Hang around Christian singles long enough and you’re sure to encounter a certain emotion. If you’re thinking loneliness, guess again. The prevailing emotion is frustration.
Men are frustrated because they don’t understand what women want from them. Or, if they do have a clue, men feel the expectations are too high. Women, on the other hand, are frustrated because they want men to take initiative, to lead.
That’s right, lead. Don’t believe everything you hear; Christ-centered women still believe that God assigned respective roles to the sexes. They want to be led by Christ-centered men.
So what’s to be done about the stalemate? How should Christian men and women move toward deeper friendships, possibly even engagement and marriage?
Initiating the relationship
It takes a man to be an initiator. Relationship building with the opposite sex is risky, but in God’s created order two become one (Ephesians 5:31). However, this will never happen until you, as a man, accept your God-given role—an acceptance that includes:
- believing that men should initiate the relationship
- understanding that preparing yourself for a relationship is part of becoming a man
This may sound old-fashioned, but I believe it, not for the sake of tradition, which of necessity comes and goes, but because it is biblical. Marriage is meant to be, among other things, an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5); the husband typifies Christ and the wife typifies the church. Clearly, it is Christ who initiates the relationship; “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Furthermore, the Ephesians 5 passage describes the husband as “the head of the wife.” Men are called to be—created to be—leaders. This is not an empowerment that mystically comes over a man at his wedding, but part of his inherent nature. If a man shirks relational leadership prior to marriage, chances are slim that he will properly assume it after.
Several months after my wife died, I was talking with a friend who is also a wise and loving pastor. He wanted to help protect me from too quickly getting involved in another relationship—a common problem for men who are divorced or widowed. (My advice: Lock them in a secure room for six months.) My friend’s counsel was simple, and should be heeded by all Christian single men regardless of age: Concentrate first on being the right person, then on finding the right person.
A man who wants to be godly and who means to prepare himself for a wholesome, meaningful relationship has his work cut out for him. And it doesn’t begin by random dating.
The Jewish young men of the Old Testament intentionally prepared themselves for marriage. In addition to becoming skilled in a trade that would support a family, these men saved their resources in order to pay a dowry to their future in-laws, and generally built their own dwellings. The latter was often done in the time between engagement and marriage. Taking a wife was a serious commitment, one that demanded earnest preparation.
I’m not suggesting a return to these practices, although we’d probably be wise to realign romance with realism. I merely wish to point out that healthy marriages are seasoned with preparation. If a man wants to find the right person, he needs to be the right person, and that takes concentrated effort that is best begun before there is a potential mate on the scene.
If a man is serious about walking with Christ, and serious about wanting to be the right kind of husband and father someday, how should he prepare himself?
A man should prepare himself morally.
Our culture, even our Christian subculture, has become enamored with sex. It’s everywhere in entertainment and conversation. One would think that sex is all there is to happiness and fulfillment. But this just isn’t real. The man who enters marriage thinking that his wife is cut out of the same fabric as are the seductresses, excuse me, actresses he’s seen on the television and movie screen—eager to jump into bed at any moment and ready to resolve every conflict with sex—is in for a terrible shock. A mutually pleasing sex life thrives on a good relationship, it doesn’t drive one.
Men who are unguarded in their intake of viewing and reading sexual material set themselves up to be disappointed and to be a disappointment. Moral behavior requires a moral mindset—the discipline to shut off the supply of impurity. Why not take a 40-day media fast? For the next 40 days, leave the television off, do not attend or rent movies, and use the internet only as your job may require. If a conversation begins moving toward immoral topics, excuse yourself. These 40 days may prove to be some of the best days of your spiritual development. And you’ll begin to view women with the wholesome respect God intends.
See immorality for what it is: a weapon of the enemy designed for your destruction. So choose your friends carefully; connect with men who care about your growth and standing as a follower of Christ. Be honest with them about your habits and struggles. Let them know what you are doing to try to grow spiritually so they can pray for you, hold you accountable, and get in your face when necessary. Forge friendships with your fellow warriors, and cover each other’s back.
A man should prepare himself financially.
We’re told that more marriages break up over finances than any other issue. This needn’t worry us, but it should motivate us. Men should aspire to financial stability. This doesn’t guarantee a surplus of money or safeguard us from occasional unemployment. I am suggesting, however, that a man who is disciplined in his work ethic and wise with his resources is better prepared for courtship and marriage than one who is impulsive and discontent.
The kind of lady you want will be drawn to your character, not the model year of your car or the square footage of your house. More importantly, God is honored by the wise use of every resource He lends you, whether dollars in your wallet or hours in your workday.
Some who read this may be in debt or out of work, and the current financial picture is bleak. Are you a hopeless cause? No. But you need to focus on what you can do to improve your situation. What steps can you take, under the leadership of the Lord, to move toward financial freedom and gainful employment? Get yourself situated and moving forward.
In the next Stepping Up men’s blog post, we’ll look at how a single man prepares himself spiritually and relationally for marriage. In the meantime, take the following steps:
You just read “How should a single man prepare himself for marriage?” by Tim Grissom on the Stepping Up blog.
Read “Evaluating Your Spiritual Relationship Before Marriage” and ask yourself these two key questions.
Gary Thomas’ book, The Sacred Search, offers great guidance in your search for meaning in relationships.
Tell single guys who you know that the Stepping Up blog for men is not just for dads and husbands.
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