The congregation that meets on Pacific Way in Longview, Washington may gather in one of the quaintest little meeting houses in the trees you’ll ever visit. We’d risen at 5 am to make the three-hour drive to be with these beautiful people, and found the resulting late afternoon “where’d-my-nap-go?” feeling more than worth our day with this warm, hospitable church family.
As we climbed up the curved driveway through the evergreen trees in our FJ Cruiser and pulled into the parking lot, we were encouraged to see more members than we remember there being on our last visit to this congregation a few years ago back. After affectionate greetings, we united our voices in praise of God’s grace, approached the throne of our Heavenly Father together as one, and communed with our Lord in remembrance of the sacrifice long ago that had made us family and was thus at the very heart of what had brought us together that summer morning.
After Mark shared what he often shares when invited to speak for a congregation --- God’s prophetic words in the Old Testament about a future indestructible Kingdom to come, and the subsequent fulfilling of those prophecies upon the arrival of the King of Kings, followed by many of the encouraging stories you have read in this collection --- stories of God’s people all over this country who have clothed themselves with Christ, put on the breastplate of righteousness and are accomplishing the very thing He has commissioned: building according to His divine pattern, the single most beautiful spiritual temple that will ever exist.
After worship, we met several of the newer members, touched bases with familiar faces, and had a good conversation with one of the many younger married couples present about the best ideas we’d seen around the country concerning making a church website all it can be. Great one-on-one conversations continued all afternoon at the delicious BBQ/potluck that followed in the home of friends we’d often see at our gospel meetings in Beaverton: Cindy and John Brickey. By having an entire afternoon together there was plenty of time to ask and answer more questions, share practical information, as well as recent lighter moments, present concerns, and with unguardedness catch up on how we are both managing the heavier realities that have occurred since our last time together.
One very special conversation of the day was with a beautiful professional violinist from Ukraine with vibrant green eyes who had met her Christian husband on an online dating site several years ago. She’d shared earlier the happenings of her dear family in that wartorn country, and was also very curious about many of the details around what it is like to live in a van for two years. Our conversation continued after lunch as we sat on a bench for a while outside in the shade of the trees on the deck. She, in her lovely Ukrainian accent, began to ask questions about what I knew regarding the denomination in which she had been raised. I happened to have taught a series on the history and belief systems of various denominations in comparison to the scriptures, so I offered to email her that Bible study. When the conversation moved toward what the scriptures say about instrumental music in worship, I used marriage as an illustration that just as a wife wants her husband's heart, likewise God wants our heart and that means loving and worshipping Him the way He wants to be loved, not how we happen to want to love Him, and how dishonoring it is if a husband ignores how a wife prefers to be loved. This illustration led to her next question. “You’ve been married 43 years. Tell me three things not to just stay married, but to have a long, happy life together.” The following are some of the thoughts I shared with this younger woman, but will expound on them as I would have, had we had more time together. For the benefit of readers who are interested in finding a life partner, I’ll begin with what I would have said had this lovely girl not yet met her Mr. Right, then will conclude with some thoughts for those already married.
Outside of becoming part of the Bride of Christ, the second most significant decision one will make will be choosing a marriage partner. Our spouse will either be one of our greatest advantages or one of our greatest hindrances in not only experiencing a happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life now but more importantly, whether or not we overcome the world and gain eternal life. Not everyone desires to marry, and being single is certainly in some situations the better choice. That being said, many of the concepts I’ll share here were originally written to my own daughter as she approached college age, and are included here for my single readers who desire one day to have a partner with whom to build a meaningful life.
Certainly, every person who marries weds a person with unique preferences and opinions some of which will be quite at variance with one’s own. Our spouse will have his own mixed bag of quirks, weaknesses, and regrets to overcome, as we all do. I will be pointing out some significant qualities to look for in Mr. Right, but don’t want to leave the impression that a woman should be looking for perfection. Every day married partners must show one another a great amount of mercy and patience as they grow and mature together. We are all works in progress, and yet you will with certainty be showing kindness to your future self by marrying someone with the following qualities and will be far more likely to “love life and see good days.” (1 Peter 3:10)
Mr. Right is either a Christian, or he wants to be a Christian shortly after he meets you and hears the gospel. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15).
