Today I did a radio interview, my first since the wedding. One of the topics discussed was the way parental divorce impacts an adult child's views of marriage. I remember, early in my adult life, seeking perfect love. I wanted to take the risk out of loving. I was terrified of offering my heart to someone less than fully vetted and committed to not breaking it. Of course, the men I dated were imperfect, and disappointed me, and some broke my heart. In all honesty, I have disappointed those I dated, and I have broken a few hearts myself.
It took me a long time to marry, I think, because it took me a long time to learn that without risk, love is impossible. True love--the kind that is lasting and unconditional and capable of commitment from better to worse to better again--is a mysterious mix of risk and revelation and restraint. It's taking a risk to give someone the opportunity to love or reject you. It's the willingness to open up your heart, share your thoughts, merge your dreams with another. It's the choice to define another by his best moments, and to extend grace and forgiveness in his worst.
Twelve years ago, I began praying for the man to whom I would have the courage to risk my heart, reveal my soul's hidden hurts and highest hopes, and for whom I would restrain my urge to run when love was hard or hidden. Twelve years ago, I didn't know if this list of characteristics would ultimately culminate in an actual, in-the-flesh man who would become my husband, but the process of defining him was a healing one. In the twelve, often lonely, years, this list was my prayer guide for the man I hoped to meet.
Twelve years later, I've met and married the man I've been praying for, and in--at last!--sharing this list with Niels, we can both see God's perfect timing in bringing us together after so long. When I first began praying for Niels, he wasn't living in the States. He was a twenty-year-old college student in The Netherlands. More important than that, he was not yet my spiritual brother. He needed time to develop a personal relationship with our Savior, and to deepen in his maturity as a man and as a Christian.
The list is essentially the same today as it was when I first drafted it in the spring of 1995. I made one tweak in 1999 when I realized my own hypocrisy in ruling out those from broken homes. Though it was still strongly my preference--and one God did chose to grant--I realized I needed to extend the same grace to others that I was relying on for myself.
Over the years, I've shared my list with a select few, mostly women, with the slight exception of husbands of my closest friends. Others have asked for my list, either to help me pray for my husband or to help them consider their own. Now that I have married the man I've been praying for, I'm happy to post my list here:
The Man I’m Praying For…
Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart—I Samuel 16: 7
COMMITTED CHRISTIAN— His faith is his top priority. His obedience has been tested and he has been found faithful. His life and those of his male friends offer growing evidence that his character is more closely resembling that of Christ—Matthew 6:33.
HIS PARENTS OR ANOTHER COUPLE HAVE PROVIDED A MARRIAGE MODEL—A set of mentors to guide us to a joyful, godly marriage—Deuteronomy 4:9. If his parents are not married, I want to know that he has learned from their mistakes, sought to address the negative habits he may have inherited and has found an older couple to be mentors to him (3/7/99).
COMMITTED TO MARRIAGE—It is a matter of integrity that he not only avoid divorce, but that he has an enjoyable, godly marriage that our children will want to emulate. He has never been married and shares my understanding of Matthew 19.
FINANCIALLY STABLE—He doesn’t have to be wealthy, but he needs to be a good steward of what he has so that we can live on his income when the kids come—Deuteronomy 15:10
INTELLIGENT—college-educated, articulate, someone I can talk to, share ideas with and discuss books, sermons and the Bible—Proverbs 27:17
STRONG, COMPASSIONATE LEADER—A man of integrity who embraces his God-given masculinity and to whom I can submit because I know he seeks to love me as Christ loves the Church—Ephesians 5:25-29
COMMITTED TO MINISTRY—Someone who looks beyond his needs to the needs of others, by investing time and/or money to support the Church. A man who can support me in what God has called me to do—I Corinthians 15:58 & 2 Corinthians 8:7
CONFIDENT, YET HUMBLE—Derives self-worth from what God did & who he is in relation to who God is. A man who has been intentional about discovering God’s will for his life and vocation. A man who leads by example—Psalm 78:72
AFFECTIONATE—A man of whose love I am assured by his words, actions, gestures and prayers—Ephesians 5: 25-28.
MY BEST FRIEND—A man who wants to spend time with me in domestic support and in fun, laughs easily and often (and rarely at the expense of another). We have shared interests (faith, music, football, volleyball, golf, water sports, reading…), values and life goals. He is a life-long friend—Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Niels, Thank you for letting God mold you into the man of my dreams--and prayers.
Ik hou van jou, liefje.