Editor's Note: When his two sons, Ron and Mark, graduated from high school, Ron Mehl gave them each a self-published, hard bound collection of his thoughts about critical life concerns and personal convictions. His reason? "I wanted them to realize through the years that I cared enough about them and their future to capture my heart for them in a book…just in case I can't be there." Ron Mehl kept the promise to his sons that each book was unique and would never be published. However, he did create a similar resource through which fathers can pass along wisdom to their children. Following is an excerpt from Just in Case I Can't Be There: A Dad's Counsel to a Son or Daughter Leaving Home.
Choosing a life partner is the biggest decision you'll make outside of choosing to accept Jesus Christ as Savior.
I've met with scores of couples for premarital counseling through the years. And one of the first points I try to get across to them is that "desire" does not equal love.
Desire may be illustrated by a young person who tells you they can't live without you, that they're miserable, and that life seems colorless and empty when you're not around. That may be a form of love, but it's not the sort of love that will hold a marriage together through the years. While they may feel they "need" you today, it's possible that five months from now you'll no longer meet their "need," and they'll find that they "need" someone else.
What I tell these young couples is that love is based on commitment, and that everything you do is to fulfill, satisfy, and serve the one you love. Real love doesn't enter a relationship with an expectation to just receive. It enters a relationship to give and give and give.
Let me illustrate how deceptive the world's definition of "love" can be. Picture a young couple who has been dating for a few weeks. It isn't long before this young man tells his girlfriend how much he loves her and how difficult it is to keep his hands off her. Pressing her to engage in a physical relationship, he explains that he "loves her so much" he can no longer restrain himself.
The truth is, any young woman who hears that line should realize that the young man doesn't love her too much... he loves her too little. Actually, he's not thinking about her. He's only thinking about himself. He would never rob innocence and purity from one he truly loves. His insistence on a physical relationship only proves one thing: he loves himself much more than he loves her.
What really brings peace to a relationship? How do you choose a marriage partner? Let me leave you with just a few thoughts.
Make sure your life partner loves God more than he or she loves you.
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)
It is so important to observe your partner's love for God. Why? Because in time, the way he or she loves and serves Him will be reflected in the way he or she loves and serves you.
Make sure your life partner is a person of character: "Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord." (Psalm 119:1, NIV)
Men and women of character are trustworthy in all they do and have an appetite for righteousness. They will keep their word no matter what the cost.
Make sure your life partner is kind to others: "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32, NKJV)
If you don't see your partner treat others with kindness and grace, in time he or she will be treating you the same way.
Make sure to note the way your life partner dresses. "And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do." (1 Timothy 2:9-10, NLT)
I'm not saying your partner should wear a gunnysack and combat boots to cover herself. I'm just saying the modest things she wears reveal a lot about her heart.
Make sure your life partner treats his or her parents with honor and respect: "Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise." (Ephesians 6:2, NKJV)
I have never yet met a young person who is truly successful or blessed who doesn't love his or her parents.
Make sure your life partner is respected by others: "Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1, NLT)
Be wise about how you do this, but I would recommend that you discreetly ask a few people what they have observed about the person you're considering. Pay as much attention to their hesitations as to their words!
Make sure your life partner is not flirtatious: "Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a common clay pot." (Proverbs 26:23, NLT)
A person's actions and looks speak volumes, so be advised, Son, and be wise.
Make sure you understand the true priorities of your life partner's life: "Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." (1 Timothy 4:12, NLT)
Watch closely to see signs of your partner's love, faith, and purity. Has this person put God first? Does this person live to serve others? Is this person selfish?
Make sure you know whom your life partner's close friends are: "Do not be misled. 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV)
Make sure your life partner is not contentious or violent: "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." (Proverbs 15:17, NIV) If you're picking up a lot of unhappiness or anger in this person, then be warned in advance.
Make sure you ask the Lord for discernment. "Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul... May your good Spirit lead me on level ground." (Psalm 143:8,10, NIV)
"Trust in the lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT)
Make sure you pray, pray, pray: "Show me the path where I should walk, O lord; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." (Psalm 25:4-5, NLT)
Adapted from Just in Case I Can't be There © 1999 by Ron Mehl. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.
1. Read Dennis Rainey’s article on “Six Characteristics for a Potential Spouse.”
2. Listen to Gary Thomas on FamilyLife Today talk about the best foundation for a lifelong marriage in “The Sacred Search.”
3. Each year thousands of couples learn about God’s plan for marriage in FamilyLife’s popular Preparing for Marriage curriculum. Click here to purchase a copy..