Finding Your Soul Mate
About the Guest
Are you waiting for destiny to bring you your perfect match? Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Choice, points out that there is no scriptural evidence for believing in a "soul mate" and encourages men and women to pray and pursue biblical wisdom when seeking a spouse.
Gary ThomasGary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of 20 books, including When to Walk Away, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied u...more
Are you waiting for destiny to bring you your perfect match?
Finding Your Soul Mate
Bob: If you’re single and you have a desire to be married, Gary Thomas says, “Stop sitting on your hands.”
Gary: We would never say, coming out of high school, “If God wants me to go to college, the University of Washington or the University of Texas can contact me, and send me a dorm key, and I’ll go.”
In any other endeavor of life, we would think that was religious fanaticism; but when it comes to choosing a marital mate, we act as if it is trusting God. I don’t believe it honors God. I believe He wants us to be engaged to walk toward the music, as we do in all endeavors of life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. So, what should that engagement look like for singles? Is it the same for single men and single women? We’ll talk about things like that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you think, if you were young and single today, you think you’d go on one of these dating sites? Do you think you’d sign up? [Laughter]
Dennis: I have never thought about that, Bob!
Bob: I’m just wondering. If you were 25, and you didn’t have a girlfriend, and nobody at church was attractive to you—
Dennis: Okay, I haven’t thought about it. Now, I have. Yes, I would.
Bob: Would you?
Dennis: I would.
Dennis: Yes, I would. I mean, here’s the thing. Think about the telephone getting invented.
Dennis: The telephone has been used for people to get to know each other. And probably, when it came on the scene, couples started talking to each other. You know, the parents went, “Can you believe they’re using that thing to get to know each other?!”
Bob: “They need to be face-to-face in order to”—
Dennis: “They’ve got to have—they’ve got to know each other;” you know? I wouldn’t want to get married, blindly, however—
Bob: Right. Yes. Well, see I’d go on one of those sites—
Dennis: —using a dating service.
Bob: —I’d go on one of those sites. I’d just put up somebody else’s picture, and use an alias, and see what happens. [Laughter] That’s how I’d handle it.
Dennis: Let’s ask our guest on today’s broadcast what he would do. Gary Thomas joins us on FamilyLife Today. Gary, welcome back. What would you do, Gary?
Gary: Well, I like Bob’s idea. “You look like Brad Pitt’s twin! How did that happen?”
Bob: Yes, it’s just amazing—genetics.
Dennis: So, Gary, would you?
Gary: Absolutely—if I was having trouble finding someone, if I was eager to get married. I think, if you come from the philosophy that there isn’t one right person to marry—if you want to make a wise choice, the larger pool that you draw from—if you do that wisely, I think you’re going to come out with a better choice.
Bob: Whoa! Whoa! “Come from the philosophy that there is not one right person to marry,”— is that—I mean, there are a lot of folks who are going, “I’m looking for”—
Dennis: Now, you’re in Houston.
Bob: —“the one, the one, the one.”
Dennis: You’re from Houston. There used to be a Bible teacher in Houston who had a message called Right Man, Right Woman.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: All about the one.
Dennis: All about the one. It was 13 messages. Oh, yes!
Bob: Okay; so, you’re saying you think that there may be any number of people, out there, that are potential marriage partners—that could be the one for you?
Gary: I believe the notion that we have to find “the one” is one of the most destructive and unhelpful beliefs that Christian singles have today. I think it leads to more foolish choices than it leads to wise choices. How do you determine destiny? How do you know if someone is the one?—particularly, when I don’t see any scriptural evidence for it—when I have to go back to Plato and The Symposium to even seen this modern notion of a soul mate.
Bob: But that’s what everybody wants—is the soul mate. They want somebody—where we match—soul to soul; where we’re not just attracted body to body; where we’re not just attracted personality to personality—but at some deep core level. Isn’t that what we’re looking for, as Christians?
Gary: I think that is a holy desire, but what I’m suggesting is there’s not just one person that you would share that connection with. What frustrates me is—I think we have Christianized it where we almost say, “God created just one person for me.” In many senses, I think it is laziness rather than doing the hard work of finding out whether this person is a good match. We’re like, “God, just tell me who I’m supposed to marry; and I’ll marry her.” God doesn’t work that way.