He is not a die-hard member of a denomination, who, when he reads the words of the Great Commission, is more impressed with what his church teaches than what God says. He has a tender conscience and his first allegiance is to the Lord and His word, even above the people he dearly loves.
He does not appear to be obeying the gospel from the motive of getting anyone “off his back”, or for the earthly benefit of marrying you. Of course, he goes to worship when you are sick or out of town. Mr. Right is self-motivated by a love for God, and you can tell that his faithfulness to the Lord will not depend upon external factors like the ups and downs of the congregation where you worship. Negative external factors are going to bombard you. Life is full of more storms than you think. But if your man loves God, no matter what, you are going to be okay.
Spiritually he is a leader. He prays aloud with you beyond mealtime and his prayers with you are from the heart, not rote. You can tell that God is his Holy Friend. He is a key part of the body of Christ and is an encourager, not a drainer of encouragement. He will be the Patriarch of the family, actively influencing your children to seek God. His priorities are well ordered. His Christianity is the most important characteristic he has but is not the only reason to marry.
Mr. Right is self-controlled. This is a nonnegotiable quality that God says younger men can and must exhibit (Titus 2:6). What does self-control look like in a Christian man? First off, he’s not a womanizer. He’s also not addicted to anything, for whatever he’s addicted to, you will suffer alongside him many painful consequences. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33) the key to a happier life is not piling on self-inflicted, unnecessary suffering.
He has never lied to you (Revelation 21:8). He doesn’t look for the easy way out --- the path of least resistance, but is willing to take on meaningful challenges. He is willing to wait for delayed gratification. He does not have a lack of direction but uses his time to prepare for his future financially, and otherwise.
Mr. Right is energetic and diligent. He is not fearful and passive. He has put away childish things (1 Cor. 13:11) and works mentally and physically and is not afraid to sweat. God says in Proverbs 13:4 that “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” You are along the ride of either “craving and getting nothing” or a “richly supplied” soul, so marry not a sluggard, even if he’s tall, dark, handsome, and says all the right things at exactly the right time. There is often order in a diligent man’s life. You see it in his home. You see it in his habits. You see it in what he does when he has a few spare moments.
He works because he enjoys working. He doesn’t sit around waiting to be served but instead has a servant’s heart. He is respected by his company for his diligence, yet is not so obsessed with his work that he neglects his relationships. In other words, he is energetic and driven without being greedy and covetous and loves God and family more than excessive overtime.
He is confident. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and discipline.” He is not arrogant, but is most assuredly confident, and thus generally well-liked. And because he is confident, he uses his talents. He is not timid. He speaks his mind, is self-assured enough to let others speak their minds, and is not easily offended by questions or criticism. Because of his confidence, he is not unnecessarily jealous and does not need to flirt with other women to build a fragile ego. He has a good balance of being self-assured, yet humble, and is sincerely appreciative of advice or even correction.
He is bearing the fruit of the spirit including “Joy” (Gal. 5:22), so he smiles and laughs a lot and doesn’t always need you to “make him happy”, and would rather talk through difficulties than pout. He experiences every emotion, but is stable emotionally, without wild mood swings. Mr. Right makes you feel safe because he is not explosive, but reliable, even predictable in his reactions. He looks on the bright side, is optimistic about the future, and is rarely discouraged.
He is affectionate in both words and deeds, not only to you, but also to his parents, siblings, and friends. His other relationships are often warm and peace-filled and he does not seem to be in perpetual, unnecessary conflict with a lot of people.
