***originally published on Whole Magazine on October 13, 2014***
Maybe at some point, someone’s even told you to make one and pray for that kind of person to come along and become your spouse. Being honest, I do encourage people to have an idea of what this list is, but I would also caution someone not to be unrealistic; you may want someone who is athletic, but keep in mind, they may not be athletic in 5 or 10 years, you know? But as believers, does this list even matter? Aren’t we supposed to be following God’s will and if we are following that, then our soul mate, the one and only God made for us, the “one” will just walk into our lives and we’ll just know, right?
Maybe sometimes. But maybe not for others.
My husband and I are a great example of this.
A few months before I met him, I’d gone through a season of learning with God. The whole time, I learned what He expected out of husband, and what He expected out of me as a someday-wife. He showed me a lot about who I was and am, what I was created to need, and where my gifts and needs came from (Him). And I walked away from that with a list: I wanted a man who had a heart for Christ, who shared or supported my passions and whose passions I shared or supported as well, and someone who was going to provide and bolster my growth in the Lord by growing himself and leading me, tenderly and protectively.
So of course, along comes my now-husband. He saw me on a Sunday, met me officially the following Sunday, we spent time together the Tuesday and Thursday after that, and our first date was the next Saturday. We went on a number of dates after that and eventually we just became committed to one another.
To hear him tell this story, when he saw me that very first Sunday he knew already that I’d be his wife someday. He just knew. And he knew I’d need convincing (which explains all of the effort and romance in wooing me I think)! Because when it came to me, I didn’t quite know what to think. I was in prayer a couple of times a day, like “Is this what you’ve been preparing me for? Is this it?” Over the few weeks we were dating, I found no reason that he was a bad decision or one I felt like God was discouraging, so I submitted to that and the confirmations followed. The rest is history.
So what do you or any of us need to know when it comes to searching for and choosing a spouse? How do we know this person we’re thinking about is “the one?”
First, we need to know what the Bible asks of a wife and what the Bible asks of a husband. This is a topic that could be covered for months (and frequently is in pre-marital counseling) so I’ll just point out three key scriptures that mean a lot to me and my husband:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
2 Corinthians 6:14
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
Search these out and decide, am I willing to be this man’s wife? Are we equally yoked? Does he hold himself accountable to God? If you can answer these questions in a way that makes you comfortable, then I say go for it. If these are all yes, then God will use your marriage for His glory. Once you’ve established that this person is genuine and you’re receiving some sort of confirmation from God that life with this person is a road you should be taking, then I think knowing that this person “the one” is your choice.
Our God created us with free will to make choices. He did this, most importantly I think, so that we could choose Him. And in that, because a husband and wife are supposed to reflect Christ and the Church, why should choosing a spouse be an obligation to fate or His will?
This is why the term “soul mates” makes me so uncomfortable. There’s something about it that is often thought to be pre-destined and therefore concrete and unchangeable. It’s like we’re obligated to be with only that person and no one else would do, or anyone else would have messed up the direction of our life and our destiny. (I learned that soul mates have their roots in Greek Mythology, which explains why the Bible doesn’t talk about soul mates – it’s not Biblical. In fact, Proverbs 18:22 eludes to the finding of a spouse, rather than inheriting one from destiny).
God definitely has plans for our lives and He knows what our choices will be before we make them – but they are our choices. It’s our will, it’s just that some of us choose to follow His will over our own and some of us don’t; and I think that’s where most of us get confused between a soul mate and following God’s will. God isn’t going to make you do something, but He will compel you to choose it. He wants it to be your choice. Christ isn’t returning for slaves, He’s returning for His bride.
When I met my husband, I had no clue what I wanted and a relationship didn’t seem to make sense at the time. In pressing into God, though, I was confirmed and assured that He was up to something and wanted something out of whatever it was going to be. God compelled me, asking me to trust Him, to throw all of my expectations and past experiences out the window and just let Him do work. And He did. Two years later, I’m that man’s wife and constantly the Lord has proven His faithfulness to use this marriage for His own good… even when it comes to changing my husband and me. But we chose it. We chose to follow God’s will together. God knew we would be here together and He lavishly blessed our marital union, but neither of us feel like we were forced into this. It was a choice the day we got married and it is a choice we make every day. We were never soul mates that would have wandered for eternity had we never found each other, and we would not have messed up some time continuum had we married someone else. Because here’s the thing: God uses anything and everything for His glory. Even a bad union can be made for good if God has the reigns (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20).
Even Adam and Eve in the first marital union made a choice. Adam chose to receive Even in Genesis 2:22-23. God created her and presented her to Adam who then received her as a part of himself. And likewise, I believe that husbands and wives today choose each other and it’s through that choice made daily to pursue Christ as one that will tie souls together as mates as they are made one in the eyes of God.
Love is something so fascinating because it can happen both in an instant and also something that is grown over time. Years of marriage can help a couple to come to love each other more greatly and in a deeper way than what was known before, and those years of sharing life as one flesh in the sacred covenant of marriage will eventually make soul mates out of us in the end. But even as newlyweds, we’re only scratching the surface of what it means to be mated at the soul.