He calls us to be rulers, throughout Scripture. He wants us to grow up in maturity; to lead families; to launch ministries, and endeavors, and businesses that honor Him. So, making a wise marital choice is one of the ways we learn to grow up. That means applying wisdom—doing the hard work—not some mystical, “God, just point out the person,” and make, then, God responsible for everything so we can blame Him if we’re not happy with our choice.
Dennis: May I apply this to my marriage? Yes. I mean, when I married Barbara—at the point I said, “I do,” and she said, “I do,”—at that point, I believe she was the one for me.
Dennis: There’s how I look at it. It’s like: “There is no other. She is God’s provision for me. I need to look no further. I need compare no more. She is God’s provision for my aloneness needs.”
Bob: Well, you’re exactly right. And I remember when Mary Ann and I were dating. There was this song on the radio—and the lyric to the song was, “It’s sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.”
Bob: And I remember thinking, “Well, how am I going to know?!”
Bob: I mean, “I think Mary Ann is the right one; but what if three weeks after I’m married, the right one comes along?”
Dennis: I’ll tell you what you do—when three weeks later, and one walks by—
Dennis: —that’s another one. That’s not your wife. Your wife—you’ve got the one God wants for you. Stop looking! Gary, do you agree or not?
Gary: In the interest of full-disclosure, my wife would completely disagree with me, in some ways, on this. She thinks there was this calling—that God created us to come together. When I look at how we met and the feelings we shared—I remember when I had another girlfriend, right before Lisa. The first time we were holding hands together—when Lisa walked by us, I felt guilty. There was no reason for me to feel guilty. Lisa and I weren’t dating; but there was this sense of, “I really shouldn’t be holding Debbie’s hand when I’m walking past Lisa.” Lisa walked passed—me and Debbie—and said, “Alright, Debbie, you can get to know him for a while; but I’m going to end up marrying him.”
Bob: She said that?!
Gary: To herself, she did.
Bob: Oh, to herself.
Dennis: Oh, she didn’t say it out loud.
Gary: No, she did not say it out loud. [Laughter]
Bob: I thought she was throwing down the gauntlet, there, with Debbie. [Laughter]
Gary: So, look, I don’t want to put God in a box. I believe in the providence of God. I believe He can draw two people together. I believe He can give us hearts toward each other. I’m just saying, “When we’re trying to determine a wise marital choice, we don’t discount God. We don’t”—
I believe we should seek His guidance and be open to Him opening up our eyes to someone. It’s just that we need to make the choice—not on this mystical basis of destiny or “the one”—but if God is leading us toward someone, I believe it will make a lot of sense, in a lot of other areas.
Bob: Let me go back to this idea of wisdom principles. We’re going to make a marriage decision—not based on a treasure hunt—where we’re looking for “the one”. It’s a scavenger hunt. When we find the right person, we can say, “This is the one;” but we’re going to apply biblical wisdom. So, give me some wisdom principles. Where are you going to take me first?
Gary: Proverbs 31, for men, when it directly warns men: “Don’t be fooled by beauty. Don’t be taken away by charm. Find a woman who fears the Lord.” In modern terms, it is, “Guys, find a godly woman.” I can speak from experience. A godly woman grows more beautiful, year by year, because she grows in godliness. Physical beauty has to fade with age. Kindness gets deeper. Faith becomes more rock solid. The ability to pray for you and encourage you are gifts that are developed and nurtured.
If you put a woman’s godliness at the top of your list, you will be blessed, everyday of your life, by making that choice.
Dennis: And I have to give just a word of reality here—40 years later, in a marriage relationship. I turned to Barbara the other day. I said to her: “You know what? I just realized—I get up every morning, and I don’t have to wonder where your heart is, whose your heart is—who you’re giving your heart to.” She settled the issue of whose going to be her master, who she’s going to be loyal to. It’s Jesus Christ.
I get up in the morning. After we’ve both had a cup of coffee, I know where I can find her. Her Bible will be open, she’ll have her little 3x5 cards out, she’ll be working through a prayer list that she’s moving through, and—my goodness!—the stability that that brings to my life, as a man. I don’t have to compete with the world for my wife’s heart. She’s already connected with God.