He loves others “with a pure heart, fervently” (Peter 1:22). He makes you feel good about yourself in many ways and never intentionally hurts your feelings. He loves you at least as much as you love him and doesn’t make you feel as though you are the lucky one to be with him. In other words, he is beside himself with love for you. You will likely feel it will be a challenge to keep yourselves pure before marriage, but since you love one another’s souls more than any other part of each other, you often pray together about everything, including the strength to overcome sexual temptation. You know that as he ages he will always be beautiful to you, because of who he is deep down in his heart, mind, and spirit.
He is your other half. He is not necessarily like you, but your qualities are what he needs, and his qualities are what you need. Your strengths and weaknesses balance and complement one another. You bring out the best in one another. Your differences are not points of contention; rather you celebrate and relish your differences. You realize you are a great team, who can accomplish much for the Lord and beyond
Mr. Right is wise, in fact, he is wiser than you in some important ways and is in pursuit of more wisdom. You admire his brain and are relieved he will be the one you primarily lean on to solve life’s problems together. You sense you could learn much from him, and feel secure knowing he has what it takes to make wise family decisions. Jesus said in Matt. 7:24-27 that “...everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall.” Marry a man who will build your household on the words of Jesus Christ.
He loves you enough to wear the pants and frees you from bearing the burdens involved in leading the family so that you are free to develop to your full potential and enjoy using your talents to better both your own life and the lives around you. He is your protector and provider, seeks out your good, solid advice, and is not afraid to correct you when needed. Just as Christ loved His bride, the church, He loves you enough to give Himself up for you day in and day out (Ephesians 5:25) living with you in an understanding way, showing you honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7) and you, in turn, respect and appreciate him deeply.
All would agree that even when one must wait more years than first expected, Mr. Right is absolutely worth that wait, and the best use of a young woman’s time during her single years is to just as vigilantly build Biblical virtues in her own character that will prepare her for a lifetime of happiness in her marriage.
To those already married and wondering what they can do to experience more joy in their marriage, I’ll say this: There’s much that goes into building a deeply fulfilling marriage, but I’ve yet to see anyone improve on the Creator’s general instruction to “…outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 RSV), for the daily expression of honor is without question remarkably foundational to every healthy relationship.
1 Peter 3 reveals God’s plans for happy marriages. I like to call it “the cycle of love”, and it’s a glorious thing that will make your relationship function like a well-oiled machine. If you are a wife who wants to get this cycle in motion in your marriage, your Creator says in this chapter that submission, obedience, purity, respect, and a gentle and quiet spirit are the answer. When even one marriage partner consistently uses his or her words and actions to express honor, it often motivates the other to do likewise, and thus the glorious cycle begins. What might honor look like in practice? Here are a few ideas:
Trade “That was stupid” in for “You amaze me!” Instead of making your spouse feel unintelligent or small, often tell him all the things you honestly admire and adore about him. Be his fan club, and he will not need to go elsewhere to find recognition.
Let go of grudges. If you are unable to influence your spouse to change for the better you can at least change your perspective to help bump up your level of contentment. Instead of brooding over his shortcomings, pray God's help for him to overcome them. Dwell habitually upon all the things you saw in him when you first fell in love, and since you notice what you look for, your desire to honor him will grow.
Count on God to accomplish in your relationship what you, by your own strength, cannot accomplish alone. Pray for the desire and ability to meet all your spouse's needs. Even better, get comfortable praying together beyond “saying grace” at mealtime. Besides being effective (James 5:16), this will bring extraordinary emotional intimacy to your marriage.
Think about it: What if you knew your husband had a week to live, how well would you love him? What if we decided to have that clear perspective for the people we love without having to experience a terminal diagnosis or other trauma to coerce us into realizing how precious our loved ones are to us. Ask your spouse what three specific things you can do that would make your spouse feel more respected or honored. Perhaps write them in your prayer journal as a reminder, and make the changes you can. Let’s express verbally and through our actions how grateful we are to God for gifting us our spouses and start a cycle of love and honor in our homes. Life is too short to miss out on opportunities to make our marriages all they can be.
Pacific Way church of Christ
4634 Pacific Way Longview, WA 98632
Phone: (360) 577-0157https://www.pacificwaychurchofchrist.com/