may prefer another health nut. A golfer may prefer someone who golfs. No, this doesn’t mean everyone should find an identical clone. These are just examples to demonstrate that having (and writing down) your personal relationship preferences isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
We may have a sense of what we find attractive in the opposite sex. But there are so many intricacies and complexities involved in relationships. Tall/short, extrovert/introvert, passionate/laid back, organized/messy, funny/serious, casual/formal, gym rat/couch potato, save it/spend it, employed/unemployed (okay, that last one, not so much!). It’s like having a strategy or game plan. Throughout Scripture we find the order and specificity of God — do we not think He has such specificity in mind for our “help mate” (Genesis 2:18)?
Considering all that goes into a relationship, having an intentional strategy seems smarter to finding someone compatible than just aimlessly seeing who shows up. It’s like the difference between shopping and buying. If I’m shopping, I’m not usually looking for anything specific — just aimlessly browsing to see what’s available. But if I’m buying, well now, that’s a different situation altogether. That introduces intentionality into the situation. I know what I want, what size I need, where to find it, and how much it will cost. There is confidence in my stride and purpose in my direction.
From a relationship perspective, that is what a list provides. It helps to outline my preferences, consider my strengths, weaknesses and life purpose, identify any deal-breakers … do you see the intentionality and purpose?
That said, lists can get in the way of God’s leading, can be superficial, and can be self-serving. James is clear on this: “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).
If your motive is to land a handsome hunk or gorgeous babe to parade on your arm as eye candy, you might be waiting awhile. However, if your desire is to identify someone compatible with you spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically, that seems more appropriate. If your desire is to find the complementary person with whom God intends you to serve Him, you’re getting closer to Yellowstone Park.
In order to create such a list, first start with yourself. Until you know who you are, how will you know what you need? Before writing out your “spousal requirements,” first conduct a self-inventory. Who are you? What’s your personality type? Love language? Spiritual gift? Life purpose? Career goals? Ambitions? Talents? Strengths and weaknesses? Before looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, become Mr. or Mrs. Right. Become who God created you to be — uniquely positioned to fulfill the life purpose He created for you. Be who He created you to be, where He wants you to be, doing what He appointed you to do.
Only then will you have “clear eyes” to find someone who is a compatible match. Only then can you list out reasonable preferences for the complementary companion for the journey to which God has called you. Only then can you approach a relational pursuit from a standpoint of confidence instead of vulnerability and unhealthy dependence.
Psalm 37:4 is often misinterpreted as the magical secret to finding a perfect mate. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” The suggestion is that if you do certain churchy things or if you become uber-spiritual, then God will give you that fantasy person in your dreams. What we tend to overlook is that conditional word “delight.” It means to be pliable, flexible or vulnerable. When you are completely open, willing, and flexible to God, He will grant your heart’s desires. Interestingly enough, what you may find is that your heart’s desires have changed. Your prayer may change from “God, please give me …” to “Not my will but Yours be done.” And God will always grant that request.
So before preparing your list, identify everything you can about yourself, honestly and fully delight yourself in God and become the person He created you to be. Then start listing those preferences you believe a compatible spouse would have. Review your list with God, asking for His additions and deletions. Once you are both finished listing the preferences, characteristics, traits, etc., then never settle for anyone less. When your heart is set on Yellowstone, the thrills of Florida just won’t do.
So here’s to a five-foot-eight devoted Christian, introvert, brunette hair with no split ends, separated eyebrows, well-manicured hands, no cracked heels, captivating face, sultry voice, mesmerizing smile, godly spirit, quick wit, emotional stability and available, healthy lifestyle, loves to cook, playful with a “Hey-you-come-over-here” look in her eyes, dry sense of humor, no games, intentionality, established business professional, homeowner …. Yellowstone anyone?