Bob: There’s a lot you don’t have to wonder about.
Dennis: Oh, yes! And so, to a single person, who is listening to us here, listen to the wisdom of what Gary just said. Find a woman / find a man—who has a track record—not one who just became religious and spiritual recently, since meeting you, and all of a sudden started going to church—but date a young man / date a young woman—who is in the process of following Jesus Christ.
Bob: I think it’s important you say, “…in the process…” because, Gary, there are a lot of people who are saying, “I’m looking for that godly guy, and he doesn’t exist.” Some people are expecting a level of spiritual maturity, at a particular age, when only a lifetime is going to get you that level of spiritual maturity. And I know—I’m not trying to water-down godliness, in terms of the criteria; but don’t you think there is a flipside to this equation?
Gary: To be realistic, you have to find a trajectory. A 22-year-old isn’t going to have the character of a Dr. Young, a Rick Warren, or a John Piper. They’re not going to have that wisdom. They’re not going to have that faith.
In biblical language, wisdom and character are developed over decades. That’s why the elders are celebrated. That is why it urges older leadership. So, you can’t put that mantle on a 22-year-old. That’s just not realistic, but you can find a trajectory. Are they learning to hear from God? Are they depending on God? Is God at work in their life? Are they in Scripture?
I wouldn’t want to be married to somebody who isn’t into their Bible because I’m realizing I would marry somebody who will never be wiser than they are today. I don’t want to marry somebody who isn’t praying to God because then I’ll know they are never going to be able to pray for me—they are not going to have my back. If I’m going on the rails, they are not going to have the spiritual strength and connection with God to really earnestly intercede.
Look, we’re all sinners. There is going to come a time when we need that support. I want a woman who is so into God she would offend me before she offends Him. And I believe that’s what I have. I’ve told my wife—because I’ve seen so many men in public ministries go off the rails—I’ve said, “Look, if I start to get stupid”—and I believe sin makes us increasingly stupid—I said: “I’m telling you right now, come to me. If I won’t listen, here are a couple of guys I want you to go to; and let them take it,” because that’s a comfort to me.
Dennis, when you talk about her having your back in the morning—it’s a comfort to me, knowing she won’t let me go so far off that there is this public shame, this public crash—that I have a strong, godly woman who will stop me before I get there and reaching out to others.
Dennis: You know, I’m in 100 percent agreement with you. What I want to make sure the singles are hearing us say here is you’re talking about spiritual compatibility. You’re talking about the essence of where you begin the marriage. Certainly, there is going to be physical passion, emotional passion. There’s going to be all that chemistry taking place—but that which will carry a marriage over a lifetime.
Gary: Yes. What I love about my wife is she can dress up for a date, and I am stupefied by her beauty. I mean, I’m just overwhelmingly attracted to her; but that isn’t as important as her godliness. I think you need to find that woman, who is spiritually compatibility—and, then, find the one you are really attracted to; then, find the one where you like to do things together; find the one that you think would be a good parent to your children—but that spiritual compatibility has to be at the top.
If you find somebody that you’re enormously attracted to, and try to make excuses for their spiritual maturity, you will regret that, I believe, more times than not.
Dennis: Alright, we have hammered that nail firmly.
Bob: It’s a non-negotiable.
Bob: Is there anything else that is a non-negotiable? If I find this person—who is a godly young woman, and I’m not particularly attracted to them—but they are a godly person, and we don’t like the same things necessarily; but they are a godly person—I mean, I’m just trying to figure out—anything else that’s an absolute non-negotiable in this deal?
Gary: I think there are. I think compatibility. If one person wants to go be a missionary in India and one person says, “No, I’m going to stay in the Midwest, within ten miles of my parents,” I think that’s a deal-breaker.
Bob: Some priorities that have got to be—
Dennis: Very important. You talk about the mission—what their calling is in life.
Gary: It’s a very different life—living in inner city New York, as an outreach, and living in a farm in Idaho. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to live in New York City or on a farm in Idaho. It’s just you better agree before you get married.
Bob: One of the things you say you better have agreement on is your understanding of what the Bible has to say about a man’s role and a wife’s role in a marriage relationship. Why is that so important?
