By: Natalie Church
As a woman raised in the church, I have heard a lot – a lot – over the years about what to expect in the man I’ll definitely be marrying one day, and what to look for in men who express any sort of interest in me at all. To be honest, what we’re told to expect – even as women outside the church tradition – can be a little ridiculous.
All this Christian-relationship-advice-for-women business is old hat for me, so I wasn’t able to find anything new or revolutionary in “8 Things”. What I did find was redundancy. Five out of eight of Mrs. Smidt’s points of consideration are basically “Does he Jesus enough?” …not only is this question (it really is only one question, from different angles) repetitive, it seems wholly unnecessary. Think about it. As a young woman professing the Christian faith, are you really looking for a man who does not follow God, love God, and, because of the love of God in him, love you? Maybe you haven’t thought it out in so many words, but in my experience, by the time you reach college age, this is simply understood as something you watch for – not only in your relationships with men, but in all your relationships. You search for people who can build you, encourage you, and push you towards a deeper understanding of your faith – and you pray that you can do the same for them. So far, “duh”.
This is not to say that “8 Things” is without merit; I think knowing fears and recognizing sources of anger are good things to look at, but I’m interested in those things with everyone I know. After all, knowing what your people are afraid of and what provokes them to anger can help you to communicate more clearly and effectively, and gives you kind of a foresight, an ability to see potentially dangerous situations and diffuse them before they blow up. It just makes sense. I think these eight things are also excellent for self-examination – after all, if you’re looking for these qualities in a man, oughtn’t he be able to find them in you?
And here we get into one of the sides of this topic on which I have strong(er) opinions. I expect you may be unfamiliar with what young Christian women are being fed about relationships; allow me to enlighten you in part. I have heard for years that I need to wait on God to deliver a man to my doorstep. Now, understand this: I may meet men who I think are sent direct, postage paid, postmarked “Heaven” and sealed with God’s promise of love and happily forever after, but if these chaps don’t treat me as I ought to be treated, if they can’t remember that while my favorite color is purple I really prefer wearing greys and navy blues, then clearly that sucker is not God’s Best for me and he needs to go. The church, in my experience, does not tell young women to write off young men for trivial reasons such as in the previous sentence. The point, my focus, is actually on that phrase “God’s Best“. I’ll be honest: that phrase terrifies me.
“God’s Best” is a nightmare because it’s so unbelievably intimidating. Like, God’s Best? Do you know what God’s Best is? God’s best is the Garden of Eden. God’s best was Lucifer, pre-rebellion. God’s best is routinely destroyed when I am transported from my parents’ home in Nebraska to school in Iowa. God’s best is freaking awe-inspiring and scary. God’s Best sounds like a perfect man. Maybe that’s what the women you know are after, but a perfect man is horrifying to me.
I am imperfect. Perhaps you weren’t prepared for this level of honesty when we began our discussion, but there it is: I am thoroughly, wholly, completely imperfect. The fact of the matter is that I know me. I have lived with me my whole life, and I’ve seen everything I’ve ever done – not only that, but I know my motivation for everything, and I do mean everything. I remember a lot of the things that I was fortunate enough to never have spoken, but that I definitely thought. I am imperfect. More to the point, I am human; therefore, attaining perfection is impossible. And I’m supposed to just be handed God’s Best, this perfect man? Kill me now! I mean, it’s great for me that I’m marrying up, but how is it God’s Best for this poor guy to be saddled with imperfect me for forever? This just does not seem fair. And I have some strange habits. I guess I trust you, God, but really?
It’s only been in the last year that I have come to understand – sort of – this terrible and peculiar expression. Understanding arrived after a rather elementary revelation: men are people too. Men are human. This means that it’s not possible for men to be perfect either! It’s such a liberating realization. This means I don’t have to live in fear of whatever God’s Best is for me, because if that Best is a man (as opposed to a life of singleness, which I can totally do – I have so much practice already!) and marriage, that man is going to be doing the same as I – striving daily to walk closer with God, working towards bettering self and others, and occasionally messing up. That man will be human. How beautiful. I live with humans! I work with humans! I like humans! This could totally work for forever.
So, Tom, to answer your questions:
- Mrs. Smidt definitely offers unrealistic expectations, but they don’t differ any from what the church has been teaching for generations.
- I think one of the most beautiful aspects of marriage is the opportunity to grow together, to constantly be working towards a common goal – I don’t know why that common goal couldn’t encompass some, if not all, of Mrs. Smidt’s points.
- I don’t know how Mrs. Smidt measured her points – I suppose she probably spoke to people she trusted, but I suspect this list comes after the fact. It feels more like she’s describing her husband than actually giving reasonable rules for all.
Actually, that’s something I wish she would’ve touched on, how this was her list. Because, to be honest, my list – criteria, really – is a bit different, and I don’t know how my criteria could be conceivably wrong (before you are horrified and feel terrible for any guy who happens across my path because of the word I prefer to use, it’s a short list – three items, the third of which I constantly forget. Not hard). I don’t approve of future-spouse shopping lists, but I do think it’s wise to know your non-negotiables.
I mentioned this earlier, but I’m going to restate: I think this list needs to be a two-way street, if that makes anything resembling sense. You want this in your man? Work until you see it in yourself. I hear a lot about selfless/selfish love, and the people who talk about it seem to expect to receive this love without being willing to give in the same manner. You actively want your man to love Jesus more than he loves you? You had better get your booty in gear and make sure that you truly love Jesus more than anything and anyone else.
I think sometimes that we have been trained somehow to forget that we’re all just humans, marrying other humans. Things will probably be messy, stuff might be thrown at some point, and there will be Very Bad Days. But it will also be beautiful and Very, Very Good like a starry night sky when you’re three hours away from civilization, shared unproductivity, and much-needed rain.
Last thing: why on earth did you put a picture of those odious insects in your post? Do you hate everyone?