Once upon a time, I met a man. This man was absolutely everything on my “list of things I want in a husband.” He scored 100% in the non-negotiable column, 100% in the would-be-nice-to-have column, and 100% in the bonus-features column.
Yes, my list was broken down into columns.
For months, I watched him and got to know him, ticking off bullet point after bullet point on my list. I got excited, thinking, “Surely he’s The One. Surely God has finally brought him to me.”
And then I found out that he didn’t like me back.
I clearly remember running errands that day, talking to God the whole time. Our conversation went something like this.
Me: Okay, God, so there’s gotta be a reason he doesn’t like me. Maybe he will, but it’s not Your timing yet. Maybe there’s someone else who is 110% of my list. Maybe…
God: Charity, why do you have a list in the first place?
Me: [stumped, thinks] Well, I’ve heard many, many women and men talk about how they had a list of what they wanted, then they forgot about the list for a while, then God brought them a spouse, then they remembered their list, and God had brought them everything they ever wanted and needed. So I guess I have a list so that I can see Your faithfulness to me.
God: Do you want Me to be faithful to your list? Or to Mine?
Me: [breath leaves my body for a minute] But God, I’ve always given you my list to edit as You see necessary.
God: Do you want Me to edit the list, or do you want Me to make the list?
Me: [grumbles] I guess you can make the list. I’ll let you have THIS bullet point – he doesn’t have to have blue eyes. And I’ll let you have THIS bullet point – he doesn’t have to be rich. And I’ll let you have…
God: we can do this the easy way or the hard way. You can give Me your list, or I can pry it – point by point – out of your reluctant grasp.
Me: But, God, if you take my list, You’ll at least let me see Yours, right?
Me: no, but seriously, if I give you the list of things I want in a man, I need to know You have another list waiting to take its place.
Me: God?! I can’t not have a list!
God: Are you going to trust in a list? Or are you going to trust in Me?
And so began the process of relaxing my grip on my list. Not going to lie, it was scary. What I realized that day, and in the intense few weeks of processing that followed was that my “List of Things I Want in a Man” was my:
- Way of maintaining control. I’m a list-maker by nature, and that isn’t bad; that’s the way God made me, and my lists have served me well often. But my lists in general definitely give me the feeling that I have control. In this situation, I felt like being list-y meant I was busy working on finding a man, actively preparing for a husband, even controlling my future man without having met him yet.
- Substitute for courage. But why did I feel like I needed control? Why did I not trust God to just bring the man I needed, list or no list? It was because I was afraid. I was so, so, so afraid that God would bring me someone ugly or dumb or dirt poor or – even worse – boring.
- Defense mechanism. I felt like my list protected me against a relationship I would be miserable in forever. I was just sure that,
- in His omnipotence, God would force me into a Hosea/Gomer situation, or bring me a man who was so ugly I didn’t even want to look at him. What I was forgetting here was that God is my loving Father, who is for my good (I John 3:1a).
- the lack of a list would be a lack of standards at all.
- without a list, I would have no parameters at all for determining a man’s eligibility-to-date-Charity status.
- Biggest idol. What I realized within 24 hours of handing that fateful list to God was that in looking at the list to save/protect me from a bad relationship, I wasn’t looking at Jesus.
- With the list, I COULD imagine my future – a future with a handsome husband, who was exactly the right height, who could afford to let me stay home with the (beautiful) kids; a future that included the perfect meshing of our personalities and no conflict, in perfect agreement about finances and parenting and date night activities; a future of romance and kissing and debriefing of the day after putting the perfectly well-behaved kids to bed.
- But without the list, I COULD NOT imagine the future. There were no longer any guarantees, any way to imagine someone sharing my future, any marriage or children at all. What was left – the only thing that was left as I envisioned the future – was Jesus. And He was beautiful. And enough.
I figuratively fell on my face and repented of ever holding anything between us. The thought of my list was repulsive when I thought of Jesus’ giving His life for my future to be secure.
I went home and deleted “My List of Things I Want in a Man.doc” from my computer, but the truth is, it’s been much, much harder to delete it from my life.
Since that conversation with God, I have found things on my list, things that I didn’t even know were there. For instance, the age of my future husband wasn’t on the list in my laptop; but when I looked around at the single men I knew, I only considered marrying the ones who were within 5 years either way of my age. So I had to let that go.
I couldn’t throw out standards altogether. I couldn’t consider every single, breathing male over 18 to be a possibility. The Bible has clear standards for who Christians should marry; for instance, Christians should marry Christians (II Cor 6:14). So I’ve slowly had to reconstruct a list with items all based on biblical standards.
But it’s SO HARD. I really want to put things on there like “knows the difference between ‘you’re’ and ‘your’” or “knows how to read and has the patience to finish a book every once in a while.”
I feel like the things my flesh wants on the list are reasonable. I want a man who is committed to continually improving himself – by reading or podcasts or sermons or whatever. I want a man who can construct a complete sentence. I want a man who doesn’t use “lol” as a punctuation mark.
But the Bible doesn’t give me the freedom to put “reasonable” things on my list. If Jesus had held out for “reasonable” when He chose His bride, He still wouldn’t have chosen one.
Jesus deserved a bride who was flawless; a bride who had never looked at other gods, committed gross sins, or killed Him when He was trying to love her. But, barring what He deserved, He could have at least been reasonable. He would have been within His rights to look for a bride who maybe had a bit of a past but was committed now to loving Him; someone who (bare minimum) wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with Him.
Thank the Lord that Jesus wasn’t reasonable. Instead of looking for someone already perfect, He chose me (Eph 2:1). He picked me up out of the gutter of my sin (Col 2:13), paid (with His life) the price it would take for me to meet His father (I Pet 2:24), and then clothed me with His own righteousness (II Cor 5:21) so that I would belong to Him (I Cor 3:23) even when I held up The List between Him and me and told Him that it knew what I needed better than He did.
I’m not saying that I will go out, find a man who hasn’t showered in 20 years, and drag him to church so I can marry him. But I am saying that without Jesus, my list – even my list of reasonable expectations – is as filthy as the grossest gutter rats.
And so, because I love Jesus – because He loves me (I John 4:19) – I will continue to actively surrender my list to God and let Him surprise me with His list, eventually. When He wants to. If there is even a list. Which there might not be. And that’s okay.
(Disclaimer: This is simply the story of how God showed me the sinfulness of my own list and its motives. Please don’t think I’m saying it’s wrong for everyone to have a list; I am in no way trying to normalize/universalize my experience.)