Gary: A couple of generations ago, it was just assumed that men would be loving, servant leaders. Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church, who gave Himself up for her.” That’s often called, in theological circles, “The complimentarian view”. Today, it’s questioned—where they talk about egalitarianism, where there really isn’t a difference in gender roles between men and women. You just divide up strengths, and there is no sense of leadership.
If a couple disagrees about that, and a man is trying to be the servant leader, his wife is going to resent that. You’ve really got to be on the same page because it affects what church you go to. It’s going to affect how you raise your boys. It’ll affect how you’ll raise your daughters. I really believe that’s a non-negotiable. If you feel that God has created you to be this way, as a wife, or this way, as a husband, and your potential spouse doesn’t even share that foundational meaning of what it means to be a Christian husband or a Christian wife, you’re just going to frustrate each other in your marriage.
Bob: This is an area where good, godly people are divided; but I haven’t heard you take a side on this one.
Gary: Well, I do in The Sacred Search—as a complimentarian—but what I tell the readers is that it is more important they agree with each other than they agree with me. I think, at that point, where it—because good minds disagree, I think Christians can continue to debate it. I don’t think it is something that husband and wife should debate. I just don’t know how you could build a mutually encouraging marriage with that kind of disagreement.
Dennis: Explain what you mean by complimentarian.
Gary: Complimentarian recognizes that men are to be, as Paul says, servant leaders. Now, we put our wife’s needs above our own. It’s not about privilege; it’s about responsibility. But they would say there are several passages in the Bible that really call men to a leadership role in the home—not in a condescending way, not in a disrespectful way—but as leading.
Egalitarians would be offended at the notion that women need to be led—that there is really no difference between the genders, besides the outdoor plumbing—that you just divide up roles and share that leadership.
Bob: And I think you’re right—I think, just in terms of how you are going to function in a marriage relationship. If this was a football team—and you’ve got the idea that “I’m the quarterback”—and the fullback says, “No, there’s no quarterback on the team,” that play is not going to be very successful—whatever play you try to run.
Dennis: I was counseling a couple—more mature singles. They weren’t young, and they hadn’t talked about this. To your point, they had not discussed what they believed the Bible taught about what is the role of the husband.
You’re really talking about—if they disagree, “How are you going to be in agreement about your disagreement?”—is one of them. Is the husband ultimately responsible for what takes place in his marriage and family? So, at the point of disagreement—if the husband and the wife disagree—is the husband called to listen to his wife, to love his wife, to hear his wife, to make sure he’s heard her arguments in terms of the decision; but at the point he makes the decision, she’s called to follow him. It’s that ugly s-word—the submission word—that we’ve made such a big deal out of that is at the core of Christianity. If you don’t submit to Christ, you can’t be a follower of Christ.
I was able to talk to this couple and talk to them about what I believe—which is the same as you, Gary—that the husband was called to be the servant leader. The Bible refers to it as the head of the wife. And so, ultimately, in raising the children and in the values of the home, he’s called to set a course. He’s called to set a direction. That doesn’t mean, as you said, as dictator or autocratically—but to listen carefully, and to be thoughtful, and serve his wife and his children, and to set that course for their family.
So, that couple got married. They, at least, at the beginning, had the game plan for the job description for the husband and the job description for the wife. Now, years later, we’ll find out how it worked out.
Gary: You know, I—when I talk to Christian women—I would say, in the top three frustrations, with their husbands, that I hear most frequently is, “I wish he would be more of a spiritual leader.” If women want that, it behooves them to marry a guy who aspires to be a spiritual leader. If he’s not convinced, biblically, that he needs to become one, then, it’s just a desire that his wife has rather than a desire that God has for him.
Dennis: And if the wife is good at it, he’ll let her do it.
Gary: And too many men are willing to do that. That’s why I think, to really grow as a man, this has to be a biblical conviction. I would say—when you are discussing this issue—it’s not about, “I want an egalitarian marriage,” or, “I want a complimentarian marriage.” I don’t think that’s appropriate. I think we have to go to the Scriptures—plenty of material out there—
Gary: —read through. “What are we convinced that God is calling us to?” Then, aspire to become what we believe God has called us to become.
