I used to be one of those girls who kept a list … the list of what I was looking for in a husband.
Between the youth group I Kissed Dating Goodbye seminar and the “modest is hottest” discussion, I figured I needed to make a list of what I wanted in a potential spouse. In my fourteen year-old mind, I was supposed to document these nascent musings right after I’d signed the True Love Waits pledge card and just before I’d started writing “him” letters about our future life together because When God Writes Your Love Story and you have Passion and Purity this is what you do.
In junior high or high school, I made a table. This before I developed my love/hate relationship Microsoft Excel, but I’m sure it had three columns, which helpfully organized the Must Haves, Nice to Haves, and the No Way Josés. It’d be Nice to Have someone who knew how to dance. (I was jealous of my friends who were in cotillion at the time.) “Better at math than me” was a Must Have. And, of course, he’d have to love Jesus.
As much as I wish it weren’t true, this catalog got updated in college. I’m too scared to do a deep search of my computer hard drive because I’m embarrassed about what I might find. I’m glad it’s gone, buried in the abyss of my aging MacBook.
As much as sorting out your thoughts on paper or in pixels can help you process decisions, pick a television, or buy a car, I’ve realized that having a rubric-mentality for a potential spouse triggers a weird, consumerism in my soul. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have some idea of what you’re looking for but for me to break down my romantic decisions into a left-brain governed, check-list gave me a false sense of pride and control. I know what I want, what is good for me, and what will make me happy. That outlook breaks down quickly. If I know what I want on a Tuesday, it frequently changes by Friday. I almost never want spinach salad over Five Guys, and I’d be way happier with a boat-neck, fire-engine red Tahari dress than an extra hundred dollars in my IRA.
I can understand what it means to “know what I want” in terms of buying Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Cilantro Hummus or picking up the recipe ingredients from my latest Budget Bytes experiment. It’s easy to decide whether or not I think Dr. Pepper is delicious and within my budget. I believe it’s impossible to apply that logic to humans. Even if I knew what I wanted in a spouse, he appeared before me, and we flew to Vegas and got married, there’s no chance that either one of us would stay carefully within the bounds of either what I know about myself or “what I want” for the duration of the wedding vows. (And, if we could, that might not be so great either.)
Instead of being helpful, my list was limiting. The shape is cut out, and he doesn’t fit. I can keep on moving, and if a man showed up, that filled every bubble correctly on the test, then clearly, he would have to be the One. No further critical-thinking skills needed. In reality, that spreadsheet with its columns was a fortress–a safe and strong tower. I could hide and bar the door. Each row might as well have been a drawbridge, a booby trap, and a fire-breathing dragon. C.S. Lewis writes in The Four Loves that vulnerability is essential to loving anything or anyone. He advises that if you don’t want your heart to be broken, then you have to, “[l]ock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.” My heart can’t get hurt if I set up barricades.
The list was all about me: my wants, my self-protection plan, my insurance policy, and my desire for control over romance.
On my less-awesome days, I want a pet genie or a Magic 8 Ball rather than a crucified and risen Savior. I’d rather have a God that I can shake until clear-cut answers about what to look for in a spouse appear. Even at its wisest and most godly points, my now-lost list reflects a very narrow, shallow view of both goodness and happiness … always sunny, and never seeing a rainbow after a storm, always springtime and daffodils without experiencing a zero degree windchill.
In its specificity, my enumerated adjectives fail to capture the essence of what it means to be human … that imaginary man was an odd combination of Zack Morris, Edward Rochester, Leonard Hofstadter, and a generic 90’s worship leader … broad-shouldered but paper thin. I’m tired of that tabbed, paper doll. So, I tossed the list … trading in Aladdin’s lamp for vulnerability with God in the romance department.