Principles are not promises. They don't guarantee you'll find that special someone. God has a plan for you, and that may be to wait. Or He may desire that you remain single for an undetermined period of time or perhaps even for a lifetime. What I suggest here are only parameters that I believe will protect you and guard you from making decisions you'll later regret. If you're willing to trust God and trust His plan, you're already on the right path. Read each principle carefully and make certain you understand it before you move on to the next.
Principle #1: Develop a spiritual attraction in your life
In other words, ladies, if you want a king, you've got to be a queen. Guys, if you want a queen, you've got to be a king. By developing a life of faith, those royal qualities in the 2 Peter Zone—faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love—become the fabric of your life. These qualities represent the crucial building blocks for developing a spiritual attraction in your life.
Principle #2: If you are involved with somebody who is not a potential million dollar mate, break it off immediately.
Make certain both you and the person you are dating understand what matters most. You must both understand the importance of building on a foundation of faith. I've asked too many people if the person they are dating was a Christian, only to hear them say, "Weeeell ... I think so." I tell them that's not good enough. There's too much at stake to leave that to doubt.
You ought to be able to say with certainty that the person you are considering as a lifelong mate has experienced a supernatural salvation—that God has begun a work in them through their faith in Jesus. If you don't believe that to be the case, then I suggest you're involved with the wrong person. You're building your relationship on the shaky ground of a fatal attraction.
When I met Carol she assumed she was a Christian but she really wasn't. She was moralistic, religious, and upstanding in the way she lived, but without having experienced a supernatural salvation. Eventually, she did become a Christian while in college and I began to see remarkable changes in her life. She showed evidence of having experienced a spiritual transformation. All those qualities we looked at in 2 Peter were being formed in her heart and reflected in her life. For instance, she would not have gone inappropriate places physically, even if I had asked her to. She had self-control. She demonstrated courage to do things that she would never naturally do except for perseverance. And I realized she was loving others and God unconditionally. It was all there because she knew God, having become rightly related to Him. That's what you want to be able to say about the person you are considering marrying. You want the person to be living smack in the middle of the 2 Peter Zone and growing toward possessing those spiritual qualities! If you can't say that about the person, then call off the relationship—now.
Principle #3: While dating, make edification your ultimate goal. I'm not at all against dating. In fact, I'm convinced dating can be a positive aspect of an individual's development if gone about with the proper perspective. Do you want to know what dating is? The word dating comes from a Latin word that means "to give," thus "to build up" or "to edify, to encourage." As a good friend of mine puts it, dating should be seen as a "Divine Appointment To Edify." I'm all for edifying. If you find someone of the opposite sex that you'd like to edify, go for it! But that's a whole lot different from defrauding your partner by seeking to get what you can emotionally or physically from him or her. Edification has a very different goal. Edification resists the temptation to satisfy one's own needs and focuses on meeting the needs of the other person instead. It's being more concerned about the person you're dating than about yourself.
After Carol and I had been dating for a few years we discovered our timetables weren't the same. I wanted to get married much later in life than Carol did. Based on that we determined that perhaps God had another plan. So we broke up. We decided we would not get back together unless it was with marriage in view.
After we broke up, Carol began to pray that God would let me date the most gorgeous, talented, and spiritual person I could hope to meet. Carol wanted to have confidence that I would not marry her unless I could be happy with no one else but her. Well, I did meet such a person. And this woman was unique. Attractive. Smart. Spiritual. What more could a guy ask? We started dating, and our relationship leaned heavily on edification. It was great. But I knew we had no future together. Eventually, I confessed to her that I knew I was meant to be with Carol but that our dating had been very beneficial to me. I grew personally because of her and was encouraged during our time together. That's the way it ought to work in dating. Dating other people should prepare you for God's best, not deplete or damage you emotionally. In fact, I remember telling this girl that my future wife would someday thank her for all she had done for me. A good edifying relationship will benefit you. It won't drain your heart of love and passion but will add strength and character to your soul. That's the difference.
Principle #4: Pray daily for your future spouse.
I began praying for my future wife those many years even before I understood the meaning of genuine love. By praying for your future mate you begin to forge a discipline that will serve you and your marriage for a lifetime.
Principle #5: Find some respected counselors to validate your choice of a marriage partner.
Don't go it alone. Find respected counselors, preferably ones more spiritually mature than you and older, to whom you can go for guidance. We each need friends or loved ones who feel free to tell us the truth about ourselves.
Seek out those individuals who will tell it like it is. That's especially needed when you're considering marriage. Passionate feeling often blinds us from reality. We need an objective, loving perspective when making such a critical life decision. If possible, start with your parents. If you're older and considering getting married or married again following a divorce or the death of a mate, you might choose a minister, a close friend, or one of your adult children. The point is to resist trying to go it alone. I often tell parents how important it is to make themselves available when the time comes for their children to choose a mate. Here's what worked for me.
When my four kids were young, so little they'd say "yes" to anything, I would lie in bed with them for a few minutes each night. I asked them to agree to let me help them make the decision when eventually they would choose a mate. "Sure, Dad, whatever you say," was their usual reply. And they never gave it another thought. As the years went on I reminded each one of our agreement. Each time they rolled their little eyes and reupped their commitment.
You can guess what happened. Two of my children are now married. When the time came for them to choose a marriage partner they came to Carol and me for counsel. They remembered that commitment they had made when they were younger. What a privilege it was for us to give our blessing to their choices.
If you're about to choose a mate or agree to a proposal for marriage, avoid making a commitment until someone who loves you and has your best interest at heart has given you feedback. I guarantee you'll never regret it.
Most people never take the time to approach dating, let alone the quest for a mate, with such care and purpose. I recommend that you do so in order to ensure a wise and consistent decision. I'm not trying to take the magic or the romance out of the process. That's all in the mix as far as I'm concerned. You don't want to make such a critical decision based on a scientific formula. But you do want to approach it with wisdom and understanding and with a healthy balance between emotion and discernment. That's what I hope these principles will do for you.
Excerpted from Finding Your Million Dollar Mate by Randy Pope. Copyright 2004 by Randy Pope. Used by permission of Northfield Publishing, Chicago, Ill. All rights reserved.
1. Read Chip Ingram’s article, "12 Tests of Love."
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.