Bob: You tell singles that, if they are looking for the right person to marry, they need to walk toward the music.
Bob: Explain where that illustration came from.
Gary: My wife and I were in Baden-Baden, Germany. It’s a wonderful little town. It’s a smaller town in Germany—just beautiful countryside. The walks along the canal there have inspired writers for centuries. And yet, it seemed to really shut down very early one evening. Six / seven, o’clock, we’d come out of a restaurant. We weren’t ready to call it a night; and yet, all the energy seemed like it was gone from the streets. We wondered what happened. We weren’t sure what we should do. There were just a few shops open. Very faintly, in the distance, we heard this little bit of music.
We walked about a half of a mile to three quarters of a mile. There was this outdoor concert going on in this amphitheater thing. It wasn’t a huge amphitheater—but big enough to hold a musical group. There were probably 12 to 15 make-shift restaurants—that had set up tents—that were serving people. All of the energy was there. That’s where everybody was. That’s why the town had been sucked dry of the people. They were there. It really became a metaphor, for us, when facing other issues in life—that you walk toward the music. I say that to singles because they often think: “I need to sit around and wait for “the one”. God will bring along the one just when I need it.” I think, sometimes, we need to walk toward the music.
If we’re not happy where we are, if there are not the choices where we are, there are things we can do. We talked about dating sites when we first opened this up. Having our eyes open when we are at church, socializing in places where we can find them. Instead of this passive notion that God will bring the right one along at just the right time, how about we start walking?
In any other endeavor of life, we would never say, coming out of high school, “If God wants me to go to college, the University of Washington or the University of Texas can contact me, and send me a dorm key, and I’ll go.” Or if I graduate from college, “Well, if Microsoft® wants to hire me, Steve Ballmer can give me a call,” or, “if Apple® wants me—” We would think that was religious fanaticism.
But when it comes to choosing a marital mate, we have this passivity that we act as if it is trusting God. I don’t believe it honors God. I believe He wants us to be engaged to walk toward the music, as we do in all endeavors of life.
Dennis: I think there may be some singles, listening to our broadcast today—who may have been holding out on God— of walking toward the music of really what He wants them to do with their lives—because they are waiting to get married. It could be that, by virtue of you walking toward the music and getting about the mission that He has for your life, that, then, once that’s settled, all of a sudden, you are truly marriageable, at that point.
Gary: A hundred amen’s to that.
Dennis: Amen and amen.
Bob: Yes. It’s back to the quote that we’ve shared often, here on FamilyLife Today, from Tommy Nelson, the pastor in Denton, Texas, who said: “If you’re single, your job is to run as hard and as fast toward Jesus as you can. If, while you’re running, you see somebody out of the corner of your eye, running in the same direction and about the same speed, take a second look.” And I think that’s the point.
Our focus should be on, “How do I serve the King and advance the cause of the Kingdom in this stage of my life?” At the same time—be available, be open, be looking, be active, and be engaged—if I can borrow that term, prematurely, here—in the process of getting to know other people who have the same passion for the King’s work.
I want to encourage our listeners get a copy of the book that Gary’s written. It’s called The Sacred Search. We have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order over the phone. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329—ask about Gary Thomas’s book, The Sacred Search, when you get in touch with us.
Now, we are close to half way through the month of May, at this point—funny how the month kind of flies by. We are less than half way toward our goal, this month, of hearing from listeners who will help us take full advantage of the matching-gift opportunity that has been made available to us from some friends of this ministry. We had some folks who came forward and said: “We know summertime is slow for ministries like yours,”—oftentimes, there is a decline in donations—“We want to help you out.” So, they put together a matching fund that is now $603,000. We’re hoping to take full advantage of that match, this month; but we still have a ways to go.
That’s why we want to ask you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. When you do, that donation will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to this total of $603,000. So, we hope to hear from you today. We want to ask you to pray for us, as well, that we would get all the way toward our goal and be able to take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity. So, pray for us, if you will.
And please join us back again tomorrow. Gary Thomas is going to be here again. We’re going to talk more about the way singles look at romantic relationships—how they are looking at it, and how they ought to be looking at it. We’ll do that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Phil Krause, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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